The Best TV Series Exploring War and Conflict

Television has frequently portrayed war and conflict since the 1950s. To determine the best TV shows about war and conflict, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data on audience ratings from IMDb, an online movie and TV database owned by Amazon. Television series and television mini-series dealing with war and other major conflicts were ranked based on IMDb […] Television has frequently portrayed war and conflict since the 1950s. To determine the best TV shows about war and conflict, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data on audience ratings from IMDb, an online movie and TV database owned by Amazon. Television series and television mini-series dealing with war and other major conflicts were ranked based on IMDb user ratings. Only TV shows with at least 5,000 user votes were considered. In the case of a tie, the show with the greater number of user votes was ranked higher. Documentaries were excluded. Recent series have depicted World War II from ground level, like “Band of Brothers” and “The Pacific,” or shown the espionage side, as in “Turn” about the American Revolution or “The Americans” on Cold War spies. (These are the best TV spy shows of all time.) Other top-ranked programs showcase special forces units, like “The Unit” based on Delta Force, the Israeli show “Fauda,” or “SAS Rogue Heroes” about the British SAS. For comic relief there are classic comedies like the British “Allo Allo!” and “Blackadder Goes Forth” or the American dramedy. They offered humorous takes on the grim reality of war. Across genres, examining war and conflict through a television lens has captivated audiences for decades. Click here to see the best TV shows about war and other conflicts Sponsored: Find a Qualified Financial Advisor Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to 3 fiduciary financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. Each advisor has been vetted by SmartAsset and is held to a fiduciary standard to act in your best interests. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now......»»

Category: blogSource: 247wallstSep 18th, 2023

Hidden investors took over Corizon Health, a leading prison healthcare company. Then they deployed the Texas Two-Step.

Corizon Health, facing mounting debt, executed a controversial bankruptcy maneuver. Hundreds of prisoner's medical malpractice claims were left in limbo. William Kelly, of Saginaw, Michigan, struggles with constant pain from kidney cancer that progressed from stage 1 to stage 4 while he was under the care of Corizon Health in a Michigan prison. He's one of at least 475 people with active suits against Corizon claiming negligent care. All are now stayed.Sylvia Jarrus for Insider In a lawsuit, a former Corizon CEO describes the company's maneuver as "an old-fashioned bankruptcy fraud scheme." Hundreds of malpractice cases have now been stayed.Hector Garcia, a father of four, collapsed three days into his six-day sentence at the Doña Ana County Detention Center, in Las Cruces, New Mexico. When a corrections officer found him, the former baker was crawling on the floor, vomiting, and moaning in pain. His requests for medical care were ignored.The next day Garcia collapsed again. "Help me!" he yelled, describing his pain as a 10 out of 10. Video footage obtained by Insider shows him wriggling on the ground in agony before corrections officers and medical staff assist him into a wheelchair. The nurse practitioner on duty that day was employed by Corizon Health, Inc., one of the nation's largest private prison healthcare providers.She examined Garcia for five minutes and attributed his symptoms to constipation, even though, as a lawsuit later filed by the family alleges, he had a history of peptic ulcers and had been at the jail multiple times. Later that day, medical records show, the nurse noted that his abdomen was distended, that he was in severe pain, and that he was vomiting a dark brown or orange bile substance, a possible sign of internal bleeding. Instead of sending Garcia to the hospital, medical staff suggested that he be placed in an observation cell in the facility's Medical Housing Area. There, he succumbed to hallucinations.The Doña Ana County Detention Center in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where Hector Garcia spent his final days.Adria Malcom for InsiderEarly the following morning, Corizon staff finally sent Garcia to the hospital. Even then, they didn't call an ambulance but instead loaded him into a security van. Bryan Baker, who was named director of the jail a year after Garcia's death, said all decisions related to the use of ambulances are handled by medical staff — who, at Doña Ana, are employed by Corizon.Sometime during that ride, shackled in the back seat, Garcia went into cardiac arrest, according to medical records and the civil complaint. The next day, he was dead. Garcia's family filed their lawsuit in 2021, joining what, as of July, was at least 475 active suits alleging medical negligence over Corizon's provision of healthcare at jails and prisons across the country. But the Garcias' lawsuit and all the others have now been stayed, as the company split and filed for bankruptcy in a controversial maneuver designed to wall off its assets from such claims. The bankruptcy has also stayed claims against some codefendants.If Corizon prevails, the malpractice suits against the company could be settled for pennies on the dollar, along with 44 employment-law suits over allegations including discrimination, wage theft, and wrongful termination, and at least $88 million in claims such as unpaid invoices from medical providers, according to bankruptcy filings.The jilted vendors include the University of Missouri Health Care system and a local hospital, which say the company owes them $12 million in unpaid invoices for providing prisoners with hospital care, and the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation, and Reentry, which says it's spent up to $2 million on legal costs defending lawsuits the department claims Corizon should have handled. Garcia's family, from left, Daniel Jimenez, his son; Gina Macias, his ex-wife; Belen Lowery, his sister; and his son Hector Garcia, Jr. outside of Jimenez's house in Las Cruces.Adria Malcom for InsiderThe cast of characters behind the bankruptcy stretches from Houston to the exurbs of New York's Rockland County, sweeping up a hedge fund debt specialist and a group of closely connected Orthodox Jewish business partners, who have left a trail of lawsuits and bankruptcies in their wake.The tactic they deployed with Corizon has been dubbed the Texas Two-Step.Johnson & Johnson deployed the novel tactic two years ago in an attempt to minimize a wave of costly legal claims that its talcum powder caused cancer. The Two-Step involves splitting a company into parts — one with most of the assets and the other with the bulk of the liabilities — and then filing the debt-laden company into bankruptcy. J&J's bankruptcy was shot down this year by a federal court. For now, the legitimacy of the Two-Step remains an open question. No court has clearly established its legality.In Corizon's case, a group of investors bought out the company in 2021 and within months created a new company called YesCare, home to most of Corizon's valuable assets — including hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded contracts with prisons and jails. The liability-laden Corizon was renamed Tehum and, in February of this year, filed for bankruptcy. Tehum has transferred tens of millions of dollars to entities some of its investors control, according to a financial statement the company filed in the bankruptcy case. "It's outrageous that investors' profits could have greater legal protections than incarcerated patients and their families," Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who sits on the Senate Banking Committee, said in a statement to Insider. "I've been fighting in the Senate to close the Texas Two Step loophole and this legal maneuver should be an alarming red flag."The goal of Corizon's Two-Step may have been laid bare in a recent civil complaint. It describes an alleged meeting in which a Tehum director, a man named Isaac Lefkowitz, says the Texas Two-Step can be used to "force plaintiffs into accepting lower settlements."A former Corizon CEO, James Hyman, who sued YesCare over his 2021 ouster from the company, describes the planned Two-Step in his lawsuit as "an old-fashioned bankruptcy fraud scheme." YesCare, in a March filing, denied the claim of fraud.It's taken relentless questioning by civil-rights attorneys representing incarcerated people and their families, like the Garcias, to partially uncover the identities of Corizon's new owners. And their identities still have not been disclosed to state and county agencies that have signed seven-, eight-, or nine-figure contracts for the company's healthcare services.Through leaked documents, business filings, public-records requests, voluminous court filings, and interviews with inside sources, Insider has been able to identify many of the players who led Corizon into the Two-Step. Three of them have had leadership roles in companies on both sides of the Two-Step.In taking over and restructuring Corizon, they have extended that strategy to something as sensitive as the life or death of prisoners — a unique set of patients who have no ability to seek second opinions or outside care. In December 2022, James Hyman, a former CEO of Corizon, sued the company over the terms of his 2021 ouster, describing Corizon’s plan to execute a Texas Two-Step as “an old-fashioned bankruptcy fraud scheme.”US District Court for the Middle District of TennesseeTehum's representatives are sitting down with Corizon creditors today in an effort to negotiate a global settlement — one that could allow Corizon's buyers to profit at the expense of doctors, universities, prison systems, and the hundreds of inmates allegedly injured or killed by Corizon's negligence.In June, several creditors filed a motion asking the court to appoint an independent trustee, arguing that Corizon and Tehum had engaged in self-dealing tantamount to a "fraudulent transfer" of assets outside the reach of creditors. And Insider has uncovered indications that Lefkowitz, the Tehum director, may have made at least one false representation under oath during a creditor call.Under federal law, a bankruptcy judge may respond to evidence of self-dealing or perjury by appointing a trustee to take control of the bankrupt company, bankruptcy experts told Insider.If successful, Corizon's Two-Step would avoid a much wider range of liabilities than previous companies who've used it — not just injury lawsuits, like J&J, but the routine debts to vendors that companies rack up every day. If the company succeeds, it provides a "roadmap for eliminating virtually any unsecured liability owed by any corporate entity, regardless of whether that entity is solvent," Ian Cross, a Michigan civil-rights attorney who represents multiple prisoners who have sued Corizon, wrote in a procedural objection in April."People wouldn't for a minute accept it if they understood it," Lynn LoPucki, a corporate-law professor at the University of Florida, said of the divisional merger law that makes the Two-Step possible."If this law is read literally and people take advantage of it, it will completely change the American economy." A deadly six-day sentenceThe quality of Corizon's care has been a subject of contention for many years. Corizon contracts were canceled in Virginia and New York in the wake of prisoner deaths. Multiple localities have investigated Corizon, finding care deficiencies in Oregon and hiring standards in New York so lax that "serious red flags" were missed. And thousands of prisoners or their families have filed lawsuits over the years alleging that medical neglect by Corizon harmed or killed them, some resulting in massive judgments.Hector Garcia, Jr., wears a T-shirt memorializing his father.Adria Malcom for InsiderTracey Grissom filed a complaint in 2019 saying she was forced to live in her own feces for four months after Corizon contractors at the Alabama prison where she was held failed to provide a properly fitted ostomy bag. Adree Edmo, a transgender prisoner, filed a claim in 2017 saying she attempted suicide after Corizon providers in an Idaho prison denied her gender-affirming care. William Kelly, one of Cross' clients, struggles with constant pain from kidney cancer that progressed from stage 1 to stage 4 while he was incarcerated in Michigan prisons.There, he said in a 2022 civil complaint, Corizon failed to provide appropriate treatment. "I was deteriorating fast and I was really weak. I knew something was wrong, was extremely wrong with me," Kelly told Insider. "But they don't give you any kind of understanding of what's going on with you."Corizon disputed all three claims in court. All are now stayed.For Garcia, 55, a few days under Corizon's care at the detention facility in New Mexico proved fatal.Garcia always stood out in his family as a kid, with his dirty blond hair and a wide smile. He was an avid basketball player who also had a knack for the arts, and in his late teens he found work at a local bakery, where he whipped up fresh, sugary doughnuts and pastries he'd bring home to his family.As Garcia and his wife built their family, it also became clear that he was struggling with drug addiction, something family members said had landed him in jail and prison countless times over the years.When Garcia saw two of his sons for what would ultimately be the last time in August of 2019, he had just been released from jail. He walked a mile to the home of his son Hector Garcia Jr. to say how sorry he was.For two hours that day, Garcia sat down over pizza with Hector Jr. and his younger brother Ricky as he apologized for his years of addiction and the ways it had disrupted their lives. When Hector Jr. dropped his dad at his grandma's house that evening, Garcia said that he loved him. When Garcia's family heard that he was back, three weeks later, at the Doña Ana County Detention Center, they didn't think much of it. One of his friends was pulled over while driving and, during the stop, law-enforcement officers discovered that Garcia, in the passenger's seat, had an outstanding warrant stemming from a shoplifting charge. Unable to afford the $242 fine, he was booked for a six-day sentence. "We figured he's going to stay there for a few days and pay his fine," said his sister, Belen Lowery, "because he wasn't going to ask us for money." That weekend she bought a futon for her brother so he'd have a place to sleep in their mother's new house following his release. He never got to sleep on it.An August 2019 incident report from the Doña Ana County Detention Center documents Hector Garcia's collapse.Doña Ana County, New MexicoHector Jr. will never forget finding his spirited father unconscious in a hospital bed, hooked up to multiple tubes. He died a couple of hours later.As Hector Jr. was absorbing the news, he said, a hospital nurse approached him to say she found the detention center's treatment of his father suspicious and suggested that the family hire a lawyer. Two years later, he filed a lawsuit on behalf of the family against Corizon, the warden, and other defendants claiming that medical workers employed by Corizon had violated Garcia's Eighth Amendment rights by denying him adequate medical care. Lawsuits against prisons and jails are extremely difficult to win, but, in this case, the family's attorney, Matt Coyte, thought he had an ironclad case. Medical personnel had admitted in depositions that they violated standard of care when treating Garcia, and Coyte had obtained surveillance video that he said documented extreme forms of medical negligence. Corizon has denied the Garcias' allegations. But Coyte told Insider he expected to win millions of dollars in damages at an August trial.Just six months before the Garcia family was scheduled to have their day in court, Corizon filed for bankruptcy. Their lawsuit, along with hundreds of others, was indefinitely stayed.A debt specialist is put in charge of prisoner careHealthcare in correctional institutions began to be widely outsourced and privatized in the 1980s. In recent years the field has been dominated by a few major firms, Corizon among them. Founded in 1978 as Prison Health Services, Inc., the company changed its name to Corizon in 2011 after merging with a competitor, making it the country's largest private prison healthcare provider.In 2013, Corizon told a Florida news outlet the company had been a defendant in 660 malpractice lawsuits over the previous five years. In 2015, Corizon lost a $154 million contract with New York City; four years later it lost a $200 million contract with Arizona. A New York state panel found Corizon's treatment "so incompetent and inadequate as to shock the conscience."The revenue instability resulted in a series of ownership changes.As of 2014, Corizon had 14,000 employees, and the company brought in $1.5 billion the following year. But by June 2020, payroll had dropped to 5,000 employees responsible for annual revenue of about $800 million, according to a Nashville business journal. That's when investment firm BlueMountain Capital Management sold Corizon for an undisclosed sum to a small Florida investor called Flacks Group. In late 2021 the company lost its two largest remaining contracts, with corrections departments in Michigan and Missouri, worth more than $400 million in annual revenue. Revenue would shrink to roughly $600 million that year, and keep falling.In December 2021, Flacks Group offloaded Corizon to the unidentified buyers who would execute the Texas Two-Step. Even Hyman, then Corizon's CEO, didn't know who the buyers were, according to the lawsuit he filed against YesCare and other parties over his severance; the lawsuit was dismissed in July. He refers to them in the suit as "one or more persons or entities whose identities are unknown" and the "unknown buyer." Either sale could have been a chance to turn the beleaguered correctional healthcare company around and provide quality care to its tens of thousands of incarcerated patients. (As of January, according to a YesCare slide deck, the company provided care to 72,000 prisoners nationwide.) But instead of bringing on an experienced healthcare administrator to clean up the delivery of care, the new owners hired a distressed-debt specialist named Sara Tirschwell with a background in turning around troubled businesses.Sara Tirschwell was named CEO of Corizon in late 2021.Kholood Eid for the New York TimesCorizon's headquarters are in Brentwood, Tennessee. But under Tirschwell, Corizon quickly moved its incorporation from Delaware, where it had long been incorporated, to Texas, one of only a few states that allow something called a divisional merger, which provides wide freedoms for companies to split and divide up their assets and liabilities.Once registered in Texas, Tirschwell and the new owners split the company in two. One company, called Tehum Care Services, Inc., they saddled with liabilities and eventually filed into bankruptcy. The other, called CHS TX, Inc., got the old Corizon's C-suite and more than $300 million in public contracts. It would conduct business under the name YesCare. Tirschwell was named CEO of YesCare, where she quickly got to work reaching out to the state and county agencies whose contracts with Corizon had suddenly moved to the new company. YesCare did not respond to detailed queries. Jason S. Brookner, an attorney for Tehum, provided a brief statement. "We are proceeding with court-ordered mediation," he said, "where substantially all of these issues will be addressed. We have no further comment."A mysterious 'healthcare conglomerate'Okaloosa County, a midsize county in Florida's panhandle, has been working with Corizon for decades. In May 2022, the director of corrections there received an email from a Corizon staffer sharing an announcement from Tirschwell that described YesCare as a new partnership."Monday morning, we will be announcing that the dedicated employees of Corizon Health have teamed up with a healthcare conglomerate to create YesCare, launching our new vision for correctional healthcare nationwide," she wrote.But she left the agencies in the dark about who, exactly, they were now doing business with. YesCare Holdings LLC — the majority owner of YesCare's parent company — had been set up only two days before the email was sent. The message didn't name the "healthcare conglomerate," and two contracting agencies, including Doña Ana County, told Insider they were not made aware of the conglomerate's identity.Subsequent emails mention the new ownership. But in referencing a "Corizon rebranding" and "our announcement on our name change," YesCare employees led Okaloosa officials to believe the change was a rebrand, not a change in ownership.A June 2022 email from YesCare to an Okaloosa County corrections official mentions Corizon's new ownership but refers to it as a "name change" and a rebrand.Okaloosa County, FloridaAt one point, Okaloosa officials expressed confusion. The name "YesCare" didn't show up in the state's online business portal — an indication that it wasn't registered to do business in Florida."Can you please take care of that and provide me an email confirmation when complete?" a senior contracts and lease coordinator for the county emailed the YesCare staffer."We will address," the YesCare staffer replied. "Many thanks."Nick Tomecek, a spokesperson for Okaloosa County, told Insider in a statement that despite any organization changes, "we have the same staff and providers that we have worked with for years" and their contract was subject to "meticulous scrutiny" and "protects the County's interests."Similar communications mentioning a name change went out to other public agencies that were doing business with Corizon, such as the Wyoming Department of Corrections and counties in Florida and New Mexico. But experts said the divisional merger signaled a change in control that should have triggered more robust disclosure."If you've made differences in arrangements that go to the concept of 'Who am I working with on this contract?' then that's not a name change," Christopher Atkinson, an associate professor in the public-administration program at the University of West Florida, told Insider.Insider obtained contracts or correspondence from 19 county and state agencies with an active Corizon contract that moved over to YesCare. At least four contracts, all in Florida, specify that the agency can immediately terminate if the company files for bankruptcy. Yet some public officials running agencies with multimillion-dollar Corizon contracts weren't aware at the time that an ownership change had taken place — or that one Corizon entity, renamed Tehum, later filed for bankruptcy.In June 2022, for example, a month after the divisional merger, a Wyoming Department of Corrections contract manager, Wendy McGee, was still under the impression that Corizon had simply changed its name. She had no idea then that YesCare was a new company, according to her response to an Insider records request.The agency had agreed just a year earlier to a two-year, $33 million contract with Corizon. McGee said in April that the company had yet to alert her about its February bankruptcy filing. She found out by reading an article online. While Wyoming's 2021 contract with Corizon requires the company to provide notice of any "sale, transfer, merger, or consolidation of assets," an agency spokesperson, Stephanie Kiger, said in a statement that there was "no way for the department to enforce that prior to a sale or transfer being completed.""Terminating the contract would have resulted in a large gap in necessary medical services for WDOC inmates," she said.In other words, there was no plan B for providing prisoners with medical care.She said Wyoming was rebidding the medical contract this month.Bryan Baker became director of the Doña Ana County Detention Center a year after Garcia's death. The facility has an active contract with YesCare.Adria Malcom for InsiderPublic officials in two other states told Insider that substantial contracts with YesCare would not be renewed — one for $3.6 million in Shawnee County, Kansas, and another for $14.5 million in Bernalillo County, New Mexico.Bryan Baker, the current director of the Doña Ana County Detention Center, where Corizon was responsible for Garcia's care in the days before his death, also received a June 2022 email from YesCare. That email, from YesCare's vice president of operations, said YesCare had acquired all the active business of Corizon — and said no additional agency steps were required."Because CHS was split from Corizon through a merger transaction, your contract has not been assigned or transferred and no other action with respect to the contract is necessary," she wrote. Anita Skipper, a spokesperson for Doña Ana County, said the county discussed the change and determined that "the contracted services being provided and the Corizon staff providing the services were not changing, for the County's purpose the only change is their name." In an October 2022 proposal to the Alabama Department of Corrections for a $1 billion health care contract, YesCare emphasizes its continuity with Corizon.Alabama Department of CorrectionsInsider obtained another document through a public records request, a proposal that YesCare submitted last year to the Alabama Department of Corrections in an effort to win a multiyear contract. In the 736-page document, YesCare relies on Corizon's "years of experience" in correctional healthcare to prove its bona fides, noting that the company "includes most of the former Corizon Health employees" and "holds the former Corizon Health correctional health contracts."It's a 180 from the stance that YesCare has taken in court, where the company has insisted on "corporate separateness" from Corizon, rebranded as Tehum.Atkinson, the University of West Florida public-policy expert, finds that troubling. "It sounds like for certain purposes they're a different company, and for other purposes they're the same company," he said. "They can't have it both ways."And if YesCare and Corizon are effectively the same company, then why should YesCare's assets be off limits to prisoners and their families? A director is evasive under oathOn May 12, more than a dozen people dialed into a conference call hosted by the US Trustee's office, which is overseeing the Corizon bankruptcy. It was one of a series of so-called 341 meetings — a chance for creditors owed money by a bankrupt company to get their questions answered. Representing Tehum, the company now saddled with Corizon's debts, were the chief restructuring officer and Tehum's director, Isaac Lefkowitz, who would speak under oath.Civil rights and bankruptcy attorneys, lawyers for a committee of the unsecured creditors, including the University of Missouri, and two Insider reporters were on the three-hour call, as Lefkowitz explained why bankruptcy was Corizon's best option.Before entering correctional healthcare, Lefkowitz dabbled over the decades in real estate, oncology, medical practice management — even the sale of mixed nuts. In many business endeavors, records show, he has been sued; he also once landed in trouble with regulators. He's been involved in at least six bankruptcies — including four as an owner or manager — and has also been accused in court filings of fraud or bad-faith conduct on multiple occasions that have resulted in settlements. A brief filed in the bankruptcy case describes Lefkowitz as a "prolific filer of Chapter 11 petitions" who often leverages the bankruptcy process to "avoid unsatisfactory outcomes."He was once sued by the son of a close friend, who claimed in a lawsuit that Lefkowitz swindled the son's late father out of millions of dollars while advising on his US real-estate portfolio. The son, Simche Steinberger, told Insider that Lefkowitz showed off his wealth like "the Queen of England" and convinced Steinberger's dad he'd be lucky to invest. Lefkowitz and the father shared "unconditional trust," the complaint said, as "they knew and socialized with each other and came from an extraordinarily insular and exceptionally close-knit religious community." The complaint also accuses Lefkowitz of fraud, deceit, embezzlement, and purloining funds. "This guy's a crook," Steinberger said. "He knows how to play around with laws." The case was dismissed for lack of standing.Michael Flacks, the chairman and CEO of Flacks Group, which sold Corizon to the new buyers, confirmed that Lefkowitz has enjoyed a lavish lifestyle, telling Insider Lefkowitz has vacationed for years on Fisher Island, an exclusive Florida island that is home to the country's richest ZIP code. Lefkowitz appears to have had no previous experience with prisons and jails before landing director roles first at Corizon and then at Tehum and YesCare. He's also a director for a company called M2 HoldCo, the company that owns Tehum, and M2 LoanCo, which put more than $39 million into Tehum — under the condition, awaiting court approval, that Tehum not seek funds from YesCare to pay its creditors.During the May creditors meeting, Lefkowitz couldn't answer such basic questions as why he changed Corizon's name to Tehum, and he casually informed attendees that the company's records — potentially including thousands of pages of prisoner healthcare files — were stored on his email or in a Dropbox account. Kelly with his attorney, Ian Cross, who asked the court to appoint an independent trustee to handle claims against Corizon.Sylvia Jarrus for InsiderIan Cross, the civil-rights attorney, had joined the call on behalf of several prisoners who had active claims against Corizon when the company, rebranded as Tehum, filed for bankruptcy. One of them is William Kelly, the Michigan man who is now living with late-stage cancer. In June 2022, with a couple of his cases headed for trial, Cross discovered that Corizon, the defendant, no longer existed.Cross and the other attorneys who dialed into the call that day were mostly met with evasion. After Lefkowitz shared, for the first time, the name of Tehum's parent company, a limited-liability company called Perigrove 1018, Cross pressed.Lefkowitz reluctantly acknowledged that he had an ownership interest in Perigrove 1018, revealing only after further questioning that he "was part of the group that formed it." When Cross pushed on who else was in the group, Lefkowitz said just, "A large group of investors." The stonewalling was so extreme that in June, lawyers for the unsecured creditors filed a procedural objection complaining that they had been "met with hostility and withholding of information" by numerous parties.Insider sent detailed queries to Lefkowitz at Perigrove, a private-equity firm where he's a director. He responded from a YesCare email, saying, "Our policy is not to comment during pending company litigation."He later followed up from a Perigrove email, saying, "The subject companies in your proposed write-up provide a vital service to the incarcerated because we believe healthcare is a basic human right that should be afforded to everyone, regardless of past mistakes.""The adverse accusations in your proposed piece are sourced from allegations in public filings that are riddled with false accusations and inaccurate information," he added. "The Corizon bankruptcy is presently in a court ordered mediation, and we are seeking a global resolution for all the parties involved."A Lefkowitz deposition filed in court in June revealed that he had a 5% stake in Perigrove 1018. He also finally named two others in the group of investors: David Gefner and Abraham Goldberger.Lawsuits that claim fraud, embezzlementLike Lefkowitz, Gefner and Goldberger are associated with multiple business that have filed for bankruptcy or faced allegations of fraud.Gefner, who turns 30 this month, says on LinkedIn he founded Perigrove, the private equity firm, in 2012, while he was still a teenager. Since then, documents show, he has spun out more than a dozen Perigrove entities, registered in his name at the same address in Suffern, a New York suburb in Rockland County. Among them, Perigrove 1018.Perigrove was a central player in the purchase of Corizon from Flacks Group, according to Flacks and the lawsuit filed by Hyman, Corizon's former CEO.Gefner's LinkedIn profile describes him as a "visionary entrepreneur" who has closed several merger-and-acquisition transactions across real estate and healthcare. It says that in 2009, when he would have been in high school, he served as an acquisitions specialist "for an exclusive network of family offices and ultra-high net worth investors." Gefner also says on LinkedIn that he's a board member at Consulate Health Care, once the country's sixth-largest nursing-home chain. Consulate gained notoriety after a federal civil jury found in 2017 that the company had defrauded taxpayers with inflated billings for resident care. That case was nearing a settlement in March 2021 when Consulate, in a surprise move, filed for bankruptcy. The Justice Department ultimately agreed to settle the $256 million civil fraud judgment for just $4.5 million. Consulate's CEO and Gefner's attorney, Terrence A. Oved, did not respond to queries seeking confirmation of Gefner's claim.As recently as March of this year, a pair of companies Gefner set up faced a fraud lawsuit over claims they'd failed to repay millions of dollars in loans intended to develop a boutique Brooklyn hotel; Gefner personally settled before the suit was filed, according to the complaint.Oved responded to queries on Gefner's behalf with a statement saying, "David Gefner has never personally filed for bankruptcy or been involved in a litigation where he has been accused of fraud; nor does he control any company that has filed for bankruptcy. The attempt to tarnish his reputation by association and implication is regrettable."Gefner has been on both sides of the Corizon Two-Step. He was for a time listed as a director for Tehum. And incorporation records show he's the organizer for YesCare Holdings LLC — the holding company with a 95% ownership stake in YesCare Corp., which in turn owns YesCare, the company with Corizon's active contracts.He's also listed in a December 2022 business filing as YesCare Corp.'s president.The other investor Lefkowitz named, Goldberger, has an equally tumultuous business background — and his name is also associated with a range of Corizon-related companies.Goldberger, who, like Lefkowitz and Gefner, has a Perigrove email address, was once listed in business filings as a director and officer of Corizon and as a director of Tehum. He's listed too as the authorized person for M2 HoldCo and M2 LoanCo, the company that gave Tehum $39 million.Goldberger has a history of suing his business partners — and being sued by contractors over failure to pay. In 2013 he was accused in court of embezzling funds from a charter-jet company, a case that was settled for an undisclosed sum. He's now CEO of a temporary-staffing agency called United Staffing Solutions that, as of 2019, had revenue of roughly $34 million and describes itself, in a wild exaggeration, as "one of the largest privately-owned businesses in America." In 2022, shortly after Goldberger became an officer for Corizon, his family formed a slew of staffing services entities with names like "Corizon Health Charlotte, Inc." associated with locations where Corizon does business. Each company was registered to the same Manhattan address as that of United Staffing Solutions. Days later, those entities were dissolved to make way for a new slate of businesses, with the names slightly tweaked: Now they echoed CHS TX, the company that does business as YesCare, such as "CHS Okaloosa, Inc." and "CHS Dana Anna, Inc."These new companies list Goldberger; his wife, Faigy; and their children — including a 21-year-old daughter — as presidents. The same year the Goldbergers formed those companies, Corizon awarded United Staffing Solutions a contract, for an unknown amount, to staff nurses in their facilities across the country, according to a list of contracts in the company's divisional merger plan.Goldberger's company got that contract while he was serving as a director on Corizon's board.Now, according to the October 2022 YesCare proposal to the Alabama Department of Corrections, United Staffing Solutions is doing business with YesCare, too."Our exclusive staffing relationships create synergies for our clients that no other company in the industry can match," the proposal says. The document does not disclose the conflict of interest.An office above an auto-parts shopTwo people with knowledge of the Flacks Group sale of Corizon place Lefkowitz, Gefner, and Goldberger at the heart of the deal.One of them, Michael Flacks, who sold the company to the new owners, said Gefner and Lefkowitz handled the purchase on behalf of Perigrove, something Hyman also says in his civil complaint. Flacks said Perigrove invested on behalf of high-net-worth individuals including Goldberger, who, he said, "was deeply involved in driving the transaction to a successful conclusion."Flacks called Goldberger "Mr. Moneyman."He also named Joel Landau, someone with a background in skilled nursing facilities, as a minority investor.Goldberger's attorney, Joseph Haspel, responded to queries with a statement saying that "Mr. Goldberger is a passive investor" in Corizon, Tehum, YesCare, Perigrove, and Perigrove 1018. "He takes the position that it is for the Courts to address legal issues," Haspel said.But Landau's attorney, Andrew Levander, said in a statement that any "suggestion that Mr. Landau has ever had an ownership interest or investment in YesCare, Tehum or M2 is false.""Mr. Landau has no direct or indirect ownership interest in any of those entities."The buyers conducted a couple of weeks of diligence, Flacks said. A Corizon source who was present on early calls to discuss the sale in December 2021 said the talks moved quickly. Lefkowitz and Goldberger were initially interested in exploring a purchase of Corizon's pharmacy-management subsidiary, Pharmacorr, the source said. Within the week, they had decided to buy the entire company."We were able to successfully negotiate a corporate downsizing as well as the spinoff of the pharmacy business," Flacks said. "We believe this was the best outcome for the employees and the patients."When Lefkowitz gathered with Corizon executives the following Sunday, the executives had already drafted a press release to announce the sale, the Corizon source said. Lefkowitz shut down the discussion, saying he worked with partners who ran nursing homes, who didn't want their patients to know they were also getting into prison healthcare.In a December 2021 email from James Hyman, then Corizon's CEO, filed as an exhibit in a lawsuit he filed over his severance, Hyman asks Isaac Lefkowitz what he can say about the new ownership group.US District Court for the Middle District of TennesseeIn a December 2021 email to Lefkowitz, filed as an exhibit in former CEO James Hyman's lawsuit, Hyman asks: "When we talk to customers and say 'we've been bought, the financial guys are gone, the new guys are committed to healthcare, etc.' and the customer asks, 'so who are they?', what do you want us to say?"Besides their multiple associations with Lefkowitz, Gefner, and Goldberger, a few of the companies associated with Corizon have something else in common.YesCare Holdings and Perigrove share the same address, the 46th floor of 7 World Trade Center, a sparkling high-rise in Manhattan's downtown financial district. Multiple businesses associated with Isaac Lefkowitz and David Gefner list their address as 7 World Trade Center, right. A receptionist could find only one in the directory.InsiderAn Insider reporter recently visited the office's lobby, curious about the ties between these entities that appear to occupy the same space. A receptionist said Perigrove was listed as having a virtual office there, but didn't find YesCare or their other related businesses in the directory.While Perigrove holds itself out as a sleek, Manhattan-based financial company, the company doesn't have any filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission that would suggest it had raised significant money. Incorporation records and a report from the short-seller Hindenburg Research show the company's office isn't even in Manhattan but rather an hour's drive away in Rockland County, above a Suffern auto-parts shop. A paper sign with "Perigrove" in big letters was taped on the glass door of the two-story brick building, layered over another signed that read "Perigove LLC" — without the "R".An Insider reporter asked an auto-parts employee at the building whether Gefner was often at the office. "You here to give him a summons?" the man replied, in between bites of lunch. When asked whether that happened a lot, he responded with a laugh, "No comment." A paper sign on a door to an auto-parts shop indicates the office of Perigrove, the firm that arranged Corizon's sale, in Suffern, New York.InsiderPerigrove shares the Suffern address with numerous other companies. Incorporation records list Gefner as the organizer for dozens of Perigrove-related entities, with names like "Perigrove 1021A LLC" and "Perigrove 1028 LLC," all registered at the office above the auto-parts store. The unassuming office space near a Kosher grocery store and an Orthodox synagogue is also the home of Perigrove 1018 LLC, the ultimate parent company of Tehum. Gefner is listed as the company's organizer.Potential signs of perjuryThe Alabama Department of Corrections proposal that YesCare submitted last year contained another pivotal detail about the company's backing, one Lefkowitz avoided revealing under intense questioning in May.YesCare says it is managed and financially supported by a company called Geneva Consulting LLC, "a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Genesis Healthcare group of companies." Geneva Consulting was incorporated in 2021 with Gefner as general partner and registered to the same 7 World Trade Center address.A month after Geneva was formed, Hyman discovered something that alarmed him: Lefkowitz, as a representative of Corizon's new owners, had signed off on a $3 million payment to Geneva for future services described only as "corporate restructuring." Hyman asked Lefkowitz about the transaction, he said in his lawsuit, and was immediately terminated. Lefkowitz later explained, on a creditors call in June, that Geneva served as an intermediary between M2 LoanCo, the lender, and Tehum, the company Corizon saddled with its debts, making payments on behalf of Tehum to various vendors. He said it was his job to review invoices before Geneva sent payments from its accounts.But he said he held no official title with Geneva nor received any compensation. And Lefkowitz said under oath on the June creditor's call that he didn't know the identity of Geneva's principals. That sworn testimony may be false.According to a motion in the $12 million lawsuit filed against Tehum by the University of Missouri Health Care system and the local hospital over nonpayment, Lefkowitz had a controlling interest in Geneva. In a motion filed in June to force compliance with a subpoena, lawyers for the unsecured creditors committee cite Geneva's attorney saying his "client contact" there was Lefkowitz. According to an attachment in Geneva's exhibit list, Lefkowitz has just one of 11 email addresses at Geneva. He is listed on a company website as a director of Genesis Healthcare, Geneva's owner.When asked about Genesis on the May creditors call, Lefkowitz said, "It's possible, I'm not 100 percent certain" that the company has an investment in Perigrove 1018.Genesis Healthcare is one of the biggest nursing-home systems in the United States, with more than 200 facilities in 21 states. It's also another deeply troubled company: In 2021, after several years of poor financial performance, Genesis was taken over and delisted from the New York Stock Exchange. According to a Genesis press release, the money for the purchase came from an affiliate of a private-equity firm called Pinta Capital Partners that was founded in 2012 by David Harrington and Landau — the investor who Flacks said was part of the group who purchased Corizon. Landau was later described by The American Prospect as a "serial liar with a history of conning his way into nursing home takeovers."Landau gained notoriety several years ago for his role in a scandal during the Bill de Blasio administration. That's when another Landau company purchased a former 219-bed Lower East Side nursing home called Rivington House. City officials lifted deed restrictions on the property after Landau made a commitment to local officials that there'd be no changes for residents. But he quickly reneged and sold the property to developers, netting $72 million.Landau has ties with both Lefkowitz and Gefner. According to the Hindenburg report, Gefner once worked for Pinta Capital. An archived 2009 video shows Lefkowitz and Landau shaking hands and smiling with then New York Gov. David Paterson.A strategy 'to benefit insider individuals'The complex web of business relationships appears to have led to self-dealing. There were Corizon and YesCare's contracts with the Goldberger-controlled United Staffing Solutions. There was the $3 million consultancy between Corizon and Geneva whose discovery may have gotten Hyman fired. The Alabama proposal document says YesCare also entered into an agreement with Geneva, paying Geneva to provide administrative support services, capital financing, and bonding requirements.Insider's analysis of financial records filed by Tehum in bankruptcy court shows that since the new buyers purchased Corizon, the company has transferred more than $48 million to entities controlled by Lefkowitz and Gefner, potentially limiting the pool of funds available for settling claims with creditors like the Garcias.For example, Corizon gave Perigrove $6 million from April to June 2022, the period in which the company became Tehum. And Corizon sent $7.5 million to another Gefner company, DG Realty, in December 2021.(A footnote indicates Tehum has also received $24 million from five parties, but it doesn't break down the payments.) "The most egregious form of the Two-Step is the kind of thing that bankruptcy is designed to prevent," Mark Roe, a professor at Harvard Law School who teaches bankruptcy and corporate law, told Insider. "A transfer of assets to our friends or ourselves, and to avoid paying liabilities."Oved, Gefner's attorney, said in the statement, "Corizon was on the verge of filing bankruptcy when it was acquired" and that "Corizon has done nothing wrong by availing itself of the same laws and protections afforded every other company in this country and any implication to the contrary is false."The ACLU, Public Justice, and other civil-rights organizations filed an amicus brief in May on behalf of pro se incarcerated plaintiffs. In it, they argue that the level of self-dealing among the principals has weakened the ability of creditors to repossess assets that may have been wrongly moved out of their reach. Lawyers for the unsecured creditors also argued, in a June filing opposing Tehum's attempts to draw out the timeline, that "this bankruptcy process is serving to benefit insider individuals and affiliated entities."LoPucki, the University of Florida scholar, said that the case, if it's resolved in favor of Tehum's owners, could signal "a fundamental change in the law governing debt," effectively rewriting the rules of the bankruptcy code laid down by Congress over a century ago. "As this case shows, corporations will keep trying to manipulate bankruptcy to game the justice system unless Congress puts a stop to it," Sen. Dick Durbin, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told Insider.In January 2022, just a few months before the divisional merger that created YesCare, Lefkowitz was trying another maneuver to siphon money out of the cash-strapped Corizon. According to allegations in a 2022 lawsuit, he and two business partners, including someone identified on a wire transfer as "DAVID," planned to purchase hundreds of thousands of COVID test kits from a company called Seven Trade, registered to the same World Trade Center address and organized by Gefner. Lefkowitz and Gefner describe themselves in legal documents as its director and sole member, respectively.The complaint, filed by Seven Trade against the test-kit supplier, says they planned to resell the tests to Corizon at a 57% markup. If the deal hadn't fallen through, it would have netted them almost $1.2 million; Seven Trade won a $2.9 million judgment.In June, Cross, the civil-rights attorney, joined other creditors in filing a motion for the court to appoint an independent trustee, arguing that the Seven Trade episode "is perhaps the clearest available evidence that Mr. Lefkowitz is unlikely to act as a responsible fiduciary." (In an objection, attorneys for Tehum said the company "disputes the implications or the specific allegations.")"The Debtor's directors," the motion said of Tehum, "engaged and attempted to engage in various self-dealing transactions while the Debtor was insolvent," including the Seven Trade deal and Tehum's "payment of millions of dollars to Geneva Consulting LLC, a newly-formed entity controlled by insiders."In June of this year, Corizon creditors filed a motion asking the court to appoint an independent trustee, arguing that Tehum’s directors engaged in “self-dealing.”US Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of TexasIn May 2022, just three months after Seven Trade filed suit and right around the time of the divisional merger, Tirschwell, YesCare's founding CEO, was looking to sign up new business. YesCare had its eyes on one particularly lucrative call for bids: the one from the state of Alabama. The Alabama Department of Corrections is one of the most notorious prison systems in the country. The department has been the subject of a federal investigation since 2016 over horrific conditions and pervasive violence, and it's still fighting a class-action lawsuit filed in 2014 by the Southern Poverty Law Center over claims of inadequate healthcare. The stakes were high for whoever would come in to handle medical care for the system's more than 18,000 prisoners.After reviewing five bids, the state awarded a billion-dollar contract to YesCare, a company that had been established only a couple of months earlier. The decision was shrouded in controversy. A corrections department attorney acknowledged a potential conflict of interest. And Wexford, a competitor for the massive bid, alleged in a letter to the governor obtained by Insider that YesCare's CEO — then Tirschwell — violated a "cone of silence" period by having dinner with the department's top corrections official during the bidding process. Alabama rebid the contract, but YesCare prevailed again.There was another striking revelation in YesCare's proposal — one that hints at why the group of investors wanted to take over Corizon in the first place.YesCare and Geneva Consulting, the proposal explains, intend to create a prison-to-nursing-home pipeline.They say YesCare plans to develop and manage skilled nursing facilities to house medically fragile older people on medical furlough from prison, on parole, or who recently finished their sentence, creating a direct path from the prisons to their centers. The proposal lists 11 facilities across Alabama, nine of them run by Genesis, that collectively can house more than 700 people."In more cases than not, releasing patients are denied access to nursing homes due to their history of violence or their infectious disease status," the proposal says, referencing a chart of the Genesis facilities. "YesCare has access to the facilities below to assist the ADOC with nursing home placements."The proposal describes the arrangement as "an innovative means to transfer significant healthcare costs away from State budgets." Seven of the nine Genesis facilities listed, according to ProPublica's nursing-home database, received "D," "E" , "F", "J", and "K" ratings from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, on a scale of A to L. Insider found at least 80 documented deficiencies over the past five years in which these facilities failed to meet care requirements, resulting in over $44,000 in fines. Bankruptcy was in her playbookAfter the new owners quietly took over Corizon, they appointed someone as CEO with no prior experience in corrections.Sara Tirschwell, a Texas native with piercing hazel eyes, spent much of her career at Davidson Kempner, the distressed-debt pioneer. There, she served as interim CFO for an addiction-treatment center in Maine, sat on the board of a cannabis transport company, and helped to restructure an Israeli automotive supplier. She went on to become a managing director at Quest Turnaround Advisors, a firm specializing in managing flailing businesses.Then, before joining Corizon, she decided to run for New York City mayor.By all accounts, it was a spectacular debacle. She failed even to collect enough signatures to get onto the Republican primary ballot. And yet she may have violated campaign-finance laws, according to a July 2022 complaint submitted to the city's Campaign Finance Board, by failing to properly report expenditures and in-kind contributions. When a board employee had contacted her some months earlier with questions about outstanding liabilities owed by her campaign, according to notes of the call, Tirschwell responded that she "would simply file for bankruptcy at the federal level to ensure the CFB could not come after her." (A spokesperson for the CFB, Tim Hunter, declined to comment on whether the board opened an investigation.)That instinct may have presaged what came next.After Tirschwell's failed 2021 bid for New York City mayor, a Campaign Finance Board staffer contacted her with questions. The staffer's writeup from February 10, 2022, notes Tirschwell saying if the board came after her, she'd file for bankruptcy.New York City Campaign Finance BoardAbout six months after Tirschwell dropped out of the race, she sold her Manhattan condo for $2.6 million, rented an apartment on the 29th floor of a high-rise building in Houston, and embarked on another adventure in bankruptcy, Corizon's Texas Two-Step. That apartment was more than her personal residence: Incorporation records show that Tirschwell listed her apartment as the business address for YesCare Corp., the company that owns YesCare.During her short tenure at Corizon, and then YesCare, Tirschwell bid for new business, including in Alabama, and reached out to corrections officials to reassure them about the transfer of ownership. Bryan Baker, the director of the New Mexico jail where Hector Garcia's health catastrophically collapsed, recalled an in-person visit Tirschwell made to the facility, some three years after Garcia died, where they briefly discussed the business.But it seems clear in retrospect that Tirschwell was brought on to accomplish one thing.Bankruptcy was in Tirschwell's playbook. Her Quest profile says she "has been a guest lecturer on the subject of bankruptcy investing." Back in 2004, after many companies with asbestos tort liabilities had been driven into bankruptcy, she joined with other hedge funds in meeting with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss the idea of establishing a trust fund to pay those claims. A decade later, companies with asbestos claims were the first to deploy the Texas Two-Step.She was the only Corizon leader based in Texas, where the Two-Step is legal, and the timeline suggests she may have been brought on specifically to oversee the company's legal maneuvers in Texas. She was referred to as part of the company's "transitional leadership team" in a February email sent from a YesCare administrator to a county agency in Michigan. Three days after the bankruptcy, Tirschwell was out the door, with Corizon's long-standing CFO Jeff Sholey taking the company's reins. Sholey did not respond to detailed requests for comment.Though she was CEO for just 15 months, she was rewarded with a 5% ownership stake in YesCare Corp. Despite the bankruptcy, Tirschwell writes of YesCare on her LinkedIn page that she executed the "successful turnaround of a 45 year old correctional healthcare company."Steven Storch, Tirschwell's attorney, declined to comment on her behalf, citing pending litigation, and did not respond to detailed follow-up questions. But he said she "has long been a passionate advocate for improvements to the prison healthcare system."A hallway inside the Doña Ana County Detention Center.Adria Malcom for InsiderIn June, an Insider reporter stopped by the Doña Ana County Detention Center, the low-slung facility in Las Cruces, on the edge of the Chihuahuan Desert, that Tirschwell had visited a year before — the place where Hector Garcia spent his final days. In the facility's nursing station, where Garcia's family said in a civil complaint that he'd received "inadequate medical care," YesCare and Corizon posters are now plastered side-by-side. The hallway's fluorescent lights added a harshness to the already desolate environment. The prison gave off a musty, almost putrid smell and in the cells, men lay on their metal bunks, turned to the wall. This facility is where Garcia collapsed just three days into his six-day sentence; where a corrections officer found him crawling on the floor and moaning; where a nurse practitioner from Corizon responded to his severe pain, distended abdomen, and his vomiting of dark brown bile by putting him in a medical observation cell.According to the family's lawsuit, emergency rooms frequently encounter perforated ulcers and a routine surgery can treat the condition. Left untreated, however, the condition can be fatal. Time matters, and Corizon staffers waited until early in the morning on August 6 — two days after the onset of Garcia's symptoms — to send him to the hospital. A photo of Hector Garcia with his family sits by a window at his son Daniel's house in Las Cruces.Adria Malcom for InsiderHe was already unconscious by the time his family arrived at his bedside, after his sister received a call from a nurse at the hospital. To this day, no one from the detention facility or from Corizon has sent condolences to the family, or contacted them at all."How can our system allow this to people?" Hector Garcia Jr. said in an interview. "It's not like he had a chance to call an ambulance himself." The Garcias may never get a chance to make the case that his death could have been prevented. If Tehum's owners get their way during the settlement negotiations scheduled for this week, they could skirt accountability not just for Hector Garcia's death, but for the for hundreds of vulnerable prisoners who say they experienced serious harm at the hands of a company paid hundreds of millions of dollars to keep them safe.CreditsReporters: Nicole Einbinder, Dakin Campbell, Hannah Beckler, Katherine Long, Jack Newsham Editors: Esther Kaplan, Jeffrey Cane, John CookVisuals: Kazi Awal, Isabel Fernandez-Pujol, Annie Fu, Rebecca ZisserVideo: Erica Domena, Havovi Cooper Photography: Sylvia Jarrus, Adria Malcolm Research: Narimes ParakulCopy Editor: Kevin Kaplan  Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytAug 21st, 2023

Futures Tread Water As $4.2 Trillion Triple-Witching Opex Looms

Futures Tread Water As $4.2 Trillion Triple-Witching Opex Looms Following the largest ever S&P call-buying day in history... ... which sparked a marketwide gamma-squeeze that pushed the market higher for the 6th consecutive day to the highest level since April 2022, US equity futures and global stocks were headed for the best week in more than two months, buoyed by bets on Chinese stimulus and exuberance surrounding artificial intelligence firms. After closing above 4,400 on Thursday, S&P futures were up 0.1% at 7:40m ET, recovering from an earlier dip and trading near session highs. The MSCI World Index has climbed 3% this week, the most since the end of March. Asian stocks staged a broad rally on Friday and European equities climbed. Treasury yields climbed across the curve, most steeply at the shorter end on recession fears. The Bloomberg dollar index reversed earlier gains while gold prices rose. Oil prices were flat, while iron ore is also edging lower today despite being poised to climb this week. Whether the US rally extends to a 7th day will depend on how the market reacts to today's sizable $4.2 trillion triple-witching opex. According to Asym 500 founder and former Goldman derivatives strategist Rocky Fishman, today's OpEx, which is broken down into $2.5 trillion in options expiring in the morning and another $1.7 trillion at the close, is 20% more than a year ago. The opex will lead to a sharp drop in the "call wall", resulting in a so-called unclenched market,which could lead to a spike in volatility as gamma gravity is reduced and the market is free to move more aggressively. To Matthew Tym, the head of equity derivatives trading at Cantor Fitzgerald LP, traders are likely to roll out their call positions, particularly those that are still out of the money. But the overall event’s impact on the broader market is hard to predict. Speaking to Bloomberg, he said that “people are under-invested and need to get exposure,” adding that "there is a tremendous amount of options coming off tomorrow. However, I don’t have a good feel for what that does to the market.” We'll just have to wait and see. In premarket trading, Adobe shares rose as much as 3.9% in premarket trading after the software company reported second-quarter results that beat expectations and raised its full-year forecast. Analysts are positive on the report, seeing strong net-new digital media annualized recurring revenue as a highlight. There is also optimism about the company’s potential with artificial intelligence. Apple neared a record $3 trillion market capitalization. Here are some other notable premarket movers: Virgin Galactic shares jump 38% in premarket trading after the company announced it’s planning for its first commercial passenger space flight between June 27-30 Cava was 3.2% stronger in US premarket trading after the shares of the fast-casual restaurant chain almost doubled on Thursday in their debut. Nikola shares jump in US premarket trading on Friday, setting them up to more than double in value this week. The latest rally comes as its ousted founder Trevor Milton called for leadership change at the electric-truck maker. SoFi Technologies drops 4.3% in premarket trading after Piper Sandler downgrades the online personal finance company to neutral from overweight. The broker says some outperformance is warranted, though the rise in interest rates over the last two months will be an incremental near-term headwind. Lexicon shares jump as much as 18% in US premarket trading before paring some gains, after the drug developer said late Thursday that the US FDA has approved its oral tablet Inpefa to reduce the risk of heart failure. Millicom dropped 6% in postmarket trading after it says it terminated discussions with Apollo Global Management and Claure Group regarding a potential acquisition. Squarespace gained 7% in extended trading after it confirmed an agreement to buy Google Domains assets, according to a press release. The week's powerful rally was sparked by rising bets that the Fed will end its tightening cycle sooner rather than later after this week’s pause in interest-rate hikes, while expectations are also growing that China’s government will boost spending. That helped lift mining, energy and some luxury stocks in Europe trade Friday. “Theres a lot of cash on sidelines and we should not underestimate investors’ willingness to step in,” said Georgios Leontaris, chief investment officer for Switzerland and EMEA at HSBC Global Private Banking and Wealth. The tech-led rally has upended countless bearish analyst calls. Bank of America’s Michael Hartnett said he was wrong in the first half because the US economy has avoided a recession and a credit crunch, and called the AI-driven tech rally an “unanticipated event.” Still, he drew parallels to 2000 or 2008, warning of a “big rally before big collapse.”  In Europe, the Stoxx 600 rose 0.4% with utilities and consumer outperforming. Construction and mining names fall. LVMH contributed the most to the advance in the Stoxx 600 Index. Asos Plc rose as much as 7.8% after the fashion retailer’s sales update showed turnaround progress. Here are the biggest European movers: Asos shares rise as much as 7.8% in their biggest two-day gain since January after the online fast fashion retailer’s sales update on Thursday showed turnaround progress Swedish lenders lead gains on Stockholm’s large-cap OMXS30 benchmark after Barclays issued a review on the sector, upgrading Handelsbanken to overweight and SEB to equal weight MorphoSys gains as much as 14%, the most since April, after JPMorgan double-upgraded the German biotech to overweight from underweight, seeing at least about 40% upside to the shares Marlowe rises as much as 14%, with the company reportedly exploring a sale of its testing, inspection and certification division, the largest by revenue Mears Group gains as much as 7.2% after saying it experienced “strong trading” in the first five months of its financial year, with FY profits expected to be “materially ahead” of market expectations Applus Services rises as much as 11%, hitting the highest since March 2020, after Sky reported that Isquared Capital is preparing to launch a bid for the Spanish company as soon as next week Maersk falls as much as 4% after Handelsbanken initiated coverage of the shipping firm with a sell recommendation, predicting lower freight rates and lackluster volume growth Millicom declines as much as 8.5% after the telecommunications firm said it terminated discussions with Apollo Global Management and Claure Group regarding a potential acquisition Travis Perkins drops as much as 8.3% after the builders’ merchant warned that its full-year profit will be hurt by lower volumes. Other UK homebuilders and building-product suppliers also fall Interroll slumps as much as 12% after issuing a profit warning, predicting 1H23 revenue and Ebit below the previous year. ZKB downgraded the stock to market perform from outperform after the news Tesco slips as much as 1.3% after the grocer reported 1Q sales and kept its guidance. The unchanged operating profit outlook suggests a slightly lower margin, according to Bloomberg Intelligence Asian stocks also rose as markets in China, Hong Kong Australia and South Korea climbed. Japanese shares rose while the yen fell, after the Bank of Japan kept is negative rate and yield curve control program unchanged. “The decision should not have been a surprise,” said John Vail, chief global strategist at Nikko Asset Management. “Anyone who shorts the yen versus the dollar must realize that the authorities will likely intervene with little warning if it gets much weaker.” Hang Seng and Shanghai Comp. were underpinned amid anticipation of further support measures from China but with gains capped in the mainland amid lingering frictions with the EU to ban Huawei and ZTE equipment from internal Commission networks and after the US tempered expectations of a breakthrough in relations ahead of US Secretary of State Blinken’s visit to China. Nikkei 225 initially declined amid cautiousness heading into the BoJ policy decision but then recovered after the BoJ refrained from any hawkish surprises and maintained its ultra-easy policy settings. ASX 200 was positive with the gains led by early strength in energy and utilities after AGL Energy flagged a jump in FY24 underlying profit and with some households facing electricity tariff increases of up to 51% for the winter season. In FX, the Bloomberg dollar index faded earlier gains following a 0.7% drop on Thursday after ECB President Christine Lagarde said a further hike in July is “very likely.” The euro was little changed after rallying the most since April on Thursday following the European Central Bank’s decision to lift interest rates by another quarter-point. The yen declined as much as 0.8%, paring its rebound from a seven-month low against the dollar touched in the previous session; the BOJ left its negative interest rate and yield curve control program unchanged at the end of a two-day gathering. The central bank expects inflation will slow in the middle of the financial year and won’t hesitate to ease further if needed. “There’s no option but to see the yen weakening,” said Kengo Suzuki, senior market strategist at Mizuho Bank Ltd. “Divergence is quite big with the BOJ saying it will add easing if necessary” compared with the Fed and ECB which are more hawkish, he said. “The euro area has more of an inflation problem than the US and therefore the ECB will continue to hike, at least to 4%,” Christian Kopf, head of fixed income and FX for Union Investment Privatfonds GmbH said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. In rates, treasury yields rose across the curve as the front-end underperformed with 2-year yields cheaper by about 4bp on the day, pushing 2s10s spread through Thursday’s low. There was some outperformance by longer-dated US yields flattens 2s10s by ~3bp, 5s30s spreads by ~2bp on the day. 10-year at 3.73% is higher by ~1bp, trailing bunds and gilts in the sector by 4bp and 3bp. According to Bloomberg, there was no apparent catalyst for bear-flattening beyond rate-hike premium creeping back into swaps for July Fed policy meeting. Core European rates outperform following Thursday’s ECB rate decision. Looking at today's calendar, we have a few Fed speakers to listean to: Waller at 7:45 a.m., then Barkin at 9:00 a.m. That’s followed with US June University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment at 10:00 a.m. and the Baker Hughes US rig count at 1:00 p.m.   Market Snapshot S&P 500 futures little changed at 4,430.25 MXAP up 0.8% to 169.72 MXAPJ up 0.8% to 536.48 Nikkei up 0.7% to 33,706.08 Topix up 0.3% to 2,300.36 Hang Seng Index up 1.1% to 20,040.37 Shanghai Composite up 0.6% to 3,273.33 Sensex up 0.4% to 63,184.70 Australia S&P/ASX 200 up 1.1% to 7,251.25 Kospi up 0.7% to 2,625.79 STOXX Europe 600 up 0.5% to 466.49 German 10Y yield little changed at 2.51% Euro little changed at $1.0952 Brent Futures up 0.1% to $75.78/bbl Gold spot up 0.2% to $1,962.31 U.S. Dollar Index little changed at 102.20 Top Overnight News 1) BOJ Governor Kazuo Ueda continued to defy global central bank trends by sticking with stimulus as he waits for signs of more sustainable inflation while his peers signal the need to raise interest rates further to rein in prices. Ueda and his fellow board members left their negative rate and yield curve control program unchanged at the end of a two-day gathering and maintained their view that inflation will slow over the coming months. BBG 2) China will roll out more stimulus to support a slowing economy this year, but concerns over debt and capital flight will keep measures targeted at shoring up weak demand in the consumer and private sectors, sources involved in policy discussions said. RTRS 3) Blue Owl is eyeing up the European direct lending market. Among the options under consideration: building a team, buying an existing fund manager or raising a fund to be overseen by a portfolio manager based there. BBG 4) Chipmakers are betting big on new plants in Europe and Asia. Intel is bolstering its presence in Poland with a $4.9 billion factory, the country's leader tweeted. Micron is close to a $1 billion deal for a plant in India, people familiar said, and pledged another $600 million for a site in China — just weeks after Beijing imposed curbs on its chips. BBG 5) Gas prices appear likely to be lower this summer driving season after last year’s oil spike caused widespread pain at the pump. A gallon of regular averaged about $3.59 on Thursday, according to AAA, down from a record high of $5 a year ago when the war in Ukraine sent energy markets into a tailspin and fanned the flames of inflation globally. WSJ 6) Moody’s expects speculative-grade corporate defaults to climb to 4.6% by the end of the year — higher than the 4.1% long-term average — and peak at 5% by the end of April 2024, before easing to 4.9% in May. The forecast assumes US high-yield spreads will widen to 532 basis points over the next four quarters, from about 460 basis points at the end of May, with US unemployment rising to 4.8% from 3.7% in the same period. BBG 7) Lawrence Summers is confused by what the Fed did this week. While there were arguments for a hold, he said those wouldn't be consistent with adding two rate hikes to the outlook this year and boosting the forecast for growth. The inconsistency may be a "disturbing" sign of internal politics driving the Fed. BBG 8) $4.2 trillion OpEx today may rattle the gravity-defying bull market as investors roll over positions or start new ones. The maturation of a massive pile of options coincides with the quarterly expiration of index futures and the rebalancing of indexes including the S&P. Traders will probably roll out call positions but the overall impact is hard to predict. BBG 9) A $1.7 billion opioid settlement is on the verge of unraveling. Mallinckrodt, the drugmaker that began producing morphine and codeine in 1898, owes states, hospitals, tribes and others $200 million by the end of today. But the firm's business is sputtering, and some of its lenders are urging management to renege. BBG A more detailed look at global markets courtesy of Newsquawk APAC stocks traded higher following the gains on Wall St where the major indices were lifted alongside a weaker dollar and softer yields as participants digested a hawkish ECB and the rise in US jobless claims.  ASX 200 was positive with the gains led by early strength in energy and utilities after AGL Energy flagged a jump in FY24 underlying profit and with some households facing electricity tariff increases of up to 51% for the winter season. Nikkei 225 initially declined amid cautiousness heading into the BoJ policy decision but then recovered after the BoJ refrained from any hawkish surprises and maintained its ultra-easy policy settings. Hang Seng and Shanghai Comp. were underpinned amid anticipation of further support measures from China but with gains capped in the mainland amid lingering frictions with the EU to ban Huawei and ZTE equipment from internal Commission networks and after the US tempered expectations of a breakthrough in relations ahead of US Secretary of State Blinken’s visit to China. Top Asian News NDRC said China will accelerate the implementation of policies to increase consumption and that temporary fluctuations in some sectors are normal with China's economic operations maintaining a recovery trend overall. NDRC also stated that China will speed up the process to allow private firms to access the infrastructure of major national scientific research projects, while they will encourage and attract more private firms to participate in national major projects and key industrial supply chain projects. White House National Security Adviser Sullivan said they do not expect a breakthrough in US-China relations from Secretary of State Blinken's upcoming trip to China. BoJ kept its policy settings unchanged, as expected, with rates at -0.10% and the parameters of QQE with YCC maintained in which the decision on YCC was made through a unanimous vote. BoJ said Japan's economy is picking up and is likely to continue recovering moderately but also noted that uncertainty regarding the economy is very high. Furthermore, it reiterated that core consumer inflation is likely to slow the pace of increase towards the middle of the current fiscal year and that inflation expectations are moving sideways after heightening. BoJ Governor Ueda says more time is needed to meet BoJ's 2% inflation target; do need to pay attention to financial and FX markets. Responding to inflation undershoot after a premature rate hike is more difficult than responding to overshoot. Risk of excessive inflation overshoot with cautious policy response is "not zero" but there's also risk of inflation undershoot with hasty monetary normalisation. Possible a large shift in the price view could result in a policy change. European bourses are firmer across the board, Euro Stoxx 50 +0.4%, though action has at times been somewhat choppy in the likes of the FTSE 100 +0.3% despite a lack of fresh specific drivers since the Cash Open. Note, Goldman Sachs lifted its end-2023 year-end target for the Stoxx 600 to 500 from 475. Sectors are primarily in the green with some of the more defensively biased names leading such as Utilities and Healthcare while Basic Resources lags slightly after recent upside. Stateside, futures are firmer though only modestly so with newsflow limited thus far as we await a number of Fed speakers lter in the session. Top European News ECB's Holzmann says has no view on what should happen with rates beyond July. ECB's Nagel said the ECB may need to keep raising rates after the summer break. ECB's Simkus says he does not see rate cuts at the start of next year. ECB's Rehn says rate decisions will continue to follow a data-dependent approach; key rates will be brought to levels sufficiently restrictive to achieve a timely return to inflation's medium-term target. ECB's Muller says rates are yet to peak. FX Dollar off post-IJC lows with help from the Yen, DXY holds 102.000 handle as USD/JPY bounces from sub-140.00 towards 141.50 YTD peak in response to unchanged BoJ and dovish Governor Ueda press conference. Euro pivots 1.0950 vs Buck after hawkish ECB hike and flanked by hefty option expiries. Pound extends gains against Greenback to 1.2800+ awaiting BoE next week and unfazed by a decline in UK inflation expectations. Yuan continues recovery in hope of even more Chinese stimulus, with USD/CNY and USD/CNH both eyeing 7.1000 from peaks nearer 7.2000. PBoC set USD/CNY mid-point at 7.1289 vs exp. 7.1282 (prev. 7.1489) Commodities Crude benchmarks are under modest pressure this morning with fresh drivers limited and the action perhaps a break in the least few sessions consolidation and a return to the last few weeks general direction. WTI and Brent are towards the lower-end of circa. USD 1.00/bbl parameters and erring towards the USD 70.00/bbl and USD 75.00/bbl marks respectively. Spot gold is firmer as the tone remains tentative pre-FOMC speak while base metals are mixed given further Chinese support though a sizeable LME warehouse print seemingly weighs on Copper. Fixed Income More sustainable debt revival appears technical and positional following the extent of the recent decline. Bunds bounce from 132.18 to 132.96 and Gilts to 95.36 from 94.41. T-note lags within 113-16+/05 range awaiting prelim Michigan sentiment and commentary from the Fed post-hawkish FOMC hold. ECB TLTRO.III June window early repayment figure (EUR): 29.5bln (prev. 87.7bln). Geopolitics   US State Department said it wants Iran to take steps to cease its actions that destabilise the region including steps to curb its nuclear programme. It was separately reported that the US and Iran are in talks aimed at limiting Iran's nuclear programme, releasing some US citizens and unfreezing Iranian assets, while steps would be cast as an understanding and not an agreement subject to Congressional review, according to officials cited by Reuters. Russian Kremlin says President Putin remains open to any contacts to discuss the Ukraine conflict resolution, via Ria. Explosions heard in central Kyiv, according to Reuters witnesses. Note, an African leader delegation, led by South African president Ramaphosa, is currently in Kyiv. US Event Calendar 08:30: June New York Fed Services Business, prior -16.8 10:00: June U. of Mich. Sentiment, est. 60.0, prior 59.2 June U. of Mich. Expectations, est. 55.2, prior 55.4 June U. of Mich. Current Conditions, est. 65.1, prior 64.9 June U. of Mich. 1 Yr Inflation, est. 4.1%, prior 4.2% June U. of Mich. 5-10 Yr Inflation, est. 3.0%, prior 3.1% DB's Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap Today is the day that a passionate group within 1% of the world's population get extraordinarily excited about something that the other 99% of the globe ranges from being completely unaware of, to being completely apathetic towards. Yes, one of the oldest international sporting rivalries in the world kicks off here in England as we take on Australia at cricket for The Ashes. The home series are every 4 years, and I can soundtrack my life to these battles. Hopefully 2023 will go down as one of the best. So if you're one of the 99% spare a thought for the small number of obsessed nervous wrecks within the 1% of us today. Risk assets are exhibiting few nerves at the moment and have continued their relentless advance over the last 24 hours, with the S&P 500 (+1.22%) rising for a 6th consecutive session for the first time since November 2021. It marked a big turnaround from earlier in the day, when there’d been a significant rates selloff, particularly after the ECB hiked rates and raised their inflation forecasts once again. But just 15 minutes later, the mood completely turned after the US weekly jobless claims unexpectedly remained at last week’s level of 262k, which is the highest they’ve been since October 2021. And in turn, that meant investors grew more doubtful about whether the Fed would end up delivering the two further hikes they indicated for this year, which supported a multi-asset rally across equities, bonds and commodities. Ironically, the rest of the US data from yesterday had been perfectly respectable, with the retail sales numbers even posting a mild beat. But markets are overweighting the weekly claims data at the moment, since they’re one of the most timely indicators we get, and would therefore be one of the first to show if the labour market is beginning to crack. So when the 262k reading came in well above the 245k consensus expectation, that prompted a sizeable reaction, particularly given the negative surprise from last week as well. For instance, yields on 10yr US Treasuries had stood at 3.83% just after the ECB delivered their hike, before tumbling down to 3.716% by the end of the session. The elevated claims number was a little more broad based than the surprise last week when two states made up the overwhelming bulk of the increase. So last week there was slightly more reason to be suspicious of the increase than this week. Ironically the first reaction to the perception of a weaker labour market was positive through the Fed effect. However be careful what you wish for. Even more attention will be on next week’s numbers now. This release distracted markets from what was an eventful ECB meeting in its own right. The main headline was another 25bp hike as expected, which took the deposit rate up to 3.5% and its highest level since 2001. But what caused a big reaction was the upgrade to their inflation forecasts, which signalled that more action was needed to get inflation back to their 2% target. For example, headline inflation was revised up by a tenth across each of 2023-25, and they’re now expecting it to only come down to 3.0% in 2024 and 2.2% in 2025. In addition, the core inflation forecast that excludes food and energy saw even bigger upgrades, with both 2023 and 2024 revised up half a point to 5.1% and 3.0% respectively. And even in 2025, core inflation was still seen at 2.3%, so the ECB are signalling they still expect headline and core inflation to be above their target in two years’ time. President Lagarde then offered some further hawkish comments in her press conference, saying that “barring a material change to our baseline, it is very likely the case that we will continue to increase rates in July.” That helped remove any doubt about whether the ECB were finished hiking yet, and investors moved to fully price in a further 25bp move to 3.75% at the next meeting. Looking further out, investors also began to consider it more-likely-than-not that the ECB would deliver yet another hike beyond that in September, which if realised would take the deposit rate all the way up to 4%. Following the meeting, our European economists have maintained their view of a 3.75% terminal rate but continue to see upside risks. However they did note some dovish counterbalancing comments from the ECB. See their reaction note here for more. All this meant European rates were torn between the generally hawkish ECB and the weak claims data, but ultimately the ECB won out. By the close, yields on 10yr bunds (+5.2bps), OATs (+4.5bps) and BTPs (+4.2bps) had all risen, and the 2yr German yield (+11.0bps) hit a post-SVB high. It was a similar story for equities, with the STOXX 600 (-0.13%) underperforming its US counterparts, despite paring back its losses later in the session. In the US it was a very different story however, since the claims data took centre stage. That meant Treasuries rallied across the curve, with yields on 10yr Treasuries closing -7.0bps lower at 3.716%. Furthermore, the 2s10s curve inverted further to -93.4bps, which is the most inverted its been since SVB, and just demonstrates how recessionary indicators are continuing to flash with growing alarm. This morning 2yr and 10yr yields are are back up +3bps and +1.7bps respectively with the curve thus inverting a touch more. For equities, there was a similarly buoyant tone, and the S&P 500 (+1.22%) closed above the 4400 mark for the first time since April 2022. 88% of index constituents were higher on the day with all but two industry groups gaining. For once, tech stocks slightly underperformed the broader S&P, but there was still a decent advance as software companies rose +2.7% to pace the S&P 500 industry groups. Elsewhere the FANG+ index (+1.09%) rose for the 10th time in the last 11 sessions, bringing its YTD gains beyond +76%. Asian equity markets are also mostly trading higher tracking overnight gains on Wall Street alongside hopes of fresh stimulus from China. As I check my screens, the Hang Seng (+0.68%), the CSI (+0.44%), the Shanghai Composite (+0.37%) and the KOSPI (+0.69%) are all moving higher. Elsewhere, the Nikkei (-0.10%) is trimming its losses but continues to remain in the red after the Bank of Japan (BOJ) maintained its ultra-easy monetary policy despite stronger-than-expected inflation (more below). Outside of Asia, US equity futures are indicating a slight pull back with those on the S&P 500 (-0.18%) and NASDAQ 100 (-0.22%) printing mild losses on what is triple witching day, with huge option expiries going through later. Overnight, the run of central bank meetings has continued, with the BoJ maintaining its current pace of yield curve control in line with market expectations as the central bank waits to ensure Japan sustainably achieves 2% inflation. While warning about risks to the global outlook, the central bank’s policy statement indicated that it won’t hesitate to ease further if necessary. Following the substantially dovish decision, the Japanese yen declined -0.35% against the US dollar to around 140.775. Finally, yesterday brought several other data releases from the US aside from jobless claims. Retail sales surprised on the upside with +0.3% growth (vs. -0.2% expected) even if retail control (that goes directly into GDP) was inline at 0.2%. Furthermore, the Empire State manufacturing survey for June rebounded to 6.6 (vs. -15.1 expected). That said, industrial production unexpectedly fell by -0.2% in May (vs. +0.1% expected). To the day ahead now, and data releases include the University of Michigan’s (UoM) preliminary consumer sentiment index for June, along with the final Euro Area CPI reading for May. Watch out for the inflation expectations in the UoM report as the long-term ones have been edging up of late. Otherwise, central bank speakers include the Fed’s Bullard, Waller and Barkin, along with the ECB’s Holzmann, Rehn, Villeroy and Centeno. Tyler Durden Fri, 06/16/2023 - 08:09.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytJun 16th, 2023

Glatfelter Corporation (NYSE:GLT) Q1 2023 Earnings Call Transcript

Glatfelter Corporation (NYSE:GLT) Q1 2023 Earnings Call Transcript May 5, 2023 Operator: Good day, and welcome to the Glatfelter’s Q1 2023 Earnings Release Conference Call. Today’s conference is being recorded. At this time I’d like to turn the conference over to Mr. Ramesh Shettigar. Please go ahead. Ramesh Shettigar: Thank you, Jennifer. Good morning and […] Glatfelter Corporation (NYSE:GLT) Q1 2023 Earnings Call Transcript May 5, 2023 Operator: Good day, and welcome to the Glatfelter’s Q1 2023 Earnings Release Conference Call. Today’s conference is being recorded. At this time I’d like to turn the conference over to Mr. Ramesh Shettigar. Please go ahead. Ramesh Shettigar: Thank you, Jennifer. Good morning and welcome to Glatfelter’s 2023 first quarter earnings conference call. This is Ramesh Shettigar Senior Vice President Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer. On the call to present our first quarter results is Thomas Fahnemann, President and Chief Executive Officer of Glatfelter and myself. Before we begin our presentation, I have a few standard reminders. During our call this morning, we will use the term adjusted earnings as well as other non-GAAP financial measures. A reconciliation of these financial measures to our GAAP-based results is included in today’s earnings release and in the investor slides. We will also make forward-looking statements today that are subject to risks and uncertainties. Our 2022 Form 10-K filed with the SEC and today’s release are available on our website, disclose factors that could cause our actual results to differ materially from these forward-looking statements. These statements speak only as of today and we undertake no obligation to update them. I will now turn the call over to Thomas. Thomas Fahnemann: Thank you, Ramesh. Hello, everyone and welcome to Glatfelter’s first quarter conference call for 2023. It’s a real pleasure to be with you today. I’ll begin today’s call by highlighting that we have completed several meaningful actions throughout the quarter to progress our turnaround strategy with a sole focus of improving the long-term financial performance of the company. In the first quarter, we achieved operating income of $6.1 million and improved our adjusted EBITDA by $2.5 million compared to the fourth quarter of 2022, largely driven by the strong performance of our Airlaid and Composite Fiber segments. While we are encouraged by our first quarter results we continue to operate in a very challenging macroeconomic environment and inflationary conditions that we anticipate will create volatility in our markets for the remainder of the year. Despite these continued headwinds, we remain confident in our ability to deliver on our annual guidance of $110 million to $120 million in adjusted EBITDA for 2023. Before Ramesh addresses financial highlights, I want to cover a few of the quarter’s key accomplishments that contributed to progressing our turnaround strategy. First, we successfully completed the necessary steps for securing the needed refinancing that strongly positions the company to be very well capitalized while providing the financial flexibility to execute our short- and long-term strategy. As a result, no material debt will come due prior to the maturity of the company’s revolving credit facility in September of 2026. The completion of this refinancing was quite timely, given the recent liquidity pressures in the global banking system and was viewed favorably by Moody’s resulting in an upgrade of our credit rating. Second, the performance of the Composite Fibers and Airlaid Materials segments remained strong as demonstrated by the quarter-over-quarter growth and profitability, despite a continued difficult economic environment. In the Spunlace segment, volumes increased but we did not see a sequential increase in profitability compared to the fourth quarter, due to a less favorable product mix. As a result, we are carefully evaluating ways to address the ongoing demand and profitability dynamic within the segment. The last action I highlight is one that is a direct result of me having evaluated the needs of the business since leading the company now for nearly eight months. As communicated in early April, I took several key actions to reorganize the senior leadership team to have a single point of accountability for the performance of the company’s global supply chain, commercial and innovation functions. These functions will report into Boris Illetschko, who will be joining Glatfelter around early October, as Senior Vice President, Chief Operating Officer. As part of this change, we are also forming a product management function, reporting into Boris, which will be responsible for product profitability and pricing, along with a fulsome and integrated marketing, distribution and portfolio strategy for each of our product categories. I’m confident this new structure under Boris’ leadership will strengthen the integration across the core functions of the business and accelerate effective decision-making as we continue to address the company’s near- and long-term financial performance. Ramesh will now provide additional details on our first quarter financial performance. Ramesh? Ramesh Shettigar: Thank you, Thomas. Slide 3 of the investor presentation provides a summary of our first quarter results. Adjusted EBITDA was $24.8 million or $1.8 million higher compared to Q1 of 2022, mainly driven by improved profitability in our Airlaid Materials and Composite Fibers segments. On a year-over-year basis, Composite Fibers and Airlaid Materials’ EBITDA was higher by 3.9 million and 1.8 million, respectively. This was mainly due to higher selling prices resulting from multiple pricing actions taken last year along with raw material pass-through provisions and energy surcharges, helping to offset inflationary pressures. Spunlace EBITDA was slightly lower versus Q1 of 2022, by $300,000 as reduced shipments and lower production to match customer demand were not fully offset by pricing and cost reduction actions. Adjusted free cash flow, although negative and typical for the first quarter, improved significantly year-over-year driven primarily by lower working capital. Our leverage as calculated in accordance with the covenants of our new bank agreement was 3 times at the end of the first quarter, versus a maximum threshold of 4.25 times. Slide 5, shows a summary of first quarter results for the Airlaid Materials segment. Revenues were up 9% on a constant currency basis versus the same period last year mainly driven by higher selling prices of approximately $21 million, stemming from contractual cost pass-throughs as well as price increases and energy surcharges, initiated for customers without such arrangements. Volume was lower by 7% year-over-year primarily due to weaker shipments in hygiene and tabletop categories, but the earnings impact was mostly offset by favorable mix. The hygiene category decline was primarily due to certain customers slowing order patterns to manage inventory levels built up at year-end, as a precaution for potential energy and supply chain disruptions in the beginning of 2023. Tabletop decline was primarily in North America, where our assets were constrained in 2022 and unable to serve some of our larger customers. However, we expect to regain some of this tabletop volume in 2023. Our price cost gap was favorable as our pricing actions allowed us to offset input cost and energy inflation. Operations were unfavorable by $1.3 million versus the prior year primarily due to lower production to match customer demand, in tabletop and hygiene categories. Foreign exchange and related currency hedging, positively impacted earnings by $800,000 primarily from weakening of the Canadian dollar. Slide 6, shows a summary of first quarter results for the Composite Fibers segment. Total revenues were up 2% on a constant currency basis, despite volume being lower by 12% versus the same quarter last year. The revenue increase was mainly due to higher selling prices of $12 million as we have successfully converted more than half of the segment, revenue base to a dynamic pricing model, coupled with multiple pricing actions and energy surcharges taken in 2022 to combat inflation. Volumes in all product categories were lower compared to the same period last year, due to softening demand resulting from higher prices and challenging market conditions. Wallcover shipments were additionally impacted by the Russia Ukraine conflict. Overall, lower volumes unfavorably impacted results by $1.6 million. It is worth noting, that the net impact of volume loss and pricing actions taken in 2022, were favorable and helped to improve the segment’s overall profitability. Higher price of energy, key raw materials and freight lowered earnings by $8.5 million versus the same quarter last year. On a sequential basis, overall inflation was lower by $3.9 million and we expect this trend to continue in 2023, helping us regain some of the lost volume due to pricing pressures. Operations and other were favorable by $1.4 million driven by headcount actions, related to the turnaround strategy, as well as lower energy consumption from reduced production to match customer demand. Foreign exchange was favorable $0.6 million from the weaker British pound, creating a benefit in our UK manufacturing cost footprint. Slide 7, shows a summary of first quarter results for the Spunlace segment. Revenues were down 9% on a constant currency basis driven by lower shipments of 21%, but partially offset by higher selling prices of approximately $12 million coming from pricing actions taken to address inflation. Approximately 65% of the volume decline, was from lower margin hygiene and wipes. Within this product category, most of the decline was in the European market where our customers have access to lower-cost alternatives as well as cheaper imports from Turkey and China. We are exploring all options to improve our cost competitiveness, and asset utilization as these are critical to this segment’s profitability. On the branded Sontara side, the decline was mainly in the health care end market where we continue to see demand erosion in drapes and gowns. We do not expect this category to return to levels seen during the peak of the pandemic, and our goal is to offset it — the volume from the growing critical cleaning category. Raw material, energy and other inflation was unfavorable $8.8 million due to continued significant inflationary pressures in pulp, base paper and synthetic fibers. Operations FX and other items were a net $1.3 million unfavorable mainly driven by lower production to manage inventory levels. However, spending on personnel was lower reflecting the headcount actions, taken since acquiring this business to manage its cost structure. Slide 8, shows corporate costs and other financial items. For the first quarter, corporate costs were higher by $2.3 million versus the same period last year driven by higher incentive accruals and spending for professional services, but mostly in line with our historical levels. Slide 9, shows our cash flow summary. In the first three months of 2023, our adjusted free cash flow was higher by approximately $47 million versus the same period in 2022. This was primarily driven by higher working capital usage last year from elevated accounts receivables as selling prices increased. Slightly higher earnings and lower capital expenditures, positively impacted cash flow by a net $5 million. Cash taxes were lower by $6.5 million, mainly on account of higher Canadian income and withholding tax in Q1 2022 and a UK tax refund received in Q1 2023. Cash interest was higher by about $3 million reflecting elevated interest rates. This will further increase next quarter as our new term loan was initiated at the end of Q1. Slide 10 shows some balance sheet and liquidity metrics. We recently completed a series of transactions to address our upcoming debt maturity. As part of this refinancing, we executed a six-year €250 million senior secured term loan that was largely used to repay our existing €220 million term loan maturing in February 2024. In addition, we also amended our existing revolver to meet the ongoing needs of the company. This was achieved through a combination of downsizing the revolver total capacity, which was largely unused but gaining more flexible covenants, and thereby, creating additional liquidity. Our bank covenant leverage ratio as calculated under the new credit agreement was three times as of March 31st and we had available liquidity of approximately $230 million at quarter end. Slide 11 is a summary of our EBITDA and cash flow guidance for 2023. Overall, Q1 was in line with our expectations, and therefore, we are reaffirming our full year EBITDA guidance of $110 million to $120 million as provided last quarter. Regarding cash flow items, we expect the following; cash interest of approximately $60 million, which includes the latest projection of interest expense from the refinancing completed in the first quarter; capital expenditures to be between $35 million and $40 million; we expect $20 million to $30 million of cash usage from working capital and costs to achieve our turnaround strategy; and finally cash taxes are expected to be between $20 million and $25 million. This concludes my prepared remarks. I will now turn the call back to Thomas. Thomas Fahnemann: Thank you Ramesh. Throughout the last two quarters, I’ve spoken about the turnaround strategy I commissioned shortly after arriving at Glatfelter and it’s important in improving our financial performance. As Ramesh noted, we began seeing the early progress of our efforts during the fourth quarter of 2022 and I’m quite pleased that the team has carried this momentum into 2023. As is typical with any turnaround, the work that remains will become exponentially harder to achieve given the significance of its impacts to our bottom line results. That said, I’m very pleased to report that each of the six components to our strategy remain on track with a clearly defined plan for generating the results that are fundamental to restoring investor confidence. Also as the turnaround continues to make progress, we are actively assessing Glatfelter’s core products to further strengthen their unique attributes and overall value proposition as we continue to innovate sustainable product solutions. I recently had the opportunity to meet with a number of our key customers and suppliers along with a cross-functional team of Glatfelter leaders at one of the industry’s leading trade shows. This year’s event was particularly meaningful to me as it provided the opportunity to share my vision for the company and hear firsthand from our key stakeholders about what is important to them. As I reflected on my nearly two weeks of discussions, I left with four significant takeaways. First, our customers continue to value the way in which our products differentiate themselves from our competition, given the unique high-quality product attributes, long-standing customer service and security of supply that comes with the Glatfelter brand. Second, our customers’ expectations of us remain very high for managing the ongoing price cost gap as the challenging economic headwinds prevail. This is particularly important as we face growing competition from regions in the world that may not value the same level of commitment that Glatfelter is making to achieve truly sustainable products while improving our overall operations through targeted capital investments and operational efficiencies. Third, my discussions with key stakeholders further reinforce the recent organizational changes we made in April. Integrating our commercial and supply chain leadership into a single point of accountability will provide the next natural step in the evolution of our organization and overall financial performance. And last, the formation of a product management function for the first time in Glatfelter’s history will further expand our capabilities in the areas of product pricing, market insights, and rigorous financial analytics. Also as part of the reorganization, we took the opportunity to expand the senior executive team to include a broader base of existing cross-functional leaders who bring valuable diverse perspectives that are essential to our long-term growth. I’m confident that through these actions, along with ongoing discussions with our various stakeholders, we will continue to further strengthen Glatfelter’s brand and build on our quarter-over-quarter financial performance as demonstrated by our first quarter results. My team and I remain steadfast in delivering the key priorities included in our turnaround strategy, leveraging the perspectives of our newly expanded senior leadership and gaining various insights from our key stakeholders as the year continues. I will now open the call for questions. Q&A Session Follow Glatfelter Corp (NYSE:GLT) Follow Glatfelter Corp (NYSE:GLT) We may use your email to send marketing emails about our services. Click here to read our privacy policy. Operator: Thank you. We’ll go first to Josh Wool with Carlson Capital. Josh Wool: Thomas, Ramesh, good morning. Thanks for taking my question. Thomas Fahnemann: Good morning, Josh. Ramesh Shettigar: Good morning, Josh. Josh Wool: Hi. I want to start with a few questions around the volume trends you experienced in Q1. Specific to the quarter, can you help us tease out at least directionally the impact of destocking underlying demand? And maybe also describe how shipment trends progressed month over the quarter into April? Thomas Fahnemann: Okay. Yes. Again Josh, I think you have to look at our volume trends threefold. I mean one phenomenon we are seeing right now is that a lot of customers were really very concerned about the supply chain interruptions, energy situation in Europe and therefore, actually put on more inventory in 2022. Now that we are seeing that the energy situation in Europe has actually eased up and we don’t see any curtailment, also from a pricing standpoint, I think we are seeing more normal levels now. They are destocking from that. That’s number one. Number two, what we’re also seeing is, if you look at the overall expectation as far as raw material pricing is concerned and we have really — we are seeing an overall softening market. So there’s also a certain expectation that prices are coming down. So they’re not going up anymore. They’re coming down. So compared to 2022, when at the end of the quarter people were concerned about price hikes, so they kind of ordered more. Now they are very hesitant, let’s say, let’s just wait until the new quarter comes and see what’s happening in expectation of lower prices. And third, overall markets are very weak. We have to see — I mean — and this has really now materialized. And in the beginning to be quite honest, Josh, it was a little bit difficult for us to see what is coming from what. But what we are seeing right now and also, if you look at now customers, if you see suppliers or competitors coming out with their numbers, you see this across the board that the market is extremely challenging right now. So these are, I would say, kind of the three main issues, which are impacting our volume development. Josh Wool: That’s helpful. Yes, no, and I think some of the customers and your peers have reflected that. Maybe take a moment to tell us what you’re hearing from your largest customers in particular in femcare and wipes within Airlaid’s and Spunlace, and then the food and bev brand owners, Composite Fibers. How much longer can their growth be tilted to taking price at the expense of volume and just kind of what are they telling you about their expectations for 2023? Thomas Fahnemann: Okay. I mean, like I mentioned in my remarks, I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with our customers at INDEX last couple of weeks. And I think where we are — right now where we are and we are pretty confident in areas like Airlaid and in certain areas in Composite Fibers, I think we are — we should be able even to expand our volume as the year progresses. So we are working on a lot of projects with our big, big blue chip customers. Again, right now, the big issue is managing also the pricing. I mean there’s a lot of pressure right now that because after the price actions we took in September, October, which were significant but absolutely necessary. Now there’s an expectation that we’re releasing. So our strategy is more or less holding on as long as we can and we talked about this I think three months ago. But we’re also already having to do some surgical pricing adjustments in order to preserve volumes. I would say overall the market is — it’s a difficult market environment. And if you look at fem-hygiene, if you look at the wipes area, I mean we are seeing right now compared — Q1 compared to Q4, a minus of 1% to 1.5% lower demand. But again, it’s very difficult still to determine what is triggering this, because the three issues I mentioned before. But overall, we are still relatively confident that we are maintaining the volumes. But this actually is just — we are just able to do this with, I would call it right now, surgical price adjustments, which we have to make. But at the same time, raw material prices are coming down. Unfortunately, in certain areas, the raw materials are not coming down as fast as we wish. In other areas, they are coming down. And one big trigger also here is that there was a high expectation that after Chinese New Year the Chinese demand would pick up. And this hasn’t happened yet. I mean, it picked up but not to the extent which everybody was expecting. So if I look at the pulp market a relatively weak. On the other hand fluff pulp which is an extremely strategic raw material for us the gap between I would call it the regular pulp and fluff pulp is widening but we are putting pressure on our fluff pulp suppliers because this also has to be reflected in the fluff pulp price which we have not seen yet. Josh Wool: Okay. That’s helpful. Maybe one more for me and then I’ll get back in the queue. Can you provide any update on your work to monetize non-core assets or just if that analysis or framework has changed or progressed at all? Thomas Fahnemann: Nothing has changed there, Josh. We are diligently working on going through there. As you know, these things are sometimes a little bit more complicated. But no we are progressing. We are — I would say, we’re making good progress and you should expect some announcements in the near future. Ramesh Shettigar: Josh are you still there? Josh Wool : I was going to go back in the queue. I don’t want to dominate the Q&A. Thomas Fahnemann: Okay. Yeah. Ramesh Shettigar: Thank you, Josh. Operator: We’ll next to Roger Spitz with Bank of America. Roger Spitz: Thank you, and good morning. Ramesh Shettigar: Hey, Good morning, Roger. How are you? Roger Spitz: Ramesh, yes. I’m great. Thank you. Starting with the cash flow that you laid out are there any other cash flow items we should think about? Just simply taking what you’ve laid out you’re looking at 2023 free cash flow of $20 million at the midpoint of the various ranges. But are there any other cash flow items we should think about besides the ones you laid out? Ramesh Shettigar: No. Roger I would say really the turnaround strategy implementation costs whether that’s severance restructuring we also have payments this year for our CEO transition which we called out last year as well. So those some of that is going out here in 2023. But between the turnaround strategy cash costs the working capital the CapEx taxes interest nothing else to report on that would meaningfully affect the free cash flow position this year. Roger Spitz: Got it. Okay. And just to correct myself then I spoke incorrectly that was a working capital outflow. So that would be negative $30 million on a free cash flow basis. Ramesh Shettigar: Correct. Yes. That’s right. You got it right. Roger Spitz: Sorry about that. And I know you don’t normally give quarterly EBITDA guidance but perhaps you can comment qualitatively on the cadence of the improvement of EBITDA to get to your full year guidance and the main drivers. What are the pieces you see to get there? Ramesh Shettigar: Yeah, absolutely. So Roger one of the things Thomas instituted after coming here and assessing our business the forecasting volatility the external communication to investors. This was for the first time we went out with annual guidance for 2023 as a change in approach so that we can provide investors with a little bit more visibility around how the business is shaping out. What I would say we intentionally have not broken that number out by quarter, because of the volatility that we see in the business and sometimes going from one quarter to the next. But I think it’s sufficient to demonstrate that with the turnaround strategy being put in place when Thomas arrived and seeing some of the early improvements in the fourth quarter seeing that we continue to build on that and had improvement here in the first quarter we would expect that this gradual momentum and quarter-over-quarter increase will easily allow us to get to the full year number of $110 million to $120 million. So we feel very confident about that. And as you think about the pieces that will help us get there this is it’s the improvement in the price/cost gap whether it is price reductions in raw materials energy we’re starting to see freight come down. It’s the improvement in SG&A cost reductions and operations that are part of the turnaround strategy and so on. Those are the kind of building blocks if you will that gets us from the 2022 EBITDA to the guidance for 2023. Roger Spitz: Got it. Also if you want to for 2024 CapEx you may probably don’t want to give guidance. But if we want to put something in our model what kind of market will we look at? Should we just think about 2023 CapEx and saying that’s the same, or is there something we should think about in putting a take versus that? Ramesh Shettigar: Yes. I would say Roger the 2023 guidance is a very good proxy for what we anticipate in 2024. I think we’ve articulated previously that our number one capital allocation priority is going to be paying down debt. And we are being very disciplined and diligent about our capital spending. We believe that the guidance range we provided for this year $35 million to $40 million is a very, very manageable level for the next couple of years, as we think about continuing to maintain our assets, continuing to grow and continuing to leave enough free cash flow to be able to pay down debt. Now, there could be an opportunity down the road that allows us to grow expand EBITDA, look at portfolio decisions and so on, that may change that view. But for the time being, the CapEx picture of $35 million to $40 million for even next year, is a pretty good assumption. Q – Roger Spitz: Excellent. I too will get back in queue. Thank you. A – Thomas Fahnemann: Thanks Operator: We’ll go next to Peter Galgay with Amitell Capital. Peter Galgay: Hi, Ramesh. Thomas, good morning. Can you hear me? Ramesh Shettigar: Yes, Peter. Good evening to you. Peter Galgay: Excellent. One question and then a few others. Slide 8, you mentioned your corporate expenses were higher by $2.3 million. Do you envision that being the case going forward the rest of the year where corporate expenses will continue to be higher year-on-year? Ramesh Shettigar: What I would say, for corporate expenses, we still expect to be around that call it $27-ish million for the full year, Peter. We had provided that guidance at the beginning of the year. It’s all part of our EBITDA guidance of $110 million to $120 million. But as you think about the corporate cost on a full year basis, we expect to be around $27 million. So it could be a run rate that slightly comes down relative to where we are in Q1, but I would use that as a full year number. Peter Galgay: Okay. And that’s super simple and helpful. Thank you. Shifting gears Sontara, to what degree can you guys just share with us more about what Sontara, is in terms of profitability margins? How much of the Spunlace business, Sontara represents? A – Thomas Fahnemann: Sure. I mean if you look at our Spunlace segment, you can — and this is where we are right now around about 50% of our Spunlace businesses is Sontara, and around about 50% is hygiene and wipes. Now talk about the Sontara business, we are really changing our approach. This is a branded product mainly used right now in critical cleaning, and we are expanding our volumes there. If you look at the margin, the Sontara products without mentioning now, the specific margin but you can assume that due to the fact that it’s a branded product, price sensitivity at the customer level is not as high as in other areas, we are participating in. So Sontara margins are the highest in our overall product portfolio. We have the capacity available in the US as well as in Europe. We — with our reorganization, we are forming a group, which is solely focused on Sontara because marketing and selling a brand is different than selling a commodity or dealing with the products, other products we have in our portfolio. And so we have a clear plan in place, right now how we are accelerating the growth of our Sontara business. So, I hope that by the end of this year, the split between hygiene wipes and Sontara is not 50-50 anymore, but it’s somewhere more leaning towards the Sontara side of the business. One of the issues and challenges which we have is, if you look at the medical gowns business we have a superior product, which in certain areas to be honest is too good. And of being too good is also too expensive. This was not a problem during the pandemic, because there was just — you just had to have material and price did not matter. But now, it’s very difficult for us to be competitive compared to mainly China, Turkey and other countries, which are importing material. But we are also looking here at finding a solution, which is really fitting the customer needs. And in these areas we have to take attributes out of the product and make it cheaper. I mean, simply said. So we’re working on that as well. But our main focus is really the critical cleaning area. We have a pretty, I would say, good market position in the US. We are totally underrepresented in Europe and the rest of the world and this is where our focus is. Peter Galgay: Yes. That’s very helpful. And just to be clear, when you say it’s roughly 50-50, that’s based on revenue or volume? Thomas Fahnemann: Revenue. Peter Galgay: Revenue. Okay. And how — roughly how much of your Sontara revenue is derived from the US versus the rest of the world? Thomas Fahnemann: If you look at our business right now, I would say, the majority of our Sontara revenue is generated in the US. And we are totally underrepresented in the rest of the world. We have a very good asset in Europe. I was just there last week. So I can — I mean it’s a modern asset, it’s a line which is really great. And this is where our focus is. So we need to improve our European market position. Ramesh Shettigar: And that’s where our storage location. Thomas Fahnemann: And that’s in Spain, yes. And again, I mean this is nothing where we start from scratch, but we know that we can do it in the US and now we have to kind of adjust this and do it in Europe and the rest of the world. Peter Galgay: And then, doing it in the rest of the world is that a challenge more on the manufacturing side or hiring salespeople, its just Ramesh Shettigar: Yes. Okay. Peter Galgay: — sell the product? Thomas Fahnemann: No, good question, Peter. No, it’s not on the operations side. It’s really on the marketing sales side and a part of our reorganization which we announced in April, like I said, we have a special group just focusing on Sontara. As far as product management is concerned, we will have a special sales group. And these are the actions we are taking right now and it’s mainly market, its sales marketing that’s what we’ve got to do. One of the things, and I would like to manage expectations a little bit, the success here will not come overnight. But because certain products need qualification at our suppliers. They give you one example. We are supplying Boeing with critical cleaning for the US. We are not in Airbus yet. But normally qualification Airbus it takes around about six months to get there. And we are already doing all that. But it takes some time, but I’m very, very confident that we can increase our market share, because our product is superior. Customers really like it and the price sensitivity in these areas is not as high as I mentioned before than in some of the other areas that we are working in. Peter Galgay: Excellent. And I guess the longer and more difficult it is to get in and win these customers and probably the longer you have once you’re in there. Thomas Fahnemann: Exactly, exactly. And the good thing is that we are very, very optimistic to get in there because we have a superior product. Peter Galgay: Okay. Can I just confirm one thing that you said? You said the margins are the highest across the entire portfolio. That’s including Airlaid and Composite Fibers? Thomas Fahnemann: Yes. In general. Just a second. Peter, there’s always — as you know there’s always exceptions here and there. But in general, if you look at this — and I think this is — I mean this is a branded product. And, yes, in general this statement is right. Peter Galgay: Okay. This is helpful. Thank you, guys. I mean, because just going through, like — I’m still relatively new learning your business and going through your materials, it gets kind of swallowed up within Spunlace, which is this – Thomas Fahnemann: Right. Peter Galgay: — on the surface struggling business. So it’s good to kind of flush out. There’s a very viable business there. Thomas Fahnemann: Again, that’s why I think it’s extremely important, Peter, if you look at Spunlace, but you really have to look at Sontara, a very healthy business with a lot of potential. And then, we have our hygiene wipe business in Spunlace, which is challenged. No question about this and we are working on this. And these are operational issues which we are addressing. And the Spunlace issue is a market issue, we just got to go with it. We need more volume. Peter Galgay: Got you. Okay. Thank you, gentlemen. Ramesh Shettigar: Thank you. Thomas Fahnemann: Thank you, Peter. Operator: We’ll go next to Roger Spitz with Bank of America. Roger Spitz: Hi. Thank you very much for the follow-up. I just wanted to ask and perhaps I didn’t even hear it correctly during the prepared remarks Thomas. I think I heard you’re saying not just with non-core assets, but that you’re actively assessing some of your key products for value creation. And I guess, I’m paraphrasing there if I heard it correctly. If that was right can you expand on that? I mean are you suggesting that you’ll exit some products or markets if that’s what you’re saying? Thomas Fahnemann: No. Maybe — sorry maybe that was — I didn’t communicate well. What we are doing is that nothing has changed to when we communicated our turnaround plan. We are looking at our product portfolio. We are looking at certain assets and we have identified certain assets which are not strategic to us or are not performing the way we would like them to perform. And we also don’t see with our capabilities right now to get them to the level where we need to be. And these assets and these businesses are under review. But overall what I can tell you is this is really relatively small. I mean these are not — we’re not talking about a total transformation of the company. These are on the periphery here and there and it’s not changing Glatfelter, okay? It’s not. Roger Spitz: Got you. Okay. Thanks very much for that. Appreciate it. Thomas Fahnemann: Sure. Operator: We’ll go next to Josh Wool with Carlson Capital. Josh Wool: Hey, guys. I just had one follow-up on the discussion of Spunlace profitability. I know it’s been impacted by many cross currents including energy raw material challenges and then some of the demand issues. But maybe you could provide just an update on the synergy capture. And I know this you’re probably not thinking as much about what that synergy number is relative to just addressing some of the operational challenges. And so — but you originally I think had $20 million of synergies expected over 24 months. What is the number today and kind of what’s left to come? Ramesh Shettigar: Yes. Josh, you’re right about that. When we announced the acquisition we also announced the synergy number of $20 million. And if you recall it was expected to come one-third, one-third, one-third from SG&A from operations and from procurement, right? And then obviously the whole macroeconomic situation turned upside down on us with inflation and energy and so on. What I will say is that out of that $20 million we’ve at least gotten half and all of that has come from the SG&A where even though we were expecting to deliver $6 million $7 million call it from SG&A, we got a little over $10 million from all of the cost reduction people take out and so on, where we have been a bit challenged and we’re continuing to work on it is what Thomas was alluding to in terms of the operational inefficiencies that we are seeing within the Spunlace business if you will specifically on the hygiene and wipe side whether it’s waste uptime efficiency — throughput and so on those are the areas that our operations team is laser-focused on trying to get some of that cost and waste out of the system to help it drop to the bottom-line. So the ops piece is still a work in process. The procurement piece is also still a work in process. And that really has to do with having walked into a highly inflationary environment with energy being a double whammy for us. It’s just been a challenge working with suppliers to get better payment terms get better pricing and so on. But that is also something that our strategic sourcing organization is focused on trying to deliver. So are we fully there on the $20 million? No but I think we’re more than halfway there and continue to work on that. Josh Wool: Okay. Thanks. Ramesh Shettigar: Jennifer any other questions at this point? Operator: At this time, I’ll turn the call back to the speakers. Thomas Fahnemann: Okay. Thank you very much. So thank you for joining us today and Ramesh and I we’re really looking forward to updating you on our continued progress in the months ahead. Thank you. Ramesh Shettigar: Thank you. Operator: This does conclude today’s conference. We thank you for your participation. Follow Glatfelter Corp (NYSE:GLT) Follow Glatfelter Corp (NYSE:GLT) We may use your email to send marketing emails about our services. Click here to read our privacy policy......»»

Category: topSource: insidermonkeyMay 7th, 2023

Markets Calm Down And Banking Contagion Fears Ease – For Now

Degree of calm returns to markets Kingfisher sees rising shareholder returns ahead Bloomberg reports US considering guaranteeing all bank deposits Banking Contagion Fears Ease “Markets took a breather from fretting about banking contagion overnight. Wall Street saw modest rallies across leading industrial, financial and technology sectors as investors dissected the detail of the rescue of […] Degree of calm returns to markets Kingfisher sees rising shareholder returns ahead Bloomberg reports US considering guaranteeing all bank deposits Banking Contagion Fears Ease “Markets took a breather from fretting about banking contagion overnight. Wall Street saw modest rallies across leading industrial, financial and technology sectors as investors dissected the detail of the rescue of Credit Suisse Group AG (NYSE:CS) by longstanding rival, UBS Group AG (NYSE:UBS). if (typeof jQuery == 'undefined') { document.write(''); } .first{clear:both;margin-left:0}.one-third{width:31.034482758621%;float:left;margin-left:3.448275862069%}.two-thirds{width:65.51724137931%;float:left}form.ebook-styles .af-element input{border:0;border-radius:0;padding:8px}form.ebook-styles .af-element{width:220px;float:left}form.ebook-styles .af-element.buttonContainer{width:115px;float:left;margin-left: 6px;}form.ebook-styles .af-element.buttonContainer input.submit{width:115px;padding:10px 6px 8px;text-transform:uppercase;border-radius:0;border:0;font-size:15px}form.ebook-styles input.submit{width:115px}form.ebook-styles .af-element.privacyPolicy{width:100%;font-size:12px;margin:10px auto 0}form.ebook-styles .af-element.privacyPolicy p{font-size:11px;margin-bottom:0}form.ebook-styles .af-body input.text{height:40px;padding:2px 10px !important} form.ebook-styles .error, form.ebook-styles #error { color:#d00; } form.ebook-styles .formfields h1, form.ebook-styles .formfields #mg-logo, form.ebook-styles .formfields #mg-footer { display: none; } form.ebook-styles .formfields { font-size: 12px; } form.ebook-styles .formfields p { margin: 4px 0; } Get The Full Henry Singleton Series in PDF Get the entire 4-part series on Henry Singleton in PDF. Save it to your desktop, read it on your tablet, or email to your colleagues (function($) {window.fnames = new Array(); window.ftypes = new Array();fnames[0]='EMAIL';ftypes[0]='email';}(jQuery));var $mcj = jQuery.noConflict(true); Q4 2022 hedge fund letters, conferences and more   The deal has combined Switzerland’s two leading banks, both of them leading players in the international investment banking arena. Both, of course, are also substantial private bankers handling the affairs of rich families worldwide. Initially sceptical of the deal, the market’s mood changed over the course of yesterday, with UBS shares ending higher after a sharp initial fall. There was no respite for First Republic Bank (NYSE:FRC) though, with the Californian lender’s stock almost halving last night. First Republic is seen as vulnerable to the same losses on longer term bond values and liquidity squeeze that brought Silicon Valley Bank (NASDAQ:SIVB) down. The fall came despite a support deal brokered by the Fed that will see big Wall Street operators place $30bn on deposit at First Republic. In Asia, Australia, China and Hong Kong shared in the relief rally, pushing indices usefully higher. Japan was the standout however, with the Nikkei index dropping 1.4% to 26,945 as investors fretted over contagion risks that could remain in the system. Upturn In UK Investor Sentiment Hargreaves Lansdown’s latest poll of UK private investor sentiment showed a continuing upturn in their confidence about investing within the UK stock market. The upturn, which began in September 2022 shows that investors are looking through the shorter-term noise, ignoring the Liz Truss debacle and the ongoing Ukrainian conflict. The confidence is very much domestic though, HL’s poll reveals declining sentiment toward overseas markets. Crucially, the polling was undertaken before news of SVB and Credit Suisse’s collapse broke, making next month’s poll a critical barometer for the underlying strength of HL client confidence in the market. Kingfisher's Earnings Kingfisher plc (LON:KGF), the owner of B&Q, Screwfix and French DIY operator, Castorama, has released full year results. Profits have fallen back from last year’s highs, but the group points out that sales are double-digits ahead of their pre-pandemic levels. Sales were sluggish in Europe, masking a stronger performance back home whilst cost pressures and a lower gross margin saw retail profits drop almost 20% to £923m. The group are pointing to a stronger performance in the current financial year, with like for like sales in February inching back into positive territory.   Screwfix’s international expansion is being accelerated with 25 store openings in France planned. The market took the messaging positively, pushing the stock up almost 3% in early trading. US Considering Guaranteeing All Bank Deposits The US Treasury Department is considering how it might temporarily guarantee all US bank deposits, Bloomberg reports. If accurate, the reports show that the US is not yet convinced that risks of further banking contagion have gone away. To insure all deposits would be an unprecedented move but could prove to be a decisive backstop behind the US regional banking network where deposit outflows have been concentrated. Getting such a Bill past a deeply partisan Congress is another matter and the reports suggest that Treasury officials are exploring where their limits to act without Congressional approval lie.” Article by Steve Clayton, head of equity funds Hargreaves Lansdown.....»»

Category: blogSource: valuewalkMar 21st, 2023

Diversified Stock Portfolio: Sector ETFs and International ETFs to Buy

In this article, we discuss 15 diversified sector and international ETFs to buy. If you want to see more ETFs in this selection, check out Diversified Stock Portfolio: 5 Sector ETFs and International ETFs to Buy.  Many experts believe 2023 will witness even more fluctuations in the markets than last year, with the presence of […] In this article, we discuss 15 diversified sector and international ETFs to buy. If you want to see more ETFs in this selection, check out Diversified Stock Portfolio: 5 Sector ETFs and International ETFs to Buy.  Many experts believe 2023 will witness even more fluctuations in the markets than last year, with the presence of factors such as high inflation levels, job cuts by technology companies, increasing interest rates, and international uncertainties. As a result, investors will be seeking methods to minimize risk and broaden their investment portfolios. Christopher Huemmer, senior investment strategist at FlexShares ETFs, told Fox Business on February 6:  “The biggest driver investors need to prepare for in the upcoming year is volatility. We have seen an increase in the number of volatility spikes across both equity and fixed-income markets.” As per Huemmer, ETFs as an investment vehicle do not guarantee the reduction of portfolio risk by themselves. However, the advancements in the design of ETFs and the indexes they track offer the potential for investors to manage their risk. He highlighted that one such approach could be a focus on quality, low-risk stocks which can be easily incorporated into an investor’s equity allocation. This strategy aims to provide some protection against losses while still allowing the investor to remain invested in the equity markets. Morgan Stanley, which played a crucial role in the establishment of the ETF industry, is making its return to the segment after 30 years. This could mark a significant moment for the investment community. Morgan Stanley’s return to the ETF industry could have a major impact on the $6.9 trillion US ETF market. Previously, there were only a small number of major financial institutions without a presence in the industry, including Capital Group and Dimensional Fund Advisors. However, Morgan Stanley stands out with its control of approximately $5.5 trillion of assets through its wealth and investment management divisions, including billions invested in ETFs. The possibility that some of these assets could be redirected to its own ETFs increases the likelihood of Morgan Stanley quickly becoming a disruptive force in the industry. Anthony Rochte, Morgan Stanley’s global head of ETFs, told Bloomberg on February 1:  “This is the first step in a series of launches. While we’re focusing on the US, we’re certainly working on a parallel launch in Europe down the road.” Some of the stocks that diversified ETFs offer exposure to include Alibaba Group Holding Limited (NYSE:BABA), Novo Nordisk A/S (NYSE:NVO), and ASML Holding N.V. (NASDAQ:ASML).  Our Methodology  We selected the consensus picks of credible websites like Forbes, CNBC, and Bloomberg, selecting the most popular US sector ETFs, micro-cap ETFs, and international/foreign ETFs for this list.  Photo by Adam Nowakowski on Unsplash Diversified Stock Portfolio: Sector ETFs and International ETFs to Buy 15. Energy Select Sector SPDR Fund (NYSE:XLE) Energy Select Sector SPDR Fund (NYSE:XLE) seeks to provide investment results that correspond generally to the price and yield performance of the Energy Select Sector Index. The ETF is composed of stocks of companies that are listed on the S&P 500 Index and classified as being part of the energy sector. Energy Select Sector SPDR Fund (NYSE:XLE) was established on December 16, 1998, with 23 stocks in its portfolio as of February 9, 2023. The gross expense ratio came in at 0.10%. The fund’s distribution yield stood at 3.68%, with a quarterly distribution frequency.  Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM) is the largest position in Energy Select Sector SPDR Fund (NYSE:XLE)’s portfolio, representing nearly 24% of the total holdings. On January 31, Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM) declared a $0.91 per share quarterly dividend, in line with previous. The dividend is distributable on March 10, to shareholders of record on February 14. The company also boosted and prolonged its share-buyback plan, with a potential total of $35 billion worth of shares to be repurchased between 2023 and 2024. According to Insider Monkey’s third quarter database, 75 hedge funds were bullish on Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM), compared to 72 funds in the preceding quarter. Rajiv Jain’s GQG Partners held the biggest stake in the company, nearly worth $3 billion.  Like Alibaba Group Holding Limited (NYSE:BABA), Novo Nordisk A/S (NYSE:NVO), and ASML Holding N.V. (NASDAQ:ASML), Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM) is one of the most popular stocks for a diversified stock portfolio.  In its Q2 2022 investor letter, First Eagle Investments, an asset management firm, highlighted a few stocks and Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM) was one of them. Here is what the fund said: “Integrated oil and gas giant Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM) performed well in the second quarter as continued high prices for energy products supported the stock. As the largest refiner in the US, the company has benefitted from wide “crack spreads,” or the margin between the cost of crude oil and the petroleum products extracted from it. Exxon continues to invest in refining capacity in the US, which industry wide has been in steady decline since 2019. We are pleased that Exxon has been using its strong cash flows to reduce debt and to return cash to shareholders through dividends and stock repurchases.” 14. VanEck Gold Miners ETF (NYSE:GDX) VanEck Gold Miners ETF (NYSE:GDX) aims to closely imitate, before costs and expenses, the price and yield performance of the NYSE Arca Gold Miners Index. This index is designed to monitor the overall performance of businesses engaged in the gold mining sector. The fund was launched on May 16, 2006 and the total net assets as of February 9, 2023 stood at $12.7 billion. With a net expense ratio of 0.51%, VanEck Gold Miners ETF (NYSE:GDX) offers access to a diversified stock portfolio. The fund’s 30-day SEC yield came in at 1.54%, with an annual dividend frequency.  Out of a total of 49 holdings, Newmont Corporation (NYSE:NEM) is the largest position in VanEck Gold Miners ETF (NYSE:GDX)’s portfolio. It is a Colorado-based company engaged in the production and exploration of gold, copper, silver, zinc, and lead. On January 30, Barclays analyst Matthew Murphy raised the price target on Newmont Corporation (NYSE:NEM) to $57 from $54 and maintained an Equal Weight rating on the shares. Despite better-than-expected economic growth, the analyst believes that gold can act as a hedge against potential future economic downturns. According to the analyst, a soft landing for the economy is a possibility, but monetary policy is not yet finalized. Despite this, the analyst still prefers gold over copper equities. According to Insider Monkey’s Q3 data, 53 hedge funds were long Newmont Corporation (NYSE:NEM), compared to 56 funds in the last quarter. Jean-Marie Eveillard’s First Eagle Investment Management is the leading position holder in the company, with 17.85 million shares worth $750.5 million.  Here is what First Eagle Investments Global Fund has to say about Newmont Corporation (NYSE:NEM) in its Q2 2022 investor letter: “Shares of Colorado-based Newmont, the largest gold miner in the world, experienced weakness in the quarter as falling gold bullion prices and cost inflation hurt miners in general. More idiosyncratically, the company reported slightly disappointing earnings and production results for its most recent quarter due to pandemic-related disruptions, ongoing supply-chain constraints, and labor shortages. It also warned that operating costs for 2022 were likely to come in at the upper end of previous guidance. We remain constructive on the stock, which offers steady production anchored in good jurisdictions, a good pipeline of organic projects, a strong balance sheet, and proven management.” 13. iShares U.S. Home Construction ETF (BATS:ITB) iShares U.S. Home Construction ETF (BATS:ITB) seeks to track the investment results of Dow Jones U.S. Select Home Construction Index, which is composed of U.S. equities in the home construction sector. The ETF was created on May 1, 2006, and its net assets as of February 10, 2023 came in at nearly $1.5 billion. With 48 stocks in its portfolio, iShares U.S. Home Construction ETF (BATS:ITB) offers an expense ratio of 0.39%.  D.R. Horton, Inc. (NYSE:DHI) is the largest position in iShares U.S. Home Construction ETF (BATS:ITB)’s portfolio, representing 15.75% of the total holdings. It is a Texas-based homebuilding company that constructs and sells single-family detached homes, attached homes, townhomes, duplexes, and triplexes. On January 24, D.R. Horton, Inc. (NYSE:DHI) declared a $0.25 per share quarterly dividend, which is payable on February 14 to shareholders of record on February 7. D.R. Horton, Inc. (NYSE:DHI)’s revenue from home sales rose 1% to reach $6.7 billion, with 17,340 homes being sold in the first fiscal quarter of 2023, as compared to 18,396 homes sold in the same quarter of the previous fiscal year. According to Insider Monkey’s data, D.R. Horton, Inc. (NYSE:DHI) was part of 42 hedge fund portfolios at the end of Q3 2022, compared to 44 in the last quarter. John Armitage’s Egerton Capital Limited is the leading stakeholder of the company, with 4.70 million shares worth $317 million.  Baron Funds made the following comment about D.R. Horton, Inc. (NYSE:DHI) in its Q4 2022 investor letter: “The shares of D.R. Horton, Inc. (NYSE:DHI), the number one homebuilder by volume in the U.S., gained 31% in the most recent quarter following strong business results. We are bullish about the long-term prospects for D.R. Horton primarily due to two key considerations:  1) We believe the company is positioned to perform well over time given its status as the largest and lowest-cost producer in the entrylevel home segment for first-time buyers and baby boomers looking for an affordable home. In the last fiscal year, approximately 67% of D.R. Horton’s home sales were for prices less than $400,000, thereby enabling the company to satisfy the home affordability constraints of many potential home buyers. 2) We are enthusiastic about D.R. Horton’s continued transition to a stronger and more asset-light balance sheet by outsourcing its land development spending needs to third-party developers such as Forestar Group Inc. D.R. Horton’s transition to a less capital-intensive business model is leading to stronger cash-flow generation, lower debt levels, an ability to pursue more share repurchases and/or other investment opportunities, and a higher-valuation multiple.” 12. VanEck Semiconductor ETF (NASDAQ:SMH) VanEck Semiconductor ETF (NASDAQ:SMH) aims to closely replicate the performance in terms of price and yield of the MVIS US Listed Semiconductor 25 Index, before taking into account any fees or expenses. The index is designed to reflect the performance of companies involved in the semiconductor industry, including production and equipment firms. As of February 10, 2023, VanEck Semiconductor ETF (NASDAQ:SMH) had a gross expense ratio of 0.35% and a 30-day SEC yield of 0.91%.  Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Limited (NYSE:TSM) is the biggest holding of VanEck Semiconductor ETF (NASDAQ:SMH). The company manufactures, packages, tests, and sells integrated circuits and other semiconductor devices in Taiwan, China, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Japan, the United States, and internationally. On January 10, Morgan Stanley analyst Charlie Chan named Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Limited (NYSE:TSM) as a “Catalyst Driven Idea” ahead of the company reporting Q4 results and providing Q1 guidance on January 12. The analyst thinks gross margins may present an upside given TSMC’s wafer price hikes, and maintained an Overweight rating and NT$700 price target on TSMC shares.  According to Insider Monkey’s data, 87 hedge funds were bullish on Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Limited (NYSE:TSM) at the end of September 2022, compared to 72 funds in the last quarter. Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway held a prominent stake in the company, with more than 60 million shares worth $4.11 billion.  Baron Funds made the following comment about Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Limited (NYSE:TSM) in its Q3 2022 investor letter: “Semiconductor giant Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Limited (NYSE:TSM) detracted from performance due to the global macroeconomic slowdown and softening demand for consumer electronics. We retain conviction that Taiwan Semi’s technological leadership, pricing power, and exposure to secular growth markets, including high-performance computing, automotive, and IoT, will allow the company to deliver strong revenue growth over the next several years.” 11. Vanguard Total Intl Stock Idx Fund (NASDAQ:VXUS) Vanguard Total Intl Stock Idx Fund (NASDAQ:VXUS) seeks to track the performance of the FTSE Global All Cap ex US Index, which is composed of stocks issued by companies located in developed and emerging markets, excluding the United States. It is a passively managed fund which remains fully invested, with an expense ratio of only 0.07%. As of January 31, Vanguard Total Intl Stock Idx Fund (NASDAQ:VXUS)’s dividend yield came in at 3.31%, with a quarterly distribution frequency. The stock portfolio is concentrated in the financials, industrials, consumer discretionary, technology, basic materials, and energy sectors, among others. The stocks belong to Europe, Pacific, Emerging Markets, North America, and Middle East regions.  10. Vanguard Developed Markets Index Fund (NYSE:VEA) Vanguard Developed Markets Index Fund (NYSE:VEA) aims to track the investment performance of the FTSE Developed All Cap ex US Index, which offers exposure to large-, mid-, and small-cap companies in Canada and the primary markets of Europe and the Pacific region. The ETF follows a passively managed full-replication approach. The expense ratio since April 29, 2022 has remained 0.05%, while the average expense ratio of similar funds is 0.91%. Vanguard Developed Markets Index Fund (NYSE:VEA) holds 4,062 stocks, offering investors a diversified portfolio. The fund’s total net assets came in at $149 billion as of December 31, 2022.  Nestlé S.A. (OTC:NSRGY) is the largest position in Vanguard Developed Markets Index Fund (NYSE:VEA)’s portfolio, which is a food and beverage company. The company operates through Zone Europe, Middle East and North Africa, Zone Americas, and Zone Asia, Oceania and sub-Saharan Africa segments. On January 19, Berenberg analyst James Targett raised the firm’s price target on Nestlé S.A. (OTC:NSRGY) to CHF 130 from CHF 126 and kept a Buy rating on the shares. According to Insider Monkey’s data, Tom Russo’s Gardner Russo & Gardner held the largest stake in Nestlé S.A. (OTC:NSRGY) as of Q3 2022, with 8.72 million shares worth $938.6 million.  Here is what Polen International Growth Fund has to say about Nestlé S.A. (OTC:NSRGY) in its Q1 2022 investor letter: “We exited the Portfolio’s position in Nestlé in favor of what we believed to be a more compelling investment idea. Nestlé continues to enjoy competitive advantages related to its scale, distribution, and brand equity. We think the management team has positioned the business for success in recent years, with several divestitures along the way and believe the company is still likely to deliver consistent results. That said, our research indicates that returns may be at the lower end of our expected range and other opportunities appear more attractive.” 9. The Real Estate Select Sector SPDR Fund (NYSE:XLRE) The Real Estate Select Sector SPDR Fund (NYSE:XLRE) seeks to provide investment results that correspond generally to the price and yield performance of the Real Estate Select Sector Index. The index aims to accurately represent the real estate sector of the S&P 500 Index, offering exposure to companies from real estate management companies, development companies, and REITs, excluding mortgage REITs. The fund was launched on October 7, 2015. The gross expense ratio came in at 0.10% as of February 12, 2023. The portfolio has 30 stocks and as of February 9, 2023, the fund’s distribution yield stood at 3.41%.  Prologis, Inc. (NYSE:PLD) is the biggest stock in The Real Estate Select Sector SPDR Fund (NYSE:XLRE)’s portfolio, representing 12.58% of the total holdings. The firm specializes in logistics real estate, with a particular emphasis on markets that are characterized by high barriers to entry and rapid growth. On January 18, Prologis, Inc. (NYSE:PLD) announced a Q4 FFO of $1.24 and a revenue of $1.75 billion, outperforming Wall Street estimates by $0.03 and $290 million, respectively.  According to Insider Monkey’s Q3 data, 59 hedge funds were long Prologis, Inc. (NYSE:PLD), compared to 49 funds in the prior quarter. Jeffrey Furber’s AEW Capital Management held the leading position in the company, comprising 2.5 million shares worth $253.6 million.  Baron Funds made the following comment about Prologis, Inc. (NYSE:PLD) in its Q4 2022 investor letter: “Following strong quarterly results, the shares of Prologis, Inc. (NYSE:PLD), the world’s largest industrial REIT, performed well in the fourth quarter of 2022. The company owns a high-quality real estate portfolio that is concentrated in major global trade markets and large population centers across the Americas, Europe, and Asia. Prologis has an unmatched global platform, strong competitive advantages (scale, data, and technology), and attractive embedded growth prospects. The company is the only industrial REIT with an ‘A’ credit rating. Following a roughly 33% decline in its shares in 2022, we believe Prologis’ current valuation of only 22 times cash flow and a 4.6% implied capitalization rate is compelling given that the company’s rents on its in-place leases are more than 65% below current market rents, thus providing a strong runway for growth in the next three to five years.” 8. iShares International Select Dividend ETF (BATS:IDV) iShares International Select Dividend ETF (BATS:IDV) seeks to track the investment results of Dow Jones EPAC Select Dividend Index, which is composed of relatively high dividend paying equities in non-U.S. developed markets. With access to developed market companies that have provided consistently high dividend yields over time, iShares International Select Dividend ETF (BATS:IDV) offers a strong and diversified stock portfolio to investors. The fund has an expense ratio of 0.49% and net assets worth over $5 billion as of February 10, 2023. It has 102 stocks in its portfolio.  Rio Tinto Group (NYSE:RIO) is the biggest position among iShares International Select Dividend ETF (BATS:IDV)’s holdings. It is a London-based company engaged in exploring, mining, and processing mineral resources such as aluminum, copper, diamonds, gold, borates, titanium dioxide, salt, iron ore, and lithium. On January 23, Morgan Stanley analyst Alain Gabriel raised the firm’s price target on Rio Tinto Group (NYSE:RIO) to 5,790 GBp from 5,750 GBp and reiterated an Equal Weight rating on the shares. According to Insider Monkey’s third quarter database, 26 hedge funds were bullish on Rio Tinto Group (NYSE:RIO), compared to 24 funds in the earlier quarter. Ken Fisher’s Fisher Asset Management is the largest stakeholder of the company, with 14.15 million shares worth $779.2 million.  7. SPDR S&P Emerging Markets Small Cap ETF (NYSE:EWX) SPDR S&P Emerging Markets Small Cap ETF (NYSE:EWX)  seeks to provide investment results that, before fees and expenses, correspond generally to the total return performance of the S&P Emerging Markets Under USD2 Billion Index, offering exposure to the small capitalization segment of emerging countries. These companies have market capitalizations ranging between $100 million and $2 billion. The fund’s inception dates back to 2008, and it offers an expense ratio of 0.65%. As of February 9, 2023, SPDR S&P Emerging Markets Small Cap ETF (NYSE:EWX)’s portfolio consists of 2,892 stocks. The ETF offers a 30-day SEC yield of 4.32% and a semi-annual distribution frequency.  Alchip Technologies, Limited (3661.TW) is the largest holding in SPDR S&P Emerging Markets Small Cap ETF (NYSE:EWX)’s portfolio. It is a Taiwanese semiconductor company engaged in the research and development, design, and manufacture of fabless application specific integrated circuits, system on a chip, and provision of related services.  6. FlexShares Morningstar Developed Markets ex-US Factor Tilt Index Fund (NYSE:TLTD) FlexShares Morningstar Developed Markets ex-US Factor Tilt Index Fund (NYSE:TLTD) seeks investment results that correspond generally to the price and yield performance, before fees and expenses, of the Morningstar Developed Markets ex-US Factor Tilt Index. As of February 10, 2023, FlexShares Morningstar Developed Markets ex-US Factor Tilt Index Fund (NYSE:TLTD) offers an expense ratio of 0.39% and total net assets of $530.46 million. The fund was established in September 2012, and the portfolio consists of 2,930 holdings.  Shell plc (NYSE:SHEL) is one of the top holdings of FlexShares Morningstar Developed Markets ex-US Factor Tilt Index Fund (NYSE:TLTD). On February 2, Shell plc (NYSE:SHEL) declared a quarterly dividend of $0.575 per American depositary share, a 15% increase from its prior dividend of $0.50. The dividend is distributable on March 27, to shareholders of record February 17. Shell plc (NYSE:SHEL)’s Q4 revenue of $101.3 billion climbed 18.8% year-over-year, beating market estimates by $59.97 billion. According to Insider Monkey’s data, 39 hedge funds were bullish on Shell plc (NYSE:SHEL) at the end of the third quarter of 2022. Peter Rathjens, Bruce Clarke, and John Campbell’s Arrowstreet Capital is a significant position holder in the company, with nearly 12 million shares worth $593.2 million.  In addition to Alibaba Group Holding Limited (NYSE:BABA), Novo Nordisk A/S (NYSE:NVO), and ASML Holding N.V. (NASDAQ:ASML), smart investors are piling into Shell plc (NYSE:SHEL).  Here is what Harding Loevner International Equity Fund has to say about Shell plc (NYSE:SHEL) in its Q1 2022 investor letter: “While risks of unforeseen consequences arising from the Ukraine conflict are high, on this front we are cautiously optimistic that China will work hard to maintain its neutrality in a credible way, as it is a huge beneficiary of trade with the rest of the world, especially the rich developed nations. We think it likely that China, along with India, will continue to buy oil and gas from Russia (just as Europe, at least for now, plans to keep its gas pipelines open), and do not expect that fact to alter China’s trade relations with the West much. Nevertheless, we must contemplate that our optimism is misplaced on the importance of membership in the global network of exchange. If our central and optimistic case—admittedly an educated guess—is wrong, then we’d need to greatly modify our views of which companies in our opportunity set will face new barriers to profitable growth, and which might stand to benefit, relatively, from a further receding of globalization. (Global trade, after all, has never matched the peak share of GDP it reached in 2008, before the Global Financial Crisis.) We’d expect such a world to be less efficient, as the cold logic of comparative advantage is demoted as a determinant of which goods or services are produced and where. That would lead to a less prosperous world, since exploiting comparative advantage is a cornerstone of wealth creation. If regional blocs began to raise limits on the movement of capital as well as goods, we’d need to parse which of our multinational companies were at risk of declining sales from increasingly hostile, siloed countries. Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE:SHEL) has found its Siberian oil and gas joint venture assets stranded by the combination of sanctions and the public opprobrium of Russia’s actions.”       Click to continue reading and see Diversified Stock Portfolio: 5 Sector ETFs and International ETFs to Buy.    Suggested articles: 15 Most Sustainable Companies in the World 10 Companies that Make Money During A Recession 25 Biggest Connecticut Companies and Stocks   Disclosure: None. Diversified Stock Portfolio: Sector ETFs and International ETFs to Buy is originally published on Insider Monkey......»»

Category: topSource: insidermonkeyFeb 13th, 2023

Will 2023 Be A Good Year For Goodyear Tire Stock?

Cost inflation is expected to peak out in fiscal Q4 2022, but they expected it to peak in Q2 and Q3 2022, which it didn’t Good Year gained market share to be the largest replacement tire maker in the U.S. The falling U.S. dollar index and China’s re-opening may provide some relief from rising input […] Cost inflation is expected to peak out in fiscal Q4 2022, but they expected it to peak in Q2 and Q3 2022, which it didn’t Good Year gained market share to be the largest replacement tire maker in the U.S. The falling U.S. dollar index and China’s re-opening may provide some relief from rising input costs Shares trade at 8X forward earnings with a 4.7% short interest 5 stocks we like better than Goodyear Tire & Rubber The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co (NASDAQ:GT) stock fell just over (-50%) in 2022. The biggest issue plaguing its business has been continued cost inflation and the impacts of a strong U.S. dollar. However, as these conditions begin to wane in 2023, Goodyear should see margin expansion in North America. if (typeof jQuery == 'undefined') { document.write(''); } .first{clear:both;margin-left:0}.one-third{width:31.034482758621%;float:left;margin-left:3.448275862069%}.two-thirds{width:65.51724137931%;float:left}form.ebook-styles .af-element input{border:0;border-radius:0;padding:8px}form.ebook-styles .af-element{width:220px;float:left}form.ebook-styles .af-element.buttonContainer{width:115px;float:left;margin-left: 6px;}form.ebook-styles .af-element.buttonContainer input.submit{width:115px;padding:10px 6px 8px;text-transform:uppercase;border-radius:0;border:0;font-size:15px}form.ebook-styles input.submit{width:115px}form.ebook-styles .af-element.privacyPolicy{width:100%;font-size:12px;margin:10px auto 0}form.ebook-styles .af-element.privacyPolicy p{font-size:11px;margin-bottom:0}form.ebook-styles .af-body input.text{height:40px;padding:2px 10px !important} form.ebook-styles .error, form.ebook-styles #error { color:#d00; } form.ebook-styles .formfields h1, form.ebook-styles .formfields #mg-logo, form.ebook-styles .formfields #mg-footer { display: none; } form.ebook-styles .formfields { font-size: 12px; } form.ebook-styles .formfields p { margin: 4px 0; } Get The Full Walter Schloss Series in PDF Get the entire 10-part series on Walter Schloss in PDF. Save it to your desktop, read it on your tablet, or email to your colleagues. (function($) {window.fnames = new Array(); window.ftypes = new Array();fnames[0]='EMAIL';ftypes[0]='email';}(jQuery));var $mcj = jQuery.noConflict(true); Q4 2022 hedge fund letters, conferences and more   Find A Qualified Financial Advisor Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn't have to be hard. SmartAsset's free tool matches you with up to 3 fiduciary financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. Each advisor has been vetted by SmartAsset and is held to a fiduciary standard to act in your best interests. If you're ready to be matched with local advisors that can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now. Europe’s main problem has been its soaring energy costs stemming from the Russia-Ukraine conflict. As the largest replacement tire company in the U.S., the Company has been struggling with higher input costs stemming from cost inflation across the board, from raw materials to transportation and labor. Net sales still climbed 8% after applying a 15% price hike in the U.S.  They surpassed Compagnie Générale des Établissements Michelin SCA (OTCMKTSL MGDDY) as the top replacement tire manufacturer in the U.S. Falling oil prices have helped get commuters back on the road as the Company expects normalization to kick in. Cost Inflation is Still Growing The big problem with its Q3 2022 performance was, once again, cost inflation bolstering input costs. It saw raw material costs rise, labor costs, energy, and transportation. While it was able to control the impact in North America with price hikes, Europe was a different story as energy costs have been skyrocketing. Europe was the big problem in Q3. Management Losing Credibility Cost inflation is the most significant hurdle for Goodyear. Unfortunately, management has been bad at predicting a peak. They had predicted the peak in the prior quarter believing it occurred in Q2 and then in Q3, which it didn't. Now they are predicting it to peak in its next quarter Q4 2022. The market didn't buy it as shares sold off regardless. The big question is will management be zero for three in the upcoming quarterly release? The Company expects input costs to continue rising at a rate of $300 million to $400 million in the first half of 2023, with the bulk of the YoY increase in Q1 2023. Eco-Tires Displayed at CES 2023 Goodyear has been exploring tires created from sustainable materials moving away from relying solely on rubber. At the 2023 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the Company displayed new demo tires that contain 90% sustainable materials with improved rolling efficiencies to improve energy savings even on electric vehicles. The tires comprised surplus soybean oil rather than petroleum to maintain pliability and silica from rice husk residue to improve road grip and fuel efficiency. This improved from the prior year when they created tires comprised of 70% sustainable material. The Company hopes to release a 100% sustainable tire by 2030. The prototype tires are part of Goodyear’s commitment to reaching zero emissions by 2050. FX Relief and Cooper Tire  Synergy Once again, Europe has been the problem spot, even regarding FX headwinds. The strong U.S. dollar dramatically impacted net sales, from 15% growth in constant currency to just 8% YoY. However, the U.S. dollar index has fallen over (-10%) since its highs in late September 2022. This could create a small amount of relief in its Q4 2022 numbers. Additionally, its synergies with its Cooper Tire & Rubber acquisition is expected to create $165 million in cost savings within two years of its acquisition which was completed in June 2021. The acquisition helped bolster Goodyear's footprint in the light truck and SUV market that Cooper specializes in, not to mention the additional vehicle maintenance and repair services that can be cross-marketed to Cooper Tire customers. They compete with Driven Brands Holdings (NASDAQ: DRVN) in the auto repair segment. Finally, the China re-opening may also boost its business in China as commuters take to the roads. Analyst Upgrade Shares of Goodyear Tire were upgraded to Overweight at Keybanc Capital Markets with a $39 price target. The MarketBeat MarketRank Forecast projects 24.48% earnings growth to $1.78 per share with a 40.5% upside price target of $16.19 and a 2.5 out of 5-star rating.   Descending Triangle Breakdown Reversal GT stock had been making lower highs on bounces while maintaining a flat-line support of around $9.66 since August 2022. This is called a weekly descending triangle pattern comprised of a falling upper trendline intersecting with a flat lower trendline. Eventually, the lower highs on the bounces cause shares to crumble under the lower trendline to trigger a breakdown and another downtrend to lower levels. GT was set to break down at the end of December 2022. Then an interesting thing happened in January 2023. Buyers emerged that bought the dips and squeezed shares up through the falling trendline of the triangle to trigger a weekly market structure (MSL) buy signal on the breakout through $11.07. The weekly stochastic has crossed back up through the 20-band, attempting to increase the buying momentum. The weekly 20-period exponential moving average (EMA) resistance is being tested at $11.39, with the weekly 50-period MA at $12.57. Pullback support levels sit at $11.07 MSL trigger, $10.74, $10.33, $10.07, and the $9.66 lower flat trendline representing the bottom of the triangle. Should you invest $1,000 in Goodyear Tire & Rubber right now? Before you consider Goodyear Tire & Rubber, you'll want to hear this. MarketBeat keeps track of Wall Street's top-rated and best performing research analysts and the stocks they recommend to their clients on a daily basis. MarketBeat has identified the five stocks that top analysts are quietly whispering to their clients to buy now before the broader market catches on... and Goodyear Tire & Rubber wasn't on the list. While Goodyear Tire & Rubber currently has a "Hold" rating among analysts, top-rated analysts believe these five stocks are better buys. Article by Jea Yu, MarketBeat.....»»

Category: blogSource: valuewalkJan 17th, 2023

Diablo IV impresses with its dark atmosphere and expanded world — here"s how to preorder to get early access to the new RPG

The fourth entry in the Diablo video game franchise hits stores on June 6, 2023. Here's a breakdown of preorder options, along with first impressions. When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.Diablo IV is coming in June 2023.Diablo IV / Activision Blizzard Diablo IV will be released on PC, Xbox, and PlayStation platforms on June 6, 2023. Multiple editions are available for preorder with bonuses like early access to the game. The game feels like a fresh starting point for new and veteran players, with an emphasis on horror. Diablo IV, the next entry in Activision Blizzard's classic role-playing franchise, is set to arrive on June 6, 2023. Blizzard confirmed the game's release date with an announcement at The Game Awards 2022, along with a new trailer.For those unfamiliar, Diablo is an action RPG franchise with an isometric camera and an emphasis on dungeon-crawling. While the game isn't an MMORPG like Blizzard's World of Warcraft, you can encounter other players online in the open world and gamers can team up to play together in small groups.Check out the Diablo 4 trailerDiablo IV will be the first game in the franchise to launch on computers and consoles at the same time and allow cross-platform play. Diablo III was on PC for more than a year before console versions were released and players remained separated by platform throughout the game's lifespan.Diablo IV is set to be one of the largest game launches in years for Blizzard. The previous game in the series managed to amass more than 65 million players over its 10-year lifespan. Activision Blizzard is one of America's largest video game publishers and is currently in the process of being acquired by Microsoft.Below, we've gathered everything you need to know about Diablo IV's upcoming release, including preorder details and a breakdown of what you get with each edition. We've also included some impressions based on an early build of the game we got to play at a media event. Diablo 4 release date and priceDiablo IV will launch on June 6, 2023 for Windows PCs, PlayStation 5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, and Xbox One. The standard edition costs $70 on each platform.While players can transfer their game progress between consoles, like PlayStation and Xbox, they must purchase the game on each platform they wish to play on. Purchases for Xbox and PlayStation systems includes dual entitlement for both older and current generation consoles.Diablo 4 preorder bonuses, early access, and special editionsDiablo IV / Activision BlizzardPlayers who preorder any version of Diablo IV digitally via, the Microsoft Store, or the PlayStation Store will get first access to an open beta before the game's release, and earn in-game rewards for World of Warcraft, Diablo III, and Diablo Immortal.In addition to the standard edition of the game, PC, PlayStation, and Xbox customers can also opt for a Deluxe or Ultimate Edition.  The $90 Deluxe Edition offers up to four days of early access prior to the game's launch, a seasonal battle pass, and special in-game mount and armor. The $100 Ultimate Edition includes the same rewards as the Deluxe Edition, plus 20 free tier skips for the battle pass, a cosmetic, and an additional emote.Beyond the game itself, Blizzard is also selling a limited edition collector's box for $96.66 that includes special items like an electric candle of creation, a cloth map, a mouse pad, two art prints, a pin, and an art book. Keep in mind, however, this package does not include a copy of the actual game. This will only be available from the Blizzard Gear Store, starting December 15.Diablo 4 story detailsDiablo IV is set decades after Diablo III but establishes a new story set in the world of Sanctuary. It focuses on the return of the demon Lilith, one of Sanctuary's creators, and her conflict against Inarius, a rogue angel who helped her create Sanctuary to escape the war between Heaven and Hell.The developers of Diablo IV have said one of their primary goals was to return to the franchise's roots of darkness and horror. As a result, the game has a greater emphasis on cinematic storytelling and building a haunting environment.Diablo 4 multiplayer and cloud-save featuresDiablo IV will feature online multiplayer as well as offline cooperative play for players on Xbox and PlayStation. Diablo IV can connect between platforms, so players on PC, PlayStation, and Xbox should have no issues playing together.You can encounter dozens of other players while exploring the game online, or team up with a group of friends to progress through story missions and dungeons. Cooperative play is typically designed for up to four players, but major events can allow up to eight players to team up. A account is required for online play, but will also provide cloud saves, so you can transfer your progress between different platforms.Diablo 4 first-look impressionsDiablo IV / Activision BlizzardWe got to try the first few hours of Diablo IV during a hands-on media event. We have some light experience playing Diablo II and III, so the gameplay immediately felt familiar on PC, letting us guide our character through the overworld of Sanctuary while fighting enemies and exploring early-game dungeons, all with a few clicks of the mouse.Players can choose between one of five classes: druid, rogue, sorceress, barbarian, and necromancer (though necromancer and druid were unavailable in the hands-on test). While there is a core campaign with clear-cut missions, players are also encouraged to adventure to unknown areas for rare rewards and side quests. As players progress, the content shifts from pre-planned story set-pieces to more challenging, procedurally-generated contentBeyond the obvious improvements to graphics, we immediately noticed some key changes in presentation compared to the series' previous games. There are more cutscenes to help immerse players in the world as soon as the game starts, and the entire atmosphere feels significantly darker and more threatening than the setting of Diablo III.While we didn't get to try much multiplayer, we were thoroughly impressed with our short time spent exploring Sanctuary and becoming familiar with the game's larger overworld. So far, Diablo IV feels like a great starting point for players who are new to the franchise, and veteran players should also feel right at home.Diablo games are designed to continue challenging players for hundreds of hours after the story is completed, and Diablo IV should be no different with Blizzard promising years worth of support and updates. With cross-platform play, Diablo IV is assured to have a vibrant online community; that along with the revamped story campaign should make the game well worth buying at launch.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytDec 14th, 2022

As US-China Relations Worsen, Expect Supply Chain Chaos

As US-China Relations Worsen, Expect Supply Chain Chaos By John Paul Hampstead of FreightWaves The trans-Pacific trade lane connecting the world’s most important countries is a pillar of the global economy. But now it’s becoming an epicenter of supply chain, financial and geopolitical risk.  During the pandemic, ocean container spot rates rocketed upward from approximately $1,000 per 40-foot container to nearly $20,000 last fall before plunging again to $2,720 last week. Meanwhile, U.S. officials staged visits to Taiwan and took action to further separate the Chinese and American semiconductor sectors. This potent combination of economic, political and military issues will make trans-Pacific business complicated for years to come.  China’s zero-COVID policies and recent tensions over Taiwan have accelerated this confrontation, which could lead to further decoupling between the U.S. and China. But the fundamental issues will likely persist beyond present crises.  The American media coverage of President Xi Jinping’s address to the 20th Communist Party Congress in Beijing last week took note of Xi’s pessimistic tone, warning party members to prepare China for confrontation and crisis. Politico’s Phelim Kine called Xi’s view of U.S.-China relations “increasingly bleak.” Bret Stephens played into the rivalry, writing a cynical op-ed in The New York Times sarcastically thanking Xi for running his country so poorly as to make the United States seem good by contrast.  Counter-signaling Xi’s message of a Chinese “national rejuvenation,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was at the same time giving speeches at Stanford University in a tour carefully packaged around a national-strength-through-technology theme. Blinken visited the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory then spoke at a Hoover Institute event with former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, who is now the Hoover Institute director. Most strikingly, Blinken said China was “determined to pursue reunification [with Taiwan] on a much faster timeline” — a statement that made headlines. Blinken’s visit to Stanford seems to be part of a general effort from the Biden administration to nationalize technology policy and shape the technology industry into an asset that could be useful in a China conflict. Blinken announced his creation of the State Department’s Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy in April. In August, President Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act, which will spend $280 billion on U.S. semiconductor infrastructure.  China’s zero-COVID policy fighting losing battle But before we give too much thought to strategic industrial policy, we should recognize the most immediate impact to supply chains and the trans-Pacific trade that the Chinese president’s third term will have: the continuation of Xi’s signature zero-COVID policy for the foreseeable future. China’s draconian surveillance and control regime of tests, quarantines and lockdowns — enabled by a collaboration between the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and China technology companies — seemed to work well enough for a year. Xi’s policy held down infection rates and kept the economy pointed up and to the right.  But when the Omicron variant’s greater infectiousness overwhelmed mask and vaccine protections, China kept forcefully applying lockdowns, massively disrupting both its own economy and trans-Pacific trade in general. Although the Chinese state adapted its tactics on a case-by-case basis — the 2022 lockdown of Shanghai, for instance, kept critical infrastructure like the container terminals operating in ways that the 2021 lockdown of Yantian did not, for example — the governance mechanism was the same. Centralized algorithms looked for signals in endless oceans of public health, location and social media data. As a result, recommended policy actions were increasingly ineffectual and mismatched to realities on the ground.  Tokyo-based freelance writer Dylan Levi King explored the deep roots of this data-driven, centralized electronic command and control system in a recent article for Palladium Magazine called “The Genealogy of Chinese Cybernetics.” King reconstructs the career of Qian Xuesan, author of “Engineering Cybernetics” (1954), from Pasadena, California, to Beijing and his role in building the computer systems and algorithmic models that justified China’s “Great Leap Forward” and the one-child policy.  As King wrote, the implementation of these policies fell far short of the dream of optimized, electronic, frictionless command and control: “Political attempts at cybernetic planning — both in China and elsewhere — have never overcome the problem of limited sensors and weak effectors.” Though he doesn’t refer specifically to the pandemic, the unintended consequences of a zero-COVID policy, including food shortages, real estate insolvency and bank runs seem to validate it as a further example of this governance style’s inadequacy.  The consensus of the international financial community, as Bloomberg’s John Authers wrote, is that China’s zero-COVID policy under Omicron has been a disaster casting a pall over the global economy. The Hang Sen Index, which measures the health of the Hong Kong stock market and its largest companies, is down 46% since its Feb. 19, 2021, peak. It is threatening to dip below its 30-year support level. Zero-COVID has created downstream supply chain issues with widespread, long-lasting and unpredictable effects on the earnings of U.S. and European companies, from automakers to big-box retailers. US-China relations have weakened for more than decade But whether or not Xi rolls back his zero-COVID policy or not, the future of the trans-Pacific is troubled.  All signs point to escalating confrontation between the United States and China over Taiwan, but the seemingly cheery relationship between the two giants has been shifting — sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly — for years, dating back to the Obama administration. Recall that one of the reasons given for former President Barack Obama’s withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan was to enable the “pivot to Asia,” the continent that Obama identified as the future center of gravity of the global economy in terms of population and gross domestic product. These weren’t just words. Obama moved 2,500 Marines into northern Australia and designed the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement with smaller regional powers meant to isolate China.  Former President Donald Trump’s tariffs, which eventually escalated into a medium-sized trade war with China and a series of smaller skirmishes with Canada and the European Union, set off panicked behavior by U.S. importers that roiled the trans-Pacific. Companies accelerated the timelines on their purchase orders, “pulling forward” shipments that were originally scheduled to arrive after new tariffs took effect in order to avoid paying the duties. A logjam of volume increased rates, reduced schedule reliability, congested ports and filled warehouses, especially in Southern California.  In summer 2018, when the pull-forward effects were felt, the U.S. truckload market was still on fire, having been catalyzed by Hurricane Harvey the previous year and the ELD mandate’s tightening effect on capacity. The unpredictable volumes coming out of some of the country’s most important freight markets undoubtedly kept truckload rates higher for longer before the market ultimately began rolling over in October. Expect more military activity Although Trump sometimes styled his protectionist tariffs as merely the pragmatic bargaining chips of a consummate dealmaker looking out for the American people, his military moves revealed a deeper, strategic understanding of the trans-Pacific. His administration, for example, emphasized the U.S. Navy’s ability to secure vital trade routes. Navy patrols in heavily trafficked areas and freedom of navigation exercises increased, placing additional pressure on those operations to perform.  When the Navy looked sloppy, heads rolled. In summer 2017, the U.S. Seventh Fleet, a forward-deployed and based in Yokosuka, Japan, and centered on the USS Ronald Reagan’s carrier strike group, suffered two accidents. The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald collided with a commercial vessel in July off the coast of Yokosuka. The next month, another Arleigh Burke, the USS John McCain, collided with a commercial vessel near the Strait of Malacca off Singapore. Between the two accidents, 17 American sailors were killed. Trump’s chief of naval operations, Adm. John Richardson, responded by effectively purging the Seventh Fleet and the larger U.S. Pacific Fleet. The Navy fired or retired the destroyer commanders and executive officers, as well as commander of the Seventh Fleet, Adm. Joseph Aucoin. Then Richardson told Adm. Scott Swift, commander of the Pacific Fleet (of which the Seventh is a part), that he wouldn’t be considered for promotion to the Indo-Pacific Command, so Swift announced his retirement. The point had been made: U.S. Navy leaders were personally responsible for keeping up with the heavier demands made on security operations in vital trans-Pacific trade lanes.  Beginning in the Obama administration and continuing through the Trump and Biden administrations, the United States has exhibited a growing awareness of the trans-Pacific as not only a trade conduit but also a theater for competition and perhaps conflict. Diplomatic, economic, technological and military steps have been taken that suggest the United States is exploring how it can maintain its interests in the Pacific region without China’s cooperation or consent. The most recent flare-ups are the kind of incidental accelerants that were bound to occur during this more gradual paradigm shift in U.S.-China relations. Supply chain chaos to ensue Apart from overt military encounters, I’ll be watching a few key themes going forward: increased volatility in supply chains, in terms of freight volumes; capacity availability and transportation rates; less visibility into China’s economic activity; and a more diverse, less China-centric trans-Pacific trade. I expect the U.S.-China rivalry to express itself through gamesmanship in a number of spheres, including technology, international law, diplomacy, trade practices and military posture. The uncertainty and chaos of this changing trans-Pacific paradigm — from decades of decreasing friction and lower costs to a new trend of increasing friction and higher costs — will drive unpredictable and disruptive shipper behavior similar to that seen in 2018, 2020 and 2021. Stockouts will be followed by inventory gluts and vice versa, as importers pay too much to move their goods that are stored too long and arrive too late, compressing gross margins.  At the same time, outsider observers will likely see less of China’s real economic activity. Last year, China cut off foreign access to automatic identification system (AIS) data, preventing companies from seeing the real-time location of commercial vessels in Chinese waters. Official reports on economic activity coming out of Shanghai during the last COVID lockdown were anything but transparent, and much Western analysis relied on anecdotes and alternative data sources.  Leland Miller, the CEO of China Beige Book, a firm that tabulates independent Chinese economic data, said last week that the country was undergoing a “paradigm shift” in its governance and economic models that will complicate its further development, including the end of debt-fueled growth. It will be difficult to track this shift accurately, given the unreliability of official data. Finally, if the U.S. and China decide to pursue a policy of mutual divestment, we should expect a more diverse, less China-centric trans-Pacific trade. There are other exciting economies in the region that the United States is connected to, including Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Korea, Japan and Indonesia. Eastbound freight flows may have more widely distributed origins as China’s share diminishes. Ports like South Korea’s Busan, Malaysia’s Port Klang, Taiwan’s Kaohsiung and Japan’s Yokohama could become relatively more important.  The change in network structure could threaten the stability of the container-ship alliances that control capacity in the trans-Pacific and make the 20,000-plus twenty-foot equivalent unit mega-ships built to serve the largest ports harder to fill and less competitive. Capacity could structurally loosen on what are now the densest lanes, like Shanghai to Los Angeles, while slots could be harder to find on more obscure but growing lanes. The upshot here is that even a prudent trade strategy seeking to de-risk China by sourcing goods in other Asian countries will be exposed to knock-on effects from the challenges the U.S.-China trade is fated to face. Importers and their transportation providers will need to build links between operations teams and strategic planners so that emerging trends in markets can be identified. Tariffs, embargoes and many other forms of economic warfare are potentially on the table.  For 20 years, the trans-Pacific was relatively easy, boring and cheap. Now it’s becoming exciting, difficult and expensive — and will probably stay that way for some time to come. Tyler Durden Fri, 10/28/2022 - 15:06.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytOct 28th, 2022

Why Is Leftist Entertainment So Divisive And Devoid Of Imagination?

Why Is Leftist Entertainment So Divisive And Devoid Of Imagination? Authored by Brandon Smith via, When was the last time you saw an original story out of Hollywood that was worth watching (not counting Top Gun: Maverick)? When was the last time you experienced creative storytelling that did not involve the co-option and retelling of a previous work? When was the last time you saw a protagonist that was relatable, interesting and endearing? Hell, when was the last time you were actually excited to go to the movies or relax in front of the television to watch something new? Reboots, soft reboots, remakes, live action remakes, re-imagining, gender swapping, race swapping, “rainbow washing” (making classic straight characters gay for virtue signal points): This is a list of new media tropes that have invaded entertainment in the past six years and all of them have been used so frequently that productions can now be quickly identified as woke propaganda by a mere two minute trailer. The fascinating thing is, almost all of these productions fail miserably. In recent weeks alone we have seen the attempted woke re-writing of history with The Woman King, which fell flat at the box office after opening week, not even making enough money to cover production and advertising costs. Then there was the gay romantic comedy “Bros” which imploded, causing the lead actor, Billy Eichner, to flip out on social media and blame “homophobia” (somehow he actually believed a movie filled with gay orgies was going to appeal to mainstream audiences). Eichner went on to argue that people MUST go see his movie in order to make a “political statement.” This was the same argument made by Woman King actress Viola Davis – Don’t see the movie because it’s well made, see the movie so you can stick it to conservatives. Why not just tell a good story instead? We have seen the biggest budget TV series in history, Amazon’s The Rings Of Power, crumble in the ratings with its intersectional messaging. We have seen the cancellation of the gay Superman comic book title Son of Kal-El, likely due to low sales. Marvel shows and films are consistently bringing in weak audience numbers and the SJW disaster that is Disney Star Wars can’t write a hit production to save their lives. The bottom line? Consumers have near-zero interest in leftist media. As I have said in the past, “Get Woke, Go Broke” is not just a mantra, it’s a rule these days. But why are leftists in entertainment so incapable of producing anything resembling exciting content? Why do they suck so bad? Well, they follow a losing formula, and that formula works something like this: 1) Co-opt a classic franchise or character that has preexisting audience appeal. Never try to create anything original if you can help it. 2) Market the new film, TV series, comic, etc. as a return to nostalgia to get audiences excited. 3) Get rid of as many straight, white, or male characters as possible and replace them with token diversity. (Also for some reason they like to get rid of all the redheads). 4) Portray men as weak and incompetent. Portray white people as stupid or racist. Portray black people as constant victims. Portray women with overtly masculine character traits, but also as victims at the same time. Make everyone in charge a woman, or gay, or both. If a man is in charge, make sure he is being controlled by a woman. Make sure your main character is constantly lecturing everyone else and the audience about leftist virtues. 5) Make sure there is a perfect pie chart of ethnicity in every single scene despite the statistics and demographics of a place or time. It doesn’t matter if a story is set in an ancient viking village in the north of Europe or in the elitist estates of Victorian England, minorities must be represented as main characters despite all historical fact. 6) If a classic male character cannot be changed without alienating potential customers away from spending their money, pretend he is a major part of the story to trick people into theaters, then make him weak and pathetic, the opposite of a hero. Or, just kill him. 7) Steal plot points, story beats and even dialogue directly from other more creative films and productions. Pretend you came up with all that stuff on your own. Or, do a reboot, and copy an older production directly while adding your own woke changes wherever possible. 8) Now, market the product as a “re-imagined version” updated for “modern audiences” as a justification for abandoning all canon. 9) Immediately start attacking anyone who MIGHT criticize the product before they ever do so. Make the customers and the fans into villains if they refuse to give you their money. Accuse them of bigotry and blame your inevitable failure on racism, sexism, misogyny, etc. It wasn’t your fault that your story bombed, it is the fault of “incels” and “boomers” and all the uncultured swine out there filled with hate. They sabotaged you. They are the problem. 10) Rinse. Repeat. Yes, it sounds pathetic but this is the state of entertainment today and it has been a pervasive problem for several years now. The industry has always had a bit of a progressive problem, but in the past this was balanced out by more conservative business interests. Today, the business interests are the same zealots as the production interests. But beyond that, liberals used to be more creative in general, now they are devoid of all imagination. Why? My theory is that as progressives turned increasingly to the social justice cult, a wave of narcissism has suffocated any and all potential for creative freedom. Even if they had it once, it’s all gone now. Narcissists tend to have no imagination, and the woke ideology is essentially a religion for narcissists. Social Justice is a system of belief that uses victim status as a currency. It tells its adherents that each one of them is so special and unique that the world revolves around them and their identity, that their “personal truth” is more important than objective truth. It tells them that they are entitled to respect and admiration from everyone regardless of their lack of accomplishment, lack of knowledge, lack of talent, lack of beauty, lack of intelligence, lack of experience, lack of propriety, lack of restraint, lack of kindness, etc. These people have no class and no shame and they think this is a virtue, a strength. You are supposed to idolize them for it and if you don’t then you must be a fascist. How are leftists supposed to compose stories that hold our attention and touch our souls when they are so self absorbed? Storytelling requires several things in order to be successful, and they are all things that leftists have no concept of. They include: 1) The ability to self reflect, but also the ability to write characters outside of yourself. If you have to see yourself in every single character in a story and if every story has to amplify your personal ideology, then you are a narcissist and you should abandon your dreams of writing NOW. 2) You need an inherent sense of story flow. Some people are naturally good at playing music. Good storytelling is a lot like music in the way plot points and emotions ebb and flow. Either you have the knack, or you don’t. It’s not something that can be learned. 3) You cannot tell a story with the intent to lie and propagandize. It is selfish and disrupts narrative flow. Even if the basic premise is good, the content will feel false and sometimes dated to audiences. People can sense when they are being lied to, or preached at. They might not know it at the time, but they will not return to your stories in the future. Their intuition will tell them not to. 4) Stories are usually built on basic archetypes – Archetypes are inherent psychological constructs that help human beings relate to each other and also help us relate to foundational morals and principles. Archetypes exist across cultures and across geopolitical boundaries. If we didn’t have these constructs in our heads from birth, we would have destroyed ourselves thousands of years ago. You cannot change archetypes. They are eternal. Try to change them or deconstruct them and you will fail. 5) Subverting expectations is lazy and cowardly. Truly talented storytellers can meet audience expectations while still surprising them along the way. 6) You are not entitled to an audience. The audience owes you nothing. Either your story is good and they relate to it on an emotional level, or your story is garbage and they don’t relate to it. It’s as simple as that. People are not required to consume your product to make a “political statement.” And they are not evil for refusing to spend their money on propaganda. If you enter into storytelling with the intent to create conflict with your audience, then you are probably a bad storyteller. Media and entertainment are the modern method of passing on ideas and exploring debates within our culture, and when only one extreme viewpoint is represented within our story lexicon this creates chaos and imbalance in society. The woke movement has utterly poisoned our cultural well and it is incapable of addressing the basic functions of reflection. We cannot look at ourselves honestly through stories when liars and narcissists are in change of the storytelling apparatus. I am working in my own small way to bring back the tradition of popular American storytelling with my graphic novel campaign ‘Mountain Hollow.’ I don’t have a multi-billion dollar company behind me, but I guarantee I can write circles around any leftist in entertainment today. And this is what we need more of right now – Clearly, woke media does not sell and does not represent the vast majority of the public, so, we must make media that DOES. It’s not enough to complain about the problem, we have to actually do something about it in order for things to change. Nothing pisses off leftists more than when you offer the public an alternative to their narrative. *  *  * If you would like to support the work that Alt-Market does while also receiving content on advanced tactics for defeating the globalist agenda, subscribe to our exclusive newsletter The Wild Bunch Dispatch.  Learn more about it HERE. Tyler Durden Thu, 10/13/2022 - 23:40.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeOct 14th, 2022

Malone: Human Cyborgs Are Just The Beginning

Malone: Human Cyborgs Are Just The Beginning Authored by Robert W. Malone via Who is Robert Malone, Ever since I wrote the substack article on human augmentation and the UK Ministry of Defence and the German Military Complex , discussing that these two organizations advocate for human augmentation in a report entitled “Human Augmentation – The Dawn of a New Paradigm“, I have been wondering if the US government, that is to say the US Department of Defense (DoD) and the Administrative State which controls it, has developed similar plans. This week I did a little research starting with the key words – “human augmentation” and “DoD” and there “it” is. The “it” being the strategy playbook and battlefield field plan for creating human cyborgs… For those who lust for more stimulation and shaping after reading the following, this substack also relates to our June 16 substack entitled “ARPA-H, Intelligence Community within NIH”. To begin – there are various “hints” from various governmental agencies that human augmentation research is underway and has been ongoing for a number of years. For instance, this article: Inside the Military’s New Office for Cyborgs 2014 DARPA’s Arati Prabhakar Tells Defense One That Cutting-Edge Biology Research Is the Future of National Security Defense One, April 1, 2014 The ability to link human brains to machines, create new life forms and build Star Trek-style disease detectors will be the focus of a new Defense Department office soon. The new office, named the Biological Technology Office, or BTO, will serve as a clearinghouse for Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, programs into brain research, synthetic biology and epidemiology. The office will cover everything from brewing up tomorrow’s bioweapon detectors and connecting humans to computers to designing entirely new types of super-strong living materials that could form the basis of future devices. Here are the key areas in more detail. This author does let “the cat out of the bag”, so to speak, by his use of the word “cyborg” in the article’s title. That is the “military’s new office for cyborgs.” But the actual content of the article does little to enlighten us as to what the DoD actually has planned. It is getting hard to tell who is driving the bus here, the Pentagon or Paramount pictures’ script writers. Do DARPA locker rooms have pinups of Jeri Ryan? Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Is Bruce Sterling actually a deep state operative and CIA consultant? (tolokonov/iStock) Moving on to more recent news. Another fascinating title and article – this search was a little like following the bread crumbs to grannies house… Researchers Help DoD Consider Challenges of Human Enhancement DEVCOM CBC Public Affairs November 18th, 2019 Peter Emanuel, Ph.D., the Army’s Senior Research Scientist for Bioengineering, sees a future 30 years from now where a U.S. Soldier can direct a swarm of drones in battle through a direct brain-to-machine connection using a neural implant. The implant also allows him to see exactly what each of those drones is seeing, then digitally integrate this information in his brain and send it as data to other machines, fellow Soldiers or his command and control element. This is a little more helpful. Note that the person being interviewed for this article is Dr. Peter Emanuel. This is important later on in this Substack. Trust me, it is a “Where’s Waldo” kind of thing. Also, interesting that now the DoD is using the language “human enhancement” – so much softer and gentler than “human cyborg,” don’t you think? This article is even a little more current. Of note – The COVIDcrisis most definitely took the spotlight off the whole “human cyborg” research agenda. Something tells me that the DoD didn’t mind that too much. US Space Force Chief Scientist Says Human Augmentation ‘Imperative’ The Defense Post, May 05, 2021 Today we’re on the brink of a new age: the age of human augmentation   Human augmentation should be embraced by the West to keep up with the competition, US Space Force chief scientist Dr. Joel Mozer said during an event last week at the Airforce Research Laboratory. “In our business of national defense, it’s imperative that we embrace this new age, lest we fall behind our strategic competitors,” Mozer said. Mozer added that unprecedented developments are forthcoming in areas such as artificial intelligence, which will allow the military to craft tactics and strategies that “no human could.” Autonomous programs will eventually provide real-time advice to commanders, and multiple autonomous agents will be able to assist commanders and decision-makers in reconnaissance and fire control. The chief scientist further explained that human augmentation will eventually develop into technologies such as augmented reality and virtual reality — including “nerve stimulation” to enhance the simulation of physical sensations. “You could put [an] individual into a state of flow, where learning is optimized and retention is maximized,” Mozer said. “This individual could be shaped into somebody with very high-performing potential.” (I mean, who isn’t up for a little “nerve stimulation” among friends?) The language used is really helpful in tracking the origins of the ideas. Bruce Sterling’s classic cyberpunk novel Schismatrix is all about the conflict between Shapers and Mechanists, Shapers being the group that alters the body through genetic modification and specialized mental training. Mechanists are the group that modifies bodies through computer software and external alterations. Yeah, we’ve seen that movie too. Then we have the Big Kahuna, the report that begins to lay out the true intent of the military in all of this. This large, year-long assessment – commissioned by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering and conducted by the DoD Biotechnologies for Health and Human Performance Council was published at the end of 2019. It is entitled: “Cyborg Soldier 2050: Human/Machine Fusion and the Implications for the Future of the DoD” Subject terms: “Cyborg” and “Human/Machine Enhancement” That abstract of that assessment reads: Abstract: The Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (Alexandria, VA) established the DOD Biotechnologies for Health and Human Performance Council (BHPC) study group to continually assess research and development in biotechnology. The BHPC group assesses scientific advances for improved health and performance with potential military application; identifies corresponding risks and opportunities and ethical, legal, and social implications; and provides senior leadership with recommendations for mitigating adversarial threats and maximizing opportunities for future U.S. forces. At the direction of the BHPC Executive Committee, the BHPC study group conducted a year-long assessment entitled “Cyborg Soldier 2050: Human/Machine Fusion and the Impact for the Future of the DOD”. The primary objective of this effort was to forecast and evaluate the military implications of machines that are physically integrated with the human body to augment and enhance human performance over the next 30 years. This report summarizes this assessment and findings; identifies four potential military-use cases for new technologies in this area; and assesses their impact upon the DOD organizational structure, warfighter doctrine and tactics, and interoperability with U.S. allies and civil society. This analysis was made public when published, but then COVIDcrisis soon overwhelmed us all and it quickly faded from public memory. If you didn’t read this report back in the beginning of 2020 or if you have forgotten about it, below is the executive summary of this 50 page report (or click on the linked title above to read the whole report): EXECUTIVE SUMMARY A DoD Biotechnologies for Health and Human Performance Council (BHPC; Alexandria, VA) study group surveyed a wide range of current and emerging technologies relevant to assisting and augmenting human performance in many domains. The team used this information to develop a series of vignettes as case studies for discussion and analysis including feasibility; military application; and ethical, legal, and social implication (ELSI) considerations. Ultimately, the team selected four vignettes as being technically feasible by 2050 or earlier. The following vignettes are relevant to military needs and offer capabilities beyond current military systems: ocular enhancements to imaging, sight, and situational awareness; restoration and programmed muscular control through an optogenetic bodysuit sensor web; auditory enhancement for communication and protection; and direct neural enhancement of the human brain for two-way data transfer. Although each of these technologies will offer the potential to incrementally enhance performance beyond the normal human baseline, the BHPC study group analysis suggested that the development of direct neural enhancements of the human brain for two-way data transfer would create a revolutionary advancement in future military capabilities. This technology is predicted to facilitate read/write capability between humans and machines and between humans through brain-to-brain interactions. These interactions would allow warfighters direct communication with unmanned and autonomous systems, as well as with other humans, to optimize command and control systems and operations. The potential for direct data exchange between human neural networks and microelectronic systems could revolutionize tactical warfighter communications, speed the transfer of knowledge throughout the chain of command, and ultimately dispel the “fog” of war. Direct neural enhancement of the human brain through neuro-silica interfaces could improve target acquisition and engagement and accelerate defensive and offensive systems. Although the control of military hardware, enhanced situational awareness, and faster data assimilation afforded by direct neural control would fundamentally alter the battlefield by the year 2050, the other three cyborg technologies are also likely to be adopted in some form by warfighters and civil society. The BHPC study group predicted that human/machine enhancement technologies will become widely available before the year 2050 and will steadily mature, largely driven by civilian demand and a robust bio-economy that is at its earliest stages of development in today’s global market. The global healthcare market will fuel human/machine enhancement technologies primarily to augment the loss of functionality from injury or disease, and defense applications will likely not drive the market in its later stages. The BHPC study group anticipated that the gradual introduction of beneficial restorative cyborg technologies will, to an extent, acclimatize the population to their use. The BHPC study group projected that introduction of augmented human beings into the general population, DOD active duty personnel, and near-peer competitors will accelerate in the years following 2050 and will lead to imbalances, inequalities, and inequities in established legal, security, and ethical frameworks. Each of these technologies will afford some level of performance improvement to end users, which will widen the performance gap between enhanced and unenhanced individuals and teams. The BHPC study group analyzed case studies and posed a series of questions to drive its assessment of the impact to DOD programs, policies, and operations. The following are the resulting recommendations (not listed in order of priority): (RM- I have only posted the top summaries for these recommendations, please go to the report for more detail). 1. DOD personnel must conduct global assessments of societal awareness and perceptions of human/machine enhancement technologies. 2. U.S. leadership should use existing and newly developed forums (e.g., NATO) to discuss impacts to interoperability with allied partners as we approach the year 2050. This will help develop policies and practices that will maximize interoperability of forces. 3. DOD should invest in the development of dynamic legal, security, and ethical frameworks under its control that anticipate emerging technologies. 4. Efforts should be undertaken to reverse negative cultural narratives of enhancement technologies. 5. DOD personnel should conduct tabletop wargames and targeted threat assessments to determine the doctrine and tactics of allied and adversarial forces. 6. The U.S. Government should support efforts to establish a whole-of-nation approach to human/machine enhancement technologies versus a whole-of-government approach. 7. The DOD should support foundational research to validate human/machine fusion technologies before fielding them and to track the long-term safety and impact on individuals and groups. This rabbit hole then led me to the DARPA website – and wow! This research -to create human cyborgs, it is actually happening. A quick glance at the Biological Technology Office and DARPA reveals that programatic goals of building cyborg capabilities are being conducted at an astounding rate. The webpage search engine allows a search of the non-classified programs already being developed. So, one can go to this site and envision many, if not most of these technologies listed as being used for warfare. The military is developing human augmentation for military uses, not civilian. This is important to keep in mind. So, I spent a little time searching and webmining the more “interesting” DARPA projects. Below are just a few of the abstracts of research projects being funded by DARPA and the DoD: The Measuring Biological Aptitude (MBA) program aims to address the need for a more capable fighting force by helping individual warfighters identify, measure, and track personalized biomarkers related to training and peak performance for specialized roles. If the program succeeds, MBA technologies will give warfighters the ability to understand the underlying biological processes that govern their performance. Specifically, these technologies would elucidate the internal expression circuits (e.g., genetic, epigenetic, metabolomic) that shape militarily relevant cognitive, behavioral, and physical traits. New devices for continuously tracking these expression circuits could be integrated into the body to provide instantaneous user feedback, helping the warfighter to improve performance throughout training, assessment, selection, and mission execution for a given military specialty. DARPA’s multi-year AI Next portfolio of programs and investments seeks to develop contextual reasoning in artificial intelligence systems to improve human/machine teaming. The Agile Teams (A-Teams) program aims to discover, test, and demonstrate generalizable mathematical abstractions for the design of agile human-machine teams and to provide predictive insight into team performance. While human-machine teams have been the subject of considerable past work in artificial intelligence and autonomy, designing agile team architectures remains largely a trial-and-error enterprise. The A-Teams program seeks to create a systematic methodology to design teams that best use the capabilities of both humans and machines and that can achieve enhanced performance in uncertain, dynamic, and co-evolving environments. These new abstractions will be validated using experimental testbeds aimed to support reproducible evaluation of human-machine team architectures in a diverse range of problem contexts. The Hand Proprioception and Touch Interfaces (HAPTIX) program is pursuing key technologies to enable precision control of and sensory feedback from sensor-equipped upper-limb prosthetic devices. If successful, the resulting system would provide users near-natural control of prosthetic hands and arms via bi-directional peripheral nerve implants. The Safe Genes program supports force protection and military health and readiness by protecting Service members from accidental or intentional misuse of genome editing technologies. Additional work will leverage advances in gene editing technology to expedite development of advanced prophylactic and therapeutic treatments against gene editors. Advances within the program will ensure the United States remains at the vanguard of the broadly accessible and rapidly progressing field of genome editing. Safe Genes performer teams work across three primary technical focus areas to develop tools and methodologies to control, counter, and even reverse the effects of genome editing—including gene drives—in biological systems across scales. First, researchers are developing the genetic circuitry and genome editing machinery for robust, spatial, temporal, and reversible control of genome editing activity in living systems. Second, researchers are developing small molecules and molecular strategies to provide prophylactic and treatment solutions that prevent or limit genome editing activity and protect the genome integrity of organisms and populations. Third, researchers are developing “genetic remediation” strategies that eliminate unwanted engineered genes from a broad range of complex population and environmental contexts to restore systems to functional and genetic baseline states. Overall, the Safe Genes program is creating a layered, modular, and adaptable solution set to: protect warfighters and the homeland against intentional or accidental misuse of genome editing technologies; prevent and/or reverse unwanted genetic changes in a given biological system; and facilitate the development of safe, precise, and effective medical treatments that use gene editors. The Next-Generation Nonsurgical Neurotechnology (N3) program aims to develop high-performance, bi-directional brain-machine interfaces for able-bodied service members. Such interfaces would be enabling technology for diverse national security applications such as control of unmanned aerial vehicles and active cyber defense systems or teaming with computer systems to successfully multitask during complex military missions. Whereas the most effective, state-of-the-art neural interfaces require surgery to implant electrodes into the brain, N3 technology would not require surgery and would be man-portable, thus making the technology accessible to a far wider population of potential users. Noninvasive neurotechnologies such as the electroencephalogram and transcranial direct current stimulation already exist, but do not offer the precision, signal resolution, and portability required for advanced applications by people working in real-world settings. The envisioned N3 technology breaks through the limitations of existing technology by delivering an integrated device that does not require surgical implantation, but has the precision to read from and write to 16 independent channels within a 16mm3 volume of neural tissue within 50ms. Each channel is capable of specifically interacting with sub-millimeter regions of the brain with a spatial and temporal specificity that rivals existing invasive approaches. Individual devices can be combined to provide the ability to interface to multiple points in the brain at once. To enable future non-invasive brain-machine interfaces, N3 researchers are working to develop solutions that address challenges such as the physics of scattering and weakening of signals as they pass through skin, skull, and brain tissue, as well as designing algorithms for decoding and encoding neural signals that are represented by other modalities such as light, acoustic, or electro-magnetic energy. The Neural Evidence Aggregation Tool (NEAT) program aims to overcome current limitations by developing a new cognitive science tool that identifies people at risk of suicide by using preconscious brain signals rather than asking questions and waiting for consciously filtered responses. By aggregating preconscious brain signals to stimuli, NEAT would determine what a person believes to be true, false, or indeterminate about specific types of knowledge that could be used to detect signs of depression, anxiety, or suicidal ideation earlier and more reliably than ever before. If successful, NEAT will not only significantly augment behavioral health screening, but it could also serve as a new way to assess ultimate treatment efficacy, since patients will often tell their clinicians what they think the clinician wants to hear rather than how they are truly feeling. Ultimately, NEAT intends to augment current behavioral health screening programs by providing clinicians with previously unavailable information to enable earlier interventions and more reliable measures of successful treatment. The research activities that are being conducted by DARPA and the DoD are considerable. Even the small sampling of abstracts published above only begins to document just how large this endeavor is. These technologies are further along than we might think, and we deserve to know more about them. This is the future that our government is planning for us, whether we like it or not, and it is a future that is opaque. From genetic engineering to new synthetics development for neural implants, to replacing and enhancing limbs for warfare – our military is “going there.” But the truth is, some places “we” shouldn’t go. Just because they “can,” doesn’t mean they “should”. If you have learned anything since January 2020, I hope that you have learned to question the wisdom and insight of the insider cliques within the US Government and “Administrative State” who believe that it is acceptable to march ahead with genetic and mechanical engineering of human beings without meaningful oversight, let alone self awareness and any sense of bioethical boundaries. If we truly wish to have a say in these new technologies, society (which is to say “we”) must be informed. “We” have a right to be informed. That means you and me. As these technologies develop, transhumanism will become all the rage. Think about that. These new technologies will be what future generations will have to look forward to. Human cyborgs are their futures. They, that is human cyborgs, will be our children and our grandchildren. We are Borg. Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated. Your life as it has been is over. From this time forward, you will service us. Thanks, Paramount. We need more “normalizing their vision of the future” in our lives please. The military is already working on propaganda to “reverse negative cultural narratives of enhancement technologies.” So, once again – we are being played before we even know what the playing field looks like. Like I said before, we have all seen that movie too. The full scope of this program needs to be revealed to the American people. Although the executive report barely mentions gene editing technologies, the military is investing heavily in them and clearly with the intention of using them for the war fighter. The executive report barely skims the surface of the research that is currently being carried out by DARPA, and that is only one office within the Department of Defense. The public’s right to know about this research and what the final goals are is crucial. Congress must demand answers and must demand open and transparent responses. As the report rightly points out, what happens in the military will make its way into the public sphere. We have a right to know what is being planned for our future “evolution.” I don’t use that word lightly. But that is how the UK Ministry of Defence has labeled human augmentation research. Turns out that Silicon Valley darling and Klaus Schwab’s evil mini me Yuval Noah Harari (author of Homo Deus, which literally means “Man God”) is not so far out there in his thinking as we had thought. The bioethics of human augmentation are complex. The regulatory processes must be developed before the technologies come into being, not the other way around. People must envision how these technologies will be used in civilian life, in military life and as life-saving treatments. People need to decide if and which of these technologies really are for the good of society. People need to become involved now. That starts with education. Which begins with transparency by our government. In future Substacks, I hope that you and I will begin exploring the bioethics, the impact of these technologies, privacy issues, the targets, future visions of society and just what this all means. After all, what could possibly go wrong? Reposted from the author’s Substack Tyler Durden Sat, 10/01/2022 - 19:30.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeOct 1st, 2022

The Anatomy Of Big Pharma"s Political Reach

The Anatomy Of Big Pharma's Political Reach Authored by Rebecca Strong via, They keep telling us to “trust the science.” But who paid for it? After graduating from Columbia University with a chemical engineering degree, my grandfather went on to work for Pfizer for almost two decades, culminating his career as the company’s Global Director of New Products. I was rather proud of this fact growing up — it felt as if this father figure, who raised me for several years during my childhood, had somehow played a role in saving lives. But in recent years, my perspective on Pfizer — and other companies in its class — has shifted. Blame it on the insidious big pharma corruption laid bare by whistleblowers in recent years. Blame it on the endless string of big pharma lawsuits revealing fraud, deception, and cover-ups. Blame it on the fact that I witnessed some of their most profitable drugs ruin the lives of those I love most. All I know is, that pride I once felt has been overshadowed by a sticky skepticism I just can’t seem to shake. In 1973, my grandpa and his colleagues celebrated as Pfizer crossed a milestone: the one-billion-dollar sales mark. These days, Pfizer rakes in $81 billion a year, making it the 28th most valuable company in the world. Johnson & Johnson ranks 15th, with $93.77 billion. To put things into perspective, that makes said companies wealthier than most countries in the world. And thanks to those astronomical profit margins, the Pharmaceuticals and Health Products industry is able to spend more on lobbying than any other industry in America. While big pharma lobbying can take several different forms, these companies tend to target their contributions to senior legislators in Congress — you know, the ones they need to keep in their corner, because they have the power to draft healthcare laws. Pfizer has outspent its peers in six of the last eight election cycles, coughing up almost $9.7 million. During the 2016 election, pharmaceutical companies gave more than $7 million to 97 senators at an average of $75,000 per member. They also contributed $6.3 million to president Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign. The question is: what did big pharma get in return? When you've got 1,500 Big Pharma lobbyists on Capitol Hill for 535 members of Congress, it's not too hard to figure out why prescription drug prices in this country are, on average, 256% HIGHER than in other major countries. — Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) February 3, 2022 ALEC’s Off-the-Record Sway To truly grasp big pharma’s power, you need to understand how The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) works. ALEC, which was founded in 1973 by conservative activists working on Ronald Reagan’s campaign, is a super secretive pay-to-play operation where corporate lobbyists — including in the pharma sector — hold confidential meetings about “model” bills. A large portion of these bills is eventually approved and become law. A rundown of ALEC’s greatest hits will tell you everything you need to know about the council’s motives and priorities. In 1995, ALEC promoted a bill that restricts consumers’ rights to sue for damages resulting from taking a particular medication. They also endorsed the Statute of Limitation Reduction Act, which put a time limit on when someone could sue after a medication-induced injury or death. Over the years, ALEC has promoted many other pharma-friendly bills that would: weaken FDA oversight of new drugs and therapies, limit FDA authority over drug advertising, and oppose regulations on financial incentives for doctors to prescribe specific drugs. But what makes these ALEC collaborations feel particularly problematic is that there’s little transparency — all of this happens behind closed doors. Congressional leaders and other committee members involved in ALEC aren’t required to publish any records of their meetings and other communications with pharma lobbyists, and the roster of ALEC members is completely confidential. All we know is that in 2020, more than two-thirds of Congress — 72 senators and 302 House of Representatives members — cashed a campaign check from a pharma company. Big Pharma Funding Research The public typically relies on an endorsement from government agencies to help them decide whether or not a new drug, vaccine, or medical device is safe and effective. And those agencies, like the FDA, count on clinical research. As already established, big pharma is notorious for getting its hooks into influential government officials. Here’s another sobering truth: The majority of scientific research is paid for by — wait for it — the pharmaceutical companies. When the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) published 73 studies of new drugs over the course of a single year, they found that a staggering 82% of them had been funded by the pharmaceutical company selling the product, 68% had authors who were employees of that company, and 50% had lead researchers who accepted money from a drug company. According to 2013 research conducted at the University of Arizona College of Law, even when pharma companies aren’t directly funding the research, company stockholders, consultants, directors, and officers are almost always involved in conducting them. A 2017 report by the peer-reviewed journal The BMJ also showed that about half of medical journal editors receive payments from drug companies, with the average payment per editor hovering around $28,000. But these statistics are only accurate if researchers and editors are transparent about payments from pharma. And a 2022 investigative analysis of two of the most influential medical journals found that 81% of study authors failed to disclose millions in payments from drug companies, as they’re required to do. Unfortunately, this trend shows no sign of slowing down. The number of clinical trials funded by the pharmaceutical industry has been climbing every year since 2006, according to a John Hopkins University report, while independent studies have been harder to find. And there are some serious consequences to these conflicts of interest. Take Avandia, for instance, a diabetes drug produced by GlaxoSmithCline (GSK). Avandia was eventually linked to a dramatically increased risk of heart attacks and heart failure. And a BMJ report revealed that almost 90% of scientists who initially wrote glowing articles about Avandia had financial ties to GSK. But here’s the unnerving part: if the pharmaceutical industry is successfully biasing the science, then that means the physicians who rely on the science are biased in their prescribing decisions. Photo credit: UN Women Europe & Central Asia Where the lines get really blurry is with “ghostwriting.” Big pharma execs know citizens are way more likely to trust a report written by a board-certified doctor than one of their representatives. That’s why they pay physicians to list their names as authors — even though the MDs had little to no involvement in the research, and the report was actually written by the drug company. This practice started in the ’50s and ’60s when tobacco execs were clamoring to prove that cigarettes didn’t cause cancer (spoiler alert: they do!), so they commissioned doctors to slap their name on papers undermining the risks of smoking. It’s still a pretty common tactic today: more than one in 10 articles published in the NEJM was co-written by a ghostwriter. While a very small percentage of medical journals have clear policies against ghostwriting, it’s still technically legal —despite the fact that the consequences can be deadly. Case in point: in the late ’90s and early 2000s, Merck paid for 73 ghostwritten articles to play up the benefits of its arthritis drug Vioxx. It was later revealed that Merck failed to report all of the heart attacks experienced by trial participants. In fact, a study published in the NEJM revealed that an estimated 160,000 Americans experienced heart attacks or strokes from taking Vioxx. That research was conducted by Dr. David Graham, Associate Director of the FDA’s Office of Drug Safety, who understandably concluded the drug was not safe. But the FDA’s Office of New Drugs, which not only was responsible for initially approving Vioxx but also regulating it, tried to sweep his findings under the rug. "I was pressured to change my conclusions and recommendations, and basically threatened that if I did not change them, I would not be permitted to present the paper at the conference," he wrote in his 2004 U.S. Senate testimony on Vioxx. "One Drug Safety manager recommended that I should be barred from presenting the poster at the meeting." Eventually, the FDA issued a public health advisory about Vioxx and Merck withdrew this product. But it was a little late for repercussions — 38,000 of those Vioxx-takers who suffered heart attacks had already died. Graham called this a “profound regulatory failure,” adding that scientific standards the FDA apply to drug safety “guarantee that unsafe and deadly drugs will remain on the U.S. market.” This should come as no surprise, but research has also repeatedly shown that a paper written by a pharmaceutical company is more likely to emphasize the benefits of a drug, vaccine, or device while downplaying the dangers. (If you want to understand more about this practice, a former ghostwriter outlines all the ethical reasons why she quit this job in a PLOS Medicine report.) While adverse drug effects appear in 95% of clinical research, only 46% of published reports disclose them. Of course, all of this often ends up misleading doctors into thinking a drug is safer than it actually is. Big Pharma Influence On Doctors Pharmaceutical companies aren’t just paying medical journal editors and authors to make their products look good, either. There’s a long, sordid history of pharmaceutical companies incentivizing doctors to prescribe their products through financial rewards. For instance, Pfizer and AstraZeneca doled out a combined $100 million to doctors in 2018, with some earning anywhere from $6 million to $29 million in a year. And research has shown this strategy works: when doctors accept these gifts and payments, they’re significantly more likely to prescribe those companies’ drugs. Novartis comes to mind — the company famously spent over $100 million paying for doctors’ extravagant meals, golf outings, and more, all while also providing a generous kickback program that made them richer every time they prescribed certain blood pressure and diabetes meds. Side note: the Open Payments portal contains a nifty little database where you can find out if any of your own doctors received money from drug companies. Knowing that my mother was put on a laundry list of meds after a near-fatal car accident, I was curious — so I did a quick search for her providers. While her PCP only banked a modest amount from Pfizer and AstraZeneca, her previous psychiatrist — who prescribed a cocktail of contraindicated medications without treating her in person — collected quadruple-digit payments from pharmaceutical companies. And her pain care specialist, who prescribed her jaw-dropping doses of opioid pain medication for more than 20 years (far longer than the 5-day safety guideline), was raking in thousands from Purdue Pharma, AKA the opioid crisis’ kingpin. Purdue is now infamous for its wildly aggressive OxyContin campaign in the ’90s. At the time, the company billed it as a non-addictive wonder drug for pain sufferers. Internal emails show Pursue sales representatives were instructed to “sell, sell, sell” OxyContin, and the more they were able to push, the more they were rewarded with promotions and bonuses. With the stakes so high, these reps stopped at nothing to get doctors on board — even going so far as to send boxes of doughnuts spelling out “OxyContin” to unconvinced physicians. Purdue had stumbled upon the perfect system for generating tons of profit — off of other people’s pain. Documentation later proved that not only was Purdue aware it was highly addictive and that many people were abusing it, but that they also encouraged doctors to continue prescribing increasingly higher doses of it (and sent them on lavish luxury vacations for some motivation). In testimony to Congress, Purdue exec Paul Goldenheim played dumb about OxyContin addiction and overdose rates, but emails that were later exposed showed that he requested his colleagues remove all mentions of addiction from their correspondence about the drug. Even after it was proven in court that Purdue fraudulently marketed OxyContin while concealing its addictive nature, no one from the company spent a single day behind bars. Instead, the company got a slap on the wrist and a $600 million fine for a misdemeanor, the equivalent of a speeding ticket compared to the $9 billion they made off OxyContin up until 2006. Meanwhile, thanks to Purdue’s recklessness, more than 247,000 people died from prescription opioid overdoses between 1999 and 2009. And that’s not even factoring in all the people who died of heroin overdoses once OxyContin was no longer attainable to them. The NIH reports that 80% of people who use heroin started by misusing prescription opioids. Former sales rep Carol Panara told me in an interview that when she looks back on her time at Purdue, it all feels like a “bad dream.” Panara started working for Purdue in 2008, one year after the company pled guilty to “misbranding” charges for OxyContin. At this point, Purdue was “regrouping and expanding,” says Panara, and to that end, had developed a clever new approach for making money off OxyContin: sales reps were now targeting general practitioners and family doctors, rather than just pain management specialists. On top of that, Purdue soon introduced three new strengths for OxyContin: 15, 30, and 60 milligrams, creating smaller increments Panara believes were aimed at making doctors feel more comfortable increasing their patients’ dosages. According to Panara, there were internal company rankings for sales reps based on the number of prescriptions for each OxyContin dosing strength in their territory. “They were sneaky about it,” she said. “Their plan was to go in and sell these doctors on the idea of starting with 10 milligrams, which is very low, knowing full well that once they get started down that path — that’s all they need. Because eventually, they’re going to build a tolerance and need a higher dose.” Occasionally, doctors expressed concerns about a patient becoming addicted, but Purdue had already developed a way around that. Sales reps like Panara were taught to reassure those doctors that someone in pain might experience addiction-like symptoms called “pseudoaddiction,” but that didn’t mean they were truly addicted. There is no scientific evidence whatsoever to support that this concept is legit, of course. But the most disturbing part? Reps were trained to tell doctors that “pseudoaddiction” signaled the patient’s pain wasn’t being managed well enough, and the solution was simply to prescribe a higher dose of OxyContin. Panara finally quit Purdue in 2013. One of the breaking points was when two pharmacies in her territory were robbed at gunpoint specifically for OxyContin. In 2020, Purdue pled guilty to three criminal charges in an $8.3 billion deal, but the company is now under court protection after filing for bankruptcy. Despite all the damage that’s been done, the FDA’s policies for approving opioids remain essentially unchanged. Photo credit: Jennifer Durban Purdue probably wouldn’t have been able to pull this off if it weren’t for an FDA examiner named Curtis Wright, and his assistant Douglas Kramer. While Purdue was pursuing Wright’s stamp of approval on OxyContin, Wright took an outright sketchy approach to their application, instructing the company to mail documents to his home office rather than the FDA, and enlisting Purdue employees to help him review trials about the safety of the drug. The Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act requires that the FDA have access to at least two randomized controlled trials before deeming a drug as safe and effective, but in the case of OxyContin, it got approved with data from just one measly two-week study — in osteoarthritis patients, no less. When both Wright and Kramer left the FDA, they went on to work for none other than (drumroll, please) Purdue, with Wright earning three times his FDA salary. By the way — this is just one example of the FDA’s notoriously incestuous relationship with big pharma, often referred to as “the revolving door”. In fact, a 2018 Science report revealed that 11 out of 16 FDA reviewers ended up at the same companies they had been regulating products for. While doing an independent investigation, “Empire of Pain” author and New Yorker columnist Patrick Radden Keefe tried to gain access to documentation of Wright’s communications with Purdue during the OxyContin approval process. “The FDA came back and said, ‘Oh, it’s the weirdest thing, but we don’t have anything. It’s all either been lost or destroyed,’” Keefe told Fortune in an interview. “But it’s not just the FDA. It’s Congress, it’s the Department of Justice, it’s big parts of the medical establishment … the sheer amount of money involved, I think, has meant that a lot of the checks that should be in place in society to not just achieve justice, but also to protect us as consumers, were not there because they had been co-opted.” Big pharma may be to blame for creating the opioids that caused this public health catastrophe, but the FDA deserves just as much scrutiny — because its countless failures also played a part in enabling it. And many of those more recent fails happened under the supervision of Dr. Janet Woodcock. Woodcock was named FDA’s acting commissioner mere hours after Joe Biden was inaugurated as president. She would have been a logical choice, being an FDA vet of 35 years, but then again it’s impossible to forget that she played a starring role in the FDA’s perpetuating the opioid epidemic. She’s also known for overruling her own scientific advisors when they vote against approving a drug. Not only did Woodcock approve OxyContin for children as young as 11 years old, but she also gave the green light to several other highly controversial extended-release opioid pain drugs without sufficient evidence of safety or efficacy. One of those was Zohydro: in 2011, the FDA’s advisory committee voted 11:2 against approving it due to safety concerns about inappropriate use, but Woodcock went ahead and pushed it through, anyway. Under Woodcock’s supervision, the FDA also approved Opana, which is twice as powerful as OxyContin — only to then beg the drug maker to take it off the market 10 years later due to “abuse and manipulation.” And then there was Dsuvia, a potent painkiller 1,000 times stronger than morphine and 10 times more powerful than fentanyl. According to a head of one of the FDA’s advisory committees, the U.S. military had helped to develop this particular drug, and Woodcock said there was “pressure from the Pentagon” to push it through approvals. The FBI, members of congress, public health advocates, and patient safety experts alike called this decision into question, pointing out that with hundreds of opioids already on the market there’s no need for another — particularly one that comes with such high risks. Most recently, Woodcock served as the therapeutics lead for Operation Warp Speed, overseeing COVID-19 vaccine development. Big Pharma Lawsuits, Scandals, and Cover-Ups While the OxyContin craze is undoubtedly one of the highest-profile examples of big pharma’s deception, there are dozens of other stories like this. Here are a few standouts: In the 1980s, Bayer continued selling blood clotting products to third-world countries even though they were fully aware those products had been contaminated with HIV. The reason? The “financial investment in the product was considered too high to destroy the inventory.” Predictably, about 20,000 of the hemophiliacs who were infused with these tainted products then tested positive for HIV and eventually developed AIDS, and many later died of it. In 2004, Johnson & Johnson was slapped with a series of lawsuits for illegally promoting off-label use of their heartburn drug Propulsid for children despite internal company emails confirming major safety concerns (as in, deaths during the drug trials). Documentation from the lawsuits showed that dozens of studies sponsored by Johnson & Johnson highlighting the risks of this drug were never published. The FDA estimates that GSK’s Avandia caused 83,000 heart attacks between 1999 and 2007. Internal documents from GSK prove that when they began studying the effects of the drug as early as 1999, they discovered it caused a higher risk of heart attacks than a similar drug it was meant to replace. Rather than publish these findings, they spent a decade illegally concealing them (and meanwhile, banking $3.2 billion annually for this drug by 2006). Finally, a 2007 New England Journal of Medicine study linked Avandia to a 43% increased risk of heart attacks, and a 64% increased risk of death from heart disease. Avandia is still FDA approved and available in the U.S. In 2009, Pfizer was forced to pay $2.3 billion, the largest healthcare fraud settlement in history at that time, for paying illegal kickbacks to doctors and promoting off-label uses of its drugs. Specifically, a former employee revealed that Pfizer reps were encouraged and incentivized to sell Bextra and 12 other drugs for conditions they were never FDA approved for, and at doses up to eight times what’s recommended. “I was expected to increase profits at all costs, even when sales meant endangering lives,” the whistleblower said. When it was discovered that AstraZeneca was promoting the antipsychotic medication Seroquel for uses that were not approved by the FDA as safe and effective, the company was hit with a $520 million fine in 2010. For years, AstraZeneca had been encouraging psychiatrists and other physicians to prescribe Seroquel for a vast range of seemingly unrelated off-label conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, anger management, ADHD, dementia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and sleeplessness. AstraZeneca also violated the federal Anti-Kickback Statute by paying doctors to spread the word about these unapproved uses of Seroquel via promotional lectures and while traveling to resort locations. In 2012, GSK paid a $3 billion fine for bribing doctors by flying them and their spouses to five-star resorts, and for illegally promoting drugs for off-label uses. What’s worse — GSK withheld clinical trial results that showed its antidepressant Paxil not only doesn’t work for adolescents and children but more alarmingly, that it can increase the likelihood of suicidal thoughts in this group. A 1998 GSK internal memo revealed that the company intentionally concealed this data to minimize any “potential negative commercial impact.” In 2021, an ex-AstraZeneca sales rep sued her former employer, claiming they fired her for refusing to promote drugs for uses that weren’t FDA-approved. The employee alleges that on multiple occasions, she expressed concerns to her boss about “misleading” information that didn’t have enough support from medical research, and off-label promotions of certain drugs. Her supervisor reportedly not only ignored these concerns but pressured her to approve statements she didn’t agree with and threatened to remove her from regional and national positions if she didn’t comply. According to the plaintiff, she missed out on a raise and a bonus because she refused to break the law. At the top of 2022, a panel of the D.C. Court of Appeals reinstated a lawsuit against Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Roche, and GE Healthcare, which claims they helped finance terrorist attacks against U.S. service members and other Americans in Iraq. The suit alleges that from 2005–2011, these companies regularly offered bribes (including free drugs and medical devices) totaling millions of dollars annually to Iraq’s Ministry of Health in order to secure drug contracts. These corrupt payments then allegedly funded weapons and training for the Mahdi Army, which until 2008, was largely considered one of the most dangerous groups in Iraq. Another especially worrisome factor is that pharmaceutical companies are conducting an ever-increasing number of clinical trials in third-world countries, where people may be less educated, and there are also far fewer safety regulations. Pfizer’s 1996 experimental trials with Trovan on Nigerian children with meningitis — without informed consent — is just one nauseating example. When a former medical director in Pfizer’s central research division warned the company both before and after the study that their methods in this trial were “improper and unsafe,” he was promptly fired. Families of the Nigerian children who died or were left blind, brain damaged, or paralyzed after the study sued Pfizer, and the company ultimately settled out of court. In 1998, the FDA approved Trovan only for adults. The drug was later banned from European markets due to reports of fatal liver disease and restricted to strictly emergency care in the U.S. Pfizer still denies any wrongdoing. “Nurse prepares to vaccinate children” by World Bank Photo Collection is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 But all that is just the tip of the iceberg. If you’d like to dive a little further down the rabbit hole — and I’ll warn you, it’s a deep one — a quick Google search for “big pharma lawsuits” will reveal the industry’s dark track record of bribery, dishonesty, and fraud. In fact, big pharma happens to be the biggest defrauder of the federal government when it comes to the False Claims Act, otherwise known as the “Lincoln Law.” During our interview, Panara told me she has friends still working for big pharma who would be willing to speak out about crooked activity they’ve observed, but are too afraid of being blacklisted by the industry. A newly proposed update to the False Claims Act would help to protect and support whistleblowers in their efforts to hold pharmaceutical companies liable, by helping to prevent that kind of retaliation and making it harder for the companies charged to dismiss these cases. It should come as no surprise that Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Merck, and a flock of other big pharma firms are currently lobbying to block the update. Naturally, they wouldn’t want to make it any easier for ex-employees to expose their wrongdoings, potentially costing them billions more in fines. Something to keep in mind: these are the same people who produced, marketed, and are profiting from the COVID-19 vaccines. The same people who manipulate research, pay off decision-makers to push their drugs, cover up negative research results to avoid financial losses, and knowingly put innocent citizens in harm’s way. The same people who told America: “Take as much OxyContin as you want around the clock! It’s very safe and not addictive!” (while laughing all the way to the bank). So, ask yourself this: if a partner, friend, or family member repeatedly lied to you — and not just little white lies, but big ones that put your health and safety at risk — would you continue to trust them? Backing the Big Four: Big Pharma and the FDA, WHO, NIH, CDC I know what you’re thinking. Big pharma is amoral and the FDA’s devastating slips are a dime a dozen — old news. But what about agencies and organizations like the National Institutes of Health (NIH), World Health Organization (WHO), and Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)? Don’t they have an obligation to provide unbiased guidance to protect citizens? Don’t worry, I’m getting there. The WHO’s guidance is undeniably influential across the globe. For most of this organization’s history, dating back to 1948, it could not receive donations from pharmaceutical companies — only member states. But that changed in 2005 when the WHO updated its financial policy to permit private money into its system. Since then, the WHO has accepted many financial contributions from big pharma. In fact, it’s only 20% financed by member states today, with a whopping 80% of financing coming from private donors. For instance, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) is now one of its main contributors, providing up to 13% of its funds — about $250–300 million a year. Nowadays, the BMGF provides more donations to the WHO than the entire United States. Dr. Arata Kochi, former head of WHO’s malaria program, expressed concerns to director-general Dr. Margaret Chan in 2007 that taking the BMGF’s money could have “far-reaching, largely unintended consequences” including “stifling a diversity of views among scientists.” “The big concerns are that the Gates Foundation isn’t fully transparent and accountable,” Lawrence Gostin, director of WHO’s Collaborating Center on National and Global Health Law, told Devex in an interview. “By wielding such influence, it could steer WHO priorities … It would enable a single rich philanthropist to set the global health agenda.” Photo credit: National Institutes of Health Take a peek at the WHO’s list of donors and you’ll find a few other familiar names like AstraZeneca, Bayer, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Merck. The NIH has the same problem, it seems. Science journalist Paul Thacker, who previously examined financial links between physicians and pharma companies as a lead investigator of the United States Senate Committee, wrote in The Washington Post that this agency “often ignored” very “obvious” conflicts of interest. He also claimed that “its industry ties go back decades.” In 2018, it was discovered that a $100 million alcohol consumption study run by NIH scientists was funded mostly by beer and liquor companies. Emails proved that NIH researchers were in frequent contact with those companies while designing the study — which, here’s a shocker — were aimed at highlighting the benefits and not the risks of moderate drinking. So, the NIH ultimately had to squash the trial. And then there’s the CDC. It used to be that this agency couldn’t take contributions from pharmaceutical companies, but in 1992 they found a loophole: new legislation passed by Congress allowed them to accept private funding through a nonprofit called the CDC Foundation. From 2014 through 2018 alone, the CDC Foundation received $79.6 million from corporations like Pfizer, Biogen, and Merck. Of course, if a pharmaceutical company wants to get a drug, vaccine, or other product approved, they really need to cozy up to the FDA. That explains why in 2017, pharma companies paid for a whopping 75% of the FDA’s scientific review budgets, up from 27% in 1993. It wasn’t always like this. But in 1992, an act of Congress changed the FDA’s funding stream, enlisting pharma companies to pay “user fees,” which help the FDA speed up the approval process for their drugs. A 2018 Science investigation found that 40 out of 107 physician advisors on the FDA’s committees received more than $10,000 from big pharma companies trying to get their drugs approved, with some banking up to $1 million or more. The FDA claims it has a well-functioning system to identify and prevent these possible conflicts of interest. Unfortunately, their system only works for spotting payments before advisory panels meet, and the Science investigation showed many FDA panel members get their payments after the fact. It’s a little like “you scratch my back now, and I’ll scratch your back once I get what I want” — drug companies promise FDA employees a future bonus contingent on whether things go their way. Here’s why this dynamic proves problematic: a 2000 investigation revealed that when the FDA approved the rotavirus vaccine in 1998, it didn’t exactly do its due diligence. That probably had something to do with the fact that committee members had financial ties to the manufacturer, Merck — many owned tens of thousands of dollars of stock in the company, or even held patents on the vaccine itself. Later, the Adverse Event Reporting System revealed that the vaccine was causing serious bowel obstructions in some children, and it was finally pulled from the U.S. market in October 1999. Then, in June of 2021, the FDA overruled concerns raised by its very own scientific advisory committee to approve Biogen’s Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm — a move widely criticized by physicians. The drug not only showed very little efficacy but also potentially serious side effects like brain bleeding and swelling, in clinical trials. Dr. Aaron Kesselheim, a Harvard Medical School professor who was on the FDA’s scientific advisory committee, called it the “worst drug approval” in recent history, and noted that meetings between the FDA and Biogen had a “strange dynamic” suggesting an unusually close relationship. Dr. Michael Carome, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, told CNN that he believes the FDA started working in “inappropriately close collaboration with Biogen” back in 2019. “They were not objective, unbiased regulators,” he added in the CNN interview. “It seems as if the decision was preordained.” That brings me to perhaps the biggest conflict of interest yet: Dr. Anthony Fauci’s NIAID is just one of many institutes that comprises the NIH — and the NIH owns half the patent for the Moderna vaccine — as well as thousands more pharma patents to boot. The NIAID is poised to earn millions of dollars from Moderna’s vaccine revenue, with individual officials also receiving up to $150,000 annually. Operation Warp Speed In December of 2020, Pfizer became the first company to receive an emergency use authorization (EUA) from the FDA for a COVID-19 vaccine. EUAs — which allow the distribution of an unapproved drug or other product during a declared public health emergency — are actually a pretty new thing: the first one was issued in 2005 so military personnel could get an anthrax vaccine. To get a full FDA approval, there needs to be substantial evidence that the product is safe and effective. But for an EUA, the FDA just needs to determine that it may be effective. Since EUAs are granted so quickly, the FDA doesn’t have enough time to gather all the information they’d usually need to approve a drug or vaccine. “Operation Warp Speed Vaccine Event” by The White House is licensed under CC PDM 1.0 Pfizer CEO and chairman Albert Bourla has said his company was “operating at the speed of science” to bring a vaccine to market. However, a 2021 report in The BMJ revealed that this speed might have come at the expense of “data integrity and patient safety.” Brook Jackson, regional director for the Ventavia Research Group, which carried out these trials, told The BMJ that her former company “falsified data, unblinded patients, and employed inadequately trained vaccinators” in Pfizer’s pivotal phase 3 trial. Just some of the other concerning events witnessed included: adverse events not being reported correctly or at all, lack of reporting on protocol deviations, informed consent errors, and mislabeling of lab specimens. An audio recording of Ventavia employees from September 2020 revealed that they were so overwhelmed by issues arising during the study that they became unable to “quantify the types and number of errors” when assessing quality control. One Ventavia employee told The BMJ she’d never once seen a research environment as disorderly as Ventavia’s Pfizer vaccine trial, while another called it a “crazy mess.” Over the course of her two-decades-long career, Jackson has worked on hundreds of clinical trials, and two of her areas of expertise happen to be immunology and infectious diseases. She told me that from her first day on the Pfizer trial in September of 2020, she discovered “such egregious misconduct” that she recommended they stop enrolling participants into the study to do an internal audit. “To my complete shock and horror, Ventavia agreed to pause enrollment but then devised a plan to conceal what I found and to keep ICON and Pfizer in the dark,” Jackson said during our interview. “The site was in full clean-up mode. When missing data points were discovered the information was fabricated, including forged signatures on the informed consent forms.” A screenshot Jackson shared with me shows she was invited to a meeting titled “COVID 1001 Clean up Call” on Sept. 21, 2020. She refused to participate in the call. Jackson repeatedly warned her superiors about patient safety concerns and data integrity issues. “I knew that the entire world was counting on clinical researchers to develop a safe and effective vaccine and I did not want to be a part of that failure by not reporting what I saw,” she told me. When her employer failed to act, Jackson filed a complaint with the FDA on Sept. 25, and Ventavia fired her hours later that same day under the pretense that she was “not a good fit.” After reviewing her concerns over the phone, she claims the FDA never followed up or inspected the Ventavia site. Ten weeks later, the FDA authorized the EUA for the vaccine. Meanwhile, Pfizer hired Ventavia to handle the research for four more vaccine clinical trials, including one involving children and young adults, one for pregnant women, and another for the booster. Not only that, but Ventavia handled the clinical trials for Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and Novavax. Jackson is currently pursuing a False Claims Act lawsuit against Pfizer and Ventavia Research Group. Last year, Pfizer banked nearly $37 billion from its COVID vaccine, making it one of the most lucrative products in global history. Its overall revenues doubled in 2021 to reach $81.3 billion, and it’s slated to reach a record-breaking $98-$102 billion this year. “Corporations like Pfizer should never have been put in charge of a global vaccination rollout, because it was inevitable they would make life-and-death decisions based on what’s in the short-term interest of their shareholders,” writes Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now. As previously mentioned, it’s super common for pharmaceutical companies to fund the research on their own products. Here’s why that’s scary. One 1999 meta-analysis showed that industry-funded research is eight times less likely to achieve unfavorable results compared to independent trials. In other words, if a pharmaceutical company wants to prove that a medication, supplement, vaccine, or device is safe and effective, they’ll find a way. With that in mind, I recently examined the 2020 study on Pfizer’s COVID vaccine to see if there were any conflicts of interest. Lo and behold, the lengthy attached disclosure form shows that of the 29 authors, 18 are employees of Pfizer and hold stock in the company, one received a research grant from Pfizer during the study, and two reported being paid “personal fees” by Pfizer. In another 2021 study on the Pfizer vaccine, seven of the 15 authors are employees of and hold stock in Pfizer. The other eight authors received financial support from Pfizer during the study. Photo credit: Prasesh Shiwakoti (Lomash) via Unsplash As of the day I’m writing this, about 64% of Americans are fully vaccinated, and 76% have gotten at least one dose. The FDA has repeatedly promised “full transparency” when it comes to these vaccines. Yet in December of 2021, the FDA asked for permission to wait 75 years before releasing information pertaining to Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, including safety data, effectiveness data, and adverse reaction reports. That means no one would see this information until the year 2096 — conveniently, after many of us have departed this crazy world. To recap: the FDA only needed 10 weeks to review the 329,000 pages worth of data before approving the EUA for the vaccine — but apparently, they need three-quarters of a century to publicize it. In response to the FDA’s ludicrous request, PHMPT — a group of over 200 medical and public health experts from Harvard, Yale, Brown, UCLA, and other institutions — filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act demanding that the FDA produce this data sooner. And their efforts paid off: U.S. District Judge Mark T. Pittman issued an order for the FDA to produce 12,000 pages by Jan. 31, and then at least 55,000 pages per month thereafter. In his statement to the FDA, Pittman quoted the late John F. Kennedy: “A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.” As for why the FDA wanted to keep this data hidden, the first batch of documentation revealed that there were more than 1,200 vaccine-related deaths in just the first 90 days after the Pfizer vaccine was introduced. Of 32 pregnancies with a known outcome, 28 resulted in fetal death. The CDC also recently unveiled data showing a total of 1,088,560 reports of adverse events from COVID vaccines were submitted between Dec. 14, 2020, and Jan. 28, 2022. That data included 23,149 reports of deaths and 183,311 reports of serious injuries. There were 4,993 reported adverse events in pregnant women after getting vaccinated, including 1,597 reports of miscarriage or premature birth. A 2022 study published in JAMA, meanwhile, revealed that there have been more than 1,900 reported cases of myocarditis — or inflammation of the heart muscle — mostly in people 30 and under, within 7 days of getting the vaccine. In those cases, 96% of people were hospitalized. “It is understandable that the FDA does not want independent scientists to review the documents it relied upon to license Pfizer’s vaccine given that it is not as effective as the FDA originally claimed, does not prevent transmission, does not prevent against certain emerging variants, can cause serious heart inflammation in younger individuals, and has numerous other undisputed safety issues,” writes Aaron Siri, the attorney representing PHMPT in its lawsuit against the FDA. Siri told me in an email that his office phone has been ringing off the hook in recent months. “We are overwhelmed by inquiries from individuals calling about an injury from a COVID-19 vaccine,” he said. By the way — it’s worth noting that adverse effects caused by COVID-19 vaccinations are still not covered by the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. Companies like Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson are protected under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act, which grants them total immunity from liability with their vaccines. And no matter what happens to you, you can’t sue the FDA for authorizing the EUA, or your employer for requiring you to get it, either. Billions of taxpayer dollars went to fund the research and development of these vaccines, and in Moderna’s case, licensing its vaccine was made possible entirely by public funds. But apparently, that still warrants citizens no insurance. Should something go wrong, you’re basically on your own. Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccine business model: government gives them billions, gives them immunity for any injuries or if doesn't work, promotes their products for free, and mandates their products. Sounds crazy? Yes, but it is our current reality. — Aaron Siri (@AaronSiriSG) February 2, 2022 The Hypocrisy of “Misinformation” I find it interesting that “misinformation” has become such a pervasive term lately, but more alarmingly, that it’s become an excuse for blatant censorship on social media and in journalism. It’s impossible not to wonder what’s driving this movement to control the narrative. In a world where we still very clearly don’t have all the answers, why shouldn’t we be open to exploring all the possibilities? And while we’re on the subject, what about all of the COVID-related untruths that have been spread by our leaders and officials? Why should they get a free pass? Photo credit: @upgradeur_life, Fauci, President Biden, and the CDC’s Rochelle Walensky all promised us with total confidence the vaccine would prevent us from getting or spreading COVID, something we now know is a myth. (In fact, the CDC recently had to change its very definition of “vaccine ” to promise “protection” from a disease rather than “immunity”— an important distinction). At one point, the New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH) and former Governor Andrew Cuomo prepared a social media campaign with misleading messaging that the vaccine was “approved by the FDA” and “went through the same rigorous approval process that all vaccines go through,” when in reality the FDA only authorized the vaccines under an EUA, and the vaccines were still undergoing clinical trials. While the NYS DOH eventually responded to pressures to remove these false claims, a few weeks later the Department posted on Facebook that “no serious side effects related to the vaccines have been reported,” when in actuality, roughly 16,000 reports of adverse events and over 3,000 reports of serious adverse events related to a COVID-19 vaccination had been reported in the first two months of use. One would think we’d hold the people in power to the same level of accountability — if not more — than an average citizen. So, in the interest of avoiding hypocrisy, should we “cancel” all these experts and leaders for their “misinformation,” too? Vaccine-hesitant people have been fired from their jobs, refused from restaurants, denied the right to travel and see their families, banned from social media channels, and blatantly shamed and villainized in the media. Some have even lost custody of their children. These people are frequently labeled “anti-vax,” which is misleading given that many (like the NBA’s Jonathan Isaac) have made it repeatedly clear they are not against all vaccines, but simply making a personal choice not to get this one. (As such, I’ll suggest switching to a more accurate label: “pro-choice.”) Fauci has repeatedly said federally mandating the vaccine would not be “appropriate” or “enforceable” and doing so would be “encroaching upon a person’s freedom to make their own choice.” So it’s remarkable that still, some individual employers and U.S. states, like my beloved Massachusetts, have taken it upon themselves to enforce some of these mandates, anyway. Meanwhile, a Feb. 7 bulletin posted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security indicates that if you spread information that undermines public trust in a government institution (like the CDC or FDA), you could be considered a terrorist. In case you were wondering about the current state of free speech. The definition of institutional oppression is “the systematic mistreatment of people within a social identity group, supported and enforced by the society and its institutions, solely based on the person’s membership in the social identity group.” It is defined as occurring when established laws and practices “systematically reflect and produce inequities based on one’s membership in targeted social identity groups.” Sound familiar? As you continue to watch the persecution of the unvaccinated unfold, remember this. Historically, when society has oppressed a particular group of people whether due to their gender, race, social class, religious beliefs, or sexuality, it’s always been because they pose some kind of threat to the status quo. The same is true for today’s unvaccinated. Since we know the vaccine doesn’t prevent the spread of COVID, however, this much is clear: the unvaccinated don’t pose a threat to the health and safety of their fellow citizens — but rather, to the bottom line of powerful pharmaceutical giants and the many global organizations they finance. And with more than $100 billion on the line in 2021 alone, I can understand the motivation to silence them. The unvaccinated have been called selfish. Stupid. Fauci has said it’s “almost inexplicable” that they are still resisting. But is it? What if these people aren’t crazy or uncaring, but rather have — unsurprisingly so — lost their faith in the agencies that are supposed to protect them? Can you blame them? Citizens are being bullied into getting a vaccine that was created, evaluated, and authorized in under a year, with no access to the bulk of the safety data for said vaccine, and no rights whatsoever to pursue legal action if they experience adverse effects from it. What these people need right now is to know they can depend on their fellow citizens to respect their choices, not fuel the segregation by launching a full-fledged witch hunt. Instead, for some inexplicable reason I imagine stems from fear, many continue rallying around big pharma rather than each other. A 2022 Heartland Institute and Rasmussen Reports survey of Democratic voters found that 59% of respondents support a government policy requiring unvaccinated individuals to remain confined in their home at all times, 55% support handing a fine to anyone who won’t get the vaccine, and 48% think the government should flat out imprison people who publicly question the efficacy of the vaccines on social media, TV, or online in digital publications. Even Orwell couldn’t make this stuff up. Photo credit: DJ Paine on Unsplash Let me be very clear. While there are a lot of bad actors out there — there are also a lot of well-meaning people in the science and medical industries, too. I’m lucky enough to know some of them. There are doctors who fend off pharma reps’ influence and take an extremely cautious approach to prescribing. Medical journal authors who fiercely pursue transparency and truth — as is evident in “The Influence of Money on Medical Science,” a report by the first female editor of JAMA. Pharmacists, like Dan Schneider, who refuse to fill prescriptions they deem risky or irresponsible. Whistleblowers, like Graham and Jackson, who tenaciously call attention to safety issues for pharma products in the approval pipeline. And I’m certain there are many people in the pharmaceutical industry, like Panara and my grandfather, who pursued this field with the goal of helping others, not just earning a six- or seven-figure salary. We need more of these people. Sadly, it seems they are outliers who exist in a corrupt, deep-rooted system of quid-pro-quo relationships. They can only do so much. I’m not here to tell you whether or not you should get the vaccine or booster doses. What you put in your body is not for me — or anyone else — to decide. It’s not a simple choice, but rather one that may depend on your physical condition, medical history, age, religious beliefs, and level of risk tolerance. My grandfather passed away in 2008, and lately, I find myself missing him more than ever, wishing I could talk to him about the pandemic and hear what he makes of all this madness. I don’t really know how he’d feel about the COVID vaccine, or whether he would have gotten it or encouraged me to. What I do know is that he’d listen to my concerns, and he’d carefully consider them. He would remind me my feelings are valid. His eyes would light up and he’d grin with amusement as I fervidly expressed my frustration. He’d tell me to keep pushing forward, digging deeper, asking questions. In his endearing Bronx accent, he used to always say: “go get ‘em, kid.” If I stop typing for a moment and listen hard enough, I can almost hear him saying it now. People keep saying “trust the science.” But when trust is broken, it must be earned back. And as long as our legislative system, public health agencies, physicians, and research journals keep accepting pharmaceutical money (with strings attached) — and our justice system keeps letting these companies off the hook when their negligence causes harm, there’s no reason for big pharma to change. They’re holding the bag, and money is power. I have a dream that one day, we’ll live in a world where we are armed with all the thorough, unbiased data necessary to make informed decisions about our health. Alas, we’re not even close. What that means is that it’s up to you to educate yourself as much as possible, and remain ever-vigilant in evaluating information before forming an opinion. You can start by reading clinical trials yourself, rather than relying on the media to translate them for you. Scroll to the bottom of every single study to the “conflicts of interest” section and find out who funded it. Look at how many subjects were involved. Confirm whether or not blinding was used to eliminate bias. You may also choose to follow Public Citizen’s Health Research Group’s rule whenever possible: that means avoiding a new drug until five years after an FDA approval (not an EUA, an actual approval) — when there’s enough data on the long-term safety and effectiveness to establish that the benefits outweigh the risks. When it comes to the news, you can seek out independent, nonprofit outlets, which are less likely to be biased due to pharma funding. And most importantly, when it appears an organization is making concerted efforts to conceal information from you — like the FDA recently did with the COVID vaccine — it’s time to ask yourself: why? What are they trying to hide? In the 2019 film “Dark Waters” — which is based on the true story of one of the greatest corporate cover-ups in American history — Mark Ruffalo as attorney Rob Bilott says: “The system is rigged. They want us to think it’ll protect us, but that’s a lie. We protect us. We do. Nobody else. Not the companies. Not the scientists. Not the government. Us.” Words to live by. Tyler Durden Sat, 04/09/2022 - 22:30.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytApr 9th, 2022

"Moon Knight" is off to a promising start, proving Disney Plus is key to Marvel"s next phase of movies and TV shows

Though Moon Knight is an obscure superhero to all but dedicated comic book readers, the character's new Disney Plus series shows a lot of potential. Prices are accurate at the time of publication.When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.Oscar Isaac as Moon Knight in Marvel Studios "Moon Knight.""Moon Knight" / Disney Plus "Moon Knight" brings one of Marvel's lesser-known heroes to TV for his own Disney Plus series. Prior Marvel shows on Disney Plus relied on characters established in the movies, like "Loki." The successful introduction of Moon Knight shows that Disney Plus is key to the MCU's next phase. Disney Plus Monthly Subscription Service$7.99 FROM DISNEY+"Moon Knight" is the latest show in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) to hit Disney Plus, and the first of 2022. The studio has already seen tons of success with shows like "Loki," "WandaVision," and "Hawkeye," but "Moon Knight" is the first Marvel show to introduce a brand-new hero to the MCU without relying on the popularity of prior films.For Marvel fans, this means that Disney Plus is becoming even more of a necessity, as "phase four" of the studio's release schedule will continue to embrace streaming as a way of debuting new characters and storylines that will connect to the studio's big-screen releases.At $8 a month or $80 a year, Disney Plus maintains a competitive price point compared to other streaming services, and its Marvel shows continue to be a big draw for subscribers. It remains to be seen just how well "Moon Knight" completes its six-episode story, but the first episode shows a lot of promise. Though some viewers may be thrown off by the chaotic premiere, the pieces are in place for an engaging story.'Moon Knight' review: A disorienting yet compelling introduction to a new Marvel heroMoon Knight is an especially bold choice to lead a TV series, as the character's comic book history is confusing to all but the most devoted fans. The hero fights crime as the avatar of the Egyptian moon god Khonshu, but Steven Grant (Oscar Isaac) — the man under the white cowl — takes on multiple personality states, called alters, that are attributed to dissociative identity disorder, a real-life mental health condition.Media and popular culture have taken a more sensitive approach to depicting characters with mental illness since Moon Knight was first introduced in 1975, but the Disney Plus series chooses to embrace the character's identity disorder and make it a core part of the story, alongside the Egyptian mythology that gives Moon Knight his lunar-powered crime fighting abilities.Egyptian director Mohamed Diab told Variety he hadn't heard of Moon Knight before joining the series as executive producer, but he was excited by the idea of blending his knowledge of Egyptian culture with the large platform Disney Plus provides. Though Moon Knight's powers come from an Egyptian god, the comic books rarely explore the culture they were derived from.Steven Grant communicating with himself.Disney+ / Marvel StudiosDisney Plus' "Moon Knight" doesn't immediately dig into the hero's powers either. In fact, the first episode is nearly devoid of action as it focuses on Steven's condition. He repeatedly wakes up with in new places with no memory of how he arrived, and hears the voices of the god Khonshu (F. Murray Abraham) and another alter living in his body.While Steven Grant is a successful billionaire in the comic books, he's an average gift shop employee in the Disney Plus show, giving comic book readers an idea of just how much the MCU versions of these characters might differ. Oscar Isaac is tasked with portraying multiple characters living within the same body, and while some special effects help viewers understand the separation between Steven's identities, Isaac's acting demonstrates the differences with distinct changes in his accent and body movements.Disney+As a fan of the recent "Moon Knight" comics by Warren Ellis and Jeff Lemire, I'm excited to see the Disney Plus show fully embrace the character's complex condition and flesh out his separate identities. The dual identities of characters like Spider-Man and Daredevil have always been a major part of the appeal of Marvel's superheroes, and the first episode "Moon Knight" works to get viewers invested in Steven's internal conflict without revealing the mystery at the center of the show.In comparison to shows like "Hawkeye" and "The Falcon & the Winter Soldier," "Moon Knight" starts off exploring entirely new territory, rather than relying on the existing mythology that's been built through more than a decade of MCU movies. I appreciate that "Moon Knight" establishes a fresh story without mention of the Avengers, Thanos, and other MCU plotlines.However, like "WandaVision" and "Loki," it may take another episode or two of "Moon Knight" for the core conflict of the series to become clear. While it will be interesting to see if Moon Knight interacts with other Marvel characters in the future, I hope that the series continues to feel independent through its six-episode run.The bottom line"Moon Knight."Disney+While the Marvel shows we saw in 2021 were largely extensions of the studio's huge film franchises, "Moon Knight" shows that Marvel is ready to branch out in entirely new directions with its Disney Plus titles. This isn't just a spin-off or a continuation of an established story, it's the introduction of a new hero and a new mythical corner of the MCU for fans to explore. Though it's too early to determine where "Moon Knight" ranks in quality compared to Marvel's other efforts, the premiere offers a promising start. The show will have to pay off on the intriguing mystery it's established to be successful, but the groundwork has been laid for a unique and exciting show.Marvel's streak of successful TV series doesn't show any signs of stopping, and its strategy of introducing new heroes in shows like "Moon Knight" and the upcoming "Ms. Marvel" continue to make Disney Plus an essential subscription for MCU fans.Disney Plus Monthly Subscription Service$7.99 FROM DISNEY+Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderApr 5th, 2022

Why Most Crypto Backers Are Excited That the Biden Administration Is Wading Into Digital Currency

“I am pretty darn optimistic about it,” says Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of Reddit who is now a major investor in crypto technology A version of this article was published in TIME’s newsletter Into the Metaverse. Subscribe for a weekly guide to the future of the Internet. You can find past issues of the newsletter here. It’s been a momentous couple weeks in crypto. In the midst of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, millions of dollars in cryptocurrency donations have streamed toward the Ukrainian government and relief efforts, providing a lifeline for those unable to access traditional banks. On the flip side, regulators have worried that crypto provides a way for Russian oligarchs to circumvent sanctions (although no concrete evidence has surfaced that this is the case). Earlier this week, rumors spread that President Joe Biden was about to issue an executive order cracking down on crypto, especially with regards to its role in this geopolitical conflict. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] But many crypto insiders were pleasantly surprised when the Administration released its executive order on Wednesday, marking the first time the White House has weighed in formally on cryptocurrencies. The order recognized the popularity of cryptocurrencies and directed the U.S. Department of the Treasury and other federal agencies to coordinate their efforts to come up with a regulatory plan. “I am pretty darn optimistic about it,” says Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of Reddit who is now a major investor in crypto technology. “I’m grateful we’re at the point where the utility of this tech has proven to be very obvious to all levels of our government.” The order tasks a variety of agencies with studying and planning around cryptocurrency policy in key areas like consumer protection, national security, and illicit finance. It also urges the Federal Reserve to continue exploring the development of a U.S. Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC)—a digital U.S. dollar that would be widely available to the general public, and could make digital transactions more secure, faster and cheaper. TIME spoke to several leaders in crypto about the executive order. Here the main reasons they’re generally excited. The tone signals positivity about cryptocurrency The tone of the executive order is evident from the very first line of the fact sheet, which comments on the “explosive growth” of digital assets. The order then declares that the U.S. “must maintain technological leadership in this rapidly growing space.” Kristin Smith, the executive director of the Blockchain Association, a D.C.-based crypto lobbying group, says that the order’s language is “incredibly bullish, especially compared to the last Administration, which was much more hostile towards crypto.” (President Trump tweeted in 2019 that he was “not a fan” of cryptocurrencies and that they were “based on thin air.”) “We’re pretty happy; it’s an acknowledgement that this is a growing, important space,” Smith says. Jeremy Allaire, the co-founder and CEO of Circle, the digital currency company behind the world’s second-largest stablecoin, went a step further, writing on Twitter that the order represents a “watershed moment for crypto, digital assets, and Web 3, akin to the 1996/1997 whole of government wakeup to the commercial internet.” And the market seemed to agree with him: Bitcoin jumped 9% on Wednesday afternoon. A thoughtful look at risks Of course, the executive order isn’t uniformly positive: It lays out the many risks of cryptocurrencies, including the prevalence of scams, its use in illicit finance, and environmental concerns. But Smith says the detail and nuance of the report show the Biden Administration’s commitment to studying the space carefully. “They’ve asked a really good series of questions that relate to a lot of policy goals,” she says. “They’re not pre-determining policy outcomes, but rather have a really methodical and thoughtful process to go about finding answers and figuring out where the regulatory gaps are.” Setting the stage for regulatory clarity Over the past couple years, different governmental agencies have jostled for the authority to regulate cryptocurrencies, including the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). While the order doesn’t specifically say who is in charge, it calls on the various regulators to create a united front and to determine spheres of influence, and a chain of command. These agencies publicly fell in line in support on Wednesday. CFTC chairman Rostin Behnam wrote that the order would “ensure greater cooperation and coordination between various cabinet-level agencies.” SEC Chairman Gary Gensler issued a similar statement on Twitter. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen wrote in a statement that she would work under the guidelines of the order to “promote a fairer, more inclusive, and more efficient financial system.” Meanwhile, inside the the crypto world, there are some libertarians who take a hardline view against any sort of regulation. But most of the leaders of cryptocurrency platforms are already complying with government know-your-client (KYC) regulations—and have spoken up about the fact that they want more clarity, not less, on their responsibilities. “There’s a strong case to be made that the lack of regulatory guidance and policy certainty has hindered the ability of responsible investors and entrepreneurs to innovate in this space because they’re unclear of what regulations they may be subject to two, three, four years down the line if they become successful,” says Ariel Zetlin-Jones, an associate professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business. “So to the extent that this executive order will spur a wide number of agencies to establish some kind of predictable policy rationale behind how blockchain and crypto innovations will be treated, you would think that would enhance enthusiasm for investing in this space.” Sam Kazemian, the founder of the stablecoin Frax, agrees. “I don’t see it as black or white. I think in democratic, liberal societies like ours, people want to see regulations, fairness, and transparency,” he says. “We’re very collaborative and cooperative, and want to make sure we’re on the right side of history.” Crypto lobbying in Washington will only increase Biden’s order doesn’t actually make any immediate demands, but rather calls for research to unfold over the year, eventually leading to a set of concrete recommendations. Crypto boosters are taking this process as a green light to flood Washington with suggestions. “This [executive order] should be viewed as the single biggest opportunity to engage with policy makers on the issues that matters,” Allaire wrote on Twitter. The lobbying presence of crypto in D.C. is already sizable: its expenditures rose from $2.2 million in 2018 to $9 million in 2021, according to a report this week by Public Citizen, a progressive advocacy group. The Blockchain Association, one of the largest lobbying groups, is expected to continue to play a significant role in the coming conversations this year. “We’ve already had some people in government reach out to us asking to come in and talk to them,” Smith says. “We’ve got a lot of work cut out for us over the next six or so months.” “I know a couple regulators and folks in office. They’ve always got my number if they want to talk about this stuff,” Ohanian says. “I’ll certainly continue to be a resource as best as I can.” The digital dollar is still far away The issue of Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) is a contentious one in the crypto community. While having a government-issued digital currency could be useful to foster greater access to the financial system, many feel it would run counter to crypto’s decentralized ideals. Biden’s order doesn’t make a declaration in either direction, but does call for a study into whether a CBDC would “enhance or impede” financial systems and the power of the U.S. dollar. While a digital dollar would theoretically compete with Kazemian’s stablecoin Frax, he says he’s not particularly concerned with this development. “The government’s timelines… are so slow that the first real world payments, if they ever even happen, won’t be until like 2026,” he says. “That’s why I think it’s important for the private sector and these innovations to stay within the U.S.—and to have people with expertise actually collaborating with the government.” Subscribe to Into the Metaverse for a weekly guide to the future of the Internet. Join TIMEPieces on Twitter and Discord.....»»

Category: topSource: timeMar 10th, 2022

Futures Recover Overnight Losses After Torrid Thursday Rally As Uneasy Calm Returns

Futures Recover Overnight Losses After Torrid Thursday Rally As Uneasy Calm Returns After yesterday's furious gamma-squeeze rally, U.S. stock futures were slightly lower on the day, although near the overnight session highs as the ongoing Ukraine conflict and impact of Western sanctions continue to drive risk; sentiment was boosted after the Kremlin said that Ukraine’s neutrality offer is a move “toward positive” and following reports that China's president Xi held a phone call with Putin who said Russia is willing to conduct high-level negotiations with Ukraine. S&P futures were down 10 points to 0.25% at 7:30am, after paring earlier declines of more than 1%, with Nasdaq futures down -0.15% and Dow futures down 0.4%. Europe's Stoxx Europe 600 was in the green, and oil was steady after Bloomberg reported that oil importers in China are briefly pausing new seaborne purchases as they assess the potential implications of handling the shipments following the Ukraine invasion. Gold was steady, while Brent crude reached $100 a barrel and Treasuries rose. In the latest developments, Ukraine’s president Zelensky said Moscow-led forces were continuing attacks on military and civilian targets on the second day of their invasion. Leaders from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization will hold virtual talks on the alliance’s next steps starting at 3 p.m. in Brussels. Meanwhile, President Joe Biden imposed stiffer sanctions on Russia, promising to inflict a “severe cost on the Russian economy” that will hamper its ability to do business in foreign currencies after Moscow-led forces attacked military targets in Ukraine, triggering the worst security crisis in Europe since World War II. China urged Russia and Ukraine to negotiate to address problems, according to Chinese state TV.  Here is a full recap of the latest Ukraine developments: There were reports of heavy explosions rocking the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv and US Senator Rubio tweeted it appeared that at least three dozen missiles were fired at the Kyiv are in 40 minutes, while Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kuleba confirmed Russian rockets fired at Kyiv and President Zelensky also noted Russia resumed missile strikes at 04:00 local time/02:00GMT. Russia has not undertaken missile strikes on Kyiv, according to Russian press citing a source in the Defence Ministry. There is currently gunfire in Kyiv with Russians in the City, according to a reporter (08:45GMT/03:45EST) Gunfire has been heard near the government quarter of Kyiv, Ukraine, via LBC News (09:09GMT/04:09EST) Ukrainian military vehicles seized by Russian troops wearing Ukrainian uniforms, heading for Kyiv, defense official says - UNIAN, cited by BNO News. Russian paratroopers take control of Chernobyl nuclear power plant, according to the Ministry of Defence cited by Sputnik. Additionally, Ukraine nuclear agency says it is seeing higher radiation levels in Chernobyl; note, Sky News reports that the increase is insignificant and is due to military vehicles moving around the reactor. Ukraine President adviser says that Ukraine wants peace, if negotiations are still possible, they should be undertaken. Subsequently, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov says that Ukraine President Zelenskiy is "lying" when he says he is prepared to discuss the neutral status of Ukraine; however, the Kremlin says it has taken note of Kyiv's willingness to discuss neutral status; will need to analyze this. Ukraine President Zelensky says the Russian assault is like a repeat of WW2, accuses Europe of an insufficient reaction, Europe can still stop the Russian aggression if they act quickly. Ukrainian President Zelensky has proposed Russian President Putin joins him at the negotiating table, according to Ria. In premarket trading, Block jumped after fourth-quarter sales beat consensus, while Coinbase dropped after warning that trading volume will decline in the first quarter. Zscaler slumped 13% after the security software company’s second-quarter results failed to live up to the most optimistic expectations, even though they beat estimates. Analysts slashed their price targets, including a new Street-low at Barclays. Here are some of the other notable U.S. premarket movers today: Block Inc. (SQ US) shares climb 15% in U.S. premarket trading after the firm posted fourth-quarter sales that beat Street consensus. Analysts say the results are a relief, supported by “impressive” Cash App figures. Coinbase Global Inc. (COIN US) shares were 1.6% lower in premarket trading after the biggest U.S. cryptocurrency exchange cautioned that trading volume will decline in the first quarter. Etsy (ETSY US) shares are up about 18% in premarket trading, after the e- commerce company reported fourth-quarter results that featured better-than-expected revenue and gross merchandise sales. It also gave a forecast. Beyond Meat (BYND US) shares dropped 10% in premarket as analyst questioned its profitability outlook and pricing strategy after the maker of plant-based foods forecast sales that missed market expectations. KAR Auction Services (CVNA US) climbs 50% in U.S. premarket after agreeing to sell its Adesa U.S. physical auction business to Carvana for $2.2 billion in cash. Truist Securities sees positive implications for both stocks. Farfetch (FTCH US) shares rally 27% in premarket trading after co. posted a smaller-than-expected 4Q loss. A prolonged conflict could deliver a major blow to global markets and slow the normalization of central bank policy that’s expected this year. Wall Street strategists cut their forecasts on European equities on concern that the war in Ukraine will hurt economic growth, with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. expecting virtually no full-year returns. A the same time, disruptions of raw materials and food could stoke already-high prices and heap pressure on central banks to act faster to curb inflation. Russia remains a commodity powerhouse and Ukraine is a major grain exporter. Markets still see around six quarter-point increases by the Federal Reserve, but bets on other central bank’s hiking cycles have been pared in recent days. “This conflict implies a further deterioration of the already tricky growth-inflation trade-offs central banks have been facing, making the upcoming decisions particularly hard,” Silvia Dall’Angelo, senior economist at the international business of Federated Hermes, wrote in a note to clients. “Downside growth risks from the geopolitical backdrop mean that they are likely to proceed gradually and cautiously.” Penalties by the U.S. and its allies spared Russia’s oil exports and avoided blocking access to the Swift global payment network. With flows of natural gas returning to Europe, prices reversed a record-breaking rally with the benchmark contract down as much as 28%. European stocks climbed as investors bought the dip after a volatile week led by developments on the Ukrainian front. Stocks trade at session highs after the Kremlin says that Ukraine’s neutrality offer is a move “toward positive” while oil slips to session low. U.S. futures decline. Euro Stoxx 50 rallies 1.2%. FTSE 100 outperforms, adding 1.8%, IBEX lags, adding 0.9%. CAC 40 up 1.3%. Utilities, real estate and food & beverages are the strongest sectors. Russia’s MOEX index rebounds, rising ~15%. Here are some of the biggest European movers today: European shares in sectors that were beaten down by Russia risk on Thursday rebound, with travel and basic resource stocks among the top gainers, as well as banks with exposure to eastern Europe. Bank Polska Kasa Opieki +14%, Dino Polska +7.3%, Polymetal International +7.5%, Wizz Air +5.8% The European utility sector leads gains among subindexes on the Stoxx 600, gaining about 5%, after European natural gas prices halted their rally rally, as Russian flows to the continent ramped up. Rightmove shares rise as much as 7.4% after the online property listings firm reported FY revenue growth of 48% from a year earlier. The results show encouraging momentum into 2022, Numis says. Pearson has its biggest gain in almost a year, rising 11% after results. Goldman Sachs notes the education publisher’s adjusted operating profit for FY22 was in line with market expectations. Freenet rises as much as 6.7% after results, the most since May, as analysts see positive profitability updates despite revenue weakness. Vallourec climbs as much as 20% after the French steel-pipe maker gave guidance that Oddo BHF calls “reassuring” in spite of incidents at a Brazil mine. Valeo falls as much as 12% in Paris after the French company set out targets for this year and 2025, with analysts noting 2022 guidance came in below expectations. BASF drops as much as 4.9% in Frankfurt after adjusted Ebit missed consensus and results show a squeeze on margins, Berenberg said. Swiss Re plunges as much as 8.4% after reporting results that missed analyst estimates. The insurer also proposed new targets that “don’t seem supportive enough,” Citi writes. Casino slumps as much as 17% to its lowest level in more than three decades after the French grocer reported FY results that Jefferies says showed “no progress” on deleveraging. An uneasy calm returned to Asia’s stock markets on Friday, as investors assessed the fallout of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the outlook for China’s tech sector. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index climbed as much as 1.2%, rallying from its worst drop in a year on Thursday. Weaker-than-expected U.S. sanctions on Russia supported market sentiment, helping lift tech and industrial shares. China’s tech stocks advanced even after Alibaba announced the slowest revenue growth since it went public.  Benchmarks in Japan and India were among the top performers. India’s Sensex turned from the biggest loser in Asia to the biggest winner on Friday. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index dropped as the city deals with record Covid-19 cases.  Asian equities “showed signs of excessive drops, so today’s rise appears to be a technical rebound,” Seo Jung-hun, a strategist at Samsung Securities, said by phone. “Markets will continue to face volatility as Russia-sparked risks, the Fed’s policy tightening and inflation issues still persist.” Federal Reserve Governor Christopher Waller said a half percentage-point increase in U.S. interest rates next month could be justified, although the Ukraine conflict has added to uncertainty. The Asian stock benchmark is set for its worst week this month, down almost 4%, and remains close to entering a bear market. Geopolitical risks, regulatory concerns for Chinese private enterprises and a relatively slower pace of earnings growth compared with the rest of the world are all weighing on sentiment Japanese equities climbed, sealing their first gain in six sessions, as blue chips led the charge following a late U.S. rally from the recent selloff in anticipation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Electronics makers and telecoms were the biggest boosts to the Topix, which rose 1%. Tokyo Electron and SoftBank Group were the largest contributors to a 2% rise in the Nikkei 225. The yen retraced some of its 0.5% loss against the dollar overnight. “Expectations are spreading that the pace of rate hikes will be slowed down in the U.S. and Europe, considering the impact the Ukraine situation will have on the economy,” said Nobuhiko Kuramochi, a market strategist at Mizuho Securities In rates, treasuries were slightly cheaper across the curve, with yields higher by 1bp to 1.5bp from Thursday’s session close. U.S. 10-year yield around 1.975%, cheaper by 1bp on the day with bunds lagging a further 1bp following data including France CPI beat, while Estoxx rally 1.5%; gilts outperform by around 2bp vs. Treasuries. Treasuries pared an advance after Federal Reserve Governor Christopher Waller said a half percentage-point rate increase may be justified if economic data remain hot. European benchmark bonds traded steady to slightly lower. Gilts gained, led by the belly of the curve; Bank of England’s Huw Pill speaks later, with the pace of tightening in focus. IG dollar issuance slate empty so far; borrowers stepped away from debt sales Thursday leaving weekly total around $18b vs. $25b expected. German bunds bear-flatten on the back of a stronger-than-expected French CPI print, while money markets price as much as 42bps of ECB tightening in December, an increase of 5bps compared to Thursday. In FX, the Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index was little changed as the greenback traded mixed versus its Group-of-10 peers, though most currencies were confined to narrow ranges relative to yesterday’s moves. The Australian and New Zealand dollars led G-10 gains on short covering after Thursday’s plunge; The yen was also higher while the euro fell a third consecutive day to trade below $1.12 and the pound erased an early advance. Hedging costs in the major currencies turned south early Friday, but investors aren’t ready to shift bias into risk-on exposure. French consumer prices rose 4.1% in February from a year earlier versus 3.3% in January. That’s the strongest reading since the data series started in 1997. Economists had forecast a 3.7% advance. Currencies from the European Union’s east weakened against the euro and the dollar, but were far from levels reached Thursday. A gauge of one-week implied volatility in the dollar against the Taiwan dollar jumped to a six-month high on Friday while the Taiwan dollar slid to the weakest since October in the spot market. The conflict in Ukraine may raise the risk premium for China and Taiwan over the medium term, according to Morgan Stanley. In commodities, Brent trades around $99, while WTI slips below $93. Spot gold rises roughly $6 to trade near $1,910/oz.  European natural gas prices halt a record-breaking rally. Benchmark futures fell as much as 28%, after four consecutive days of gains. Most base metals trade in the red; LME aluminum falls 2.5%, underperforming peers. LME lead outperforms Looking at the day ahead, data highlights from the US include the personal income and personal spending data for January, preliminary durable goods orders and core capital goods orders for January, pending home sales for January, and the final University of Michigan consumer sentiment index for February. In Europe, we’ll also get the preliminary French CPI reading for February, and the Euro Area’s economic sentiment indicator for February. Market Snapshot S&P 500 futures down 1.1% to 4,237.75 MXAP up 1.0% to 181.44 MXAPJ up 0.8% to 593.50 Nikkei up 1.9% to 26,476.50 Topix up 1.0% to 1,876.24 Hang Seng Index down 0.6% to 22,767.18 Shanghai Composite up 0.6% to 3,451.41 Sensex up 2.5% to 55,878.05 Australia S&P/ASX 200 up 0.1% to 6,997.81 Kospi up 1.1% to 2,676.76 STOXX Europe 600 up 0.8% to 442.68 German 10Y yield little changed at 0.16% Euro down 0.2% to $1.1172 Brent Futures up 0.9% to $99.98/bbl Gold spot up 0.3% to $1,909.09 U.S. Dollar Index little changed at 97.18 Top Overnight News from Bloomberg Federal Reserve officials stuck to their resolve to raise interest rates next month despite uncertainty posed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with at least one policy maker considering a half-point move Out of 18 potential red flags in Citi’s global Bear Market checklist, only seven are currently waving, far fewer than before bear markets of 2000 and 2007, strategists led by Beata Manthey wrote in a note. In Europe, the number of danger signs is only five, they said China’s Politburo vowed to strengthen macroeconomic policies to stabilize the economy this year, suggesting more support could be on the cards to boost growth ahead of a key leadership meeting later this year Russia still has about $300 billion of foreign currency held offshore - - enough to disrupt money markets if it’s frozen by sanctions or moved suddenly to avoid them China’s central bank ramped up its short-term liquidity injection in the banking system, providing support just as global markets are roiled by geopolitical tension A more detailed look at global markets courtesy of Newsquawk Asia-Pacific stocks mostly gained after the firm rebound on Wall St. ASX 200 was capped amid a slew of earnings and with outperformance in tech offset by weakness in miners and financials. Nikkei 225 outperformed and reclaimed the 26k status with exporters underpinned by a more favourable currency. KOSPI gained with index heavyweight Samsung Electronics underpinned as it launched global sales of its flagship smartphone and latest tablet which have attracted record pre-orders. Hang Seng and Shanghai Comp. were mixed with the mainland underpinned after the PBoC boosted its daily liquidity operation which resulted in the biggest weekly cash injection in more than two years. although Hong Kong was constrained by losses in the energy majors and with financials subdued amid pressure in HSBC shares and after China Communist Party inspections on financial institutions. Top Asian News China Pledges Stronger Economic Policies to Stabilize Growth China Leaves Russia’s War Off Front Pages as Xi Stays Silent Currency Traders Remain Vigilant Even as Hedging Costs Retreat Asian Stocks Gain as China Tech, India Rebound; Hong Kong Drops European bourses are firmer and back in proximity to initial best levels after losing traction shortly after the cash open, Euro Stoxx 50 +1.3%; FTSE 100 +1.9% outperforms amid Basic Resources strength. US futures are lower across the board, ES -0.9%, after yesterday's significant intra-day reversal to close positive; albeit, action has been rangebound within the European morning. US SEC's EDGAR feed is reportedly down; fillings cannot be made. In Europe, sectors are all in the green featuring noted outperformance in Utilities and  Basic Resources, Energy remains firmer in-spite of the crude benchmarks pullback Top European News Wall Street Cuts European Stock Targets as War Prompts Outflows U.K. Takes Aim at Russia’s Opaque Embrace of London Property UBS Triggers Margin Calls as Russia Bond Values Cut to Zero What to Watch in Commodities: Ukraine Impact Roiling Markets In FX, Aussie regroups alongside broad risk sentiment and rebound in Aud/Nzd cross amidst mixed NZ consumption and trade data - Aud/Usd near 0.7200 vs sub-0.7100 low yesterday. Buck bases after abrupt reversal from new 2022 highs in DXY terms and residual rebalancing may underpin alongside underlying safe haven bid - index above 97.000 again vs 96.770 low and 97.740 y-t-d best. Rouble supported by ongoing CBR intervention via higher repo auction cap - Usd/Rub around 84.000 compared to almost 90.000 record peak. Yen and Gold off best levels, but both retain elements of safety premium - Usd/Jpy circa 115.35 and Xau/ Usd hovering above Usd 1900/oz In commodities, WTI and Brent have continued to pull back after overnight consolidation, Brent April notably below USD 99.00/bbl vs USD 101.99/bbl highs. Focus remains firmly on geopolitics (see section above) while participants are also attentive to next week's OPEC+ meeting. Japan's Industry Minister said they will appropriately deal with an oil release from national reserves in cooperation with relevant countries and the IEA. Spot gold is rangebound after an initial move higher failed to gather steam and hit resistance at USD 1922/oz. Goldman Sachs recently commented that the rally for gold has a lot further to go on the situation in Ukraine and prices and that prices could reach as high at USD 2,350/oz if there is a build in demand for ETF. Geopolitical updates US Senior US administration official said the US still has room to further tighten sanctions if Russian aggression accelerates further and is keeping the option open to impose import-export controls on less advanced mainline chips such as those used in the Russian auto industry. European Commission President von der Leyen said steps agreed by EU leaders include financial sanctions and they are targeting 70% of the Russian banking market, as well as key state owned companies including defence. Furthermore, the export ban will impact Russia's oil sector by making it impossible to upgrade refineries and EU is limiting Russia's access to key technologies such as semiconductors. EU Council President Michel says they are urgently preparing additional sanctions against Russia, via AFP; subsequently, a German gov't spokesperson says a discussion of third sanctions package against Russia is in its early stages. French President Macron said EU sanctions will be followed by French national sanctions on certain people which are to be announced later, while they will offer EUR 300mln of aid to Ukraine and military equipment, as well as target Belarus for penalties. Russian Central Bank said it will provide any support needed for sanctions-hit banks and that banks have been well prepared in advance, while Ukraine's Central Bank banned operations with RUB and BYR, as well as banned banks from making payments to entities in Russia and Belarus. Russia may retaliate for UK ban on Aeroflot flights to Britain, according to Tass citing the aviation authority; subsequently, Russia banned London registered craft from its airspace. Russian Parliamentary Upper Chamber speaker says that Russia has prepared sanctions to hit the weak points of the West, according to Interfax. Australian PM Morrison announced the nation is to impose further sanctions on Russian individuals and said it is unacceptable that China is easing trade restrictions with Russia at this time. Taiwan will join democratic countries to put sanctions on Russia for invasion of Ukraine and Japanese PM Kishida said they will immediately impose sanctions in Russia in three areas including the financial sector and military equipment exports, while Russia's envoy to Japan later said there will be a serious Russian response to Japanese sanctions. UK Defence Minister Wallace says we would like to cut Russia off from SWIFT; French Finance Minister Le Maire says the option of cutting Russia off from SWIFT remains an option, but it a last resort. India is reportedly exploring setting up INR trade accounts with Russia to soften the blow on India from Russian sanctions, according to Reuters sources. Central Banks Fed's Waller (voter) said it is too soon to judge how Ukraine conflict will impact the world or US economy and concerted action to rein in inflation is needed. Waller said rates should be raised by 100bps by mid-year and there is a strong case for a 50bps hike in March if incoming data indicates economy is still exceedingly hot, but added it is possible a more modest tightening is appropriate in wake of Ukraine attack , while he also stated the Fed should start trimming the balance sheet no later than the July meeting, according to Reuters. ECB's Lane said there would be a significant increase to 2022 inflation forecast amid the Ukraine crisis but hinted at inflation below target at end of horizon according to Reuters sources; Lane presented several scenarios: Mild scenario: no impact to EZ GDP; seen as unlikely; Middle scenario: 0.3-0.4ppts shaved off EZ GDP; Severe scenario: EZ hit by almost 1ppt. Note, sources cited by Reuters suggested these were rough calculations. BoE's Mann says all of the MPC agree that UK inflation is way above the BoE's goal; Mann added that domestic demand is strong and UK labour market is tight. BoE agents survey has been fundamental in guiding Mann's view on policy. US Event Calendar 8:30am: Jan. Personal Income, est. -0.3%, prior 0.3% 8:30am: Jan. Personal Spending, est. 1.6%, prior -0.6% 8:30am: Jan. Real Personal Spending, est. 1.2%, prior -1.0% 8:30am: Jan. Cap Goods Orders Nondef Ex Air, est. 0.3%, prior 0.3% 8:30am: Jan. Cap Goods Ship Nondef Ex Air, est. 0.5%, prior 1.3% 8:30am: Jan. -Less Transportation, est. 0.4%, prior 0.6% 8:30am: Jan. PCE Deflator MoM, est. 0.6%, prior 0.4%; PCE Deflator YoY, est. 6.0%, prior 5.8% 8:30am: Jan. PCE Core Deflator MoM, est. 0.5%, prior 0.5%; PCE Core Deflator YoY, est. 5.2%, prior 4.9%; 8:30am: Jan. Durable Goods Orders, est. 1.0%, prior -0.7% 10am: Feb. U. of Mich. Sentiment, est. 61.7, prior 61.7; Current Conditions, est. 68.5, prior 68.5; Expectations, est. 57.3, prior 57.4 10am: Feb. U. of Mich. 1 Yr Inflation, prior 5.0% 10am: Feb. U. of Mich. 5-10 Yr Inflation, prior 3.1% 10am: Jan. Pending Home Sales (MoM), est. 0.2%, prior -3.8%; YoY, est. -1.8%, prior -6.6% DB's Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap It's been a pretty seismic 36 hours and at some points yesterday the outlook for markets and economies felt very bleak. However remarkably after an 8 dollar round trip that first sent Brent crude over $105/bbl, oil (+2.31% on the day) eventually closed last night at $99.08 (still the highest since 2014), and only around the levels seen just before Russia launched the invasion just over 24 hours ago. It's edged up again in the Asian session to $100.75 as I type but the fact that oil stopped going parabolically higher helped turn the whole market around yesterday. Indeed markets hit peak pessimism around lunchtime in Europe but Biden not yet putting sanctions on Energy or restricting Russian access to SWIFT seemed to cap off a more positive tone thereafter. Indeed the S&P and Nasdaq rose +4.23% and +7.04% respectively from the opening lows to close up +1.50% and +3.34% on the day. A remarkable turnaround. S&P 500 (-0.53%) and Nasdaq (-0.76%) futures are down again this morning but this is still clearly well off the lows. If this event is going to have a lasting macro and market impact it has to hit energy prices and for much of yesterday it looked like it was on course to aggressively do so, and to be fair still might. European natural gas will be one to watch today as it soared +63.89% at its peak yesterday, only to fade towards the close to be 'only' up +33.31%. On a bigger picture basis the events of this week have to be forcing governments to think of their energy security in much more detail than they have in the past. Will it also impact the green transition? Surely it makes it more urgent in the medium-term but tougher to stick with in the short-term. Much will depend on what happens next for energy prices. Clearly the West may still put sanctions on this Russian supply which will undoubtedly risk a renewed spike in energy. Diving into yesterday. The intraday turnaround in asset prices followed clarity on what the west’s next round of sanctions would look like. The sanctions were expanded to more connected individuals and entities, were designed to cut off high-tech exports crucial to Russian defense and tech industries, impinge Russia’s ability to raise capital on foreign markets by restricting access and freezing assets of some of their largest banks, and restrict Russia’s ability to deal in dollars, yen, and euros. The sanctions not applied, however, drove an intraday turn in risk assets and reversed measures of inflation compensation. Namely, President Biden noted the sanctions package was specifically designed to allow energy payments to continue, and that the US would release strategic oil reserves as needed to help ameliorate price pressures. Further, they did not cut off Russia’s access to the international payments system, SWIFT, though maintained the option of doing so. Before the rally back there was a complete rout in numerous markets yesterday, and when it came to Russian assets there was frankly a capitulation, with the MOEX equity index (-32.28%) shedding more than a third of its value in a single day (-45.06% at the session lows). Bloomberg wrote a piece saying that the worst single day equity loss in their database for any country’s index was Argentina’s -53.1% fall in January 1990. In total, there have been seven worst days in stock market history than -33.3%. For what it’s worth, those equity declines are the sort that would trigger circuit breakers if they happened elsewhere. For example we couldn’t see that for the S&P 500 in a single day, since trading rules stipulate that there’s a complete halt for the day once you get to a -20% loss. On top of that, the Russian Ruble -5.15% hit a record low against the US dollar, after suffering its worst daily performance since the height of the Covid crisis back in March 2020. And yields on 10yr Russian sovereign debt were up by +435.0bps to 15.23%. The STOXX 600 fell -3.28% as it reached its lowest level since last May, with major losses for the other European indices including the FTSE 100 (-3.88%), the CAC 40 (-3.83%) and the DAX (-3.96%). With investors pricing in a less aggressive reaction function from central banks, sovereign bonds saw a decent rally yesterday, having also been supported by the dash for haven assets. However the moves didn’t match the severity of the flight to quality shock, even at the worse point of the day, as the real return consequence of buying government bonds at a yields of 0-2% was all too apparent with inflation rife. There was some big ranges though. 10yr US real yields were -27.7bps lower and breakevens +14.4bps wider as news of the invasion, and commensurate stagflation fears hit. However, the intraday turn around led to much more modest closing levels, with 10yr real yields -4.2bps lower and breakevens +1.5bps higher. 10yr nominal Treasury yields settled -2.8bps lower on the day at 1.96%. At shorter tenors, 5yr breakevens also displayed a remarkable intraday roundtrip, finishing +1.4bps higher after having hit an intraday peak +24.8bps wider at +3.39%, which would have been the highest reading on record. In Europe the breakeven widening was more sustained, and the 10yr German breakeven actually managed to close above 2% for the first time in over a decade yesterday, having climbed +12.9bps to +2.10%. Meanwhile nominal yields on 10yr bunds (-5.8bps), OATs (-7.0bps) and gilts (-3.2bps) all moved lower. Energy prices are going to continue to keep central bankers awake at night, since they can’t do anything about the supply issues directly. More shocks will lead to both lower growth (absent fiscal suppprt) and higher inflation, with the risk being that you start to see second-round effects if higher inflation becomes entrenched. Notably, one of the ECB’s biggest hawks, Robert Holzmann of Austria, said in a Bloomberg interview that the conflict meant “It’s possible however that the speed may now be somewhat delayed.” That was music to the ears of peripheral sovereign debt in particular, which rallied strongly on the news, with the Italian spread over 10yr bunds moving from an intraday high of 178bps to close at 164.5bps. In Asia the Nikkei (+1.63%), Kospi (+1.15%), Shanghai Composite (+0.54%), and the CSI (+0.78%) all are higher in line with the second half rally yesterday. Meanwhile, the Hang Seng (-0.16%) is lower. In economic data, overall inflation for Tokyo rose +1.0% y/y in February, its fastest pace of growth since December 2019, on higher energy prices and after an upwardly revised +0.6% increase in January. Bloomberg estimates were for a +0.7% rise. Excluding fresh food, consumer prices in Japan advanced +0.5% in February y/y, accelerating from a +0.2% increase in January and outpacing a +0.4% gain expected by analysts. In central banks news, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) beefed up liquidity by injecting 300 billion yuan ($47.4 bn) into the financial system via 7-day reverse repos, amid concerns over the Russia-Ukraine conflict. For the week, the PBOC injected a net 760 billion yuan – the biggest weekly cash offering since January 2020. Data releases understandably took a back seat yesterday, but we did get the weekly initial jobless claims from the US for the week through February 19, which fell to 232k (vs. 235k expected). We also saw the continuing claims for the week through February 12 fall to a half-century low of 1.476m, a level unseen since 1970. Otherwise, new home sales in January fell to an annualised rate of 801k (vs. 803k expected), and the second estimate of Q4’s GDP was revised up by a tenth from the initial estimate to an annualised +7.0%. To the day ahead now, and data highlights from the US include the personal income and personal spending data for January, preliminary durable goods orders and core capital goods orders for January, pending home sales for January, and the final University of Michigan consumer sentiment index for February. In Europe, we’ll also get the preliminary French CPI reading for February, and the Euro Area’s economic sentiment indicator for February. Tyler Durden Fri, 02/25/2022 - 07:57.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytFeb 25th, 2022

GreenWood Investors 3Q21 Commentary: Defense, Offense & Conviction

GreenWood Investors commentary for the third quarter ended September 2021, titled, “Defense, Offense & Conviction.” Q3 2021 hedge fund letters, conferences and more When Defense Misfires “Offense wins games. Defense wins championships.” This past quarter, much of my curiosity has been focused on the differences between offense and defense. Given I’ve spent little time watching […] GreenWood Investors commentary for the third quarter ended September 2021, titled, “Defense, Offense & Conviction.” if (typeof jQuery == 'undefined') { document.write(''); } .first{clear:both;margin-left:0}.one-third{width:31.034482758621%;float:left;margin-left:3.448275862069%}.two-thirds{width:65.51724137931%;float:left}form.ebook-styles .af-element input{border:0;border-radius:0;padding:8px}form.ebook-styles .af-element{width:220px;float:left}form.ebook-styles .af-element.buttonContainer{width:115px;float:left;margin-left: 6px;}form.ebook-styles .af-element.buttonContainer input.submit{width:115px;padding:10px 6px 8px;text-transform:uppercase;border-radius:0;border:0;font-size:15px}form.ebook-styles input.submit{width:115px}form.ebook-styles .af-element.privacyPolicy{width:100%;font-size:12px;margin:10px auto 0}form.ebook-styles .af-element.privacyPolicy p{font-size:11px;margin-bottom:0}form.ebook-styles .af-body input.text{height:40px;padding:2px 10px !important} form.ebook-styles .error, form.ebook-styles #error { color:#d00; } form.ebook-styles .formfields h1, form.ebook-styles .formfields #mg-logo, form.ebook-styles .formfields #mg-footer { display: none; } form.ebook-styles .formfields { font-size: 12px; } form.ebook-styles .formfields p { margin: 4px 0; } Get The Full Series in PDF Get the entire 10-part series on Charlie Munger in PDF. Save it to your desktop, read it on your tablet, or email to your colleagues. (function($) {window.fnames = new Array(); window.ftypes = new Array();fnames[0]='EMAIL';ftypes[0]='email';}(jQuery));var $mcj = jQuery.noConflict(true); Q3 2021 hedge fund letters, conferences and more When Defense Misfires “Offense wins games. Defense wins championships.” This past quarter, much of my curiosity has been focused on the differences between offense and defense. Given I’ve spent little time watching team sports, it’s been an interesting exploration. As my mind was occupied by defining an offensive playbook for our two coinvestments, we took our eyes off the ball of our protective, defense-oriented portfolio activities. The performance in the quarter was impacted by a 4% headwind generated by one particular short, which was the primary reason our fund underperformed indices in the quarter. While it was a painful lesson, we immediately evolved our short process in order to prevent our defensive measures from ever hurting our performance to such an extent going forward. Cutting to the chase, the performance in the quarter for the Global Micro Fund was -7.7% net (+30.5% YTD), and this compares to our benchmark MSCI ACWI index returning -1.1% in the quarter (+11.5% YTD). Without any FX headwinds, euro-denominated Luxembourg fund returned -3.3% net (+39.4% YTD). Separate account composites had similar returns, as Global Micro strategy returned -8.1% net (+15.0% YTD) and our longest-running and long-only Traditional accounts returned -6.8% net (16.5% YTD). The Builders Fund I returned -5.2% net in the quarter (+84.5% YTD) driven partially by foreign exchange. Builders Fund II, which was launched in the quarter, returned +3.0% net (+3.0% YTD). Aside from the one short mentioned, our returns were also impacted by corrections at Superdry PLC (LON:SDRY) and Peloton Interactive Inc (NASDAQ:PTON), each taking away roughly 2% from our performance in the quarter. They are both experiencing very different situations right now in the aftermath of Covid, but both are pressing their offense strategies with increased vigor. We remain undeterred with Superdry despite popular skepticism on the brand’s turnaround. Such perspectives look mismatched with a reinvigorated influencer strategy targeting a whole new generation, which have just driven same-store-sales to positive territory on a two-year stack. This is ahead of a pivotal autumn-winter season, when its jackets, coats and sweaters have traditionally shined. Having missed last winter due to Covid, we are excited to see the new product resonate with an entirely new base of consumers. We recently followed the Chairman and CEO’s insider buys, and purchased more shares on weakness. We continue to be encouraged by the progress made; and for a slightly longer discussion on where our thoughts are on Superdry, click here to see a tweet thread. Peloton has experienced a round trip of home workout demand back to pre-covid levels. Thus, while it is launching new products and new geographies, and retains an industry-leading engaged base of 6.2 million exercisers with low monthly subscription churn, this position will have to return to old fashioned marketing to continue on its path towards its incredibly ambitious goal of impacting 100 million users’s fitness routines every month.. With its customer satisfaction, as measured by the Net Promotor Score, remaining one of the highest, if not the highest, in the world, we would not bet against this heavily engaged cult of growing endorphin-filled users. We believe the company still has a very significant market opportunity to both attack and define. Revisiting The Defense Playbook “Rule No.1: Never lose money. Rule No.2: Never forget rule No.1.” Warren Buffett Stretching the offense and defense analogies over to investing, this past year has rewarded risk-taking (offensive) strategies, particularly those that are furthest out on the risk curve. But over the long-term, value-oriented investing wins the championship. That means taking a conservative underwriting approach to investment opportunities and maintaining a defensive posture when everyone else is doing the opposite. In our opinion, that also means running a short book, which allow us to remain opportunistic in periods of greater stress. It is not a good time to be reducing a defensive posture, in our opinion. Over the first 11 years of GreenWood’s existence, we have almost never been idea-constrained. Rather, we have been only constrained by the capacity we have to analyze the large opportunity set. That has typically meant, aside from the earliest years, we have had minimal cash left over. Given we have gravitated towards misunderstood assets and areas neglected by robotic index funds, not only does this portfolio tend to not carry a large cash balance, but it has exhibited more volatility than an index. Accordingly, carrying a short book is essential for us to be able to remain opportunistic in periods of stress. And quite frankly, our defense track record could use some improvement. While this defensive posture paid off in 2008, 2011, and 2018, we had few opportunistic shorts going into 2016 and 2020, right when we needed them. I’m personally committed to improving on that 3-2 market defense track record. I’m also committed to lowering any significant portfolio tilt towards specific factors, as our fundamental research capabilities are not able to be matched on a macroeconomic scale. There are too many factors and estimates to know anything on a large scale with any degree of certainty. For us, conviction is the most important function of an asset manager. It was with that intention we have been carrying a full short book ever since late 2020. And that short book largely paid off over the first half of this year, as the current environment has proved to be fertile in finding over-valued, value-less businesses. In fact, most of these shorts underperformed the market so quickly and so dramatically, that short book turnover caused Chris and I to run on a faster and faster treadmill throughout this year. When we found the short that ended up causing us so much pain in the quarter, it sounded too good to be true. It was a perfect offset to some of our chunkier portfolio factor exposures, but even more, it became clear this was not only a terrible business model, but it was likely a fraud. As Chris and I dug further into the business, there was a never-ending string of yarn that we kept pulling, and the more we pulled, the more damning the evidence was on the founder, company and target markets. In that excited process, we failed to appreciate the risk posed by the meme-trading phenomenon, in the assumption that an Italian company was unlikely to get caught up in the retail trading frenzy that has generated so many distortions elsewhere. Bypassing that debate proved to be our mistake, as the less liquid nature of the stock meant that it was more easily manipulated higher for a few months. As it was getting squeezed, I took action to eliminate that portfolio risk, even knowing that the stock would eventually go to zero. And in the wake of that experience, we also exited other shorts that had largely run their course, but that posed some possible retail trading risk. In our post-mortems, that are published on our investors-only research area, we identified one of the problems we were trying to solve for was the treadmill we found ourselves on. Because each piece of incremental evidence made it more and more compelling, we actually didn’t pause to have a proper bull-bear debate, which is what we have done for every other position. We had put too much pressure on ourselves to maintain a timely short book, and in many ways that papered over the obvious truth that the borrow was hard to obtain and liquidity was not accommodative. We revised our ranking framework to ensure there is a significantly higher bar for less liquid shorts in the future. Furthermore, we decided that any “gaps” in needed short exposure would more easily be filled immediately with index funds that could directly help offset some of the chunkier factor risks to our portfolio, namely European value stocks. We don’t intend to hold these index hedges forever, but believe it will help take pressure off of us to prematurely add new shorts to the portfolio. We have a lot of candidates in the backlog, but we are determined to ensure that we get the timing right as opposed to just the company thesis and factor exposure. At their core, our defensive moves should first do no harm. This analogy mirrors perhaps the most quoted Buffett lesson about rule number one, noted above. In that vein, our current short portfolio is comprised of large, liquid index constituents with very low short interests, cheap borrows, and are largely well-loved. Similar to most of our short positions in the past, they also have mounting liabilities as decades of unconscious behaviors or corruption have eroded the core values of the businesses. We recently published our research on two newer positions on our investor-only research site. These shorts have multiple catalysts over the next few quarters, that we believe, will cause both a material impact to their financials while also possibly downgrading the market’s behavioral narrative. More Conscious Than ESG “Sustainability is built into our business model. If we are focused on the long term, there is no conflict between profitability and the interests of stakeholders. If you are focused on the short term, there is. It’s that simple!” Sir Martin Sorrell Most importantly, these two businesses that we are short have some deeply unconscious features. While each case is different, this means that we’ve found evidence of corruption or deliberate sales of defective or toxic products for decades prior to being discontinued. All of these behaviors are only now catching up to these companies and present material downside risks to these businesses that have historically been run for short-term profit maximization as opposed to long-term value creation or innovation. These are the kinds of companies that are causing the ESG movement to gain major traction around the world. But while we applaud action being taken on protecting the environment, the ESG movement is not solving the root of the problem. The movement is addressing the symptoms rather than the causes. In a white paper that I can’t wait to publish, we’ll show evidence that the fundamental issue facing business today is one of unaccountable agents seeking immediate gratification. There’s a lack of ownership and accountability in a market that continues to outsource much of the “ratings” to agents. Large funds managed by agents with no skin in the game are relying on ratings agencies, also with no skin in the game, to dictate qualitative criteria that often don’t tie to value creation, but rather liability minimization. And that is important, but not sufficient on its own. It is defense without the offense. Or sometimes, it’s all marketing covering up flimsy foundations. Owners or founders exhibit more long-term, conscious capitalist behavior. They generally don’t give quarterly profit guidance, and instead prefer to focus on their customer satisfaction and employee morale. They invest more in their own businesses rather than paying that capital out to shareholders or to acquisition targets. Great shareholder returns are the result of a highly conscious business model, not the goal in and of itself. Exhibit 1: Builders Have Happier Customers & More Engaged Employees Source: GreenWood Investors, OO = owner operators, DC = dual share class structures, S&P = S&P 1200 Global Index But what does it mean actually to be conscious? That’s the subject that Anil Seth seeks to answer in his latest work, Being You. In seeking to demystify the mystery of consciousness, he discusses the most robust model that has been put forward for understanding and measuring how conscious an organism is. Integration information theory (IIT) postulates that consciousness is measured by the degree to which information is integrated into a system or action. Seth explains, “This underpins the main claim of the theory, which is that a system is conscious to the extent that its whole generates more information than its parts.” This concept struck me, as it has many direct parallels to well-worn concepts in investing. Of course it makes sense that the more conscious an organization is, the better it is at integrating information into action. But what really struck me here is that using this IIT framework- an organization is only conscious if the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. To me this infers that if the parts of a business don’t come together to produce something more powerful or valuable than the sum of those individual units, segments or components, the business is not a conscious business. Seth later explained how conscious perceptions are largely built from best guesses and confidence. A key insight of Bayesian inference is that perception is largely a function of updating beliefs about the world based on the precision and reliability of new information. Our minds seek to eliminate prediction errors everywhere and all the time, and we do so by converging our beliefs to the level of conviction we have in the information. In this age of ubiquitous and free information, we differentiate ourselves by the level of conviction we have in the quality and reliability of the insights we have. Conviction is the key. And as Seth later demonstrated, such insights are virtually worthless if not paired with action. This echoes the sentiment that Warren Buffett expressed in talking about getting fat pitches in one’s career, and that one must “swing big,” as they don’t happen very often. This is indeed why we are “swinging big” with Coinvestment II, as this is one of the fattest pitches we’ve ever been thrown. Moving From Defense to Offense “High expectations are the key to everything.” -Sam Walton As my mind was more occupied with offensive capital allocation strategies in the quarter, this pairing of action with insight particularly spoke to me, highly conscious offense playbook strategies are rare. Instead the norm is that most offensive actions are typically made from a defensive motive, and are not based on novel insights. As I wrote in last year’s fourth quarter letter, we endeavor to only get involved in turnaround situations where we either have a board presence, or where a founder or owner operates the business. In our view, these managers have been more resilient in defending their businesses from adversity. Simply put, they cannot just give up and move on. As Covid ripped through the world and economies, far too many managers decided to give up. In the depths of the Covid crisis, at the Presidential inauguration ceremony, National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman articulated rather eloquently that, “Your optimism will never be as powerful as it is in that exact moment when you want to give it up.” Founders are inherently optimistic, and they don’t give up. In exploring the differences between defense and offense, I’ve come to realize that it is even more important to have an owner-oriented management culture when moving from defense to offense. Defense is inherently reactive, reacting to “known knowns” or “known unknowns.” Reactions are easier than proaction. Traditional boards are typically very good at liability minimization. But as important as liability reduction is, these actions do not create value. New business and invention is inherently venturing into the unknown, seeing what others don’t, and pursuing the path untravelled. It comes naturally to a founder or owner, whose authorship imbues the business with the optimistic, entrepreneurial impulse that often started it in the first place. As my friend Bill Carey has articulated, most managers compensated via stock options act more like stock brokers as opposed to owners. Similar to brokers, their time horizons have shrunk considerably. They are simply rent-seeking for a short period of time. And as my friend Chris Mayer likes to say, “no one washes a rental.” Our research on the differences in the behaviors of owner operators and these renters, shows these renters are not very good at offense strategies either. They are very good at competitive reactions, cost cutting and margin optimization. These are important, just as any defense strategy is, but they typically fail to create any lasting value. The value that is captured from these tools generally only lasts as long as the brief period in which the manager’s stock options vest. Given 70-90% of mergers and acquisitions fail, and stock repurchases have taken a notably pro-cyclical, buy-high, sell-low, history, these renters have a typically poor track record in value-creating initiatives and capital deployment. This short-term rental behavior often results in mediocre outcomes. As the late great Sergio Marchionne regularly reminded, “mediocrity is not worth the trip.” Marchionne acted like an owner even before he was one. And he created so much value that his net worth neared $1 billion when he shuffled off this mortal coil. While much of that was indeed generated by options that he exercised, such options were struck at twice and three times the level at which he came in to rescue Fiat in 2004. His package inspired the design of CTT’s options package for top and first level managers. Sergio was very good at seeing things others didn’t. He and his venerable team of managers, to whom he dedicated so much of his energy, were very good at transforming ignored products and assets into gold. Of particular note, Jeep grew from just over 2%of the market in the US to just under 6% when he passed- and it became a truly global brand. He invented Ferrari’s Icona series, which made the irregular limited edition profits part of the regular P&L of the brand without diluting the exclusivity of such models. He and parent holding company Exor have continued to provide much of the inspiration behind our activities with both coinvestments. We endeavor to replicate their divide & conquer strategy, which allowed the Fiat Group to become stronger as stand-alone Fiat-Chrysler (now Stellantis), Ferrari, CNH, and soon to be Iveco Group. Just as Sergio advised the few believers throughout his career, investors will be “owning multiple pieces of paper” as the journey unfolds. In hindsight, we can all agree on the value creation prowess of him and his team. But we easily forget that for most of his career, he was faced mostly by skeptics and doubters. He was not afraid to look dumb. In his own words, “A lot of what I do is challenge assumptions . . . which often looks like you are asking stupid questions.” Being entrepreneurial, by definition, means taking the path untraveled, and heading into the unknown with daring boldness. Offense playbooks, by design, must take competition by surprise. Coming from a humble place with brands and companies that were ridiculed by competitors, when Sergio put medium-term plans out to the market, they were not timid. He would always aim higher than anyone, especially his competitors, believed he and his team could reach. And while not every target was always achieved, the formidable results speak for themselves. This past earnings season, as Twitter was the only social media company to deliver on guidance while also confirming the quarter ahead to be at least as good, the stock sold off materially as its monetizable daily active user (MDAU) targets in the medium-term were called into question. While founder Jack Dorsey is clearly unafraid to look foolish to the public, or even in front of congress, he also manages multiple businesses at the same time. Competitors openly make fun of him. But his team is exceptionally loyal to him, and they have set out very ambitious targets for themselves over the next few years. The recent sell-off in Twitter shares was like deja vu all over again, as I reminisced about the Fiat capital markets day in 2014, fittingly on Twitter in this tweet thread. With its product and revenue servers rebuilt, it can now innovate and launch new ad formats faster than ever before. We look forward to the Twitter team pressing its offense strategy as a major peer loses focus on its core business. Into The Unknown “Action is inseparable from perception. Perception and action are so tightly coupled that they determined and define each other. Every action alters perception by changing the incoming sensory data, and every perception is the way it is in order to help guide action. There is simply no point to perception in the absence of action.” Anil Seth, Being You What does it mean to move into offense? One thing very clear to us, is that it has to be a dynamic and reflexive approach. It cannot be built into a three or five year plan and remain fixed over that duration. As Anil Seth’s work on consciousness explains, a highly conscious being is constantly ingesting and integrating information, evolving actions based on reliability, precision and conviction. As capital-markets focused investors, we believe one of the highest values we can provide to our companies is information that can be integrated into their offense and defense playbooks. Thanks to our collaborative approach, we get nearly daily recommendations and thoughts from our investors with new information, new case studies, and new suggestions on how to continue iterating. One of the biggest differentiations between good and great investments, that is often overlooked, is the value added by good capital allocation- be it with a very well-done merger, opportunistic buyback or even more, venture-style investments that are almost in no one’s “model” or perception. Small acquisitions that bring new tools and managers can often upgrade the business model. As Clayton Christensen suggested in The Big Idea: The New M&A Playbook, these are often the most overlooked investments. But during the quarter, when posed with the question of how to best allocate capital over the long term, I found myself tongue tied. For it’s a dynamic and reflexive question to ask. It’s easy to see what to do right now, and where to build in the next few years. But sound capital allocation is a function of the opportunities that present themselves. It is also about creating new possibilities, particular ones that competitors don’t see. At CTT, with defensive, problem-solving actions becoming less of a focus, attention can now turn to offense. What that looks like in the near term, at least to me, should be continued progress and convergence on the strategy to become the Shopify of Iberia. With Portugal e-commerce order frequency at very small fractions of neighboring Spain, we believe it is CTT’s responsibility to make itself the most convenient and most cost effective way of conducting commerce. Through more parcel lockers, better digital tools, while maintaining or improving on best-in-class quality of service, we believe much of the responsibility to make online the most convenient commerce channel in Portugal will fall on CTT’s shoulders. Going further with online shop enabling, more cost effective payments tools, and an integrated fulfillment offer, that continues through to returns and customer service, it has every tool it needs to enable this digital transition. This convergence is happening at the same time EU recovery stimulus dollars will be directed towards digitalizing the economy. Case studies like Kaspi, which started as a bank, evolved into a payments company, then launched an e-commerce marketplace and then further expanded into logistics, provide more inspiration than any company in the logistics industry. This reminds me of Google’s earliest days, when its managers encouraged their teams to ignore the traditional competitors and instead go where other competitors hadn’t dared to venture- into the unknown. We believe CTT has greater competitive advantages than some “new economy” companies playing throughout the same e-commerce value chain, often trading at significantly higher valuation multiples. Whether we’re talking about fulfillment services, parcel lockers, or alternative purchase financing, it’s the customer relationship that differentiates and builds competitive advantages. That is why one of the first priorities of the new management was to improve customer satisfaction. And while some analysts that cover the company still use traditional methods to frame the opportunity, the shareholder base has largely transitioned away from income-oriented investors. More like-minded shareholders, aligned with management, can enable the team to build something truly great. Building Great Companies “The urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.” DaVinci What started for us as an approach to separate the bank from the industrial company, and achieve a sum of parts valuation, has been upgraded to that of building a great compound machine. As Exor articulated in 2019, its purpose to “build great companies,” is an aspirational philosophy for us. While we certainly aren’t doing the building here, perhaps through setting the right strategic priorities, incentives, and providing timely and right information, we can assist in the build underway. Exor has provided an exemplary model of how to enable its teams to build greater value by dividing, conquering, and then often later combining with more synergistic peers. Just like Anil Seth described, the whole must be greater than the sum of the parts in a highly conscious organization. When a company’s sum of the parts is greater than the total, the organization is not conscious, and therefor not capable of adding material value. Just as Exor has executed masterfully in its portfolio companies over the past decade, the path forward is one of both dividing and one of conquering. Extending the business and commerce services that CTT provides is a natural offense-oriented positioning that further reinforces the strength of the whole. But there are other parts of this organization that aren’t adding as much to the sum total- those can, and should be separated to pursue their own offense playbooks in a more focused and agile manner. Such an approach goes well beyond ESG, and it goes well beyond most other broker-oriented management teams. It is a highly conscious capitalist approach, aligned with long term value creation and sustainability. And that process should result in considerable returns as an effect, not as a goal. As owner operators’ short, medium, and long term benchmark outperformance demonstrates, this strong alignment between management and ownership is a championship-winning combination. Exhibit 2: Owner Operators’ Stock Index Outperformance Source: GreenWood Investors In the months ahead, we anticipate thoroughly engaging with the management and board of the target at the Builders Fund II. This company is mirroring CTT’s current posture, in that it is in the process of finishing nearly a decade of defense-oriented actions. After years of strategic actions focused on fixing problematic areas, contracts or business dynamics, most of these reactive or defensive actions are increasingly passing into the rearview mirror. It is entering a new phase of life in a position to also divide and conquer, and it has exceptional assets. With both coinvestments representing a substantial portion of our net exposure, we move forward with conviction. While this quarter was a lesson that we, nor our companies, can lose sight of a strong defense strategy, we are increasingly looking forward to our portfolio pressing offense strategies moving forward. Committed to deliver, Steven Wood, CFA GreenWood Investors Updated on Nov 24, 2021, 4:37 pm (function() { var sc = document.createElement("script"); sc.type = "text/javascript"; sc.async = true;sc.src = "//"; sc.charset = "utf-8";var s = document.getElementsByTagName("script")[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(sc, s); }()); window._F20 = window._F20 || []; _F20.push({container: 'F20WidgetContainer', placement: '', count: 3}); _F20.push({finish: true});.....»»

Category: blogSource: valuewalkNov 24th, 2021

It"s not just the uber-rich freezing their brains and bodies when they die. An HBO show visited a conference filled with everyday people excited to do it.

The finale of HBO's "How To with John Wilson" explored cryonics and the quest for immortality, revealing that some pay with a life insurance policy. Alcor co-founder Linda Chamberlain, talks about cryonics to AZ Central.The Republic, The series finale of HBO's "How To with John Wilson" explored cryonics and the quest for immortality. The topic has drawn the attention of the ultra-wealthy in recent years. Sam Altman, Jeff Bezos, Peter Thiel, and Bryan Johnson all invested in anti-aging or cryonics. HBO's idiosyncratic docuseries "How To with John Wilson" recently aired its final episode, exploring — rather fittingly for the ending of a show — the topic of cryopreservation, or freezing one's brain or body upon death. It's a subject, along with immortality and eternal youth, that many people seem to be occupied with, especially Silicon Valley's ultra-wealthy.Each episode of "How To" is framed at the beginning as an explainer on a certain topic, like "How To Appreciate Wine," or "How To Throw Out your Batteries," then follows the titular filmmaker down unpredictable rabbit holes. In the series finale, titled "How To Track Your Package," Wilson goes down one such rabbit hole and ends up at the 50th anniversary party for a cryonics organization called Alcor, talking to various guests on why they've planned on being frozen after death, in hopes of being revived down the line.But most interestingly, the episode highlights that plenty of non-wealthy, unassuming people are also interested in having their brain or body frozen in the hopes of one day cheating death. Some fantasize about a high-tech future; some seem to be in denial about death as an inevitability; some want to see what progress the world will make.That's not to say that the process isn't expensive: Alcor charges $80,000 for neurocryopreservation (freezing your head) and $200,000 for whole body cryopreservation, plus annual membership dues. The majority of Alcor members, according to the company's website, fund their cryopreservation by naming the company as the beneficiary of their life insurance policy.It's well worth the watch, and you even get to see some of the cryonic tanks where the human remains are frozen and stored.Insider has previously reported on Alcor competitor Cryonics Institute, a more affordable alternative that charges $28,000 for a body to be stored indefinitely. A Cryonics Institute model of the tanks used to store bodies, which are actually stored upside down in practice.Cryonics InstituteThe overall narrative of the HBO show's finale ultimately implies that trying to extend something beyond its natural limits, be it a TV show like "How To" or a person's lifetime, might not always be the healthiest course of action. Nor is there proof that the tech is or ever will be possible to revive someone from the dead. But that hasn't stopped people from trying to preserve their youth and escape death, especially those with plenty of money to burn.Billionaire investor and PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel has plans to be cryogenically preserved when he dies, even though he openly doubts that the tech will ever work. "I think of it more as an ideological statement," he once said in a podcast interview with writer Bari Weiss. "I don't necessarily expect it to work, but I think it's the sort of thing we're supposed to try to do."He said in the same interview that humanity "should either conquer death or at least figure out why it's impossible."OpenAI CEO Sam Altman has reportedly been interested in anti-aging methods for years. He told MIT Technology Review earlier this year that he's invested $180 million in a biotech startup called Retro Biosciences, which aims to delay death through the prevention of age-related diseases. The company's ultimate mission, according to its website, is to "increase the healthy human lifespan by ten years."Jeff Bezos has also joined in on the immortality investments — he's invested in Altos Labs, a startup aiming to develop therapies to stop or reverse the human aging process, MIT Technology review previously reported. Tech executive Bryan Johnson has also made waves for his anti-aging efforts. He reportedly spends $2 million a year trying to reduce his "biological age," taking 111 pills a day, eating all his food between 6 a.m. and 11 a.m., using a light therapy mask, and at one time receiving blood plasma infusions from his own teenaged son before stopping the practice because of lacking evidence it had any benefits. Johnson claims that he's reversed his epigenetic age by 5.1 years.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytSep 24th, 2023

Shell"s (SHEL) Pernis Plant Gas Leak Threatens Diesel Supply

Shell's (SHEL) Pernis refinery gas leak disrupts diesel supply, impacting Europe's energy landscape and fuel prices amid ongoing challenges. Shell plc SHEL, one of the world's leading energy companies, faced a significant challenge at its Pernis refinery in Rotterdam, the largest in Europe. A gas leak forced the company to halt its Hycon unit — a fuel-making unit with a production capacity of 25,000 barrels per day. This unexpected incident has the potential to curtail the supply of diesel, a vital component of our modern economy.The Significance of Pernis RefineryBefore we delve into the details of the incident and its implications, it's essential to understand the scale and importance of the Pernis refinery. With a daily capacity of 404,000 barrels, it plays a key role in meeting the energy demands of Europe. The refinery's strategic location in Rotterdam, a major port city, allows it to efficiently process and distribute petroleum products across the continent.The Impact on Diesel ProductionThe temporary shutdown of the Hycon unit that produces 25,000 barrels of fuel per day is a cause of concern. Diesel, a versatile and widely used fuel, is a critical component in transportation, agriculture and industry. Any disruption in its supply chain can have cascading effects on various sectors of the economy.Fuel Price DynamicsOne immediate consequence of this leakage is the potential increase in diesel prices. The cost of fuel is inherently linked to the forces of supply and demand, and when supply is disrupted, prices tend to rise. This situation has been worsened by other external factors, such as the ongoing geopolitical tensions and the loss of access to Russian crude oil.Diesel's Premium to Brent CrudeIn recent months, the premium of diesel to Brent crude oil has strengthened significantly. Before the outbreak of the Ukraine conflict, this marker was at approximately $30 per barrel. However, as supply challenges mounted, the premium surged. This underscores the importance of diesel in today's energy landscape.European Refineries and Their ChallengesIt's worth noting that European refineries have been facing a series of challenges lately. The loss of access to Russian crude oil due to geopolitical tensions has strained the supply of raw materials. Additionally, an unusual spike in temperature during the summer has further curtailed the production of oil products.In August, the International Energy Agency (IEA) issued a report highlighting the challenges faced by European refineries. The agency pointed out that the combination of restricted access to Russian crude and the heatwave-induced reduction in output has led to concerns about meeting the energy needs of the continent.ConclusionThe unplanned outage at Shell's Pernis refinery has raised concerns about the supply of diesel in the European market. This incident, coupled with other ongoing challenges, has contributed to an increase in diesel prices. As a result, businesses as well as consumers may experience the effect of this disruption in the form of higher fuel costs.Zacks Rank and Key PicksCurrently, SHEL carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).Some better-ranked stocks for investors interested in the energy sector are CVR Energy CVI and USA Compression Partners USAC, both sporting a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy), and Archrock AROC, carrying a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) at present. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.CVR Energy is valued at $3.39 billion. In the past year, its shares have risen 19.4%.CVI currently pays a dividend of $2 per share, or 5.93% on an annual basis. Its payout ratio currently sits at 30% of earnings.USA Compression Partners is worth approximately $2.21 billion. USAC currently pays a dividend of $2.10 per unit, or 9.34% on an annual basis.The company offers natural gas compression services to oil companies and independent producers, processors, gatherers, and transporters of natural gas and crude oil. It also operates stations.Archrock is valued at around $1.91 billion. It delivered an average earnings surprise of 15.08% for the last four quarters and its current dividend yield is 5.08%.Archrock is a provider of natural gas contract compression services and aftermarket services of compression equipment. Want the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. Click to get this free report CVR Energy Inc. (CVI): Free Stock Analysis Report USA Compression Partners, LP (USAC): Free Stock Analysis Report Archrock, Inc. (AROC): Free Stock Analysis Report Shell PLC Unsponsored ADR (SHEL): Free Stock Analysis ReportTo read this article on click here.Zacks Investment Research.....»»

Category: topSource: zacksSep 22nd, 2023

"I don"t want to die:" How 14 youth advocates in Hawaii are fighting climate change by taking the state to court

A group of youth advocates have sued the state's Department of Transportation over greenhouse-gas emissions. InsiderYouth plaintiffs and supporters hold up signs after the Navahine vs. the Hawaii Department of Transportation court hearing in Honolulu on January 26.Elyse Butler/Earthjustice Hawaiian youth advocates sued the state's transportation department over greenhouse-gas emissions. The lawsuit is part of a growing movement of young people taking climate action in the courts. Extreme weather caused by the climate crisis threatens Hawaii's environment and cultural traditions. This article is part of "Journey Toward Climate Justice," a series exploring the systemic inequities of the climate crisis. For more climate-action news, visit Insider's One Planet hub.  When Taliya Nishida was 10 years old, her home on Hawaii's Big Island was struck by a deluge of flash floods. The roads near her family's off-grid house were washed out under several feet of water, and Nishida sat helplessly in their truck as they tried to get to her aerial-silks practice."I was so scared that I told my mom, 'I don't want to die,'" Nishida, now a sophomore in high school, recalled. "I know that may sound dramatic to some, but it's truly how I felt because I was just that scared of our truck being pushed away from the water."As global temperatures rise, flash floods and other natural disasters have worsened in recent years, and as an island nation, Hawaii is particularly vulnerable to the effects of extreme weather.In August, wildfires devastated parts of Maui, displacing thousands of people and destroying historic sites.Amid the escalating climate crisis, Nishida and 13 other Hawaiian youth advocates sued the Hawaii Department of Transportation in 2022 over transportation-related greenhouse-gas emissions. The lawsuit is part of a growing international movement of young people taking climate action in the courts, including in Montana, where a group of youth plaintiffs won a landmark lawsuit in August that compels the state to take climate change into account when considering fossil-fuel projects.The lawsuit, Navahine F. v. Hawaii Department of Transportation, is scheduled to go to trial next summer."I feel like many things are at risk of being lost, not only physically, but also memories," Nishida told Insider. "Our shorelines are getting lost by rising sea waters, and the time to make memories with the things around us is shortening because we don't know how long it's going to be here for."Taliya Nishida.Courtesy of Taliya NishidaYouth advocates are leading the chargeWhile Hawaii has a number of environmental laws on the books, including ones aimed at curbing pollution and ensuring land protection, greenhouse-gas emissions from the island nation's transportation systems have increased in recent years. Transportation emissions made up the largest share of energy-sector emissions in Hawaii in 2017, according to a 2021 report by the Hawaii Department of Health.The youth plaintiffs' lawsuit seeks to change that."There's a clear problem with respect to how the state is operating its transportation system," Andrea Rodgers, the senior litigation attorney at Our Children's Trust and cocounsel for the youth plaintiffs, said. "The young people are seeking a declaration from the court that not only do they have constitutional rights to a life-sustaining climate system, but the state has an obligation to reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions."Because people under 18 can't vote and typically don't have the money to lobby legislators, they have very limited political power, Rodgers said. Many of the youth clients she represents have done "everything in their power" to communicate with policymakers, whether it's through testifying in legislative hearings, meeting with government officials, or putting up signs on street corners, she said."What I think is unique about young people is they're fresh from their civics classes and learning about the role of the government," Rodgers told Insider. "I think why they're turning to the courts is that they're seeing their fundamental rights get infringed upon by their political branches, so they're turning to the courts to protect themselves."Youth plaintiffs gather before the start of the Navahine F. v. the Hawaii Department of Transportation hearing at the First Circuit Environmental Court in Honolulu on January 26. Pictured from left: Kaʻōnohi P.-G., 16, KawahineʻIlikea N., 13, Taliya N., 15, Navahine F., 15, Mesina D.-R., 15, Kalā W., 19, Rylee K., 15, and Kawena F., 10.Elyse Butler/EarthjusticeRelying on natureNishida decided to take action after she saw the devastating effects of the climate crisis firsthand.She and her family live off-grid in Waimea on the Big Island, miles away from the nearest town. That means they rely on solar panels and water catchments for virtually all of their electricity and water. Nishida said her parents chose to live off-grid as a way to "be part of the island and connect to their roots."The family's reliance on natural resources has left them especially vulnerable to extreme weather events. During droughts, there's little water in their catchment, so they've used "drastic methods" to conserve water, like limiting showers to no more than a couple of minutes to flushing toilets with buckets of water they hauled from town, Nishida said.Nishida said things are only getting worse: The island has experienced more droughts and she's seen more trees uprooted by storms and flash floods. Roads were flooded during a flash flood near the Nishidas' home in 2018.Courtesy of Taliya NishidaOne of Nishida's treasured memories is going to the beach with her family. Now she fears those outings are at risk of disappearing."When I was little, I would go to all these different beaches, and there'd be tons of people with lots of space," Nishida said. "But more recently, there have been higher tides, so there's less space on the beach for people to play and have fun with others."When Nishida first heard about the lawsuit against the Department of Transportation from her mother, she knew this was her chance to contribute to a larger cause."I realized I had never done anything prominent to help my climate," she told Insider. "I thought that by joining this, I can be one small voice in a sea of problems."A culture at riskClimate change threatens not only Hawaii's natural environment but also its Native Hawaiian culture, which has endured existential threats from European colonization and the United States' annexation of its islands in 1898.Extreme weather like heavy rains and droughts have damaged traditional kalo, or taro, farming practices, which, in turn, jeopardizes food security on the islands. Hawaii's coral reefs have shrunk by up to 50% in recent years, leading to degraded coastal protection that threatens traditional diets.Navahine F., the lead youth plaintiff, at the taro patch that her family has farmed for over 10 generations.Elyse Butler/EarthjusticeRising sea levels eat away at what limited land there is in Hawaii to use for farming and encroach upon cultural traditions. For example, higher tides are washing out traditional burial sites along the coast, leaving both emotional and physical damage in their wake.In the face of the threats to their homes, Nishida and the other youth advocates are fighting to preserve their culture and ways of life."The climate on this island is what feeds us," Nishida said. "There's a Hawaiian saying that translates to, 'Land is chief, man is servant.' Everything that humans need to survive, it all comes from nature. Without nature, then humans as a society, we have nothing."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderSep 22nd, 2023

2 female small-business founders share how they cracked the code on successful lead magnets — a win-win for your customers and company profits

A lead magnet can entice people to connect with your business, allowing you to deepen relationships and turn them into clients or customers. Ashley Louise, left, a cofounder and the CEO of Ladies Get Paid, and Jenn Robbins, the founder of The Flexible Funnel Studio.KT Gifting a product or service in exchange for contact information can help engage new customers. Known as a lead magnet, the gift should be tied to the value your company offers. Develop and market a lead magnet like any other product or service. This article is part of "Marketing for Small Business," a series exploring the basics of marketing strategy for SBOs to earn new customers and grow their business. Lead magnets are a critical tool for growing a thriving email- or text-marketing list and getting customers into a sales funnel.A lead magnet is a gift that a business offers people in exchange for their contact information, such as a free course download or a one-time discount."More than ever, lead magnets are important because people are a little stingier with their email addresses," Jenn Robbins, founder of The Flexible Funnel Studio, a digital-marketing agency, told Insider.Given how easily we can get inundated with emails these days, a high-value lead magnet can entice people to connect with your business, allowing you to deepen the relationships and turn them into clients or customers. Best of all, you don't have to be a marketing expert to see results.Ashley Louise, a cofounder and the CEO of Ladies Get Paid, an online platform that offers paid courses on career advancement and money management for women, started experimenting with lead magnets last year. In the past year, more than 8,500 prospective customers have downloaded her free e-books and printouts."The best thing about these assets is that they have a long tail distribution, meaning they continue to be found and shared, increasing our surface area for acquiring new email addresses," Louise said. Insider spoke with small-business owners about what they'd learned about making a lead magnet successful. Give a peek at the value your company offersRobbins said a good lead magnet achieved two things: It gives the customer a taste of the value your company offers, and it relates directly to something you're trying to sell. In other words, it's not about baiting people into your company's orbit to boost your email list. "If your lead magnet doesn't specifically tie to something you offer, then you're going to lose people along the way," Robbins said. "It doesn't matter if people have an email list of 30,000 people — if nobody's buying, then everybody's wasting their time." For example, Robbins worked with a farmer whose lead magnet was a recipe book, which enticed people to buy the company's products featured in the recipes. When brainstorming ideas for lead magnets, Louise considers what made her opt in to other companies' lead magnets. Often, she'll Google a question and download a resource that promised a solution.She said to ask yourself: "What is the very specific problem that someone would use this lead magnet to solve — and then you need to deliver them the exact solution." She added that she often looked to her membership community for inspiration.This approach led to her company's most popular lead magnet to date: a beginner's guide for ChatGPT, which had 5,000 views on its landing page within two weeks of launching.Use your established marketing channels When you promote a lead magnet, it's best to treat it like any other product or service you're selling."You're not asking them for money, but you're asking them for their time and their email address," Robbins said. Distribute your lead magnet via the channels that are effective for your other marketing efforts, such as social media, podcasts, online advertising, or linking to your lead magnet in blog posts or articles.Then, make sure you're pointing people to a strong landing page — not just asking them to "download my freebie" with no context. Instead, Robbins said, explain what the free item is, what's included, what the person can get out of it, plus who you are as a business owner and why you're the right person or company to offer this solution.Follow up quicklyFollow up within a week of a new sign-up, Robbins said, with a welcome sequence of five to seven emails that further introduce your work; share more resources, such as a blog post or podcast; and suggest a call to action to keep them engaged. Open rates tend to be highest in the first email sequence, she said.Lead magnets can also be an effective tool for segmenting and reengaging existing email subscribers, Louise said. When she sent a free course to her email list on how to use ChatGPT in a job search, an automated follow-up email went to those who downloaded the course, touting other job-search products available at Ladies Get Paid."That was a way for me to identify people who are not just readers, but they're engagers," Louise said. "Those are the people who are more likely to buy our products."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderSep 22nd, 2023

The US Air Force"s plan to give its biggest planes new missions has gotten China"s attention

US airmen have shown they can drop missiles from cargo planes and hit a target. Now they're looking for other things to do it with. A C-17 drops a pallet of simulated cruise missiles during a test.US Air Force US Air Force officials say they pursuing a plan to drop "palletized effects" from cargo planes. The "effects" those planes drop could be long-range cruise missiles or other sensors and jammers. It's been noticed by China's military, which likely sees it as "a credible threat," one expert said. The US Air Force is moving quickly to equip its cargo aircraft to drop long-range weapons, seeking to expand the number of aircraft that it can use to launch strikes.Air Force officials say that their workhorse C-17 and C-130 aircraft can carry payloads similar to those of bomber aircraft and operate from a wider range of bases, which would make it harder for rivals, chiefly China, to track and destroy them.In a series of tests since early 2020, the Air Force Research Laboratory and Air Force Special Operations Command have dropped pallets of real or simulated cruise missiles from cargo planes to see if they could deploy and strike a target.The project is known as Rapid Dragon, and Air Mobility Command, which oversees the service's cargo and tanker fleets, is now looking to widen the effort.US special-operations airmen and riggers prepare a Rapid Dragon palletized weapon system at Hurlburt Field in Florida in December 2021.US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Brandon EsauDuring a landmark exercise in the Pacific this summer, a C-17 deployed a Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range cruise missile, which has a range of about 600 miles, and it "absolutely serviced a target and was extremely, extremely successful," Gen. Mike Minihan, who leads Air Mobility Command, said this month.Minihan said "palletized effects" could include much more than just "kinetic effects" like missiles."Imagine not only can we service a target but we could deploy a decoy, we could put out a jamming sensor, we could put out a sensor that could find a radio and provide search-and-rescue. All those things, I think, are on the table," Minihan told reporters on September 11 at the Air and Space Forces conference, held outside Washington DC.The head of Air Force Special Operations Command, Lt. Gen. Tony Bauernfeind, echoed Minihan a day later, telling reporters that his command was "continuing to expand" what could be dropped."What else can we put in the back of the aircraft? There's other kinetic effects, non-kinetic effects, jammers, that if it can fit in the back and can be air-launched" then it could be employed to deliver "decisive effects," Bauernfeind said.US special-operations airmen load a Rapid Dragon palletized weapon system on an MC-130J at Hurlburt Field in December 2021.US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Brandon EsauMinihan and Bauernfeind stressed that they weren't looking for their aircraft to assume the role of bombers but to expand the number of aircraft that could perform similar missions."What I'm not trying to do is become Global Strike Command, but I have to carry those munitions anyway," said Minihan, whose command would move weapons and supplies between Air Force bases during a conflict.Bauernfeind said the goal was "multiplication" of what Air Force bombers already do, "because we know that the future war-fight that numerous targets will need to be held at risk in a very short amount of time."A commentary article in a Chinese military publication indicates concern that they could accomplish that.The article was published on November 22, 2022 — two weeks after a Rapid Dragon test off the Norwegian coast — in China National Defense News, "a sister publication of the PLA Daily, the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party's Central Military Commission," Derek Solen, a senior researcher at the US Air Force's China Aerospace Studies Institute, wrote in an analysis in December.The article was published in the outlet's Science and Technology section, which "tends to publish straight news," Solen wrote. Previous Chinese commentary cited challenges to Rapid Dragon, including the availability of cargo aircraft and the effectiveness of the JASSM-ER missile, but the November article "was almost alarmist" in its assessment of the program's benefits, Solen wrote.An MC-130J drops a palletized munitions system during a live-fire test in Norway on November 9, 2022.US Air National Guard/Tech. Sgt. Brigette WaltermireThe Chinese author notes that US cargo planes could carry a large number of missiles and would be hard to track, as they could pick up pre-positioned palletized missiles while performing other duties and then launch them from "just outside a defensive perimeter.""One can predict that once it is armed with palletized munitions, the agility of the US military's distributed method for strike missions and the suddenness of those strikes will increase immensely," the author wrote, according to Solen.The author credited Rapid Dragon with "cost effectiveness," as using cargo aircraft to drop weapons is cheaper than building more bombers and that militaries without bombers could quickly add the capability to their cargo planes — both features that Minihan and Bauernfeind highlighted."When it comes to palletized effects, I'm not looking for big modifications. That's an example of what a basic air-drop crew can do," Minihan told reporters. "I just need to make sure my crews are trained to get it out of the airplane safely and precisely."While many US allies and partners don't have bombers, Bauernfeind said, "they have mobility platforms, and so these mobility platforms can leverage like-capabilities." (Bauernfeind's predecessor said last year that the capability was "easily exportable.") Japan's military is now reportedly considering using its cargo planes to drop missiles.A palletized effects system in the air during a live-fire test in Norway in November 2022.US Air National Guard/Tech. Sgt. Brigette WaltermireSolen wrote that the November article is likely close to the consensus view within China's military, which likely sees the program "as a credible threat."While Chinese officials may be concerned, US commanders say more is to be done to ge the most out of the program. As the Air Force focuses on expanding its ability to operate from more remote and austere airfields — part of a broader effort to dodge Chinese attacks — it faces additional logistical challenges, including for storing and distributing palletized munitions.Ensuring that the air crews launching those munitions can coordinate with other forces is also key to using them successfully, according to Minihan, who said "connectivity is absolutely king to these palletized effects.""Having that situational awareness of where the red team is and the blue team is is incredibly paramount," added Minihan, who said his goal is to equip 25% of US mobility aircraft with affordable, easy-to-install gear to improve their crews' situational awareness and better connect them to other units and to do so by 2025.Both commands are now "in lockstep" on the effort and more tests may be coming, Bauernfeind said."I have at least three theater special-operations-command commanders asking us how we can demonstrate that capability in their regions to help them," Bauernfeind said. "We're working through those conversations as we go right now."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderSep 22nd, 2023