Vernon Hill removed as chairman of Republic First Bancorp

The move comes just days after the death of ally Theodore J. Flocco, Jr. put Hill in a minority position amid a proxy fight that has fractured the bank's board......»»

Category: topSource: bizjournalsMay 14th, 2022

A Republican congressional candidate in Florida paid her home energy and cable bills using campaign funds, potentially violating federal law

An attorney for the campaign said they thought they were allowed to use the funds based on a "good faith" understanding of the "highly confusing" rules. Amanda Makki is running for Congress in Florida. She's a former Senate aide who has been active in GOP politics since the George W. Bush years.John Mottern/AFP via Getty Images Amanda Makki is running for US House in Florida's 13th District.  The FEC recently wrote her campaign about an expensed electric bill.  Her campaign blamed confusing rules and said Makki refunded the money.  A Republican US House candidate in Florida potentially violated federal campaign laws by using donor funds to pay for her home's electric bill. Amanda Makki's campaign paid more than $600 to Duke Energy, according to a letter the Federal Election Commission sent the campaign last week. The campaign's financial disclosures also showed cable and internet payments to Spectrum, though the FEC didn't ask about them. FEC rules prohibit candidates from using donor funds for personal use, whether it be for rent, home internet, cable service, personal travel, or to pay for an energy bill. The commission has made narrow exemptions for cases in which candidates use donor funds to pay for security at home or on their phones and computers. The FEC has not fined or otherwise penalized Makki's campaign to date but could investigate the matter if someone filed a complaint.Eric Wang, an attorney for the Makki campaign, told Insider in an email that the campaign had thought they were allowed to use the funds based on a "good faith" understanding of the "highly confusing" rules. Makki and her campaign use her home office every day as its only campaign headquarters, including to shoot campaign commercials, he said. "The campaign has used her home for campaign organizational and strategy meetings, campaign fundraising, general work space for campaign staff and volunteers, printing materials for her campaign, storage space for campaign materials, campaign media appearances, and media production associated with her campaign," he said. The arrangement actually saves money, Wang said, by limiting overhead expenditures as well as additional costs the campaign would otherwise have to take on by renting a separate office space — particularly at a time when Florida rents are soaring. "The campaign legitimately believed it could reimburse for a portion of the utility costs it incurred," Wang said. Makki has refunded the campaign $611.09 for six months of home office usage and has reimbursed the campaign for the cable and internet bills, he added. The FEC only takes enforcement if campaigns don't address the issues in a letter or work to correct them. The letter isn't penalizing the campaign but instead gives the Makki campaign the opportunity to explain what happened or provide additional context. Makki's campaign said that other items listed as personal expenses, including a GEICO bill and Amazon expenses, were improperly reported by the former treasurer and would be amended. The campaign's treasurer was removed from the position on Monday, according to filings. "Amanda's campaign has taken prompt measures to enhance its FEC recordkeeping and reporting operations, including retaining a new compliance team," Wang said. Michael Toner, a partner at Wiley Rein LLP and former FEC chairman, said it was understandable that some first-time candidates might not know what all the rules are.But the restrictions on using campaign cash for home expenses are designed to prevent candidates from financially enriching themselves using donors' dollars, he said. Candidates could otherwise offload their personal expenses such as cable bills or mortgages, he explained. "What the FEC is focusing on is not using campaign funds to reduce a personal financial obligation that a candidate has," he said. Makki is an Iranian-American running in Florida's 13th District, which is currently held by Democrat Charlie Crist. The seat in Florida's 13th District is open because Crist is vacating the seat to run for Florida governor against Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.Makki faces several opponents in Florida's August 23 primary, including Anna Paulina Luna, who in April won former President Donald Trump's endorsement. As of March 31, the Makki campaign reported having about $514,000 cash on hand, according to FEC records.Makki previously served as legislative assistant focused on healthcare for GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and later became a partner at K&L Gates, a law and lobbying firm. Makki has a law degree from Catholic University of America in Washington, DC.The Makki campaign said current campaign finance reimbursement rules favor wealthier candidates. Their reasoning: a congressional candidate may seek reimbursement from his or her campaign is operating out of operating out of another piece of real estate the candidate owns, such as an office space, so long as it's not a personal residence."This distinction is not intuitive and favors certain wealthy candidates who own investment properties while disfavoring candidates like Amanda who are not career politicians and are not steeped in the FEC's intricate and arbitrary rules," he said. But "it's generally advisable not to seek to have a campaign office out of your own home," Toner said. "You can have a campaign office out of your own home but you can't charge the campaign."This story originally ran on May 17, 2022, and has been updated to include additional expenses. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderMay 18th, 2022

Are Putin And Xi "Gray Champions"? Part 1

Are Putin And Xi 'Gray Champions'? Part 1 Authored by Jim Quinn via The Burning Platform blog, “Long, long may it be, ere he comes again! His hour is one of darkness, and adversity, and peril. But should domestic tyranny oppress us, or the invader’s step pollute our soil, still may the Gray Champion come”  - Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Gray Champion “Who is this gray patriarch? That stately form, combining the leader and the saint…could only belong to some old champion of the righteous cause, whom the oppressor’s drum had summoned from his grave.”  - Nathaniel Hawthorne There is a misunderstanding regarding the Gray Champion of this Fourth Turning. The misunderstanding revolves around thinking there is only one Gray Champion, they are hugely popular, always do the right thing, and are universally admired for their leadership traits. Nothing could be further from the truth. In previous Fourth Turnings, there have always been multiple Gray Champions, often at war with each other, who were not popular or necessarily good men. What they always are is single-minded, tenacious, ruthless, and intent on winning at any cost. Their followers are inspired, and their enemies despise them. There is no middle ground when it comes to opinions about Gray Champions. They generally don’t fight the battles, but shape the strategy, inspire the troops, or mobilize the citizenry to action. The Awakening Prophet Generation firebrands during the American Revolution included Sam Adams and Ben Franklin. Adams organized and led the Boston Tea Party, lighting the fuse of revolution. Franklin provided the wisdom and guidance for the younger firebrands like John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. These Prophet Generation leaders were the inspirational lightning rods for a revolution where failure meant the gallows for them and their fellow rebels. This nation wouldn’t exist without the leadership of Adams and Franklin. Gray Champions during the Civil War Fourth Turning included Abraham Lincoln, William Tecumseh Sherman, Jefferson Davis, and Robert E. Lee. These four Transcendental Prophet Generation men were the driving force during the four-years of slaughter, where 700,000 men (10% of male population between the ages of 18 and 60) were killed in a brutal war of brother versus brother. The War Between the States certainly marked an hour of darkness, adversity, and peril. Lincoln rose from obscurity to lead the northern states in a scorched earth effort to suppress the Confederate states, greatly expanding the reach of the Federal government, instituting a mandatory draft, introducing an income tax, suspending the right to habeas corpus, and flaunting the Constitution when he deemed necessary. He did this without a mandate from the people, as he won the presidency in 1860 with only 39.8% of the popular vote, in a four-man race. He was determined to win the war at any cost. And his personal cost was bullet to the head and death before victory. Sherman was a take no prisoners general who implemented a new and far more violent form of war. He conducted war against soldiers and civilians alike, believing he could destroy the will of the enemy by using his terrible swift sword and wreaking destruction upon every city he passed through during his march to the sea. Ultimately, Grant and Sherman’s strategy of wearing down their opponents through superior manpower and armaments worked. Sherman is despised to this day by Southerners. Jefferson Davis had been a U.S. Senator prior to becoming president of the Confederate States of America. Just as the founding fathers would have been hung for treason if they had failed, Davis risked the same fate and ultimately spent a couple years in a federal prison after his defeat. His personality deficiencies and inability to convince Britain to support the Confederate cause, were a major factor in the South’s defeat. Meanwhile, the inspirational leadership of Robert E. Lee is probably the single biggest factor in the Confederacy lasting as long as it did. His daring, strategic brilliance, inspiring presence on the battlefield and tenaciousness won many improbable victories and even in defeat he escaped annihilation by his sheer guile and determination. It takes a certain type of man to give an order that will surely result in the deaths of thousands as he did on the 3rd day at Gettysburg, and Pickett made his fateful charge. At Antietam and Gettysburg his opponents could have destroyed his army and ended the war, but they were psychologically unable to do so, fearing Lee was setting a trap for them. His honorable surrender at Appomattox set a tone of reconciliation that helped bring the country back together as well as it could be done at that time. Lee is still considered an icon in the South, and the destruction of his statues by the low IQ ignorant BLM terrorists and their corrupt Democrat politician cucks is a disgrace to a great man and our rich history. The Great Depression/World War II Fourth Turning saw the Missionary Prophet Generation produce another four historical figures who will never be forgotten: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Douglas MacArthur, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin. It is reasonable to say these men had immense egos, were ruthless in achieving their objectives, were more hated then loved, fought against all odds, committed criminal acts, and ultimately cooperated enough to attain victory in World War II. Roosevelt changed the country from rural to urban, implemented his New Deal that began the social welfare state, tried to stack the Supreme Court, and imprisoned Japanese citizens for being Japanese. FDR accumulated such dictatorial power during his four terms in office, Congress implemented a two-term limit on all future presidents. MacArthur disobeyed orders from his superiors when he decided his path was better. But his strategy in the Pacific proved effective and his humane reign while overseeing the occupation of Japan from 1945 until 1951 paved the way for democracy and stability in Asia. Churchill had many more failures than successes during his life in the military, government office and politics, before ascending to prime minister at a point of maximum peril for the UK. A lesser man probably would have sued for peace, as his troops were cornered at Dunkirk and bombs obliterated London on a nightly basis. His inspirational speeches kept the spirits of his people up, and once Hitler turned his attention towards Russia, Churchill was able to focus on prodding FDR for help and angling to get the U.S. into the war. Churchill was cruel and ruthless when it came to fighting the war. He, along with FDR, decided firebombing Dresden and other German cities was a valid tactic in winning the war. Lying to allies in order to achieve his aims was a common occurrence by Churchill, but he also saw Stalin for who he really was, and immediately realized the Soviets would not be allies after the war was won. His own people booted him out of office at the war’s end, showing he wasn’t loved. Essentially, Churchill oversaw the last days of the British Empire. Despite being a psychopath who murdered and starved in excess of 1 million of his citizens during the 1930s, Joseph Stalin was a Gray Champion during the last Fourth Turning. He was a dictator who bore the brunt of Hitler’s armed forces and ultimately repelled the Germans and had his armies take Berlin. Generals who failed were executed. His sheer willpower and unwillingness to admit defeat were essential to achieving victory in World War II. He bullied and prodded his allies – FDR and Churchill – to open a second front and provide him with tanks and arms to defeat the Germans. He never considered himself a friend of the UK or US. They were useful pawns to help him achieve victory. He was an evil man running a despotic regime who became an immediate enemy upon victory in 1945. He is the ultimate example of a Gray Champion not being a noble, moral, well-liked person. Anyone with a true grasp of history would acknowledge all these men had monumental personality defects, huge egos, a determination to win by any means necessary (including breaking the law and flaunting the Constitution), and ability to mobilize forces to accomplish their goals. Their names and deeds are in the history books. Hundreds of biographies have been written about each, trying to capture their true essence. But one thing is certain. They fought for what they believed, shaped the future of their countries, didn’t back down from taking responsibility and making tough decisions, and sent millions to their deaths by their actions. Gray Champions are not wallflowers, quiet, or unassuming. They lead. They are willing to act, make decisions and fail or succeed on their own merits. When the Prophet archetype arrives at old age, it heralds a new constellation of generations, which happens every 80 years – marking the arrival of another Fourth Turning. As we are propelled through the fourteenth year of this Fourth Turning, Gray Champions have arrived on the scene and are propelling us towards a frightful climax, which will happen within the next several years. The intensification is being driven by these figures, who will ultimately be judged in history books based upon their success or failure in leading their nations through this Crisis period. Anyone who can’t see the world being pushed towards the brink of world war and on the verge of economic collapse, is either willfully ignorant, too dumbed down and distracted by their electronic bread and circuses, or just focused on profiting from war, chaos, and destruction. Neil Howe, one of the authors of The Fourth Turning, made a statement in January 2021 which clarified for me those who currently fit the mold of a Gray Champion. “Gray champions are made, not born. The persona of a gray champion is to focus on one big thing, not 17 little things.” As this Fourth Turning was ignited by the 2008 financial collapse, brought about by Wall Street bankers, Ben Bernanke and his central banker co-conspirators, corrupt politicians, and feckless government apparatchiks, I was trying to seek out the Gray Champion who would lead the country through this Crisis. I realize now, my view was too narrow. There seems to be multiple Gray Champions with differing agendas, often at conflict with the agendas of other Gray Champions and leading the world into a global conflict. Their one commonality is they are all Boomer Generation Prophets, with a single-minded ambition to lead their followers down the path they are sure will attain success for themselves and their followers. But we know for sure, some will lose and possibly all will lose if one or more is reckless enough to initiate nuclear Armageddon. With his improbable 2016 election I thought Trump might be the single Gray Champion, acting as a lightning rod for the conflict which always arises during a Fourth Turning. I now realize there are several Prophet Generation leaders who are leading competing factions both domestically and internationally. Even though Trump was removed from office in an ultimately successful Deep State coup in 2020, he continues to have a huge following, drawing massive crowds at rallies, and giving every indication he intends to run for president again in 2024. There is a major segment of the population which will follow him anywhere he leads. He most certainly is a Gray Champion, whose Deep State sanctioned adversary Hillary Clinton, also fits the mold of Gray Champion – albeit an evil she-devil Gray Champion intent on destroying what remains of civil society in America while instigating Russia into a world war. As a main figure in the plot to overthrow the man who defeated her in 2016, she continues to throw bombs and insinuate she might run again in 2024, as the dementia ridden pathetic shell of a corrupt politician Biden will be lucky to live until 2024 and the low IQ cackling hyena of a vice president will be cast aside by the Deep State as unelectable. Clinton has ratcheted up the war rhetoric and will always have the left-wing pussy hat wearing lunatic fringe as her base. She is a dangerous, vile human being, but so was Stalin. Being a malevolent hateful shrew does not disqualify you from being a Gray Champion during a Fourth Turning. She will attempt to rally her malicious forces of wickedness, with the full support of her Deep State puppet-masters and lapdog compliant corporate legacy media, to accelerate our downward spiral into a techno-communist, globally controlled, dystopian hellscape. This Fourth Turning will not end well if she and her globalist billionaire cronies emerge victorious. Another globalist billionaire, who cavorted with and did business with convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, did not appear on my radar as a Gray Champion until he, Klaus Schwab, Fauci, Big Pharma, and the bought off medical industrial complex, created a worldwide pandemic using a Wuhan lab produced flu with a 99.7% survival rate. Bill Gates, a software geek who fancies himself a medical expert, used his immense wealth to push for the mandatory injection of an untested, unproven, dangerous, DNA altering gene therapy created by criminal pharmaceutical firms, into the bodies of everyone on earth. Gates has funded the vaccine propaganda campaign and funnels millions to the mainstream media to push falsehoods about the safety and effectiveness of these toxic concoctions. He has inexplicably bought up farmland, while promoting bugs as a future food source for the unwashed masses. He is a major player in the Great Reset Build Back Better WEF demonic plan to enslave the masses in poverty in a techno-gulag where we will own nothing and told to be happy, or else. He and his fellow pedophile satanic billionaire cultists will own everything and be really happy. His investments in vaccines, farmland, and the media most certainly makes his motivations suspect. His immediate negative reaction to Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter reveals his authoritarian censorship principles and belief he and his small cohort of wealthy totalitarian oligarchs should be the arbiters of truth and gatekeepers of what the plebs can say on social media. Suppression of those voicing dissent from the approved State narrative is essential for Gates and his ilk in propagandizing the ignorant masses. The first amendment and the Constitution are nothing more than annoyances to men like Gates who can buy and sell the world to implement their warped agenda. Like Clinton, if this Gray Champion succeeds, the people of this world will never recover their liberties and freedoms. This brings us to two men who weren’t in my thought process during the first thirteen years of this Crisis as potential Gray Champions. I suffer the same myopia as many others, viewing the world through the lens of living within the American Empire. Of course, America is no longer the shining city on the hill, if it ever was. We have been an empire since 1945, forged in war and sustained through currency dominance, intimidation, and bribing others to do as they are told. It seems both Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping are from the Boomer Prophet Generation and may be playing the dominant roles in the denouement of this increasingly violent Fourth Turning. As I’ve stated previously, there are no unequivocal good guys who can be counted upon to do what is in your best interest. These Gray Champions have immense egos, grand visions of worldly achievements and often a lack of self-awareness. They all believe their actions are morally right and guided by a higher authority. Living within the echo chamber of a declining empire drowning in debt and flailing about wildly as its last vestiges of military and economic domination crumble, makes it difficult to understand how the rest of the world views the big bully on the block getting his comeuppance. Those pulling the strings behind the scenes, who installed a doddering, decrepit gaffe machine in the oval office as their Trojan horse, anticipated using this pliable dupe to initiate the final destruction of a nation originally built on agreed upon community standards, a strong work ethic, thrift, religious freedom, self-reliance, and a spirit of independence and freedom. I don’t think they anticipated the pathetic weakness displayed by this ancient fossil, which has empowered Putin and Xi to take advantage of his frailty and intellectual decline. The question must be asked. Would Putin have invaded Ukraine if Trump was still president? Putin, as the evil Hitler demagogue character, portrayed by the Deep State controlled mass media mouthpieces, is entirely false. The characterization of Putin’s Operation Z as unprovoked and initiated as part of his plan to take over Eastern Europe is a canard, and the U.S. military and political operatives know it. Putin didn’t invade on a whim. His intelligence agency showed him proof the Ukraine was going to launch a NATO backed offensive against the Russian backed rebels in Donbas. Putin called their bluff and derailed their plans. This entire Ukrainian charade, where Pelosi, Schiff, Boris Johnson, Trudeau, Bono and now Jill Biden drop into a “dangerous hot war zone” for photo ops and a virtue signaling meetings with the U.S. puppet president B level actor/comedian Zelensky is a propaganda farce. I’m waiting for a “We Are the World” concert to break out at any moment. The entire narrative surrounding the conflict in the Ukraine, pushed by Biden, Soros, NATO, and their obedient media lackeys, is knowingly fabricated and built upon misinformation. The CIA Soros funded coup against the democratically elected president in 2014 set this entire farce in motion. No Ukrainians were being killed before the U.S. coup. Now we are using the Ukrainian people as cannon fodder in our proxy war against Russia. Putin has also uncovered the secret biological weapons labs the U.S. has been funding in the Ukraine. No wonder the extreme reaction by Biden, Nuland, and the rest of his neo-con lackeys. It has been U.S. and NATO provocation which has forced Putin’s hand since the 2014 coup. His annexation of Crimea and military support for Russian friendly rebels in Donbas were reactions to the blatant U.S. incitement in their sphere of influence. NATO, completely under the control of the U.S. Empire, has steadily pushed eastward towards Russia since agreeing in 1990 to not do so. The U.S. purposely told Zelensky to act as if the Ukraine was going to seek NATO membership. Zelensky and his Ukraine Nazi forces have been bombing Russian speaking civilians since 2014 and were planning a major offensive in Donbas which Putin pre-empted with his attack. It has been the U.S. led NATO and Ukraine instigating Putin. They continue to do so, with Finland and Sweden being incentivized to join NATO by the U.S.  “Not an inch of NATO’s present military jurisdiction will spread in an eastern direction.”  - Memorandum of conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and James Baker in Moscow, Feb 9, 1990 Vladimir Putin, a serious man, rising to the highest levels of the KGB, tenacious in accomplishing his agenda, and a nationalist at heart, cannot be intimidated by the likes of a feeble-minded pervert like Biden or any of the EU lackeys taking their orders from the U.S. Empire. Do you think he will be cowed by empty threats from a babbling Biden, cackling Kamala, effeminate Blinken, or gay pride promoting Austin? The U.S. propaganda machine continuously flogs the narrative of Ukraine winning, while Russians commit atrocities. Both are blatant falsities. As a Gray Champion, Putin understands victory goes to the one who refuses to back down or admit defeat when facing adversity. In Part 2 of this article, I will examine the traits of Putin and Xi which will make them the dominant Gray Champions during the final years of this Fourth Turning, and possibly the final years of modern life on this planet. *  *  * The corrupt establishment will do anything to suppress sites like the Burning Platform from revealing the truth. The corporate media does this by demonetizing sites like mine by blackballing the site from advertising revenue. If you get value from this site, please keep it running with a donation. Tyler Durden Mon, 05/16/2022 - 16:25.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeMay 16th, 2022

Vernon Hill removed as chairman of Republic First Bancorp

The move comes just days after the death of ally Theodore J. Flocco, Jr. put Hill in a minority position amid a proxy fight that has fractured the bank's board......»»

Category: topSource: bizjournalsMay 14th, 2022

Mark Esper says he prevented "dangerous things" like military action against Venezuela and a blockade of Cuba while serving under Trump

Esper said he and Gen. Mark Milley came up with a system of 'Four Nos' to swat down wild ideas when they were serving in the Trump administration. President Donald Trump and Defense Secretary Mark Esper in the White House's press briefing room on April 1, 2020.Win McNamee/Getty Images Mark Esper said he managed to prevent some "dangerous things" while serving Trump. He said on CBS that "every few weeks," ideas would come up, which he would have to "swat" down. These included the possibility of military action in Venezuela and a blockade of Cuba. Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that he prevented "dangerous things" from happening during his time in the Trump administration.Esper, whose memoir "A Sacred Oath" is due for release on Tuesday, talked about his time working for former President Donald Trump during an interview on CBS' "60 Minutes" aired on Sunday.Speaking to host Norah O'Donnell, Esper said he wrote about his tensions with Trump because "it's important to the republic, the American people, that they understand what was going on in this very consequential period." He pointed specifically to the last year of the Trump administration, saying that his memoir also tells "the story about things we prevented." "Really bad things. Dangerous things that could have taken the country in a dark direction," Esper said. In response to O'Donnell's question about what he prevented, Esper recalled the various proposals raised during Trump's last year in office.According to Esper, these ideas included "proposing to take military action against Venezuela" and a possible strike on Iran."At one point, somebody proposed we blockade Cuba," Esper said. "These ideas would happen, it seemed every few weeks. Something like this would come up, and we'd have to swat 'em down," he added.Esper elaborated that it was "mostly" him doing the swatting, although he received "good support" from Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.He recalled how he and Milley even came up with a system to reject the ideas."I come up with this idea. Actually, Mark Milley and I discussed it — what we call the "Four No's." The four things we had to prevent from happening between then and the election," Esper told O'Donnell."And one was no strategic retreats, no unnecessary wars, no politicization of the military, and no misuse of the military. And so, as we went through the next five to six months, that became the metric by which we would measure things," Esper added.In the same interview, Esper also said that it took "argument after argument" with Trump to persuade the latter to release $250 million in aid to Ukraine."And I'd have to say, 'Look, Mr. President, at the end of the day, Congress appropriated. It's the law. We have to do it,'" said Esper.Media outlets have been reporting on excerpts from Esper's upcoming book, which includes recollections of how Trump wanted to "shoot" those protesting the May 2020 killing of George Floyd and how the former president once suggested that the US launch missiles into Mexico to "destroy the drug labs."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderMay 9th, 2022

Peloton Seeking Buyers for Stake of About 20% of Company

Demand has cooled in the past year, and management has struggled to revive the business. Peloton Interactive Inc. is seeking to sell a stake of about 20% as part of a push to turn around the embattled fitness company, according to a person familiar with the situation. The hope is to find a big-name corporation or private equity firm that can help validate the business with its investment, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the deliberations are private. Peloton has been contacting potential buyers, the person said, though the process remains at any early stage. Peloton, based in New York, declined to comment on the potential sale, which was previously reported by the Wall Street Journal. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] The company was a highflier during COVID-19 lockdowns, when stuck-at-home consumers scrambled to buy its bikes and sign up for fitness classes. But demand has cooled in the past year, and management has struggled to revive the business. The company replaced its chief executive officer and other top leaders in February, only to see its stock continue to slide. Landing a major new backer could help soothe investor nerves, especially if it’s a company like Amazon—previously seen as a potential bidder for all of Peloton. Software company Box Inc. pulled off a similar move last year when it landed a $500 million investment from KKR & Co. But the news only caused Peloton shares to fall further Thursday. The stock, already down about 80% in the past year, fell as much as 7% in late trading in the wake of the Journal story. Peloton investors such as Blackwells Capital LLC have pushed for the company to sell itself to a buyer like Amazon, but new CEO Barry McCarthy—a veteran of Netflix and Spotify—has said that such a deal isn’t his goal. He has cut the prices of Peloton hardware in a push to get more recurring revenue from services. Peloton co-founder John Foley was removed from the CEO job in February’s shake-up, but remains executive chairman and is part of a group that controls the company with super-voting stock. That limits the power of an investor like Blackwells to force Peloton’s hand. Peloton is slated to report its latest quarterly results on May 10......»»

Category: topSource: timeMay 6th, 2022

: Berkshire shareholders reject proposal to remove Warren Buffett as chairman

In a filing Wednesday with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Berkshire Hathaway Inc. disclosed that a shareholder measure that would have removed him as chairman was overwhelmingly rejected......»»

Category: topSource: marketwatchMay 4th, 2022

Boris Johnson contacts Angela Rayner over "misogynistic" article amid calls for journalist to lose his parliamentary pass

Prime Minister Johnson has distanced himself from reports that Tory MPs say Angela Rayner is using a "Basic Instinct-style ploy" to distract him. Angela Rayner responds to Boris Johnson during PMQs on Wednesday January 19, 2022.House of Commons/PA Images via Getty Images Boris Johnson contacted deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner to condemn a "misogynistic" article about her.  A Mail on Sunday story quoted Tory MPs as saying Rayner attempts to distract him in parliament by crossing and uncrossing her legs. The article sparked outrage, including calls for the story's writer to lose his parliamentary pass.  Boris Johnson has contacted the deputy leader of the Labour Party, Angela Rayner, to make clear his condemnation of misogynistic comments apparently made by Tory MPs about her, the BBC reported.An article in the Mail on Sunday reported that Conservative backbenchers have claimed Rayner tries to distract the prime minister in the Commons by repeatedly crossing and uncrossing her legs.The article described Rayner's supposed tactic as "a Basic Instinct-inspired ploy to 'put him off his stride' at PMQs," comparing it to an infamous scene in the 1992 movie starring Sharon Stone.However, the article has prompted criticism across the political spectrum, with Tories and Labour MPs attacking its contents and the unnamed MPs quoted. Rayner hit out at the article, saying: "Boris Johnson's cheerleaders have resorted to spreading desperate, perverted smears in their doomed attempts to save his skin. "They know exactly what they are doing. The lies they are telling."But Johnson sought to distance himself from the story, tweeting that he "deplore[d] the misogyny." He subsequently contacted Rayner personally, the BBC reported. —Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) April 24, 2022Caroline Nokes, a former minister and chair of the women and equalities committee, said she had contacted the Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle to ask if the journalist behind the story, Glen Owen, should have his lobby pass removed.  Alicia Kearns, another Tory MP, said the article's misogyny was "unacceptable" and called colleagues' comments "utterly shameful."She added: "When women in politics are consistently demeaned and denigrated for their sex and appearance, misogynists across our country are empowered."Huw Merriman, chairman of the transport committee, also condemned the "bizarre" article, telling Sky News it was the type of "abuse" that could put women off entering politics. Chris Philp, a culture minister, told the BBC that Tory MPs who hold those views could face "serious consequences" if they were identified. In the Commons last week, Labour's Barry Sheerman, called for Quentin Letts, a sketch writer for The Times newspaper, to have his parliamentary pass revoked over a "sexist, misogynistic and totally unacceptable" column about female MP Lyn Brown.Hoyle dismissed such a suggestion, noting the importance of the "freedom of the press."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytApr 25th, 2022

A decapitated skeleton with its skull mysteriously placed at his feet and a "mercenary" buried with his sword have been discovered in Roman-era graves

An ancient burial ground in Wales, UK, is a window into the lives and deaths of Bronze Age, Roman, and medieval societies, say archaeologists. Two skeletons found in Barry, Wales. One Roman-era skeleton (L) has its decapitated head by its feetRubicon Heritage A council hired a team of archeologists in Wales to assess a road before it was repaired.  They ended up finding a trove of artifacts and graves dating back thousands of years.  They found the remains of a Roman mercenary and a mysterious decapitated skeleton. Archaeologists in the United Kingdom have uncovered a Roman-era mercenary buried with his sword and a mysterious beheaded skeleton.The Vale of Glamorgan council in Wales hired rubicon Heritage Services to assess a road they wanted to be straightened. It led to the discovery of an extensive trove of archaeological artifacts and hundreds of graves dating back thousands of years.Roman skeletons In one section of the five-mile road was a collection of Roman artifacts and several skeletons, Mark Collard, the managing director of Rubicon Heritage who is leading the project, told Insider.One is believed to be a mercenary, buried with a large sword and a military broach, dated to the period that the "Roman Empire fell apart in Britain," Collard said. One of the team in Barry, Wales uncovering a Roman-era skeletonRubicon heritageNearby was another skeleton of a decapitated man, buried with his head by his feet. In 2019, in a Roman graveyard in Suffolk, England, archaeologists found the same corpse configuration in 17 decapitated skeletons whose heads had been removed after death, it's believed.The find left "archaeologists scratching their heads," reported Live Science.It remains a mystery what the practice symbolized. One theory suggests a link to a pagan belief system of pre-Roman Celtic tribes who considered the head was the container for the soul, archaeologists told Live Science.Both men in Wales were buried on a large hill with "fantastic views over the countryside. You have to think there must be a reason for that," Collard told Insider. An ancient burial site A skeleton from the medieval burial groundRubicon heritageCollard said that another excavated section of the road revealed a burial site from a later period that also raised many questions.In the middle of a field lies a once-hidden medieval burial ground, uncovered by Collard and his team, that holds 450 bodies. People returned to the burial ground for roughly 500 years — from the sixth to the thirteenth century — to bury their loved ones there. "It's unusual that they're buried effectively in the middle of a field. It's not near a church. And that's one of the things we're puzzling about why people would go back for so long to bury people at the top of this mound," said Collard.The team is undertaking a detailed analysis of the remain, checking for family links to the bodies, signs of diseases or injuries, or clues about diets. Osteoarcheaological analysis underway in the labRubicon heritageThe team behind the excavation has released an e-book detailing the project called the "Five Mile Lane," which describes what has been found so far, including Bronze Age cremations, an arrowhead, and a 3000-year-old roundhouse.The detailed findings will be published at the end of 2022."Archaeologists always say, we didn't expect to find this much, and in this case, we really didn't, because the preceding surveys didn't raise many hopes. But it has proved to be an incredibly densely occupied prehistoric, Roman, and later, landscape with lots of activity from 4000 BC to the Second World War," Collard said.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytApr 24th, 2022

Transcript: Luana Lopes Lara

     Transcript: Luana Lopes Lara The transcript from this week’s, MiB: Luana Lopes Lara, Kalshi, is below. You can stream and download our full conversation, including the podcast extras on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, Google, Bloomberg, and Acast. All of our earlier podcasts on your favorite pod hosts can be found here. ~~~ RITHOLTZ: This… Read More The post Transcript: Luana Lopes Lara appeared first on The Big Picture.      Transcript: Luana Lopes Lara The transcript from this week’s, MiB: Luana Lopes Lara, Kalshi, is below. You can stream and download our full conversation, including the podcast extras on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, Google, Bloomberg, and Acast. All of our earlier podcasts on your favorite pod hosts can be found here. ~~~ RITHOLTZ: This week on the podcast, I have an extra special guest, Luana Lopes Lara is a co-founder of Kalshi. They are a derivatives trading marketplace, where you can go and trade event contracts on such disparate occurrences such as COVID-19, economic outcomes, interest rates, Federal Reserve, politics, climate and weather, culture, the Oscars, the Grammys, science and technology, all sorts of really fascinating places. They are the only such marketplace that has been approved for the sort of events trading by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the CFTC, which makes them both fascinating and — and unique. There’s nothing else like them. This provides a way for individuals and institutions to hedge all sorts of really interesting events. And as opposed to having think about, well, if this happens, what’s the ramification in gold, or oil, or inflation, or interest rates, you can actually bet on that exact event and hedge your business or your portfolio. It’s really quite fascinating. I thought this was really interesting conversation, and I think you will also. So with no further ado, my conversation with Kalshi Co-Founder, Luana Lopes Lara. ANNOUNCER: This is Masters in Business with Barry Ritholtz on Bloomberg Radio. RITHOLTZ: My special guest this week is Luana Lopes Lara. She is the co-founder of Kalshi, one of the only derivative trading marketplaces that allows the trading of event contracts in order to hedge against major business and political events. Kalshi is the only marketplace to receive approval from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, who regulates the trillion-dollar derivatives industry. Luana Lopes Lara, welcome to Bloomberg. LARA: Thank you so much. I’m very happy to be here. RITHOLTZ: So — so let’s start just with that unusual intro, you’re the only CFTC-approved way to trade on the outcome of events. Explain that a little bit. LARA: Right, exactly. Kalshi is a financial exchange that allows people to trade on the outcome of a lot of different events. So things from, will inflation keep going as high as it is right now, will the Fed raise rates to like, well, 2020 with the hottest year on record? And what really sets us apart is that we’re the only — the first and only ones regulated by the CFTC to do this in the United States. RITHOLTZ: So — so let’s talk about that because I love the story about you guys. You and your co-founder, you start calling attorneys, and one day, you end up calling like 60 or 70 lawyers in a single day. And pretty much every one of them said, “People have been trying to do this since the 1980s. It’s never been approved. Just forget about it, it’s not happening.” Tell us about that. LARA: Right. So we really wanted to build Kalshi the right way. So to view the exchange that is sustainable and — and can be a pillar of the financial world, we wanted to make this really big, get the right partners on board, and really try to build something that’s going to outlast CME. You know, like, CME is around there for like 150 years. RITHOLTZ: Right. LARA: And the way to do that, for us, was to build a proper financial exchange, to build this right. And we knew that getting regulated was the first step and like figuring out how to do it right. But obviously, me and my co-founder were both computer scientists, we knew nothing about regulation. So we sat down and put on a spreadsheet the names and — and emails of – of 65 different lawyers that we thought maybe could be related to this, and we called one by one. I think we split who was going to call who. And all of them were just like, “That’s not going to happen. The CFTC won’t allow this. It has already — they already said no to this in the past.” But because of a friend of a friend of a friend, we ended up getting to Jeff Bandman, who works with us till today. He’s an ex-official of the CFTC, and he really understood the Commission and – and helped us — started — helping us start navigating the entire situation. And yeah, it was two years of — of — of that entire engagement and iteration of the CFTC with all their core principles and concerns that they had, to address them and — and really ended up getting regulated in November 2020. RITHOLTZ: So it sounds like it wasn’t so much that the CFTC was against the idea of event contracts in order to hedge on these circumstances. They just didn’t like what was presented them previously, over the previous 40 years, or — or did something change that they suddenly said, “Oh, we used to think this was a bad idea. Now, we think it’s a good idea.” LARA: I think it was — it’s more of the first. I think it was about presenting to them why we thought event contracts were so important, and how they could really be used for hedging. And every day hedging like — like retail, and Americans every day can hedge things like inflation, like rates, risks that we see and read about like in the news or on TV every day. And it was really like presenting to them and getting them to comfort with how these markets work, how they weren’t easy to manipulate, how the rules could — could operate. So really getting them to comfort with how the exchange, the markets, and all of our contracts could — could operate, and that’s what took that long. It wasn’t — in my opinion, it was more like explaining what we wanted to do. They were fantastic from the beginning to really listening and working with us. It wasn’t that they were just like, “No, we’re never going to do this.” RITHOLTZ: I — I think it’s interesting that it took people from outside of the world of finance to bring an idea into finance from a technology perspective and say, “Whatever the logistical hurdles we have to meet in order to receive regulatory approval,” that wasn’t like an ideological problem. To you, it was a, “Well, this is a logistical problem that we have to solve. And once we solve it, we can get this going.” So how long did the back and forth with the CFTC take to get approval? LARA: Yeah. No, it was two years or two years and a half. RITHOLTZ: Wow. LARA: And yeah, we used to say it’s like we were climbing a very high mountain, and then as we started climbing more, we would see it’s actually twice as high and it would keep – and it would keep multiplying. Because the thing is we would go to them and — and they would have concerns and issues, so we would go back and solve the issues. A lot of it, as you mentioned, was related to technology. We did analysis on similar markets on what we could do, and viewed the surveillance systems and all of those things, and going back to them, and then they were like, “Okay, that’s fine.” But we have all these other issues now, and then we would go back and — and figure them out and — and — and do that one by one. It was like walking in the desert a little bit. We didn’t know where — where the end was. But it ended up working out. RITHOLTZ: So — so let’s talk a little bit about your platform. This is unlike futures and it’s unlike derivatives, and that when you are purchasing a contract, you are putting up the full dollar amount. It’s not like where you’re putting up 10 cents on the dollar, or one cent on the dollar. If you’re making a $1,000 bet, you are posting a $1,000. How much did that factor influenced the CFTC that this wasn’t just going to be reckless speculation and — and people fooling around, this was really hedging? LARA: Right. So we are fully cash collateralized. So every — as you said, every dollar that you can lose or every dollar that you — you trade, you have to have it with us before. And I think this really helps with the safety of the platform and it really started from us. We really want to start in a way that is very safe for everyone, and we can really understand the system before going like too far ahead. And we really see this as very important. So all the funds are fully cash collateralized. But obviously from — from the CFTC perspective, it adds to their comfort to the fact that there can’t be like leverage or margin or more risk added to the system, that all the money is collateralized, and the retail is protected because of that. RITHOLTZ: So equities, you can put up half the – the dollar amount, 2 to 1, futures or something like 10 to 1. Options, if you go out of — out of the money and far enough into the future, it’s — it’s a 100 to 1. Is there ever a plan to move away from the 1 to 1, dollar for dollar, maybe not option 100 to 1? But certainly, margin and equity market seems to be pretty reasonable at 2 to 1. LARA: At the moment, we’re really focused on retail and fully cash collateralization — fully cash — being fully cash collateralized. But at — in the future, I think our goal is to be like the New York Stock Exchange for events. So having — being really the — the central place of the ecosystem, and having like different brokers and institutions, hedge funds, market makers plugged into us, the exchange. At that point, it would make sense to start considering something like that. But right now, we’re completely focused on retail and having it fully cash collateralized as well. RITHOLTZ: Right. So once — once it becomes a big institutional exchange, then — then you can explore that. LARA: Right. RITHOLTZ: So since it’s retail, let’s talk a little bit about retail. Gamification is a real big issue. We’ve seen Robinhood do this. We’ve seen a number of other sports gambling platforms doing this. What are your thoughts about gamification when it comes to events trading? LARA: Yeah. I think the gamification question is a very interesting one, because I think it’s less about the asset class and more about the actual platform and the mechanics. So for example, you can trade equities on Robinhood, or Charles Schwab. The conversation about gamification is a lot more on Robinhood than on Charles Schwab, even though the underlying like is the same, you’re trading equities. So we really believe event contracts are — have a very big economic purpose and can be used for hedging and all of those things that we — we talked about. And the gamification would come only in the platform. But we’re very, very focused on building a platform that’s safe, easy to understand and to use, but not — not gamified. RITHOLTZ: So let’s go over some of the type of events that you guys trade. You could — you can make bets on COVID-19 and vaccination, on economics, inflation, mortgage rates, politics, climate and weather, world culture, science and technology. Let — let’s — let’s take some examples from this. I’d love the idea, will the 30-year fixed rate mortgage be above 3.9% on April 15? In other words, if I’m buying a house and closing on it, and concerned that rates might rise, I could take a trade against that and hedge that position. And I don’t have to be a billion-dollar hedge funds. I could just be someone buying a house. LARA: Exactly. I think all of our contracts have economics purpose, and they can really be used for hedging. For example, all of our COVID markets, during the Omicron wave, you could really see like even before the news started reporting it, the amount that it was taking up of. And then we’ve talked to the users, and they are, “Oh, wow, like I — I might not be able to go back to school. I want to hedge like that — that situation and all of that.” So a lot of the contracts I’m very interested in, for example, is the half point rate hike for — for March. I think it’s — it’s a market that went up a lot during, I think, one of the — there was some news that that it was going to go up … RITHOLTZ: Right. LARA: … by that. And then it went down again. And — and other ones are GDP and inflation, really just getting into the economic situation we have nowadays. RITHOLTZ: Number of Americans — so these are all “yes or no” contracts that — that’s … LARA: Right. RITHOLTZ: … pretty clearly determined. It’s black and white. Will 254 million Americans be vaccinated by May 1st? But I saw a contract, will America achieve herd immunity by September 1st? Who is the determiner of whether or not herd immunity — how do you define those terms? LARA: Yeah, that’s a great question. All of our markets are like legal binding documents. So they’re like 40 pages determining what the real rules are, to really make sure that there’s no room for indeterminacy or anything of the sort. So this market, specifically, I’m not exactly sure. I think it’s definitely the CDC or some number around there. But if you – like, all of our rules, if you go to our rulebook, it has very specifically defining where — which number we’re using, how we’re using, which target, if it has to be above or below a certain number, and it ends up being very determined. But for COVID markets, we’re using CDC numbers for — for some of our sources. RITHOLTZ: So I mentioned world culture, that’s kind of interesting. Is there a lot of activity in who’s going to win Best Picture or who’s going to be the Best Actress at the Oscars? How — is that a seasonal thing when — each year or how does that trade? LARA: Yeah. Launching the Oscar markets were – it was very important for us because they were the very – very first regulated derivatives, I guess, in the entertainment industry and Academy Awards. We have traded more than 150,000 contracts … Ryan Wyrtzen: Really? LARA: … in the Oscars so far. RITHOLTZ: Wow. LARA: … and it’s only been a couple of weeks. And we really expect the — the trading there to — to be a lot higher, closer to — to the ceremony … RITHOLTZ: Right. LARA: … or during the ceremony. But it’s interesting, a lot of people say that the Oscars are — are dead or irrelevant. But the movie industry is so big too nowadays, that there’s so much — so many people that are so impacted by the results of these awards, and things of that sort. And yeah, on the seasonality point, I think that the interesting thing about the entertainment industry is that you have awards, for example, like the Oscars or the Grammys, and we also have markets on. But you have weekly things, for example, album, sales numbers … RITHOLTZ: Right. LARA: … Billboard charts, and things like that, that we offer markets on every week and have a lot of room for like modeling and alpha, and things of that sort. RITHOLTZ: So — so I know studios spend a lot of money on marketing and promoting, leading up to the Oscars. Because if a — let’s say a small independent film wins Best Oscar, it seems a huge — it gets a huge uptick in subsequent box office and — and other sales or streaming rights. I’m wondering if part of their marketing plan is going to include hedging on Best Oscar. They can not only spend, you know, a million dollars on promotion, they could buy a contract that offsets not winning Best Oscar. LARA: Yeah, that’s our goal, is to get all of them to come and really hedge all this risk that they have. RITHOLTZ: So — so where’s the volume today? Where are you seeing the most amount of activity? Is it — is it inflation and Fed activity? Is it GDP? What — where — where’s all the money flowing in on your platform? LARA: Right. It’s actually interesting, because when we launched, we really expected it to be category specific or concentrated in specific categories or economics, entertainment, transportation, technology. But it really is about what — what the news are. So what’s top of the New York Times? What’s in the newspaper the whole day? And what’s in the news? And right now, as you mentioned, the Fed March meeting is — is very — is a very — it’s a market with a lot of … RITHOLTZ: It’s live. It’s hot. LARA: Right. It’s very hot. Yeah, for sure. But for us, we’ve — we’ve seen this, like news-based activity lot, like the Omicron wave, as I told you. When the infrastructure bill was passing, there was a lot of activity over there; or when Jay Powell was going to get renominated, there was a lot of activity in that market. So it’s really about what’s in the news and what people see their risks associated with, and where they think there’s most room to make money. And right now, the Fed rates, people are really disagreeing on that. And there’s a lot of volume and volatility on that market. RITHOLTZ: So — so you guys didn’t exist when Brexit had come up. That was before your time. But you have been around with Russia and Ukraine, and I noticed there’s not a lot of activity there. Why not do a futures contract on will Russia — it’s obviously too late today. But in January or December, you could have done a “Will Russia invade Ukraine by February 1st, March 1st, April 1st?” LARA: Right. We avoid any contract that’s related to war, terrorism, assassination or — or violence of any kind. We don’t want to have those — those markets on our platform. But we do have markets that are adjacent to that. So for example, markets on the price of ruble or — or the price of oil, natural gas in the U.S. and Europe. So we have markets that are adjacent. We just don’t want to have markets directly related to war, terrorism, assassination, or those things. RITHOLTZ: Makes sense. You don’t want to incentivize anybody to misbehave. LARA: Right. Exactly. RITHOLTZ: In the past, I’ve heard futures described as a marriage between hedgers and speculators. So if you’re an airline, you want to hedge the price of oil. But someone got to be on the other side of that trade, so incomes speculators. Are you seeing that same sort of relationship amongst Kalshi clients? LARA: Yeah. I think Kalshi is one of the most pure forms of exactly this hedging and speculation match. I think one – a very simple example to understand this, if you think of rain in New York City, right? Like, you can have like an ice cream truck buying – an ice cream truck will be really — really hit if — if it rains for like a lot of days, because people will buy less ice cream. So they can buy a “yes” contract to really hedge that offset that they have. On the other side, there can be someone that is going to speculate, and seeing there’s a forecast for 20% rain in the next couple of days and they are willing to take the — the “no” side because they think that there’s only a 20% chance it’s going to rain and — and it seems like they can make money. So then you can really have a match of like people that actually need to have a contract for hedging, almost like insurance, and people who – who because of forecasting and probability and — and what they think the fair value is, is going to take the other side. And then at the settlement, for example, if it does rain, it ends up being that everyone is happy because the speculator makes money, because they were correct. No. RITHOLTZ: Right. LARA: Right. RITHOLTZ: The — the hedger is protected against the event. LARA: Right. Yes. Right. RITHOLTZ: And the speculator won the trade. LARA: Right. Exactly. And exactly, you — you got it totally right. RITHOLTZ: So — so let – that raises a really interesting question. Who are your clients? Are they hedge funds and institutions? Are they retail investors, or is it a whole spectrum of people? LARA: We really focus now on — on retail. And our — our biggest amount of users right now is the traditional option trader, like informed retail options traders. But the way that we see this — this growing is we want to keep growing within the retail trading and options trading community. And then our next step is getting brokerages on board so that you can now go and trade on event contracts through your interactive brokers or e-trade account. And then after that, building enough liquidity to start bringing more prop shops in and — and smaller firms and then hedge funds and — and then institutions, and maybe we can have maybe a Burger King hedging, I don’t know, price of plastic straws or something like that. RITHOLTZ: So — so the platform eventually becomes an exchange? LARA: Exactly, exactly. I think we — we see it as a buildup of liquidity from — from retail that’s like smaller amounts, but — but — but higher velocity to — to hire bigger and bigger institutions, all the way to become like a full-fledged financial exchange like the New York Stock Exchange or CME. RITHOLTZ: So let’s talk a little bit about how you guys, you and your co-founder, created Kalshi. You kind of were the opposite of Facebook. You know, Mark Zuckerberg famously said, “Move fast and — and break things.” Companies like you and Coinbase and BlockFi spent a lot of time getting approval from the regulators. Tell us a bit about why you took that approach as opposed to moving fast and breaking things. LARA: Yeah. I think a lot of times people are making the short-term trade-off for speed. And in finance, I think it’s different. You can – obviously, you go to market faster if you choose the unregulated route. But with finance, there’s been like a lot of historical examples of unregulated platforms getting meaningful volume and then being shut down by regulators, because they weren’t properly regulated and doing things right from the start. We really think that the opportunity really shrinks if — if you don’t take regulation into account, because then you can’t get real money in the platform. You can’t get real good partners, as we just talked about brokers, market makers, hedge funds onboard. Sometimes you can’t even offer products to U.S. customers. It really boxes into something small, very quickly. And that’s — for us to be the New York Stock Exchange for events, because that’s our goal, the only way to do that was to do it right from the start, going through the regulated path, and — and eating on the cost of the two years and a half waiting, but — but making sure that we’re set for success. RITHOLTZ: So your — your co-founder, Tarek Mansour, he was an equity derivatives intern at Goldman Sachs in 2016. The same year you were a quantitative trader at Citadel Securities. So you guys both had a pretty bright career path. Had you not decided to go out and launch this whole new platform? Tell us what motivated you to say, “Goldman, Citadel, that looks too easy. Let’s — let’s launch a — a new startup.” LARA: Well, that — that’s funny because actually most of our MIT time, we were both very focused on just getting finance jobs and never even thought about starting a company. But yeah, we were both very interested in math, financial history, finance from — from the very start of — of our school years and — and we worked with various financial firms. As you mentioned, Tarek worked at Goldman. I worked at Bridgewater, Five Rings Capital, which is a small prop shop, and then Citadel Securities. At those internships, we really saw the behavior that we say is the Kalshi behavior over and over again. It’s like firms making trading decisions based on events. As we think the European Central Bank is going to raise rates, let’s take this massive position, or really find the structure to make that work. But the idea really crystallized in our heads when we were working, both together, at Five Rings. And there, we were playing this game almost the whole day. It’s called the “maker market” game that people — that everyone would be putting like bids and offers in the probability of something. And then the other person could only tighten the spread or — or trade against you. And there was a single — there was a day that we were just trading — playing this game the entire day. And then I — I don’t remember exactly what market it was, but I took a massive position on Trump doing something. I don’t remember exactly what it was. And everyone thought I was crazy and debated me a lot on that. But I ended up being right. And then when I was — we were walking back to — to where the interns were staying, it was stuck in my head, like why isn’t there a place for people to do this? Like, we love doing this? We do this the whole day. Like, we see in every place we work at, like very big positions, people are trading based on events. Like, why is there no place to do this? And then I sat down and started talking to Tarek about it. Like, why isn’t there — why don’t — why don’t we do it? And we stayed the whole night up talking about it. And it was just something we were so passionate about from the finance side, the product side, everything we always loved. And if there was going to be someone to figure it out, it was going to be us. It just then leaves us the idea for another six months, up until we were like, OK, like, this is a calling, we have to do it. RITHOLTZ: So — so when you say your desks are – and you guys are trading back in 2016, trading events, you couldn’t credibly bet any sort of volume on events like Kalshi does today. You had to go to secondary or tertiary markets. So you’re betting on gold if you’re thinking about inflation. LARA: Exactly. RITHOLTZ: You’re betting on oil if you’re concerned about war. It’s – it’s always once removed, which raises the issue. Even if you’re right, you may not express itself in a market the same way that the bet was supposed to go. LARA: Right. Exactly. I think that in the beginning of COVID, you had this exact thing happening with — with the economy and how you would think about the S&P. And the beauty about event contracts is that it’s direct exposure in what you think. There’s not like a lot of variables for you to keep track of or — or think about of things that can go wrong. That’s why we also think it’s very – it’s the most like natural way of investing, especially if you think for retail. They can’t like keep track or have full desks of people trying to understand what’s going on. It’s a lot easier to do when you have one opinion, and you have a very clear way to get exposure on what you believe in being right or wrong. RITHOLTZ: So — so you’ve spoken about the gambling industry and how incentives are somewhat cloudy. How does your platform correct for that? LARA: Right. The key part about gambling is that the house takes a position in the bets. So the house has an interest on the outcome of — of the bet or — or the market, if you want to call it that, but it’s more just the bet. We are just a financial exchange. So we — you can think of Kalshi a matching agent. We match people that believe something will happen with people that believe something will not happen. If they have equivalent prices, we match them. So we have no interest in whether the market will go away a certain way. We do have an affiliate trader that’s there to provide liquidity so that people can trade, especially as we start the exchange. But the exchange doesn’t take any positions ever. We’re simply matching other participant orders. So there’s no conflict of interest between us and our members. RITHOLTZ: So — so when you look at a racetrack and the odds are set on horses, those odds don’t quite add up and the shortfall is the house take. So it’s never quite 50/50. What does it cost to trade on this platform? What — what’s the — so in other words, if I’m betting a $100 that something is going to happen and I win, do I get $200 back or how — how does that work? LARA: Right? So — so the way that it works is that the “yes” and the “no” prices are from 1 to 99 cents, and whoever is right gets $1. So let’s say I’m buying a “yes” for 40 cents, it means there’s someone buying a “no” for 60 cents. And if I am correct, I make $1, which means I’m profiting 60 cents which is from my counterparty, RITHOLTZ: Right. What – what’s the cost of that trade? Meaning, how does Kalshi make money, and I assume since it’s fully collateralized, there’s a float. That’s going to be a good source of revenue over time. LARA: We don’t make money on float. All of our — our — all of them, user member funds are in a fully regulated CFTC Clearinghouse, which is FTX derivatives, the U.S. derivatives, they are clearinghouse. And we make money on a transaction fee. So we have a small transaction fee that varies on the price of the contract. RITHOLTZ: But what is it averaged ballpark? What does that cost? LARA: I think it’s less than 1%. RITHOLTZ: All right. So, we will have a conversation after we’re done, and I will show you that – I think it was Schwab. When they moved to free trading, their float became 57% of the revenue. So we’ll have a conversation. We’ll see if we can help raise your — your revenue target and – and we’ll go from there. Because especially — it’s one thing if you’re looking at events that are days and weeks out. But if you’re making bets on will 2020 be the hottest year in history, hey, you’re sitting with that money for 12, 11, 10 months. There’s a lot of top line to be gained from — from a little float. We’ll — we’ll work that out with the CFTC. That will be — that will be easy. You guys raised $36 million in a Series A. Sequoia Capital was the lead, probably the most storied venture capital firm in Silicon Valley. Charles Schwab, not the entity I was talking earlier about Charles Schwab in the float. But Mr. Charles Schwab was an investor. Henry Kravis is an investor. Silicon Valley Angel is one of the early investors. And were you with Y Combinator when you were first launching? LARA: Yeah. RITHOLTZ: So — so that’s quite an esteemed list of — of people who said, “Hey, there’s some value here.” Tell us a little bit about the experience at Y Combinator and then doing an A round with some really boldface names. LARA: Yeah. Our experience at Y Combinator was actually very different from most of the other startups. Like, we were measuring regulatory traction, and other startups are measuring user growth, or revenue or — or things — things of that sort. Yeah, and about the Series A, getting a DCM was — was a key part of — of that Series A. I think Kashi is really one of those asymmetric type of investments. We are going to face obviously a lot of challenges and — but we — if we execute against those challenges, we’re going to have massive outlier potential. And we were really trying to find partners and investors that really understood the long-term vision of the company, and share that obsession that we have with event contracts and — and building this entire trading ecosystem. So Alfred from Sequoia is one of those people. He — he did a PhD in these types of markets. He really, really understands it and sees the potential. And obviously, it’s — it’s a Sequoia Sequoia, as you said. RITHOLTZ: Right. LARA: So that was – that was definitely something we thought about. But — but Alfred, specifically, has historically invested in a lot of like paradigm shifting companies like Airbnb and DoorDash. So we really thought it was a good — it was a good fit. And then after Sequoia was our lead investor, we were really trying to fill the round of – with Wall Street investors that could really help us navigate this industry. So yeah, Tarek, my co-founder, he’s obsessed with barbarians at the gate. So — so when … RITHOLTZ: Hence, Henry Kravis. LARA: Right. So when — when one of our seed investors, Ali Partovi, said he could intro and — and we could talk to Henry, I think Tarek was just like absolutely fascinated. And they had a fantastic conversation. He was very interested from — from the very beginning. And with — with Charles Schwab, it was something similar. It was also Ali Partovi introing us to — to him, also very interested in from the start, and he actually told us that our early days at Kalshi looked very similar to his early days starting Charles Schwab. So that was very exciting. And — and yeah, they help us so much till today so it’s fantastic. RITHOLTZ: The funny thing about Schwab is people don’t realize the guy you see with the gray hair in commercials, that’s Charles Schwab. That’s not an actor. LARA: Right. RITHOLTZ: He really exists and has been running the company. Now, I think he’s chairman. But that was really him for — for a long time. So — so let’s talk a little bit about event hedging. And I like this quote, “These markets are a little like an aggregator of public opinion in real time.” So — so what are the implications of this? And is that the sort of stuff your lead investor at Sequoia was studying when he went to school? LARA: Right. Yeah, this is a very important part of our vision. Over time, we really want Kalshi to become the source of truth for forecasting these events that we have markets on. Because of the prices at Kalshi go from 1 to 99 cents, they directly translate to the probability of the event happening. So let’s say the market might be saying there’s a 20% chance there’s a recession this year. It means that 20 cents means that there’s a 20% chance that the market believes there’s a 20% chance … RITHOLTZ: Right. LARA: … that there will be a recession this year. And the amazing thing is that there’s a lot of theoretical and empirical evidence that they are the most effective and most accurate ways of forecasting the future. They’re way better than polls, way better than like pundits on — on the news, trying to say what’s going on. And it’s mainly for two reasons. I think the first one is because when people put money where their mouth is, they are more — more likely to say what they really think and actually do research and everything. And the second one is that markets really aggregate the wisdom of the crowds. You’re getting a lot of different people’s opinions, when they put money behind their opinion, and really aggregating data, and which makes this a very powerful tool. And I mean, any market lover understands what I’m saying. And yeah, making — and — and part of our — our vision and what we really want to do long — long term is make these forecasts core to people’s lives. It’s really part of our mission. With — with event contracts becoming more widespread, we really hope that people will use data in their lives to prepare better for the future, address uncertainty, inform themselves better, and like try to address a little bit of the very biased world and not very data-driven world that we live in nowadays. So we’re trying to get started with that. We’re really trying to get — we have market tickers like any other equity or things like that. We have tickers for all of our markets. So we’re trying to have tickers and prices to be used by news and things of that sort. So we really try to get this very important data, that we believe is very important data out there. But for Alfred specifically, I think he was doing more than like mathematical and like research. He was doing a stats PhD, so somewhat related to this, but not really on the — on the — on this side, but yeah. RITHOLTZ: So — so let’s — let’s talk a little bit about prediction markets that are out there. Historically, they’ve only done a so-so job, partly because they’re not very broad. They’re not that very deep, and the dollar amounts that are traded had been modest. I saw an overlay of about half a dozen different prediction markets before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. And you would think they would all be kind of similar, but they weren’t. They were all over the map. Do you have to get to a certain scale that will fix that problem of prediction markets being kind of thin and easily — I don’t want to say manipulated, but one big trade really has an impact on — on how those markets trade. LARA: Right. Exactly. I think we need a — a base level of liquidity and — and volume for — for the forecast to really work and be really useful. And a lot of these like other prediction markets out there, as — as we talked about, they’re unregulated. They have — they’re very new. They just pop up, especially the crypto ones every other day. And it’s hard to build liquidity and real proper volume like that. But we really think that prediction markets are the way to go to have these — these very good forecasts of — of events, but it needs liquidity and needs volume, and that’s what we’re working on. RITHOLTZ: Really kind of interesting, which raises the question, how are you going to scale this up? How are you going to get to 100 million and then a billion, and then who knows what from there? LARA: Right. We have a lot of ways to — to scale the exchange. It’s kind of what we talked about with — with building up liquidity. Right now, we’re really focused on retail. So getting — we have a lot of option traders, or like what we call informed retail traders in the platform, trying to go in more – deeper into different communities, and trying to get them in to test the platform, things of that sort. And then the next step for us is getting brokers in to offer our markets in their platform, so e-trade, interactive brokers, all of those. And then bringing up the volume, we can bring up like actual liquidity providers, prop shops, hedge funds, and then up until, I guess, insurance companies even offloading some risk or — or like actually big institutions, natural hedgers, bringing them in. So the way that we’re seeing it is really starting to build of retail with getting more and more of the current users that we have, which are option traders, and having more retail as we go to the — to the, I guess, brokers. RITHOLTZ: So — so how big can this get? I mean, is this ever a billion dollars a month? How — how large can this sort of event hedging scale up to? LARA: Right. So event contracts are a lot more like tangible, relatable and — and more direct, as we talked about, then all these other assets that — that preceded it. So we really think when we actually plug it in the financial ecosystem, it can properly scale. Obviously, it takes a lot of time to get there because we need to view the entire ecosystem around events. RITHOLTZ: Right. LARA: It’s a completely new thing. But once it’s properly plugged in the financial system, I can give you some numbers to give some idea, right? I think you mentioned that in the beginning of the CFTC regulating a trillion-dollar industry, like grain futures are $7 trillion industry. RITHOLTZ: Wow. LARA: Commodities, 20 trillion. Interest rate swaps are around, I think, $500 trillion. So not exactly how big the market is, but I think as we expand event contracts, it definitely has a potential to be one of these. RITHOLTZ: Right. Interest rate swaps are $500 billion or trillion? LARA: Trillion. RITHOLTZ: Really? LARA: Right. RITHOLTZ: That’s the notational, nothing is going to get offered? LARA: Right. Yes. You got that point. RITHOLTZ: That — that’s a giant amount of money. LARA: Right. RITHOLTZ: So — so really, startups have a tendency to have this defining moment in their lifespans, where they sort of either pivot or just a moment of clarity, and you could see the whole roadmap laid out. Did you guys have that sort of defining moment at Kalshi? LARA: I would say the biggest — the earliest defining moment we had was actually — before we really started the company, we went to a Y Combinator hackathon. Because before we were like fascinated by it, but we didn’t think it was like going to work. It’s like — it seems so complicated, and like, are we crazy? I think that was the big question in our head, like are we going crazy over here? Then we went to Y Combinator for a hackathon. And there were like these teams with like bunch of servers, crazy computers like — and it was just me and Tarek with our like Macbooks, like try to — to code like a demo of what we were talking about. And then we first presented to Michael then, the CEO of YC and he really didn’t like what we were saying from the beginning. He cut us. Like the first five seconds, he’s like that, like “This is illegal,” like, “What are you doing?” And then we will get very upset. We went in like we – I think we — Tarek even started drinking beer. He’s like, “There’s no way we’re going to be in the Top 10,” which had to present again. And we ended up being in the Top 10. We presented again, and then we ended up being in the Top 3, which were the winners of the hackathon. And I remember that night, when we were going back to — to our friend’s place where we were staying in San Francisco for the hackathon, we were like, “Wow, like maybe we aren’t crazy. Like, we should — like maybe like people believe in what we’re doing.” And it was a very like happy moment for us. And I think right after that, we actually got into the Y Combinator batch. And it was one of the happiest moments we’ve — we’ve had — we’ve had of the company. So that was really like motivating and encouraging, because as I told you, we never thought about being founders. We thought about being like he was going to be — we were both going to be traders full time. So it was like a big shift for us. So that was a very exciting moment. RITHOLTZ: Really interesting. Let me throw a couple of curveballs at you. You and your co-founder, Tarek, both were named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in — in the finance category. Tell us a little bit about that. What was that experience like? LARA: Yeah. No, it was very excited. We were very honored to be — to be — to be nominated, especially being like the head up of the — of the finance category. We were really excited after all the work we’ve done. And actually, a funny story is that because of the Forbes 30 Under 30, I went viral in Brazil for a little bit, because the Brazilian Forbes wrote a — wrote a piece about how a Brazilian was in the American Forbes 30 Under 30 and that — because it’s very rare to have Brazilians in the list here. So that was — that was — that was a funny story. But yeah, because of the Forbes 30 Under 30, we also ended up ringing the opening bell at the NASDAQ, which was very exciting. RITHOLTZ: Interesting. LARA: Yeah. RITHOLTZ: And one more — one more curveball. You were a ballet dancer with the Bolshoi. You studied ballet. Tell us about that. LARA: Right. So very different from what I do now, for sure. But I’m from Brazil, originally, and I just came to the U.S. for college. And most of my life before college, I was split between ballet and school. What — what I really loved about ballet was intensity of it all. It was extremely hard to get to the top. It’s extremely competitive. And there’s nowhere to hide, you need to be completely on, you need to give it your all. And yeah, and I — I studied at the Bolshoi Ballet School and it was extremely intense. And — and we had to be extremely disciplined, like measuring our food down to like a four puffs of strawberry before this rehearsal, to be able to get there. But that was –that was one part. And the other part, my — my parents are both engineers and have stem backgrounds. So I was surrounded by that outside of ballet, doing like Math Olympiad and all of that, I also had to get 100 on everything on the math and science side. So I used to do like normal school, I guess, from like 7:00 a.m. because Brazil school’s hours are different. so 7:00 a.m. to like 1:00 p.m., and then ballet from 1 – like 1:30 p.m. to like 9:00 – 10:00 p.m. And then I would actually go study. So that was a very intense part of my life, but I think it really set me up for — for being able to go to MIT and — and — and enjoy everything there. And it’s something that Tarek is very similar to me, he was actually a professional skier before going to college. And — and we have very similar backgrounds. And I think that level of intensity and — and discipline is really what helped us get through the regulatory process and be where we are today. So tough times, but it’s good now. RITHOLTZ: I — do the same thing. I measure my food input down to the quarter strawberry. And you could see it’s how I maintain my girls. So — so we only have certain amount of time left. Let me jump to my favorite questions that I asked all of our guests, starting with what kept you entertained during lockdown? What were you streaming, watching or — or listening to? LARA: Right. I listened to all and — and I’m very into American politics nowadays. So I’m finishing up the 10 American Presidents podcast. But on TV, I think I’m more mainstream. So I just love Succession, House of Cards, West Wing, and so on. RITHOLTZ: Let’s talk about your mentors who helped shape your career. LARA: Right. So I think at MIT, I had two professors that were very impactful in my career and to me. I think the first one was Patrick Winston. He was my advisor and professor, a lot of artificial intelligence classes. He really helped me navigate MIT and set me up to — and set my mindset to where I wanted to be, to like really psychology. And the other great mentor was Peter Kempthorne. He’s also professor of stats, and really, I started being interested in finance in his glasses. And funnily enough, he’s actually one of directors of — of Kalshi nowadays, because we kept very close contact. And we talk a lot to him about like the dynamics of markets and all the stuff we talked about. And since we started the company, I think our biggest mentors have been Michael, the CEO of YC. Up until today, he’s helped us so much. And Ali Partovi, who’s — who runs Neo, he’s one of our seed investors. And they have been really instrumental in like making us better founders, not just like making the company succeed, but better founders and how to like deal with employees, growing — like growing pains, negotiation, all of those things that, you know, like MIT nerds didn’t really know what to do. RITHOLTZ: So let’s talk about books. What are some of your favorites and what are you reading right now? LARA: Right. Some of my favorite – my favorite book is this book called “Americana,” but it’s not the novel. It’s actually the 400-year history of American capitalism. But whenever I say Americana, everyone thinks is the novel. And the other one is this book called predict — “Predictably Irrational,” which is … RITHOLTZ: Dan — Dan Ariely? LARA: Right. Yeah. And it’s — it’s very — some — it has a lot to do with what Kalshi does and I think it’s one of the early books I read on — on prediction markets and decision-making, and I thought it was a fantastic book. And at the moment, I’m finally — Tarek will be very happy to hear this. I’m finally reading “Barbarians at the Gate” after he told me for years that I should, but I barely started, so yeah. RITHOLTZ: And Americana is a Bhu Srinivasan, am I pronouncing it right? LARA: Right. He’s that. RITHOLTZ: He was a guest here a couple of years ago. I love that book. That book is just amazing. LARA: That’s book is fantastic. Yeah, it – yeah. RITHOLTZ: Those people think that, oh, all these companies were, you know, freestanding. It was a public private partnership … LARA: Right. RITHOLTZ: … for a long time. That — that is a fascinating book and I’m surprised someone, as young as you, has found it. It’s sort of off the beaten path. LARA: Yeah. No. It’s — it’s a fascinating book. It made me — especially not being American, I think it made me understand the country and how it works so well, I think, way better. RITHOLTZ: So — so this is the first time I’m going to ask this question of somebody who is so recently out of college, but you’re 25 now, is that right? LARA: Right. RITHOLTZ: So what sort of advice would you give to a college student or a recent college grad who is interested in a career in either startups and technology, or finance and derivative training? LARA: Right. I think the finance industry is very — there’s a very traditional path that people can take. And what really helped me and — and Tarek understand and — and really come up with the Kalshi idea and — and — and understand it and work on it was that we got a lot of exposure to a lot of different types of firms and a lot of different types of roles as well, like we did. I did more of the engineering side, then a little bit of the trading, then a bit of research. And Tarek did like all types of different trainings, because he also worked at Citadel, and Five Rings, and Goldman. And I think that giving yourself a lot of breadth, especially when you’re in college is very important to just understand the industry as a whole, understand when there are gaps, and — and seeing — like finding patterns, like how we found the Kalshi behavior. So I really think it’s about putting yourself out there, trying to learn different things, do different things and — and trying to get a global vision of — of what the industry is and why you want to do, and — and not be too tied to like the traditional path of like entering as like this level and then going up in a big firm and — and things like that. RITHOLTZ: And our final question, what do you know about the world of trading, and hedging, and investing today that you didn’t know, what do I say, four years ago when you guys were first starting out? You’ve been doing it since 2016, so let’s call it six years ago. LARA: Right. Yeah. So what we’re really doing is — is enabling trading and investing. But if I were an investor, what I think I would have liked to know a couple of years ago is that bold bets are — I would take a lot of bold bets. I think generally that’s – the bets that seem ridiculous at first and there’s a lot of debate, then there’s no way that it’s going to work, are usually the ones that are achieved, like the large outlier results. Definitely, I’m biased because Kashi is hopefully one — is going to be one of those bets for a lot of our investors. But I really think it’s about seeing what the world can be in the future and — and taking bold bets to get there. I think a couple years ago, I’ll be very — if I were an investor a couple years ago, I would be very scared to do that. But now, I would think that’s the way to go to really do meaningful investing. RITHOLTZ: Quite fascinating. We have been speaking to Luana Lopes Lara. She is the co-founder of derivatives trading marketplace, Kalshi. If you enjoy this conversation, be sure and check out any of our previous 400 interviews we’ve done over the past eight years. You can find those at iTunes, Spotify, wherever you get your podcast fix. We love your comments, feedback, and suggestions. Write to us at You can sign up for my daily reads at Follow me on Twitter @ritholtz. I would be remiss if I did not thank the crack staff that helps put these conversations together each week. Sean Russo is my research assistant. Mohamad Rimawi is my audio engineer. Paris Wald is my producer. Atika Valbrun is our project manager. I’m Barry Ritholtz. You’ve been listening to Masters in Business on Bloomberg Radio.   ~~~   The post Transcript: Luana Lopes Lara appeared first on The Big Picture......»»

Category: blogSource: TheBigPictureApr 19th, 2022

Guilty: Former police officer convicted on all charges from the January 6 attack on the Capitol

"I am as dangerous as I'll ever be," the ex-cop texted after participating in the Jan. 6 Capitol attack that left more than 100 officers injured. Jacob Fracker (left) and Thomas Robertson posed by a statute inside the Capitol on January 6, 2021, prosecutors said.US attorney's office in Washington, DC A jury found former police officer Thomas Robertson guilty on all six charges he faced. The trial featured testimony from a former police colleague whose nickname for Robertson was "dad." Robertson is the third January 6 defendant found guilty at trial. A jury found former police officer Thomas Robertson guilty Friday on charges connected to the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, handing down a conviction after just hours of deliberations in one of the first court trials linked to the insurrection.After deliberating Friday afternoon and through Monday, the jury convicted Robertson on all six charges he faced, including obstruction of an official proceeding and trespassing on restricted Capitol grounds with a dangerous weapon.The FBI arrested Robertson a week after the January 6 attack in southwest Virginia on charges that he unlawfully trespassed on Capitol grounds as Congress prepared to certify Joe Biden's electoral victory. During the weeklong trial, federal prosecutors displayed images and video — including police bodycam footage — showing Robertson outside the Capitol with a wooden stick, and later, entering the building with a fellow police officer. "This defendant gleefully put himself in the thick of the initial crowd of rioters who set off hours of chaos in the Capitol," said prosecutor Risa Berkower, in a closing argument earlier on Friday."He was proud about what he did, about what the mob did," she added.In his own closing argument, defense lawyer Mark Rollins conceded that the Robertson was guilty of some of the less serious charges he faced — including trespassing on restricted Capitol grounds — but disputed that the wooden stick amounted to a dangerous weapon. Prosecutors said Robertson used the stick as a baton to block police officers rushing to respond to the violence at the Capitol, but the defense team argued that the combat-wounded Army veteran was instead using it as a walking stick on January 6.And so the trial turned, in large part, on the jurors' views of Robertson's physical abilities. Prosecutors noted that, when FBI agents found the stick in the trunk of Robertson's car, he referred to it as a flag pole rather than a walking stick.In their questioning of the former Rocky Mount, Virginia, town manager, prosecutors also underscored the fitness requirements for police officers. But the now-retired town manager, James Ervin, conceded under cross-examination that "if you were to gaze upon" the Rocky Mount, Virginia, police force, "you would find many that could use some weight reduction."Prosecutors also highlighted a message, sent in April 2021, in which Robertson boasted about being able, at age 48, of running a "16 minute 2 mile with a 30lb pack.""I am as dangerous as I'll ever be," he wrote, according to the message prosecutors showed.Prosecutors emphasized that Robertson clutched the stick in the so-called Port arms position—a defensive stance from which he could still inflict harm. A police officer testified that he viewed the stick as a potential threat, saying it could be used to "hit you upside the head and knock you unconscious."But Rollins attributed Robertson's grip of the stick to "muscle memory" from his military career.Rollins also urged jurors to acquit on the charge of obstruction of an official proceeding, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, drawing a contrast between Robertson's minutes-long stay inside the Capitol and the conduct of rioters who violently pressed toward the House floor.Prosecutors, Rollins said, had imputed that conduct onto Robertson, almost as though there was "osmosis" between him and rioters he described as "knuckleheads.""These clowns are still trying to come in," Rollins said, as he displayed video footage of rioters pushing against police.By then, he told jurors, "Mr. Robertson is long gone."Violent insurrectionists loyal to President Donald Trump scale the west wall of the the US Capitol in Washington on January 6, 2021.AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana'I absolutely hate this'The verdict came just days after a federal judge dealt the Justice Department its first trial setback in the more than 770 prosecutions stemming from January 6.On Wednesday, Judge Trevor McFadden found New Mexico engineer Matthew Martin not guilty on a pair of misdemeanor charges, in the first outright acquittal of a January 6 defendant.McFadden, a Trump appointee confirmed in 2017, found Martin's claim that police allowed him inside the Capitol to be "plausible" and said prosecutors failed to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.In a previous bench trial — where a judge, rather than a jury, reviews evidence and hands down a verdict — McFadden found Cowboys for Trump leader Couy Griffin guilty of trespassing on Capitol grounds but acquitted him on a separate misdemeanor charge.Before that verdict, a jury convicted Guy Reffitt, a member of the far-right Three Percenters militia, in the first trial arising from the Justice Department's investigation of the January 6 attack.Reffitt's trial featured testimony from his teenage son, underscoring how the January 6 attack has divided families and friends. The proceedings against Robertson similarly showcased that legacy of January 6.On Wednesday, a former colleague of Robertson's recalled accompanying him on January 6 and advancing on the Capitol after attending a pro-Trump rally earlier that day. The former officer, Jacob Fracker, was arrested the same day as Robertson on charges linked to January 6, and both were later fired by the Rocky Mount, Virginia, police department. In emotional testimony, Fracker described Robertson as both his sergeant and mentor. He testified that the two referred to each other by nicknames — "dad" and "son.""I absolutely hate this," Fracker said on the witness stand Wednesday."I've always been on the other side of things … the good guy side, so to speak," he added.Fracker testified as part of a plea deal after admitting, weeks before Robertson's trial, to a charge he conspired to obstruct the joint session of Congress on January 6.More than a year removed from the day's violence, Fracker said he was ashamed of his involvement in the January 6 attack. But he recalled feeling full of "adrenaline" on January 6."I felt like we had maybe been heard by whoever it was we needed to be heard by … maybe have the election results overturned," Fracker testified.Inside the Capitol on January 6, Fracker flashed the middle finger as he posed with Robertson for a selfie. After returning to Rocky Mount, Virginia, Fracker said he gave his cellphone to Robertson.At trial, prosecutors showed text messages in which Robertson said their phones "took a lake swim" and that "anything that may have been problematic is destroyed."Prosecutors highlighted other messages and social media posts in which Robertson bragged about his involvement in January 6 and used incendiary rhetoric. In one message before January 6, he wrote, "A legitimate republic stands on four boxes: the soap box, the ballot box, the jury box, and then the cartridge box."On Friday, Berkower punctuated her closing argument with an apparent allusion to that message."In this country, no one is above the law," she said."In our democracy, we don't decide elections with a cartridge box."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytApr 11th, 2022

These are the 12 most powerful people in China you"ve probably never heard of

In the chess game of Chinese politics, it's not always clear who pulls the strings. Here are the 12 most influential people who hold the fate — and might — of a country of 1.4 billion people in their hands. From Left to Right: Pony Ma, Li Keqiang, Li Zhanshu, Wang Huning, Wang Yang, Han Zheng, Xi Jinping, Colin Huang Zheng, Wang Qishan, Zhao Leji, Zhang Yiming, Zhong Shanshan, Zeng YuqunVCG/Getty; Ding Lin/Xinhua/Getty; Yan Yan/Xinhua/Getty; Wang Zhao/AFP via Getty; Rao Aimin/Xinhua/Getty; Ding Haitao/Xinhua/Getty; Ju Peng/Xinhua/Getty; Pang Xinglei/Xinhua/Getty; Ding Haitao/Xinhua/Getty; Rebecca Zisser/InsiderIn the chess game of Chinese politics, it's not always clear who pulls the strings. Here are the 12 most influential people who hold the fate — and might — of a country of 1.4 billion people in their hands.You may not have heard the name Li Keqiang before — but you likely soon will. That's because when the Chinese premier steps down from power in March 2023, a decision he confirmed in March, it will trigger a significant reshuffle in the upper echelons of the Chinese government. In a country where the succession of power has happened both slowly and deliberately, Li's retirement could kick off a fundamental shift in roles among China's most powerful government body  — the Politburo Standing Committee — and lead to further consolidation of power under Chinese leader Xi Jinping. The nexus of China's elite is often obscured by what appears to be the overwhelming control and centralization of power in Xi's hands. Having removed constitutional term limits on his role, Xi has positioned himself as the most powerful leader since Mao Zedong. He may now rule for life and continue regulating the country of 1.4 billion people with a tight grip on military reform, cybersecurity, and internet censorship. Xi, the 68-year-old twice-married supreme leader, served as General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party and Chair of the Central Military Commission before becoming president in 2013. Xi is among China's famed "princelings" — the descendants of prominent Communist Party officials who represent a powerful government faction. But while his princeling status — being the son of revolutionary Communist veteran Xi Zhongxun — may have helped get him to power, Xi has maintained his leadership role only by closely monitoring his inner circle and regularly shaking up the status quo. That tendency has proven dangerous for lifelong Chinese bureaucrats who get too comfortable in the bosom of the autocracy. Take former security chief Zhou Yongkang, prominent politician Bo Xilai, and Chongqing communist party chief Sun Zhengcai, for instance, all of whom were purged from the upper ranks of the Party during Xi's reign.China's impenetrable black box of power Chinese President Xi Jinping sits securely at the nexus of power in China. But the men who surround him also wield immense political clout.Xie Huanchi/Xinhua via Getty ImagesGiven the heavy censorship and control over state-linked media outlets in the country — it's nearly impossible to know what's really happening in China's halls of power. Observers have intently watched China's displays of strength at its military parades; looked into the tea leaves to predict China's line of succession post-Xi; and scrutinized seating charts to suss out government officials' proximity to the pinnacle of power. "What people really think is opaque beneath the chess game that they play. And the chess game itself goes on inside a highly impenetrable black box," Perry Link, an emeritus professor of East Asian studies at Princeton University, told CNN.Experts told Insider the Politburo — the highest decision-making body of the Chinese Communist Party — and its top members are the ones who are really in control in the country, despite the clout that high-profile Chinese billionaires seem to hold."The government campaigns over the last year — whether focused on celebrities or education tutoring companies — demonstrate the Chinese Party-state is the final arbiter of power. Companies or individuals who seemingly rise too high and supersede the power and/or authority of the Party-state will be subjected to some form of punishment," Jennifer Hsu, a researcher of public opinion and foreign policy at the Lowy Institute, told Insider. Perhaps no one knows that better than Jack Ma.Ma, the founder of e-commerce and tech company Alibaba, enjoyed a charmed life of high-profile appearances and an overflowing bank account — Ma was reportedly worth $62 billion in 2020 at the height of his power, making him the richest man in China. But in October 2020, he criticized China's financial regulatory system, suggesting that Chinese banks were crawling along behind the times, continuing to follow global rules that are part of "an old people's club."  Then Ma disappeared. Some believed he'd been spirited away by the Chinese government to a detention camp. Others assumed he was deliberately lying low. When Ma finally surfaced — much-chastened — in early 2021. China had opened an antitrust investigation into Alibaba and shut down Ma's plans for an Ant Group IPO. It was a potent reminder that while it's possible to reap huge financial rewards as a business leader in China, the CCP still wields the ultimate power. "Of course, they have huge resources and 'soft power' that comes from being admired as business executives. But in the end, the Party can influence them to do what they want — it doesn't really work the other way round," Rana Mitter, a professor of history and modern Chinese politics at Oxford, told Insider.We took a peek into Xi's inner circle and narrowed down the list of the top 12 most influential people surrounding Xi Jinping. We spoke to experts who told us more about the inner workings of the Communist Party, what true power means in China, and who wields it. Xi's inner circle — the Politburo Standing Committee and his vice president, Wang Qishan — call all the shots Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) arrives with Premier Li Keqiang (L) and members of the Politburo Standing Committee for a reception at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on the eve of China's National Day on September 30, 2021.Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images)The CCP formed the first Politburo Standing Committee in July 1928. It comprised the top members of the Chinese government — including the future Chairman Mao, who became the Chinese leader in 1949. The contemporary Politburo is now thought to be handpicked by outgoing Standing Committee members in consultation with retired top leaders and previous standing committee members. The Communist Party's central committee holds closed-door meetings to choose its 25-member Politburo — and within that number is the exclusive Politburo Standing Committee. It comprises Xi and six others who meet and operate largely in secrecy. The latest reshuffle of the Politburo Standing Committee occurred in 2017 when five new members— Li Zhanshu, Wang Yang, Wang Huning, Zhao Leji, and Han Zheng — were promoted to the committee. But given that these men are all 65 and older and either close to or long past the retirement age of 67, there appears to be no clear succession plan for Xi, who has all but paved the way to break with tradition and grant himself a third term. Xi is also flanked by his vice president, Wang Qishan, who has known the premier since the two were teens. While Wang is not part of the PSC, he also wields a fair amount of power due to his proximity to Xi. Whether there will be further changes to the political landscape, and whether Xi will elect more members of allegiant factions, will be decided in the fall of 2022, when the 20th Party Congress commences. In the meantime, political power under Xi remains consolidated among the following men: Wang Qishan serves as vice president under Xi and is considered one of China's most potent 'princelings'Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan is one of Xi's key allies, and met the Chinese leader when they were teens.Pang Xinglei/Xinhua via Getty ImagesChina's Vice President Wang Qishan, 73, is Xi's right-hand man. Before Xi came to power, Wang was known as a princeling politician by marriage, rising in prominence in the CCP partly because of his marriage to the daughter of former executive vice-premier Yao Yilin.Ties to Xi: The son of an engineering professor, Wang met and befriended the then 15-year-old Xi when the pair were assigned manual labor roles in a farming community near Yan'an, Shaanxi province, during the Cultural Revolution. Wang later joined the CCP in 1983 and rose to become a ranking member of the Politburo in 2007, helping to front China's trade talks with the US. Wang also helped helm Xi's pet project, an anti-corruption purge of tens of thousands of prominent Chinese officials that kicked off in 2013. Wang, a long-standing ally of Xi's, reportedly helped the Chinese leader purge their rivals, using the anti-corruption campaign as a tool.Perhaps unsurprisingly, Wang is a big fan of the Netflix series "House of Cards."Victor Shih, an expert in China and Pacific relations and associate professor of political science at the University of California San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy, told Insider he thinks there might be a power shift where Wang is concerned after the fall of 2022. "Wang likely will fully retire, as will many of the technocrats he nurtured in the past," Shih said. "With his own full retirement, as well as the retirement of his followers, Wang's influence will also be much diminished."Li Keqiang was once expected to be the successor to former President Hu Jintao but was sidelined in favor of XiLi, 66, is currently the premier of the People's Republic of China — but he's now slated to step down this fall.Ding Lin/Xinhua via Getty ImagesLi, 66, is currently the premier of the People's Republic of China and the Party secretary of the State Council of the People's Republic of China.Li's humble beginnings in Anhui, eastern China, and his career in China's Communist Youth League, helped him climb the Party's ranks. During his tenure, he focused primarily on managing China's economy, which led to the country's economic performance rating system being dubbed the "Keqiang Index." Li has managed several important portfolios — he handled aspects of the Chinese economy and infrastructural growth, and was charged with drafting China's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ties to Xi: Li is a known ally of Xi's predecessor, former President Hu Jintao, and his closeness to Hu led some to speculate that he was being groomed to succeed Hu. But after much hype, Li was sidelined for the top job in favor of Xi. Li was named premier in 2013, but Xi's decision to expand his control of the economy encroached on Li's turf, weakening Li's power to some extent. Li also saw his influence erode after China's 2015 stock market meltdown, for which he was blamed. "Li Keqiang has been a weak premier, mostly because Xi Jinping has relied on Liu He and the Central Commission for the Comprehensive Deepening of Reform, which Xi heads," said Joseph Fewsmith, professor of international relations and political science and director of the Boston University Center for the Study of Asia. "I would expect Li to exercise little influence after his retirement. The interesting question is who will replace him as premier," Fewsmith added, noting that Hu Chunhua, a prominent Politburo politician, might be next in line. Li Zhanshu was relegated to far-flung posts in rural China before staking his claim in the PolitburoPolitburo Standing Committee member Li Zhanshu is one of Xi's closest allies in the top echelons of China's power players.Yan Yan/Xinhua via Getty ImagesLi, 71, is a ranking member of the Politburo Standing Committee and the current chairman of the standing committee of China's National People's Congress. He's considered the third most powerful man in China. Li saw a minor setback in his climb to the top when in 2003, he was sent off to Heilongjiang, a far-north province, and put in charge of revitalizing China's "rust belt." He composed a poem about the experience:"A real man has no fear of dangerous tasks, Mountains are rich in beauty and peaks are ever breathtaking.The mighty autumn wind only bullies the weak, Still the falcon spreads its wings and soars toward heaven." As governor of Heilongjiang, Li revitalized the province's irrigation project and boosted its agricultural output. But this did little to elevate Li's status. In 2010, he was sent to Guizhou, China's poorest province, and was tasked with improving the province's infrastructure and economy.It wasn't until 2012 that fortune finally smiled upon Li. Having bided his time for close to a decade, Xi — an old friend of Li's —  promoted him to the general office of the Chinese Communist Party, a role equivalent to the "gatekeeper" or Chief of Staff in Xi's government. He is known to abide by three "nos" — no messing around with people, no playing games, and no slacking off on the job. Ties to Xi: Li is thought to be one of the senior members of Xi's personal "clique." Li's ties to Xi go back to the 1980s during their early days in the CCP, when Li served as party secretary one county over from Zhengding County, where Xi was CCP chief. Fewsmith, the Boston University professor, said Li Zhanshu and his colleague, Zhao Leji, were "already very prominent" in the Standing Committee. However, Shih believes that if Xi were to abide by the old rules that committee members must retire at 67, and not make an exception for Li and Zhao, they both might have to step down. "However, these two have managed to cultivate and promote sizable networks in the upper echelons of the party, so they will have considerable post-retirement influence," Shih said. Wang Yang has a reputation as a 'reformer' and an advocate of the free marketWang is also one of the known liberals and "reformers" in the Communist Party.Rao Aimin/ Xinhua via Getty ImagesWang, 67, is a member of the Politburo standing committee and the Party secretary of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.Wang spent his early years involved in politics in his hometown of Anhui, climbing up through the lower ranks of local government to eventually become the party committee secretary of Chongqing. Wang is also one of the known liberals and "reformers" in the CCP, advocating for free markets and governing with a softer, ground-up approach."There's no particularly helpful way to rank (the members of the Politburo Standing Committee), but it's worth noting that Wang Yang is being tipped as a possible premier, which is intriguing as he has encouraged freer markets in the past as a provincial party secretary, and that Wang Huning is widely regarded as the ideological thinker who has influenced Xi the most," Mitter, the Oxford professor, said.  Ties to Xi: Wang criticized the rise of "princeling" power in the early 2010s. That made him an unpopular choice for a seat on the Politburo Standing Committee back in 2012 when Hu Jintao was in control. But he was later elected to the 19th Politburo Standing Committee in 2017 and, in 2018, began spearheading the Chinese government's policies in the highly contested Uyghur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang. Like Li Keqiang, Wang is thought to be within the Hu faction, with Li Zhanshu and Zhao Leji being part of the Xi clique. According to think tank Brookings, being part of the Hu faction, backed by former President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, meant being part of a "populist coalition." This was as opposed to being part of Xi's "elite coalition," currently the most powerful government faction.Wang Huning, described as a workaholic and insomniac, is considered the mastermind behind Xi's massive Belt and Road initiativeWang is known to be the ideological powerhouse of the Chinese leadership, and the brains behind Xi's philosophy — "Xi Jinping Thought."Wang Zhao/AFP via Getty ImagesWang, 66, is the secretary of the Central Secretariat of the CCP. He was an academic at the prestigious Shanghai Fudan University before quitting to pursue politics in 1984. Wang has been described as a shadowy figure, a workaholic, and an insomniac.He is credited with being the intellectual and ideological mastermind behind Xi's "China Dream," an aspiration for China to become the world's dominant power. He is also the architect of "Xi Jinping Thought," a 14-point policy plan to establish socialism with Chinese characteristics.Wang is seen as the Kissinger-style strategist behind Xi's Belt and Road Initiative, an aggressive foreign policy and development strategy that seeks to expand China's influence across Asia and beyond. Ties to Xi: Widely thought to be the most intelligent of all the Politburo Standing Committee Members, Wang has accompanied Xi on many overseas trips. He was also a longtime adviser in the Chinese government, serving under two of Xi's predecessors, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao. "Wang is the ultimate survivor, and three general secretaries have relied on his advice. He will also be 67, thus eligible for another term, if the old rules apply," Fewsmith said. "Xi may want him to hang around, but if Xi needs an extra seat (on the Standing Committee) for a valued friend, Wang may be sacrificed." Zhao Leji has helmed Xi's anti-corruption push and is responsible for arresting thousands of party officialsZhao spearheaded Xi's anti-corruption drive to purge officials accused of improper behavior.Ding Haitao/Xinhua via Getty ImagesZhao, 65, is a member of the Standing Committee and the chief of Xi's anti-corruption campaign.He was heavily involved in Xi's crackdown on "tigers and flies" — including the arrest of thousands of high and low-ranking officials alike — and has been at the helm of Xi's top anti-corruption body since October 2017. Zhao's family consisted of senior communist party officials, and he was able to enroll at the prestigious Peking University ahead of the end of the Cultural Revolution — an indication of his family's clout and influence within the CCP. Ties to Xi: Like Li Zhanshu, Zhao is known to be a member of the Xi clique. He served as party chief in Shaanxi province — Xi's ancestral home. Zhao is known to have close personal links to Xi's family and benefits from a long-standing friendship between his father and Xi's. He has also proved fiercely loyal to Xi and has helped the Chinese president reinforce an iron grip on full and strict Party governance. Han Zheng has ties to several past PSC membersHan Zheng worked as Xi's deputy in Shanghai, and earned a Politburo seat himself when Xi became the CCP's general secretary in 2012.Ding Haitao/Xinhua via Getty ImagesHan Zheng, 67, is the Deputy Party Secretary of the State and the first vice-premier of China. He was a career politician in Shanghai and became the city's youngest mayor at 48. He is considered to be one of the top economic shot-callers and a seasoned technocrat. Ties to Xi: Han was mentored by Huang Ju, Wu Bangguo, Zhu Rongji, Zeng Qinghong, and Yu Zhengsheng — five of his patrons who all later served on the Politburo Standing Committee. Han later worked as Xi's deputy in Shanghai in 2007, before Xi became a member of the Politburo Standing Committee. Han then earned a Politburo seat himself when Xi became the CCP's general secretary in 2012. Interestingly, both professors Fewsmith and Shih both expect Han to step down this fall, having passed the retirement age. "He will retire and it will be an open question whether the Shanghai-line (of power), which started with Jiang Zemin, will continue to produce top-level officials," Shih told Insider. The outer circle. China's billionaire businessmen have plenty of clout, but they still lack access to XiJack Ma used to be one of China's most influential men — and while he still is a billionaire, his clout in China's elite has been significant reduced. With Ma having been made an example of, other Chinese billionaires have no choice but to toe the line.Elaine Thompson-Pool/Getty ImagesChina's rich list comprises individuals who have gained clout by building tech empires and pharmaceutical businesses worth billions. However, China's billionaires operate by different rules, particularly after the fall of Jack Ma. Xi's push toward "common prosperity" — the idea that the wealthy must share their good fortune with the poor — has changed the ways that China's richest operate. Xi vowed in 2021 to "adjust the excessive incomes" of China's crazy-rich and redistribute their wealth in a push for high-income enterprises to "return more to society" in the spirit of "social fairness."Gone are the days of outspoken billionaires rocking out on stage in flamboyant outfits as Ma did back in 2019. These days, the ultra-rich toe the line and stay under the radar amid intense tech crackdowns, eager to not test Xi's patience and lose it all.China's richest man, Nongfu Spring Water's Zhong Shanshan, is nicknamed 'Lone Wolf'Nongfu Spring Water and pharmaceutical billionaire Zhong ShanshanVCG/Getty ImagesZhong, 67, is the chairman of Nongfu Spring Water and the owner of Beijing Wantai Biological Pharmacy Enterprise. He also currently holds the title of China's richest man, with an estimated net worth of $66.2 billion. Zhong is known as the "Lone Wolf," and lives a low-key lifestyle, rarely making media appearances. Influence: Zhong is responsible for establishing the idea within China that bottled water — like what he sells — helps to improve one's health. He also managed to tap into China's demand for COVID-19 tests, fulfilling that need with Wantai's resources. ByteDance's Zhang Yiming has been accused of being an 'American apologist'ByteDance founder Zhang Yiming.Shannon Stapleton/ReutersBillionaire Zhang Yiming built his fortune when he co-founded Bytedance, the tech giant behind TikTok and its Chinese version, Douyin. With a net worth of $44.5 billion, Zhang is the second-richest man in China, even after stepping down from his role as CEO of Bytedance in May 2021. Influence: With 600 million daily active users, Zhang's Douyin is undoubtedly one of the most influential technology apps in China. However, Zhang ran into some trouble in 2020; critics in China called him an "American apologist" when rumors brewed of a possible Microsoft acquisition of TikTok. Zhang's tenure as CEO of Bytedance also included tussles with then-President Donald Trump, who he once said was trying to kill the app. Bytedance currently faces an investigation from a bipartisan group of state attorneys-general, who want to investigate TikTok's influence on young people.Robin Zeng Yuqun's Contemporary Amperex Technology Company supplies lithium-ion batteries to companies including Tesla, Daimler, and BMWChinese battery maker CATL CEO Robin Zeng attends a news conference in Berlin, Germany July 9, 2018.REUTERS/Hannibal HanschkeZeng, 53, is the founder of Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL), which makes batteries for electric vehicles. A self-made man, Zeng began his career in shipbuilding, then transitioned into building a lithium-ion battery empire. With a net worth of $43.1 billion, Zeng is the third-richest person in China. Influence: Zeng's influence goes beyond China —CATL supplies components to Tesla and other international car companies like Daimler and BMW. CATL also became China's second-biggest stock by market value in November 2021, behind the Chinese liquor maker Kweichow Moutai Co., and has dominated the market for electric car batteries. Tencent's Pony Ma Huateng has a net worth of nearly $50 billionPony Ma is chief executive of TencentVisual China Group via Getty ImagesMa, 50, is the founder and CEO of internet company Tencent, China's biggest internet portal. Tencent also governs a gaming empire and is responsible for WeChat, the Chinese super-app on which people can message their friends, make payments, and call cabs. With a net worth of over $49.1 billion, Ma is the fourth-richest person in China. Influence: Tencent remains the most influential tech company in the country, but like other billionaires, Ma has had to pivot to promoting the social media giant in a positive and patriotic light. In line with Xi's crackdown on tech companies, Ma said that Tencent would be a "good aide"  to the Chinese government, adding that the company knew its place and would not shirk its duty to serve the country. However, this did not spare Tencent from feeling the effects of Xi's crackdown. Ma lost $14 billion of his net worth from December 2020 to August 2021.Colin Huang Zheng founded the e-commerce platform Pinduoduo, a gamified online marketplacePinduoduo's Colin Huang ZhengVCG/Getty ImagesHuang began his career at Google as a software engineer in 2004 but resigned in 2007 to start his own e-commerce and gaming ventures. He founded the e-commerce giant Pinduoduo in 2015. Huang has a net worth of $33.1 billion and is the sixth-richest person in China. Pinduoduo is a gamified online marketplace that involves letting users buy items at sale prices by playing games. One of the app's functions allows people to "group-buy" things with friends. Pinduoduo makes money by charging sellers a commission to promote items on the app. Influence: Wealth and riches could well be a form of power in themselves, but Huang appeared to be shying from the limelight when he quit his roles as CEO and chairman of the e-commerce giant he helped build. In a statement in March 2021, Pinduoduo said Huang was stepping down to "pursue research in the food and life sciences, disciplines where breakthroughs could drive the future of China's largest agriculture platform."While no overt moves were made to force Huang's hand, he appeared to be joining other tech billionaires in a coincidental move toward giving hundreds of millions in donations to charity amid the Chinese government's crackdown on tech tycoons.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytApr 11th, 2022

A soldier with neo-Nazi symbols on his arm was given a medal by a Russia-backed separatist republic for killing Ukrainian "nationalists"

The fighter's wore the "Valknot" and "Totenkopf," the first of which is tied to white supremacists and the second to Nazi Germany's SS divisions. According to a report, the solider and his battalion had eliminated "45 units of military equipment and more than 250 nationalists" while fighting alongside Russian forces.Maximilian Clarke/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images The Russia-backed Donetsk People's Republic rewarded one of its fighters for killing Ukrainian "nationalists." Footage shows the fighter wearing neo-Nazi symbols while receiving his medal. Moscow has tried to justify the invasion of Ukraine by claiming the country is run by "Nazis." The head of the breakaway Donetsk People's Republic in Ukraine has been seen in a video awarding a medal to a fighter for helping to kill "more than 250 nationalists."Published on April 3 through the Russia-backed republic's website, the footage also shows the fighter wearing neo-Nazi symbols on his sleeve.According to the site, the video shows DPR leader Denis Pushilin saluting and shaking hands with Senior Lieutenant Roman Vorobyov of the "Somalia" motorized rifle battalion during a visit to Mariupol. He then pins the commendation — called the "St George Cross II" by an accompanying report — on Vorobyov.Two patches can be seen on Vorobyov's right arm.One depicts the "Totenkopf," or "death's head" — a skull-and-crossbones image recognized as a neo-Nazi and white supremacist symbol by the Anti-Defamation League. It was originally used by a Nazi German SS branch that guarded concentration camps and was later incorporated into the Third SS Panzer Division during World War II.Vorobyov also wore a patch bearing the "Valknot," an ancient Norse symbol associated with the god Odin, per the ADL. The Valknot has also been appropriated by white supremacists, the league says.A screenshot of the video shows the neo-Nazi "Valknot" and "Totenkopf" symbols on the soldier's right sleeve.Screenshot/ODDR.InfoThe video's accompanying report said that Vorobyov and his battalion had eliminated "45 units of military equipment and more than 250 nationalists" while fighting alongside Russian forces.A version of the video posted on Pushilin's official website did not show Vorobyov receiving his medal. It is not immediately clear why that portion of the video was removed.In justifying the invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed that the country is run by "Nazis" and that Russia's campaign aims to "denazify" the region. Moscow has also recognized the territories of Luhansk and Donetsk — where the DPR is located — as independent republics and said it aims to "liberate" the areas.While Ukraine has a neo-Nazi presence among some of its fighters, such as the ultranationalist Azov Battalion, experts say Putin's claims are a mischaracterization of the country and factually wrong. Ukraine's democratically-elected president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, is a Jewish man with several family members who perished in the Holocaust.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytApr 6th, 2022

Sanctions On Russia May Achieve Opposite Of Biden"s Stated Long-Term Goals

Sanctions On Russia May Achieve Opposite Of Biden's Stated Long-Term Goals Authored by Dimitri Simes Jr. via Glenn Greenwald's Outside Voices (emphasis ours), In Russia, sanctions have taken a bite out of the Russian economy, but interviews and data suggest they cannot fulfill the West's strategic motives for imposing them... 18 March 2022, Moscow, Russia: The logo of the closed McDonald's restaurant in the Aviapark shopping center. (Photo by ---/via Getty Images) During a visit to Brussels for the NATO summit on Thursday, President Joe Biden unveiled his latest Russia sanctions package. Biden told reporters that the U.S. and the European Union had agreed to sanction more than 300 Russian lawmakers and oligarchs, as well as several Russian defense companies.  Over the past month, Russia has overtaken both Iran and North Korea to become the most sanctioned country in the world. Some of the measures adopted by the U.S. and its European allies include the freezing nearly half of the Russian central bank’s $640 billion financial reserves, expelling several of Russia’s largest banks from the SWIFT global payment system, imposing export controls aimed at limiting Russia’s access to advanced technologies, closing down their airspace and ports to Russian planes and ships, and instituting personal sanctions against senior Russian officials and high-profile tycoons.  Multinational corporations have joined Western governments in cutting economic ties with Russia. Since the start of the Kremlin’s military campaign in Ukraine on February 24, more than 450 companies ranging from Apple to McDonalds have shut down their operations in Russia, according to a database compiled by Yale University’s Chief Executive Leadership Institute.  But what exactly are the goals of the new sanctions regime against Moscow? Biden has stated that its primary objectives are “to impose severe costs on the Russian economy, both immediately and over time” and to turn Russian President Vladimir Putin into a “pariah on the international stage.” The New York Times has reported, citing current and former U.S. officials, that another aim is to “create domestic pressure on Putin to halt his war in Ukraine.” So far, Western sanctions have succeeded in delivering a serious blow to the Russian economy. The Russian ruble has lost almost 30% of its value against the dollar since February 24, a development which has caused prices on imported goods to skyrocket. Further exacerbating Russia’s inflation problem is a wave of panic buying in major cities across the country, with shoppers seeking to stock up on essentials ranging from basic food products to medicines. At the same time, Russian lawmakers have estimated that nearly 96,000 workers have been put on leave following the mass exodus of Western corporations.  Despite these economic costs, however, there is so far little sign that Western sanctions are changing Putin’s political calculus on Ukraine. If anything, there are some reasons to believe that growing sanctions pressure could encourage the Russian president to harden his stance.  Fyodor Lukyanov, chairman of the Council of Foreign and Defense Policy, a research group that advises the Russian government, explained to this page that the high costs inflicted on the Russian economy by Western sanctions have put significant pressure on Moscow to compensate for them with military successes. Consequently, the Kremlin could very well respond to increased sanctions pressure by doubling down on its military operation in Ukraine instead of seeking a diplomatic way out.  “If the West continues to impose new sanctions, then Russia will have no other option but to also raise the stakes because there is no room for retreat,” Lukyanov said. “There is no option in the current situation that would allow us to smoothly take a step back without suffering catastrophic political consequences.”  A similar argument was made by Dmitry Suslov, a professor of international relations at National Research University Higher School of Economics, one of Russia’s most elite universities. Suslov told us that there was currently a divide within the Russian political establishment between supporters of a diplomatic settlement with Ukraine and hawkish elements who want to continue fighting until the Russian military succeeds in bringing about “regime change” in Kyiv.  “Western sanctions right now are the central question,” he explained. “If the West makes it clear that sanctions will at least be partially removed once the military operation comes to an end, then the compromise faction will be strengthened. However, if Moscow gets the sense that the West is waging ‘total economic war’ against Russia, then Putin will have little incentive to not go all the way.”  Much of the Kremlin’s response to sanctions so far has centered on mitigating the damage to the Russian economy rather than hitting back at the West. For example, the Russian central bank has sought to keep the value of the ruble from sliding by hiking up its key interest rate to 20% and limiting foreign currency exchanges.  Yet both Lukyanov and Suslov predicted that Moscow could introduce its own export controls if tensions with the West continue to escalate. Although Russia’s economy ($1.65 trillion) is much smaller than that of the U.S. ($22.9 trillion) and the European Union ($17.1 trillion), Moscow is a major global supplier of key commodities such as oil, natural gas, grains, timber, and rare earth metals used in the production of computer chips, electric vehicles, and airplanes.  To be sure, such a move would also significantly damage the Russian economy by depriving it of much needed revenue, but Lukyanov and Suslov suggested that it's a price the Kremlin may be willing to pay if it concludes that the West will maintain its sanctions against Russia indefinitely.  What about the impact of sanctions on Russian public opinion? It is difficult to fully assess since the Kremlin has tightly regulated domestic media coverage of the conflict in Ukraine, detained thousands of anti-war protestors, and even introduced new legislation that threatens jail time for those who spread “fake news” about the Russian military. Under such circumstances, many critics of the government’s actions in Ukraine will understandably choose to remain silent.  However, based on the available polling data from a diverse range of sources... Subscribers to Outside Voices can click here to read the rest... NOTE FROM GLENN GREENWALD: As is true with all of the Outside Voices freelance articles that we publish here, we edit and fact-check the content to ensure factual accuracy, but our publication of an article or op-ed does not necessarily mean we agree with all or even any of the views expressed by the writer, who is guaranteed editorial freedom here. The objective of our Outside Voices page is to provide a platform for high-quality reporting and analysis that is lacking within the gates of corporate journalism, and to ensure that well-informed, independent reporters and commentators have a platform to be heard. Tyler Durden Sun, 03/27/2022 - 17:55.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytMar 27th, 2022

VC fund backed by sanctioned oligarch Roman Abramovich appears to have removed all information from its website

Roman Abramovich has been sanctioned by the UK and the EU amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, impacting businesses he has invested in. Roman Abramovich.Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images A VC fund backed by a sanctioned oligarch appears to have wiped information from its website. On March 14, Impulse VC's website was still operating, per a search on Wayback Machine. CNBC reported that the fund seemed to be trying to remove all traces of its operations. Impulse VC, a venture capital fund backed by sanctioned oligarch Roman Abramovich, appears to have altered its website to remove details about its operations. At the time of writing, only the company's name appeared when Insider checked the website. CNBC first reported the news that the fund appeared to be trying to remove any trace of its operations. Abramovich is among sanctioned Russian billionaires imposed by the UK and the EU, amid Russia's war in Ukraine. He is the owner of Chelsea FC and has tried to stay off-radar since the first sanctions hit. Impulse VC has offices in Russia and Germany. Launched in 2013, it provides funding and operational support to technology and media companies, per Crunchbase. However, the investment fund's website was still operating on March 14, per a search on Wayback Machine.Impulse VC did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment made outside of normal working hours. Charles Myers, the chairman of advisory firm Signum Global Advisors, said in an interview to CNBC that he didn't see how VC funds would be exempt from the sanctions. "So if Abramovich is sanctioned in the US, the VC and private equity funds will have to disgorge his capital which will be seized and frozen by the United States Treasury," he said.According to Tadviser, described as a Russian internet portal and analytical agency, one of Impulse's first investors was Abramovich. Meanwhile, Insider previously reported that the ownership of the company Norma Investments was transferred from Abramovich to David Davidovich the day Russia invaded Ukraine. Abramovich is one of the wealthiest oligarchs, whose superyachts' whereabouts have been closely monitored.  Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderMar 26th, 2022

Kevin McCarthy says Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff will be removed from House Intelligence Committee if GOP wins majority in midterms

"Why is he still even on the committee? In a new Congress, if it's a new majority, he will not be," Rep. Kevin McCarthy said on Friday. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy; Rep. Adam SchiffAlex Wong/Getty Images; Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Friday threatened to boot Adam Schiff from the House Intelligence Committee. If the House GOP wins a majority in the midterms, McCarthy said Schiff will no longer be part of the powerful panel. "Why is he still even on the committee? In a new Congress, if it's a new majority, he will not be," McCarthy said. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Friday said Republicans will remove Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff from the House Intelligence Committee if the GOP secures a majority in the November midterm elections. McCarthy, the top House Republican, said during a press conference that Schiff's presence and contributions politicized the committee. Schiff currently serves as the panel's chair."Why is he still chair of the committee and why is he still even on the committee? In a new Congress, if it's a new majority, he will not be," McCarthy said."You cannot make this committee political, you cannot use it as a position of chairman to lie, and you should be focused on what the American people want you to be focused on around the world," he continued.Schiff served largely as the ranking member of the powerful committee, which oversees the nation's intelligence agencies, during the Trump administration, where he was a vocal critic of the former Republican president and pressed for inquiries into the Trump campaign's relationship with Russia. Schiff became the committee's chair in 2019 after Democrats regained control of the House. McCarthy has previously vowed to kick other Democrats off their committee assignments if Republicans retake the House in November. When asked to justify his reason for advocating for their removal, McCarthy said Democrats have removed Republican lawmakers from committees. "The Democrats have created a new thing where they're picking and choosing who can be on committees," McCarthy told Breitbart. "Never in the history [of Congress] have you had the majority tell the minority who can be on [a] committee."House Democrats last year voted to strip Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from all her committee assignments after several news reports emerged showing the Georgia lawmaker voicing support for violence against Democrats. A Mother Jones report, for example, revealed she had served as a Facebook moderator for a group known for posting memes about executing Democratic lawmakers. She also was caught on camera harassing a survivor of the Parkland school shooting.Democrats also removed Rep. Paul Gosar, a Republican from Arizona, from his committee assignments after he posted an edited anime video showing him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. In response, McCarthy has identified several Democratic lawmakers he wants to be removed from their committee assignments. McCarthy, for example, expressed support for booting Rep. Eric Swalwell off of the House Intelligence Committee due to contact with a suspected Chinese spy that Swalwell disclosed to the FBI.He's also called for Rep. Ilhan Omar to get kicked off the House Foreign Affairs panel due to past comments he characterized as "antisemitic." In 2019, Omar said she "unequivocally" apologizes for suggesting there was a connection between GOP support of Israel and campaign donations.Insider's Brent D. Griffiths contributed to this report.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytMar 20th, 2022

Sperry: Ukraine Worked With Democrats Against Trump In 2016 To Stop Putin -- And It Backfired Badly

Sperry: Ukraine Worked With Democrats Against Trump In 2016 To Stop Putin -- And It Backfired Badly Authored by Paul Sperry via RealClearInvestigations, Six years ago, before Russia’s full-scale invasion of their country, the Ukrainians bet that a Hillary Clinton presidency would offer better protection from Russian President Vladimir Putin, even though he had invaded Crimea during the Obama-Biden administration, whose Russian policies Clinton vowed to continue. Working with both the Obama administration and the Clinton campaign, Ukrainian government officials intervened in the 2016 race to help Clinton and hurt  Donald Trump in a sweeping and systematic foreign influence operation that's been largely ignored by the press. The improper, if not illegal, operation was run chiefly out of the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington, where officials worked hand-in-glove with a Ukrainian-American activist and Clinton campaign operative to attack the Trump campaign. The Obama White House was also deeply involved in an effort to groom their own favored leader in Ukraine and then work with his government to dig up dirt on – and even investigate -- their political rival. Ukrainian and Democratic operatives also huddled with American journalists to spread damaging information on Trump and his advisers – including allegations of illicit Russian-tied payments that, though later proved false, forced the resignation of his campaign manager Paul Manafort. The embassy actually weighed a plan to get Congress to investigate Manafort and Trump and stage hearings in the run-up to the election. As it worked behind the scenes to undermine Trump, Ukraine also tried to kneecap him publicly. Ukraine's ambassador took the extraordinary step of attacking Trump in an Op-Ed article published in The Hill, an influential U.S. Capitol newspaper, while other top Ukrainian officials slammed the GOP candidate on social media. Ukraine's ambassador to the U.S. attacked Trump in an Op-Ed weeks before the 2016 election. At first glance, it was a bad bet as Trump upset Clinton. But by the end of his first year in office, Trump had supplied Ukrainians what the Obama administration refused to give them: tank-busting Javelin missiles and other lethal weapons to defend themselves against Russian incursions. Putin never invaded on Trump's watch. Instead, he launched an all-out invasion during another Democratic administration – one now led by President Biden, Barack Obama's former Vice President, whose Secretary of State last year alarmed Putin by testifying, “We support Ukraine's membership in NATO.” Biden boasted he’d go “toe to toe” with Putin, but that didn't happen as the autocrat amassed tanks along Ukraine’s border in response to the NATO overtures. The Ukrainian mischief is part of Special Counsel John Durham’s broader inquiry – now a full-blown criminal investigation with grand jury indictments – into efforts to falsely target Trump as a Kremlin conspirator in 2016 and beyond. Sources say Durham has interviewed several Ukrainians, but it’s not likely the public will find out exactly what he's learned about the extent of Ukraine’s meddling in the election until he releases his final report, which sources say could be several months away. In the meantime, a comprehensive account of documented Ukrainian collusion – including efforts to assist the FBI in its 2016 probe of Manafort – is pieced together here for the first time. It draws from an archive of previously unreported records generated from a secret Federal Election Commission investigation of the Democratic National Committee that includes never-before-reviewed sworn affidavits, depositions, contracts, emails, text messages, legal findings and other documents from the case. RealClearInvestigations also examined diplomatic call transcripts, White House visitor logs, lobbying disclosure forms, congressional reports and closed-door congressional testimony, as well as information revealed by Ukrainian and Democratic officials in social media postings, podcasts and books. 2014: Prelude to Collusion U.S. envoys Victoria Nuland and Geoffrey Pyatt helped bring to power Ukraine's Petro Poroshenko, right. (AP) The coordination between Ukrainian and Democratic officials can be traced back at least to January 2014. It was then when top Obama diplomats – many of whom now hold top posts in the Biden administration – began engineering regime change in Kiev, eventually installing a Ukrainian leader they could control. On Jan. 27, U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt phoned Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland at her home in Washington to discuss picking opposition leaders to check the power of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, whom they believed was too cozy with Putin. “We’ve got to do something to make it stick together,” Pyatt said of a planned coalition government, adding that they needed “somebody with an international personality to come out here and help to midwife this thing.” Nuland responded that Biden’s security adviser Jake Sullivan had just told her that the vice president – who was acting as Obama’s point man in Ukraine – would give his blessing to the deal. “Biden’s willing,” she said. But they agreed they had to “move fast” and bypass the European Union. “Fuck the EU,” Nuland told the ambassador, according to a leaked transcript of their call. Hunter Biden: His father helped engineer the rise of an amenable Ukrainian leader who would later fire a prosecutor investigating the son.   Nuland’s role in the political maneuvering was not limited to phone calls. She traveled to Kiev and helped organize street demonstrations against Yanukovych, even handing out sandwiches to protesters. In effect, Obama officials greased a revolution. Within months, Yanukovych was exiled and replaced by Petro Poroshenko, who would later do Biden’s bidding – including firing a prosecutor investigating his son Hunter. Poroshenko would also later support Clinton's White House bid after Biden decided not to run, citing the death of his older son Beau. The U.S. meddling resulted in the installation of an anti-Putin government next door to Russia. A furious Putin viewed the interference as an attempted coup and soon marched into Crimea. Nuland is now Biden’s undersecretary of state and Sullivan serves as his national security adviser. Whispering in their ear at the time was a fiery pro-Ukraine activist and old Clinton hand, Alexandra “Ali” Chalupa. A daughter of Ukrainian immigrants, Chalupa informally advised the State Department and White House in early 2014. She organized multiple meetings between Ukraine experts and the National Security Council to push for Yanukovych’s ouster and economic sanctions against Putin. In the NSC briefings, Chalupa also agitated against longtime attorney-lobbyist Manafort, who at the time was an American consultant for Yanukovych's Party of Regions, which she viewed as a cat’s paw of Putin. She warned that Manafort worked for Putin’s interests and posed a national security threat. At the same time, Chalupa worked closely with then-Vice President Biden’s team, setting up conference calls with his staff and Ukrainians. Another influential adviser at the time was former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, who provided Nuland with written reports on the Ukrainian crisis and Russia that echoed Chalupa’s warnings. Nuland treated them as classified intelligence, and between the spring of 2014 and early 2016, she received some 120 reports on Ukraine and Russia from Steele. 2015: The Move Against Manafort Commences Paul Manafort: Targeted by Chalupa over work for the ousted Ukrainian president and ties to Trump. (AP) In April 2015, the DNC hired Chalupa as a $5,000-a-month consultant, according to a copy of her contract, which ran through the 2016 election cycle. (Years earlier, Chalupa had worked full-time for the DNC as part of the senior leadership team advising Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.) After Trump threw his hat in the ring in June 2015, Chalupa grew concerned that Manafort was or would be involved with his campaign since Manafort had known Trump for decades and lived in Trump Tower. She expressed her concerns to top DNC officials and “the DNC asked me to do a hit on Trump,” according to a transcript of a 2019 interview on her sister’s podcast. (Andrea Chalupa, who describes herself as a journalist, boasted in a November 2016 tweet: “My sister led Trump/Russia research at DNC.”) Chalupa began encouraging journalists both in America and Ukraine to dig into Manafort’s dealings in Ukraine and expose his alleged Russian connections. She fed unsubstantiated rumors, tips and leads to the Washington Post and New York Times, as well as CNN, speaking to reporters on background so a DNC operative wouldn’t be sourced. “I spent many, many hours working with reporters on background, directing them to contacts and sources, and giving them information,” Chalupa said. But no reporter worked closer with her than Yahoo News correspondent Michael Isikoff. He even accompanied her to the Ukrainian Embassy, where they brainstormed attacks on Manafort and Trump, according to FEC case files. Chalupa was also sounding alarm bells in the White House. In November 2015, for example, she set up a White House meeting between a Ukrainian delegation including Ukraine Ambassador Valeriy Chaly and NSC advisers – among them Eric Ciaramella, a young CIA analyst on loan to the White House who later would play a significant role as anonymous "whistleblower" in Trump’s first impeachment. In addition to Putin’s aggression, the group discussed the alleged security threat from Manafort. Chalupa was back in the White House in December. All told, she would visit the Obama White House at least 27 times, Secret Service logs show, including attending at least one event with the president in 2016. Eric Ciaramella (middle right) across from Ukrainians in a June 2015 meeting at the White House, flanked by Biden security adviser Michael Carpenter and Ciaramella's NSC colleague Liz Zentos. ( January 2016: High-Level Meetings With Ukrainians in the White House On Jan. 12, 2016 – almost a month before the first GOP primary – Chalupa told top DNC official Lindsey Reynolds she was seeing strong indications that Putin was trying to steal the 2016 election for Trump. Emails also show that she promised to lead an effort to expose Manafort – whom Trump would not officially hire as his campaign chairman until May – and link him and Trump to the Russian government. That same day, Chalupa visited the White House. A week later, Obama officials gathered with Ukrainian officials traveling from Kiev in the White House for a series of senior-level meetings to, among other things, discuss reviving a long-closed investigation into payments to American consultants working for the Party of Regions, according to Senate documents. The FBI had investigated Manafort in 2014 but no charges resulted. One of the attendees, Ukrainian Embassy political officer Andrii Telizhenko, recalled Justice Department officials asking investigators with Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau, or NABU, if they could help find fresh evidence of party payments to such U.S. figures. (Three years later, Democrats would impeach Trump for allegedly asking Ukraine to dig up dirt on a political rival, Joe Biden.) The Obama administration’s enforcement agencies leaned on their Ukrainian counterparts to investigate Manafort, shifting resources from an investigation of a corrupt Ukrainian energy oligarch who paid Biden’s son hundreds of thousands of dollars through his gas company, Burisma. “Obama’s NSC hosted Ukrainian officials and told them to stop investigating Hunter Biden and start investigating Paul Manafort,” said a former senior NSC official who has seen notes and emails generated from the meetings and spoke on the condition of anonymity. Suddenly, the FBI reopened its Manafort investigation. “In January 2016, the FBI initiated a money laundering and tax evasion investigation of Manafort predicated on his activities as a political consultant to members of the Ukrainian government and Ukrainian politicians,” according to a report by the Justice Department’s watchdog. The White House summit with Ukrainian officials ran for three days, ending on Jan. 21, according to a copy of the agenda stamped with the Justice Department logo. It was organized and hosted by Ciaramella and his colleague Liz Zentos from the NSC. Other U.S. officials included Justice prosecutors and FBI agents, as well as State Department diplomats. The Ukrainian delegation included Artem Sytnyk, the head of NABU, and other Ukrainian prosecutors. Ciaramella was a CIA detailee to the White House occupying the NSC’s Ukraine desk in 2015 and 2016. In that role, Ciaramella met face-to-face with top Ukrainian officials and provided policy advice to Biden through the then-vice president's security adviser Michael Carpenter. He also worked with Nuland and Chalupa.Ciaramella was carried over to the Trump White House. As RealClearInvestigations first reported, he would later anonymously blow the whistle on Trump asking Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to help “get to the bottom of” Ukrainian meddling in the 2016 election, a phone call that triggered Trump’s first impeachment by a Democrat-controlled House. Ciaramella’s former NSC colleague Alexander Vindman leaked the call to him. Vindman, a Ukrainian-American, is also aligned with Chalupa. (Vindman is now back in the news for his demands that the United States provide more active military support to Ukraine and his insistence that Trump shares great blame for the war.) As Manafort drew closer to Trump, Obama officials zeroed in, and the FBI reopened a closed 2014 probe. (Justice Department Office of the Inspector General) February 2016: Obama White House-Ukraine Coordination Intensifies On Feb. 2, two weeks after the White House meetings, Secret Service logs reveal that Ciaramella met in the White House with officials from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, known as FinCEN, which would later provide the FBI highly sensitive bank records on Manafort. (In addition, a senior FinCEN adviser illegally leaked thousands of the confidential Manafort records to the media.) On Feb. 9, less than a month after the White House summit, Telizhenko, who worked for the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, met with Zentos of the NSC at a Cosi sandwich shop in Washington, according to emails obtained by the Senate. It's not known what they discussed. In addition, on Feb. 23, the two emailed about setting up another meeting the following day. “OK if I bring my colleague Eric, who works on Ukraine with me?” Zentos asked Telizhenko, apparently referring to Ciaramella. In the emails, they discussed the U.S. primary elections, among other things. NSC's Zentos and Ukraine's Telizhenko would meet and correspond numerous times during 2016. (HSGAC-Finance Committee Hunter Biden Report) Telizhenko would later testify that Ambassador Chaly had ordered him then to “start an investigation [into the Trump campaign] within the embassy just on my own to find out with my contacts if there’s any Russian connection that we can report back.” He suspects the Ambassador delivered that report to Chalupa and the DNC. Chalupa visited the White House on Feb. 22, entrance records show, just days before the second meeting Telizhenko had planned with Zentos. March 2016: Chalupa Engineers Manafort Messaging Assault With Ukrainians After Manafort was named Trump campaign chair, the campaign against him went into overdrive. New York Times On March 3, Zentos and Telizhenko planned to meet again, this time at a Washington bar called The Exchange. According to their email, Zentos wrote, “I’ll see if my colleague Eric is up for joining.” The pair also met the next day at Swing’s coffee house in Washington. After the meeting, Telizhenko emailed Zentos seeking a meeting with senior Obama NSC official Charlie Kupchan, an old Clinton hand who was Ciaramella’s boss on the Russia/Ukraine desk. Kupchan is an outspoken critic of Trump who has made remarks suggesting what countries “can do to stop him” and “protect the international institutions we’ve built .” Zentos and Telizhenko also met on March 10, patronizing the Cosi coffee shop again. On March 24, 2016, four days before the Trump campaign announced that it had hired Manafort, Chalupa met at the Ukrainian Embassy with Ambassador Chaly and his political counselor Oksana Shulyar, where they shared their concerns about Manafort, according to Politico. When news broke on March 28 that Manafort was joining the Trump campaign, Chalupa could hardly contain herself. “This is huge,” she texted senior DNC officials. “This is everything to take out Trump.” She immediately began circulating anti-Manafort memos, warning the DNC of the “threat” he posed of Russian influence. The next day, March 29, she briefed the DNC communications team about Manafort. They, in turn, hatched a plan to reach out to the Ukrainian Embassy to get President Porochenko to make an on-camera denouncement of Manafort and feed the footage to ABC News, where former Clinton aide George Stephanopoulos works as a top anchor. On March 30, Chalupa fired off an email to Shulyar, her contact at the Ukrainian Embassy: "There is a very good chance that President Poroshenko may receive a question from the press during his visit about the recent New York Times article saying that Donald Trump hired Paul Manafort as an adviser to his campaign and whether President Poroshenko is concerned about this considering Trump is the likely Republican nominee and given Paul Manafort’s meddling in Ukraine over the past couple of decades,” Chalupa wrote. "It is important President Poroshenko is prepared to address this question should it come up. In a manner that exposes Paul Manafort for the problems he continues to cause Ukraine." Within minutes of sending the email, Chalupa wrote the DNC’s communications director Luis Miranda, “The ambassador has the messaging.” Then she reached out to a friend in Congress, Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, about holding hearings to paint Manafort as a pro-Kremlin villain. April 2016: Chalupa Solicits Ukrainian Dirt on Trump, His Campaign, and Manafort Though accounts differ, Chalupa discussed Trump dirt with Ukrainian representatives. Federal Election Commission American presidential campaigns aren't supposed to work with foreign governments to dig up dirt on their political opponents. Geneva Convention rules bar diplomats from becoming entangled in their host country’s political affairs, particularly elections. There are also federal laws banning foreign nationals from engaging in operations to influence or interfere with U.S. political and electoral processes. In 2018, Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russian nationals on charges of conspiring to defraud the U.S. government for that purpose. But just weeks after Manafort was hired by the Trump campaign, the Ukrainian Embassy appeared to be working with the Clinton campaign to torpedo him and the campaign. Emails reveal that Chalupa and Shulyar, a top aide to Ambassador Chaly, agreed to meet for coffee on April 7, 2016, at Kafe Leopold, a restaurant near the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington. (Chalupa had paid a visit to the White House just three days earlier.) One of the purposes of the meeting, according to FEC case files, was to discuss Manafort and the danger he allegedly posed. They were joined at the café by Telizhenko, who said he was working on a “big story” on Manafort and Trump with the Wall Street Journal. In a sworn 2019 deposition taken by the FEC, Telizhenko alleged that Chalupa solicited “dirt” on Trump, Manafort, and the Trump campaign during the meeting. Telizhenko also testified that Chalupa told him that her goal was “basically [to] use this information and have a committee hearing under Marcy Kaptur, congresswoman from Ohio, in Congress in September and take him off the elections." Telizhenko later approached Ambassador Chaly about the DNC representative's overtures and he responded: “Yes. And I know that this is happening. You should work with her." After speaking with Chaly, Telizhenko claims that he went back to Shulyar who instructed him to help Chalupa. “I went to Oksana and said, ‘Like what are we doing?’” he testified. " And she told me, ‘You have to work with Chalupa. And any information you have, you give it to me, I’ll give it to her, then we’ll pass it on later to anybody else we are coordinating with.’” Less than a week later, on April 13, Telizhenko met again with White House official Zentos, email records reveal. Telizhenko said he resigned the next month because of concerns regarding his embassy’s work with Chalupa and the Clinton team. In her sworn account of the meeting, Chalupa acknowledged discussing Manafort and the “national security problem” he allegedly presented, but denied asking the embassy for help researching him. She allowed that she “could have mentioned the congressional investigation … that I had talked to Marcy Kaptur,” but maintained she couldn't recall trying to enlist the embassy in the effort. Shulyar, however, clearly recalls that Chalupa sought the embassy’s help warning the public about Manafort – including pitching stories to the press and lobbying Congress, according to a 2020 written statement to the FEC. An “idea floated by Alexandra Chalupa was that we approach a co-chair of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus to initiate a congressional hearing on Paul Manafort,” Shulyar said, though she denied the embassy acted on the idea. Around the same time, two Ukrainian lawmakers – Olga Bielkova and Pavlo Rizanenko – visited the U.S. and met with journalists, as well as a former State Department official with close ties to Sen. John McCain – David Kramer of the McCain Institute. Kramer would later leak the entire Steele dossier to the media. The meeting was arranged by major Clinton Foundation donor Victor Pinchuk, a Ukrainian oligarch who lobbied Clinton when she was Obama’s secretary of state. Bielkova was also connected to the Clinton Foundation, having once managed a Clinton Global Initiative program for Ukrainian college students. While Clinton was at Foggy Bottom from 2009 to 2013, Ukrainians gave more money – at least $10 million, including more than $8 million from Pinchuk – to the Clinton Foundation than any other nationality including Saudi Arabians. Pinchuk's donation was a down payment on an astounding $29 million pledge. On April 12, 2016, Bielkova also attended a meeting with Ciaramella and his NSC colleague Zentos, head of the Eastern Europe desk, according to lobbying disclosure records. In late April, Chalupa helped organize a Ukrainian-American protest against Manafort in his Connecticut hometown. Activists shouted for Trump to fire Manafort, whom they called “Putin’s Trojan Horse,” while holding signs that read: “Shame on Putin, Shame on Manafort, Shame on Trump” and “Putin, Hands Off the U.S. Election.” Chalupa also organized social media campaigns against Manafort and Trump, including one that encouraged activists to share the Twitter hashtags: “#TrumpPutin” and "#Treasonous Trump." Also that month, Chalupa reached out to Yahoo News reporter Isikoff to pitch a hit piece on Manafort. She connected him with a delegation of Ukrainian journalists visiting D.C. Isikoff would later be used by Steele to spread falsehoods from his dossier. May-June 2016: Manafort Dirt Spreads In a May 3 email, Chalupa alerted DNC communications director Luis Miranda and DNC opposition research director Lauren Dillion that there was “a lot more [dirt on Manafort] coming down the pipe[sic].” Chalupa told them the dirt has “a big Trump component” and would “hit in the next few weeks.” It’s not clear if she was referring to the notorious "black ledger” smear against Manafort, who was promoted to campaign chairman on May 19, but a story about it was brewing at the time. On May 30, Nellie Ohr, an opposition researcher for the Clinton-retained firm Fusion GPS, emailed her husband, Bruce Ohr, a top official at the Justice Department who would become a prime disseminator of the Steele dossier within the government, and two federal prosecutors to alert them to an article indicating NABU had suddenly discovered documents allegedly showing Manafort receiving illicit payments. Amid the flurry of anti-Manafort activity, Zentos met again with Telizhenko on May 4, records show. And Chalupa visited the White House for a meeting on May 13. Chalupa paid another visit to the White House on June 14, Secret Service logs show. On June 17, Ciaramella held a White House meeting with Nuland and Pyatt of the State Department to discuss undisclosed Ukrainian matters. In late June, the FBI signed an evidence-sharing agreement with NABU, less than two months before the Ukrainian anti-corruption agency released what it claimed was explosive new evidence on Manafort. July 2016: Ukrainian Officials Attack Trump Publicly Chalupa continued to pow-wow with the Ukrainian Embassy and got so cozy with officials there that they offered her a position, which she declined, as an “embedded consultant” in the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. That same month, high-ranking Ukrainian officials openly insulted Trump on social media in an unusual departure from normal diplomacy. For instance, Ukraine Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov tweeted that Trump was a “clown” who was “an even bigger danger to the U.S. than terrorism.” In another July post, he called Trump “dangerous for Ukraine.” And on Facebook, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk warned that Trump had “challenged the very values of the free world." (After Trump upset Clinton, Avakov and other officials tried to delete their statements from their social network accounts, saying that they had been wrong and had rushed to conclusions.) “It was clear that they were supporting Hillary Clinton’s candidacy,” Ukrainian lawmaker Andriy Artemenko told Politico. “They did everything from organizing meetings with the Clinton team to publicly supporting her to criticizing Trump." While attending the Democratic convention in Philadelphia, Chalupa spread the scurrilous rumor that Manafort was the mastermind behind the alleged Russian hacking of the DNC and that he “stole" her and other Democrats’ emails. She later told her sister’s podcast that she had reported her conspiracy theory to the FBI, eventually sitting down and meeting with agents in September to spin her tale of supposed espionage (the Senate has asked the FBI for copies of her interview summaries, known as FD-302s). Chalupa also prepared a report for the FBI, as well as members of Congress, detailing her Russiagate conspiracy theories, which Mueller later found no evidence to support. In addition, Chalupa helped spread a false narrative that Trump removed a reference to providing arms to Kiev from the Republican platform at the party's convention earlier that month. Internal platform committee documents show the Ukraine plank could not have been weakened as claimed, because the “lethal” weapons language had never been part of the GOP platform. The final language actually strengthened the platform by pledging direct assistance not just to the country of Ukraine, but to its military in its struggle against Russian-backed forces. August-September 2016: The Phony Manafort Ledger Leaks  A page released by Ukrainian authorities from the fake Manafort ledger. New York Times/NABU In another attempt to influence the 2016 election, Ukrainian lawmaker Serhiy Leshchenko leaked to the U.S. media what he claimed was evidence of a secret handwritten ledger showing Manafort had received millions in cash from Yanukovych’s party under the table. He claimed that 22 pages of the alleged ledger, which contained line items written by hand, had mysteriously appeared in his parliament mailbox earlier that year. Leshchenko would not identify the sender. A fuller copy of the same document showed up later on the doorstep of a Ukrainian intelligence official who passed it to NABU, which shared it with FBI agents stationed in Kiev. Leshchenko and NABU officials held press conferences declaring the document was “proof" of Manafort corruption and demanding he be “interrogated.” The Clinton campaign seized on the story. In an Aug. 14 statement, campaign manager Robby Mook stated: “We have learned of more troubling connections between Donald Trump's team and pro-Kremlin elements in Ukraine.” He demanded Trump "disclose campaign chair Paul Manafort's and all other campaign employees' and advisers' ties to Russian or pro-Kremlin entities." But there was a big hole in the story. Though Manafort was a consultant to Yanukovych's party, he was paid by wire, not in cash, casting serious doubt on the ledger’s authenticity. Another problem: the ledger was alleged to have been kept at party headquarters, but rioters had destroyed the building in a 2014 fire. Leshchenko admitted that he had a political agenda. He told The Financial Times at the time that he went public with the ledger because “a Trump presidency would change the pro-Ukrainian agenda in American foreign policy.” He added that most of Ukraine’s politicians are “on Hillary Clinton’s side." Leshchenko also happened to be "a source for Fusion GPS,” as Nellie Ohr confirmed under questioning during a 2019 closed-door House hearing, according to a declassified transcript. Fusion was a paid agent of the Clinton campaign, which gave the private opposition-research firm more than $1 million to gin up connections between Trump and Russia. Fusion hired Steele to compile a series of “intelligence” memos known as the dossier. As a former MI6 operative, Steele gave the allegations a sheen of credibility. FBI counterintelligence veteran Mark Wauck said the dossier and the black ledger both appear to have originated with Fusion GPS, which laundered it through foreigners who hated Trump – Steele and Leshchenko. "The ledger and the dossier are both Fusion hit jobs,” Wauck said. “The two items shared a common origin: the Hillary campaign’s oppo research shop." In an August 2016 memo written for Fusion GPS, “The Demise of Trump’s Campaign Manager Paul Manafort,” Steele claimed he had corroborated Leshchenko’s charges through his anonymous Kremlin sources, who turned out to be nothing more than beer buddies of his primary source collector, Igor Danchenko, a Russian immigrant with a string of arrests in the U.S. for public intoxication, as RealClearInvestigations first reported. Danchenko had worked for the Brookings Institution, a Democratic think tank in Washington that Durham has subpoenaed in connection to its own role in Russiagate. Danchenko was indicted last year by Special Counsel Durham for lying about his sources, including one he completely made up, as RCI reported. “YANUKOVYCH had confided in PUTIN that he did authorize and order substantial kick-back payments to MANAFORT as alleged,” Steele claimed in the unsubstantiated report, citing “a well-placed Russian figure” with knowledge of a "meeting between PUTIN and YANUKOVYCH” allegedly “held in secret” on Aug. 15. As a paid informant, Steele had long reported to the FBI about alleged corruption involving Yanukovych. The FBI used his Clinton-funded dossier as a basis to obtain warrants to spy on former Trump adviser Carter Page, including the false claim that Page acted as an intermediary between Russian leadership and Manafort in a “well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” that included sidelining Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue. Steele also falsely claimed that Page had helped draft the RNC platform statement to be more sympathetic to Russia’s interests by eliminating language about providing weapons to Ukraine, according to a report by the Department of Justice's watchdog. In fact, Page was not involved in the GOP platform. The misinformation came from Danchenko’s fictional source. Fusion co-founder Glenn Simpson worked closely with the New York Times on the Manafort ledger story. In his book, “Crime in Progress,” Simpson boasts of introducing Leshchenko to the Times as a source, who ended up providing the paper some of the dubious ledger records. On Aug. 19, Manafort stepped down from the Trump campaign the day after the Times reported what it had been fed by the anti-Trump operatives. In effect, Ukrainian government officials tried to help Clinton and undermine Trump by disseminating documents implicating a top Trump aide in corruption and telling the American media they were investigating the matter. In 2018, a Ukrainian court ruled that Leshchenko and NABU’s Sytnyk illegally interfered in the 2016 U.S. election by publicizing the black ledger. Among the evidence was a recording of Sytnyk saying the agency released the ledger to help Clinton’s campaign – “I helped her,” Sytnyk is recorded boasting. But the damage was done. The Ukrainians, along with Chalupa and the Clinton camp, achieved their goal of undermining the Trump campaign by prompting Manafort’s ouster though they never proved he was colluding with the Russians. Neither did Special Counsel Mueller. In fact, Mueller did not use the ledger to prosecute Manafort after a key witness for the prosecution told him it was fabricated. “Mueller ended up dropping it like a hot potato,” Wauck said.  Ukraine’s neutrality in the election was also called into further question that September, when Porochenko met with Clinton during a stop in New York. He never met with Trump, who appeared to get the cold shoulder from the Ukrainian leader. In statements following Trump’s surprise victory over Clinton in November, Ukraine’s embassy has denied interfering in the election and insisted that Chalupa was acting on her own. Epilogue After Trump won the election in spite of her efforts to sabotage him, Chalupa predicted: “Under President Trump, the Kremlin could likely invade U.S. allies in Europe without U.S. opposition.” Not only did Russia not invade Europe “under Trump,” it didn’t even invade Ukraine. Rather, the invasion came under Biden, whose campaign Chalupa supported. Yet she continues to blame Trump. Recent tweets show a still-obsessed Chalupa has not dialed back her extremist views about Trump or Manafort, whom she believes should be prosecuted for “treason." In a Feb. 28 post on Twitter, for example, Chalupa claimed that Putin installed “a puppet regime in the U.S. with the help of Paul Manafort.” The previous day, she tweeted, “We had a Putin installed Trump presidency.” A day before that, she wrote: “Now would be a good time to release the Putin-Trump treason calls.” And on Feb. 25, Chalupa tweeted another wild conspiracy theory: "It’s important to note that Putin’s imperial aspirations are of a global criminal empire, as we saw when he installed Donald J. Trump president and tried to turn the U.S. into a Russian satellite state." Tyler Durden Fri, 03/11/2022 - 19:00.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytMar 11th, 2022

Hundreds of CEOs Came Out Against Russia. Their Involvement Could Change War Forever

Traditionally, corporations that do business with countries that are considered international pariahs have drawn a bright line between matters of trade and matters of state. Many CEOs see it more or less as Mark Weil of global business service provider TMF group does: “If I start saying, I don’t much like that government—and there are… Traditionally, corporations that do business with countries that are considered international pariahs have drawn a bright line between matters of trade and matters of state. Many CEOs see it more or less as Mark Weil of global business service provider TMF group does: “If I start saying, I don’t much like that government—and there are plenty of governments whose actions one might choose not to like very much—we wouldn’t do business anywhere,” he says. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Besides, trade between nations is supposed to be good for peace and prosperity, so those who help it along consider themselves the good guys. “We’re part of the cog of capitalism that spreads investment employment wealth,” says Weil of his company’s work providing compliance and administrative services around the world, including in Russia and Ukraine. “And generally there is some correlation between inward investment and prosperity and various freedoms.” But these calculations have changed since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. The NATO countries and their western cousins quickly slammed an unprecedented suite of financial and economic penalties on Russia. While cutting off an aggressor from outside resources is almost as old a battle tool as battering rams, these economic restrictions were of a breadth and depth that had never been leveled against a country with such a large GDP before. And they were enhanced by the number of corporations and private enterprises that unilaterally announced they would suspend or completely terminate business dealings there. Having jumped in with both feet, the business world has become enmeshed in an international geopolitical conflict with a whole new force, which could have a significant impact on how wars are fought—and peace is negotiated—in the future. Read More: How Big Business Got Woke and Dumped Trump In the space of a few days the statements rolled in from energy companies, credit card companies, media companies, management firms, tech giants, and on Thursday, even banks. It wasn’t just that they announced their departures in their usual neutral corporate-speak; many of them shook the dust off their feet before leaving. “We are compelled to act following Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, and the unacceptable events that we have witnessed,” said Al Kelly, chairman and CEO of Visa Inc. Accenture, calling for an end to “unlawful and horrific attack on the people of Ukraine and their freedom,” said it was discontinuing its business in Russia. In an email to franchisees and employees about temporarily closing all its restaurants in Russia, McDonalds CEO Chris Kempczinski said the company “cannot ignore the needless human suffering unfolding in Ukraine.” On Mar. 4, TMF Group joined the boycott, sort of. Weil announced that TMF group be wrapping up any work with Russian clients, but would continue to serve clients who were doing business in Russia. “I found it a very difficult decision. Not because I was scared of the immediate consequences or thought it was a difficult moral judgment but it’s that sense of crossing a line,” he says. If he changes his company’s blanket “no politics” stance in this situation, then other situations are negotiable too. But the arguments on the counter side were too strong. He has an office in Ukraine, and was shocked at what was happening there. He wanted to communicate to his employees that he meant it when he said integrity was one of the company’s core values, and he wanted to get ahead of any trouble. “It was partly me thinking, why are we wasting our time waiting for sanctions?” How corporations became corporals What has surprised sanctions experts is how many of these corporations are, like TMF, imposing these restrictions on themselves, and how quickly they moved. In many cases they decided to exit Russia before being ordered to by any government. “I’m surprised at the scope and scale of what the private sector has done,” says Juan Zarate, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, who was a deputy national security adviser in the George W. Bush administration. “Even before sanctions really took full hold or before the full suite of sanctions were unrolled, you had the private sector making decisions to divest, to withdraw investments, to minimize exposure to Russia.” While businesses have increasingly become accustomed to what is known as de-risking or over-complying with international sanctions, the conflict in Ukraine has generated a different level of corporate behavior. “I’ve spent pretty much my entire career working around sanctions,” says Daniel Tannebaum, the Global Head of Sanctions at Oliver Wyman, “and we’ve not seen something quite like this in terms of the self-sanctioning.” Perhaps the most remarkable exits were those by the energy companies, who had sunk a lot of money into partnerships with Russia and were among the first to announce their exits. Many companies’ bottom lines would not be much affected by closing their Moscow offices. But Shell’s liquified natural gas joint venture with Gazprom, Sakhalin 2, was considered a jewel in its crown. “IKEA pulling out is not surprising to me. IKEA’s had problems with corruption and other issues in its dealings in Russia for a long time. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” says Zarate. “But BP and Shell and Exxon? Russia is a major partner, a major player in the energy market, that’s a big deal.” Read More: With the State of the World in the Hands of Big Business, Some Executives Think It Can Pay to Do Good The business sector’s swift buy-in to the economic isolation of Russia has made the sanctions more effective, says Bryan Early, an associate dean for research at Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy at SUNY Albany, because “economic sanctions tend to work better when they are imposed in packages that are large and highly disruptive and impose an immediate strong impact, as opposed to economic sanctions that are imposed through gradual escalation.” That way, the offending countries do not have time to figure out a workaround and find new trading partners or financiers before they start to feel the impact. The more businesses pull out, the less economic sense it makes for others to remain. The cost of doing business in Russia rises. It’s harder to find the goods and services needed to keep the business running. The number of people who can afford a given company’s products or require its services grows ever smaller. “Companies likely would not be able to earn any money in the Russian market going forward and even if they did earn that money they’d have no ability to actually bring that money back into the U.S. financial system,” says Leo Feler, senior economist at UCLA Anderson school of management. The net effect of so many companies exiting or pausing operations in Russia means the government sanctions might almost become a moot point. “It’s a chicken and egg story. If enough businesses abandon the Russian market on their own, the Russian market is also going to shrink,” says Feler. “You don’t need sanctions to do it if everyone’s self-sanctions.” The future of global warfare The longer term consequences of private enterprises essentially opting to add their power to the engines of war are unknown. “I think we’re an uncharted waters now, as to the effects of this,” says Zarate. Compliance experts are not sure how best to advise clients. “We’ve just not seen a situation where sanctions were literally brought to a gunfight in a very long time,” says Tannebaum. “So that is a bit of the challenge.” As an advisor to major financial services firms, which are mostly still doing business in Russia, Tannebaum says he’s in a lot of discussions about what move to make next and what the result would be without any clear answers. “This playbook is being written as we’re speaking,” he says. One sure outcome is that Russia will be more cut off to influence from the West than ever. “We’ve accelerated the isolation of a major global economy in a way that we haven’t in modern history,” says Zarate. This isolation may make the war and subsequent occupation in Ukraine logistically, financially, and politically punishing for Putin to complete. But it also may force Russian enterprises to seek trading partners elsewhere, notably China. The two main Russian banks, Sberbank and Tinkoff Bank are already said to be considering using cards powered by China’s UnionPay system after Mastercard and Visa removed access to their services. Read More: Henry Kissinger’s Last Crusade: Stopping Dangerous AI A warmer Chinese-Russian alliance could represent a significant shift in the global balance of power and trade. But analysts are dubious. “Thus far, China has neither condemned nor endorsed the actions in Ukraine. If you look at some of the underlying Chinese financial institutions, I don’t see the appetite of really welcoming with open arms kind of a mass volume of activity,” says Tannebaum. “This was more than the Chinese government had anticipated. I think that’s become extremely clear. So I’m not sure how much support China will provide.” The West’s other trading partners may be scrutinizing the dramatic, co-ordinated moves that America and European governments and private enterprises are prepared to make in concert and the devastation such acts can cause and consider their own vulnerability. Putin knew sanctions were coming, and tried to create some sanction-proof networks and firewalls, but they proved insufficient. “One of the lessons that you can glean from this is that it’s very, very difficult to disconnect yourself from the global economy or protect yourself in the case of an overwhelming desire to impose economic punishment for bad behavior,” says Early. “If there are countries that are considering doing something that would lead to global stigmatization and a global punishment, they might have learned some lessons from this that it’s a lot harder to protect yourself from from the exposure.” A shift in diplomatic leverage As the business world begins to flex its diplomatic muscles, actual diplomats and statesmen may find that they have less impact and control than they’re used to. Some of the levers of power have been transferred to a different operator, with different priorities. “The private sector has a voice in this now and is a prime agent in the isolation of the Russian economy. It will have a say in how Russia is reintegrated if ever,” says Zarate. “But it also makes diplomacy a bit more unwieldy.” Several experts pointed to the Iran nuclear deal, for which then Secretary of State John Kerry went on a global tour trying to persuade banks that the sanctions on Iran had been lifted and they should start doing business there. They all declined, which made it almost impossible for other businesses to set up shop, leading Iran to accuse the West of not holding up its end of the deal. Even if some negotiated settlement could be reached in Ukraine, in return for the lifting of sanctions, many companies may not choose to reinvest in Russia. “Diplomats don’t control the decision-making of McDonalds’ board or of BP’s CEO,” says Zarate, who wrote about the growing role of private enterprise in his book, Treasury’s War. Typically, removal of sanctions is accompanied by promises of foreign investment as inducements to persuade warring nations to lay down their arms. “The private sector has its own risk calculus and its own reputational calculus that may not coincide with the diplomatic off-ramps that are often discussed, in terms of turning off the pressure from sanctions or converting the pressure of sanctions into carrots.” It’s not just a matter of whether corporations will re-invest in Russia. The unusual and undiplomatic manner in which the corporations announced their exits—with terms of disgust and dismay rather than the usual oblique references to operational difficulties and the uncertainty of the situation—may make Russian authorities less than eager to welcome them back. If the negotiated settlement is imperfect, which all deals usually are, investors and employees may protest that the conditions that led to the exit have not improved significantly. It’s possible a desire among businesses to emphasize their ESG bona fides has scorched their bridges back to Moscow, and Moscow’s bridge out of the conflict. For CEOs and boards, the downstream question is whether corporate leaders have opened a door that will make future moral considerations about where to do business more complicated. If companies are prepared to make a stand on behalf of the Ukrainians, why are they not prepared to make a stand on behalf of the Uighurs, the Rohingya, or other oppressed peoples? Weil expects some blowback from his employees. “It feels like we made a tough, but correct choice,” he says. “But I know I’m going to get emails saying, ‘I can’t believe you haven’t done anything to look after [this oppressed group] and I’m going to stress to them, ‘Look, don’t expect me to be your ethical instrument. We can’t have what’s now nearly 10,000 employees having their individual preferences satisfied by the policies we adopt. You have to accept that this was exceptional.'”.....»»

Category: topSource: timeMar 11th, 2022

eXp Holdings Sees Significant Q4 and Annual Earnings Surge

Last year’s frenzied market proved to be a boon for eXp World Holdings, Inc. (Nasdaq: EXPI), the parent company for eXp Realty, which capped off 2021 with a significant quarterly and annual increase in revenue, according to its latest earnings report. The company earned $1.1 billion in the fourth quarter of 2021—up 77% from the […] The post eXp Holdings Sees Significant Q4 and Annual Earnings Surge appeared first on RISMedia. Last year’s frenzied market proved to be a boon for eXp World Holdings, Inc. (Nasdaq: EXPI), the parent company for eXp Realty, which capped off 2021 with a significant quarterly and annual increase in revenue, according to its latest earnings report. The company earned $1.1 billion in the fourth quarter of 2021—up 77% from the same period the year prior. It also tallied a 110% increase in earnings for the entire year, raking in a total of $3.8 billion. The report highlighted an 85% jump in gross profit for 2021, accounting for $296 million. The company tallied an $83.1 million profit in the year’s final three months—up 65% from Q4 2020. Company executives attributed the quarterly and annual performance to eXp’s emphasis on agent-focused tech solutions that helped drive a massive recruitment push throughout 2021. “2021 was another year of tremendous growth for eXp, as our core focus on innovation enabled us to welcome nearly 30,000 new agents across six continents to eXp,” said Glenn Sanford, founder, chairman and CEO of eXp World Holdings, in a statement. During a Feb. 24 earnings call, Sanford noted that the company would look to enhance its value proposition for agents through several initiatives, including eXp’s revenue share program, which shares 50% of its revenue received from each transaction, before expenses are removed, with agents. “We are enhancing that with profits from our affiliated company services to actually pay out more than 50% of company dollar in 2022 to our agents and brokers who have helped us grow,” he said. Jason Gesing, CEO of eXp Realty, dove a bit deeper into some of the growth the company experienced on the brokerage side of the business, highlighting the performance of real estate professionals affiliated with the brand. According to the earnings report, agents and brokers on the eXp Realty platform increased 72% to 71,137. However, during the call, Gesing and Sanford noted that the company surpassed 76,000 agents within the company overall. “We continue to bring on top performers in all markets, and they come with other folks, so every time someone comes over, people turn heads and they inquire and learn about the company, and ultimately they join,” Gesing said. In its report, eXp reported that its agents saw a 52% increase in closed real estate transactions during the fourth quarter of 2021. Its agents closed 444,367 transactions for the entire year—an increase of 86% compared to 2020. Real estate transaction volume also jumped 82% to $44.9 billion in the fourth quarter of 2021 and 116% to $156.1 billion YoY. “We’ve been able to expand by utilizing our platform,” Gesing said, adding that the company added nine countries to its global footprint. In 2021, eXp Realty expanded into Puerto Rico, Brazil, Italy, Hong Kong, Colombia, Spain, Israel, Panama and Germany. In February, the company will also launch in the Dominican Republic and plans to establish operations in Greece and New Zealand in the first quarter of 2022. “We’ve done this really without having to get on any planes or visit any of these markets,” Gesing said. During the call, Gesing also pointed to several of eXp’s efforts to “make agents’ lives easier,” which he claimed helped drive the brokerage’s growth. That included eXp’s eXpert Care Concierge service, which the company noted resolved nearly 300,000 inquiries. “Going back to 2016 when we crossed 1,000 agents for the first time, we recognized that as important as any other factor, what is going to drive and sustain growth is making sure that we are delivering great experiences for our agents,” Gesing added. Jordan Grice is RISMedia’s associate online editor. Email him your real estate news to The post eXp Holdings Sees Significant Q4 and Annual Earnings Surge appeared first on RISMedia......»»

Category: realestateSource: rismediaFeb 25th, 2022

Ukrainians living in Britain tell of fears for their family and call for more sanctions as they protest against Russia"s invasion: photos

Crowds of protesters, waving Ukraine's flag and bearing placards, took to the streets outside the British Prime Minister's office. People gathering outside the British Prime Minister's office carried signs and Ukrainian flags.Abby Wallace/Insider. Crowds outside government offices in London on Thursday protested against Russia's invasion.  Ukrainians in the crowd who talked to Insider said they feared for their family members in Ukraine. The crowd also called for more sanctions against Russia and more military aid for Ukraine. Ukrainians living in Britain took to the streets of London to protest against Russia's invasion.People gathered outside the prime minister's office on Downing Street to protest against Russia's attack on Ukraine.Abby Wallace/Insider.Hundreds of people gathered outside the offices of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in central London on Thursday to protest against Russia's invasion of Ukraine.Draped in Ukrainian flags and carrying homemade signs, several people who talked to Insider told of their fears for family and friends in Ukraine, and called for stronger sanctions against Russia from the British and other world governments. The invasion has already forced many Ukrainian citizens to flee their homes or take shelter underground.People at the protest had been in touch with family members and friends in Ukraine.People outside the prime minister's office were carrying Ukrainian flags.Abby Wallace/Insider.Many of those were marching as reports emerged of developments in Ukraine. Anton Korchagin, the president of University College London's Ukrainian Society, said his parents and his sister were taking shelter in a bomb shelter in Kyiv, the country's capital. Korchagin said the latest Western sanctions didn't go far enough, adding: "We want Russia to be sanctioned on a full scale, we want Russia to be disconnected from SWIFT."There have been calls — including from Ukrainian lawmakers — that the sanctions imposed on Russia should include its expulsion from SWIFT, the global payment system that enables international bank transfers. Countries, including the US and the UK, ramped up financial sanctions against Russia on Thursday but haven't included SWIFT among the measures.People called for more financial sanctions.One demonstrator, Lesia Scholey, said sanctions needed to be tougher.Abby Wallace/Insider.Those calls for tougher sanctions were echoed by Lesia Scholey, who works with the Ukrainian Institute in London.Scholey, whose father was born in Ukraine, said: "I think the main thing is we need to detach Russia from any financing — that would be kicking them out of the SWIFT payment system as soon as possible."Numerous demonstrators called for Russia to be removed from the SWIFT financial-payments system.People outside the prime minister's office carried homemade signs.Abby Wallace/Insider.Regan, a demonstrator who did not want to reveal his full name, told Insider that economic measures were the most effective way to defuse the escalating situation."We need to introduce any sanctions we can," Regan said. "We need to remove Russia's access to SWIFT so that international transactions can stop. I don't know what else, there are options and we need to take them."Ukrainians said families at home were taking shelter and stocking up on food.People outside the prime minister's office carried homemade signs.Abby Wallace/Insider.Soon after the Russian military offensive was launched Thursday, blasts could be heard as airstrikes hit Kyiv and other cities in the east of the country, multiple news outlets reported. The attacks prompted residents to flee to bomb shelters and metro stations, while images emerged of people lining up in the cities of Kyiv and Kharkiv to access groceries and cash.Another demonstrator, Yuri, whose mother is in Ukraine, said people there were panicking and stocking up on food."People are buying everything out from the shops, many people don't have any food stock saved for long time periods," Yuri said. "My friend moved to a nearby small town because there are some better places to hide out there. The situation is very worrying."Andriy, who also did not want to share his full name, said that his family had packed their bags and were ready to leave the western city of Lviv at any time. Some of the marchers called for more military assistance for Ukraine.Demonstrators gathered outside the Prime Minister's office with signs and Ukrainian flags.Abby Wallace/Insider.Amid chants of "UK support Ukraine" and "sanctions now," people in the crowd also called for more military equipment from the UK and the West.Yevhen Huniak, whose parents are still in Ukraine, said Western aid so far was "not enough.""There is a dramatic difference between the Ukrainian army and Putin's army," Huniak added.US President Joe Biden said Thursday that he would deploy more US troops to reinforce NATO's eastern flank but would not send troops to Ukraine. People are worried for the safety of families in Ukraine amid Russian airstrikes.Demonstrators were draped in Ukrainian flags.Abby Wallace/Insider.Hannah Vityk, who is from Ukraine but has been living in London since 2004, said she visited Ukraine briefly last week.Vityk described the situation in the country at the time as "very normal," adding: "People were just continuing their work."Now, Vityk said: "My family are sitting in a basement, and I'm not sure if I will see them again."Some Russian protesters also joined the crowd.Some Russian demonstrators also joined.Abby Wallace/Insider.Among the crowds were some Russian people bearing placards, most of whom were reluctant to speak with Insider.Polina (not pictured above), who is from Russia, stood outside Downing Street to "support the nation that is super close to us.""From Russia's side, they need to withdraw the troops and stop this," Polina told Insider, adding: "Knowing the history, we're here in front of Downing Street not in front of the Russian Embassy because there's more chance that the UK will do something in comparison to Russia, unfortunately."Many of the placards were targeted at Russian President Vladimir Putin.People at the prime minister's office carried homemade signs.Abby Wallace/Insider.Another demonstrator, Nesta Gogodze, who is from the former Soviet republic of Georgia, told Insider he "wasn't surprised" when the invasion began."Everything we are witnessing now in Ukraine started in 2008 in Georgia," Gogodze said, referring to August 2008 when Russian tanks rolled into the country."Many, including in the west and in 10 Downing Street, saw this as an isolated incident," Gogodze said, adding, "the West has woken up, but they have to go further."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderFeb 25th, 2022

Photos: a record-breaking number of ships sailed through the Suez Canal in 2021, including the redemptive return of the "Ever Given"

Massive ships that made it through the Suez Canal this year, including Ever Given and its even larger sibling, Ever Ace. Zhang Jingang/VCG via Getty Images More ships sailed through The Suez Canal this year than ever before. The record number comes amid supply-chain chaos, the coronavirus pandemic, and the Ever Given's 6-day grounding.  See the massive ships that made it through, including the Ever Given's larger sibling, "Ever Ace." A total of 20,694 ships traveled through The Suez Canal this year, the SCA's chairman announced on Sunday.Container ships sail in Suez Canal, during the 150th anniversary of the Suez Canal.Gehad Hamdy/picture alliance via Getty ImagesSource: BloombergThe record-breaking feat defies a year riddled with supply-chain chaos, the pandemic, and of course, the Ever Given's dramatic 6-day blocking of the canal.Touring the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.Thomas Pallini/InsiderAmong the tens of thousands of ships that made it through the Suez Canal this year was the recently repaired Ever Given and its even-larger sibling, Ever Ace.Yu Fangping / Costfoto/Barcroft Media via Getty ImagesIn a tale of redemption, the Ever Given successfully journeyed through the canal four months after it blocked the global waterway in March 2021.A view shows the container ship Ever Given, one of the world's largest container ships, after it was partially refloated, in Suez Canal, Egypt March 29, 2021Suez Canal Authority via ReutersSource: InsiderThe successful voyage was fantastic news for the global shipping industry — the Ever Given saga cost the global economy an estimated $400 million per hour.Container ship Ever Given stuck in the Suez Canal, Egypt on March 27, 2021.Kristin Carringer/MaxarSource: InsiderIn October, it was spotted in Qingdao, China, as its underwent repairs.Yu Fangping / Costfoto/Barcroft Media via Getty ImagesSource: InsiderPhotos revealed how six days stuck inside the canal destroyed the ship's famous red "bulbous bow."The Ever Given container ship which blocked the Suez Canal for nearly a week in March arrived in Qingdao on Monday for repair.Li Ziheng/Xinhua via Getty ImagesSource: InsiderMore than 1 million cubic feet of sand and mud had to be removed from around the ship as workers worked round-the-clock to dislodge both the bow and stern.Suez Canal Authority via APIn November, photos showed the repaired bow with a fresh coat of paint at a shipyard in China's Shandong Province.Yu Fangping / Costfoto/Barcroft Media via Getty ImagesSoon, the Ever Given reappeared on shipping schedules and began transporting freight between Europe and Asia once again — just in time for holiday shipping surges.Containers loaded onto the recently repaired Ever Given ship.Zhang Jingang/VCG via Getty ImagesThe "mega" container ship is larger than the Titanic and longer than the Empire State Building is high, but its new sibling is even bigger.Container ships are getting larger every year — the Ever Given is longer than three football fields.Zhang Jingang/VCG via Getty ImagesMeet Ever Ace: the world's largest container ship. According to American Bureau of Shipping records, the two ships are the same length, but the Ever Ace is wider and deeper.The Ever Ace has room on board for 23,992 boxes and 200,000 tonnes of cargo.Georg Wendt/picture alliance via Getty ImagesSource: InsiderThe Ever Ace is an Evergreen A-class, which can hold up to 23,992 cargo units. This is up from the 20,124 cargo units that the Ever Given, which is an Evergreen G-class ship, can carry.The "Ever Ace", one of the largest container ships in the world, is guided by tugs on the Elbe into the Port of Hamburg to moor at the Burchardkai container terminal.Georg Wendt/picture alliance via Getty ImagesSource: InsiderThe Ever Ace made its maiden voyage this summer, sailing through The Suez Canal for the first time on August 28, 2021.People gather as ship Ever Given is seen in Suez Canal, Egypt March 29, 2021.REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El GhanyEleven other mega container ships are being built in the make of the Ever Ace, three of which could become operational this year.A dockworker directs container ship CSCL GLOBE.Yu Fangping/VCG/Getty Images"Mega" container ships like these have more than doubled in size over the past decade to keep up with global trade demand.Associated PressThe vessels' larger-than-life size is contributing to the supply-chain crisis that's caused record-breaking backlogs at US ports, Kip Louttit, executive director of the Marine Exchange of Southern California, told Insider.Jeff Gritchen/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty ImagesEgypt's Suez Canal Authority announced plans to widen and deepen the waterway in May to help prevent future container ships from getting stuck.Stranded ships waiting in the queue to cross the Suez Canal on March 27, 202, as it's blocked by the Ever Given ship.MAHMOUD KHALED/AFP via Getty Images/InsiderThe deepening project will likely be complete in July 2023, Bloomberg reported.The Ever Given is accompanied by Suez Canal tugboats as it moves in the Suez Canal, Egypt, Monday, March 29, 2021.Suez Canal Authority via APSource: BloombergSCA Chairman Osama Rabie said even more ships are expected to pass through the canal next year due to increased ship production, according to the outlet.Seafarers on a ship waiting for their vaccinations.Sina Schuldt/DPA/Getty ImagesSource: BloombergRead the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytJan 16th, 2022