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[Markets] Dispatches from a Pandemic: I’ve already been injected with a COVID vaccine. This is why I’m cheering for the Novavax underdog 'No, I never considered it was risky, and no, of course, I’m not getting paid. I just received my second shot a few days ago,' writes Pierre Briançon of volunteering for a vaccine trial in London.
Published:12/1/2020 5:20:08 AM
[Markets] A November for the market record books: Morning Brief Top news and what to watch in the markets on Tuesday, December 1, 2020. Published:12/1/2020 5:20:08 AM
[Markets] : France defies U.S. and starts levying digital tax on tech giants. But will this change with a Biden presidency? The French government has sent notices to multinational internet companies that they should pay the country’s digital tax in December, a finance ministry spokesman said.
Published:12/1/2020 4:50:26 AM
[Markets] What About Scottish Independence? What About Scottish Independence? Tyler Durden Tue, 12/01/2020 - 05:00

Authored by Bill Blain via,

Yesterday was St Andrew’s Day, Scotland’s National Saint’s Day. I think it’s worth noting and considering Scotland in context of this vexed and troubled year for the United Kingdom.

Brexit remains an immediate threat, Covid will still batter the economy for the next 6 months, and long-term we’ve got issues like future trade, the transition to a carbon neutral climate friendly economy to solve. When government has spent 40 years dithering about a new railway “Oop-North” and vital questions such as what colour to paint Heathrow airport – it’s difficult be positive about the Long-Term.  

I don’t need to tell Porridge Readers how bleak things look for UK Inc in terms of the underperformance on the FTSE, Sterling weakness, our failure to grow any significant new tech industries, or the current battle for the Soul of Government as modernisers try to argue spending our way of crisis is a valid solution, (which I believe it is), while the orthodoxy continues to preach that raising taxes, cutting services and cutting the deficit. Austerity will made a bad year utterly appaling.

While Boris is floundering, Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon is having a good Pandemic. She’s an accomplished politician and crowd-pleaser. In May 2021 signs are the Scottish National Party will win an overall majority in Holyrood, the Scottish Parliament – largely on the back of blaming Boris for everything. They will push and shove for another Scottish Referendum on Independence. It will be fraught, bitter and if it happens, and create even more support if it’s not allowed. When it happens, the Nationalists will likely win, breaking the 313-year old Union. 

The breakup of the UK is therefore a significant likelihood event – greater than 10% - so it needs to be factored in. It’s got profound implications for investing in Scotland and for the UK as a whole. 

There is a small hope that a swift vaccination program and faster than expected economic recovery will ease some of the Scottish Tensions by May, giving the pro-union Scottish Tories something to base a fightback around. Or perhaps the SNP will implode from whatever really did happen regarding Surgeon’s interventions regarding Alex Salmond’s acquittal on sexual misconduct charges.  Hope is never a good strategy. And Scotland, historically, tends to be ruled by passions rather than common sense. 

Normally at this point I would write something reassuring: “don’t worry, things are never as bad as you fear they might be”. I’m not sure I can this time – it will take leaps of political faith and some stunning internal diplomacy to put the UK back on track. Things may be every bit as bad as we fear. 

To be clear.. Brexit is what Brexit will be. A no-deal will cause enormous dislocation, make trade a nightmare and constrain growth considerably. The deal currently on offer – which boils down to the French telling us our fish aren’t ours - is unacceptable. Simple as. One hopes saner minds in Europe will come up with a compromise the UK government can accept. It doesn’t make sense for the German car industry to be decimated for the sake of a couple of hundred French fishermen demanding preferential treatment. If a deal can’t be found.. there are times when dumb pride makes sense. It won’t help UK industry or Jobs, and it will cause pain in Europe, but sometimes lines have to be drawn.  

Covid will be done and dusted in the next 6 months. Recovery could be swifter than the doomsters in the OBR and other modelers expect. 

But losing Scotland? That’s a different issue. That’s an identity issue. What would the split-up of the UK do its constituent parts? Would England (and Wales) remain geopolitically significant? Where would Scotland find itself. 

The brutal reality is that England became a significant European power well before Union. While the Elizabethans were crushing all comers, we Scots stuck with our tradition of incessant warfare against our worst enemies. Ourselves. England will survive without Scotland. I’ve joked, half-in-earnest, that if the SNP really want independence, they should give the vote to the English!

Following the Union in 1707 the history of Scotland shifted from bleak poverty and desolation to stunning growth and wealth as Edinburgh became the Athens of the North, the centre of new learning, invention and innovation. Scots soldiers seized the empire and the great UK trading houses were founded by energetic Caledonians. In the 1900s Glasgow was the second city of the Empire, and Clyde-Built was the stamp of engineering excellence. 

The dream died in the 1980s when Margaret Thatcher crushed Scottish industry, suppressed the unions, spent our oil money, and left much of the Country on the “Brew” – the Bureau of Unemployment. She will never be forgiven North of the Border. The bill for her actions can be seen in Holyrood today. The SNP has thrived by convincing Scottish Labour voters it’s the Tories and England that are to blame for Scotland’s dismal depression today, and that Independence offers a better future. 

I’ve always argued No to independence.

Better to deal with the devil we know. England has been good to me and countless other Scots who’ve taken the High Road south.  But now.. well maybe it is time to reconsider. As Independence looks increasing likely what would Scotland need to make it successful in the modern world? 

Let’s start by dismissing the idea Scotland would be an Oil Major – the myth oft floated by the SNP. Revenues from Oil and Gas are tumbling and – let’s be blunt – unpopular. But the skills learnt in the North Sea in terms of being able to harness the Winds, Sea and Tides are unmatched. Scotland is blest with plenty of weather. We could well establish ourselves as the premier powerhouse for renewable energy. There are superb universities with well-honed skills across commerce and industry to support a tech driven economy. For instance, my own, Heriot Watt, leads the world innovating robotics for the maintenance of offshore installations. 

There is agriculture: a potential future where premium agricultural products (green, organic, farm grown, and water rich), command higher prices looks probable. Whisky is a major export earner. And there is hospitality – tourism is a massive earner. When God made the planet he made Scotland the most beautiful place, blessed up with fine lads and lasses, made us smart and clever and gave us the gift of whisky. When the Archangel Gabriel suggested that was a bit unfair to every other nation, God replied: “Aye, but look who I gave them for neighbours.” 

Would a sound renewables, tech and agricultural base be enough to make Scotland stable as an independent nation? The naysayers immediately point to deprivation and the deficit, paid by Westminster to Hollyrood each year – around £15 bln before Corona costs. Scotland could expect to be burdened with a portion of the UK national debt on exit. These will not be insignificant costs to pay.

Then there is the issue of Europe. The SNP are determined to reverse Brexit and jump into bed with the EU – which would be pointless as England accounts for 60% of Scottish Exports against 18% to Europe. How would Scotland function with the Euro – where spending decisions, fiscal and monetary policy have effectively been seized by Brussels? Scotland in the EU would become another small country to be side-lined, and a stick for Brussels to beat England with. 

Which raises the currency issue. Monetary sovereignty will be critical. Scotland would fail dismally with either the Euro, or being tied to Sterling run from England. Perhaps the return of the Scottish Pound would make sense. That would require the new currency to receive swift acceptance and support in global markets – requiring a new Scottish Government to immediately establish its credentials and credibility to create confidence in the new country and currency. 

At present the SNP is a single-purpose party. Once it achieves its goal of independence it will likely fracture, (already it is riven by internal disputes,) into left and right – none of which are likely to present a strong unified face to the World. 

What sort of Country could Scotland be? With a strong socialist tradition, but sound entrepreneurial and mercantile history I suspect an Independent Scotland might surprise us. Imagine a strong welfare, health and education sector on the back of a green and technological economy? 

Why not? Much of Modern medicine was pioneered in Scotland. Penicillin was discovered by a Scot. While the SNP has made a right Horlicks of Education thus far – it’s always been a Scottish strength. We had universal education centuries before anyone else. (My primary school in Edinburgh, the Royal High School is over 1000 years old. My secondary school, Heriots, is a mere stripling at 392 years. )

How could Scotland get there? Becoming a comfortable, liberal welfare state with a strong tech and business led growth strategy? I’ve talked before how Scotland could become a little bit like Denmark.

It would all depend on how the split would work. It would make sense to retain many of the links – particularly in Defence, which could easily be achieved by retaining the Union of the Crowns; one Monarchy but two independent nations. The English would pay Scotland a significant sum – say the $15 bln annual deficit – to maintain the Faslane submarine base and Coulport nuclear depots (no English city would accept Europe’s largest nuclear weapons dump 40 miles from its heart, like Glasgow.)

I will continue to say No to Independence, but if it’s going to happen, let’s learn from the mistakes of Brexit and make it happen well. At its most basic, it would require at least the following: 

  • Monetary Sovereignty,

  • A transition period to allow Scottish politics to mature after the Single Purpose SNP de-establishes,

  • The establishment of a Scottish Central Bank and its own independent fund-raising capability,

  • A clear partnership agreement with the other parts of the UK on mutual defence, trade and financial partnership, and critically

  • The right of the Scots to approve the whole deal in a final referendum after the negotiations are completed

Lay out the rules and let the games commence. (I would be very interested in what readers think about Independence for Scotland.)

Published:12/1/2020 4:18:49 AM
[Markets] Tesla, Salesforce, Slack, Zoom Video, Jerome Powell - 5 Things You Must Know Tuesday Stock futures rise as investors await testimony from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and look back at the best monthly performance for equities since April; Tesla to be added to the S&P; 500 in one tranche; Salesforce reports earnings. Published:12/1/2020 4:18:48 AM
[Markets] : Here’s why cod and haddock threaten to scuttle trade talks as both EU and U.K. send Brexit warnings Deadlines have come and gone in the last 10 months, but the legal calendar now only leaves a few days for both sides to strike a deal in time for its ratification by parliaments.
Published:12/1/2020 4:18:48 AM
[Markets] UN Climate Agency Slapped With Corruption Allegations  UN Climate Agency Slapped With Corruption Allegations  Tyler Durden Tue, 12/01/2020 - 04:15

The Financial Times recently acquired a draft report by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) of audit and investigations, outlining how "fraud and corruption" have been linked to the multibillion-dollar Global Environment Facility (GEF).

FT examined the draft report which described "financial misstatements" that were discovered across UNDP's portfolio of GEF-funded projects around the world.

"Issues identified by the audit could seriously compromise the achievement of the objectives of the audited entity," the report said.

GEF was set up in the early 1990s with the World Bank to combat climate change. Its main objectives have been to help fight environmental challenges such as deforestation, species preservation, and pollution control. In recent years, GEF has become an independent organization with more than $21 billion dispersed in 170 countries, including $7 billion in projects managed by UNDP. 

The audit covers 2018 and 2019 - comes as donor countries have raised concerns about the facility's mismanagement of funds. 

In 2019, Foreign Policy published a report on whistleblower accounts of a UNDP-managed GEF project in Russia that was found to have possible misappropriation of millions of dollars. Top donor countries, including the US, France, Australia, and Japan, have requested an independent review of UNDP's Russian project, according to the letter seen by the FT. 

"Matters of misconduct and misappropriation of funds continue to obstruct sustainable development across the world," top donors said in March in the letter to Achim Steiner, the UNDP administrator, since 2017.

UNDP responded to the corruption allegations, saying it "takes all cases of financial mismanagement and other irregularities extremely seriously." UNDP said it "most closely monitored" GEF projects. 

"The portfolio, the majority of which are implemented by national and subnational institutions, civil society organizations as well as other UN organizations, is subject to an intricate system of regular reviews, independent assessments and audits," the UNDP said.

UNDP also said while there have been "allegations of misuse of funds" at numerous projects, these complaints are only "a tiny fraction - 1.4% of the UNDP's GEF-funded portfolio. 

The allegations of misconduct at GEF are not the first allegations connected with the UN's programs to fight climate change. 

In August, the FT noted that UN-backed, South Korea-based Green Climate Fund, the world's largest climate finance institution, faced internal misconduct complaints. 

"The words' climate' and 'corruption,' people see these as two different worlds, but there is a lot of overlap," said Brice Böhmer, the head of climate governance integrity at Transparency International, the global anti-corruption group. 

A person familiar with the UNDP-GEF allegations told FT: 

"No one is accountable; no one is responsible. The UNDP lets itself off the hook," the person said, also asking not to be named. "These funds are intended for the poorest of the poor . . . at what point will donors [to the GEF] decide to suspend funding?"

Published:12/1/2020 3:20:26 AM
[Markets] Eton College Defends Sacking Teacher Over Video On Masculinity Eton College Defends Sacking Teacher Over Video On Masculinity Tyler Durden Tue, 12/01/2020 - 03:30

Authored by Simon Veazey via The Epoch Times,

Amid growing backlash for firing an English teacher over a video on masculinity, Eton College has said that it is “not an issue of freedom of speech.”

Teacher Will Knowland was dismissed from the school—which has famously educated over one-third of all British prime ministers, including Boris Johnson—after he refused to take down a lecture from his private YouTube channel that questioned “current radical feminist orthodoxy.”

The school initially refused to comment since an appeals process is underway.

After growing accusations of bending to woke progressivism, the school has now defended its actions, insisting they made the decision based on legal advice.

“The dismissal of Mr. Knowland was not an issue of freedom of speech,” the college said in a statement emailed to The Epoch Times.

“The school was advised by specialist lawyers that the content in question was in breach of the Equalities Act and the Education (Independent Schools Standards) Regulations. There was simply no other choice than to ask for it to be taken down.”

Pupils at Eton College hurry between lessons wearing the school uniform of tailcoats and starched collars, in Eton, England, in this file photo. Eton is one of the most expensive and prestigious private schools in the world. (Graeme Robertson/Getty Images)

Eton says that they repeatedly asked Knowland to remove the video temporarily from his YouTube channel “pending further discussion” but that he refused.

He was sacked for gross misconduct by a disciplinary panel.

The Patriarchy Paradox

Knowland has taught English for nine years at the £42,500-a-year boys school, which is a byword for privilege and traditional private education.

His video was based on a lecture entitled “The Patriarchy Paradox,” which he had prepared earlier this year, as part of a course to encourage critical thinking in older students.

Before presenting to students, he pre-recorded a video of the lecture, which was circulated among other teachers on the school’s intranet. According to the Telegraph, when one of the teachers complained, the headmaster asked for the video to be removed. It was removed.

Knowland, however, refused to remove the lecture from his personal YouTube channel.

“Because I believe passionately in free speech, I said I would only take it down if given a clear reason, which is how I ended up being dismissed,” Knowland said, reported The Telegraph.

The Provost of Eton (chairman of the governing body), Lord Waldegrave, responded to what he described as a “fake news” narrative that Knowland had been sacked for preparing the video lecture itself.

“It is alleged that he was sacked for having the temerity to articulate such views,” Waldegrave wrote in a statement sent to The Epoch Times. “This is false.”

A student walks in front of Eton College, in Eton, west of London, on Oct. 1, 2015. (Jack Taylor/AFP via Getty Images)

Waldegrave said that Eton “prides itself on encouraging open-minded, independent, and critical thinking.”

Knowland’s personal video was, with the school’s permission, “clearly identified with Eton,” according to Waldegrave.

He said that the dismissal “is not about free speech within the law, behind which Eton stands foursquare. It is about a matter of internal discipline, quite properly now subject to appeal.”

A Letter from Pupils

Knowland said his intention was to present different views from “the current radical feminist orthodoxy”—but not to necessarily endorse them.

“In my lecture, I pointed out that, historically, masculine qualities like strength, courage, and tenacity have often been as beneficial to women as they have been to men,” he said according to the Telegraph.

A crowdfunding site set up in the name of Knowland says, “I have been dismissed from my employment. My wife and I will be made homeless, along with our five children. I am raising money to challenge my dismissal in the Employment Tribunal if necessary.”

The funding site has currently raised almost £35,000 ($46,700) of a £60,000 target.

Meanwhile, a petition letter written by current pupils at the school has been steadily gaining signatures from current and former pupils, reaching almost 2,000 as of writing.

The Epoch Times cannot verify signatories are all as stated.

The authors said that the disciplinary action could not be separated from the content of the lecture.

“We struggle to identify where Mr. Knowland’s video steps out of the realms of academic debate and into genuinely discriminatory private opinion,” the letter said.

“The boys have concluded from watching the video that the problem cannot lie in the way he sets out the ideas, but in the ideas themselves.”

The letter urged the school to be kind.

“The dismissal of Mr. Knowland—at least on the facts available to the boys—points to a heartless and merciless spirit at the top of the school,” they wrote. “Mr. Knowland is loved by all who have encountered him. He is an obviously and thoroughly good man.”

Published:12/1/2020 2:49:33 AM
[Markets] British Elite Army Unit To Spy On & Combat 'Anti-Vax Militants': Sunday Times British Elite Army Unit To Spy On & Combat 'Anti-Vax Militants': Sunday Times Tyler Durden Tue, 12/01/2020 - 02:45

As anti-lockdown protests continue to rage in London, resulting in the arrests of over 150 this past weekend, The Sunday Times is out with a hugely alarming report that almost has to be seen to be believed given how open and brazen an example it is of the state using every means possible to crush free speech and independent thought.

Britain will literally use military intelligence to seek out and stamp out what The Times calls "anti-vaccine militants" and related "propaganda content" in cyberspace.

Of course, it's entirely open to state authorities' interpretation as to what this even means, and will likely morph into cracking down on any speech that's even remotely critical or questioning as to the potential harmful side effects of the new rapidly developed COVID-19 vaccines.

Anti-lockdown protester is arrested in London Saturday, via Shutterstock.

This as the UK has agreed to buy more than 350 million doses of vaccines from at least seven global producers, and hopes to start vaccinating as fast as possible as confirmed cases continue to rise into the winter months.

The Times writes that a secretive elite unit will be used as part of information warfare combating anti-vaccine content online:

The army has mobilized an elite "information warfare" unit renowned for assisting operations against al-Qaeda and the Taliban to counter online propaganda against vaccines, as Britain prepares to deliver its first injections within days.

The defence cultural specialist unit was launched in Afghanistan in 2010 and belongs to the army’s 77th Brigade. The secretive unit has often worked side-by-side with psychological operations teams.

If this doesn't sum up the British state's self-understanding of its own immense power and control over citizens in the year 2020 then nothing else will: the military will use psyops on UK citizens to enforce vaccine group think.

But it's not exactly that the UK military openly admitted this. Instead, it's coming to light via leaked internal documents:

Leaked documents reveal that its soldiers are already monitoring cyberspace for Covid-19 content and analysing how British citizens are being targeted online. It is also gathering evidence of vaccine disinformation from hostile states, including Russia...

And of course "Russia!" manages to be conveniently slipped in as the ultimate "justification" - given the military must fundamentally frame its operations as seeking to root out and subvert a 'foreign plot' as opposed to admitting blunt suppression of citizens' rights and freedom of information.

A follow-up statement to the reporting by the UK Ministry of Defence claimed the brigade’s efforts are "not being directed at the UK population" but primarily at hostile foreign actors wishing to sow disinformation.

Again, it's amazing just how casually The Times reports this - as if it's par for the course and merely another standard weekend news development in the creeping Orwellianism that is contemporary UK statism backed by the ultra-powerful military and intelligence communities (or perhaps already long established?).

Published:12/1/2020 1:50:27 AM
[Markets] Can Poland & Hungary Crash The European Plan? Can Poland & Hungary Crash The European Plan? Tyler Durden Tue, 12/01/2020 - 02:00

By Elwin de Groot, Maartje Wijffelaars, and Piotr Matys of Rabobank


  • In this piece we take a closer look at the potential implications of a continued deadlock on the EU Budget and Recovery Fund
  • What has happened, what are the key issues at handand what are the options to resolve this standoff?
  • We ponder the potential impact for the European economy and markets should there be severe delays (or even a breakdown) in the implementation of the Recovery Fund

Recovery Fund held hostage by veto against budget

The EU is in limbo over its next multi-annual budget and, by implication, the Recovery Fund. In the week of 16 November, Hungary and Poland voted down the most recent proposals for the EU’s next multiannual budget, running from 2021 until 2027. Not because they oppose these proposals–in fact they would be among the main beneficiaries of the budget and recover fund-, but out of anger over the new rule-of-law mechanism that was adopted in early November and which is set to come into force next year. The new mechanism is supposed to block transfers of EU funds to countries infringing on EU standards in certain areas such as fundamental rights and judicial independence. This mechanism should protect the financial interests of the EU, i.e. to protect EU tax payers against the misuse of EU funds. Yet Hungary and Poland claim the mechanism to be a vague and therefore a political tool for the EU to interfere with domestic matters. Both countries have been at continuous loggerheads with the European Commission over rule-of-law issues over the past few years. Slovenia also supports the claim put forward by Poland and Hungary.

In any case, whereas the mechanism itself could be and has been adopted by a qualified majority in the Council, the 7y budget, i.e. the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) and Own Resources Decision (ORD), require unanimity in the Council. In addition, the ORD needs to be approved by national parliaments.

Below we look at the immediate implications and the potential scenarios further out.

The implications of a deadlock

As long as there is no agreement, the current MFF and ORD (2014-2020) would be rolled over. And, as things are looking right now, there will not be such an agreement before year-end. Importantly, this implies that the crisis recovery instrument (Next Generation EU, NGEU) would not see the light of day either. The ORD needs to be revised to provide the European Commission with the mandate to borrow money on financial markets to fund the crisis recovery instrument, among other things. Since the ORD also needs to be approved by national parliaments it is already a given that the NGEU will be delayed and that even if Hungary and Poland will lift their veto in December, crisis recovery funds will likely only start to flow late 2021 at the earliest. To be sure, this was already the assumption for the largest chunk of the recovery instrument, the Recovery and Resilience Fund (RRF, EUR 672.5bn), before the spat, because money from this fund would have to be earned by Member States by achieving reform milestones. Still a small part of the instrument was planned to become available ‘right away’, most importantly REACT-EU funds totaling almost EUR 40bn in 2021 (0.3% of 2020 GDP, figures 1 and 2). Clearly the longer an agreement takes, the more protracted the delay in disbursements of all parts of the new crisis recovery instrument.

Another implication would be that the annual budget for 2021 has to be based on the ceilings in the old MFF and that countries such as the Netherlands will lose their budget rebates. In case an agreement on next year’s budget would also not be reached, the EU will run an emergency budget, allowing it to spend 1/12th of its annual 2020 budget per month in 2021. The 2020 budget not only determines the amounts that can be spent, but also the eligible projects. Funds would only flow to those budget lines that were already present in the 2020 budget. So, for example, already existing cohesion projects in the budget of 2020 that carry over into 2021 can still be financed to some extent, but new cohesion projects cannot.

As for the Rule of Law mechanism, it could be implemented from the start of 2021, irrespective of what happens with the MFF.

What about SURE?

Aside from the RRF, many Member States have been making use of the EC’s SURE fund. The temporary “Support to mitigate Unemployment Risks in an Emergency” is available to Member States that need to mobilize significant financial means to fight the negative economic and social consequences of the coronavirus outbreak on their territory. It can provide financial assistance up to EUR 100bn in the form of loans from the EU to affected Member States on favorable terms to address sudden increases in public expenditure for the preservation of employment. The SURE fund itself would not be at risk from the current standoff. This is in the first place because these are loans apart from the budget rather than grants coming from the budget; and the loans are underpinned by a system of voluntary guarantees from Member States of in total EUR 25bn. Each Member State’s contribution to the overall amount of the guarantee corresponds to its relative share in the total gross national income (GNI) of the European Union, based on the 2020 EU budget. The funding is obtained in capital markets through ‘social bonds’ issued by the EC. Importantly, the EC has already been authorized to raise the EUR 100bn with these bonds via a separate SURE regulation. So, while not fully executed yet, new issuance is not linked to the new ORD and budget. Since its inception, the Council has approved EUR 11.2bn in support for Poland (2.1% of GDP) and EUR 0.5bn for Hungary (0.3% of GDP) – actual disbursements so far are still smaller. In total, EUR 87.9bn out of the total EUR 100bn has already been committed to Member States and final approval on EUR 2.5bn is on its way, bringing total commitments to EUR 90.3bn – EUR 31bn has actually been disbursed.

The current standoff would have no impact on the legal possibility to expand the SURE fund to mitigate the impact of the delayed implementation of the NGEU, if politicians would agree to increase the fund’s size. Given that, as mentioned, the European Commission is authorized to borrow for the SURE fund via a regulation apart from the budget. But to remain creditworthy and be able to borrow at very low rates, either a revision of the ORD, increasing the so-called available headroom, and/ or additional guarantees by Member States would seem to be required. Hence, even if it would be legally possible, it also requires political will, which can be very much questioned both from the side of Poland and Hungary and the other 25 Member States if the current standoff persists.

And the ESM?

Finally, the standoff has no impact on the functioning of the ESM. It could be called to draw a support program if asked for by a Euro area Member State and to activate credit lines within its Pandemic Crisis Support programme linked to the COVID-19 crisis. Remember? The hard fought cheap credit lines Member States can ask for with the only condition for them being that they spend this money on the fight against the health crisis. Indeed, no country has dared to use it, yet, probably out of fear of reputational damage when doing so. Admittedly, given the current, historically low, bond yields in the market, pressure on countries to do so has also been lacking. When push comes to shove (i.e. in case of a long-running standoff and rising bond yields), however, we would still expect EZ Member States to call for them.

Possible scenarios going forward

The big question is whether a compromise can be found on the rule-of-law mechanism or whether talks will remain in deadlock. The next official meeting of EU leaders is scheduled for 10 and 11 December, while finance ministers are due to meet 19 December. It is difficult to predict what will happen and whether either side of the table will blink beforehand. In any case, the risk that no agreement will be found is non-negligible.

One way out, perhaps, is a (non-binding) political declaration (similar to the political declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the EU and UK after Brexit) that promises to keep the rule-of-law mechanism at bay, as long as countries do not radically depart from the status quo. This is what the German presidency has proposed.

Yet according to Poland and Hungary such a declaration would be insufficient as it is not legally binding. In fact, on 26 November, Polish PM Morawiecki and Hungarian PM Orban underscored their view saying that the EU should drop the rule-of-law conditionality altogether and that any enforcement mechanism on democratic standards in future would require an amendment in the treaty. The joint declaration signed by both PMs implies that they are not willing to make substantial concessions to overcome the impasse caused by their veto and unlock hundreds of billions of euros which are urgently required by EU countries to start rebuilding their economies from a recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic. They clearly believe they have considerable leverage and they are hoping that the European Parliament and other EU Member States are willing to substantially water down the rule-of-law mechanism, as the latter are loath to harm the post-crisis recovery. Particularly in poorer regions, a lack of cohesion funds could even be more painful than a lack of funds from the Recovery Facility later in 2021.

Meanwhile, on the part of European Parliament and most of the other Member States there is a conviction that there should be a strong link between EU funds and the rule-of-law, an opinion that has been building for years. Given that there is a tendency of slippage on this front (see figure 3), putting the mechanism on ice would be a signal to countries to ‘test the boundaries’ of a commitment to delay the enforcement of the mechanism.

Whereas poorer and hard-hit countries might be more willing to soften the tone, others, such as the European Parliament and the Netherlands, have extremely little wiggle room given the sentiment among their rank and file members. Moreover, they know that Hungary and Poland would eventually suffer major economic damage without new EU cohesion fund money and the substantial share of the recovery funds they would be entitled to. As explained below, however, the discussion is not only a matter of economy, but also of sovereignty and ideology. Furthermore, it could take a while before Poland and Hungary would feel economic pain in the event of an emergency budget and no crisis recovery funds.

Why Poland and Hungary may not cave in -for now

One may argue that it is irrational for Fidesz and the Law & Justice party to block the financial package. After all, over the next seven years Hungary and Poland are in line to reportedly receive at least EUR 180bn between them (over 25% of their combined 2019 GDP) from the EU budget and the Recovery Fund. For a short period of time Hungarian and Polish governments may be able to borrow funds from the markets to finance their expenditures, should European transfers be put on hold. However, without cash from the EU, GDP growth will be significantly lower over the long-term horizon and the upward potential for living standards substantially  lower.

But, what seems irrational from an economic point of view can be justified by a strong preference to set domestic policies. By blocking the mechanism that would allow Brussels to interfere in domestic policies, PM Orban and PM Morawiecki are fulfilling obligations to their conservative and nationalistic supporters who expect them to fight for sovereignty at all costs, even if the price is as high as EUR 180bn. Conservativism and nationalism are generally perceived as important pillars of support for Fidesz and the Law & Justice. Both parties have also allegedly tightened their grip on the media. This allows them to control the narrative at home and portrait their countries as victims.

Drawing parallels

Clearly, one can draw some parallels with how Brexit came about and the referendum on EU membership held in 2016 serves as a reminder that ‘nothing is set in stone’. Basically it shows us that the undercurrents in societies can prove very strong. Being able to ‘take matters in one’s own hands’ is one of those undercurrents that has been visible in many places over the last decades. Calls for more sovereignty (and strong leadership) may stem from dissatisfaction with the multilateral framework (which includes the EU) in which countries are operating. This may lead to alienation of voters (as powers increasingly shift from the national to the international level) and rising dissatisfaction with democracy, which is a global phenomenon. Rising inequality could be another source of voter dissatisfaction, which then turns itself on external institutions – if well managed by populist national politicians. To some extent this is what seems to have happened in Poland, for the general public has actually become more satisfied with how democracy is working in Poland (see figure 4) and a similar observation applies to Hungary (figure 5), although the public still is more positive on balance with the EU than with national democracy. However, this also points to another reason for both populist leaders to hold out: they have the support of an increasing number of their people.

Perhaps Hungary’s PM Orban and his Polish counterpart Morawiecki, under pressure from other European leaders, will soften their stance and a compromise can be reached. However, we would not underestimate their determination to fight hard against a mechanism that could potentially force them to ease their grip on power in Hungary and Poland. Reaching a compromise could therefore prove quite difficult in the very near future. This is also because Hungarian and Polish governments may be able to borrow funds from the markets to finance the possible shortfall in European transfers from the budget for a while. Moreover, the rule-of-law mechanism is projected to come into force in 2021, irrespective of whether there will be a deal on the new MFF. Hence, if Poland and Hungary fear they will miss out on EU funds because of this mechanism, they might have less incentive to agree on a new MFF and budget, because it would benefit them less than in previous years.

A different scenario: Bypassing obstructive states

Technically it seems possible to create a separate Recovery and Resilience Fund (the largest chunk of the total EUR750bn new crisis recovery instrument) among willing Member States, outside the MFF. It could be based on an intergovernmental treaty between all EU Member States except for Poland and Hungary – and possibly Slovenia. It might persuade Poland and Hungary to come around on the MFF given their needs for EU funds and weakened bargaining position, but could also reach the opposite, not for economic reasons but by feeding emotions of anger and frustration. We don’t think this scenario is viable in the foreseeable future, for several reasons. First, it would push the EU into uncharted waters and take months at least to talk things through, politically and legally, prior to implementing it. Also because it would likely require paid-in capital from participating Member States. Second, it could make it more difficult to solve the deadlock on the MFF and ORD, which would harm those Member States which depend more on regular budget funds than recovery funds and see budget rebates withheld from certain Member States. Third, it would underscore a failure of EU cooperation, with accompanying risks. That said, as time passes, this option might still become viable in the eyes of most Member States, as the EU would not want to be held hostage by (a few) obstructing Member States.

A track-record of last-minute deals and compromises

Admittedly, the EU has a reputation of sealing last-minute deals. In the past, the EU have shown considerable ingenuity when it comes to interpreting the Treaty, enabling them to do whatever they believe is necessary in the face of opposition from certain Member States:

  • Key examples of its ingenuity are the support for Greece in the sovereign debt crisis (despite the prohibition on financial support to Member States), the way it handled the German Constitutional Court ruling on ECB bond buying and, last but not least, the recent COVID-19 response, by (temporarily) watering down state-aid rules and suspending the Stability and Growth Pact;
  • The EU has also shown that - when push comes to shove - they can close the ranks, also vis-à-vis those countries that want to move in another direction; the Brexit dossier is a prime example here.

So expect the EU to look for all options/articles in the Treaty that would allow it to come to a solution including all Member States, but also for the cooperating Member States to raise the pressure on Poland and Hungary. For the latter, the key question remains, how sensitive these two Member States will be to financial and political pressures.

What would be the implications for markets?

What is perhaps most remarkable is that the market seems to have largely ignored the potential implications of this situation leading to a protracted stasis. The euro barely budged when Poland and Hungary broke ranks and it has even strengthened against the dollar in recent days. The impact on sovereign spreads has been insignificant as well. This either suggests that markets are not concerned, and/or that market participants have simply been sedated by overflowing liquidity in markets and the ECB’s plans to add even more from December onwards. That said, the Hungarian forint and the Polish zloty were on track to end the last full week of trading in November on the back footing underperforming the Czech koruna.

Still, we would argue, the market may be under-estimating the potential impact from a protracted delay or even a collapse in the EU’s Recovery Fund plans. In that case, the market could yet revise its positive stance on Europe, although we believe the impact will likely be most noticeable in the value of the euro. Some volatility may return in the sovereign bond markets, but the ECB’s PEPP remains the unstoppable force. To add more color to this view we first zoom into how the market has digested the (generally) positive news flow on the European strategy to mitigate the COVID-19 shock.

Looking back (over my shoulder)

Looking back on the market developments since the ECB launched its Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme, the euro has clearly appreciated while sovereign spreads have declined to new lows. This is an unusual combination of currency and rates moves if we compare it to the ECB’s first venture into quantitative easing: while QE compressed spreads, back in 2015 the additional monetary stimulus also had a profound weakening effect on the currency (see figure 6). Fast forward to 2020, in the wake of the PEPP, spreads have acted the same as before, but it is the –at first glance counterintuitive– response of the euro that caused a breakdown in the correlation between the euro’s performance and peripheral spreads.

Ignoring factors that weighed on the US dollar, the fact that the euro appreciated despite more monetary stimulus can be explained by the one key difference in the pandemic response: the fiscal response. The ECB’s PEPP served as a nod to governments to open the fiscal spigots, which mitigated the economic damage. Moreover, Europe’s surprisingly quick agreement on a joint EU Recovery Fund in July reinforced confidence in the currency union, and in the EU as a whole by pushing back against fears of fragmentation. After an initial selloff of European assets in late Q1, early Q2, foreign investors flocked back into European assets, which was also visible in a rise in portfolio liabilities in the financial account after April (figure 7). Over the summer there was a general perception that Europe successfully contained the coronavirus pandemic, which increased demand for European assets.

This impact of the Recovery Fund on investors’ confidence in Europe becomes even more obvious if we look at the three phases toward an agreement (figure 8 below). These three phases are also well-illustrated by the news flow and search behavior on Google, which basically shows that the market turning points coincide with the peaks in the search activity for phrases related to the Recovery Fund:

  1. The first serious discussions on an EU Recovery Fund started in April following the ECB’s pandemic support package announced in March and pressure from the ECB on the EU to take up the baton; in that early phase (April-May) there was still considerable uncertainty, in part because of the hardline stance by (initially) Germany and the ‘frugal four’ Member States. In this stage, when the ECB was still at it alone, it was mainly sovereign spreads that were affected.
  2. But as the pressure on Europe grew and Chancellor Merkel and French President Macron launched their plan on 18 May (which was followed by the official EC plan one week later), the opinion among investors started to shift. Mid-May is also a clear turning point for the euro, while the proposal stopped the renewed widening of sovereign spreads in its tracks.
  3. Confidence in Europe was given another boost by the unexpectedly swift (preliminary) agreement in the European Council on the EC plan on 19 July, which, importantly, paved the way for a common EU debt asset as from 2021. Investors interpreted this as a  positive signal with regard to the ability and decisiveness of ‘Brussels’ and importantly as a confirmation the euro is here to stay; the euro strengthened well into the summer, reaching multi-year highs in trade-weighted terms in August.

What if… and then what?

Having established that at least part of the recent strength in the euro has been down to the ‘successful’ flight of the Recovery Fund plan and that, in its wake, sovereign risk premiums have only further tightened, this obviously raises the risk that if the Recovery Plan runs into significant delays we could expect part of that positive sentiment to reverse. Even worse, of course, would be a total collapse of the plan, as that would imply (how unpalatable or even unlikely that may sound) that the market will again start to question the whole European project.

So basically we can envisage two scenarios: either one side ultimately blinks, or the spat between Poland & Hungary and the rest of the EU blocks the implementation of the new EU budget. Technically speaking, a third scenario could be a circumvention of the Hungarian/Polish budget blockade altogether, but that would perhaps be more of an extension of the second scenario.

Either side blinks

It is still possible that either Poland and Hungary or the other Member States blink in the upcoming months – whilst signaling during the process that there is no definitive break. That could still pave the way for an agreement on the multi-annual budget. After all, as we argued above, Europe is known for its eleventh-hour deals. While this may still see some delays in the actual implementation of the Recovery Fund –largely owing to the need of national parliaments to ratify the amended ORD– the economic and market impact should be relatively limited.

National governments may need to pre-fund more of their spending plans, but the limited and temporary nature –and the continued presence of the ECB– should keep sovereign spreads from widening significantly. However, if the standoff persists in the coming weeks and the ratification is delayed beyond 10 December, that could lead to temporary pressure on the euro, but –like the standoff– this should not last in this scenario. As outlined in his latest note available here Piotr definitely sees the risk of a short-term squeeze higher in EUR/PLN and EUR/HUF on the back of growing tensions between Hungary/Poland and the rest of the EU.

Budget blockade

If, however, both sides stick to their red lines, this could block the EU budget for a protracted period, since it needs to be ratified by all EU members. This would put the EU on rations, and it would lead to much more severe delays in the time lines for the Recovery Fund. That puts more pressure on countries’ fiscal metrics; and would lead to lower-than-expected revenues from the EU, especially from 2022 onwards.

The severity of lost income differs per country and region, but crucially, those with weaker government finances also stand to lose more – particularly by omission of the Recovery Fund. These governments will have to cut back on their spending, or get themselves into more debt to continue boosting the economy. Either way, without the European funds, the economic recovery is likely to be less inclusive, and therefore less strong. Add to that the doubts it would cast on the newfound European solidarity.

Again, this is likely to weaken the euro as investors lose confidence in the continent and the currency. Meanwhile, reduced growth prospects and/or higher indebtedness are likely to exert upward pressure on spreads. With the ECB’s purchasing programs still in place, spread widening is likely to remain limited, but volatility is likely to increase as spread drivers would no longer be unidirectional. The question is then how much the ECB needs to intervene, and these interventions are then more likely to weigh further on the currency. In effect, this would bring us back to the 2015 period when quantitative easing was first started. Moreover, looking a bit further ahead, the lower growth prospects for Europe in this scenario would give more impetus to the ‘lower for longer’ rates environment.

The table below gives some indications for the direction, duration and extent of any of these three scenarios, although we have to stress that this is a good deal of expert judgment.

In short

The outcome of the current standoff is uncertain. While the EU is known for its eleventh-hour deals, the risk that no agreement will be reached in the Council’s meeting in December is non-negligible. This is especially because there is more at play than ‘plain’ economics. Identity and sovereignty are also part of the discussion – and this is by no means the first case at hand.

Should Hungary and Poland uphold their veto for a protracted period, especially poorer regions and countries hard-hit by the crisis will feel the pain. A protracted period of uncertainty could dent the euro in currency markets, although we feel that significant volatility in bond markets is likely to be attenuated by ECB policy actions if required.

Published:12/1/2020 1:17:56 AM
[Markets] US STOCKS-S&P 500 ends down after rallying to best November ever The S&P 500 index ended lower on Monday as investors took profits following a sharp rally in recent weeks that led to the benchmark's best November ever. Nine out of 11 of the major S&P 500 sectors fell, with the energy index tumbling 5.4% and leading losses, tracking a drop in crude prices. The S&P 500 technology index rose 0.7%, thanks in part to a 2.1% rise in Apple Inc shares. Published:12/1/2020 12:19:00 AM
[Markets] Dr. Scott Atlas reportedly resigns from coronavirus task force Dr. Scott Atlas reportedly resigns from coronavirus task force Published:12/1/2020 12:19:00 AM
[Markets] America's Future Is Liberal Fascism Sporting A Smiley Shirt And Armed With A Syringe America's Future Is Liberal Fascism Sporting A Smiley Shirt And Armed With A Syringe Tyler Durden Mon, 11/30/2020 - 23:50

Authored by Robert Bridge via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

The globalists responsible for engineering a medical tyranny across much of the Western world have something valuable to teach right-wing nationalists and would-be fascists, and that is you don’t sell your damaged product out of the barrel of a machine gun, but rather dripping from the end of a syringe that promises to end all pain and misery.

Patrick Henry, one of America’s more outspoken Founding Fathers, famously remarked “give me liberty or give me death” when the life of his nation was on the line.

Today, America’s famous battle cry has been replaced by a masked and muffled gasp that advises, without hope of a second opinion, “give me lockdowns and keep me safe.”

So terrified is the American public of catching a virus that comes with a 99 percent survival rate that they are willing to forego Thanksgiving, the great national holiday commemorating – with no loss of irony – their Pilgrim ancestors’ collective courage to overcome the wild, hostile conditions of their new land.

It must be said that no fascist party has ever been so adept when it came to sealing the collective fate of their people to a common enemy. That’s because the threat facing mankind today, or so we are told, is not some nefarious ideology, like communism, or even a terrorist organization that the masses can be rallied to fight. Rather, the threat is a microscopic contagion that is capable of invading every nook and cranny of our lives. Already the age of manly handshakes is over, replaced by an emasculated majority, while an entire generation of youth now looks at their fellow human beings as infernal germ factories.

And unlike a traditional enemy that can be seen, attacked and eventually defeated, the coronavirus – we have been oddly forewarned – will make landfall again and again, while regularly morphing with comic book abilities into an increasingly deadlier villain. In this landless battle, only the medical authorities are decorated as heroes, while the people, lacking the professional credentials, are forced to be passive and helpless onlookers, their freedom of movement severely constrained. More importantly, the forces of nationalism have become irrelevant; only a globalist, one-world-order response can defeat this pandemic.

There is very good reason to suspect, however, that either the science on all of this is half-baked, or we the people are being intentionally duped on a grand scale. In fact, it’s probably a little bit of both. First, relying on nothing more than empirical evidence, it does not seem unreasonable to suggest that there is no existential emergency confronting mankind. If there were, we would expect to see decomposing bodies piling up in the streets, like in the medieval times during the Black Plague. This would be especially the case among the homeless population, which is certainly not practicing social distancing etiquette as they pass around open containers on street corners.

Nor does there seem to be any massive queuing up at hospitals for emergency treatment. In fact, as early as April, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told President Trump that the Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort deployed to New York City by the federal government to help fight the coronavirus outbreak was “no longer needed”. Cuomo said the need for the support vessel “didn’t reach the levels that had been projected.” And I am certainly not the only one who has noticed that Covid cases seem to fluctuate curiously with the political climate.

Let’s not forget that the overwhelming majority of Covid ‘victims’ recover nicely at home, according to no less of an authority than Anthony Fauci. At the same time, many people who acquire the disease are asymptomatic and never even knew they were infected. Children, meanwhile, seem amazingly impervious to the virus. That is not to say that there has been no sign of a virus this winter season. Of course there has been, just like every year. But while Covid cases may be on the rise in some places, and invisible in others, the death rate from this illness remains low and tumbling, predominantly hitting elderly people already suffering from comorbidities.

There are other reasons to be suspicious that what we are dealing with is not a first-class medical emergency, but rather something much more sinister. Like maybe an excuse for rolling out a Western-made vaccine that carries a microchip implant with tracking technology? Such a claim will sound less fantastic when it is realized that it has already been developed.

It is no secret that just one month before Covid-19 made its dramatic landfall in the United States, purportedly from Wuhan, China, MIT researchers announced a new method for recording a patient’s vaccination history: storing the smartphone-readable data under the skin at the same time a vaccine is administered.

“By selectively loading microparticles into microneedles, the patches deliver a pattern in the skin that is invisible to the naked eye but can be scanned with a smartphone that has the infrared filter removed,” MIT News reported.

“The patch can be customized to imprint different patterns that correspond to the type of vaccine delivered.”

Would it surprise anyone to know that the research was funded largely by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the same family venture that now provides the bulk of funding to the World Health Organization?

Then, in September 2019, ID2020, a San Francisco-based biometric company that counts Microsoft as one of its founding members, announced a new project that involves the “exploration of multiple biometric identification technologies for infants” that is based on “infant immunization.”

We could continue here with a long list of other disturbing technologies that would effectively turn people into walking antennae for the rest of their lives, but the point is hopefully clear: although many people might be willing to accept a vaccine against Covid-19, they probably do not want the extra technological add-ons that people like Bill Gates, a man with zero medical qualifications, seem extremely anxious to include.

So what can Americans expect next? How about ‘Freedom Passes’ that Britons may need before they are able to return to some semblance of normalcy?

According to the Daily Mail, “Britons are set to be given Covid ‘freedom passes’ as long as they test negative for the virus twice in a week, it has been suggested…To earn the freedom pass, people will need to be tested regularly and, provided the results come back negative, they will then be given a letter, card or document they can show to people as they move around.”

And this is what they call a “return to normalcy.”

Personally, I call those plans the approach of fascism. And for those who doubt that it could not happen in America should heed the words of the late sagacious comedian George Carlin, who once quipped that “when fascism comes to America, it will not be in brown and black shirts. It will not be with jackboots. It will be Nike sneakers and smiley shirts.” Had Carlin been alive today to see the tremendous mess we’ve inherited, he would most likely have included a syringe in the neo-fascist’s toolkit.

Published:12/1/2020 12:19:00 AM
[Markets] Dispatches from a Pandemic: Italy’s leading epidemiologist on why the virus has spread in a ‘surprisingly enduring’ way, and how Germany managed lower deaths Carlo La Vecchia, from the University of Milan, explains what's behind the second COVID-19 wave, why Germany has fared better than most other countries, and how to safely enjoy Christmas.
Published:12/1/2020 12:19:00 AM
[Markets] Black Friday store traffic down 52% even as online retail sales hit record high Black Friday store traffic down 52% even as online retail sales hit record high Published:11/30/2020 1:37:45 AM
[Markets] Zoom earnings, November jobs report: What to know in the week ahead Traders are set to return from last week’s holiday-shortened week to a bevy of new economic data on the labor market, as well as a handful of corporate earnings results. Published:11/30/2020 1:37:45 AM
[Markets] There are many reasons to donate to charity this Giving Tuesday — but here’s a little added tax incentive ‘There’s just so much need right now. Nonprofits don’t want to turn anyone away.’
Published:11/30/2020 1:37:44 AM
[Markets] UK Government Running 'Orwellian' Unit To Block Release Of "Sensitive" Information UK Government Running 'Orwellian' Unit To Block Release Of "Sensitive" Information Tyler Durden Mon, 11/30/2020 - 02:00

Authored by Peter Geoghegan, Jenna Corderoy, and Lucas Amin via,

The British government has been accused of running an ‘Orwellian’ unit in Michael Gove’s office that instructs Whitehall departments on how to respond to Freedom of Information requests and shares personal information about journalists, openDemocracy can reveal today.

Experts warn that the practice could be breaking the law – and openDemocracy is now working with the law firm Leigh Day on a legal bid to force Gove’s Cabinet Office to reveal full details of how its secretive ‘Clearing House’ unit operates.

Freedom of Information (FOI) requests are supposed to be ‘applicant-blind’: meaning who makes the request should not matter. But it now emerges that government departments and non-departmental public bodies have been referring ‘sensitive’ FOI requests from journalists and researchers to the Clearing House in Gove’s department in a move described by a shadow cabinet minister as “blacklisting”.

This secretive FOI unit gives advice to other departments “to protect sensitive information”, and collates lists of journalists with details about their work. These lists have included journalists from openDemocracy, The Guardian, The Times, the BBC, and many more, as well as researchers from Privacy International and Big Brother Watch and elsewhere.

The unit has also signed off on FOI responses from other Whitehall departments – effectively centralising control within Gove’s office over what information is released to the public.

Conservative MP David Davis called on government ministers to “explain to the House of Commons precisely why they continue” with a Clearing House operation that is “certainly against the spirit of that Act – and probably the letter, too.”

Labour shadow Cabinet Office minister Helen Hayes said:

This is extremely troubling. If the cabinet office is interfering in FOI requests and seeking to work around the requirements of the Act by blacklisting journalists, it is a grave threat to our values and transparency in our democracy.”

Details of the Clearing House are revealed in a new report on Freedom of Information published today by openDemocracy.

‘Art of Darkness’ finds that the UK government has granted fewer and rejected more FOI requests than ever before – with standards falling particularly sharply in the most important Whitehall departments.

The Clearing House circulates a daily list of FOI requests to up to 70 departments and public bodies that contains details of all requests that it is advising on. This list covers FOI requests about “sensitive subjects” as well as ‘round robin’ requests made to multiple government departments.

Press freedom campaigners have sharply criticised the Clearing House operation and have called for full transparency.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

“The existence of this clearing house in the Cabinet Office is positively Orwellian. It poses serious questions about the government’s approach to access to information, its attitude to the public’s right to know and the collation of journalists’ personal information.”

Jon Baines, a data protection expert at the law firm Mischon de Reya and chair of the National Association of Data Protection Officers, said that he was “far from assured that the operation of the Clearing House complies with data protection law.”

“Data protection law requires, as a basic principle, that personal data be processed fairly and in a transparent manner – on the evidence that I have seen, I do not feel that the Clearing House meets these requirements,” Baines added.

‘Art of Darkness’: the worst offenders

The new report published by openDemocracy paints a disturbing picture of the state of Freedom of Information in Britain.

In 2019, central UK government departments granted fewer and rejected more FOI requests than ever before. In the last five years, the Cabinet Office – as well as the Treasury, Foreign Office and Home Office – have all withheld more requests than they granted, according to the report.

The Cabinet Office – which is the government department responsible for Freedom of Information policy – has one of the worst records on access to information. Last year, Michael Gove’s department was the branch of Whitehall most likely to have its decisions referred to the Information Commissioner’s Office, which regulates information rights in the UK.

New analysis by openDemocracy also shows that some public bodies are cynically undermining requests for information by failing to respond to requests in any way – a tactic described in openDemocracy’s report as ‘stonewalling’. Decision Notices, which are issued by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) about stonewalling, have increased by 70 per cent in the last five years. Again, the Cabinet Office is a repeat offender.

The study reveals that the ICO fully or partially upheld complaints about mishandled requests in 48 per cent of its Decision Notices last year: the highest proportion in five years.

Yet the ICO’s capacity to investigate complaints and enforce the Act is diminishing. The regulator has seen its budget cut by 41 per cent over the last decade, while its complaint caseload has increased by 46 per cent in the same period.

The ICO’s enforcement may also be hampered by its governance structure – under which it is accountable on FOI to the Cabinet Office. Michael Gove’s department also is involved in setting the ICO’s annual budget.

Responding to openDemocracy’s questions about the Clearing House, a government spokesperson said:

“The Cabinet Office plays an important role through the FOI Clearing House of ensuring there is a standard approach across government in the way we consider and respond to requests.

“With increasing transparency, we receive increasingly more complex requests under Freedom of Information. We must balance the public need to make information available with our duty to protect sensitive information and ensure national security.”

‘Jenna Corderoy is a journalist’

openDemocracy has had first hand experience of how the Clearing House slows down or obstructs FOI requests, and profiles journalists, on a number of different occasions.

In February 2020, openDemocracy journalist Jenna Corderoy sent an FOI request to the Ministry of Defence about meetings with short-lived special advisor Andrew Sabisky. The MoD subsequently complained internally that “due to the time spent in getting an approval from Clearing House, the FOI requestor has put in a complaint to [the FOI regulator] the ICO”.

The MoD refused the Sabisky request after 196 days, which is more than six times the normal limit for responding to an FOI request.

Separately, when Corderoy sent a Freedom of Information request to the Attorney General’s Office, staff at the office wrote in internal emails:

“Just flagging that Jenna Corderoy is a journalist” and “once the response is confirmed, I’ll just need [redacted] to sign off on this before it goes out, since Jenna Corderoy is a reporter for openDemocracy”.

Today’s findings on the operation of the Clearing House add to mounting questions about the British government’s approach to transparency and press freedom.

Earlier this year, Number 10 was heavily criticised after it barred openDemocracy from COVID press briefings. The Ministry of Defence was also subsequently accused of ‘blacklisting’ DeclassifiedUK after the department refused to provide comment to the investigative website.

Edin Omanovic, advocacy director at Privacy International said that

“the point of Freedom of Information is to access information from individual authorities themselves, not from a centralised body within the Cabinet Office. The Cabinet Office should not be interfering.”

Silke Carlo, director of Big Brother Watch said,

“We’re appalled that such important information rights have been so disrespected by the government. The centralisation of difficult FOIs, the secrecy of this list and the fact that our names have been circulated around Whitehall is seriously chilling. This is a shameful reflection on the government’s attitude towards transparency.”

Long legal battle for transparency 

openDemocracy first asked for copies of the Clearing House lists back in 2018. The Cabinet Office refused this Freedom of Information request but, 23 months later, in July 2020 the ICO finally decided that the lists – including the advice that the Cabinet Office provides on dealing with FOI requests – should be disclosed to the public.

While the Cabinet Office eventually disclosed some material from the Clearing House list, it is keeping its advice to departments secret and is appealing against the ICO’s decision.

openDemocracy, represented by the law firm Leigh Day, will now be submitting evidence to an information tribunal hearing to determine whether this information about the Clearing House should be made public.

According to ICO guidance, a public authority can only look up a requester’s identity if the request is repeated – potentially a vexatious request – or whether the cost of two or more requests made by the requester can be aggregated under FOI.

The ICO has been aware of the Clearing House’s existence for some time. In 2005, the Clearing House’s annual budget was reported to be £700,000.

The Clearing House was initially housed within the then Department for Constitutional Affairs then later moved to the Ministry of Justice. In 2015, when the Cabinet Office took responsibility for freedom of information policy, the department also took over the Clearing House, despite concerns about its operation.

The Cabinet Office has previously advertised roles to work in the Cabinet Office’s Clearing House. Specific responsibilities listed for the positions included “creating a weekly FOI tracker of new cases and releases”, and “forwarding drafts for clearance, reverting to departments with advice and negotiating redrafted responses”.

But openDemocracy’s findings – and the upcoming tribunal case – have highlighted fresh and pressing concerns, including among rights advocates who campaigned for the initial, groundbreaking Freedom of Information legislation more than 15 years ago. The Campaign for Freedom of Information’s Katherine Gundersen has said: “It’s time the clearing house was subjected to proper scrutiny.”

Meanwhile Gavin Freeguard, head of data and transparency at the Institute for Government, said that, 15 years after the Freedom of Information act came into effect, it was not right that the public was still having to fight to access information.

“With delayed responses, more requests being rejected than ever before and these reports of a Clearing House it feels like we’re having to fight for the right to information all over again,” said Freeguard.

“And all this at a time when it’s vital for politicians, the press and the public to be able to scrutinise government.”

The Cabinet Office organises quarterly engagement meetings and biannual information rights forums with other government departments. openDemocracy sent an FOI requesting materials from these meetings and forums, but the request was denied.

Published:11/30/2020 1:37:44 AM
[Markets] Fragile And Unsustainable Lies Fragile And Unsustainable Lies Tyler Durden Sun, 11/29/2020 - 00:00

Authored by Robert Wright via The American Institute,

Many times throughout history, policymakers have doubled down on their own mistakes, refusing to believe that they were wrong or hoping that somehow doing the wrong thing twice or thrice would somehow make things right. Then it all came crashing down at once and the rulers lost their minds, and sometimes their necks or heads.

Economic, governance, and social systems often rely on each other in ways not readily discerned by narrow technocrats. When one crumbles, the others fall in rapid succession while all the putative experts express surprise. Look at the way that the U.S.S.R, one of the world’s two “super” powers, fell apart in the late 1980s when it lost enough feathers from its peacock tail in Afghanistan that its lies about the superiority of its command economy became obvious even to its own systematically deluded subjects.

When NPR proved inadequate to prevent Americans from seeing the few feathers left in America’s peacock tail, as evidenced by the surprise victory of Trump and his MAGA messaging in 2016, mass media joined forces with various “progressive” elements to create a propaganda machine that puts the old clunky Soviet state media to shame. 

Precisely because it is ostensibly private and domestic, America’s mass media, tarnished as its reputation is becoming, retains more credibility than any state-run media ever possessed. Many pundits have noted how 2020 resembles 1984, except the propaganda so far has come from a political resistance movement backed by parts of the government (FBI, CDC) rather than “the” state per se

The phalanx of private media and sundry have convinced tens of millions of Americans that: 

  • we are better off imposing lockdowns that cause far more harm than the virus itself (and sundry cognates, like the virus is super serious and novel, spreads easily via asymptomatic people, yet is stopped by irrational policies like curfews, as if people won’t simply start drinking earlier!); 

  • the current president is somehow illegitimate (Russian election interference, Ukrainian quid pro quo); 

  • nation-altering Constitutional reforms are necessary (de facto elimination of the electoral college, creation of additional states, SCOTUS enlargement); 

  • calling all people of Euroamerican descent racist isn’t itself racist;

  • a virus can differentiate between good protests (pro-BLM and pro-Biden) and bad ones (anti-lockdown and pro-Trump);

  • the American people chose a candidate who essentially did not campaign or set forth a coherent policy platform over one who, for all his faults, was president when the economy finally palpably improved and made enough progress in the Middle East to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Most impressive of all has been the way the mass media censored or downplayed Biden’s many weaknesses, his deplorable record on race, his almost half-century of self-serving political machinations, and his family’s dealings with Ukraine and China.

Thankfully, the Truth always prevails, it is just a matter of when and how. When the real world is heavily involved, Lies quickly die. So many a hubristic tyrant from ancient times to Hitler has fallen in war; many a fiat currency, including confederal Continentals and Confederate graybacks, has evaporated when their nominal value in circulation rapidly outstripped the real value of goods brought to market. 

The most robust, sustainable Lies cannot even be properly called such because they make no real world predictions at all but instead appeal to emotion and faith, to Revealed Truth. Some have lasted for millennia and though less popular than previously in many places they will surely outlast 2020’s Lies, even though some of those have appealed to faith, oddly in the name of “science,” as in phrases like “follow the science” reminiscent of Sunday sermons beseeching congregants to “follow Scripture.”

But religion appeals to people’s inner worlds so it can get by on dodgy slogans like “God works in mysterious ways.” The Lies of 2020, by contrast, make real world predictions and no amount of media censorship, irrational analysis, or outright obfuscation can permanently hide the fact that lockdowns impose large net burdens, Trump is no more incompetent or flawed than previous presidents, Constitutional checks and balances need to be strengthened and not dismantled, and Americans/America are no more racist than any other people/country.

Just as a fiat currency can quickly lose value through the self-interested actions of market participants, so too can lockdowns dissolve. In fact, in both cases governmental attempts to bolster its Lie (that its monetary policies or lockdowns work) will serve to speed the inevitable. If policymakers do not take the “Thanksgiving Rebellion” as a serious warning, they are dumber or more hubristic than even the most pessimistic have claimed. 

In fact, Americans should use social media, a tool like all tools that can be used for good as well as evil, to pick a time to sing some vintage Twisted Sister in unison to underscore the point: “Oh, we’re not gonna take it anymore! … This is our life … oh You’re so condescending/Your gall is never ending … If that’s your best, your best won’t do. … We’re right … We’re free … We’ll Fight … You’ll see.”

I practice what I preach and drove 12 hours from Georgia to New Jersey to spend time with my family this Thanksgiving, which as usual is gathering near one of the branches of the Atilis Gym, the owners of which gained fame earlier this year by proving the state’s restrictions on places of exercise was not just wrong but wrongheaded. To this day, not a single case of coronavirus has been linked to the establishment and, in fact, its regular patrons stand (and run, bike, squat, and row) as bulwarks against the spread of the coronavirus.

What kind of public health system bemoans the fact that 40 percent of the population is so unhealthy that they are at higher risk of developing complications from the coronavirus and then shutters workout facilities (and even at points boardwalks, parks, etc.)? A coercive state that truly cared about its people would have forced them to exercise instead of shuttering gyms, walking paths, and bike trails!

The longer policymakers allow the pandemic to play out through forced restrictions on natural interaction, the more Americans who will conclude that the public health system and Big Medicine have formed a “complex” akin to the military-industrial and scientific-technical-research complexes that Dwight D. Eisenhower warned Americans about when he left office in 1961, in the wake of another election apparently won with the aid of dead Democrats

This third complex is not interested in Americans’ health but rather their debility. Its goal is to make people dependent on pills and fancy vaccines (the kind now being tested, not the much easier and cheaper live vaccines that might have provided safe, voluntary herd immunity in a month or two, without lockdowns) and to charge through the nose for them, indirectly through taxes or insurance premia. Indirect billing renders the exorbitant costs easier to hide, but like all Lies with real world implications its effects are fragile and unsustainable as even indirect healthcare expenses become unbearable. That led to dropout (most uninsured Americans rationally opted out of insurance that was too costly relative to the expected benefit) and calls for “reforms,” all of which attempt to force everyone to pay tribute to the healthcare complex.

The big risk that I see is that some Americans are coming to understand 2020’s Lies much more quickly and clearly than others. There is a chance, therefore, that instead of The People rising up against feckless government tyrants a la Twisted Sister, tensions between the Still Masked and the Unmaskers, which started in March and intensified over the summer, may boil over into violence. That would be lamentable and counterproductive and could cause the deaths of more Americans in a single day than have perished thus far during the entire pandemic. Violence is a contagion to which nobody can become immune.

Published:11/28/2020 11:03:55 PM
[Markets] CCP Imposes Tough New 'Social Credit Score' Rules CCP Imposes Tough New 'Social Credit Score' Rules Tyler Durden Sat, 11/28/2020 - 23:30

China will consider individuals who seriously endanger people’s health and safety, or disrupt markets’ fair competition and normal social order, as threats to society under its new social credit guidelines.

State broadcaster CCTV reported that the measures were discussed during a recent meeting of the state council citing a state council meeting led by Premier Li Keqiang, President Xi's point man for handling the fallout for the coronavirus.

Among these new punitive measures, China will promote quality development of the credit reporting industry, while encouraging the  sharing of credit information related to finance, government administration and public utilities Speed up orderly use of government-related data Strengthen information security and privacy protection.

The meeting, chaired by Premier Li Keqiang on Wednesday, decided on measures to refine the bad-faith deterrent mechanism to promote the orderly and healthy development of the social credit system.

The principles include adhering to laws and regulations, protecting rights and interests, taking a prudent and appropriate approach and implementing list-based managemen The scope and procedures of credit information shall be formulated in a science-based way, while those for sharing credit information shall be standardized, the meeting said.

For those who aren't familiar with it, Fox News explains that China’s social credit system is a government program being implemented the People's Republic of China regulate its citizens’ behavior based on a point system.

Citizens with higher scores have had an easier time getting bank loans, free medical checkups and discounts on heating. Points have been deducted for traffic violations, selling faulty products or defaulting on loan payments. In some cases, people with bad social credit scores have been barred from buying airline or train tickets.

Other infractions including smoking in non-smoking areas, along with buying - or playing - too many video games, according to various media reports.

Published:11/28/2020 10:34:40 PM
[Markets] Inequality And The Gold Standard Inequality And The Gold Standard Tyler Durden Sat, 11/28/2020 - 23:00

Authored by David Howden via The Mises Institute,

[First published by Mises Canada, December 2013.]

Imagine that you earn $40,000 a year and your boss doubles you at $80,000 a year. Business was good to you both in 2013, and you received a 25% raise for your efforts. Not bad, and your boss gets to share in this good fortune too with an extra $25,000 (about 30%). You’re going to make $50,000 in 2014 and your boss will pull in $105,000.

Are you happy with this deal? Probably. But wait, income inequality just increased! Your boss originally outpaced you by 100%, but now his salary is 110% higher than yours.

To read the brouhaha going around right now, this situation is cause for alarm. Income inequality has increased and despite the fact that everyone is doing better than they once were, one group is doing relatively better.

What about if we reverse the example, starting from the original salaries? Instead of having a great year, imagine things were very bad and salary cuts are going around. You get a 25% pay cut so that you will now be earning $30,000 a year, and because he has more responsibility about the direction of the business and its lack of success, your boss gets a larger pay cut of $25,000. (This situation is the mirror image of the first example.)

You are making much less than you did last year. Are you upset about this? Probably. But wait, apparently there is a silver lining. Your boss now “only” makes about 80% more money than you, versus the 100% salary differential that existed last year. Income inequality decreased!

Apparently you can take solace in knowing that the playing field has been levelled, even if your kids are going to have a tough Christmas morning one year from now.

This is admittedly a very simple example. What I am trying to show is that the income inequality debate is not as straight forward as it is commonly framed. It is not just a question of one group getting a larger piece of the pie, but of increasing the size of the pie so that everyone can benefit.

John Cassidy recently entered the melee with a very digestible look at American income inequality over time. In his “six charts” there is some of the same (the top 1% of earners have seen their share of the pie rise rapidly over the past decades) and also some surprises.

Relying on data from Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez, Cassidy shares the following graph showing changes in real income growth over the past century.

First let’s look at the top 1%. There seem to be about three distinct periods their incomes have gone through. The first from 1913 to roughly 1973 is more or less flat. Real incomes for the top 1% were no higher in 1973 than they were around 1930. After 1973 however there is a sharp and mostly uninterrupted spike upwards which seems to stop around the year 2000. After 2000 their real incomes have ebbed and flowed, primarily in response to capital gains and losses on their stock portfolios. Even though the volatility of their income has increased, it still remains quite high relative to any time over the past 100 years.

Compare this with the bottom 99%. There seem to be about four distinct periods of real income growth. From 1913 until the end of the Great Depression, real income remained more or less constant. The 1940s, 50s and 60s saw a rapid increase in real income growth, far more rapid than what the 1% experienced. This came to a sudden end around 1973 and a stagnation until the early 1990s. Then from 1993 onwards we see the same final stage as the 1%. Increasing real incomes (though much slower than the 1%) but more volatility as well.

There are many things which are the same in these two trends, but the one year that probably pops out for people who think income inequality is a bad thing is 1973.

This year marked the end of the steady advance for the 99%’s real income gains and set in motion the rapid advance of the 1%. In other words, the marked income inequality we see today is a product of the post-1973 world.

So what happened in 1973? Many things as it turns out. Decreased unionization was getting underway in the U.S. economy around this time, as was the spike in the price of oil.

Russ Roberts over at Café Hayek has a different explanation. He thinks it has to do with changes to the family unit. Large increases in the divorce rate and a steady increase in the number of households headed by women could be to blame for the sudden jump in income inequality.

Maybe, but although this could be a reason why, I doubt it is the primary reason.

Let’s try an informal test. What was the biggest event to occur in 1973?

Americans probably will answer Roe v. Wade, the completion of the World Trade Center as the world’s tallest building or the beginnings of the Watergate hearings. Maybe the start of withdrawal of troops from Vietnam or Britain joining the European Economic Community. Or for sports fans it could be Secretariat winning the Triple Crown and getting immortalized on the cover of Time.

Actually the most important thing to happen in 1973 actually happened in 1971, August 15th to be exact.

On that date Richard Nixon closed the gold window. The U.S. dollar was convertible by foreign governments into gold under the then-existing Bretton Woods system at the great price of $35 per ounce. Continued redemption demands by some belligerent countries (primarily France) drained the U.S. of its gold reserves until the breaking point when it became questionable how much longer this could continue for. In what could have been the most important day of the 20th century, Richard Nixon decided to renege on the U.S.’s promises to foreign governments and essentially default on its currency. No longer was the U.S. dollar tied to gold and the U.S. no longer had to worry about spending beyond its means.

Well, almost no longer. While there was no convertibility into gold after 1971 there was still that old bugaboo of fixity in the exchange rate. The U.S. dollar still functioned on a fixed exchange rate standard relative to gold until 1973, even if there was no convertibility. This meant that the U.S. was still not free to expand its money supply or incur ever increasing budget deficits at will. It had to target a dollar price of gold, which was reset a little higher in 1971 to $38/oz. Even though there was no redeemability, the U.S. was legally obliged to target this gold price, something which tied its hands concerning the extent to which deficits could be run and expansionary of the money supply policies could be pursued.

The effect on the deficit is easy to understand in light of this.

Since the late 1880s (and before) the U.S. government ran a somewhat balanced budget. Minor blips appeared during the two World Wars, but by-and-large the deficit hovered very close to the zero line. In the late 1960s we can witness the a growing deficit, partly in response to the cost of the Vietnam War but even that is relatively mild to what would come later. Likewise, 1971 also witnessed a growing deficit but the year which defines the point of no return is clearly 1973. At that point the U.S. deficit went into freefall and besides a few surplus years in the late 1990s it has never recovered.

The effect was also pronounced on prices.

Prices were indeed climbing throughout the 1960s, but 1973 was also the year that set off the most inflationary episode in America´s history. Being unhinged from that relic of gold, the Federal Reserve could increase the money supply and monetize the Federal government’s budget as it wanted. This culminated with 15% annual inflation in 1980 something which took a very strong-minded Federal Reserve chairman by the name of Paul Volker to tame by putting the breaks on money supply growth.

Inflation looks tame today, though the experience following the 1973 decoupling showed what happens when you let the government spend at will without any restraint. Gold provided restraint, just as political gridlock should today. But in the period of the mid to late 1970s there was no such luck.

All this takes us back to the original question: why did income inequality increase so much after 1973? We can look to two factors both related to the loss of the gold exchange standard in 1971 and the arrival of flexible exchange rates two years later.

  • First, as the U.S. government no longer had to worry about redeeming U.S. debt held overseas in gold, it was able to spend without restraint. Of course, this created a large budget deficit quickly, something which needed a solution.

  • This brings us to the second point. By monetizing the U.S. budget deficits, the Federal Reserve set off a period of high price inflation.

The reason why there is growing income inequality since 1973 is a direct result of this monetary mayhem. All this new money needs an entry point into the economy. Someone has to get it first and spend it. When they spend this newly created money they do so at the existing set of prices, but in the course of making these expenditures prices will rise. Those who get the money first “win” in the sense that they get a free lunch – they have a greater income and can spend it before prices rise. Those who get the money last are the “losers” – they get access to this money eventually as it is spent (trickles down?) but by the time that occurs, prices have already risen. They are no better off.

The 99% that have become relatively poorer over the past 40 years are those who get access to this new money last. (Remember however that these people are still, thankfully, wealthier than they were 40 years ago.)

Who are the remaining 1%, then? Well, who gets the money first?

Government officials and contractors, to the extent that they gets the proceeds of all the newly created money are the first and primary beneficiaries. Big banks and financial institutions also win as they are the enablers who help this newly created money enter the economy. Incidentally, 99 times out of 100, when we think of someone in the 1% who is getting ahead of the rest of us, they probably either work for the higher echelons of the government or are involved in the financial industry.

Coincidence? I doubt it, and you just have to go back in time to 1973 to understand why.

Published:11/28/2020 10:05:29 PM
[Markets] Visualizing 50 Years Of Gaming History, By Revenue Stream (1970-2020) Visualizing 50 Years Of Gaming History, By Revenue Stream (1970-2020) Tyler Durden Sat, 11/28/2020 - 22:30

Every year it feels like the gaming industry sees the same stories—record sales, unfathomable market reach, and questions of how much higher the market can go.

We’re already far past the point of gaming being the biggest earning media sector, with an estimated $165 billion revenue generated in 2020.

But as Visual Capitalist's Omri Wallach illustrates in the infographic below, it’s important to break down shifting growth within the market.

Research from Pelham Smithers shows that while the tidal wave of gaming has only continued to swell, the driving factors have shifted over the course of gaming history.

1970–1983: The Pre-Crash Era

At first, there was Atari.

Early prototypes of video games were developed in labs in the 1960s, but it was Atari’s release of Pong in 1972 that helped to kickstart the industry.

The arcade table-tennis game was a sensation, drawing in consumers eager to play and companies that started to produce their own knock-off versions. Likewise, it was Atari that sold a home console version of Pong in 1975, and eventually its own Atari 2600 home console in 1977, which would become the first console to sell more than a million units.

In short order, the arcade market began to plateau. After dwindling due to a glut of Pong clones, the release of Space Invaders in 1978 reinvigorated the market.

Arcade machines started to be installed everywhere, and new franchises like Pac-Man and Donkey Kong drove further growth. By 1982, arcades were already generating more money than both the pop music industry and the box office.

1985–2000: The Tech Advancement Race

Unfortunately, the gaming industry grew too quickly to maintain.

Eager to capitalize on a growing home console market, Atari licensed extremely high budget ports of Pac-Man and a game adaptation of E.T. the Extra Terrestrial. They were rushed to market, released in poor quality, and cost the company millions in returns and more in brand damage.

As other companies also looked to capitalize on the market, many other poor attempts at games and consoles caused a downturn across the industry. At the same time, personal computers were becoming the new flavor of gaming, especially with the release of the Commodore 64 in 1982.

It was a sign of what was to define this era of gaming history: a technological race. In the coming years, Nintendo would release the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) home console in 1985 (released in Japan as the Famicom), prioritizing high quality games and consistent marketing to recapture the wary market.

On the backs of games like Duck HuntExcitebike, and the introduction of Mario in Super Mario Bros, the massive success of the NES revived the console market.

Estimated Total Console Sales by Manufacturer (1970-2020)

Nintendo looked to continue its dominance in the field, with the release of the Game Boy handheld and the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. At the same time, other competitors stepped in to beat them at their own game.

In 1988, arcade company Sega entered the fray with the Sega Mega Drive console (released as the Genesis in North America) and then later the Game Gear handheld, putting its marketing emphasis on processing power.

Electronics maker Sony released the PlayStation in 1994, which used CD-ROMs instead of cartridges to enhance storage capacity for individual games. It became the first console in history to sell more than 100 million units, and the focus on software formats would carry on with the PlayStation 2 (DVDs) and PlayStation 3 (Blu-rays).

Even Microsoft recognized the importance of gaming on PCs and developed the DirectX API to assist in game programming. That “X” branding would make its way to the company’s entry into the console market, the Xbox.

2001–Present: The Online Boom

It was the rise of the internet and mobile, however, that grew the gaming industry from tens of billions to hundreds of billions in revenue.

A primer was the viability of subscription and freemium services. In 2001, Microsoft launched the Xbox Live online gaming platform for a monthly subscription fee, giving players access to multiplayer matchmaking and voice chat services, quickly becoming a must-have for consumers.

Meanwhile on PCs, Blizzard was tapping into the Massive Multiplayer Online (MMO) subscription market with the 2004 release of World of Warcraft, which saw a peak of more than 14 million monthly paying subscribers.

All the while, companies saw a future in mobile gaming that they were struggling to tap into. Nintendo continued to hold onto the handheld market with updated Game Boy consoles, and Nokia and BlackBerry tried their hands at integrating game apps into their phones.

But it was Apple’s iPhone that solidified the transition of gaming to a mobile platform. The company’s release of the App Store for its smartphones (followed closely by Google’s own store for Android devices) paved the way for app developers to create free, paid, and pay-per-feature games catered to a mass market.

Now, everyone has their eyes on that growing $85 billion mobile slice of the gaming market, and game companies are starting to heavily consolidate.

Major Gaming Acquisitions Since 2014

Console makers like Microsoft and Sony are launching cloud-based subscription services even while they continue to develop new consoles. Meanwhile, Amazon and Google are launching their own services that work on multiple devices, mobile included.

After seeing the success that games like Pokémon Go had on smartphones—reaching more than $1 billion in yearly revenue—and Grand Theft Auto V’s record breaking haul of $1 billion in just three days, companies are targeting as much of the market as they can.

And with the proliferation of smartphones, social media games, and streaming services, they’re on the right track. There are more than 2.7 billion gamers worldwide in 2020, and how they choose to spend their money will continue to shape gaming history as we know it.

Published:11/28/2020 9:35:25 PM
[Markets] 2021 Would Be A Great Time To Audit The Fed 2021 Would Be A Great Time To Audit The Fed Tyler Durden Sat, 11/28/2020 - 22:00

Authored by Nick Hankoff via The Mises Institute,

Gone are the days of the Federal Reserve hiding in the shadows. Now it’s a woke central bank fighting for climate and racial justice. Progressives must not fall for this but instead team up with the populist right to audit the Fed and demand transparency.

Let the healing begin! If it is going to be President Joe Biden a couple months from now, then there will be all the more incentive for antiestablishment Democrats to join forces with populist Republicans. What better issue than auditing the Federal Reserve System?

There is strong precedent for progressives and the populist right to unite around an “Audit the Fed” movement. In early 2009, Congressman Ron Paul introduced the Federal Reserve Transparency Act, which garnered 320 House cosponsors by the summer of 2010.

Since then, the antiestablishment factions of both parties have grown and at least one of the 2009 House cosponsors now holds a Senate seat. Audit the Fed has passed the House on three occasions, so it could see as much or more success this coming session.

Another development over the last eleven years is the Fed’s evolving public image. Before Ron Paul’s 2008 presidential run, the central bank lurked in near-total darkness. Two thousand nine was a breakout year for its public relations campaign, and the Fed has failed to return to its prior obscurity. 

Now the secretive power center larps as a super–social justice warrior, fighting for climate and racial justice, the top pet issues of the progressive left. Many grassroots progressives expressed their distaste for Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, but even those who held their noses to vote for them shouldn’t feel at all obliged to apologize for the Fed’s virtue signaling.

Meanwhile, inflationary monetary policy most harms those people and communities whom the progressive left claims to champion. Saving becomes more difficult or impossible, while prices of goods rise.

All the more reason for the Fed to adopt the likeness of a woke institution. Just as it has blamed “irrational exuberance” for boom-bust cycles, it can now blame systemic racism or climate change for poor economic growth that’s actually fueled by its own monetary policy.

This week, the Fed officially sought membership in the Network for Greening the Financial System, an assemblage of central banks and other international forces that “support the transition toward a sustainable economy” for the sake of the climate.

This past summer, Fed chairman Jerome Powell promised to improve “diversity” within the Fed’s structure. Will the new friendlier, kinder, and woker Federal Reserve System win the trust of progressives or irk them for stealing their thunder and undermining their vision?

Most Americans already don't trust the Fed, especially Democrats, people forty-nine and under, and those making less than $50,000 a year. Those would be natural progressive constituencies.

Republicans in the House and Senate, especially if the president is unable to secure a second term, will be in a strong position to take on the Fed. Trump has long criticized the bank and its chairman, whom he picked. Although more recent frustration expressed was over interest rates not being low enough, Trump also supported auditing the Fed during his 2016 campaign.

Republicans will also likely control the Senate, so any other Fed-related bills that Democrats might propose would have more trouble finding enough votes for passage. Take for instance the Federal Reserve Racial and Economic Equity Act recently introduced by Senators Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand and cosponsored by Bernie Sanders.

This FRREE Act seeks to “minimize and eliminate racial disparities in employment, wages, wealth, and access to affordable credit.” That amounts to overhauling the Congress’s instructions for the Fed, which have focused the bank’s duties on job creation and price stabilization since 1977.

Unfortunately, its champions Warren and Sanders have opposed auditing the Fed in the past. It will take a groundswell of grassroots pressure to turn them around, but it can be done.

Any hope for real political unity that actually benefits the American people depends on the success of projects like Audit the Fed. If populist movements from the left and right can coalesce on this one thing, they will find their time well spent. 

Even if a President Biden or Trump vetoed the legislation, it would amount to progress in the pursuit of transparency at the Fed. Both the left and right side of grassroots politics could claim a piece of the same victory. That would be a nice turnaround from 2020.

Published:11/28/2020 9:03:25 PM
[Markets] Cali Mansion Once Listed For $100 Million Sells For "Only" $48.4 Million Cali Mansion Once Listed For $100 Million Sells For "Only" $48.4 Million Tyler Durden Sat, 11/28/2020 - 21:30

Today in "a look into a luxury real estate market you will never likely participate in" news...

A famous L.A. mansion called "Opus" that was once listed for $100 million and has been on the market for over three years has finally sold - at a more than 50% haircut.

The 20,000 square foot mansion sold for $48.4 million this week, furniture included, according to Bloomberg. It is also the latest canary in the luxury real estate coal mine, selling for a large discount during a pandemic which has seen foreign buyers dry up and an exodus from city areas.

Additionally, as we have noted this year, California is seeing an outflow of residents as poor state management, higher taxes and more government are driving citizens to tax havens like Florida and Texas. 

Source: BBG

Jonathan Miller, president of appraiser Miller Samuel told Bloomberg of the original price tag: “It was never worth that to begin with. High-end properties are moving, but they’re not moving for prices that are disconnected from the market.”

The house sports 7 bedrooms and 11 bathrooms, and was custom built by movie producer turned real estate developer (of course) Nile Niami. He first tried to sell the house "with a PR campaign involving a hyper-sexualized video of mostly-naked women in different parts of the house, including one shot of four women slathered in gold paint posing around a golden Lamborghini".

When that didn't work, we guess he ran out of ideas and simply decided to start cutting the price 3 years ago. 

Niami is currently developing a $500 million private residence called "The One" that has 4 swimming pools, a nightclub and a bowling alley. We can't prove it, but we're sure this insanity is somehow Neel Kashkari's fault. Niami says he won't budge on the $500 million price tag. 

Umansky said of the project: “He just won’t listen to the market. If he would just sell and not try to hit a grand slam on every deal, he would be great.”

Source: BBG

The lack of a bid in general is isolated to speculative luxury homes over $100 million, the article notes (we can't imagine why). The rest of the real estate market has been showing signs of lack of supply, mirroring demand nationally in places like South Florida, the Hamptons and Greenwich, Connecticut.

Mauricio Umansky, chief executive officer of the Agency, said: “There’s a big gap between what the owners are willing to sell for and buyers are willing to pay. They didn’t underwrite correctly.”

While the bid/ask spread on real estate has narrowed, some celebrity real estate sales have seen their prices drop. Lori Loughlin, before heading to jail, sold her Bel Air mansion for almost 50% less than the $35 million she was asking. Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi also recently sold their home for $33.3 million after it was originally listed at $40 million.

Published:11/28/2020 8:35:26 PM
[Markets] Stock Market Today: Nasdaq Notches Another High as COVID's Spread Worsens An error in AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine trial and persistent coronavirus troubles in the U.S. led investors to chase the old COVID trade Friday. Published:11/28/2020 8:03:07 PM
[Markets] The Strangely Unscientific Masking Of America The Strangely Unscientific Masking Of America Tyler Durden Sat, 11/28/2020 - 21:00

Authored by Jenin Younes via The American Institute for Economic Research,

I remember vividly the day, at the tail end of March, when facemasks suddenly became synonymous with morality: either one cared about the lives of others and donned a mask, or one was selfish and refused to do so. The shift occurred virtually overnight. 

Only a day or two before, I had associated this attire solely with surgeons and people living in heavily polluted regions. Now, my friends’ favorite pastime during our weekly Zoom sessions was excoriating people for running or socializing without masks in Prospect Park. I was mystified by their certitude that bits of cloth were the only thing standing between us and mass death, particularly when mere weeks prior, the message from medical experts contradicted this new doctrine.

On February 29, the U.S. surgeon general infamously tweeted:

“Seriously people – STOP BUYING MASKS. . . They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus.”

Anthony Fauci, the best-known member of the coronavirus task force, advised Americans not to wear masks around this time. 

Similarly, in the earliest weeks of the pandemic, the CDC maintained that masks should be worn only by individuals who were symptomatic or caring for a sick person, a position that the WHO stood by even longer.

As rapidly as mask use became a matter of ethics, the issue transformed into a political one, exemplified by an article printed on March 27 in the New York Times, entitled “More Americans Should Probably Wear Masks for Protection.” The piece was heavy on fear-mongering and light on evidence.  While acknowledging that “[t]here is very little data showing that flat surgical masks, in particular, have a protective effect for the general public,” the author went on to argue that they “may be better than nothing,” and cited a couple of studies in which surgical masks ostensibly reduced influenza transmission rates.  

One report reached its conclusion based on observations of a “dummy head attached to a breathing simulator.”  Another analyzed use of surgical masks on people experiencing at least two symptoms of acute respiratory illness. Incidentally, not one of these studies involved cloth masks or accounted for real-world mask usage (or misusage) among lay people, and none established efficacy of widespread mask-wearing by people not exhibiting symptoms.  There was simply no evidence whatsoever that healthy people ought to wear masks when going about their lives, especially outdoors.  Yet by April, to walk the streets of Brooklyn with one’s nose and mouth exposed evoked the sort of reaction that in February would have been reserved for the appearance of a machine gun.

In short order, the politicization intensified. President Trump refused to wear a mask relatively early on, so resistance to them was equated with support for him. By the same token, Democratic politicians across the board eagerly adopted the garb; accordingly, all good liberals were wearing masks religiously by the beginning of April. Likewise, left-leaning newspapers such as the New York Times and the Washington Post unequivocally promoted mask-wearing after that March 27 article, with no real analysis or consideration of opposing views and evidence.

The speed with which mask-wearing among the general public transitioned from unheard of to a moral necessity struck me as suspicious. After all, if the science was as airtight as those around me claimed, surely masks would have been recommended by January or February, not to mention during prior infectious disease outbreaks such as the 2009 swine flu. It seemed unlikely that the scientific proof became incontrovertible sometime between late February and late March, particularly in the absence of any new evidence surfacing during that time period. 

Perhaps none of this is particularly surprising in this hyper-political era. What is shocking is the scientific community’s participation in subverting evidence that does not comport with the consensus. A prime example is the Institute of Health Metrics Evaluation’s (“IHME”) rather astounding claim, published in the journal Nature-Medicine and echoed in countless articles afterward, that the lives of 130,000 people could be saved with a nationwide mask mandate.  

As my colleague Phil Magness pointed out in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, the IHME model was predicated upon faulty data:  it assumed that 49% of Americans were wearing masks based on a survey conducted between April and June, while claiming that statistic represented the number of Americans wearing masks as of September 21.  In fact, by the summer, around 80% of Americans were regularly wearing them.  (Ironically, had Dr. Fauci and the Surgeon General not bungled the message in March, mask use probably would have reached much higher rates much earlier on).

This called into question the accuracy of the 130,000 figure, since many more people habitually used masks than the study presumed. 

Although Magness contacted Nature-Medicine to point out the problem, after stalling for nearly two weeks, the journal declined to address it.  Needless to say, the damage had been done:  newspapers such as the New York Times undoubtedly would fail to correct the error and any retractions certainly would be placed far from the front page, where the initial article touting the IHME figure appeared. Thus, as expected, the unfounded claim that 130,000 lives could be saved with a nationwide mask-mandate continues to be repeated, including by president-elect Joe Biden and National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins. 

That the science behind mask-wearing is questionable at best is further exemplified by a letter to the editor written in response to Magness’s article. Dr. Christopher Murray acknowledged that rates of mask-wearing have steadily increased, but then concluded that masks should be used because they are “our first line of defense against the pandemic” and current IHME modeling indicates that “if 95% of U.S. residents were to wear masks when leaving home, we could prevent the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans” because “masks work,” and “much deeper pain is ahead if we refuse to wear them.”  

None of this accounts for the failure of either Nature-Medicine or the IHME modelers to recognize and correct the error.  Moreover, neither the IHME modelers nor Dr. Murray provide any evidence that masks work. They assume masks are extremely effective at preventing spread of the coronavirus, and then claim that the model is correct for that reason. This sort of circular reasoning is all-too typical of those who so vociferously insist that masks are effective without going to the trouble of substantiating that contention – or differentiating what is likely a modest benefit from mask-wearing in specific indoor locations and around high-risk individuals from the media-driven tendency to depict masks as a silver bullet for stopping the virus in all circumstances. 

Coverage of a recent mask study conducted in Denmark likewise epitomizes the failure of the scientific community to rigorously engage with results that do not fit the prevailing masks-as-a-panacea narrative. The first randomized and controlled study of its kind, it found an absence of empirical evidence that masks provide protection to people wearing them, although it apparently did not assess whether they prevent infection of those who encounter the wearer.  The report was covered in a New York Times article bearing the patronizing headline, “A New Study Questions Whether Masks Protect Wearers. You Need to Wear Them Anyway.”  

Noting that the results “conflict with those from a number of other studies,” primarily “laboratory examinations of the particles blocked by materials of various types,” the author remarked that, therefore, this research “is not likely to alter public health recommendations in the United States.” Notably, laboratory examinations, as opposed to the Danish study, do not account for the realities of everyday mask usage by non-medical professionals. 

The author then quotes Susan Ellenberg, a biostatistician at the University of Pennsylvania, who claims that the study indicates a trend: “‘in the direction of benefit’ even if the results were not statistically significant. ‘Nothing in this study suggests . . . that it is useless to wear a mask,’” according to Dr. Ellenberg. 

Nor does anything in this study suggest that it is useful to wear a mask, a fact that Dr. Ellenberg (and the headline) conveniently ignores. Furthermore, if a result is statistically insignificant, it should not be used to make the case for any proposition — as even I, a layperson, know.  

Scientists ought to dispassionately analyze data that contradicts their biases and assumptions, and be open to changing their beliefs accordingly. That the results of the only randomized, controlled study were and continue to be automatically discounted demonstrates that, when it comes to the subject of masks, anything approximating the scientific method has gone out the window. That is all the more evident given the lack of interest that mask proponents have shown in conducting a randomized, controlled study themselves.

An article in the Los Angeles Times went even further: it twisted the findings of the Danish study to argue, incomprehensibly, that the research demonstrated more mask-wearing is warranted.  The author cited, as supposedly compelling evidence that masks work, the low Covid-19 death rates in Singapore, Vietnam, and Taiwan.  Indeed, according to the latest YouGov poll, administered in mid-November, 83% of Americans now wear masks in public, higher rates than Vietnam (77%) and Taiwan (82%).

Furthermore, there are other explanations, apart from widespread mask usage, for the remarkably low death rates in these countries.   Some scientists believe that previous exposure to other coronaviruses in these regions may confer partial or total immunity to SARS-CoV-2. Others have speculated that obesity, environment or genetics could be the reason that Europe and the United States have substantially higher death rates than many Asian and African countries; after all, obesity is one of the most significant risk factors for severe illness. 

To conclude on the basis of low death rates in several countries that masks prevent coronavirus transmission is patently absurd, illogical, and unscientific. A casual observer might also note that coronavirus cases (albeit not necessarily deaths) are rising in many parts of the world, regardless of mask mandates or rates of implementation. While not a controlled experiment, this fact at least ought to be addressed when making such sweeping claims. 

Ultimately, I do not have the credentials to determine whether or not –or to what extent — masks work. But it is obvious that the issue has become so politicized that mainstream media outlets, politicians, and even scientists seize upon the slightest bit of favorable evidence, dismiss out of hand anything that conflicts with their theory, and most egregiously of all misrepresent the data, to support the conclusion that masks worn by asymptomatic people prevent coronavirus transmission.  

And masks are only one part of this story: school closures, lockdowns, and social distancing all have been dogmatically embraced as a means of controlling infection. The substantial evidence that these mechanisms are not effective, particularly beyond their duration, has been automatically rejected for too long. This is not science: it is politics, and those within the profession who have refused to examine their confirmation biases, or manipulated the evidence to score political points, are utterly unqualified for the job. 

Published:11/28/2020 8:03:07 PM
[Markets] The 2021 Liquidity Supernova: Step Aside Fed - US Treasury Will Unleash $1.3 Trillion In Liquidity The 2021 Liquidity Supernova: Step Aside Fed - US Treasury Will Unleash $1.3 Trillion In Liquidity Tyler Durden Sat, 11/28/2020 - 20:30

One of the most poignant (and painful to some) lessons of the past decade - especially to contrarian, bearish investors such as Odey and Horseman - is that the Fed can keep print money far longer than any short can remain solvent. And while it was considered in poor taste until earlier this year to admit that the market levitation is entirely due to the Fed's manipulation of markets- a task best left to fringe, tinfoil wearing blogs - all pretense disappeared after Jerome Powell nationalized the bond market in March, and just last week Morgan Stanley's chief rates strategist, Matthew Hornbach, admitted that central bank liquidity is the most critical component of rising macro markets: "It both greases the wheels of transactional finance and changes the opportunity set available to investors."

It's also why Morgan Stanley has been especially bullish on markets in 2021: as Hornbach summarized it simply: "When it comes to liquidity, our focus is on both "narrow" and "broad" measures... We expect both types of liquidity to expand in 2021."

Last Monday we discussed the expansion of the first type of liquidity, namely that provided by central banks. The math was, in a word, staggering: combined, the 8 DM central banks are expected to purchase US$304 billion of securities ($238 billion of which will be government bonds), on average, from private markets every month in 2021 (with the Fed and the ECB naturally doing most of the buying).

Putting this number in context, in total these 8 central banks are expected to add liquidity worth 0.7% of annual nominal GDP, on average, every month in 2021. "That is a rapid pace of global liquidity injection, the likes of which we haven't seen outside of 2020" Hornbach casually inserts.

What is even more striking is that this may not be enough: as we showed two weeks ago, after the Fed monetized virtually every dollar of net Treasury issuance in 2020, in 2021 Treasury supply will significantly outstrip Fed purchases (and this is even without factoring in the possibility of another major fiscal stimulus).

Said otherwise, while the Treasury faces net Treasury issuance of roughly $2.4 trillion, the Fed is expected to monetize less than half of this total, or $960 billion. Considering that in 2020 under the auspices of "helicopter money" (from which we remind readers there is simply no coming back) the Fed will have monetized virtually every dollar of net issuance, this is a huge cliff and one which could lead to a shock drop in Treasury prices if the market reprices (lower) its expectations for Fed monetizations.

In other words, the Fed needs to more than double its scheduled monthly QE in 2021 just to catch up to where it was in 2020; and the Fed is hardly alone - in just the past month, the RBA, the BOE and most recently, the Riksbank, all announced expansions to their current QE.

And here comes the twist, because in what may come as a surprise to some, in 2021 liquidity injections won't be limited to QE.

As traders who lived through the reserve squeeze of Sept 2019 recall all too vividly, central bank purchases of securities via QE aren't the only way liquidity can find its way into markets. In the US, the Treasury can increase liquidity by allowing its cash balance - held at the Federal Reserve - to decline. When Treasury issues debt, it can either spend the money on government mandates or it can keep the money in its checking account at the Fed, known as the Treasury General Account (TGA).

To be sure, from a liquidity perspective Treasury debt issuance and the subsequent spending does not impact liquidity on net, in general. When Treasury issues debt, banking system reserves decrease. And when Treasury spends the money, banking system reserves increase.

However, as Hornbach reminds us, 2020 was unique in that Treasury issued lots of debt without spending the money, resulting in over $1.6 trillion in Treasury cash available for deployment at a moment's notice, yet due to Congress' inability to reach agreement on a fiscal stimulus, this money was never spent (and may have cost Trump a victory in the election).

As a result, the cash balance in the TGA increased dramatically, resulting in a massive liquidity drain; in fact were it not for other sources of liquidity injection - such as the Fed injecting hundreds of billions with monthly periodicity - that may have been a huge problem for markets. In any event, as the chart below shows, despite the Treasury's liquidity drain reserves increased in 2020 regardless, surpassing a record $5 trillion.

So what happens in 2021 with all this cash already sloshing around?

Well, as Hornbach writes, in 2021 the Treasury General Account will experience more volatility due to the debt ceiling deadline, but will initially result in a very large injection of liquidity. The debt ceiling deadline is August 1, 2021. On this date, the US Treasury will not be able to issue any additional debt above and beyond what it needs to cover existing debt obligations. However, what few may be aware of, is that there is a clause written into the law that prohibits the TGA from rising above levels prior to the debt ceiling deadline, which was in 2019.

This means that based on the 2019 debt ceiling, the Treasury cash will need to be at $200 billion by August 1, 2021. As such, there will be significant T-bill paydowns in 2021 through August in order for Treasury to reduce its cash balance - leading to a massive increase in reserves which is entirely apart from those injected via Fed QE, which continues at a pace of $120 billion per month. With the TGA cash currently at just under $1.5 trillion, it means that the US Treasury will unlock $1.3 trillion in liquidity over the next 8 months, more than doubling the liquidity coming from the Fed over the same time period which will be roughly $1 trillion ($120 x 8 months)!

We hope this massive liquidity injection explains why Biden was so interested in getting a former Fed chair - Janet Yellen - in charge of the Treasury. After all, the amount of liquidity to be injected by the Treasury Department will match, almost dollar for dollar, what Jerome Powell will do in 2021.

So when will this liquidity impact markets?

The Fed first announced its QE-driven foray into liquidity provision on Sunday, March 15, and as Morgan Stanley notes, "it took a couple weeks for the liquidity to flow to where it was needed most: the S&P 500 bottomed and the Fed's broad trade-weighted US dollar index topped on March 23."

Since then, the US dollar index has lost 9.4% and the S&P 500 index is up 60%. In addition, US 10y real yields have fallen 100bp while 10y breakeven inflation rates have risen 100bp. In that sense, the injection of liquidity in 2020 has already had an immense impact on markets.

So how do we know markets will feel the impact again in 2021? In the end, liquidity doesn't have to find its way around markets if it doesn't have an incentive. And it certainly doesn't have to find its way into risky assets.

As we saw ahead of the US election, US$ 1 trillion found its way into money market funds (MMFs), given the uncertainty of a well-telegraphed risk event. However, according to Hornbach, in 2021, the sheer size of liquidity entering markets will make it hard for investors to keep it sitting in cash accounts, earning next to nothing. And, given virtual guarantees that most central bank policy rates will remain at effective lower bounds (ELBs) in 2021, and many will remain there in 2022 as well, Hornbach concludes that "investors will have a (performance) incentive to move cash into higher yielding assets."

In the end, it's not possible for us to say exactly when the liquidity will impact market prices throughout the year. Still, once the race for returns begins as we enter the new calendar year (the new fiscal year for many investors), we expect liquidity to venture out of its safe-haven cash-cave - just as long as new, unforeseen uncertainties aren't mounting at the same time.

Translation: buy everything ahead of an unprecedented dollar devaluation orgy.

Published:11/28/2020 7:32:42 PM
[Markets] Watch: CNN Admits There Are "Legal & Constitutional" Ways For Trump To Stay In Office Watch: CNN Admits There Are "Legal & Constitutional" Ways For Trump To Stay In Office Tyler Durden Sat, 11/28/2020 - 20:00

Authored by Paul Joseph Watson via Summit News,

In a video released before the election but attracting fresh attention, CNN’s Fareed Zakaria explained the “legal and constitutional” case by which President Trump could stay in office even if he loses the election.

In a moment of actual journalistic integrity, which is incredibly rare these days for CNN, Zakaria outlined how Trump could retain the presidency “without actually winning the vote.”

Explaining how the system worked, Zakaria said electors are determined by that state’s popular vote, but that this is “not a constitutional obligation.”

The host then outlined the exact scenario that happened on election day, with Trump leading on November 3rd but then mail-in ballots swinging the result for Biden, prompting a flurry of challenges and lawsuits.

“Taking account of the confusion, legislatures decide to choose the electors themselves,” said Zakaria before pointing out that eight out of nine key swing states have Republican legislatures.

“If one or more decide that balloting is chaotic and marked by irregularities, they could send what they regard as the legitimate slate of electors, which would be Republican.”

Adding to the confusion, Democrats from the same states would also send their electors to Washington, which Zakaria suggested could be “part of the Republican plan.”

“Because you see when Congress convenes on January 6 to tally the electors’ votes, there would be challenges to the legitimacy of some electors,” explained Zakaria.

This would prompt Congressional Republicans to argue that disputed states should not be counted, which would ensure Biden’s could not reach 270 electoral college votes.

“At that point, the constitution clearly directs that the House of Representatives vote to determine the presidential election, but it does so with each state casting a single ballot,” said Zakaria, noting that this process would result in the re-election of Donald Trump.

“Trump doesn’t have to do anything other than accept this outcome, which is constitutional,” concluded Zakaria.

The video has caused consternation amongst some Biden supporters, who are eagerly pointing out that it was released before the election.

However, this makes no difference whatsoever. Zakaria’s explanation of how Trump could still win is still in play.

*  *  *

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Published:11/28/2020 7:02:34 PM
[Markets] "I Want To Build A World Where Someone Like Me Is Impossible" - Meet The Trust Fund Brats Trying To Destroy Capitalism "I Want To Build A World Where Someone Like Me Is Impossible" - Meet The Trust Fund Brats Trying To Destroy Capitalism Tyler Durden Sat, 11/28/2020 - 19:30

Roughly 18 months have passed since New York Magazine published a cover story declaring that, in the age of President Trump, all the new "it" kids in Brooklyn (we use the term "kids" loosely; most are well into their 30s) are avowed socialists.

As the reporter explains, the new generation of Brooklyn cool kids have blue check marks on twitter and low-paying editorial jobs at digital magazines like the (now defunct) Outline, Deadspin (a media outlet ostensibly dedicated to sports but realistically covered whatever its reporters and editors felt like writing about on any given day) or Jacobin, a magazine that has been described by some as "straight up Marxist" in its editorial slant. Almost all of them were white women, the most oppressed class.

One year later, a staff uprising at the NYT exposed just how deeply embedded these new crypto-marxist values have become in the modern American media environment. Staffers successfully ousted Opinion Page editor James Bennett over his decision to curate an essay from Republican Sen. Tom Cotton despite the fact that the opinion page is supposed to be an entirely separate editorial entity from the NYT's newsgathering operation.

This week, the NYT has published a story about a handful of wealthy heirs who have embraced the socialist credo, and who see their massive piles of inherited wealth as a symbol of shame, not a blessing for which they should be extremely grateful.

Take 25-year-old Sam Jacobs, for example. Described as "a socialist since college", he reportedly sees his family's "'extreme plutocratic wealth' as both a moral and economic failure".

"I want to build a world where someone like me, a young person who controls tens of millions of dollars, is impossible," he said.

Fortunately for Jacobs, his grandfather was one of the founders of Qualcomm, the ubiquitous chipmaker. And even if he gives $30 million away, he'll still have another $70 million or so coming to him over the course of his lifetime. And what's more, he's not alone. As the NYT reports, for all their kvetching about student loans, American millennials will soon become the beneficiaries of what social scientists are calling "the great wealth transfer": tens of trillions of dollars are expected to pass from the hands of baby boomers to their millennial and Gen X spawn over the coming decade.

However, most American millennials won't inherit anything, except for "debt, dim job prospects" and a "figment" of the social safety net (that seems like an exaggeration, especially considering that literally every single American citizen who reaches the required age will receive a monthly check from the federal government, part of a program called "social security", not to mention medicare/medicaid).

But as both a "trust-fund kid and an anticapitalist", Jacobs "is in a rare position among leftists fighting against economic inequality". And he's hardly along in trying to navigate "what it means to be with the 99%, when you're the 1%" - embracing the type of reductive, us-vs.-them thinking promoted by Bernie Sanders and his allies.

30-year-old Rachel Gelman is another example. Her wealthy family gave generously to liberal causes growing up. Now, as a 30-year-old preparing to inherit millions from her parents, Gelman is trying to find a way to give back since most of her family's money "comes from stocks...which means it comes from underpaying and undervaluing working-class people, and that’s impossible to disconnect from the economic legacies of Indigenous genocide and slavery."

Of course, no story about modern day socialism would be complete without a quote from professor Richard Wolff, an "economist" who currently teaches at the New School in Manhattan (an overpriced university dedicated to serving the overprivileged elite who could score high enough on their SATs to get into NYU).

As Wolff, known to millions of millennials for his guest appearances on the left wing podcast "Chapo Trap House", explains, all the money being inherited by today's millennials came from "a mammoth redistribution away from the working masses, creating a super-rich tiny minority at the expense of a fleeting American dream."

Later on in the story, one of the heirs whose wealth comes from a chain of strip malls, said the business model just reeks of "intersectional oppression".

Heirs whose wealth has come from a specific source sometimes use that history to guide their giving. Pierce Delahunt, a 32-year-old "socialist, anarchist, Marxist, communist or all of the above," has a trust fund that was financed by their former stepfather’s outlet mall empire. (Mx. Delahunt takes nongendered pronouns.)

"When I think about outlet malls, I think about intersectional oppression," Mx. Delahunt said. There’s the originally Indigenous land each mall was built on, plus the low wages paid to retail and food service workers, who are disproportionately people of color, and the carbon emissions of manufacturing and transporting the goods. With that on their mind, Mx. Delahunt gives away $10,000 a month, divided between 50 small organizations, most of which have an anticapitalist mission and in some way tackle the externalities of discount shopping.

In reality, most of the wealth held by baby boomers wasn't redistributed, but was in fact created during the 20th century during the post-war economic boom - an economic movement that generated more prosperity, and dragged more people out of poverty, than any earlier period in human history.

Published:11/28/2020 6:32:47 PM
[Markets] Glenn Greenwald Opines On Ilhan Omar's Misguided Defense Of John Brennan Glenn Greenwald Opines On Ilhan Omar's Misguided Defense Of John Brennan Tyler Durden Sat, 11/28/2020 - 19:00

Authored by Glenn Greenwald via

The right to dissent from, and to work against, the official foreign policy of the U.S. Government is vital: foundational to Constitutional liberties. There is very little such dissent in the U.S. Congress, where many of the core tenets of the Foreign Policy Community (from CIA drone warfare and clandestine coups to steadfast support for Gulf State and Middle East tyrannies as well as Israel) enjoy overwhelming, at times virtually unanimous, bipartisan support.

That is one of the reasons that — as I’ve said repeatedly — I am glad that there are now members of Congress such as Congresswomen Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan who so vocally and unflinchingly dissent from this general foreign policy orientation and especially from those policies which most members of Congress either cannot or do not want to denounce.

Whether or not one agrees with these two lawmakers on every issue, having members of Congress questioning and objecting to highly consequential foreign policies is inherently healthier than full-scale agreement or fear-driven acquiescence. Dissent strengthens all democracies. That is why I have relentlessly defended Congresswoman Omar, even in the face of less-than-ideally-phrased proclamations, from what I regard as bad faith accusations of bigotry and a lack of patriotism (just as I denounced moronic claims that Trump was a “traitor”): bad faith accusations of bigotry or treason are often designed to demonize attempts to question pieties and ostracize those who do it.

For that very reason, I was quite surprised to see that late Friday night, Congresswoman Omar, in response to something I wrote, defended not only former CIA Director John Brennan — who as Obama’s CIA Director presided over the bombing of numerous countries including Somalia — but also The Logan Act. The Logan Act is nothing more than an unconstitutional attempt to criminalize foreign policy dissidents, like her, and is so dangerous in the hands of the CIA, FBI and federal prosecutors precisely because it lacks any clear definition or meaning.

Despite this, Congresswoman Omar depicted that ancient statute not as what it is — an impossibly vague and overly broad attempt to criminalize the core Constitutional right to dissent — but instead as some kind of specific, precisely defined, and well-established precedent, the contours of which are clearly established and easily applied. None of that is true.

This 219-year-old statute is one of the most unconstitutional and dangerous laws in the U.S. Code. Because it has never been used to prosecute anyone, and was only used to obtain an indictment one time in its entire history — back in 1803, against someone who wrote an op-ed criticizing U.S. foreign policy toward France — nobody knows what it actually prescribes or allows because there is no binding judicial precedent interpreting what it means. It is precisely because it has never been used to prosecute anyone that there is no judicial clarity about what it means, and that’s how the U.S. Government wants it (for the same exact reason, the DOJ has never made good on its threats to prosecute any journalist who publishes classified information under the Espionage Act of 1917: they prefer to weaponize the fear of uncertainty regarding the law’s scope and application rather than prosecute journalists under it and thus risk a judicial ruling declaring it unconstitutional or inapplicable to journalists).

The wildly broad vagueness and lack of clarity is what makes it so dangerous to leave the Logan Act on the books. These are exactly the kinds of ambiguous laws that can serve as an abusive pretext in the hands of the FBI, empowering it to investigate anyone it wants under the rubric of this archaic, ambiguous law. A law can be so vague that it can be unconstitutional for that reason alone: a failure to clearly advise citizens of what is and is not legal violates the right of due process.

But while all such vague laws are dangerous, the Logan Act is particularly menacing to those who dissent from core U.S. foreign policy and are thus often accused of disloyalty, such as Congresswoman Omar. All members of Congress, but particularly foreign policy dissidents, should be working to repeal this ancient and repressive law, not wielding it as a weapon against adversaries and pretending that it is some highly specific, clear and valid criminal constraint on the conduct and speech of U.S. citizens.

*  *  *

The context of the exchange with Congresswoman Omar, and the key role played in it by former Obama CIA Director John Brennan, is necessary to understand Rep. Omar’s point. Far more importantly, this context illustrates the severe, ongoing dangers of allowing this dangerous law to fester on the books.

On Friday, reports emerged that, just days after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a key Iranian nuclear scientist was ambushed and murdered by gunmen. U.S. officials told The New York Times that Israel was behind the assassination — which should be unsurprising given that Israel assassinated several senior Iranian nuclear scientists during the Obama years.

This news provoked indignation from MSNBC’s John Brennan, formerly Obama’s Director of the CIA, an agency heralded worldwide for its righteous opposition to assassinations. Along with condemning the assassination of this Iranian scientist as “a criminal act and highly reckless,” Brennan also used his tweet to send an explicit message to Iranian officials: urging them not to retaliate but instead to wait for the Biden administration to take over, promising the new U.S. administration would “respond against perceived culprits.”

In other words, Brennan, like many people (including myself), is concerned that the Trump administration and Israel are seeking to escalate tensions with Iran during the transition — either because they seek war with Tehran or, more likely, because they want to provoke a cycle of retaliation that would prevent the incoming Biden administration from re-implementing the Iran Deal which Trump nullified and which Israel vehemently opposes.

Thus, Brennan sought to subvert what he perceives as the current foreign policy of the U.S. Government — to provoke and punish Iran — by encouraging Iranian officials to ignore the provocation and therefore not derail efforts by the incoming U.S. administration to establish better relations once Biden is inaugurated:

There are so many amazing ironies to this Brennan statement. To begin with, it’s just stunning to watch Obama’s Chief Assassin — who presided over a global, years-long, due-process-free campaign of targeted assassinations, under which the official “kill list” of who was to live and who was to die was decreed by Judge, Jury and Executioner Brennan in a secret White House meeting that bore the creepy designation “Terror Tuesdays” — now suddenly posture as some kind of moral crusader against assassinations. I have denounced these Israeli assassinations as terrorism — both in the past and yesterday — but I have also denounced with equal vigor the Obama/Brennan global assassination program.

The audacity of Brennan’s moral posturing became even more evident as he tried to explain why his and Obama’s assassination program was noble and legal, while the one that resulted in Friday’s killing in Iran was immoral and criminal. After all, this is the same John Brennan who got caught red-handed lying about how many innocent civilians were killed by Obama’s global assassination program, and who even claimed the right to target American citizens for execution by drone without any transparency let alone due process: a right they not only claimed but exercised.

When you’re reduced to sitting on Twitter trying to distinguish your own global assassination program from the one you’re condemning, that is rather potent evidence that you are among the absolute last persons on earth with the moral credibility to denounce anything. That’s particularly true when you directed your unilateral assassination powers onto your own citizens, ending several of their lives.

But that’s the Trump era in a nutshell: the most bloodthirsty monsters and murderers successfully whitewash their own history of atrocities by deceiving people into believing that none of this was done prior to Trump, and that their flamboyant opposition to Trump — based far more in stylistic distaste for him and loss of their own access than substantive policy objections — absolves them of their own prior, often-worse monstrosities. Call it the David Frum Syndrome.

But to me the most glaring irony — as I pointed out — is how similar is the transition message sent by Brennan on Friday to the Iranians when compared to the one sent by Gen. Michael Flynn to the Russians during the 2016 transition after the Obama administration sanctioned Moscow. The message of both Flynn and Brennan was virtually identical: don’t over-react or excessively retaliate: a new administration will soon take power and wants to work with you, so don’t do anything rash now that could prevent that from happening.

But the difference is that while Brennan was predictably celebrated for his message to the Iranians, with viral likes and re-tweets, Flynn was criminally investigated by Jim Comey’s FBI for his. After Comey, then the FBI Director, ordered the investigation into Flynn’s ties to Moscow closed at the start of 2017 due to lack of evidence, FBI agents deeply hostile to Trump seized on Flynn’s December, 2016, intercepted phone call with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak — when Flynn was a national security transition official just weeks away from taking over — to continue the criminal investigation on the ground that he may have violated the Logan Act by attempting to subvert current U.S. foreign policy with his message to Moscow not to overreact and instead to wait for the new administration.

Read the rest of the report here.

Published:11/28/2020 6:05:23 PM
[Markets] : What a COVID-19 vaccine would mean for mortgage rates and the housing market ‘Some home sellers that would have sold in a normal market decided just to hunker down because of COVID,’ said Jay Farner, CEO of Quicken Loans’ parent Rocket Cos.
Published:11/28/2020 5:33:56 PM
[Markets] "Washington Is Exhausted": Swamp Gears Up For Post-Trump Power Orgy "Washington Is Exhausted": Swamp Gears Up For Post-Trump Power Orgy Tyler Durden Sat, 11/28/2020 - 18:30

Washington elites are breathing a sigh of relief, as power players on both sides of the aisle gear up for 'business as usual' following a four-year disruption in swamp-activities - thanks to one Donald J. Trump, whose anticipated departure from the Oval Office has the DC establishment lick their chops in anticipation.

"The classic friendly-rivals dinner party will be back, likely bigger than ever, with VIP guests from the Biden administration, a few formers from the Obama crowd, a senator or two seated next to a Supreme Court justice," according to the Washington Post's Roxanne Roberts

Shoving the Uniparty's collective excitement in our plebeian faces, Roberts writes in. full. stops. "Washington is exhausted. Washington is optimistic. Washington is desperate for change. The aristocracy of this city is ready to move on, daring to hope that the last four years was a fever that finally broke and life can get back to normal."

Poor Washington.

"Normal, as in a respect for experience and expertise. Normal, as in civility and bipartisan cooperation. Normal, as in not wanting to punch someone in the face," Roxanne continues.

And who's about to usher in this period of 'bipartisan cooperation' and controlling one's violent delights? Joe Biden, of course!

Biden and wife Jill Biden “know how to get around Washington, how to be a part of the establishment, how to make it work for them in their everyday lives,” says an influential Republican hostess who, like many of the city’s social leaders, spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak frankly without retribution. “People who have always enjoyed the Washington scene are yearning to get back to that, have some semblance of what they enjoyed so much before. There are a lot of Republicans who sat out the Trump years and bit their tongues for four years who are thrilled to have Biden.” At the heart of this optimism is the belief that politicians on both sides of the aisle get more accomplished when they like each other. -WaPo

And of course, no self-respecting DC power-player can survive without attending establishment soirées, fundraisers, diplomatic corps and 'historical traditions' underpinning the 'business of Washington' - which Roxanne says needs 'bipartisanship to really thrive' after the Trump administration made everything a 'test of loyalty.'

"Washington’s elite social world can pivot faster than a prima ballerina," Roxanne continues - noting that a COVID-19 vaccine and a 'call for comity' will allow them to 'press the reset button and start fresh.'

According to the report, the 'permanent establishment' was polarized by a White House that referred to them as the 'swamp' or 'deep state.' Not anymore, writes Roxanne - who looks forward to DC's return to its 'former glory.'

For the last four years, the tone from the White House was contemptuous of Washington, dismissing the permanent establishment — the longtime politicians and former administration officials who call it home — as the “swamp” or “deep state.” The social arbiters, traditionally respectful of a new administration, quickly found themselves between a Trump and a hard place: To invite or not to invite?


Back to normal will mean more state dinners, a prestigious and glamorous way of reestablishing global ties. And it means that Washington events traditionally attended by the president and first lady for the better part of five decades — the Honors, the Alfalfa dinner, the Gridiron, the Ford’s Theatre gala and the correspondents’ dinner — will likely return to their former glory. -WaPo

"The president-elect has a great number of friends who are Republicans that he served with," says Clinton and Obama administration veteran, Ambassador Capricia Marshall. "And he will be inviting them into the White House because that’s how you get work done: creating those relationships in these social atmospheres, making people feel invited and welcomed."

Bipartisanship equals money

Perhaps the biggest relief to Washington insiders from a lack of Trumpian politics will be the restoration of bipartisan fundraising - as "The quickest way to attract money is to have support from both sides of aisle: a Republican and a Democrat prominently displayed at the head table, with the corporate support and underwriting that greases all those wheels."

"This idea that we are a democracy, we disagree on a lot, but we come together around certain moments. You may not be happy with who wins, but you understand and recognize the power of it," says event planner Philip Dufour.

Capricia Marshall fondly recalls a textbook scene from every movie about corrupt Washington officials, which DC elites have been unable to recreate in Trumpian times:

I fondly remember Senator [Daniel] Inouye and Senator McCain all getting into these wonderful debates about various issues on the environment and on the economy," says Marshall. "It was very entertaining to watch. And in the end, they would lift their glass, give each other a toast, a smile, a great laugh and carry on."

Published:11/28/2020 5:33:56 PM
[Markets] A Key Time For Gold A Key Time For Gold Tyler Durden Sat, 11/28/2020 - 18:00

Authored by Sven Henrich via,

I wanted to offer some thoughts on Gold on this Thanksgiving weekend as Gold has reached a key price pivot and has seen sizable selling in recent weeks as the rest of the market continues to melt into the stratosphere and speculative bubbles are spreading across asset classes.

So why not Gold?

There are multiple factors at play: The more obvious is that market participants thought Gold to be a safety hedge in an uncertain world and with Covid vaccines being announced weekly that uncertainty is being presumable priced out of the market and the safety hedges unwound.

Yet Gold has also been presumed to be a central bank currency printing trade as the dollar is being pounded into the ground. That correlation worked all year but has stopped working as both dollar and Gold have been dropping together lately and that has to be concern for Gold longs. If Gold can’t rally with the dollar dropping then when can it rally?

This is where technicals are coming in and they suggest a key time for Gold.

Now those that are following our market videos know I’ve been cautious Gold ever since the target got hit in the summer:

The main reason being technical, once targets are reached and charts show negative divergences I’m of the mindset to sit back and wait for new chart patterns to evolve.

As market video subscribers know I’ve been watching key patterns that could suggest Gold to be buying opportunity here.

Firstly, the most obvious chart aspect is the support of the 200MA which probably most people are watching, also in context of bullish falling wedge/bull flag that has formed:

Note this pattern was challenged late last week, but also note Gold has been following one bullish pattern after another which we identified ahead of time in 2019 ( Gold Going BullGold Bull Part II ).

So Gold continues to follow bullish patterns, also note Gold is getting oversold, but has room to become more oversold.

What’s more interesting to me here is how Gold has precisely reached the retrace target zone I’ve been outlining in the market videos since the summer, the .382 fib along with the 2012 bounce highs as support:

That is confluence support and holding this confluence zone would support the notion of this corrective move in Gold off of the weekly negative divergence having the opportunity to build a larger cup and handle pattern which would be tremendously bullish Gold long term for a target north of $3,000.

I need to outline two caveats here.

First, note how similar the rip rally in 2020 is to the one of 2011. That period was followed by a steep correction similar to the current one. Gold then chopped up and down in price for 2 years before finally dropping to the 2015 lows. The similarity of the structure certainly leaves room for a similar outcome. One argument to support such a price development is to say that incremental central bank intervention will be diminishing in the years to come. They went all in this year and there are frankly less assets for them to buy, certainly in comparison to the magnitude they bought in the short time period in 2020.

Second, and this goes to my earlier point: Watch the US dollar:

Gold should’ve been able to take advantage of the recent dollar weakness, but hasn’t been able to. That’s a concern. Note Gold peaked in the summer near the time when the dollar bottomed. Now the dollar is retesting these lows with a potential falling wedge which could play as bullish pattern and firm as a potential double bottom.

If Gold can’t rally with a falling dollar how will it cope with a potential rising dollar? As the dollar has yet to show strength it is an academic question at the moment, but it’s something to keep a watchful eye on it as correlations are to be viewed with extreme caution at the moment.

Let’s not forget: We are inside the largest asset bubble of all time:

Distortions having been created that central bankers are fully aware of, but rarely admit. But when they do one best pay attention:

Distortions brought about by the loosest financial conditions in history:

Pedal to the metal risk on. Except in Gold in recent months.

Bottomline: Gold has continued to follow technicals beautifully and the recent weakness is no surprise to those that have followed the technical chart structures. Now Gold has reached key confluence support and has the opportunity to rally from this support. But the caveats need to be watched and risk managed as we live in times of broad market correlations having been mercilessly raped by central bankers and their policies.

*  *  *

For the latest public analysis please visit NorthmanTrader. To subscribe to our market products please visit Services.

Published:11/28/2020 5:05:15 PM
[Markets] NY Gym Owner Rips Up $15,000 Lockdown Fine On Live TV: "We Will Not Comply" NY Gym Owner Rips Up $15,000 Lockdown Fine On Live TV: "We Will Not Comply" Tyler Durden Sat, 11/28/2020 - 17:00

Submitted by Rusty Weiss of The Mental Recession,

Robby Dinero, the owner of Athletes Unleashed gym located in Orchard Park, New York, tore up a $15,000 fine from the Erie County Health Department during a live Fox News interview.

Dinero got hit with the extraordinarily hefty fine following a confrontation in which roughly 50 business owners attending a meeting inside the gym refused to allow a pair of sheriffs and a health inspector entry to the building without a warrant.

"They picked a fight with a Marine and a whole bunch of patriots," the gym owner said in a separate interview with WBEN, before pointing out that “The Constitution protects those rights.”

New York Gym Owner Rips Up His Fine, Says He Will Not Comply

Dinero, speaking with Fox anchor Sandra Smith, reiterated that Governor Andrew Cuomo’s lockdown edicts infringe upon his rights.

The veteran, having pointed out Cuomo’s and Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz six-figure taxpayer-funded salaries, challenged them to look their constituents’ children in the eyes and tell them their parents’ work is not “essential.”

The lockdown rules, he believes, deny citizens their Constitutional right to earn a living.

Dinero then ripped up the fine on camera while supporters behind waved American flags and shouted, “We will not comply.”

Confrontation With Business Owners and Authorities Goes Viral

Last week, Dinero held a meeting with business owners inside his gym. He explained that the meeting was a protest of New York’s regulations that have closed gyms, salons, and other businesses deemed nonessential.

Oddly enough, despite the state’s blind eye to riots under the guise of ‘protests’ over the summer, authorities took issue with this particular peaceful protest. Sheriffs and the health inspector showed up and things escalated as the business owners refused to let them on the property without a proper warrant.

"Get out! Get out!" they repeatedly yelled.

As the authorities leave, one protester can be heard shouting, "Take your Commie s*** elsewhere!"

Cuomo has been regulating everything in his state during the pandemic, from what time New Yorkers can eat in restaurants to what they can eat in restaurants, and on to what people can do in their own home. His constitutional overreach has prompted several sheriffs to refuse to enforce his orders. 

Cuomo responded by calling any sheriff who refuses to enforce his edicts a “dictator.” He said that without a hint of irony.

Published:11/28/2020 4:01:32 PM
[Markets] NewsWatch: Man who called Dow 20,000 says 3 factors will make 2021 ‘a very good year’ for stocks Jeremy Siegel, the Wharton professor credited for calling Dow 20,000 in 2015, predicted that the market could be in for a solid gain in the coming year based on three factors.
Published:11/28/2020 4:01:32 PM
[Markets] Outside the Box: 7 advantages a late starter has over the FIRE world in saving for retirement You can still end up with a secure retirement.
Published:11/28/2020 3:32:22 PM
[Markets] Saudi King Was Not Informed Of Netanyahu's Visit & Meeting With MbS Saudi King Was Not Informed Of Netanyahu's Visit & Meeting With MbS Tyler Durden Sat, 11/28/2020 - 16:30

Some fascinating new details have emerged regarding last Sunday's (11/22) unprecedented visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Saudi Arabia.

First to recap, amid widespread reports that the Saudis will be the next Arab country to normalize ties with the Jewish state, after the UAE and Bahrain were the first to do so, Netanyahu met with crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MbS) the Saudi city of Neom. It was also in the presence of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Via Daily Sabah

This was reported as a "covert meeting" - also given Riyadh officially denies it took place while it was widely acknowledged in Israeli and international press. The two leaders reportedly discussed joint efforts to counter Iran, an issue which already saw intelligence and operations sharing in places like Syria.

Reuters on Friday released new bombshell information alleging the whole meeting with Netanyahu was done without the approval or even knowledge of the Saudi head of state, King Salman bin Abdulaziz.

The Times of Israel also underscored that "Saudi Arabia’s King Salman was reportedly kept out of the loop about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s secretive trip to the kingdom this week for talks with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman." And further:

Quoting a Saudi source and a foreign diplomat in Riyadh, Reuters reported Friday that normalization with Israel appeared off the table as long as the Saudi monarch is alive — an analysis also made Thursday by a senior Israeli source cited by Israeli TV.

Given the king's age and increased reported senility, MbS has in recent years acted as de facto head of the kingdom, but it remains an incredibly bold move (the meeting with Israel's leader) especially given King Salman is said to be against any 'normalization' with Israel. 

And then there's this incident from thie G-20 the prior week... the video was said to have been intentionally leaked:

"A video was leaked during the G20 summit which showed MbS correcting the confused king’s recollection, a leak which sources said was intentional," according to Reuters.

It appears MbS plans to further sideline his father especially when it comes to foreign policy, relying on the 'poor health' angle to argue Salman is incapable of making crucial decisions as official head of state.

Published:11/28/2020 3:32:22 PM
[Markets] Brett Arends's ROI: Why the only place you should invest in bitcoin is in your IRA I’m not saying you should or shouldn’t buy the digital virtual currency, but if you do decide to buy it, do it in your IRA or some other tax-sheltered account.
Published:11/28/2020 1:33:56 PM
[Markets] Help Me Retire: I’m a 31-year-old engineer who wants to shift to a lower-paying job one day — what rate of return do I need to sustain my retirement savings? Have a question about retirement? Email
Published:11/28/2020 1:00:46 PM
[Markets] NewsWatch: Man who called Dow 20,000 says 3 factors will make 2021 ‘a very good year’ for stocks Jeremy Siegel, the Wharton professor credited for calling Dow 20,000 in 2015, predicted that the market could be in for a solid gain in the coming year based on three factors.
Published:11/28/2020 11:06:09 AM
[Markets] Where Should I Retire?: We want to leave cold Midwest states for ‘warmer and drier climes’ and affordable health care on $44,000 a year — so where should we retire? The curveball: their adult children are in Omaha, Neb., and Tucson.
Published:11/28/2020 8:29:52 AM
[Markets] Where Should I Retire?: We love to ski but are struggling even with a $1 million house budget — what’s an affordable ski town where we can retire? Oh, it should have good lakes and water sports nearby and not be too touristy.
Published:11/28/2020 8:00:41 AM
[Markets] What A Biden Administration Means For Border Security What A Biden Administration Means For Border Security Tyler Durden Sat, 11/28/2020 - 00:00

Authored by Chris Farrell via The Gatestone Institute,

A Biden administration means two dramatic and dangerous reversals on Trump policies that will endanger the American public: 1. Termination of President Trump's signature 2016 campaign issue -- The Wall; and 2. Loosening of immigration restrictions.

"There will not be another foot of wall constructed on my administration, No. 1," Biden told National Public Radio earlier this year.

"I'm going to make sure that we have border protection, but it's going to be based on making sure that we use high-tech capacity to deal with it."

Biden is not really promising any border protection at all. It sounds good, but it is a hollow falsehood. Most of the American public does not know about or has forgotten the $30 billion dollar disaster known as "SBInet." We have been down this "high-tech virtual wall" road before. The only winners were defense contractors. The virtual wall does nothing to deter or prevent unlawful entry across the border. It merely provides surveillance and recording of the illegal activity. Thousands of hours of video recordings of such crossings are available on the internet right now. Technology contractors are encouraged that a Biden administration would like to continue watching and recording millions of people entering the country illegally.

The Americans paying the very high price for Biden/Harris reckless open borders policy are in border communities. Biden's reversals spell doom for overloaded (and closed) hospitals, schools, public housing, and courts. Remember: Biden (and the rest of the Democratic presidential field) promised free healthcare to all illegal aliens.

Biden will reverse Trump policies and rules governing legal immigration. He will -- no doubt -- cancel Trump's so-called "Muslim ban" that barred immigrants from certain countries and curtailed legal immigration, including restrictions on asylum claims.

Biden has a long public record, so you will not be surprised to learn that a few years ago he was proudly in favor of building 700 miles of border fence. Biden had a border hawk position back on November 27, 2006 at a Q&A with a Columbia, SC Rotary Club meeting. Notably, Biden has faced criticism for his past track record on immigration issues. Obama/Biden deported 3 million illegal aliens. The Trump administration deported fewer than 1 million over the last 3+ years.

Court battles will continue, of course. Some Trump administration initiatives are still working their way through the judicial process. Biden has committed to restoring the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which gives deportation relief and work permits to those brought illegally to the U.S. as children. Please remember, many of those "children" are now in their early 30s. The Trump administration tried to end the program, but that effort was blocked by the Supreme Court.

Biden has also glommed onto the "Comprehensive Immigration Reform" mantra, and vowed to initiate a complete system overhaul not accomplished since Reagan's well-intentioned error of 1986. While making that pledge, Biden disavowed workplace enforcement raids and sees no reason why illegal aliens cannot immediately begin receiving public assistance from taxpaying Americans.

Setting aside big national policy considerations, let us focus again on the border communities and the Americans directly at risk. Almost seven years into a Judicial Watch investigation dealing with Mexican Cartel penetration of federal, state and municipal law enforcement organizations in the El Paso, Texas region, we uncovered facts that resulted in the Department of Justice Inspector General taking direct action. Corrupt law enforcement officials at the federal, state and municipal level were removed. Other corrupt officials were effectively "neutralized" through exposure and pressure, even if they were not publicly acted against criminally or administratively. We also uncovered and exposed an El Paso-based narco-terror ring headed by Al Qaeda's director of operations for North America, Adnan El Shukrijuma (deceased), targeting Chicago landmarks. A 48-minute documentary explaining the plot, "The Sun City Cell," can be found on YouTube.

What are Americans in El Paso, Texas, Nogales, Arizona, and San Diego, California concerned about with respect to Biden administration border security? Over the past two weeks, in emails and phone interviews, border residents provided the following observations:

  • "Whenever Obama was in there, drug cartels were so bad that it didn't seem like anybody was fighting the drug cartels... the cartels ruled everything. They ran the dope, they trafficked the young girls, and there were so many more killings."

  • "Trump had more Customs and Border Patrol agents at the border. Cattle crossings from Mexico were checked, inspected and limited. The cartels have used cattle to move dope for years. Now they'll go back to moving cattle and laundering money back through the crossing here [Santa Teresa, NM] with less law enforcement. It will be a serious step backwards."

  • "What happens when the next 'caravan' from Honduras and Guatemala shows up? Does everyone gain immediate access to the country and get free healthcare, no questions asked? That's what they promised. They show crying women and children on the news, but that is a tiny percentage of the people in the 'caravans' -- they are almost all young men -- but the media lies about that and doesn't show the real story. God, help us!"

U.S. Customs Service Officer Patricia Cramer, president of the Arizona chapter of the National Treasury Employees Union, revealed in an interview that persons crossing into the United States from Mexico are not health-screened in any way. No temperature taken, no cursory visual exam, nothing. The "locked-down border" under President Trump is a lie. Now, imagine the health and safety conditions under a Biden administration. Remember: In "COVID-world," you cannot go to the gym, and you must "social distance" in absurd ways -- but the border is open, and no one is screened.

The (purportedly incoming) Biden administration is promoting a 4 to 6 week national lockdown. The country is in the midst of an "Alice in Wonderland" public health crisis -- and the Biden administration is promoting border security and immigration policies that are completely contradictory to what American citizens are enduring.

Is this what we all have to look forward to over the next four years?

Published:11/28/2020 12:57:22 AM
[Markets] We Haven't Seen This Much Suffering On Thanksgiving Since The Great Depression We Haven't Seen This Much Suffering On Thanksgiving Since The Great Depression Tyler Durden Fri, 11/27/2020 - 22:00

Authored by Michael Snyder via The Economic Collapse blog,

In my entire lifetime, there has never been a Thanksgiving like this.  39 million Americans don’t have enough to eat right now, more than 70 million claims for unemployment benefits have been filed so far during this calendar year, and people are waiting in line for hours at food banks all over the nation just for some Thanksgiving handouts.  If you and your family have plenty of turkey to eat, you should be very thankful, because many Americans can no longer even take Thanksgiving dinner for granted these days. 

On Tuesday, vehicles were lined up for hours in New Jersey as people waited to receive prepackaged Thanksgiving meals at a local food bank…

Video obtained by CNN on Tuesday from the Meadowlands entertainment complex in New Jersey showed residents waiting for several hours to obtain prepackaged boxes of meals for the Thanksgiving holiday.

“If it wasn’t for this place, we wouldn’t know where we would get our food,” one distraught woman told CNN of the food bank in East Rutherford, N.J.

Of course we have been seeing similar wait times all over the nation.  At one food bank in Texas, demand for Thanksgiving meals was more than eight times higher than normal

Food bank officials in Dallas, Texas, have also noticed a staggering increase in demand for food assistance. North Texas Food Bank representatives told the Dallas Morning News that they handed out roughly 8,500 meals to local families during a giveaway on Saturday that in years past has seen fewer than 1,000 show up for donations.

You can see a stunning photograph of vehicles lined up for that food distribution event right here.

There are a lot of really nice vehicles in that picture.  Many of those individuals are probably accustomed to living comfortable middle class lifestyles, but just like I warned in my new book they are “suddenly” in need of food because this economic downturn has turned their worlds completely upside down.

Yes, there have always been hungry people in America, but what we are witnessing now is hard to fathom.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 12 percent of all Americans did not have enough food to eat between October 28th and November 9th…

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to surge, more Americans are reporting going hungry, a Washington Post analysis found.

In data collected by the Census Bureau between Oct. 28 and Nov. 9, around 12 percent of all American adults reported not having enough food to eat, a figure higher than at any other point since the pandemic began earlier this year.

It is estimated that the current population of the United States is 328 million.

If you take 12 percent of 328 million, you get more than 39 million Americans that are going hungry right now.

And this is just the beginning.  Thanks to the new lockdowns that are being instituted all over the country, the number of Americans that are filing for unemployment benefits is starting to rise again

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose last week to 778,000, evidence that the U.S. economy and job market remain under strain as coronavirus cases surge and colder weather heighten the risks.

The Labor Department’s report Wednesday said jobless claims climbed from 748,000 the week before. Before the virus struck hard in mid-March, weekly claims typically amounted to roughly 225,000.

Overall, more than 70 million new claims for unemployment benefits have been filed in 2020.

As I discussed yesterday, we have never seen anything like this before in all of U.S. history.

At this point, even Hollywood is conducting mass layoffs.  More job loss announcements just keep rolling in with each passing day, and I expect that to continue all throughout the very dark winter ahead.

Other economic numbers also tell us that the U.S. economy is definitely heading in the wrong direction

The data firm Womply says that 21% of small businesses were shuttered at the start of this month, reflecting a steady increase from June’s 16% rate. Consumer spending at local businesses is down 27% this month from a year ago, marking a deterioration from a 20% year-over-year drop in October, Womply found.

If you think that anyone is going to be able to wave a magic wand and fix this mess, you are just being delusional.

There are millions upon millions of Americans that have already been pushed to the breaking point by this pandemic.  One of those individuals is a 38-year-old California resident named Andrew Lee

“I’ve exhausted all of my unemployment benefits. I’ve had to resort to food stamps and [California’s Medicaid program] for the first time in my life. I’m backdated on my rent and my credit has been ruined,” said 38-year-old Andrew Lee, who lives in a suburb of Los Angeles with his wife and two children.

Lee lost his job as a business development director several months before the pandemic. But once it hit, it became that much harder to find work. And he didn’t initially qualify for any pandemic-related unemployment benefits.

His car has been repossessed and his wife’s car has also been repossessed.

So even if they could find jobs, how are they supposed to get to work?

Lee is just like so many other hurting Americans.  First he ran through all of his savings, and then he started relying on his credit cards.

Now that his unemployment benefits have been exhausted, he is out of options, and his family is a step or two from becoming homeless.

In the months ahead, tens of millions of others will find themselves facing similar scenarios.

This is what an economic collapse looks like.  The United States hasn’t had to face anything like this since the Great Depression of the 1930s, and what we have experienced so far is just the start.

In 2019, I received quite a bit of criticism because the economy was relatively stable and to many people it seemed like an “economic collapse” was not even remotely a possibility.

But now an economic collapse has officially arrived, and all of the things that I have been warning about are starting to happen one right after the other.

The “perfect storm” is upon us, and most Americans still do not understand the horrors that lie ahead.

*  *  *

Michael’s new book entitled “Lost Prophecies Of The Future Of America” is now available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.

Published:11/27/2020 9:26:08 PM
[Markets] Russia Warns US It Will "Respond" To Future Border Violations In Sea Of Japan Russia Warns US It Will "Respond" To Future Border Violations In Sea Of Japan Tyler Durden Fri, 11/27/2020 - 21:30

Russia's foreign ministry said Friday that it's lodged a formal protest with the United States over this week's incident in the Sea of Japan, calling it a "provocation designed to disturb the peace"

Russia further said Friday it's military won't hesitate to "respond" the next time the US Navy brazenly violates its maritime borders. During the Tuesday encounter a Russian warship was described as chasing the US destroyer out of the area.

"We warn the US not to repeat the violation. We reserve the right to respond in the future," a foreign ministry statement said.

Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain. Source: US Navy

The incident happened Tuesday and involved a Russian destroyer threatening to ram the USS John S McCain warship which the Kremlin alleged violated sovereign Russian waters by up to 2km:

According to the Russian defense ministry, its Pacific Fleet destroyer the Admiral Vinogradov used an international communications channel to warn the US ship about "the possibility of using ramming to get the intruder out of the territorial waters".

"The Russian Federation's statement about this mission is false," said a spokesman for the US Navy's 7th Fleet, Lt Joe Keiley. "USS John S McCain was not 'expelled' from any nation's territory."

It's essentially a matter of the border not being recognized by the United States.

The US Navy early this week had responded bluntly: "By conducting this operation, the United States demonstrated that these waters are not Russia's territorial sea and that the United States does not acquiesce in Russia's claim that Peter the Great is a 'historic bay' under international law."

The US 7th Fleet confirmed it was "approached aggressively" by the Russian ship and condemned the provocative behavior.

Here's how the US 7th Fleet framed the question of the maritime border dispute in its formal response to the Russian charge:

In 1984, the U.S.S.R declared a system of straight baselines along its coasts, including a straight baseline enclosing Peter the Great Bay as claimed internal waters. This 106-nautical mile (nm) closing line is inconsistent with the rules of international law as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention to enclose the waters of a bay. By drawing this closing line, the U.S.S.R. attempted to claim more internal waters - and territorial sea farther from shore - than it is entitled to claim under international law. Russia has continued the U.S.S.R. claim.

While it's not the first time an intercept incident has occurred in disputed waters in the Sea of Japan, this latest certainly marks a severe escalation given the rare Russian direct threat of ramming.

Published:11/27/2020 8:57:52 PM
[Markets] Are Students Liberal? Yes – But Not Everywhere Are Students Liberal? Yes – But Not Everywhere Tyler Durden Fri, 11/27/2020 - 21:00

Submitted by RealClearEducation, authored by Samuel Abrams, professor of politics at Sarah Lawrence College and a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

This article is part of a series of opinion essays on the topic of free speech on campus, coinciding with the launch of the 2020 College Free Speech Rankings...

When it comes to making news about protests and action for liberal causes, schools in New England seem to dominate the news. We’ve seen violence and protests surrounding visits from Charles Murray and Ryszard Legutko at Middlebury College. Brown University spent hundreds of millions of dollars in response to student protests related to questions of diversity and inclusion. Yale has seen numerous protests and student arrests and students there attacked and harassed a faculty couple who headed a residential college in 2015 claiming that they felt unsafe because of an email message about Halloween costumes.

While protests in other parts of the county do make news, such as the recent troubles relating to the police at Northwestern, it appears that students in New England are far more likely to engage in such actions.

Thanks to new data behind the 2020 College Free Speech Rankings from RealClearEducation, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), and survey firm College Pulse – representing the largest study of student attitudes toward speech to date – we know that students enrolled in the higher education institutions in New England are appreciably more liberal and open to shutting down speech and expression than the overwhelming majority of college students.

With almost 20,000 students in FIRE survey sample, it is possible to break the national sample down into regional groups and the data makes it abundantly clear that those enrolled in New England are notably different.

The General Social Survey shows that political ideology in the United States has been remarkably consistent since the 1970s and that liberals are not dominant. In the most recent sample, the survey found that 28% of Americans identify as liberal, 31% as conservative, and the balance of 37% are in the middle as moderates. In contrast, 50% of college students are liberal, 26% are conservative and the minority – 23% – are moderates. College students demonstrate a significant liberal lean.

But this lean is not uniform. In New England, the data reveal that college students live in a huge bubble where there are 5 liberals for every 1 conservative. 71% of New England college students identify as liberal and just 15% conservative and 14% moderate. This is by far the most lopsided region in the nation.

The most similar regions to New England, ideologically, are the West Coast and Mid-Atlantic regions. 59% of students in both regions identify as liberal with just a fifth of their students holding conservative views, meaning there are three liberal undergraduates for every conservative student in those regions. This breakdown is far off the national average.

Looking at other regions in the United States, the liberal student dominance disappears. Take the Mountain region – 8 states that are mixed ideologically with rural areas and big and growing cities such as Denver and Phoenix – and the ideological balance is far less extreme. Here about a quarter of students are moderate and in the middle with a little more than a third identifying as conservative and 41% stating that they are liberal. In fact, if one excludes the three extreme liberal regions, the remaining 6 divisions are far more diverse with 46% of students being liberal, a quarter moderate, and about a third (30%) conservative.

The differences between some schools are striking. At the University of Arizona in Tempe there are 1.5 liberals for every conservative. But Brown in Rhode Island has 12 liberal students for every conservative.

Ideological imbalance is problematic in and of itself if you value viewpoint diversity in the classroom, but it is also the case that students in New England are far more likely to believe that actions to shut down speech are acceptable.

When asked whether it is ever appropriate to shout down or try to prevent someone from speaking on campus, 61% of students found that this was acceptable, nationally. But in New England 70% of students thought preventing a speaker was talking was justified in at least some circumstances. This is in stark comparison to regions like East South Central, home to the Universities of Tennessee and Alabama, where just half of the students found such behavior acceptable.

Similarly, when asked about the acceptability of blocking other students from entering a campus event, almost half (48%) of New England students thought this tactic would be an acceptable way to protest a campus speaker. About 30% of students in the East South Central, the Mountain, West North Central, and West South Central – a nearly 20-point difference – felt that blocking an entrance was acceptable.

Put somewhat differently, 51% of Yale students would approve of tactics which would prevent students from hearing an opinion on their campus, but just 35% at the Universities of Missouri – which itself made national attention when a faculty member and students tried to forcibly block the press from covering a demonstration – would be willing to block others from attending an event.

New England schools are collectively an outlier in terms of both student liberalism and their willingness to shut down speech. And the perception that protests against speakers are more common in New England is born out in the data. This lopsided liberal trend matches earlier work, which revealed a similar imbalance, where liberal professors outnumber conservative professors 28 to 1 for New England colleges and universities. And while finding a conservative professor in New England is exceedingly rare and far out of step with the national ratio of 6 to 1, many regions in the country are not as homogenous.

Ideological imbalance among students is a problem, especially in New England. It is crucial that students of all ideological backgrounds encounter a multitude of ideas in college.

But it’s important to note that the student imbalance in New England is far less one-sided than the faculty imbalance there. And faculty imbalance may be a far more pressing problem if one values viewpoint diversity. It’s more readily fixable too, if schools would only prioritize the hiring of a more ideologically diverse faculty and work to ensure that all faculty strive to present a multitude of views and intellectual traditions in their classrooms.

Published:11/27/2020 8:26:17 PM
[Markets] Shots Fired: China Slaps "Distressing" Tariffs Up To 212% On Australian Wine Shots Fired: China Slaps "Distressing" Tariffs Up To 212% On Australian Wine Tyler Durden Fri, 11/27/2020 - 20:30

China has drastically ramped up its trade conflict with Australia, on Friday slapping a whopping 200% tax on all Australian wine, in a move being widely described as the first shot fired in what went from behind-the-scenes bureaucratic punitive actions to now an open trade war.

"The Ministry of Commerce imposed import taxes of up to 212.1%, effective Saturday, which Australia’s trade minister said make Australian wine unsellable in China, his country’s biggest export market," the AP reports. The lead industry body Wine Australia, said the country's total shipments to China in the first nine months of 2020 accounted for 39% of all Australian wines.

Australia has been among those countries, foremost among them the United States under Trump, leading the charge of criticism aimed at Beijing over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, lately calling for a formal international probe into the deadly virus' origins there. 

China is the top market for Australian wine exports, via Reuters.

"This is a very distressing time for many hundreds of Australian wine producers, who have built, in good faith, a sound market in China," Australia trade minister Simon Birmingham responded on Friday.

The growing tensions between the two trade partners has also included tit-for-tat travel restrictions and in a couple notable cases the detention of journalists with dual nationality by Chinese security services. This amid China taking measures early this month to block a wide array of key Australian exports from lobsters to coal.

But as one analyst cited by AP has observed of what's increasingly obvious, Australia has become a "one-trick pony export-wise to China" and thus Beijing holds all the cards, with Canberra scrambling to play on the defensive while China extracts political concessions by threatening to torpedo Australia's commodities exports.

China's Ministry of Commerce justified the wine tariffs as a necessary response after rampant complaints that Chinese producers were hurt by improperly low-priced Australian imports.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has lately slammed Beijing practicing blatant "economic coercion" with regard to an increasing array of its exports being held up at port for what are seen as contrived inspections procedures, which sometimes end in large shipments going bad, such as lobster. 

Beijing has also recently began taking aim at Australia's tourism industry by discouraging tourists and students from visiting the country.

Via Trading EconomicsAustralia exports to China was US$103 Billion during 2019, according to the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade. 

On news of this latest 200% wine tax Australia's main stock market index fell by 0.5%. China's foreign ministry was quick to capitalize by demanding Australia "do something conductive" to change course and improve relations but without diving into details:

"Some people in Australia adhering to the Cold War mentality and ideological prejudice have repeatedly taken wrong words and deeds on issues concerning China’s core interests," said the spokesman, Zhao Lijian.

Australia should "take China’s concerns seriously, instead of harming China’s national interests under the banner of safeguarding their own national interests," Zhao said.

Further fueling China's dramatic actions is Australia's impending mutual defense treaty with Japan which is still being deeply negotiated.

Japan is of course a prime strategic rival to China heavily involved in pressing anti-China rhetoric on its expansion of militarized artificial islands in the South China Sea. 

Published:11/27/2020 7:55:37 PM
[Markets] : Cards Against Humanity skipped its annual Black Friday critique of capitalism and found something new In previous years, the card-game maker has sold everything from potato chips to bull feces on Black Friday to criticize capitalism.
Published:11/27/2020 7:55:37 PM
[Markets] Suicides In Japan Jumped 39% In October... Suicides In Japan Jumped 39% In October... Tyler Durden Fri, 11/27/2020 - 20:00

Authored by Simon Black via,

Are you ready for this week’s absurdity? Here’s our Friday roll-up of the most ridiculous stories from around the world that are threats to your liberty, risks to your prosperity… and on occasion, inspiring poetic justice.

*  *  *

And the Emmy Goes to the Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo

Andrew Cuomo, the Governor of New York, recently released a book he allegedly wrote called, “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic,” congratulating himself for being an amazing leader.

So the first time I saw the headline that Cuomo had won an Emmy, I thought it was a joke, poking fun at the Governor for his self-aggrandizing book.

But this is not The Onion: Cuomo, will receive an Emmy award for his 111 televised COVID-19 briefings this spring.

The academy, which typically awards Emmys to actors in TV series, said Cuomo’s leadership had people around the world tuning in– “New York tough became a symbol of the determination to fight back.”

The fact that New York has the second highest per-capita COVID-19 death rate of any state hasn’t stopped the praise for this Dear Leader.

That is why Cuomo clearly deserves the Emmy. He must be a good actor to convince so many people that his utter failure in leadership should be celebrated.

Click here to read the full story.

*  *  *

Just One Liar Triggered a Lockdown for Millions

Authorities in South Australia don’t think you should blame them for a sudden, strict, six day lockdown that affected 1.7 million Australians.

Blame the pizza guy!

A new Covid patient claimed he contracted COVID-19 from a pizza box.

This led authorities to fear that the virus had mutated to become more easily transmissible, which prompted their draconian response to lock everyone down again.

It turns out the man was an employee of the pizza shop, and picked up the virus while working alongside an infected coworker.

The state’s senior officials blamed the pizza guy, claiming he lied to them, and this is why the lockdown took place.

Yep. Blame it on the pizza guy. Clearly we can’t hold government officials responsible for the decisions they make, the hysteria they create, or the freedoms they destroy.


Click here to read the full story.

*  *  *

Suicides in Japan Jumped 39% in October

More Japanese people died by suicide in October alone than have died from COVID-19 throughout the entire pandemic.

In 2019, Japan saw its lowest suicide rate ever recorded during the 40 years it has kept track.

Then suddenly in July 2020, the suicide rate began to skyrocket again. Gee I wonder why.

October 2020 saw a 39% spike in suicides compared to October 2019.

17,000 people have died by suicide this year in Japan, while fewer than 2,000 have died from COVID-19.

Click here to read the full story.

*  *  *

Katy Perry Gets a Big Bowl of Hate for Urging Political Tolerance

Pop singer Katy Perry was delighted with how the Presidential Election has shaped up so far.

But rather than stoke more division, she Tweeted, “The first thing I did when the presidency was called is text and call my family members who do not agree, and tell them I love them and am here for them.”

In other words, she reached out with kindness to people who have different opinions than she has. And that seems like a perfectly mature and tolerant thing to do.

But not to the Twitter Mob!

Twitter jumped on the singer immediately for refusing to hate people with opposing political views.

Apparently she doesn’t realize that 70+ million Americans are guilty of thought crimes and need to be ridiculed, shamed, and exiled.

Click here to read the full story.

*  *  *

Solomon Islands Considers Banning Facebook

In the name of national unity, the Solomon Islands is looking to ban Facebook.

The Prime Minister announced that “Cyberbullying on Facebook is widespread, people have been defamed by users who use fake names, and people’s reputations that have been built up over the years [are destroyed] in a matter of minutes.”

“We have [a] duty to cultivate national unity and the happy coexistence of our people … [Facebook] is undermining efforts to unite this country.”

Personally I think Facebook is atrocious. But it’s up to individual people to decide whether or not to use it.

And surely it must be a total coincidence that a few weeks ago, Facebook was instrumental in spreading leaked documents that showed how COVID-19 economic relief funds had been misspent by the Solomon Islands government.

Click here to read the full story.

*  *  *

On another note… We think gold could DOUBLE and silver could increase by up to 5 TIMES in the next few years. That's why we published a new, 50-page long Ultimate Guide on Gold & Silver that you can download here.

Published:11/27/2020 7:07:48 PM
[Markets] Infographic: The 4-Year-Long Campaign Against Trump Infographic: The 4-Year-Long Campaign Against Trump Tyler Durden Fri, 11/27/2020 - 19:00

Via The Epoch Times,

The post-election push to pressure President Donald Trump to concede, despite numerous credible allegations of voter fraud and ongoing legal challenges, is not an isolated incident.

It is the culmination of a four-year-long campaign against him, which started during his first run for president in 2016 when the FBI launched a politically motivated investigation of his campaign. During his subsequent four years in office, there have been consistent efforts to remove him from office, first through the Russia-collusion narrative and then through impeachment.

The Epoch Times here provides an overview of some of the main efforts made against the sitting president of the United States.

This is an issue that transcends party lines, as it is not only an assault on Trump, but an assault on the office of the presidency, and with it, an assault on the foundation of America.

Click on infographic to enlarge.

Politically Motivated Investigation

The FBI under the Obama administration in 2016 launched a politically motivated investigation of the Trump campaign. Based on publicly available information, we know the investigation was initiated based on the thinnest of evidence: remarks made by a junior Trump campaign adviser to the Australian ambassador in London. In reality, the investigation primarily relied on the discredited “Steele dossier,” produced by former MI6 agent Christopher Steele on behalf of the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

President Donald Trump boards Air Force One in Butler, Pa., on Oct. 31, 2020. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

The Trump–Russia Shadow

While the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation itself would not find any evidence of Trump–Russia collusion, the ongoing investigations, including selective leaks to the media, would create the public narrative that Trump had colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election. This cast a shadow over the first few years of his presidency and constrained his actions both domestically and internationally. Some members of Congress had gone so far as to call for Trump’s impeachment over the false allegations.

Former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation James Comey, speaks via a TV monitor during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 30, 2020. (Stefani Reynolds/Pool/Getty Images)

FBI Under Comey and McCabe

The FBI under Director James Comey and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe pro-actively worked against Trump. McCabe was directly involved in the Crossfire Hurricane investigation, working with FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI attorney Lisa Page. After Comey was fired by Trump in May 2017, McCabe actively pushed the agency to further investigate Trump. McCabe’s FBI went as far as suggesting Department of Justice official Bruce Ohr reach back out to Steele, despite that many of the claims in his dossier had been disproven by that time and the FBI had cut ties with him over his leaks to the media.

The New York Times building is seen in New York City on Feb. 7, 2013. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)


Perhaps one of the most powerful forces working against Trump during his presidency has been the news media. Over the past five years, they have relentlessly published skewed and inaccurate information about Trump while minimizing or ignoring his accomplishments, seeking to portray him publicly as an illegitimate president. This type of reporting has created a climate of anger, hate, and instability in America. It has resulted in threats made to the president’s life and acts of violence against his supporters.

The White House stands at dusk in Washington on Feb. 5, 2020. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)


The House of Representatives on Dec. 18, 2019, impeached Trump along partisan lines. Though the Senate would later dismiss the charge, it left a mark on his presidency and dragged the country through months of public attacks in the media. At the center of the impeachment was a phone call Trump made on July 25, 2019, to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during which Trump expressed his hope that allegations of potential corruption involving former Vice President Joe Biden would be investigated. Given even the publicly available information at the time, there were legitimate concerns that American political influence and taxpayers’ funds were misused in Ukraine. At the time, it was publicly known that Biden’s son Hunter had received tens of thousands of dollars a month from a Ukrainian energy giant, while then-Vice President Biden—in his own words—had pressured the Ukrainian president to fire a prosecutor as a prerequisite for receiving $1 billion in foreign aid. That same prosecutor had been investigating the Ukrainian energy company Burisma, as well its board, which included Hunter Biden.

A medical worker in protective suit conducts nucleic acid testings for residents at a residential compound in Wuhan, the Chinese city hit hardest by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, Hubei province, China, on May 15, 2020. (Aly Song/Reuters)

CCP Virus

Trump’s opponents have accused the president of mishandling the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly referred to as the novel coronavirus, by acting too late. This, however, is contrary to the events of early 2020. The Trump administration on Feb. 2, 2020, banned all foreign travel from China, the source of the CCP virus. This decision was made by the president against the advice of some of his top advisers and exceeded actions taken by most other nations at the time. Meanwhile, his opponents in politics and media described it as xenophobic and an overreaction. In hindsight, the decision proved immensely valuable in helping to slow the spread of the virus. As the virus spread in the United States, the Trump administration increased testing capacity, coordinated with state governments to provide them with the federal assistance they needed, used the defense production act to compel companies to produce critical health equipment such as ventilators, and provided billions in federal funding and eased federal regulations for major drug companies to push for the development of a vaccine.

Chinese troops march during a military parade in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, on Oct. 1, 2019. (Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images)

Foreign Interference

It would be accurate to say that Trump is communist China’s biggest adversary. The president broke a decades-long U.S. policy toward China that was based on the belief that, through engagement and economic development, the People’s Republic would evolve from a totalitarian regime toward a more democratic country. In reality, this strategy of appeasement merely resulted in trillions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs going to China. And instead of becoming more democratic, the Chinese regime used this wealth to advance its dictatorship, creating the most technologically advanced tyranny the world has ever witnessed. The CCP has consistently worked against Trump during his presidency, both publicly and behind the scenes. Beijing has used its domestic and overseas propaganda channels—often by relying on the United States’ own media—to vilify Trump, going as far as to suggest that the outbreak of the CCP virus in Wuhan was because of the American military.

A police armored vehicle patrols an intersection while a building set afire by rioters burns in Kenosha, Wis., on Aug. 24, 2020. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter (BLM) has been behind the riots that have plagued American cities for much of this year. The group has hijacked the concerns people have over racism and used them to justify its advance of a Marxist agenda. In a 2015 video, BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors described herself and her fellow founders as “trained Marxists.” Just like in Russia, China, Cuba, and Venezuela, trained Marxists have hijacked righteous causes to advance the communist agenda. Many of those who lived through the Cultural Revolution in China in the 1960s have commented that the riots in the United States over the summer, which included the toppling of historical statues, were eerily similar. The result is a climate of chaos and insecurity that affects the entire country.

Antifa extremists in Berkeley, Calif., on Aug. 27, 2017. (Amy Osborne/AFP via Getty Images)


Dressed in full black gear including armor, helmets, and masks, and trained in agitation and basic combat, Antifa extremists have been involved in numerous acts of violence during Trump’s presidency. In many cases, these acts of violence, which include the use of weapons, rocks, and Molotov cocktails, were directed at law enforcement and government property. But Antifa members have also directly targeted unarmed common citizens for simply supporting Trump. We saw this happen twice in Washington, where those who had gathered to support Trump were later attacked when alone in the city at night. Antifa’s use of a militia-style force to intimidate and physically attack citizens for their political beliefs creates a powerful climate of fear and stands against the most basic American values.

Aerial photo of the Washington Memorial with the Capitol in the background in Washington D.C. in this file photo. (Andy Dunaway/USAF via Getty Images)

The Permanent Government

Though Trump as president is the leader of the executive branch, when he came to office he inherited a federal government staffed with hundreds of thousands of employees. It’s no secret that many career officials in the U.S. government have actively sought to undermine or even openly work against Trump. Many in government have been led by false information published by media organizations to believe that they are doing the right thing, and that by working against Trump, they are putting the interests of the country first. In fact, they have done the country a disservice by blocking a rightfully elected president from executing the will of the people.

Robert Mueller in Washington, on May 29, 2019. (Reuters/Jim Bourg)

Mueller Special Counsel Investigation

Following the firing of FBI Director Comey, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein assigned former FBI Director Robert Mueller to continue the FBI’s investigation of alleged Trump–Russia collusion. Mueller would conclude in a final report that there was no evidence of such collusion. But this only came after a nearly two-year-long investigation, giving the media and Trump’s political opponents leeway to portray Trump as an illegitimate president because of his supposed affiliation with Russia.

President Donald Trump speaks on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Oval Office of the White House on Jan. 28, 2017. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Illegal Leaks

Throughout the past four years, the Trump administration has been plagued by selective leaks aimed at damaging Trump’s presidency. Some of these leaks have been criminal in nature, such as the leak of the transcripts of Trump’s conversations with foreign leaders—a felony offense. Treasury official Natalie Edwards was found guilty of illegally leaking suspicious activity reports (SARs) on financial transactions by former Trump campaign associate Paul Manafort, among others.

Poll workers board up windows so ballot challengers can’t see into the ballot counting area at the TCF Center where ballots are being counted in downtown Detroit on Nov. 4,2020. (Seth Herald/AFP via Getty Images)

2020 Election Fraud

Following the Nov. 3 elections, dozens of credible allegations of voter fraud or other illegal acts connected to the counting of ballots have emerged. Dozens of poll workers across multiple states have given testimony in sworn statements—under penalty of perjury—detailing irregularities in how ballots were counted, as well as how the workers were instructed to make otherwise illegal changes to ballots, how they were unable to properly observe ballot counting, and how they witnessed new ballots mysteriously appear out of nowhere. The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee launched a number of lawsuits to challenge the process. They’ve argued that in Pennsylvania alone, 600,000 ballots should be invalidated, as Republican election observers weren’t allowed to witness the ballot processing.

President Donald Trump speaks at Trump Tower, fielding questions from reporters about Charlottesville, in New York City, on Aug. 15, 2017. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Manufactured Narratives

The use of manufactured narratives to attack Trump has been pervasive since he assumed the presidency. Perhaps the most notable is the claim that he defended neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia, when in fact he said that that there were “very fine people on both sides,” referring to people who “were there to protest the taking down of, to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name.” Trump specifically added, “I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally—but you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists.” Yet despite this being on public record, Trump would continue to be asked throughout his presidency, especially during the election season, whether he was ready to “denounce white supremacy,” despite having done so on many occasions, even before becoming president

Published:11/27/2020 6:25:58 PM
[Markets] "Dark Winter" - Millions Of Americans Are Expected To Lose Their Homes "Dark Winter" - Millions Of Americans Are Expected To Lose Their Homes Tyler Durden Fri, 11/27/2020 - 18:30

A dark covid winter is descending on the working-poor of America as millions of adults face eviction or foreclosure in the next few months. 

Bloomberg, citing a survey that was conducted on Nov. 9 by the U.S. Census Bureau, shows 5.8 million adults face eviction or foreclosure come Jan. 1. That accounts for 32.5% of the 17.8 million adults currently behind rent or mortgage payments. 

h/t Bloomberg 

On Monday, we noted that on Dec. 31 many of the key provisions in the CARES Act are set to expire if there is no action from Congress. This could be catastrophic for 12 million America who will lose access to their Emergency unemployment benefits activated in the aftermath of the covid pandemic, which alone could be a drag of up to 1.5% to growth in 1Q, according to a recent Bank of America report. 

Additionally, the expiration of eviction moratorium, mortgage forbearance programs, and suspension of student loan payments could compound the working poor's financial stresses, many of whom, about 21 million of them, are unemployed and receiving benefits from the government.  

h/t Bloomberg 

The survey points out at least half of households in Arkansas, Florida and Nevada are not current on rent and mortgage payments - equating to 750,000 could face an eviction come early 2021. 

On a city by city basis, New York City, Houston, and Atlanta had the greatest threat of evictions come early next year. 

The most concerning part about the expiration of various CARES programs starting on Jan. 1 is that it removes safety nets for the working poor. A lapse from when expirations hit to Congress and the new Biden administration expected to strike a stimulus deal is expected be short-lived. 

Published:11/27/2020 5:58:37 PM
[Markets] CityWatch: ‘How did your hospital reward you for being essential, and what type of pizza was it?’ New York’s 'health-care heroes' confront the coming COVID-19 onslaught
Published:11/27/2020 5:58:37 PM
[Markets] The Background for Black Friday's All-Time Highs The Background for Black Friday's All-Time Highs
Tyler Durden Fri, 11/27/2020 - 17:55
Real Vision managing editor Ed Harrison and senior editor Ash Bennington discuss the all-time highs set on the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite on this holiday-shortened trading day in U.S. equity markets. Harrison and Bennington also take a step back to evaluate the broader context for rising stock prices during the month of November. Specifically, the pair explores the apparent recent decrease of political risk in the U.S., the impact of increasing case counts and virus fatalities, the potential effects of a Covid-19 vaccine on the global economic climate, and the risk of future lockdowns and growing geopolitical uncertainty in the Middle East.
Published:11/27/2020 4:55:48 PM
[Markets] Was Wednesday A Super Spreader Event, One Bank Asks Was Wednesday A Super Spreader Event, One Bank Asks Tyler Durden Fri, 11/27/2020 - 17:14

From DB's Jim Reid

Wednesday was the busiest day at US airports since the pandemic began. The Transportation Security Administration screened  more than 1.07 million people at US airports on Thanksgiving eve. For context this number was still down 41% on the same Wednesday last year.

We are very positive about the chance of a return to normal life in 2021, especially from Q2 onwards. However it is quite clear that Thanksgiving and Christmas pose Covid super spreader event risk in various countries. Canada held Thanksgiving on October 12th and many public health officials there have blamed this for the recent spike in cases.

If the US follows this pattern, tighter restrictions and weaker activity could still dominate in the near term before the positive trends of vaccines and mass testing kick in across the globe as we go through Q1.

Published:11/27/2020 4:25:50 PM
[Markets] The Conversation: What to know about Parler, the social-media platform that is now attracting millions of Trump supporters Parler's members have doubled to 10 million during the month of November.
Published:11/27/2020 4:25:50 PM
[Markets] The Wall Street Journal: GM plans to grow its auto-lending business and will seek a banking charter to do it General Motor’s lending arm is drawing up plans to apply for a banking charter, a move that would allow it to accept deposits and expand its auto-finance business, according to people familiar with the matter.
Published:11/27/2020 3:57:16 PM
[Markets] Pope Francis Criticizes Anti-Lockdown Protesters In New Book  Pope Francis Criticizes Anti-Lockdown Protesters In New Book  Tyler Durden Fri, 11/27/2020 - 16:30

While coronavirus lockdowns triggered widespread social unrest and resulted in the worst socio-economic implosion the world has ever seen - Pope Francis is set to reveal his thoughts on what transpired this year in a new book expected to be released next month, according to AP News

In "Let Us Dream: The Path to A Better Future," ghostwritten by biographer Austen Ivereigh, Francis champions anti-racism protesters while demonizing anti-lockdown demonstrators. He said those around the world who demonstrated against lockdown restrictions reacted "as if measures that governments must impose for the good of their people constitute some political assault on autonomy or personal freedom!"

"You'll never find such people protesting the death of George Floyd, or joining a demonstration because there are shantytowns where children lack water or education," Francis wrote in the new 150-page book. "They turned into a cultural battle what was in truth an effort to ensure the protection of life."

Francis touched on Floyd's police killing that ignited social unrest across almost every US metro area for months. Francis said: "Abuse is a gross violation of human dignity that we cannot allow and which we must continue to struggle against."

However, Francis condemned anti-racism protesters' attempt to erase history by dismantling statues of Confederate leaders. He said there are better ways to create dialogue.

"Amputating history can make us lose our memory, which is one of the few remedies we have against repeating the mistakes of the past," he wrote.

Francis criticized populist leaders who've created buzz among supporters at massive rallies and scapegoats others for their countries' problems. He compared the populist movement of today to the ones from the 1930s. 

"Today, listening to some of the populist leaders we now have, I am reminded of the 1930s, when some democracies collapsed into dictatorships seemingly overnight," he wrote. "We see it happening again now in rallies where populist leaders excite and harangue crowds, channeling their resentments and hatreds against imagined enemies to distract from the real problems."

He also said the virus pandemic had become an opportunity for the world to reset. Not too long ago, Archibishop Carlo Maria Vigano warned about a global reset intended to undermine "God and humanity".

Earlier this month, Francis' latest Encyclical "Fratelli Tutti" ("Brothers All") was published and seemed more of a political document than a spiritual guide to the catholic faith. He spoke for a more globalist political system and denounced the global capitalist free market economy.

In the most recent monthly prayer intention, he called all the good Catholics of the world to "pray that the progress of robotics and artificial intelligence may always serve humankind."

Published:11/27/2020 3:57:16 PM
[Markets] Controversy Intensifies Over Danish 'Zombie Minks' As Company Behind Botched Covid-Culling Identified Controversy Intensifies Over Danish 'Zombie Minks' As Company Behind Botched Covid-Culling Identified Tyler Durden Fri, 11/27/2020 - 16:00

A Danish company behind a botched culling of 17 million minks which appeared to 'rise from the dead' has been identified.

Copenhagen-based International Service System (ISS) was tasked with the mass burial of the culled minks, which were infected with a mutated form of COVID-19. Controversy erupted however after the minks appeared to rise from the dead - as locals reported mink-movement within the three-foot deep mass graves.

According to Bloomberg, ISS says it was contacted by the government to handle two specific mass graves located in Western Denmark - following instructions provided by the military and the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration.

"When the relevant authorities contacted us, we mobilized a full emergency response within 24 hours," according to Senior ISS VP Simon Kaiser.

Due to the 'zombie mink' controversy, a majority of parties in Danish parliament want the minks exhumed because they believe they were buried too close to a lake which Danes occasionally use for swimming.

Dead mink were tipped into trenches at a military area in western Denmark and covered with two metres of soil. But hundreds have begun resurfacing, pushed out of the ground by what authorities say is gas from their decomposition. Newspapers have referred to them as the “zombie mink”.

Jensen’s replacement, Rasmus Prehn, said on Friday he supported the idea of digging up the animals and incinerating them. He said he had asked the environmental protection agency look into whether it could be done, and parliament would be briefed on the issue on Monday. -Reuters


Due to the 'zombie mink' controversy, a majority of parties in Danish parliament want the minks exhumed because they believe they were buried too close to a lake which Danes occasionally use for swimming.

After public outrage over the zombified members of the weasel family, Danish police spokesman Thomas Kristensen urged locals to remain calm - explaining that gasses in the decay process can cause the bodies to move.

"As the bodies decay, gases can be formed. This causes the whole thing to expand a little. In this way, in the worst cases, the mink get pushed out of the ground," Kristensen said, according to the Guardian.


And as The Mind Unleashed notes: "another issue is the fact that the animals were placed in shallow graves because the process was rushed. The graves were just over three feet deep, which allowed some witnesses to see the movement. Now officials are planning to order the graves to be dug twice as deep.

“This is a natural process. Unfortunately, one metre of soil is not just one metre of soil –it depends on what type of soil it is. The problem is that the sandy soil in West Jutland is too light. So we have had to lay more soil on top,” Kristensen said."

Published:11/27/2020 3:25:50 PM
[Markets] Iconic Shopping Tradition Dies As "Blasé Friday" Means No More Stampedes Or Frenzied Crowds Iconic Shopping Tradition Dies As "Blasé Friday" Means No More Stampedes Or Frenzied Crowds Tyler Durden Fri, 11/27/2020 - 15:30

With the post-Thanksgiving shopping frenzy having already been downgraded to "Blasé Friday" in prior years due to the continued devastation of bricks and mortar retail, it will hardly come as a surprise that today - when online spending surpassed in store purchases for the first time ever...

... due to ongoing covid lockdowns, one can officially put the time of death on one of the fondest traditions of American consumerism: The sprinting, shoving, punching grabfest that was the annual Friday midnight pilgrimage to your local mall, better known as Black Friday, is no more.

As Bloomberg notes, the sluggish in-person traffic reported in 2019 is only expected to thin out further this year, as mall-wary shoppers trade in midnight doorbusters for digital deals and the comfort of their own homes.

And while it is still shaping up to be a record year for holiday retail sales between traditional and online purchases, not everyone will be a winner. The biggest lowers: off-price department stores that eschew e-commerce to rely on the in-person “treasure hunt” experience will likely see a tough season. So will some small business without a strong online presence, though a push to buy local this year will offer some relief. But for those big retailers who’ve handily mastered online ordering and fulfillment, it’s going to be a very merry Christmas indeed.

Courtesy of Bloomberg, here are several snapshots of how Blase Friday is progressing in the US:

Big Malls, Small Crowds

As the shopping day gets underway, crowds remain thinner than normal across the U.S. A Target store in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood which in years past was packed with deal-hunting consumers, was almost empty, with a calm and peaceful scene at 9 a.m. local time. Why? Due to covid restrictions, the location that opened two hours earlier has capped customer capacity at just 50.

The store was stocked neatly with discounted Legos, sweaters for 30% off, Ghirardelli holiday chocolates and Native skincare items. Two women browsed the health-care aisle, while another grabbed a small basket for shopping - not the full-size carts Black Friday used to require.

At International Plaza and Bay Street mall in Tampa, Florida, a half-full parking lot still allowed shoppers to easily find a spot shortly after the stores opened at 9 a.m. Lindsay Grinstead, marketing and sponsorship director at the mall, said traffic has been strong since it reopened in May. New safety measures have helped the mall gain shoppers’ trust: It provided the stores with a virtual-line app that allows customers to scan a QR code and save their spot in the queue without having to physically stand in line. The mall also doubled the curbside pick-up capacity to more than 100 parking spaces. Masks are required inside the mall as well as in the stores, with some, like Hollister and Forever 21, even providing masks at their entrances.

“We have been really pleasantly surprised that people have wanted to come back out and been shopping,” Grinstead said. “I can imagine that will continue through the holiday season.”

Empty Department Stores

The busiest shopping event of the year at Macy’s Herald Square, the biggest department store in the U.S., looking like something out of the Walking Dead. In a typical year, crowds stream in through the flagship’s main entrance as TV cameras document the frenzy. In 2020, it was barely a trickle.

There are virtually no customers at Macy’s Manhattan store during Black Friday on November 27, 2020

The massive, 2.5 million-square-foot Manhattan store is one of the worst performers in Macy’s network due to the ongoing tourism boycott of New York, with few of the international visitors and office workers it relies upon for sales. Still, Macy’s dressed up the windows to welcome those venturing out for deals on shoes and handbags. CEO Jeff Gennette even planned to be on hand to rally his staff. “I’ll be looking for happy colleagues and engaged customers,” Gennette said last week in an interview. Today, he will be hard pressed to find either.

Macy’s and its department store rivals are begging for a strong holiday after a dismal year, unfortunately it doesn't look good. With weak foot traffic at urban locations, they’ll need robust e-commerce sales to carry them through the final quarter of the year. Department stores typically get about a quarter of their annual sales in November and December.

No early shoppers

Gone are the days of massive lines in front of stores at midnight: at many big U.S. retailers, the morning crowds have been thin, if any. Joseph Feldman, senior managing director and assistant director of research at Telsey Advisory Group, visited a Best Buy and a Dick’s Sporting Goods around dawn in Westchester County, just north of New York City, and things were "quite quiet." Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, said a Best Buy he checked out in Scottsdale, Arizona, had barriers set up in the parking lot for crowd control - but no crowds.

Still, those shoppers who woke up for the event came ready to spend. “Conversion is high. Anyone out this early is buying something,” Feldman said in an email, with mainstays such as TVs and home-office equipment likely the big sellers at Best Buy, Feldman said in an interview on Bloomberg TV. At Dick’s, sportswear from Nike, Adidas and Under Armour appeared to be hot items.

“People are still focused on the main areas of fitness, home, home office, and trying to find some joy,” he said.

A Fifth of the Usual Traffic on Fifth Avenue

As Bloomberg notes, "Fifth Avenue without tourists is just a regular city sidewalk, even on Black Friday." New Yorkers going about their day seemed to outnumber those visiting stores. Case in point: the line outside the Philippine Consulate was longer than the tiny queue to get into Zara.

Despite the sense of doomed desperation permeating every storefront, the street’s cornerstones tried their best, with Saks Fifth Avenue fully adorned in Christmas decor and holiday lights to welcome the few shoppers inside. To watch the annual light show, passers-by can scan a barcode to see it virtually –- the usual in-person event didn’t happen this year. Apple set up crowd-control ropes outside its glass cube to guide people to the side entrance, but they didn’t seem needed since there wasn’t a line. Best Buy’s barricades weren’t so useful either.

Other luxury stores, including Bergdorf Goodman and Louis Vuitton, decided it wasn’t worth the trouble to open early, and won’t let shoppers in until late in the morning.

Not just the US

It's not just the US that celebrates Black Friday: the official launch of the holiday shopping season begins across Europe as well, although this year it has been... complicated. With full and partial lockdowns still underway in many European countries, including England, many shops are not open. That means most Black Friday promotions are online only, presenting a logistical challenge for many retailers who have to simultaneously cope with increased online traffic while preparing to reopen stores in December post-lockdowns.

Many of Europe’s retailers have offered promotions throughout all of November rather than on Black Friday itself in a bid to spread out the demand. Others, including Marks & Spencer Group and Next, are not participating in Black Friday this year at all, arguing they offer good value all year round. Barclaycard Payments, which says it processes nearly one out of every three pounds spent in the U.K., said the volume of payments was down 16.7% at 4 p.m. local time compared to Black Friday last year.

It's even worse in France, where Black Friday has taken on a political tone with small shopkeepers complaining that government-mandated store closures are gifting market share to Amazon. The fallout has resulted in Amazon and some of France’s biggest retailers agreeing to delay Black Friday until all stores, including small operators, have reopened next month.

Big Drop in Thanksgiving Spending

While Thanksgiving Day online spending came in nearly $1 billion lower than predicted in the U.S., it still set a record, signaling retailers’ efforts to pull shopping earlier actually worked. Digital spending on Thursday totaled $5.1 billion, according to Adobe Analytics. While that’s a record for the day and a 21.5% boost year on year, it is nearly 20% below the $6 billion number the company had been predicting just one day ago.

"While yesterday was a record-breaking Thanksgiving Day with over $5 billion spent online, it didn’t come with the kind of aggressive growth rate we’ve seen with the start of the pandemic,” Taylor Schreiner, director at Adobe Digital Insights, said in an email, noting that many customers are also still waiting for Cyber Monday to pull the trigger on big-ticket items.

The silver lining: Online spending Growth

If there is one silver lining to the decimation of what was formerly a US consumerist tradition, Salesforce projected that Black Friday’s web sales will grow 18% today from a year ago to $56.5 billion. U.S. growth will be 15% and reach $11.9 billion, according to the provider of e-commerce tools. However, this will likely not be enough to offset yet another plunge in traditional, in-store spending.

Salesforce vice president Rob Garf said that the online surge could set up a shipping crunch for retailers: "We are seeing a shopping surge during Cyber Week that will challenge logistical capabilities of many retailers,” Garf said. “The winners and losers this holiday season will be defined by shipping and their ability to get gifts to the doorstep for the remainder of the holiday season."

Not everyone is optimistic however: Cowen predicts that physical-store traffic will drop 30% to 40% for the Black Friday holiday period, which is this week including Sunday, which won't be offset by stellar cyber sales growth rates which could climb 70% or even higher. Based on the firm’s store and mall observations in the early Black Friday morning hours, electronics, video game consoles, accessories and activewear were among the “better performing categories,” analyst Oliver Chen wrote in a note to clients. He reported foot traffic was busiest at Kohl’s, Target and American Eagle Outfitters.

The one thing everyone wants...

The fact that there are no crowds does not mean that there were no "must have" items this year: gaming consoles were the hot-ticket item today. After retailers saw online releases sell out within minutes in recent days, it seems that camping might be the only way to get your hands on one now - for retail prices, at least. From Norfolk, Virginia, to Denver and Salinas, California, shoppers lined up as soon as Thursday afternoon at GameStop locations - some set up tents - to get their hands on the coveted Playstation 5 and Xbox consoles, which are selling for as much as$60,000 on Ebay.

"There’s always an item, or a few items, people can’t find. The big hot item this year is Sony PlayStation 5 and Xbox from Microsoft,” Telsey's Feldman, said in a Friday morning interview on Bloomberg Surveillance. "Those are the two new items that I keep hearing people ask for, especially at Best Buy and GameStop, and you just can’t find them right now." To limit crowds, Best Buy chose to only release the newest consoles online.

Avoid Crowds

Once upon a time gathering in crowds to shop was fun. Not anymore, and certainly not with the threat of an immediate arrest if you violate someone's 6-feet of social distancing space.

“In years past, I feel like Black Friday seemed like a time where people kind of hung out and got together and sort of had a little bit of a reunion,” said Jenna Lynn Pogorzelski, a retail leader at Deloitte. This year, not so much. The food courts at the King of Prussia Mall in Pennsylvania were almost completely empty, she said, and shoppers “went into the stores they wanted to and did some browsing and then they got out pretty quickly.”

Bobby Stephens, a leader in Deloitte Digital’s retail and consumer products practice, witnessed a similar trend. Most of the in-person shopping is “with a purpose, to make a purchase specifically,” he said. “It’s not your typical browsing, get a group of people together, have brunch, walk around for several hours.”

Better luck next year.

Despite the clear death of the tradition that is Black Friday, some are still hopeful its zombie will emerge from the grave in coming years:

"I expect doorbusters to return next year,” said Poonam Goyal, a Bloomberg Intelligence analyst. With the virus hopefully gone and capacity limits no longer an issue, retailers will try to make the shopping day feel festive again. "Retailers will aim to strike a better balance with online and stores as they move forward."

Or maybe they won't: by November 2021, Amazon's monopoly status will be that much greater, and what little retail outlets are left will likely become fulfillment centers and warehouse for the handful of dominant retailers who have sucessfully rolled up the entire retail sector.

Published:11/27/2020 2:54:59 PM
[Markets] Bond Report: U.S. Treasury yields slide in day after Thanksgiving Treasury yields fell on Friday on the day after the Thanksgiving holiday as the U.S. bond market caught up with the broader rally in European debt.
Published:11/27/2020 2:54:59 PM
[Markets] GLOBAL MARKETS-Stocks at record high but yields fall, dollar under pressure Stocks rose across the globe on Friday to close at a fresh high and remained on track for their strongest monthly performance on record but the Nasdaq outperformed on Wall Street and Treasury yields fell, indicating lingering concerns over rising coronavirus cases globally. On Wall Street, the main indexes rose and the Nasdaq Composite hit a record high. The Nasdaq outperformance mirrors recent sessions when, despite rising stocks, the focus was on the economic impact of the pandemic. Published:11/27/2020 2:23:54 PM
[Markets] The Frightening Ease Of Government Overreach The Frightening Ease Of Government Overreach Tyler Durden Fri, 11/27/2020 - 15:05

Authored by H.P.Smith via,

On the eve of Thanksgiving, I am reading the news as I have my coffee, as is my regular morning routine, and much of what I read is about the recently reimposed restrictions on multiple aspects of our lives due to COVID-19.  The mayor of Los Angeles is calling for people to cancel "non-essential" travel, with the threat of fines and citations for noncompliance.  We've seen the same thing for several months in several other states, notably New York, New Jersey, and Michigan.  And it is all being done in the name of public safety.  They're only concerned with our well-being...right?

Given that the left is so focused on science — mainly when it helps leftists' agenda to do so, mind you — I will cite a recent study from the Annals of Internal Medicine, also cited in an article on American Thinker, that found that the real "death rate" of COVID-19, measured as the Infection Fatality Rate (IFR) is actually 0.26%, or about a quarter of one percent.  Matt Rowe's article does a good job of describing fully the definition of IFR, so I won't repeat it all here, but it's essentially the actual rate of death caused by COVID-19 specifically without other underlying causes. 

The point is that the science, time and again, does not seem to support the extreme reactions by those in power.  The thing that bothers me is how quickly and easily our mayors and governors have used the pandemic as an excuse to flex their dictatorial muscles, and what frightens and angers me is how quickly and easily they've wiped their collective bottoms with the Constitution, with the requisite flush of our rights once their business is completed.

Invasive forms required at the airport, COVID checkpoints at key crossing points in and out of New York City, police checkpoints, and mandatory quarantine periods are all part of the plan to "keep us safe."  Neighbors and even children are being encouraged to spy on and report those who would dare oppose the Almighty.  I've read enough about 1930s and early 1940s–era Germany to recognize what's going on. Will those who disobey be forced to wear a distinguishing mark of some kind on their clothing?  

What is disturbing to me is how quickly and easily so many people fall right into line and accept every new edict and imposition on their freedoms.  As in 1930s–1940s Germany, those who were silent and compliant were in many ways complicit in the crimes.  We've all heard the famous poem by Martin Niemoller, "First They Came for the Jews."  It feels eerily similar to me.  

I am not a COVID denier.  I know it's dangerous, and with elderly in-laws, the last thing I want is be the one who kills Grandma or Grandpa, so I wear the mask, and I am keeping my hands clean and social distancing.  I get it.  I just do not accept the massive government overreach in our lives, especially when the science doesn't seem to support it. 

The good news is that it does seem as though many people are starting to reach the limits of their patience and tolerance with the overreach.  Those not tuned in to CNN, MSNBC, et al. have seen far too many instances of the so-called authorities on COVID getting things really wrong, or simply lying to us about what is going on.  Many have read reports of the fudging of numbers at hospitals and even the CDC, and they're starting to stand their ground.  There is a movement for impeachment of Gretchen Whitmer, governor of Michigan, and even for Gavin Newsom, the head of the Politburo in California. 

Sheriffs and police departments across the country are saying they will not enforce the heavy-handed policies of those in charge, at least partly because those in charge have repeatedly shown us that their lockdowns and mask mandates do not apply to themselves or their wealthy friends and donors.  More and more people are saying, "That's enough" and opposing or simply ignoring the diktats and going about their lives.

A group of St. Louis restaurant-owners are now fighting for their livelihoods against the oppressive and arbitrary ban on indoor dining as winter approaches and outdoor dining becomes all but impossible.  Those restaurateurs have followed every new health and safety rule, and even gone beyond in many cases, to put the safety of their guests and employees at the highest priority level, but that isn't good enough for the St. Louis County Council, led by county executive Dr. Sam Page.  No, Dr. Page apparently is bent on putting these entrepreneurs and small business leaders, as well as all of their employees, out of business and onto the welfare rolls.  

All around the country, people are finally saying, "Enough is enough," and they are pushing back against the restrictions and regulations.  The true American spirit is showing itself, as it did in the latter half of the 18th century against a previous oppressive regime.  Generally, I believe that Americans are patient and tolerant people...well, at least roughly half of them are, anyway...but their patience and tolerance are not infinite.  I think that patience is starting to run thin.

Published:11/27/2020 2:23:54 PM
[Markets] Here are the key reasons bitcoin prices are tumbling right now Here are the key reasons bitcoin prices are tumbling right now Published:11/27/2020 2:23:54 PM
[Markets] Dispatches from a Pandemic: The lines for COVID-19 tests were longer than the lines for Black Friday shopping 'It was kind of funny to be in a long line so early in the morning on Black Friday, and not even be making a gift purchase,' said one person who woke up at 4 a.m. to get in line to be tested for coronavirus.
Published:11/27/2020 2:23:54 PM
[Markets] Chicago University Economic Thinktank Poll: Forgiving Student Loans Likely A "Net-Regressive" Idea Chicago University Economic Thinktank Poll: Forgiving Student Loans Likely A "Net-Regressive" Idea Tyler Durden Fri, 11/27/2020 - 14:40

The widely respected Initiative on Global Markets is a research center at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business that's well known for weekly polls "it conducts of its Economics Experts Panel, a panel of 51 leading economists in United States universities."

Last week, they posed several questions about student loan forgiveness. The group of experts seemed to widely agree that paying off student debt is likely a net regressive idea that won't nearly be as fruitful as many on the left claim.

They first asked whether or not paying off student loans would be net regressive. All answers ranged from "Uncertain" to "Strongly Agree" with 0% of respondents answering that they disagreed or strongly disagreed. 

David Autor, Ford Professor of Economics at MIT, said: "Alongside my kids' student loans, I'd like the government to pay off my mortgage. If the latter idea shocks you, the first one should too."

Anil Kashyap, Professor of Economics in Chicago, said of the second question: "Depends on the threshold and the limit, but chosen carefully this could be progressive. There are still major fairness issues with this idea."

They were then asked whether or not paying off the loans could be progressive if the government is limited in the amount of debt they issue, and if the payoffs are directed to borrowers below certain income levels. 86% of the group either "Agreed" or "Strongly Agreed" that this type of nuance in distributing the assistance would be progressive.

On the second question, Autor commented: "This could create terrible incentives, both for labor supply and (bad) educational investments. Proceed with great caution."

Finally, the group was asked whether suspending payments on student loans would help the recovery more than helicopter money. 49% of the group disagreed, while 40% said they were uncertain. 

Survey participant Ray Fair, Professor, Cowles Foundation, Department of Economics at Yale, said of all of the questions: "It depends on how the government debt will eventually be paid off."

News flash, Ray: it won't be.

The IGM, per its website, "brings together policymakers, financial leaders, and top scholars from Chicago Booth and beyond to examine key issues facing the global economy and international business. By facilitating the exchange of ideas, IGM helps improve financial and economic decision-making around the world."

You can view the survey results in more detail and the list of participants in the poll here

Published:11/27/2020 2:02:53 PM
[Markets] : Three paths Exxon could take with its dividend Hopes for improved oil and gas demand in the new year won't be enough to get Exxon Mobil to fund its dividend solely from cash flow, and the energy giant faces 'unenviable' choices, Raymond James analysts say.
Published:11/27/2020 2:02:53 PM
[Markets] 5 Best Stocks in the Dow This Past Week: Chevron Rises The top 5 best-performing stocks in the Dow Jones Industrial Average over the past week included Chevron, American Express, Boeing, and JPMorgan Chase. Published:11/27/2020 1:24:49 PM
[Markets] Lockdowns Destroy What Makes Us Human Lockdowns Destroy What Makes Us Human Tyler Durden Fri, 11/27/2020 - 14:15

Authored by Zachary Yost via The Mises Institute,

While GMU economist Tyler Cowen may have dismissed the idea of more pandemic lockdowns as being “a straw man” and saying that the extreme measures that started in March of this year “are now behind us,” it seems that governors and other politicians around the country have failed to get the message.

More and more states have begun to once again impose ruinous lockdowns. The media and Twitter are filled with self-righteous scolds shrieking about the impending doom of families gathering together for Thanksgiving. CNN host Jake Tapper suggested that “Christmas is probably not gonna be possible.” 

If such people had their way, everyone would remain under veritable house arrest and not see anyone else for months or even years, as the duration of such onerous impositions has gone from “fifteen days to slow the spread” to months or even years into the future. That such ideas are even being considered demonstrates just how out of touch with human reality much of our “expert” class and their hordes of lemming-like followers are.

Things have not changed much from when I addressed some of the disastrous unintended material consequences of lockdowns in April of this year. However, as 2020 has dragged on, it has made clear that at least some of the lockdown logic is rooted in a fundamentally flawed and relatively recent conception of human nature.

Nearly every culture and religion throughout human history has held that humans are both material and spiritual beings. However, living in the secular age as we do, the material aspect of our existence has supplanted the spiritual to such an extent that it is barely recognized to exist.

Russell Kirk goes so far as to claim that the dividing line in contemporary politics hinges on this difference in understanding, stating that “on one side of that line are all those men and women who fancy that the temporal order is the only order, and that material needs are their only needs, and that they may do as they like with the human patrimony. On the other side of that line are all those people who recognize an enduring moral order in the universe, a constant human nature, and high duties toward the order spiritual and the order temporal.”

A purely material outlook on human existence will of course lead to certain policy prescriptions, especially in the face of a pandemic. To deny the spiritual existence of man is to deny the possibility of life after death—only the void of annihilation awaits. From this perspective, it makes sense that one might conclude that earthly life must continue on at any cost—that no tradeoff is too high to put off the coming oblivion.

In contrast, those who retain a more traditional conception of human nature, no matter the specific religion or creed to which they belong, can easily see an entire world of costs to lockdowns that those with a purely materialist perspective are not even capable of understanding.

Humans are social beings. Our very existence and development as human persons rests upon this social nature. Social contract thinkers like Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau may fantasize about a solitary human existence, but all evidence from feral or isolated children indicates that without other humans a solitary individual would swiftly perish, not to mention fail to develop self-awareness or the ability to think and speak with language.

Some personalist scholars, such as political theorist David Walsh, argue that our entire conception of self can only be formed in relation to other persons. In contrast to Descartes’s famous line that “I think, therefore I am” a personalist would argue that we are not even capable of understanding the existence of “I” until we have first understood the existence of an “I” in others. Much like we can never truly see our own face, but only the faces of others, which in turn allows us to understand our own unseen face, we cannot become aware of ourselves until we find ourselves in the context of others, and through them recognize the mutual nature of our interior lives that makes us persons.

Many religions, in some form or another, speak of the interconnectedness of the world and of people and of the illusion of separation. While most often associated with Eastern religions such as Buddhism, this spiritual unity is not foreign to Christianity and the West. Indeed, the Christian Trinity is understood to be one God in three persons. Jesus Christ references this unity in the seventeenth chapter of the Gospel of John when he prays “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you…that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity.”

Leaving the specific religious implications aside, humans have recognized for millennia that when persons gather together we enter into one another on a spiritual level through the recognition of our mutual personhood. However, this spiritual unity that is so essential to our very existence as human persons does not occur in a vacuum, but rather in the context in which we gather in the material world.

Humans could acquire all the nutrients we need by imbibing Soylent Green in solitude, but instead, we often turn our meals into ritualistic social occasions. Shared meals not only provide material nourishment but spiritual sustenance as well. Dancing alone in your kitchen is all well and good, but it pales in comparison to experiencing a crowd of thousands moshing at an electronic dance music festival or the pounding feet of a Sufi sect dancing the dhikr. We are fortunate to be able to access great art at the click of a mouse, but watching Swan Lake home alone on YouTube is no substitute for the experience of seeing it live in a crowded hall as every person is moved to tears.

There are few events more brimming with the spiritual unity of the attendees than a wedding, a celebration of the literal unity of two persons as one in the presence of their friends and loved ones with feasting, singing, and dancing.

Yet how many weddings have been canceled or celebrated in private this year thanks to lockdowns? How many shared meals have not been eaten? Dances left undanced, songs left unsung, conversations not had? How many parents and grandparents in nursing homes did not get to see their loved ones before they departed this earth? How many children have suffered in front of a screen alone all day? These are not mere frivolous luxuries that we humans can do without. The dual material and spiritual contexts of our personhood cannot be separated. These contexts of our families and communities are not nice additions to life, they are human life itself.

There is no denying that during a pandemic there will be a need to alter one’s behavior, but just as no state bureaucrat can successfully plan the economy, no public health official is capable of centrally planning a response for hundreds of millions of people who are all in different conditions of life, with different material and spiritual needs.

Every person must decide for himself what the proper course of action is in light of his unique life circumstances. Ripping these decisions from every person and placing them in the hands of public health bureaucrats has yielded disaster.

Suicide rates are up all around the country, in some places as much as 70 percent compared to the same time last year. Military suicides are up 20 percent. Drug overdose deaths are on track to reach an all-time high. The RAND Corporation has found an upswing in heavy drinking this year. The Associated Press reports on the horrific conditions in nursing homes around the country that may have led to the deaths of tens of thousands of residents in excruciating and horrific circumstances, as their families have been forbidden from caring for them. What’s more, it seems many patients simply withered away, their spirits broken from being locked in veritable solitary confinement with no contact with friends or family for months.

Medical central planning that doesn’t even recognize the spiritual and social aspect of human existence has caused the deaths of untold numbers of people around the country, perhaps more than the virus itself in the long run.

Our vaunted leaders may act like pure materialists when it comes to their dictatorial decrees obliterating society and our very humanity, but on some level they obviously understand the importance of their own spiritual health. Why else would the leaders of California be breaking their own rules to dine at luxurious restaurants or flying to Hawaii for meetings and not be content with takeout and Zoom like the rest of us peasants? But what else can be expected from a system of top-down control?

Humans are both material and spiritual beings. Just as we have material needs that central planners cannot anticipate, so too do we have spiritual needs that can only be filled in a myriad of ways that central planners cannot plan for, especially when they don’t even recognize they are needs at all. When they are not fulfilled, our physical health suffers just as assuredly as if we had a virus. The social and communal aspects of human life, whether a holiday dinner with family, going to church, having a wedding, or even the mundane relations of everyday life are not mere luxuries that can be dispensed with, they are human life itself. People must be free to navigate these difficult times armed with the knowledge of their circumstances that only they possess.

Published:11/27/2020 1:24:49 PM
[Markets] Nasdaq, S&P Hit Record Close, Dow Modestly Higher on Black Friday Stocks finished higher Friday in lighter-than-normal volume following the Thanksgiving holiday. U.S. stock markets closed at 1 p.m. ET on Friday and bond markets will close an hour later. The Nasdaq, which traded at intraday high, posted its 45th record close of the year, finishing up 0.92% to 12,205, one day after posting another record high. Published:11/27/2020 12:57:31 PM
[Markets] : Dates to watch as Trump continues legal fight to overturn the presidential election result To win the election outright, Trump would have to overcome a roughly 81,600 vote deficit in Pennsylvania, a 10,500 vote margin in Arizona and a 12,600 margin in Georgia.
Published:11/27/2020 12:57:31 PM
[Markets] Belgium 'Cancels' New Year's Eve; Thailand Signs $200MN Deal For AstraZeneca COVID Vaccine: Live Updates Belgium 'Cancels' New Year's Eve; Thailand Signs $200MN Deal For AstraZeneca COVID Vaccine: Live Updates Tyler Durden Fri, 11/27/2020 - 13:51


  • Thailand signs deal to lock in vaccine supplies
  • Turkey sees record deaths for fifth day
  • WHO warns on second trip to China
  • Irish pubs must remain closed, PM says
  • Belgium says the nighttime curfew will stay in effect for New Year's Eve
  • New US cases +125k
  • US COVID hospitalizations top 90k for first time
  • Cases decline day over day
  • Deaths slow across US
  • Travelers to Japan from China will need to isolate
  • 5 COVID patients killed in fire in India

* * *

Update (1330ET): Markets have just closed in the US for the post-Thanksgiving holiday, but in addition to the latest case numbers out of the states, we're also getting some more news out of Europe on This slow Friday.

Belgium will maintain its evening curfew even on New Year's Eve, officials said, a decision that will stoke even more anger among citizens.

In Ireland, most pubs will need to remain closed, according to Ireland PM Micheál Martin.

As the WHO prepares to send another team of scientists to China, WHO Dr. Mike Ryan told a virtual press briefing in Geneva that "it's highly speculative for us to say that the disease did not emerge in China," Ryan said. "It is clear from a public health perspective that you start your investigations where the human cases first emerged." Ryan also acknowledged that investigating the topic is a sensitive issue for China.

Turkey recorded record daily deaths for the fifth day.

Finally, Thailand signed a $200 million deal to lock in supplies of 26 million doses of a trial coronavirus vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University. It is expected to be delivered in mid-2021, now that the company is working on launching a new global study that could significantly delay the timeline for when the AstraZeneca vaccine could hit the market. The doses would cover 13 million people in a population of about 69 million. Now Thailand, Malaysia and Philippines have signed deals to secure COVID-19 vaccines.

* * *

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and as Americans wait to see whether COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths surge, the trend so far has seen cases and deaths decline day over day, surprising many experts.

The most notable numbers recorded on Thanksgiving were related to hospitalizations across the US, which showed that the number of COVID beds occupied has surpassed 90k, the highest tally of serious COVID-19-linked infections since the pandemic started 11 months ago. The exact number, according to the COVID Tracking Project (whose chart is cited above) is 90,481 patients hospitalized. It's a record-breaking number for the 17th day in a row.

Of those, 17,802 patients are in the ICU, which is the highest amount documented during the pandemic. A total of 5,979 patients were on ventilators at last count. Still, the US confirmed 125,082 new cases on Thanksgiving, a slight dip from 150k+ new cases reported ever day since Nov. 16. Several states also either broke records or got close to breaking records for the most cases documented in a single day; Pennsylvania and Massachusetts reached new highs with 8,425 and 3,395 new cases on Thursday.

Meanwhile, over in the UK, where Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the end of England's nationwide lockdown the other day, the PM warned Britons not to start slacking because the UK still has "long months ahead" in the fight. According to BoJo, London will be placed in Tier 2, avoiding the toughest rules as of Dec. 2 and allowing pubs, restaurants and bars to open, but restricting alcohol to being served as part of a meal. Cities including Birmingham and Manchester were placed in the toughest tier 3, in which pubs and restaurants must close except for takeaway. Households will not be allowed to mix indoors in either tier.

"What we want to avoid is relaxing now too much, you know, taking our foot off the throat of the beast now,” Johnson said in a televised press conference Thursday. “There is a substantial relaxation across all tiers but we’re not abandoning the fight yet, of course not, because we still, as I say, have long months ahead."

Globally, the number of confirmed cases topped 61 million according to Johns Hopkins, while 1,435,374 deaths have been recorded around the world.

Here's a rundown of more COVID-19 news from Friday morning and overnight:

Business travelers going from China to Japan will be required to isolate themselves for two weeks after returning to China, under guidelines set to take effect Monday (Source: Nikkei).

Malaysia has a deal to buy 12.8 million doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine, becoming the first Southeast Asian nation to secure a supply of a shot that, while reportedly 95% effective, requires ultra-cold storage to distribute, Reuters reports (Source: Nikkei).

Five COVID-19 patients were killed in a fire earlier today at a hospital in the Indian city of Rajkot, in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home state of Gujarat. The blaze in the coronavirus ward is believed to have been caused by a short circuit (Source: Nkkei).

Indonesia reports a new record high with 5,828 new infections in the past 24 hours, and its deadliest day since the beginning of the pandemic with 169 deaths. Cases reach 522,581 in total, including 16,521 fatalities (Source: Nikkei).

Published:11/27/2020 12:57:31 PM
[Markets] Tesla just passed Berkshire Hathaway as the sixth-largest company in the U.S. Tesla just passed Berkshire Hathaway as the sixth-largest company in the U.S. Published:11/27/2020 12:57:31 PM
[Markets] Stocks Give Thanks For Fed Liquidity As Dollar, Gold, & Bitcoin Dumped Stocks Give Thanks For Fed Liquidity As Dollar, Gold, & Bitcoin Dumped Tyler Durden Fri, 11/27/2020 - 13:01

Greed, Greed-er, and Greed-est...

Source: CNN

This level of extreme greed didn't end well last time.

Interestingly, as the week progressed, Nasdaq caught up with Small Caps early-week outperformance, stalling the 'rotation' trend. The Dow was the week's laggard but still managed solid gains...

As a reminder, the recent vaccine headlines have put global and european-specific stock markets on track for their best month ever...

Source: Bloomberg

And the major US equity indices on track for their best month since 1987...

Source: Bloomberg

The Dow broke above 30k for the first time ever early in the week but was unable to maintain it...

It's not the economy; it's central bank liquidity, stupid!

Source: Bloomberg

Energy stocks continued their massive surge this week (though faded a little today) as Utes lagged...

Source: Bloomberg

And as we noted earlier, Tesla surpassed Berkshire Hathaway in market cap for the first time ever...

Source: Bloomberg

VIX flash-crashed intraday below 20 - its lowest since February...

As traders dumped puts in favor of calls by the most since 2010...

Source: Bloomberg

Treasury yields fell today after rising into Thanksgiving. 30Y remains up around 5bps on the week, 2Y unch...

Source: Bloomberg

10Y yields rolled over at pre-election-spike levels (around 90bps) once again, shrugging off any vaccine growth hopes...

Source: Bloomberg

The dollar tumbled for the 3rd week in the last 4, having plunged almost non-stop since the election...

Source: Bloomberg

...closing at its weakest vs its fiat peers since April 2018 (and unchanged since Jan 2015)...

Source: Bloomberg

Cryptos started the week strongly with Bitcoin closing at a record high, but ended weak with ETH flat and BTC -10% (and yes Ripple was up 140% on the week on Tuesday!)...

Source: Bloomberg

Bitcoin fell from $19500 to $16500...

Source: Bloomberg

On the week, copper and crude surged as PMs were purged...

Source: Bloomberg

Gold and Silver were monkeyhammered this morning (coinciding with a forceful flash-crash in VIX)...

Gold is heading for its 3rd straight weekly decline, its 4th straight monthly drop and worst month since Nov 2016, breaking (and closing) below its 200DMA...

Source: Bloomberg

Finally, some historical context from Michael Markowski. Two stock market sentiment anomalies have increased the probability of a correction near term.

The two anomalies are:

  • Thanksgiving Melt Up Anomaly. The average S&P 500 gain for 12 of the past 14 ten-day periods concluding November, was 3.5%. The only two exceptions, 2015 and 2018, were preceded by significant market corrections.

  • Bullish Sentiment Anomaly. Currently, there is a high probability for the S&P 500 to decline by 12.7%. Such would be from its recent 2020 high and would conclude by December 20, 2020. Based on the previous behavior, there is a 66% probability the S&P 500 could continue its decline in 2021.

The Thanksgiving Melt Up Anomaly is now driving the S&P 500 to a higher November all-time high.

The Bullish Sentiment Anomaly is the cause of a violent correction for the S&P 500 to begin in early December 2020.

The chart below depicts the four 45% to 59% Bullish sentiment readings which occurred near the all-time highs for the S&P 500. (2018 to November 13, 2020)

Within five weeks of the three prior Bullish Sentiment Anomalies occurring, the S&P 500 declined by a minimum of 9.7%. Two of the three total declines depicted in the table below were more than 100% greater than the five-week drops.

There exists a risk of decline from November 13, 2020, through Christmas Day. Such is likely to occur precisely because no one expects it to. 

Trade accordingly.

Published:11/27/2020 12:23:44 PM
[Markets] The Nasdaq closed at a record high in shortened Black Friday stock trading The Nasdaq closed at a record high in shortened Black Friday stock trading Published:11/27/2020 12:23:44 PM
[Markets] Dow Trades Modestly Lower on Black Friday Stocks were mixed Friday in lighter-than-normal volume following the Thanksgiving holiday. U.S. stock markets will close at 1 p.m. ET on Friday and bond markets will close an hour later. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 27 points, or 0.09%, to 29,844, the S&P gained 0.06% and the Nasdaq rose 0.80% and traded at an intraday high. Published:11/27/2020 11:56:48 AM
[Markets] Pennsylvania Appeals Court Tosses Trump Lawsuit, Setting Stage For Supreme Court Showdown Pennsylvania Appeals Court Tosses Trump Lawsuit, Setting Stage For Supreme Court Showdown Tyler Durden Fri, 11/27/2020 - 12:44

A federal appeals court has tossed an attempt by the Trump campaign to revive a lawsuit seeking to undo Pennsylvania's certification of Joe Biden's irregularity-plagued victory in the state.

The Friday decision potentially sets the stage for a US Supreme Court showdown, in which the 6-3 (arguably) conservative majority could overturn the results of the election.

That said, according to Bloomberg - citing 'experts' - it's unlikely that the high court will take up a case if the evidence is lacking, and which won't affect the outcome of the election - given that Biden would still win the White House without Pennsylvania's 20 electoral votes.

"Voters, not lawyers, choose the president," reads the opinion from the appeals court, adding "Ballots, not briefs, decide elections. The ballots here are governed by Pennsylvania election law. No federal law requires poll watchers or specifies where they must live or how close they may stand when votes are counted. Nor does federal law govern whether to count ballots with minor state-law defects or let voters cure those defects."

The Trump campaign sought to have a federal court invalidate Pennsylvania's certification, and then get the state's General Assembly to select Trump electors to the Electoral College - which campaign attorney Marc Scaringi wrrote to the US Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit (via CNBC).

"The Pennsylvania General Assembly has the power to appoint the Commonwealth’s presidential electors," wrote Scaringi, adding "A decision by the District Court that President Trump won the legal votes may have significant impact on the General Assembly."

The campaign has alleged widespread voting fraud.

Published:11/27/2020 11:56:48 AM
[Markets] IPO Report: Roblox IPO: 5 things to know about the tween-centric gaming platform Roblox Corp. is heading for an initial public offering amid strong momentum as millions of tweens and teenagers are glued to their mobile devices during lockdowns caused by COVID-19.
Published:11/27/2020 11:56:48 AM
[Markets] Coronavirus Update: Record number of COVID-19 patients in U.S. hospitals Coronavirus Update: Record number of COVID-19 patients in U.S. hospitals Published:11/27/2020 11:56:48 AM
[Markets] There's No Reopening Plan For Closed NYC Schools, de Blasio Says There's No Reopening Plan For Closed NYC Schools, de Blasio Says Tyler Durden Fri, 11/27/2020 - 12:15

Authored GQ Pan via The Epoch Times,

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday said that he is taking sole responsibility for closing the city’s public schools without a reopening plan in place.

“Honestly, I have to hold myself responsible,” de Blasio said during a press conference when asked why there wasn’t a school reopening plan in place when 1.1 million public school students switched to all-remote learning last Thursday after the citywide CCP virus infection rate hit the three percent threshold.

In summer, the de Blasio administration established that the city’s public schools would have to end in-person learning if the citywide CCP virus infection rate hit three percent on a rolling seven-day average. The city reached the threshold last Wednesday, causing all public schools to shut their doors the next day.

“The better situation would have been, clearly, to have that plan all worked through in advance,” the Democratic mayor said, arguing that there is no reopening plan for schools because his administration has invested most of the energy into avoiding going past the three percent threshold in the first place.

“That’s really where our energy was going, deploying the testing, trying to take actions that we thought might avert the original measure being hit,” de Blasio explained.

“I think we didn’t have a plan-B and we should’ve had a plan-B, but I also understand why we didn’t because we were really dealing with so many day-to-day, hour-to-hour issues, and trying to find a way to avert getting to that three percent,” he continued.

“The important point is getting to the three percent meant something. It meant there was a problem. It meant that we were dealing with this second wave bearing down on us. That’s a real thing.”

De Blasio also promised that the details of a staged reopening plan will be announced next week.

Meanwhile, Councilman Mark Treyger, who heads the City Council’s Education Committee, said that he has offered a re-opening plan in July, only to be ignored by the City Hall.

“I think it’s important for the public to be aware that [de Blasio] chose for it to be this way,” Treyger said, reported New York Post.

“This is not the best that New York City can do, this is the best that he can do.”

The latest data from New York City’s health department shows that the city has a 3.05 percent infection rate on a seven-day rolling average, while the daily citywide positivity rate is at 2.74 percent.

Published:11/27/2020 11:23:37 AM
[Markets] Portland Rioters Cause Thousands Of Dollars In Damage On Thanksgiving Night Portland Rioters Cause Thousands Of Dollars In Damage On Thanksgiving Night Tyler Durden Fri, 11/27/2020 - 11:45

Authored by Zachary Stieber via The Epoch Times,

Rioters in Oregon’s largest city on Thanksgiving caused thousands of dollars in damage, authorities said.

A group of people dressed in black clothing were witnessed smashing windows along Hawthorne Street in the early hours of Nov. 26, according to the Portland Police Bureau.

Officers canvassed the area and found that damage had been inflicted upon at least 10 businesses in the area.

“Some of the damage was sufficient to provide access to the interior of retail stores so officers contacted responsible parties and stood by while contractors or employees boarded up windows. Grocery stores, banks, an auto service center, a package distribution and mailing center, and local business storefronts were damaged,” the bureau said in an incident summary.

A New Seasons Market, a Chase Bank, and Portland Cider House were among the businesses that were damaged, photographs and video footage showed. Multiple Antifa logos were sprayed with paint onto the buildings.

Three people were arrested: Chester Hester, 24; Nicole Noriega, 38; and Bailey Willack, 23. They were each charged with 10 counts of first-degree criminal mischief.

According to Andy Ngo, a reporter who is an expert on the far-left Antifa network, Willack is a member of the network.

Police said another adult was found with a semi-automatic pistol. That person, who was not named, was referred to the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office.

Chester Hester (L), Nicole Noriega (C), and Bailey Willack were arrested for allegedly damaging businesses during a riot in Portland, Ore., on Nov. 26, 2020. (Portland Police Bureau)

“Based on witness statements, it is likely that more people were involved in these crimes and police will try to determine their identity through further investigation,” police said.

A spokesman for Portland Mayor and Police Commissioner Ted Wheeler, a Democrat, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Riots and protests took place nearly every night in Portland for months this year. The situation has calmed down in recent weeks, but sporadic explosions of violence still occur.

The vandalism came after the PNW Youth Liberation Front, a group linked to Antifa, called for “direct action” in Twitter posts that said, “[Expletive] Thanksgiving.”

Direct action is a term that refers to targeting buildings that anarchists feel represent things they oppose. The Front called on taking direct action “to attack symbols and structures of colonialism and capitalism.”

The group later shared a report from an Antifa website that praised the toppling of a memorial for the Mexican-American War at a cemetery in Portland on Nov. 25.

Vandals sprayed graffiti that said, “[Expletive]” USA,” and “Eat [expletive] colonizers.”

Published:11/27/2020 10:59:26 AM
[Markets] Dow Jones Barely Higher as Disney Ramps Up Layoffs, Apple Moves Some Production Out of China Disney has increased the scope of its planned job cuts, and Apple is reportedly diversifying production. Published:11/27/2020 10:59:26 AM
[Markets] The Moneyist: My late mother left a home in Savannah with 5 acres. I want to sell. My brother threatened to ‘ruin me’ and sue me for harassment ‘My sister also does not want to sell the property because it has been in the family for 90 years.’
Published:11/27/2020 10:59:26 AM
[Markets] US STOCKS-Wall Street rises, Nasdaq hits record high on recovery hopes Wall Street's main indexes rose and the tech-heavy Nasdaq hit a record high on Friday as optimism around an economic rebound next year outweighed fears of an expected surge in coronavirus infections following the Thanksgiving holiday. Sentiment was also lifted by President Donald Trump saying he will leave the White House if the Electoral College votes for President-elect Joe Biden, the closest he has come to conceding the Nov. 3 election, market participants said. Published:11/27/2020 10:23:30 AM
[Markets] Watch: Viral Video Of Water On Fire Reveals A Natural Gas Leak In China Watch: Viral Video Of Water On Fire Reveals A Natural Gas Leak In China Tyler Durden Fri, 11/27/2020 - 11:15

Authored by Michael Kern via,

Residents in a natural gas-producing northeastern Chinese province have made a video of tap water being set on fire with a lighter - a video that went viral - prompting an investigation by local authorities and a shutdown of the water supply to part of a city because natural gas had leaked into the groundwater. 

Videos of tap water in the city of Panjin, in China’s Liaoning province, surfaced on Chinese social media and became so popular that the story was picked up by the People’s Daily, a Chinese state-affiliated media outlet.

According to People’s Daily’s tweet:

“The odd scene is caused by natural gas infiltration due to temporary underground water supply system error, which is now shut down. Normal supply has resumed.” 

The local government has said that further investigation would be conducted into the cause of the incident, People’s Daily reported. 

However, according to media reports in China, carried by Newsweek, flammable tap water is not a new phenomenon in the district of the city of Panjin where the latest video was recorded. Residents in Dawa district have said that they had seen instances of burning tap water since at least 2018. Other residents say that their tap water has always been more “oily”. 

A report from the CCTV outlet said that residents had first noticed the flammable tap water “three to four years” ago. 

Chinese authorities said that after a “comprehensive investigation of the tap water sources in the whole district, no such problems have been found in other areas.” 

The Liaoning province has natural gas reserves, and last year in November, a unit of China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC)— Liaohe Oilfield—started construction of an $8.5-billion gas storage project in the city of  Panjin, which would be the biggest underground natural gas storage center in northeast China.  

Published:11/27/2020 10:23:30 AM
[Markets] Tesla Model S and Model X vehicles to be subjects of NHTSA safety probe Tesla Model S and Model X vehicles to be subjects of NHTSA safety probe Published:11/27/2020 10:23:30 AM
[Markets] MarketWatch Premium: 30 dividend stocks selected for value as the U.S. economy gathers steam John Buckingham of The Prudent Speculator investment newsletter provides a special screen of stocks for MarketWatch premium subscribers.
Published:11/27/2020 10:23:30 AM
[Markets] EV battery developer QuantumScape begins trading on NYSE QuantumScape, a battery developer for electric vehicle use, began trading on the New York Stock Exchange today following a SPAC merger. Published:11/27/2020 9:54:37 AM
[Markets] Rabo: For Traditional Retailers The Outlook Is Indeed Black Rabo: For Traditional Retailers The Outlook Is Indeed Black Tyler Durden Fri, 11/27/2020 - 10:40

By Michael Every of Rabobank

None More Black

Ian: Here it is, lads! "Smell The Glove"...gather round….Where's David?... David, David, get up here!

Derek: David, "Smell The Glove" is here.

Ian: The moment we've all been waiting for...Here we go, plenty for you are.

David: I never thought I'd see...I never thought I'd live to see the day.

Ian: What do you think?

Derek: Is this the test pressing?

Ian: No, this is it, yes, that's right...

David: This is "Smell The Glove" by Spinal Tap....

Ian: That's "Smell The Glove" that's the jacket cover, it's going out across the country in every store.

David: This is the compromise we made...this is the compromise you made?

Ian: Yes.

Derek: Is it going to say anything here, or here along the spine?

David: It's not going to say anything?

Ian: No, it's not going to say anything.

Nigel: It's going to be like this, all black...

Ian: No, it's going to be that simple, beautiful, classic!

David: Does look a little bit like, you know, black leather...

Derek: You can see yourself in... both sides.

David: I feel so bad, I feel so bad about this...

Nigel: It's like a black mirror.

David: Well, I think it looks like looks like mourning. I mean it looks...

Ian: David, David, every movie, in every cinema is about death; death sells!

Nigel: I think he's right, there is something about this, that's so black, it's like; "How much more black could this be?"…and the answer is: "None, none... more black."

David: I think, like you're, like rationalizing this whole thing like into something you did on purpose. I think we're stuck with a very, very stupid and a very, and a very dismal looking album,… this is depressing.

Nigel: David!

David: This is something you wear around your arm, you don't put this on your turntable.

Nigel: David, it's a choice.

Ian: I frankly think that this is the turning point, okay? I think, I think this is...we're on our way now.

Who can argue with the immortal wisdom on Spinal Tap, and what else needs to be said about today? This is Black Friday in the US, and there have been None More Black. (For those younger readers who haven’t seen Spinal Tap, ‘Smell the Glove’ was a pure black LP with nothing written on it at all, title, band-name, tracks, etc., just pure shiny black on both sides; for those who haven’t seen an LP, it was a 12” vinyl disk inside an artistic cover that was how most rock music was stored before CDs and on-line music, and was highly tactile and collectible; and those who haven’t seen rock music, it was hairy guys with guitars, bass, and drums making a lot of great noise; and to link all three in a life-imitating-art kind of way, see Metallica’s 1991 album ‘Metallica’.)

It’s none more black not just because of the grim Covid backdrop; not just due to the crazy, crazy bargains on offer; not just down to the desire by those who have not been spending much in 2020 to splurge in a US cultural meme best captured by the South Park ‘Black Friday’ trilogy (episodes 7, 8, and 9 of season 17); but rather because Black Friday is going to be more online than ever, and so for traditional retailers the outlook is indeed black (one can imagine a future version of this daily: “For those younger readers who haven’t seen shops…”); and because it will show just how black, or red, the outlook is for US consumption and so GDP going forwards. Furthermore, Black Friday is also increasingly global, with more and more countries trying to do the same (the UK, for one).

Frankly, we don’t have a lot to do today other than wait for the media anecdotes to start flooding in of what an ‘amaaaaaazing’ level of sales specific parts of the global economy are seeing. So watch Spinal Tap or play some rock music and turn the volume up to 11, why not? Yet there is real news elsewhere if you want it:

  • China has slapped 107% - 212% tariffs on Australian wine today, to take effect from tomorrow. That’s a very black outlook for many Aussie wine producers, obviously. Australia will of course appeal to the WHO. China, being such a big fan of free trade and multilateral institutions, is certain to move rapidly to comply with whatever the WHO eventually says, of course. AUD didn’t mind at all: it’s once again thinking of other things, such as all the Black Friday-ness ahead.
  • The EU and UK are still on the edge of the precipice on a Brexit deal. Talks are going to restart tomorrow, apparently, while Bloomberg reports that “Brexit Britain’s Food Supply Is Imperilled by Christmas and Covid”. Wot, no sprouts? (Actually, no tinned tomatoes or olives, baby-food or wine, more likely. Mmm, who has extra wine right now?...but the issue is free warehouse space and not physical supply, sadly for Australia.)
  • Poland and Hungary have decided that they will make a joint stand against the EU’s insistence on a rule-of-law conditionality in its USD2.0 trillion fiscal stimulus (the one that hasn’t arrived yet, is arguably too small, and yet which the market has been fully pricing in for months): both will veto it. The EU could push ahead via a qualified majority of its members for at least the EUR750bn coronavirus fund, but that would leave the EU operating under an emergency monthly budget rather than something more expansive going forwards. We already see the same thing in Israel, for different reasons, and the US is also short of fiscal stimulus, and it’s not doing wonders for the growth outlook there.
Published:11/27/2020 9:54:37 AM
[Markets] As Good As It Gets? As Good As It Gets? Tyler Durden Fri, 11/27/2020 - 10:08

Authored by Tavi Costa and Kevin Smith via Crescat Capital,

Dear Investors:

Crescat Global Macro and Crescat Long/Short hedge funds are having a pullback month to date. We wanted to bring this to your attention because we think it presents an excellent buying opportunity for those considering adding money to Crescat for the end of this month. The opportunity is being caused by the recent run-up in equity markets. We show below a set of timing indicators that are as good as they get against the long stock crowd. We strongly believe that the fundamental, macro, and now technical reasons, never looked so appealing to capitalize on short positions in a select basket of highly overpriced securities that Crescat has identified via its fundamental equity model. 

In our November research letter, we shared a Crescat macro model that combines 15 fundamental valuation factors to show how US stocks have recently reached their most overvalued levels since 1900. The problem with speculative excess and the risks it poses to unprepared investors is simple to understand. Ultra-easy financial conditions create major manic tops in markets. As we show in the chart below, with both the tech bubble of 2000 and the housing bubble of 2007, the GS Financial Conditions Index reached cyclically low levels that distinctly marked these market tops. Financial conditions today, driven by historic low interest rates and tight credit spreads, are the loosest yet, the easiest of the past thirty years, at the same time as valuations and leverage are the highest.

These excesses are clearly unsustainable and mark a potentially timely setup for a major market reversal. According to Bank of America, over the last two weeks, already fully-invested retail investors had their largest inflows into the stock market ever. Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs showed this week that hedge funds have their highest leverage since right before Volmageddon (250%) and are their most net long (84%) since they have been tracking the data (five years). Goldman also reported that the median short interest as a percent of market cap for the S&P 500 just plunged to the lowest it has been in the 16-year history of that data.

We can see below that speculative long call option positioning today relative to puts is the highest it has been since the peak of the tech bubble. Note also in this chart how the bull market has been losing steam since late 2017 as measured by the declining 14-day RSI, even as the overall market has pushed higher, a bearish signaling divergence.

In another sign of the unsustainable excess today, the percentage of S&P 500 Index members that are above their 200-day moving average just reached a new extreme for the uber-high valuation environment of last five years. Note how the three prior peaks in this indicator during this regime circled in the chart below preceded substantial corrections: Volmageddon in February 2018, Q4 of 2018, and March 2020. During each of these periods, Crescat’s two hedge funds mentioned above profited substantially.

We are hereby warning of the dangerous risks of chasing this extremely frothy bull market. Forward thinking investors should take a cue from smart-money corporate insiders who sold more stock in one day last week than on any other day since 2004 as also noted by Goldman. At Crescat, we remain committed to tactical short positioning today in our Crescat Global Macro and Crescat Long/Short hedge funds alongside precious metals long exposure.

The setup for our long gold and silver positions in these two funds and in our Crescat Precious Metals fund and SMA is equally exciting today. The gold and silver mining stock long sleeve of all three Crescat hedge funds has been creating massive alpha and absolute return even as this market has been pulling back since its early August highs. Since then, the Philadelphia Gold and Silver Index has pulled back 19% while Van Eck Junior Gold Miners ETF is down 25%. Since its August launch, the Crescat Precious Metals Fund at almost the exact same time is up over 90% net. Imagine what is possible when the gold bull market resumes as our analysis indicates it will. Our activist fund can and will short gold and silver stocks at key times indicated by our macro analysis, but such a time is not now. This fund has been long precious metals equities entirely since inception. In this fund and the similar sleeve of our other hedge funds, we are focused on the extremely undervalued and high growth exploration segment of the industry today. Our stock picking in this segment is enhanced thanks to Crescat’s geologic and technical advisor, renowned exploration geologist, Quinton Hennigh, PhD.

Our analysis shows that it is still extremely early in a new precious metals bull market, and the exploration segment in particular is where the most alpha and beta combined is likely to be extracted over the next several years. Gold has already corrected almost as much as during the February and March crash of this year. This time, there is a major difference in market behavior indicating a still early-cycle macro environment for gold and silver. Rather than leading to downside in this pullback, silver has been holding up incredibly well. In fact, the silver to gold ratio is only down 1/3 of the move it had back then.

With such a severe twin deficit problem in the US economy, further government debt monetization is almost certain. For this reason, the recent appointment of the former Fed chair, Janet Yellen, is relevant to our thesis as we should continue to see an effort towards combining monetary and fiscal policy. Moreover, we have noted that as the Fed’s balance sheet has recently turned up again, it has been one of the most important macro drivers for precious metals. Meanwhile, since the recent positive news about the vaccine, the media has repeatedly called for the end of the bull market for gold. We think these narratives are just noise. The macro reasons to be long precious metals today remain intact.

As the chart above shows, the price of gold relative to M2 money supply still looks historically attractive with significant upside likely ahead.

Published:11/27/2020 9:23:19 AM
[Markets] Tesla Is Now Bigger Than Berkshire Following Furious "Gamma" Blast Tesla Is Now Bigger Than Berkshire Following Furious "Gamma" Blast Tyler Durden Fri, 11/27/2020 - 09:52

It's official: ignoring any and all negative news, and rampaging higher day after day culminating in what a mindblowing 586% return YTD, Tesla has just surpassed Berkshire Hatahaway in market cap at just over $550 billion, a fitting tribute to Elon Musk who also recently overtook Warren Buffett in wealth, and is now the world's 2nd richest man after Jeff Bezos.

The latest move appears to be yet another good old gamma grab, with SpotGamma reporting that on Wednesday TSLA alone traded over 1 million calls, with at least 350k of this volume was concentrated at the Friday expiration. Is SoftBank going for another squeeze?

As SoftGamma concludes, "these plays are similar to August, the question is will this call buying “infect” the broader indicies" and judging by the latest record high in the Nasdaq, the answer is a resounding yes.

Published:11/27/2020 9:01:30 AM
[Markets] US STOCKS-Wall St rises, Nasdaq hits record high on recovery hopes Wall Street's main indexes rose and the Nasdaq hit a record high on Friday as optimism around an economic rebound next year outweighed concerns around an expected surge in coronavirus infections following the Thanksgiving holiday. Sentiment was also lifted by President Donald Trump saying he will leave the White House if the Electoral College votes for President-elect Joe Biden, the closest he has come to conceding the Nov. 3 election, market participants said. Published:11/27/2020 9:01:30 AM
[Markets] Top Ten: Weekend reads: $500,000 and a retirement problem Also, stock screens, settling a marital dispute about paying off debt and a plan for getting the most financial aid for college.
Published:11/27/2020 9:01:30 AM
[Markets] Dow briefly reclaims 30,000 perch Friday as Nasdaq posts intraday record high Dow briefly reclaims 30,000 perch Friday as Nasdaq posts intraday record high Published:11/27/2020 9:01:30 AM
[Markets] YouTube Gets Brutally Ratio'd After Attempting Woke Takedown Of Thanksgiving YouTube Gets Brutally Ratio'd After Attempting Woke Takedown Of Thanksgiving Tyler Durden Fri, 11/27/2020 - 09:11

Authored by Steve Watson via Summit News,

YouTube found out that Americans are in no mood for yet another woke lecture about their holidays this week when it received overwhelming backlash for posts slating Thanksgiving.

The Google owned company took the opportunity to ‘educate’ Americans on the history of indigenous people, an an alternative day of ‘activism and resistance’ called Unthanksgiving:

YouTube heading up the ‘resistance’ there from its corporate headquarters in California.

That wasn’t enough though. The ‘activism’ continued:

Everyday Americans were in no mood to accept yet more fake righteousness from Google, a company that has been charged with working with the Communist Chinese government, while sidelining human rights concerns.

Others took issue with YouTube’s version of ‘history’:

Time to get out the woke calendar and add yet another day of ‘resistance’ to it:

Others added their own warning labels to YouTube’s tweets:

Others responded with a more succinct and direct response:

Published:11/27/2020 8:23:51 AM
[Markets] : 5 items NOT to buy during Black Friday Some Black Friday sales may be available all month long, but that doesn’t mean all deals are worth it.
Published:11/27/2020 8:23:51 AM
[Markets] NHTSA Opens Investigation Into 115,000 Teslas Over Faulty Suspension Complaints NHTSA Opens Investigation Into 115,000 Teslas Over Faulty Suspension Complaints Tyler Durden Fri, 11/27/2020 - 08:45

In what appears to be continuing spillover from Tesla's recent contested recall of its Model S and Model X vehicles in China due to suspension  issues, U.S regulators are now investigating the issue. The U.S. NHTSA announced on Friday it had opened an investigation into about 115,000 Tesla vehicles over front suspension safety issues, according to Reuters.

It said it would be looking into 2015 to 2017 Model S and 2017 to 2017 Model X vehicles after having received "43 complaints alleging failure of the left or right front suspension fore links".

Recall, Tesla had already issued a "service bulletin" in February 2017 warning about conditions that could cause the suspension to fail. Potential suspension issues with Tesla's Model S aren'5 news. Many issues regarding Tesla suspensions were discussed on Twitter and Reddit under the guise of Tesla vehicles having "whompy wheels" for the last few years.  

In fact, as we noted last month, suspension issues are one of the oldest ongoing critiques involving Tesla's manufacturing (before Musk shattered Cybertruck windows live on stage, before Model 3s had dirt collect in their bumper and before Model Ys saw their roofs fly off). Legacy complaints involving suspension date back years, to Tesla's original run of Model S vehicles.

We pointed out that the Chinese had noticed the issue, resulting in Tesla having been forced into a recall of 30,000 Model S and Model X vehicles made for the Chinese market over suspension issues. 

We also noted last month that a similar issue could affect up to 200,000 vehicles in the U.S. market.

The issue surrounds "a weakness in the Model S and Model X suspension that can lead to a cracked linkage after an impact."


From a collection of suspension issues on InsideEVs

Recall, as far back as 2016, we were reporting about an investigation into the suspension of Tesla vehicles. Back then the issue wasn't just the suspension themselves, but a potential coverup of the issue by Tesla:

As the website notes, "where Tesla crosses the line here is not the “crime” itself, but the coverup. If Tesla used a TSB rather than a recall to fix a safety problem, if it has an institutional bias against ordering recalls and if it uses NDAs as a matter of course to prevent owners from reporting defects, this could become the biggest auto safety scandal since the GM ignition switch affair. That’s a lot of “ifs,” but thus far the evidence indicates that these are very real possibilities. Watch this space for further developments in this troubling story."

This video described some of the early suspension issues well:

Published:11/27/2020 7:58:31 AM
[Markets] : States with stricter Thanksgiving coronavirus gathering curbs saw higher online retail sales: Adobe Netflix’s ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ driving increased sales of chessboards
Published:11/27/2020 7:58:31 AM
[Markets] Gold Pukes Below $1800 As VIX Flash-Crashes To February Lows Gold Pukes Below $1800 As VIX Flash-Crashes To February Lows Tyler Durden Fri, 11/27/2020 - 08:17

Greed is good...

Fear is, apparently, a waste of time - so who needs protection.

After a mini-flash-crash this morning...

For the first time since February, VIX has dropped below 20 this morning...

Having plummeted since the election on the heels of vaccine headlines...

And as VIX was dumped, so was gold...

Who needs protection when there is The Fed and Democrats to print/spend/"stimulate" stocks to record highs?

Except, of course, as Peter Schiff recently warned: "We don’t need the stimulus to deal with the COVID disease. We need more stimulus to deal with the COVID cure. That’s what we’re addicted to. We’re addicted to the cure. It’s not about the disease. It’s all about the cure...

...The Fed will stop the nominal collapse in asset prices or goods prices. But they will cause an even bigger collapse in real terms pricing those assets and goods in gold. So, if you hide out in US Treasuries, you get wiped out. That’s not a safe haven. The real safe haven would be real money, which would be gold."

Published:11/27/2020 7:26:48 AM
[Markets] ETF Wrap: ETF Wrap: A very ETF Thanksgiving, and tax season too ETF Wrap is a briefing of what investors need to know in the exchange-traded fund sector, including exclusive commentary and interviews on the industry from MarketWatch
Published:11/27/2020 6:55:01 AM
[Markets] Trump Says He Will Leave White House If Biden Wins Electoral College Despite "Rigged" Election Trump Says He Will Leave White House If Biden Wins Electoral College Despite "Rigged" Election Tyler Durden Fri, 11/27/2020 - 07:49

President Trump took questions from reporters on Thursday evening for the first time since Election Day. And after confirming a few days ago via Twitter that he would tell the GSA to formally begin the transition process, the president confirmed to a group of MSM journalists that he would formally surrender power to Biden should he win the Electoral College vote.

During the scrum, Trump took about 25 minutes to rehash a series of allegations his legal team has so far made (but provided little or no evidence for, and thus hasn’t raised in court appearances) - while saying flatly that Biden couldn't have done as well as he did without "fraud".

Reporters of course leapt at the opportunity to ask all kinds of salacious questions: Trump was asked if he’d physically leave the White House if the Electoral College affirms Biden’s victory - Trump replied "certainly I will, and you know that.”

After a round of antagonistic questions, Trump started lashing out at various states for dropping the ball and ruining his chances at a second term, while reiterating that this was "a rigged the highest level".

Trump slammed Georgia’s Republican secretary of state - who penned an op-ed slamming Trump and his supporters -  as an “enemy of the people.” He added that he would soon stage a rally in Georgia, where voters return to the polls in early January for a pair of runoff Senate races that will determine control of the Upper Chamber.

Finally, Trump repeatedly returned to questioning Joe Biden’s raw vote total, insisting the Democrat couldn’t have done so well as compared to previous Democratic candidates, although population growth historically drives growth in voting numbers while 2020 led to a particularly charged political atmosphere.

“This is not a candidate that can get 80 million votes,” he said of Biden. “The only way he got 80 million votes is through a massive fraud.”

Trump declined to say if he’d attend Biden’s inauguration, as is the custom for an outgoing president. “I’ll be honest, I know the answer, but I just don’t want to say it yet,” he said, before adding that it's "not right" that Biden has already started picking his cabinet.

Both Trump and Biden stayed close to home for the Thanksgiving holiday. The inauguration for Biden (assuming he does win the EC) would take place on Jan. 20.

Published:11/27/2020 6:55:01 AM
[Markets] Stock market news live updates: Futures rise, aim for re-test of Dow 30K in shortened session Hopes for a COVID-19 vaccine are momentarily outweighing soaring infection rates. Published:11/27/2020 6:55:01 AM
[Markets] Brazil's Bolsonaro Says He Won't Take Coronavirus Vaccine Brazil's Bolsonaro Says He Won't Take Coronavirus Vaccine Tyler Durden Fri, 11/27/2020 - 07:20

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said late this week that under no circumstances would he ever take a coronavirus vaccine - especially not a Chinese-made jab.

The right-wing leader has repeatedly warned his countrymen that Chinese vaccines are dangerous and should be avoided. A few weeks ago, Brazil temporarily halted trials for the Chinese-made vaccine produced Sinovac. Still, Bolsonaro was furious when the trial was allowed to resume less than 48 hours later. Sao Paolo has already agreed to start importing millions of doses of Sinovac's jab, despite resistance from Bolsonaro.

Now, Reuters reports, Bolsonaro said Thursday evening in a public statement broadcast across multiple social media channels that he would not take the COVID vaccine, the latest in a series of statements he has made expressing skepticism toward certain vaccination programs. In statements broadcast live over multiple social media platforms, Bolsonaroadded that Congress was unlikely to require Brazilians to take a vaccine.

"I’m telling you, I’m not going to take it. It’s my right," he said.

Brazil has the second highest number of coronavirus deaths in the world, and it's also far and away the worst hit country in Latin America.

Bolsonaro has for months played down the seriousness of the pandemic despite having been infected with the virus in July. Bolsonaro also expressed skepticism over the effectiveness of wearing masks during his speech, implying there was little conclusive evidence of the effectiveness of masks.

The president has joked that Brazilians needn't worry about being forced to receive the jab, since the president doesn't intend to make receiving a jab mandatory - except for one's dog (or dogs, as he once joked).

Published:11/27/2020 6:32:17 AM
[Markets] Market Snapshot: Dow futures edge higher in early Black Friday trade Equity markets were set to tilt slightly higher on Black Friday, as investors parse an update about the White House transition and news related to experimental therapies and prophylactics for COVID-19.
Published:11/27/2020 6:32:16 AM
[Markets] COVID-19 cases and testing spike as U.S. heads into Thanksgiving holiday A surge in the number of Americans testing positive for the coronavirus this month is worrying medical experts at the same time as the nation prepares for its first major indoor holiday during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Published:11/27/2020 5:52:35 AM
[Markets] Consumer confidence dropping as Black Friday arrives: Morning Brief Top news and what to watch in the markets on Friday, November 27, 2020. Published:11/27/2020 5:24:54 AM
[Markets] WHO Sends Another Team Of Scientists To Investigate Origins Of Coronavirus In Wuhan WHO Sends Another Team Of Scientists To Investigate Origins Of Coronavirus In Wuhan Tyler Durden Fri, 11/27/2020 - 05:45

Health authorities in Beijing are bracing to finally allow a team of WHO scientists to visit Wuhan and other parts of the PRC as international curiosity about the origins of the virus appears to peak alongside the number of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

According to the SCMP, groundwork for the mission was originally laid back in July and the WHO at the time said the international team would arrive “in a matter of weeks”. However, it appears that original mission was insufficiently "transparent", as the US and Europe almost immediately started to plot a return visit.

The team assembled by the WHO includes a wide range of experts from those focused on animal welfare to virologists aiming to examine the route of zoonotic transmission that (according to Beijing) kicked off the outbreak at a 'wet market' in the city of Wuhan, which was not far from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a Biosafety Level 4 facility, that many suspect is the true source of the outbreak. Scientists include Ken Maeda of Japan’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases, Vietnamese scientist Hung Nguyen (the co-leader of the Animal and Human Health Program.

Though many suspect that the virus infected humans after originally infecting bats, the exact route that the virus took from the animal kingdom to infecting at least 60 million humans.

The scientific mission’s phase one work centers around Wuhan, the city where the first cluster of cases originally emerged late last year. While much ink has been spilled about the role of local leaders in trying to cover up the virus, only to see it swiftly overwhelm the city's medical infrastructure, necessitating a brutal lockdown that lasted for nearly 3 month, the global scientific community actually doesn't have a great understanding of how this all started.

Even the SCMP acknowledges that the role of the 'wet market' was never proven, while also pointing to the nearby Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is the centerpiece of a "conspiracy theory" claiming that the deadly virus leaked out of the laboratory after a worker was accidentally infected. A lack of “analytical epidemiological study” has made it difficult to say anything about the early days of the outbreak with conviction.

Though that hasn't stopped scientists and social media companies from dismissing 'conspiracy theories' about the role of the Wuhan Institute of Virology that just happened to be situated near the epicenter of the outbreak (it was also known that the lab was being used to study potentially dangerous strains of coronavirus to try and head off any other SARS-like outbreaks).

Last time around, the WHO team declined to investigate the laboratory. They declined, despite a US government report pointing to the lab as the most likely source of the virus. Could that change this time around?

With Joe Biden apparently on his way to the White House, we suspect that holding China accountable for the virus will no longer be a high priority of the American government in Washington.

Published:11/27/2020 4:54:52 AM
[Markets] Rare Footage Shows Russian Warship 'Chasing' US Destroyer In Border Incident Rare Footage Shows Russian Warship 'Chasing' US Destroyer In Border Incident Tyler Durden Fri, 11/27/2020 - 05:00


The large anti-submarine ship Admiral Vinogradov stopped the US Navy destroyer "John McCain" after it reportedly entered its territorial waters near the Gulf of Peter the Great.

The incident occurred in the Gulf of Peter the Great in the Far East at 06:17 (Moscow time) Tuesday, the details were reported by the Ministry of Defense.

USS John McCain, Getty Images

The department clarified that the US Navy destroyer went 2 km beyond the border line, invading the territorial waters of the Russian Federation. The Russian military warned the Americans that they were ready for a ramming maneuver.

"The Admiral Vinogradov, a large anti-submarine ship of the Pacific Fleet, which is directly tracking the American destroyer, warned the foreign ship through the international communication channel about the inadmissibility of such actions and the possibility of using a ramming maneuver to force the intruder out of the territorial waters," the Defense Ministry said.

After that, the John McCain immediately went into neutral waters: "the American destroyer did not make repeated attempts to enter them."

Watch footage of the rare confrontation in the Sea of Japan below:

Earlier in October, China announced the violation of the country’s territorial waters by a US warship, which caused an uproar and resulted in Beijing issuing a strongly-worded warning to Washington about such breaches.

Published:11/27/2020 4:25:15 AM
[Markets] Europe Markets: European stocks and U.S. futures edge higher despite lockdown extensions and AstraZeneca vaccine concerns European stocks edged higher early on Friday despite extended COVID-19 restrictions across the continent and concerns over AstraZeneca’s vaccine candidate.
Published:11/27/2020 4:25:15 AM
[Markets] Dow Futures, Coronavirus, Black Friday and Trump - 5 Things You Must Know Friday Stock futures post modest gains in what is expected to be a light day of trading; AstraZeneca acknowledges manufacturing discrepancies in the latest trial of its Covid-19 vaccine candidate; Black Friday could be an online sales blowout. Published:11/27/2020 4:25:15 AM
[Markets] France Pushes For EU Sanctions On Turkey Over Mediterranean Gas Row France Pushes For EU Sanctions On Turkey Over Mediterranean Gas Row Tyler Durden Fri, 11/27/2020 - 04:15

France's leading efforts to push for European sanctions on fellow NATO member Turkey has picked up steam, with Paris expected to propose the punitive action next month with the backing of Greece and Cyprus, but so far with lack of enthusiasm from other EU governments. 

It comes after the months-long standoff in the Eastern Mediterranean over Turkish hydrocarbon exploration and drilling, which France says is a violation of Cyprus and Greece's territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zones.

According to Reuters, "Paris says Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has not heeded EU leaders' warnings on Oct. 1 to back down in a dispute over gas exploration in the Mediterranean or face consequences."

Turkish frigate Gaziantep escorts a drilling ship in the eastern Mediterranean near Cyprus. Turkish Defense Ministry/AFP

"The European Parliament on Thursday is expected to call for sanctions, decrying Erdogan’s visit earlier this month to the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north of the island of Cyprus," Reuters continues.

It's expected that the French sanctions would target shipping, banking, and energy sectors - all vital to Turkey's oil and gas exploration initiatives. 

France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian issued a bit of an ultimatum at a French parliamentary hearing this week: "Confrontation or collaboration, it’s up to them," he said.

But one unnamed EU diplomat cited in Reuters underscored that "Turkey is a key partner in many areas, so there’s no consensus in the Council (of EU governments). It is still too early" - which suggests a likely uphill battle before any European sanctions actually become a reality.


France in the past months has gone so far as to join naval and aerial exercises with the Greek and Cypriot militaries in the Mediterranean as a "warning" to Turkey. However, Erdogan has appeared undeterred. 

Published:11/27/2020 3:21:42 AM
[Markets] Saudi Aramco's Landmark IPO Is Costing The Kingdom Billions Saudi Aramco's Landmark IPO Is Costing The Kingdom Billions Tyler Durden Fri, 11/27/2020 - 03:30

Authored by Simon Watkins via,

The initial public offering (IPO) of Saudi Aramco that was heralded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) as being a showcase flotation for raising massive new capital for the Kingdom and anchoring a major expansion of its international equities market presence has proven only to put Aramco into a debt spiral and highlighted a myriad of problems in Saudi Arabia to international investors. Now, Aramco is digging itself further into serious debt through bond issuances simply to pay for the huge dividend payments promised by MbS that were absolutely required to persuade anyone to buy into the omni-toxic IPO.

At this rate, the debt taken on by Aramco and other Saudi bond offerings to pay for the dividends will be far more than the amount of money raised in the IPO. As a direct result of MbS deciding to go ahead with yet another oil price war at the same time as the COVID-19 pandemic was gathering pace and destroying demand for oil, Aramco’s finances have suffered a massive hit. For the first half of this year, the company saw a 50 percent plunge in net profit and at the beginning of this month, it reported another massive drop in profits of 44.6 percent for the third quarter, falling to SAR44.21 billion (US$11.79 billion) from SAR79.84 billion in the same period last year. On the other side of the balance sheet, though, is the stark fact that because the company’s IPO was so toxic on so many levels that it was shunned by Western investors and had to be off-loaded to buyers who were either bullied or bribed into buying the stock Aramco is left having to pay massive guaranteed dividend payments for the foreseeable future to those shareholders.

This huge guaranteed dividend payment of US$18.75 billion per quarter - US$75 billion for a full year – will have to be paid for through budget cuts over and above the US$15 billion in Aramco’s annual capital spending alluded to by Aramco’s chief executive officer, Amin Nasser, just after the first half profits figures were unveiled. This will take the total down from around US$40 billion to around US$25 billion. Further reports have stated that even this US$25 billion figure is set to be reduced by another US$5 billion, taking the total capital spending in this year from US$25 billion to US$20 billion. 

Whatever the cuts, it remains the case that the first two dividends together for the first two quarters of this year – US$37.5 billion – far outstripped Aramco’s total free cash flow of US$21.1 billion for the same period. The latest profits number for the third quarter, meanwhile, covers just 62.88 percent of the dividend payment, never mind any other expenses or investment for projects ongoing or planned that Aramco may have had in mind. To put this even more clearly: Aramco’s entire profit for the third quarter cannot even cover the dividend it owes for the same quarter, not even two-thirds of it!

As a result so far of the slide in Aramco’s profits, the once much-vaunted flagship US$20 billion crude-to-chemicals plant at Yanbu on Saudi’s Red Sea coast has been indefinitely suspended, according to various reports. The similarly high-profile purchase of a 25 percent multi-billion-dollar stake in Sempra Energy’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in Texas is also apparently under threat, although Sempra for its part has said that it continued to work with Aramco and others “to move our project at Port Arthur LNG forward.” In the same vein, according to various news sources, Aramco has suspended its key US$10 billion deal to expand into mainland China’s refining and petrochemicals sector, via a complex in the Northeastern province of Liaoning that would have seen Saudi supply up to 70 percent of the crude oil for the planned 300,000 barrels per day refinery. In sum, it appears that all of Aramco’s principal projects aimed at diversifying Saudi Arabia away from the relatively zero added-value pursuits of just pumping and selling crude oil are now subject to review and/or outright suspension.

The chances of these – and other stalled projects – being resuscitated with money from other Saudi government departments looks minimal, as MbS’s second oil price war has similarly decimated these finances too. Figures released at the end of September showed that Saudi Arabia’s economy contracted 7 percent year-on-year (y-o-y) in the second quarter of 2020, with the Kingdom’s private sector showing a negative growth rate of 10.1 percent, while the public sector recorded negative growth of 3.5 percent. Saudi’s oil revenue in the first half of the year was 35 percent lower than a year earlier, while non-oil revenue fell by 37 percent. Moreover, in the second quarter of 2020 alone, the Kingdom’s petroleum refining activities recorded a 14 percent y-o-y drop. All of this resulted in a current account deficit of SAR67.4 billion (US$18 billion), or 12 percent of GDP, in Q220 compared with a surplus of SAR42.9 billion, or 5.8 percent of GDP, a year earlier, according to Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Statistics. 

Therefore, Aramco has little choice but to continue to fund the dividend payments to its own shareholders by taking on more debt, in direct contrast to the influx of new money that MbS said would flow into Aramco and then more broadly into the Saudi Tadawul stock market following the ‘landmark IPO’. In essence, Aramco has been left to take on debt to pay the people who bought it shares, which is akin to a family who decides that it has to sell the precious family silver to pay off debts but then ending up having to take out more debts to pay people to buy the silver. 

Moreover, judging from last week’s bond sale by Aramco, it appears that even those investors who have been willing to buy the company’s paper - so increasing their risk exposure to not just to the omni-toxic Aramco but also to Saudi as a sovereign issuer - might be reaching the limit of their appetite for either. Saudi had been looking to raise US$8 billion from the five-part bond deal, which it did, but crucially it attracted just US$48.1 billion in orders for the debt sale, less than half of the amount that it received for its debut bond sale last year when it raised US$12 billion. Even more indicative of increasing investor caution in taking on more exposure to Saudi risk – especially that of the increasingly indebted (bonds plus dividend obligations plus revolving credit lines) Aramco – is that in last year’s bond sale Aramco was able to price the bonds at a tighter spread to the benchmark than Saudi sovereign debt but this time Aramco’s bonds were priced wider.  

Published:11/27/2020 2:51:39 AM
[Markets] : How to protect your mental health and fight ‘COVID fatigue’ this winter 'Don’t let COVID fatigue trick you into taking risks you don’t want to take,' says one public health expert.
Published:11/27/2020 2:21:29 AM
[Markets] Dutch Study Involves Exposing Hundreds Of People To COVID-19 To Test Effectiveness Of Vaccines Dutch Study Involves Exposing Hundreds Of People To COVID-19 To Test Effectiveness Of Vaccines Tyler Durden Fri, 11/27/2020 - 02:45

What was that President Trump used to say about not letting the cure be more painful than the disease?

The latest group of intrepid scientists to test the boundaries of virology and medical ethics belongs to the Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands. A team of Dutch researchers has already recruited a team of more than 240 volunteers for what's called a "human challenge" study.

For those who aren't familiar with the concept, a "challenge" study involves deliberately exposing subjects - animals, or (in this case) human volunteers - to the virus to test the effectiveness of various vaccine candidates.

One could call it a 'trial by fire'.

So far, Moderna and Pfizer have touted headline numbers claiming their vaccines are 95% effective. Only time will tell whether these vaccines actually prevent infection in 19 out of 20 recipients. Meanwhile, the "dosing error" that led AstraZenaca and Oxford to offer conflicting assessments of its adenovirus-vector vaccine depending on different dosing regimens is only the one of the trial's shortcomings. It has also been revealed that the vaccine's best data was gleaned from a group of exclusively younger patients, meaning older more vulnerable patients may be at risk of seeing serious infections develop anyway.

The plan for the "challenge study" is being championed by an organization called 1Day Sooner, which is dedicated - as its name suggests - to accelerating the quest for an effective COVID-19 vaccine. Quarantine facilities in London have already been reserved by the group, which said it expects the trials to begin in January - provided regulators grant their blessing.

With vaccine development and administration still a far-off prospect for millions of Americans, the Trump Administration has promised to start vaccinating health-care workers and the most vulnerable patients by mid-December.

Officials have said vaccines will begin to ship out hours after the FDA grants emergency use approval to Pfizer and/or Moderna. Markets appear to have already internalized this outcome, evidenced by the Dow's record close yesterday.

1Day Sooner has allies in the biotech space that are willing to supply the equipment the company would need to conduct the study. One British biotech firm said last month that it was already in advanced talks with HMG over permission to create and provide strains of the virus for what would be a groundbreaking study.

Though Reuters didn't name it in the version of its report published online, the biotech firm referenced above appears to be Open Orphan, a British firm that one Twitter user said "is the only company in the world with a commercial human challenge study model for Covid 19."

According to a press release published in October, Open Orphan is already working with two British institutions on a "challenge" study using Orphan's plan. Results are expect by May. At this point, with the biggest economies set to have a virtual monopoly on the first wave of vaccine product, a study like this that could accelerate development of other more traditional vaccine approaches could be enormously valuable.

Published:11/27/2020 1:50:42 AM
[Markets] Watch: Moment German Commandos Intercept & Raid Turkish Ship Bound For Libya Watch: Moment German Commandos Intercept & Raid Turkish Ship Bound For Libya Tyler Durden Fri, 11/27/2020 - 02:00


The Turkish media published a video this week showing the interception and search of a Turkish cargo vessel by German forces which happened Sunday as part of the European Union's "Irini" operation in the Mediterranean.

According to reports, the Turkish merchant ship was bound for the Libyan coast before it was stopped by the German naval forces in the eastern Mediterranean.

In the video shared by RT, the German forces can be seen approaching the vessel with its warship and helicopters, as they later entered the ship to search its contents.

On Monday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry condemned Germany’s attempted inspection, calling it a violation of international law.

According to Deutsche Welle:

A diplomatic spat erupted between Turkey and Germany on Monday after Ankara accused German troops of carrying out a search of a freighter as part of the EU's Irini mission to enforce the UN's Libya arms embargo.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said it had summoned the envoys to Ankara of Germany, the EU and Italy to protest the "unauthorized" operation.

"We protest this action, which was conducted without authority and with the use of force," the ministry said.

The German army confirmed that Turkey prevented German forces operating within a military mission of the European Union from inspecting a Turkish cargo ship "believed to be transporting weapons to Libya."

Published:11/27/2020 1:21:42 AM
[Markets] Asia Markets: Asia stocks mixed amid questions over effectiveness of one vaccine Asian stock markets were mixed Friday as questions about the effectiveness of one possible coronavirus vaccine weighed on investor optimism.
Published:11/27/2020 12:50:40 AM
[Markets] Power Is An Illusion, Control Is A Facade Power Is An Illusion, Control Is A Facade Tyler Durden Thu, 11/26/2020 - 23:15

Authored by Brandon Smith via,

This past year in numerous countries the public is being bombarded with lessons in power and control that have been forgotten for generations. I think the majority of westerners in particular have long believed themselves “safe” from totalitarian government, from collectivist micro-management and from communistic cultism. They thought we had moved beyond the nightmares of the 20th century. They thought that the “new world” was going to be more Utopian, and that freedom would grace us naturally along with technological progress.

Sure, in the back of everyone’s subconscious there is the fear that the good times are an illusion and that dystopia is just behind a thin veneer of economic stability and false optimism, but most people do not really think such catastrophes will happen in their lifetime. We are now in the midst of a deliberately over-hyped pandemic, strict national lockdowns, civil unrest, riots, aggressive tech censorship, intrusive government censorship, unprecedented corporate and treasury debt, stagflationary central bank stimulus and the collapse of massive financial bubbles. Yet, I still don’t get the impression that many in the public really grasp the extent of the danger; they still believe that the situation is going to heal itself without any effort or much sacrifice on their part.

This is the first lesson of power: Entire societies can be easily influenced when they suffer from delusions that the bad times will be fleeting, and that governments will keep them safe no matter what.

It is a historically proven pattern that governments tend to CREATE problems instead of solving them, and this is because the power dynamic of government never changes. The politicians we “vote” for are not in control, rather, the elites who fund their campaigns and who permeate their cabinets are in control. Political representatives come and go, but the establishment elites never leave. Therefore, the problems our society faces will remain; they are a direct result of the subversive and perpetual power structure that serves the interest of a select minority rather than the public. The decline of our society into tyranny will not stop until this power structure and the people behind it are erased.

This would actually be a simple thing to achieve if enough people were to accept the truth and take action. The elites, the globalists, the establishment, the “new world order”, whatever you want to call this organization of power mongers, is but a collection of mostly weak and feeble psychopaths and parasites. They are completely out in the open; they proudly proclaim their affiliations and intentions on a regular basis through their host institutions, from the Council on Foreign Relations to Tavistock to Bilderberg to the World Economic Forum, the IMF, the Bank for International Settlements, the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Open Society Foundation, etc. There is very little that is hidden about these people anymore.

But, it is also a sad reality that most people have to hit rock bottom before they embrace the idea that they cannot rely on the corrupt system to save them from harm. And as long as they continue to have blind faith that the system will self correct, they will never act. The elites operate in the open with impunity because they know that human beings are more likely to seek out help from the system than they are to fix a problem for themselves. If someone was to switch off that single mass fantasy, the elites would be gone tomorrow.

The second lesson of power is that perception of consent creates legitimate consent. To put it another way – When people believe that their peers and neighbors have accepted a certain level of tyranny, they too will often accept it so that they don’t stand out or draw attention to themselves as “aberrant”. People seeking power only need to create the illusion of mass consent. Even when the majority of people are against them, the perception of compliance can sometimes overwhelm logic.

Control is usually achieved passively without force. Sometimes you don’t even need the threat of force; sometimes you only need to inspire a fear of standing out among the crowd.

For example, the pandemic has been used the past six months as a tool for creating such a narrative. Mask wearing “rules” are particularly insidious as they conjure illusions of compliance and submission. “Everyone” is wearing a mask, therefore everyone must support medical tyranny. Mask wearing is a complete farce when it comes to the actual science of virology and viral spread. The CDC still does not recommend cloth masks to their own employees and only allows them to use N95 filtered masks. A recent and censored Danish study confirms the reality that masks are mostly useless.

Strictly enforced cloth mask rules have done nothing to stop renewed spikes in infections in multiple countries and US states. The fact that in many places masks are required OUTDOORS despite endless scientific evidence showing that UV light and open air kills microorganisms including viruses shows that the lockdown response has nothing to do with science or saving lives. It is about control.

We can take all logical factors into account, but, for a lot of people, if they see others wearing masks they too will wear a mask simply because they are afraid to be judged by what they perceive to be the majority. The reality is that a majority of people are wearing the masks grudgingly, and they would take them off tomorrow if they knew other people would do the same.

This is why the mainstream media pushes mask wearing propaganda everyday, 24/7. News journalists stand on street corners or in open air parks and wear masks on camera. Politicians wear masks even when on camera in their own homes. Celebrities and companies try to sell the idea that mask wearing is “cool”. Hey, if you don’t wear a mask you could be putting hundreds or thousands of other people at risk and killing their grandmas, right?

The masks do nothing. They achieve nothing in terms of stopping the virus spread or saving lives. This is a fact made obvious by the very infection numbers the establishment holds up as a rationale for the masks. But if the establishment elites through propaganda can convince you to wear a mask everyday, then this opens the door to them dictating many other aspects of your life. The masks are just a gateway into more destructive mandates.

The solution to this type of tyranny is to stop caring what other people think, especially when the facts are on your side. In the town where I live, the vast majority of people have said no to the mask restrictions. If someone wants to wear a mask because they believe it will protect them, that’s fine. But, no one is going to tell us we have to wear them “for our own good”. That said, even if I was the ONLY person not wearing a mask around town, I would not care if it bothered others. Your credo has to be “try and force me to wear a mask, and watch what happens…”

The third lesson of power is that force only leads to control if you respond with submission. A group of people can beat you or even kill you, but they can’t force you to comply if you do not fear for your own life.

I find that the use of force by tyrants is predicated on the assumption that the people they are seeking to control will not fight back effectively. As soon as people do fight back effectively, the tyrant is shocked. Most tyrants rise to power, not because they have won multiple battles and subdued their opponents, but because they never had to fight in the first place. Or, they win a handful of easy battles, often staged to look more victorious than they really were, and then use those mediocre wins as a means to terrify all future opposition into not fighting. The tyrants start to believe their own lies and presume their own invincibility.

Predators do not seek out hard targets, they seek out weak targets. The solution to tyrants is for the hard targets to seek them out and strike them in the midst of their confidence. When predators get hit back they have a habit of running away.

But, this requires people who do not live in fear of what might happen when they fight back. The concept of sacrificing comfort (or much worse) can’t be an issue. Fear fades away when a person fights for something more than himself. It’s not always about personal survival, sometimes it’s about the survival of future generations, or the survival of a set of principles. As that fear disappears, so does the illusion of control that tyrants rely on.

The fourth lesson of power is that ideals either stem from human conscience, or they do not. And if they do not, then they are not ideals worth adopting or fighting over. The conscience of the average person is not as ambiguous and changeable as the establishment would like you to believe. A lion’s share of human beings operate on a certain set of inherent morals and principles that are universally shared; they do not need to be taught these principles, they are born knowing them. If these rules were not ingrained into our psyches our species would have self destructed thousands of years ago.

Establishment elites would like you to believe that all ideals are a product of environment, and that those who control the environment control the morals of the people by extension. This is a lie. Values such as freedom exist even in the most oppressive environments, and people seek it out even when the risk is overwhelming. Empathy is also inherent for most of us, but a certain percentage of people are born without the capacity for it. The REAL fight in the middle of any power struggle is the fight between those who are born with conscience, values and empathy, and those who are born without these grounding characteristics.

Psychopathic tyrants desperately want to prove that all other people are just as devoid of humanity and soul as they are. They want to prove that the voice of conscience that guides us is a mask we wear to pretend that we are not evil at our core. Control comes from the fallacy that we are dependent on our environments to tell us who we are as individuals. Control comes from the notion that morals are relative, and that principles are social constructs.

Conscience is inherent, but it is also a choice. You have the free will to listen to it, or ignore it. If a tyrant can convince you to ignore the voice of your own conscience then the only other guide in life is your environment. And, if that tyrant dominates every aspect of your environment, then he now has the power to rewrite your moral code, at least temporarily. You can be made to do terrible things you would not otherwise do, or support destructive causes and ideologies you would not otherwise support.

The ultimate totalitarian power is the power to make people forget their own inner voice. The ultimate tool against evil is to listen to that voice and to not be afraid of the supposed consequences.

The question of the facade of power is about to become the defining question of our epoch as the elitist establishment accelerates their agenda for greater centralized control of our lives. The truth they do not want you to understand is that they have no power. They have nothing. We could defy their mandates anytime we wish. We could do away with them tomorrow if we wanted. They are of no use to humanity, they serve no valuable purpose. They only seek to feed like vampires on the masses and fulfill their deranged fantasies of conquest. Sooner or later they will have to be dealt with – The sooner the better.

*  *  *

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Published:11/26/2020 10:20:53 PM
[Markets] Solomon Islands PM Defends Temporary Facebook Ban  Solomon Islands PM Defends Temporary Facebook Ban  Tyler Durden Thu, 11/26/2020 - 22:40

Last week, the Solomon Islands government approved a temporary block of social media website Facebook across the tiny island nation of 650,000, a move that top government officials said would protect people from cyberbullying and online defamation, according to Australian ABC.

By Monday, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare doubled-down on his government's temporary measure to block the social media website, "as it was a necessity to preserve national unity." He said Facebook undermines social cohesion. 

"Cyberbullying on Facebook is widespread, people have been defamed by users who use fake names, and people's reputations that have been built up over the years [are destroyed] in a matter of minutes.

"We have [a] duty to cultivate national unity and the happy coexistence of our people … [Facebook] is undermining efforts to unite this country," he said. 

Australian ABC notes the ban has yet to go into effect, though the prospect of the ban has caused an uproar among younger people. Sogavare stands by the new measure, saying it was aimed at protecting the youth from "vile abusive language" and not a way to silence them. 

It's still unclear how the temporary ban will be enforced. The government still needs to determine whether it will use a firewall or utilize some other technique to block Facebook. 

The move to ban the social media website comes as reports began to spread on the platform, accusing the government of misappropriating virus pandemic funds for social programs - prompting calls for an audit of the virus pandemic relief program.  

This isn't the first time a Pacific government has mulled over the idea of blocking Facebook - leaders in Papua New Guinea, Fiji, and Samoa have all considered similar options. 

Besides Facebook, governments in Asia are also blocking Pornhub. Thailand's government banned more than 190 porn sites, including Pornhub, earlier this month, prompting outrage among the younger generation. 

Published:11/26/2020 9:50:29 PM
[Markets] Joe Biden: Return Of The CFR Joe Biden: Return Of The CFR Tyler Durden Thu, 11/26/2020 - 22:05

Submitted by Swiss Policy Research,

A Joe Biden presidency means a “return to normality” simply because it means a return of the US Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).


In 2008, Barack Obama received the names of his entire future cabinet already one month prior to his election by CFR Senior Fellow (and Citigroup banker) Michael Froman, as a Wikileaks email later revealed. Consequently, the key posts in Obama’s cabinet were filled almost exclusively by CFR members, as was the case in most cabinets since World War II. To be sure, Obama’s 2008 Republican opponent, the late John McCain, was a CFR member, too. Michael Froman later negotiated the TPP and TTIP international trade agreements, before returning to the CFR as a Distinguished Fellow.

In 2017, CFR nightmare President Donald Trump immediately canceled these trade agreements – because he viewed them as detrimental to US domestic industry – which allowed China to conclude its own, recently announced RCEP free-trade area, encompassing 14 countries and a third of global trade. Trump also canceled other CFR achievements, like the multinational Iran nuclear deal and the UN climate and migration agreements, and he tried, but largely failed, to withdraw US troops from East Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa, thus seriously endangering the global US empire built over decades by the CFR and its 5000 elite members.

Unsurprisingly, most of the US media, whose owners and editors are themselves members of the CFR, didn’t like President Trump. This was also true for most of the European media, whose owners and editors are members of international CFR affiliates like the Bilderberg Group and the Trilateral Commission, founded by CFR directors after the conquest of Europe during World War II. Moreover, it was none other than the CFR which in 1996 advocated a closer cooperation between the CIA and the media, i.e. a restart of the famous CIA Operation Mockingbird. Historically, OSS and CIA directors since William Donovan and Allen Dulles have always been CFR members.

Joe Biden promised that he would form “the most diverse cabinet” in US history. This may be true in terms of skin color and gender, but almost all of his key future cabinet members have one thing in common: they are, indeed, members of the US Council on Foreign Relations.

This is the case for Anthony Blinken (State), Alejandro Mayorkas (Homeland Security), Janet Yellen (Treasury), Michele Flournoy and Jeh Johnson (candidates for Defense), Linda Thomas-Greenfield (Ambassador to the UN), Richard Stengel (US Agency for Global Media; Stengel famously called propaganda “a good thing” at a 2018 CFR session), John Kerry (Special Envoy for Climate), Nelson Cunningham (candidate for Trade), and Thomas Donilon (candidate for CIA Director).

Jake Sullivan, Biden’s National Security Advisor, is not (yet) a CFR member, but Sullivan has been a Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (a think tank “promoting active international engagement by the United States”) and a member of the US German Marshall Fund’s “Alliance For Securing Democracy” (a major promoter of the “Russiagate” disinformation campaign to restrain the Trump presidency), both of which are run by senior CFR members.

Most of Biden’s CFR-vetted nominees supported recent US wars against Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen as well as the 2014 regime change in Ukraine. Unsurprisingly, neoconservative Max Boot, the CFR Senior Fellow in National Security Studies and one of the most vocal opponents of the Trump administration, has called Biden’s future cabinet “America’s A-Team”.

Thus, after four years of “populism” and “isolationism”, a Biden presidency will mean the return of the Council on Foreign Relations and the continuation of a tradition of more than 70 years. Indeed, the CFR was founded in 1921 in response to the “trauma of 1920”, when US President Warren Harding and the US Senate turned isolationist and renounced US global leadership after World War I. In 2016, Donald Trump’s “America First” campaign reactivated this 100 year old foreign policy trauma.

Was the 2020 presidential election “stolen”, as some allege? There are certainly indications of significant statistical anomalies in key Democrat-run swing states. Whether these were decisive for the election outcome may be up to courts to decide. At any rate, Joe Biden may well be the first US President known to be involved in international corruption before even entering office.

Why are most US and international media hardly interested in this? Well, why should they?

Published:11/26/2020 9:20:32 PM
[Markets] Boston Dynamics' Robot Dog Builds "Radiation Map" Of Chernobyl Reactor Boston Dynamics' Robot Dog Builds "Radiation Map" Of Chernobyl Reactor Tyler Durden Thu, 11/26/2020 - 21:30

Spot, the autonomous robot dog, from Boston Dynamics, was equipped with radiation sensors to create a map of the radiation coming out of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, according to news agency Ukrinform.  

Researchers at the University of Bristol and nuclear experts from the State Specialized Enterprise "Central Enterprise for Radioactive Waste Management" recently deployed the four-legged robot to the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Zone that has been abandoned since the catastrophic meltdown in 1986. The site has since been covered up with layers of steel and concrete to keep nuclear material from escaping into the atmosphere. 

Weekly measurements around the Chernobyl site are mainly done by humans, which puts them at risk, unlike Spot, a robot who could do so without putting humans in grave danger of radiation poisoning. 

Dr. Dave Megson-Smith, a researcher at the University of Bristol, was one of the scientists aiding Spot on its nuclear power plant adventure. Megson-Smith specializes in sensor development and equipped Spot with a collimated radiation sensor. 

"We built a map of the radiation coming out of the front wall of Chernobyl power plant as we were in there with it," Megson-Smith told IEEE Spectrum. 

Spot was able to wander around the Chernobyl nuclear site, as well as into the New Safe Confinement structure, which is a steel dome that contains hazardous radioactivity. The robot surveyed radiation levels in the area, creating a 3D map of the distribution. 

According to Megson-Smith, there's a lot of uncertainty on how much radiation Spot is capable of handling. He said Spot is a "system that we can send into places where humans already can go, but where we just don't want to send humans."

Video: Spot's Chernobyl Adventure 

Engineering a completely radiation-proof robot is challenging - as was seen after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011 when robots were sent to die as they surveyed the damaged nuclear power plant. 

The future purpose of Spot at Chernobyl could be autonomous radiation mapping to detect radiation leaks. 

Not too long ago, a different Spot was assigned to a BP Plc oil rig to "read gauges, look for corrosion, map out the facility, and even sniff out methane." 

While Spot conveniently completes tasks that may endanger humans - the most important takeaway is that robots will displace millions of jobs over this decade. 

Published:11/26/2020 8:51:03 PM
[Markets] : Trump says he will leave White House if Electoral College affirms Biden win, which he says would be a ‘mistake’ President Donald Trump said Thursday that he will leave the White House if the Electoral College formalizes President-Elect Joe Biden's victory — even as he insisted such a decision would be a “mistake."
Published:11/26/2020 8:51:03 PM
[Markets] This Thanksgiving, The Government Gifts Us COVID-19 Sex Advice This Thanksgiving, The Government Gifts Us COVID-19 Sex Advice Tyler Durden Thu, 11/26/2020 - 21:00

Authored by Jim Bovard via The Libertarian Institute,

Politicians and petty czars have canceled Thanksgiving across the nation.  What have government health departments offered in lieu of a family gathering? Endless idiotic advice for “safe sex” during COVID.

The Vermont Department of Health captured the ethos of many health departments across the nation: “Decisions about sex and sexuality need to be balanced with personal and public health.” COVID Federal Superstar Anthony Fauci reflected that judgment when he declared in April that those who meet strangers for sex via Tinder or other dating apps are entitled to make their “choice regarding a risk.” Many government officials have been far more tolerant or even encouraging of risky sexual relations during the pandemic while mercilessly suppressing other social and economic relations.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is an Emmy-award winning hero of the COVID pandemic, regardless of the ten thousand elderly New Yorkers who died after he ordered nursing homes to admit COVID patients. Cuomo’s endless restrictions have been spurred by his view that “government can be a force for good,” as a New Yorker profile recently noted.

While Cuomo has vehemently condemned synagogues that disobeyed his orders to disperse, other officials in New York give their blessings to behavior which is reckless even by “woke” standards. The New York City Health Department recommended that people who organize orgies should “Limit the size of your guest list. Keep it intimate.” The guidance does not quite specify “rooftop” but it is clearly implied: “Pick larger, more open, and well-ventilated spaces.”

Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, New York City’s deputy health commissioner, boasts, “Our health department has a really strong record of being very sex positive.” At the same time that New York cops have violently assaulted people for not wearing face masks, the city government officially sanctioned “glory holes.” The Big Apple’s health department urged people to “be creative with… physical barriers, like walls, that allow sexual contact while preventing close face-to-face contact.”

California Governor Gavin Newsom has become infamous for his bizarre list of Thanksgiving prohibitions to fight COVID. But the pandemic has uncorked other official weirdness in the Golden State.

The San Francisco Department of Public Health took preemptive action to re-define “premature” out of existence. The local bureaucrats advised:Quicker can be better. The longer we are within 6 feet of someone, the greater the risk.” Will health departments take the next step, promoting Revolutionary Era imagery celebrating the return of the “Minute Man”?

As part of its recommendations for “navigating the landscape of love,” San Francisco bureaucrats urged to “embrace dirty thoughts. And clean surfaces.” The guidance stresses the importance of cleaning “shared toys,” especially when switching “collars” and similar items from one body to another. The department also noted: “When it comes to COVID-19 risk, outdoors is better than indoors.” Considering that the local government already permits homeless people to perform any other bodily function on Market Street, adding copulation might not be that much of a change in the local scenery.

The Fenway Health Center, a “Federally Qualified Community Health Center,” served up bad news to spatially-challenged Bostonians: “Using the social distancing recommendation of 6 feet, oral sex may still put you at risk of COVID.” Bizarrely, the Fenway Center urges people NOT to wear masks during hook-ups: “Leave the protective gear to the medical professionals and those who have the virus.”

The Austin, Texas Health Department alerted local residents: “COVID-19 has been found in fecal matter. Avoid activity that could allow virus from feces to enter your mouth.” In the COVID era, “Eat shit and die” has gone from being a juvenile taunt to being an ominous government health warning. Similar warnings on the dangers of “rimming” occurred in other health department recommendations.

The City of Milwaukee Health Department advises, “Masturbation will not spread COVID-19, especially if you wash your hands (and any sex toys) with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after sex.” But if you wash your hands for only 15 seconds afterwards, then ‘Rona wins. Actually, if people need to be told to wash their hands after taking their pleasure, they are probably beyond redemption. Besides, do post-game prophylactics make any sense after a solo performance?

Many other government agencies have become cheerleaders for self-reliance, as if there was a dire need for officialdom to specify how hundreds of millions of Americans should let off steam. At last report, the World Health Organization had not yet added masturbation to its Five Heroic Act list though it may soon qualify for a #ThanksHealthHeroes honorable mention.

In the same way that politicians focused myopically on COVID transmission risks to justify inflicting vast collateral damage on the economy, health departments offer recommendations that might avoid COVID transmission but could be otherwise ruinous.  Instead of meeting sex partners online, the New York City Health Department recommends, “Video dates, sexting, subscription-based fan platforms, sexy ‘Zoom parties’ or chat rooms may be options for you.” Other health departments made similar recommendations.

So maybe invite Jeffrey Toobin to your Zoom party? (Toobin was fired after masturbating during a New Yorker zoom call.)  Many of the “chat rooms” that bureaucrats recommend are stockful of jailbait, police and FBI agents masquerading and looking to entrap people for underage sex or other offenses.  Maybe someone should ask Jeff Bezos about his billion dollar emailed pictures of his private parts? The National Security Agency and foreign governments vacuum up a huge amount of online activity; anything that people reveal to a group of people online could easily turn up in their dossier.

Since the pandemic began, politicians have claimed a prerogative to micro-manage citizens’ lives with one harebrained edict after another. For instance, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf decreed on November 17 that people must wear masks in their own homes whenever someone visits who does not live in that household. On Monday, Gov. Wolf banned all alcohol sales in bars and restaurants on Thanksgiving Eve – a completely arbitrary edict that sows havoc and will do nothing to make COVID vanish.

Wolf would never dare to outlaw sex outside of wedlock but somehow politicians captured the right to throttle almost every other aspect of people’s lives. But a “copulation exemption” to the de facto COVID cancellation of the Bill of Rights makes no sense. People deserve as much freedom to drink rancid Rolling Rock beer on Thanksgiving Eve as they do to throw the Philly dice for a Tinder Thanksgiving treat. When politicians are permitted to selectively nullify freedom, the injustices will be exceeded only by the absurdities.

Published:11/26/2020 8:20:11 PM
[Markets] These Are The Best (And Worst) Places To Live During The Coronavirus Era These Are The Best (And Worst) Places To Live During The Coronavirus Era Tyler Durden Thu, 11/26/2020 - 20:30

The coronavirus pandemic has exposed the shortcomings of the global health-care system, while also exposing how developed and developing world economies could demonstrate such unexpected responses. Tiny South Korea has managed to suppress the virus with mass testing and tracing. The US, meanwhile, has recorded the most deaths, while China has already vaccinated more than 1 million people before its leading vaccine effort has even been approved.

With so many variables at play, Bloomberg has tried to develop a ranking for which countries fared the best during the coronavirus outbreak. While crunching the numbers, reporters asked questions like 'where were the best places to be during the coronavirus pandemic'? and 'where was the virus handled most effectively?'

The rankings were based on two broad categories, COVID status and quality of life.  Additionally, Bloomberg introduced what it called the "Covid Resilience Ranking scores" for the economies, which purported to measure how resistant a given economy was to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus. There were 10 key metrics: from growth in virus cases to the overall mortality rate, testing capabilities and - importantly - whether the country had managed to secure any supply agreements for the COVID-19 vaccines that are about to hit the market in the west.

Unsurprisingly (this is Bloomberg, after all), the top three finishers were New Zealand in first place (the country used a massively costly economic lockdown to quash a few mild flareups), Japan in second (the country has seen remarkably few cases and deaths despite Japan's perceived slowness in implementing measures to prevent the virus from spreading, and finally Taiwan, which has been hailed as having one of the most successful approaches to combating the virus.

To try and simplify things, Bloomberg kept the ranking to economies with a GDP of at least $200 billion. According to Bloomberg, the three top performers all took early concrete steps to stanch the spread of the virus.

Ironically, Bloomberg noted that border control was a critical component of the most successful countries' strategies, beginning with Beijing's decision to cordon off Hubei Province and the city of Wuhan.

Here are the complete rankings, courtesy of Bloomberg:

Finally, Bloomberg pointed out that authoritarian countries generally outperformed democracies like the US and UK. And while lockdowns have been deployed around the world with mixed results, Bloomberg claimed that there's nothing more effective than when citizens have faith in the authorities and their guidance. When that happens - and Bloomberg cites Japan and Sweden as examples - lockdowns aren't necessary to stanch the surge in cases.

But while the US has lagged in several aspects of its response to the virus, it holds the lead in the number of vaccine agreements it has forged.

In the end, whoever has the vaccines will likely be in the best position moving forward.

Published:11/26/2020 7:50:43 PM
[Markets] Watch: Obama Blames Trump For His Own Border "Cages" Watch: Obama Blames Trump For His Own Border "Cages" Tyler Durden Thu, 11/26/2020 - 20:00

Authored by Steve Watson via Summit News,

Barack Obama took a shot at President Trump in an interview Wednesday, blaming him for border ‘cages’ that were actually instituted and used under the former President’s administration.

Obama was decrying the level of support that Trump received from hispanic voters during the election campaign.

“But there’s a lot of evangelical Hispanics who, you know, the fact that Trump says racist things about Mexicans,” Obama said during the interview with with The Breakfast Club radio show.

“Or puts detainees, you know, undocumented workers, in cages — they think that’s less important than the fact that, you know, he supports their views on gay marriage or abortion, right?” Obama claimed.

It is more than a tad ironic that Obama begins by talking about how metropolitan elites can be out of touch with the rest of America, and then immediately goes on to pigeon hole Hispanic voters as only caring about abortion.

Are hispanic voters incapable of caring about economic issues or crime? Just because they are brown?

That isn’t the most egregious aspect of his comments, however, given that he completely ignores the fact that for many years the so called ‘cages’ were used by the Department of Homeland Security under the Obama administration.

It was in 2014, two years before Trump was elected, that the ‘cages’ story reached its peak, with overcrowded and squalid conditions at holding facilities making headlines.

While leftists pretty much ignored the story while Obama was in the White House, it suddenly became a major issue when Trump took office.

Indeed, the very same photos from 2014 were recycled and presented as if they were taken during Trump’s tenure.

Democrats and leftist celebrities hammered Trump, using the footage and photos that were taken under Obama and Biden’s regime.

This continued right up until the election.

When the conditions at the border facilities again made headlines in 2018 and 2019, particularly because children were being separated from their families, Trump asked that pressure be put on House Democrats to pass a law to end the practice:

When Democrats failed to do so, Trump signed an executive order demanding that the practice of separating children be immediately halted:

Democrats then complained that the EO wouldn’t fix the issue, while still doing nothing themselves:

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez even used the story as a photo-op, fake crying while wearing designer clothing and an expensive watch.

It was later revealed that the “cage” AOC was behind concealed nothing but a parking lot.

When news organisations, including Infowars, attempted to highlight this, the photographer who took the images claimed copyright and demanded they be removed from the story.

If Joe Biden takes office in January, expect photos of kids in cages to return. He has repeatedly promised to rapidly send an amnesty deal to the Senate within the first 100 days of his presidency that would give amnesty to 11 million immigrants who currently reside in the US without documentation.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Chief Mark Morgan has warned that if President Trump’s enforcement priorities on illegal immigration are abandoned, the US will see a huge “invasion” at the border.

Indeed, reports suggest that the Biden border rush has already begun.

Published:11/26/2020 7:20:26 PM
[Markets] Black Friday Shoppers Expected To Spend More Online Than In Stores For First Time Black Friday Shoppers Expected To Spend More Online Than In Stores For First Time Tyler Durden Thu, 11/26/2020 - 19:35

The coronavirus has accelerated a trend in American holiday-season consumption: the shift away from packing malls on Black Friday, and toward shopping online, placing some orders as early as "Prime Day" (which Amazon held in October this year). Instead of braving the elements and the lines, a growing number of Americans instead place most, or all, of their holiday gift orders via Amazon.

In recent years, the trend was attributed to  bitterly cold weather and other impediments. But old habits die hard, and up until last year, millions of Americans continued to pack into stores on Black Friday, with many big box stores opening earlier and earlier (eliciting public backlash over pulling workers and shoppers away from their families).

But as COVID-19 infections peak and governors tighten restrictions on 'non-essential' businesses like retailers, analysts are bracing for e-commerce sales to finally eclipse brick-and-mortar sales for the first time.

Why? Because according to a survey from Deloitte, for the first time ever, more American holiday shoppers are planning to spend a total of $189 billion, which would be a staggering 33% from last year. That’s equal to two years’ growth in one season. “This year is unlike anything else,” said Ken Perkins, president and founder of Retail Metrics. “People are going to be really adverse to come into stores on Black Friday, so traffic will be relatively more modest. Curbside pick will be extremely important this holiday season. Impulse buying will also fall off as online shopping tends to be very targeted."

Retailers (including specifically department stores) that rely on mall traffic have been particularly hard-hit this year. Just the other day, we reported that America's brick-and-mortar stores owe a staggering $52 billion in rents.

What's even more worrisome: department stores even reported steep declines in online traffic ahead of Thanksgiving, according to CFRA Research analyst Camilla Yanushevsky. That could be a sign that consumers are focusing on proven e-commerce platforms like Amazon and a select few others, while the laggards are doomed.

However, there are exceptions, as with every trend. Bloomberg points out that Williams-Sonoma and TJX Corp - owner of HomeGoods and TJ Maxx - could outperform as the rush to the suburbs has led to heightened demand for furnishings, while TJ Maxx's everyday bargains typically attract more shoppers in hard economic times (though according to the economic wizards on the Wall Street Journal's editorial board, the Dow's latest milestone has NOTHING to do with central bank liquidity injections and EVERYTHING to do with the "wonderful engine of prosperity" that is the American economy).

"Even with the vaccine coming, people are moving out of the city, into the burbs, and they need to fill their homes," one analyst at RetailMetrics said.

Other potential beneficiaries, according to Bloomberg, include Best Buy, Conn's Inc and Acco Brands, as demand for hot gadgets like the PS5 and new phones from Samsung and Apple leads to a surge in sales. Bloomberg also cited Mattel, Hasbro, Amazon and Walmart as other potential holiday season outperformers.

According to Bloomberg and CNBC, COVID has helped to separate the wheat from the chaff in the retail space, compounding the problems of retailers who neglected their digital business, while rewarding companies that did, via increased opportunities for synergies (like order online, pickup in store functionality).

This holiday season should put all that to the test.

As the start of the holiday shopping season arrives, some analysts are getting worried. JPMorgan Chase's Matthew Boss recently cut his estimate for Q4 same-store sales - one key metric for retailers that's closely watched by analysts - to below-consensus levels. If the shift to ecommerce is as dramatic as the Deloitte survey suggests it might be, then that might prove to have been a prescient move.

Published:11/26/2020 6:50:21 PM
[Markets] Illinois Senators Durbin and Duckworth Are Among The Book Burners Happy With Big Tech Censorship Illinois Senators Durbin and Duckworth Are Among The Book Burners Happy With Big Tech Censorship Tyler Durden Thu, 11/26/2020 - 19:10

Submitted by Mark Glennon of Wirepoints

Democracy is subverted when the free exchange of information and opinion is suppressed.

That subversion is now reality in America and much of the world thanks primarily to censorship by big technology platforms and our unapologetically dishonest and biased national media.

Last week, the Judiciary Committee of the United States Senate held hearings on one of those causes, big tech censorship. If you are unaware of how pernicious and common that censorship has become, particularly by Twitter and Facebook, you are dangerously uninformed. Comedian Bill Maher, hardly a right-winger, said it right: The censorship is “evil” and “f—ed up.”

The new media gatekeepers

This is not about Trump. He and censorship of him are now in mostly in the rear view mirror. Though censorship was blatantly targeted at him, it’s the future that matters now,  — whether the marketplace of ideas can survive in a world where big tech’s authoritarianism is broad and growing.

For example, Twitter and Facebook last week censored Oxford University scientists who posted an article about a recent study questioning the effectiveness of face masks to stop COVID-19. One of the censored authors said such censorship is “one of the reasons we face a global meltdown of free thinking and science.” His name, sadly ironic, is Thomas Jefferson.

Question big tech censorship and even prominent liberals face retribution. For example, Glenn Greenwald, a respected liberal journalist, dared to question big tech’s brazen suppression of stories about Hunter Biden’s emails and foreign influence peddling. His story on it was killed by The Intercept. Commendably, Greenwald then resigned from that publication.

With hundreds of other examples readily available, it was therefore entirely appropriate and urgent for the Judiciary Committee to take up the matter. Aside from the meltdown of free thinking and science that Prof. Jefferson described, many of America’s razor-thin elections beyond the presidential race could easily have been turned by false narratives rigged by big tech. Easily.

But how did Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, a Judiciary Committee member, preface his comments?

It’s a big waste of time and a political stunt, he told us. “I think there are more important and timely questions…but we are trying to determine whether or not the social media instruments of America are fair to the Republican Party.”

What’s more important? Oh, national security, the pandemic and the possibility that Trump would refuse to leave when the election is certified, Durbin said.

No, Senator Durbin. The Judiciary Committee is the top legislative oversight body on the rule of law in what is supposed to be the world’s leading democracy. National security and coronavirus are not within the committee’s charge. And a speculative case on presidential transition is premature for a hearing. What is within its jurisdiction, and should be top priorities, are freedom of expression and the hotly debated Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which gives big tech immunity and central the censorship issue.

As for the censorship, bring it on. Durbin wants more.

He wants more censorship to combat hate crimes, he said. That means stifling hate speech. Citing numbers on hate crimes, he said, “It’s clear to me that it’s more important that social media combat this more than ever.  “Are you looking the other way on that?” he asked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

We’ve seen repeatedly that hate speech, to many on the left, is pretty much everything said by anybody on the right.  Would Durbin include among his concerns the endless labeling of some 72 million Republican voters as white supremacists and fascists or violence by radical leftists who are encouraged by that kind of labeling? No, Durbin made it clear he didn’t mean that. “This is not Antifa. These are documented hate crimes from the FBI…”

Under the First Amendment, hate speech is permitted as long as it doesn’t rise to the level of provoking violence. That’s as it should be. Everybody should be free to express hatred towards, for example, those they regard as fascists or communists, provided they don’t incite violence. But the First Amendment does not cover private entities like big tech and Durbin, like many on the left, showed no interest in letting First Amendment be the precedent for big tech censorship, provided it is targeted selectively at the right.

Some of Durbin’s colleagues on the Judiciary Committee joined him with calls for more censorship by big tech. Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), for example, asked Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey why Twitter doesn’t have a standalone climate change misinformation policy. “Helping to disseminate climate denialism in my view, further facilitates and accelerates one of the greatest existential threats to our world.”

Illinois’ other senator, Tammy Duckworth, earlier had a particularly stupefying response to concerns about big tech censorship. Regarding a previous hearing on the topic by a different Senate committee, she said it was Repubicans “aiding Trump’s and Russia’s efforts to use social media for misinformation campaigns” and “undermine confidence in our democracy.”

Got that? You’re helping Russia if you’re against censorship.

Despite such attitudes, the Judiciary Committee hearing uncovered a major turn for the worse on tech censorship: They collude on who and what to censor. Facebook, Twitter and Google use a software communication tool called Centra to communicate on who and what they want to stifle, which magnifies the impact of any decision by any one of them. What’s clear, however, is that a solution must be found because a keystone of open society is shattered.

A telling postscript to the hearing is that NBC, ABC and CBS all refused any coverage of it.

How to address the problem of big tech censorship is challenging and reasonable minds differ. Their platforms are more powerful than any other public forum in history, yet their censors make no pretense of selectively enforcing their dictates or applying any of the time-honored principles our courts have developed under the First Amendment. And Section 230 is a complicated matter.

Pending a solution, here is where we are:

First, what tens of millions of people read for news is determined by the two people shown here.

Second, the subversion of democracy by suppression of the free exchange of information and opinion is no longer just a threat. It’s here.

Published:11/26/2020 6:20:24 PM
[Markets] Massive Armada Of IRGC Boats Mobilize In Gulf Amid Rumors Israeli Strike Imminent Massive Armada Of IRGC Boats Mobilize In Gulf Amid Rumors Israeli Strike Imminent Tyler Durden Thu, 11/26/2020 - 18:45

The naval forces of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on Thursday conducted large-scale exercises in the Strait of Hormuz at a moment Tehran believes Israel will launch a preemptive strike aimed at drawing Trump into ordering US military action in the region before he leaves office in January.

Via IRNA/Press TV

According to state-run English language PressTV, "The event saw sailors, enlisted with the popular volunteer Basij force, taking to the waters aboard more than 1,000 light and semi-heavy-lift vessels."

Photos showed an impressive number of small but fast military boats that are typically used by the IRGC Navy (which is separate from the much larger national navy of the Islamic Republic) to harass and encircle larger ships, whether tankers or foreign warships.

Via IRNA/Press TV

 IRGC Admiral Ali Reza Tangsiri, who oversaw the maneuvers, called it a display of strength and a showcasing of Iran's "maritime power" which provides security in the Arabian and Oman Seas. 

Crucially the 'show of force' comes amid widespread reports that Trump is mulling some of kind of preemptive action against either Iran or its regional allies, such as the powerful Shia militias in Iraq.

Earlier this month The New York Times reported that Trump's advisers talked him down from ordering a strike, which they argued would certainly spiral into a larger war

Included in the "strike options" were most likely plans to hit the Natanz enrichment facility, according to the report, which suffered sabotage and damage last summer in a likely Israeli covert operation but which is being repaired and rebuilt.

Israel too is said to be preparing for such a scenario, with its armed forces said to be in a high state of readiness. Iran is apparently taking these reports very seriously. 

Axios reported Wednesday based on unnamed senior Israeli sources: 

The Israel Defense Forces have in recent weeks been instructed to prepare for the possibility that the U.S. will conduct a military strike against Iran before President Trump leaves office.

Middle East war correspondent for Al Rai Media, Elijah Magnier has cited unnamed Iranian military sources who say they believe Israeli leaders are planning to create a "pretext" designed to trigger US intervention just weeks before the inauguration of Joe Biden:

In an unprecedentedly high level of military readiness, the "Axis of the Resistance" led by Iran has declared a maximum alert on all fronts, as a preparation for a possible battle or war breaking out in the Middle East prior to the arrival in office of President-elect Joe Biden.

Sources within the "Axis of the Resistance" say that "the US may not be planning for a war against Iran with President Donald Trump leaving office soon. However, it is not excluded that the "bully of the neighborhood", Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, would like to carry out a swift hit on the Iranian nuclear facilities in order to sabotage the nuclear deal ready for when Biden takes over. In the case of an Israeli bombing followed by an Iranian retaliation, the Trump administration can then intervene with the pretext of "defending" Israel.

This means that it's more than likely we'll see Iran ramp up its military exercises and shows of strength as the weeks wind down on the Trump presidency. 

Published:11/26/2020 5:50:38 PM
[Markets] Vornado Pulls $5 Billion Office Sale Plans On Buildings It Co-Owns With The Trump Organization Vornado Pulls $5 Billion Office Sale Plans On Buildings It Co-Owns With The Trump Organization Tyler Durden Thu, 11/26/2020 - 17:55

The Trump Organization's real estate partner, Vornado Realty Trust, reportedly had to shelve its plans to try and sell off office buildings that would have helped the Trumps pay off $400 million in upcoming debt. 

Vornado co-owns an office tower in San Francisco and another in Manhattan and "couldn't attract a buyer" at the price it was seeking, according to an exclusive by The Wall Street Journal. It had hoped to raise $5 billion from the deleveraging in total, of which $1.5 billion would have made its way to The Trump Organization. 

Vornado Chief Executive Steven Roth had said this month there was "active interest from investors" for the deals. It looks as though the "active interest" may not have been at the right price, however. 

The news comes as no surprise since both San Francisco and New York have been disproportionately clobbered due to the pandemic. At the beginning of the year, they were the most expensive markets in the U.S. 

Building co-owned by TTO and Vornado (Source: WSJ)

Trump's organization was hoping to use the windfall to pay off more than $400 million in debt it owes over the next few years. The refinancing picture for the organization seems hazy, especially due to the commercial real estate climate. Some banks have been reluctant to do business with Trump given his political activities, as well, the Journal notes

The Trump Organization attests that its business is financially sound, stating: “The Trump Organization is an incredible company with tremendous cash flow. We have never been stronger.”

Since Trump's Organization holds a minority stake in the buildings, it has "no control over the sales decision making". 

Vornado says it is now focused on refinancing the assets. Doug Harmon, an investment adviser at Cushman & Wakefield, said: “We are now focusing more on refinancing both assets. When international investors can travel with less restrictions, and the path back to normal is under way.”

With the pandemic looking more likely than ever to "end" now with a President Biden in office and vaccines on the way, perhaps Trump will find his first foray back to the private sector met with a stroke of luck. 

Published:11/26/2020 5:20:36 PM
[Markets] A Thanksgiving Worthy Of America A Thanksgiving Worthy Of America Tyler Durden Thu, 11/26/2020 - 17:30

Authored by Michael Warren via,

Turkey and stuffing. Detroit Lions Football. Turkey trots. Parades and the arrival of Santa followed by frenzied shopping on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Maybe a bit of charity on Giving Tuesday. Thanksgiving is the ultimate American holiday. What more could you need?

How about this: gratitude, blessings, and humility. Unfortunately, the annual celebration has been overshadowed by consumerism and entertainment culture.

Let’s explore the origins of Thanksgiving in colonial America, which centered around the virtues that are crucial to sustaining our way of life.

The Pilgrims were English religious dissenters who settled in Plymouth in 1620. They made history by seeking asylum and signing the Mayflower Compact – quite possibly the first written agreement among men that founded a new government. They were quickly struck with a great sickness and began to starve; in the first year, nearly half died.

In 1621, with the help of Wampanoag tribe – especially Samoset and Squanto – the Pilgrims survived and even flourished. They held a huge three day feast. But that multicourse meal is not the precursor to the Thanksgiving that we will celebrate later this week. That would come two years later when the Pilgrims faced a brutal drought.

Then, Governor William Bradford led the people in fervent prayer to the Almighty for relief, and in a few hours, the heavens opened with torrents of rain. To commemorate that event, Bradford declared a day of Thanksgiving, which included a large feast and regular homage to God for His blessings.

Afterwards, colonial governors periodically proclaimed days of Thanksgiving in response to favorable events and conditions. The first continent-wide celebration was in 1777 when the Continental Congress declared a Thanksgiving in light of the colonists’ victory at the Battle of Saratoga.

When George Washington became President, Congress asked him to declare a Thanksgiving to honor the first Congress’s many accomplishments, which included the Bill of Rights and setting up a functioning federal government.

Washington declared a Thanksgiving for the fourth Thursday in November. His proclamation recommended that the people devote the day “to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all that good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may all unite in rendering Him our sincere and humble thanks for his Kind care and protection . . . for the signal and manifold mercies and favorable interpositions of His providence” during the American Revolution, in creating the Constitution, and protecting the “civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed.”

Presidents Adams and Madison followed suit – but presidential encouragements of Thanksgiving soon stopped. 

Thanksgiving’s resurrection occurred when Sarah Josepha Hale convinced President Lincoln to declare Thanksgiving during the Civil War. Despite the carnage, Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation explained several reasons why the nation should be thankful, remarking, “No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”

Lincoln recommended that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience . . . fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

Since Lincoln, Thanksgiving has become an annual tradition. But like so much of our civic calendar, it has been gutted of its original meaning. Perhaps now, in the wake of the most contentious election in modern times and in the grips of the worst pandemic in a century, we can return to the foundations of this magnificent holiday.

This Thanksgiving, take stock of our great blessings, including our Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and prosperity. Give thanks, express humility, and pray for your family and us all. That would be a Thanksgiving worthy of America.

Published:11/26/2020 4:50:39 PM
[Markets] NewsWatch: Legendary investor called this stock market a ‘Real McCoy’ bubble, and now Jeremy Grantham’s fund is trailing the S&P 500 by 14 percentage points Jeremy Grantham, co-founder and chief investment strategist at Boston-based money manager Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo & Co., has seen his fund badly trail the broader stock market in 2020.
Published:11/26/2020 4:18:56 PM
[Markets] 'Kraken' Lawsuit Accuses Iran Of 'Monitoring And Manipulating' 2020 Election, Stoking Deep Dive By Journalist 'Kraken' Lawsuit Accuses Iran Of 'Monitoring And Manipulating' 2020 Election, Stoking Deep Dive By Journalist Tyler Durden Thu, 11/26/2020 - 17:05

An interesting thread has popped up on Twitter in the wake of attorney Sidney Powell's recently filed lawsuits alleging widespread election fraud in Michigan and Georgia ('the Kraken') - which claims in part that China and Iran monitored and manipulated elections, "including the most recent US general election in 2020."

Journalist and Iran expert Heshmat Alavi, who describes himself as a "political activist and supporter for regime change in Iran," has compiled a lengthy exposé in response to this claim, and brings readers down the rabbit hole regarding Iran's penetration into US politics.

The thread is heavy on media, so it will be embedded in its entirety:

Published:11/26/2020 4:18:56 PM
[Markets] NewsWatch: Legendary investor called this stock market a ‘Real McCoy’ bubble, and now Jeremy Grantham’s fund is trailing the S&P 500 by 14 percentage points Jeremy Grantham, co-founder and chief investment strategist at Boston-based money manager Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo & Co., has seen his fund badly trail the broader stock market in 2020.
Published:11/26/2020 11:17:33 AM
[Markets] Bitcoin price tumbles more than 10% in a Thanksgiving Day correction Bitcoin price tumbles more than 10% in a Thanksgiving Day correction Published:11/26/2020 10:49:04 AM
[Markets] Market Extra: Bitcoin price plunges over 10% to stage Thanksgiving correction Bitcoin prices tumble Thanksgiving Thursday, with the No.1 cryptocurrency, pulling back sharply after it was on the verge of notching its first all-time high in about three years.
Published:11/26/2020 10:21:00 AM
[Markets] The Tell: Legendary investor called this stock market a ‘Real McCoy’ bubble, and now Jeremy Grantham’s fund is trailing the S&P 500 by 14 percentage points Jeremy Grantham, co-founder and chief investment strategist at Boston-based money manager Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo & Co., has seen his fund badly trail the broader stock market in 2020.
Published:11/26/2020 9:20:32 AM
[Markets] Project Syndicate: The forward-looking stock market celebrates the vaccine news, but the real economy will struggle this winter For a still vulnerable U.S. economy now in the grips of predictable aftershocks, the case for a relapse, or a double-dip, before mid-2021 is all the more compelling.
Published:11/26/2020 8:18:24 AM
[Markets] : Sweden’s population is losing confidence in the country’s strategy to combat the pandemic Rising Covid-19 cases in the country comes as Sweden's Prince Carl Philip and his wife test positive for coronavirus
Published:11/26/2020 7:45:43 AM
[Markets] Market Extra: Is the stock market open on Thanksgiving and Black Friday? U.S. financial markets close on Thursday for Thanksgiving and will shutter early on Black Friday, and despite a pandemic and volatility this year in markets, investors may not need to search too hard for reasons to be thankful.
Published:11/26/2020 6:45:32 AM
[Markets] "The Fraud Was Executed By Many Means": Sidney Powell Releases Kraken With Dual Lawsuits In Michigan, Georgia "The Fraud Was Executed By Many Means": Sidney Powell Releases Kraken With Dual Lawsuits In Michigan, Georgia Tyler Durden Thu, 11/26/2020 - 07:12

Sidney Powell has finally released the Kraken - filing two lawsuits in Michigan and Georgia late Wednesday alleging massive schemes to rig the election for Joe Biden.

In Georgia, Powell claims in a 104-page complaint filed in the US District Court in Atlanta that the purpose of the scheme was "illegally and fraudulently manipulating the vote count to make certain the election of Joe Biden as president of the United States."

"Old-fashioned ballot-stuffing" has been "amplified and rendered virtually invisible by computer software created and run by domestic and foreign actors for that very purpose," the suit continues, adding that "Mathematical and statistical anomalies rising to the level of impossibilities, as shown by affidavits of multiple witnesses, documentation, and expert testimony evince this scheme across the state of Georgia."

"This scheme and artifice to defraud affected tens of thousands of votes in Georgia alone and 'rigged' the election in Georgia for Joe Biden."

According to Just the News, Powell's allegations include that:

  • At least 96,600 absentee ballots were requested and counted but were never recorded as being returned to county election boards by the voter. "Thus, at a minimum, 96,600 votes must be disregarded," the suit said.
  • Kemp and Raffensperger "rushed through the purchase of Dominion voting machines and software in 2019 for the 2020 Presidential Election" without due diligence and disregarded safety concerns.
  • "There is incontrovertible physical evidence that the standards of physical security of the voting machines and the software were breached, and machines were connected to the internet in violation of professional standards and state and federal laws."
  • Fulton County election workers used a claim of a water leak to evacuate poll watchers and workers for several hours on Election night, even as "several election workers remained unsupervised and unchallenged working at the computers for the voting tabulation machines until after 1:00 AM. 
  • State officials in a settlement with Democratic parties made changes to election procedures that violated both state law and the U.S. Constitution.

The suit asks for over a dozen remedies, including an injunction blocking the state's certified results - in which Biden 'won' by 12,000 votes - from being transmitted to the Electoral College.

Powell's suit also demands an audit where signatures are matched, the impounding of various election machines and video surveillance from vote-counting areas.

In Michigan, Powell filed a 75-page complaint seeking to set aside the results of the election, claiming that "hundreds of thousands of illegal, ineligible, duplicate, or purely fictitious ballots" enabled by "massive election fraud" facilitated Biden's win in the state.

"The scheme and artifice to defraud was for the purpose of illegally and fraudulently manipulating the vote count to manufacture an election of Joe Biden as president of the United States," the suit alleges, adding that the most "troubling, insidious, and egregious ploy” involved “systemic adaptation of old-fashioned ‘ballot-stuffing.'"

As Mimi Ngyuen Ly of The Epoch Times notes:

The complaint alleged “an especially egregious range of conduct” in Wayne County and the City of Detroit and similar conduct throughout the state, which it attributed to direction from Michigan state election officials. It noted that the “same pattern of election fraud and voter fraud writ large occurred in all the swing states with only minor variations” in Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Wisconsin.

The complaint cited eyewitness and expert testimony to allege that there were enough ballots identified to overturn and reverse the election results. It also said results of the election cannot be relied on because the entire election process was “riddled with fraud, illegality, and statistical impossibility.

The suit claimed that election software and hardware from Dominion Voting Systems used by the Michigan Board of State Canvassers helped facilitate the fraud.

The Dominion systems derive from the software designed by Smartmatic Corporation, which became Sequoia in the United States,” the complaint reads.

Smartmatic and Dominion were founded by foreign oligarchs and dictators to ensure computerized ballot-stuffing and vote manipulation to whatever level was needed to make certain Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez never lost another election,” it added, citing a whistleblower’s affidavit alleging that the Smartmatic software was used to manipulate Venezuelan elections in favor of Chavez.

“A core requirement of the Smartmatic software design ultimately adopted by Dominion for Michigan’s elections was the software’s ability to hide its manipulation of votes from any audit,” the complaint alleged.

The complaint cited a former electronic intelligence analyst under the 305th Military Intelligence Battalion, who declared that the Dominion software was accessed by agents acting on behalf of China and Iran to monitor and manipulate elections, including the 2020 U.S. general election.

Another part of the complaint said that a former U.S. Military Intelligence expert had analyzed the Dominion software system and concluded that the system and software “were certainly compromised by rogue actors, such as Iran and China.”

“By using servers and employees connected with rogue actors and hostile foreign influences combined with numerous easily discoverable leaked credentials, Dominion neglectfully allowed foreign adversaries to access data and intentionally provided access to their infrastructure in order to monitor and manipulate elections, including the most recent one in 2020,” the filing said.

*  *  *


Published:11/26/2020 6:17:31 AM
[Markets] The Moneyist: I have 8 nieces and nephews. What is the appropriate age to stop giving envelopes full of money during the holidays? ‘Sometimes, we don’t even see the kids for the holidays and we’re just pushing around cards and envelopes.’
Published:11/26/2020 4:17:40 AM
[Markets] : Under Biden, CFPB will play a role in any student-debt cancelation — and help tackle student-loan servicers Experts expect more aggressive oversight of the student-loan industry come January.
Published:11/26/2020 3:48:28 AM
[Markets] Mark Hulbert: The surprising lesson Black Friday and Cyber Monday can teach stock-market investors The holiday spirit infects — and can distort — investor behavior.
Published:11/26/2020 1:47:28 AM
[Markets] How To Celebrate Thanksgiving Amid Toxic Politics & COVID-19 Lockdowns How To Celebrate Thanksgiving Amid Toxic Politics & COVID-19 Lockdowns Tyler Durden Thu, 11/26/2020 - 00:00

Authored by John Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute,

“War is over. If you want it.”

 - John Lennon

If ever there were a year filled with an abundance of bad news and a shortage of good news, 2020 would take the prize. Between the toxic political theater, pandemic scares, nationwide lockdowns that smack of martial law, a rollercoaster economy, and the ever-present menace of the police state, it’s been a hard, heart-wrenching, stomach-churning kind of year overrun with too much hate and too little tolerance.

It’s been a year in which tyranny took a few more steps forward, freedom got knocked down a few more notches, and politics and profit margins took precedence over decency, compassion and human-kindness.

Now we find ourselves at this present moment, overwhelmed by all that is wrong in the world and missing the fellowship of family and friends kept apart by COVID-19 restrictions and concerns.

No wonder this Thanksgiving finds so many struggling to reflect and give thanks for what is good. After all, how do you give thanks for freedoms that are constantly being eroded? How do you express gratitude for one’s safety when the perils posed by the American police state grow more treacherous by the day? How do you come together as a nation in thanksgiving when the powers-that-be continue to polarize and divide us into warring factions?

Here’s what I’ve learned from living in a small community (population 1500) for the past year: you don’t have to agree on politics, or subscribe to the same religious beliefs, or have the same demographic makeup in order to live peaceably with one another.

These small-town people don’t have a preponderance of fancy cars or advanced degrees or six-figure salaries or committees aimed at discussing problems to death, and yet they have mastered the art of getting along. They make no secret about their views on politics and religion and anything else on their minds, and yet they remain friendly—neighborly—respectful of those with opposing views, even when they wholeheartedly disagree.

Yes, America, there is life beyond politics and it can be wonderful if you just give it a chance.

Here’s what I suggest: this Thanksgiving, do yourselves a favor and turn off the talking heads, tune out the politicians, and take a deep breath. Then try this exercise in gratitude: find something to be thankful for about the things and people in your community for which you might have the least tolerance or appreciation. Instead of just rattling off a list of things you’re thankful for that sound good, dig a little deeper and acknowledge the good in those you may have underappreciated or feared.

When it comes time to giving thanks for your good fortune, put your gratitude into action: pay your blessings forward with deeds that spread a little kindness, lighten someone’s burden, and brighten some dark corner.

Engage in acts of kindness. Smile more. Fight less. Build bridges. Refuse to let toxic politics define your relationships. Focus on the things that unite instead of that which divides.

Do your part to push back against the meanness of our culture with conscious compassion and humanity. Moods are contagious, the good and the bad. They can be passed from person to person. So can the actions associated with those moods, the good and the bad.

Even with COVID-19 restrictions in place throughout the country, there is still so much good that can be done to help those in need.

Be a hero, whether or not anyone ever notices.

Acts of benevolence, no matter how inconsequential they might seem, can spark a movement.

Each of us has an inner hero we can draw upon in an emergency,” concludes psychologist Philip Zimbardo. “If you think there is even a possibility that someone needs help, act on it. You may save a life. You are the modern version of the Good Samaritan that makes the world a better place for all of us.”

All it takes is one person breaking away from the fold to change the dynamics of a situation. “Once any one helps, then in seconds others will join in because a new social norm emerges,” notes Zimbardo.

This is what Zimbardo refers to as “the power of one.”

“If you find yourself in an ambiguous situation, resist the urge to look to others and go with your gut instinct,” advises Melissa Burkley in Psychology Today.

“If you think there is even a possibility that someone is in need, act on it. At worst, you will embarrass yourself for a few minutes, but at best, you will save a life.”

In other words, don’t turn away from suffering. Even smiling at a stranger in these fearful times can be a revolutionary act.

All it takes is one person to start a chain reaction.

For instance, a few years ago in Florida, a family of six—four adults and two young boys—were swept out to sea by a powerful rip current in Panama City Beach. There was no lifeguard on duty. The police were standing by, waiting for a rescue boat. And the few people who had tried to help ended up stranded, as well.

Those on shore grouped together and formed a human chain. What started with five volunteers grew to 15, then 80 people, some of whom couldn’t swim.

One by one, they linked hands and stretched as far as their chain would go. The strongest of the volunteers swam out beyond the chain and began passing the stranded victims of the rip current down the chain.

One by one, they rescued those in trouble and pulled each other in.

There’s a moral here for what needs to happen in this country if we only can band together and prevail against the riptides that threaten to overwhelm us.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, there may not be much we can do to avoid the dismal reality of the police state in the long term—not so long as the powers-that-be continue to call the shots and allow profit margins to take precedence over the needs of people—but in the short term, there are things we can all do right now to make this world (or at least our small corners of it) a little bit kinder, a lot less hostile and more just.

It’s never too late to start making things right in the world.

Published:11/25/2020 11:14:42 PM
[Markets] San Antonio Food Bank Doubles Amount Of People It Serves  San Antonio Food Bank Doubles Amount Of People It Serves  Tyler Durden Wed, 11/25/2020 - 23:30

Two Americas were visible on Tuesday as the Dow Jones Industrial Average crossed 30,000 for the first time. Simultaneously, hundreds of vehicles were snaked around a parking lot in Albuquerque, New Mexico, waiting in line at a local food bank. 

This suggests the K-shaped economic recovery, one where the rich grow richer and the working-poor are crushed with job loss and insurmountable debts, is getting much worse by the month. 

For more on the rapid reemergence of food bank lines, or what will be the new normal in a severely broken economy that is in desperate need of structural reform, Eric Cooper, CEO of the San Antonio Food Bank in Texas, on Tuesday, told CNBC's Shepard Smith that demand at his food bank has more than doubled this year. 

"Pre-pandemic we fed about 60,00 people a week and now we're seeing about 120,000 per week, and most of those are new to the food bank, and have never had to ask for help before," Cooper told Smith during an interview on Tuesday evening. 

He said, "today, we had a distribution that fed 2,000, and we have these distributions all the time." 

"Food banks around the country have seen this unprecedented demand, and we're just working as hard as we can to balance the private donations we get, with the public assistance to try to make sure people are fed," he explained. 

Cooper continued: "A child would miss ten meals in a week, and if a mom has two to three kids in school, she's now feeling the impact of the cost of that food at home, and without employment, kids are going hungry. We hear from schools that kids struggle with their education because they don't have access to good nutrition." 

Watch Full Interview 

It was just last week that a food bank in Dallas, Texas, handed out, in one day, the "largest-ever" food distribution. 

Nationwide, internet searches for "drive-thru food bank near me" is erupting.  

And the problem we see here is that many of the key provisions in the CARES Act are set to expire on Dec. 31 - this could be catastrophic for millions of unemployed Americans and risk derailing the economic recovery. 

"We just hope that Congress acts quickly, the stimulus package needs to support families to put food on their table," Cooper said.

And if elevated demand for food banks continues to persist, "meal shortage" could be seen within the next 12 months. 

The new normal for millions of America's working poor appears awfully similar to the 1930s. 

 Maybe each future stimulus check should include a one-year subscription to Blue Apron or HelloFresh? 

Published:11/25/2020 10:43:44 PM
[Markets] Biden's Gun Control Plan Would Cost Gun Owners $34 Billion In Taxes Biden's Gun Control Plan Would Cost Gun Owners $34 Billion In Taxes Tyler Durden Wed, 11/25/2020 - 23:00

Submitted by Joseph Jankowski of Planet Free Will

Under Joe Biden’s proposed gun control plan, American gun owners would cough up tens of billions dollars in taxes as millions of rifles and magazines now in their possession would be subject to a tax under the National Firearms Act.

The center piece of Biden’s gun plan is to place a ban on the manufacture and sale of “assault weapons,” while bringing the regulation of possession of such firearms under the 1934 National Firearms Act.

Currently, the NFA of 1934 applies to fully automatics firearms, silencers and short-barreled rifles. But Biden would drag “assault weapons”, meaning semiautomatic rifles, pistols and shotguns (think the AR-15) along with “high capacity magazines”, which have generally been understood to be magazines that carry more than 10 rounds, under the act.

According to a National Shooting Sports Foundation report on firearm production figures, Americans in total own at least 20 million rifles and 150 million ammunition magazines that would be subject to the NFA regulations if Biden’s plan were put in place.

Under the NFA, each rifle and each magazine would be taxed at $200 per item. On top of that, gun owners would be subjected to complicated paper work and an identification process.

As Americans for Tax Reform reports:

As detailed on Biden’s campaign website, “Biden will also institute a program to buy back weapons of war currently on our streets. This will give individuals who now possess assault weapons or high-capacity magazines two options: sell the weapons to the government, or register them under the National Firearms Act.” This triggers the $200 tax.

In order to register a firearm (or a magazine, under Joe Biden’s plan), you have to send in a 13-page, complicated application form with the $200 tax included, your fingerprints, and a photograph of yourself. In this way, the hurdles to legally own your weapon or high-capacity magazine go far beyond the expensive tax. 

With 20 million rifles and 150 million magazines to fall under the NFA with Biden’s plan, the amount of taxes paid by American gun owners would equate to $34 billion dollars.

If a gun-owner chooses not to hand in his NFA regulated rifle or magazine, he or she would face up to 10 years in federal prison, and a potential $10,000 fine.

The move would be in total violation of Biden’s pledge not to tax those who make under $400,000 annually and would put an even greater financial burden on Americans who have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and state induced economic shutdowns.

More from Americans for Tax Reform:

Many families who have already been struggling due to the economic damage done by the coronavirus would find themselves incapable of paying for the ability to practice a constitutional right of theirs.

According to the Biden campaign, any magazine that holds more than 10 rounds is a “high capacity” magazine. Even if someone owns only one AR-15, if they have just four standard capacity magazines, they would owe the federal government $1,000.

Suddenly, gun control becomes less about mere firearm ownership and more about controlling working-class Americans. In urban areas, where people are most vulnerable to crime, it’s not hard to imagine how crushing this could be. There is nothing new about leftist politicians taxing urban residents in order to dictate behavior, ownership, and lifestyle.

While Biden’s gun control plan likely wont catch much fan fair in the more red, new congress taking hold at the start of 2021 – especially if Republicans can take at least one of the upcoming Georgia run-offs – the idea lends more credence to the suspicion that Trump’s America is likely to be flipped on its head under a Biden presidency.

Published:11/25/2020 10:13:41 PM
[Markets] Watch: F-35 Stealth Fighter Drops Mock Nuclear Bomb Over Nevada Desert Watch: F-35 Stealth Fighter Drops Mock Nuclear Bomb Over Nevada Desert Tyler Durden Wed, 11/25/2020 - 22:30

We recently highlighted the possibility that the US and China "may well be on the road to war, and nuclear war is no longer unthinkable." For years, we've discussed the relentless quest of Washington elites, preparing the empire for the inevitable collision with China as the battle for economic supremacy nears.

The rapid modernization of the military under the Trump administration, costing taxpayers $2 trillion, was an important signal in gauging Washington Warhawks' level of military preparedness as the threat of rising China increases by the day.

President Trump has described the trillions of dollars allocated to the military as a "colossal rebuilding" effort - something he says has 'never been done before.' Trump has routinely described all sorts of new military technology, including fifth-generation stealth jets, hypersonic missiles, and increased nuclear weapon capability. 

While dangers of confrontation have increased in 2020 as US warships continue to sail through the South China Sea, or Chinese warplanes buzz Taiwan's airspace - Trump is still president for 57 days, meaning that anything is possible in the next two months. 

In a show of force, the Air Force released a video Monday showing a Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II dropping a mock nuclear bomb at Sandia National Laboratories' Tonopah Test Range over the Nevada desert. 

"We're showing the B61-12's larger compatibility and broader versatility for the country's nuclear deterrent, and we're doing it in the world of COVID-19," said Steven Samuels, a manager with Sandia's B61-12 Systems Team.