Feb 022021
 
 February 2, 2021  Posted by at 10:36 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  27 Responses »


MC Escher Relativity 1953

 

Is Robinhood The Devil in Sheep’s Clothing? (Neville)
Physical Premium To Paper Hits Record As Silver Market Tears In Two (ZH)
Papering Over the Rot (Chris Hedges)
How To Redesign COVID Vaccines So They Protect Against Variants (Nature)
COVID19 Vaccine Developers Ask SEC to Help Keep Price Setting Secret (DP)
The Brazil Variant Is Exposing the World’s Vulnerability (Atl.)
Fauci 180º: Double Masking For Covid-19 Doesn’t ‘Make A Difference’ (JTN)
Oversight Board Reverses Facebook Removal Of HCQ Post (JTN)
The Game is On (Jim Kunstler)
Figures Tied To Past Controversies Increasingly Land Jobs On Team Biden (JTN)
Why You Haven’t Seen A Sit-Down Biden Interview Yet (Pol.)
Hundreds Deported Under Biden, Including Witness To Massacre (AP)
Biden Considers Revoking Trump’s Rights To Be Briefed On Secrets (DM)
Kerry Gifts Wall Street the Green New Deal (Pettifor)
Twitter Suspends Account of Group That Called For Regulating Big Tech (JTN)

 

 

 

 

“Back in Washington, they’ve found a company to crucify who turned out to be even bigger hypocrites than they are. Quite the bi-partisan cause!”

Is Robinhood The Devil in Sheep’s Clothing? (Neville)

Robinhood fancies themselves as commission free trading which is giving normal people free access to the stock market. They are the Facebook of the financial world. You think it’s free, but your data ends up being sold to another big business who profits off of it more than you do. For Zuckerberg, he sells all your data to businesses across the world. For Robinhood, they sell your data to Ken Griffin and other High Frequency Trading shops. You could write a book on the nuances of it, but let’s leave it there for now. As Facebook and (anti)social media grew too large, it has created mass hysterias. Neuroscientist and philosopher, Sam Harris, speaks on his podcast about humans losing sense of their rationality. Because of the constant propaganda being thrown on social media, humans are having a hard time deciphering truths and often create false realities.

Humans end up giving their attention to the most extreme personalities (watch the Tekashi69 Documentary on HBO) and the values of balance and a middle class lifestyle go out the door. In the same way that Facebook has distorted human perception, Robinhood is doing this to capital markets, which might be even scarier. If no one knows the value of things, then how do we attempt to live in a civilized society and trade value for value? Stan Druckenmiller has said that there should be some sort of hurdle rate for investment into the market. Perhaps this is what he saw coming? One of the words that I am shorting over the next five years is ‘scale’. One of the words that will likely replace it is ‘balance’. With balance, you get real growth and real innovation. You accept the fact you are human and fallible while constantly trying to learn from your failures. With scale, you just want to control things as fast as you can at the expense of the herd.

I worked as a trader for 12 years before tapping out and realizing my job was getting eaten alive by algorithms & high-frequency-trading. I tried to out-hustle it, but the incentive to make things cheaper for the end consumer to buy stocks inevitably won. As a free market capitalist, I have to give passive investment, HFT & Robinhood some major props. What they did was brilliant, but I can’t help but ask myself whether we’ve sacrificed social stability in that pursuit of scale. Behind closed doors, I know they are concerned and they can’t unwind what they’ve built. I get messages from Wall Street friends everyday now who can’t openly speak about it, but know how messed up the capital markets are.

With retail equity and call buying at all time records, liquidity could get funky if pay-for-order flow providers pull back at all. CEO’s at Schwab, TD and Virtu will likely try to distance themselves from that model. In the interim, Robinhood will likely do a nice round of mea-culpas with the best PR firms on the market and apologize to everyone about the GameStop situation. The big VC’s on Robinhood’s cap table who are obsessed with scale will make their calls into Washington. Back in Washington, they’ve found a company to crucify who turned out to be even bigger hypocrites than they are. Quite the bi-partisan cause!

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What will be the new normal? Can’t imagine it will be like the old one.

Physical Premium To Paper Hits Record As Silver Market Tears In Two (ZH)

APMEX Statement On Current Market Conditions:

In the last week, we have seen a dramatic shift in Silver demand from our customers. For example, the ratio of ounces sold per day was running about two times earlier in the week and closer to four times the average demand by the end of the week. Once markets closed on Friday, we saw demand hit as much as six times a typical business day and more than 12 times a normal weekend day. Combined with the extremely high demand levels, we are also seeing a surge in new customers. On Saturday alone, we added as many new customers as we usually add in a week.

Any Precious Metal dealer will take a long position in the futures market to protect against spot price exposure when the markets open. We do this because it is our goal not to take a speculative position on metal. The weekends are unique as we are not able to real-time hedge our position. We took an aggressive position this weekend, but clearly could not have predicted the volumes that were seen. We have partnerships around to world that allowed us to cover these long positions, but only to a point. Once we exceeded our comfort levels, we had little choice but to stop the sale of Silver on our website. This was a difficult decision to make and unprecedented in our history.

As we evaluate the markets, it is difficult to know where Silver’s price and demand will go in the coming day and weeks. APMEX is highly capitalized and has more than $150 million in inventory to support demand. We have made strategic decisions to procure additional metal, locking up any metal we can find in the market place. We suspect premiums will rise and rise quickly, as we are seeing significant increases in our costs, when we can even locate the metal. It is also highly likely that we will need an additional day or two to fill orders based on current order counts. The one guarantee we can make to our customers is that you will only be sold metal that is on-site, or we have procured the metal with a firm commitment date from our partners. In markets like this, we feel this is the best approach a retailer can take, as no one can predict product availability.

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“The new wealth comes from a cartel capitalism far more concentrated and far more criminal than any of the cartels built by the old robber barons of the 19th century.”

Papering Over the Rot (Chris Hedges)

The death spiral of the American Empire will not be halted with civility. It will not be halted with the 42 executive orders signed by President Joe Biden, however welcome many are, especially since they can, with a new chief executive, be immediately revoked. It will not be halted by removing Donald Trump, and the crackpot conspiracy theorists, Christian fascists and racists who support him, from social media. It will not be halted by locking up the Proud Boys and the clueless protestors who stormed the Congress on Jan. 6. and took selfies in Vice President Mike Pence’s Senate chair. It will not be halted by restoring the frayed alliances with our European allies or rejoining the World Health Organization or the Paris Climate Agreement.


Mr. Fish

All of these measures are window dressing, masking the root cause of the demise of America — unchecked oligarchic power and greed. The longer wealth is funneled upwards into the hands of a tiny, oligarchic cabal, who put Biden into office and whose interests he assiduously serves, we are doomed. Once an oligarchy seizes power, deforming governing institutions to exclusively serve their narrow interests and turning the citizenry into serfs, there are only two options, as Aristotle pointed out — tyranny or revolution. The staggering concentration of wealth and obscene avarice of the very rich now dwarfs the hedonism and excesses of the world’s most heinous despots and wealthiest capitalists of the past.

In 2015, shortly before he died, Forbes estimated David Rockefeller’s net worth was $3 billion. The Shah of Iran looted an estimated $1 billion from his country. Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos amassed between $5 and $10 billion. And the former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe was worth about a billion. Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are each at $180 billion. The new wealth comes from a cartel capitalism far more concentrated and far more criminal than any of the cartels built by the old robber barons of the 19th century.

It was made possible by Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton who, in exchange for corporate money to fund their campaigns and later Clinton’s foundation and post-presidency opulent lifestyle, abolished the regulations that once protected the citizenry from the worst forms of monopoly exploitation. The demolishing of regulations made possible the largest upwards transference of wealth in American history. Whatever you say about Trump, he at least initiated moves to break up Facebook, Google, Amazon and the other Silicon Valley monopolists, none of which will happen under Biden, whose campaign these corporations bankrolled. And that has to be one of the reasons these digital platforms disappeared Trump from social media.

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We’re all hostages to these companies now. No-one talks about boosting your immune system, or getting fitter, natural defenses are not done.

How To Redesign COVID Vaccines So They Protect Against Variants (Nature)

Labs worldwide are racing to understand the threat that emerging coronavirus variants pose for vaccines. But early insights from these studies are mixed and incomplete. A variant identified in late 2020 in South Africa, called 501Y.V2 (also known as variant B.1.351), is among the most worrying. Lab assays have found that it carries mutations that sap the potency of virus-inactivating ‘neutralizing antibodies’ that were made by people who received either the Pfizer or Moderna RNA vaccines. Whether these changes are enough to lower the effectiveness of those vaccines is not clear, says Subbarao. “That is the million-dollar question, because we don’t know how much antibody you need.” Other immune responses that vaccines prompt might help to protect against the effects of variants.

But on 28 January, biotech firm Novavax released data from clinical trials showing that its experimental vaccine, designed to combat the original virus, was about 85% effective against a variant identified in the United Kingdom — but less than 50% effective against 501Y.V2. That drop is concerning, say researchers, because it indicates that 501Y.V2 and other variants like it can cause a significant drop in vaccines’ effectiveness. “I think it’s inevitable for the vaccines to maintain tip-top efficacy, they will need to be updated. The only question is how often and when,” says Paul Bieniasz, a virologist at the Rockefeller University in New York City who co-led one of the neutralizing-antibody studies. Scientists, health officials and vaccine makers are starting to hash this out. Researchers are only beginning to learn how different mutations alter vaccine responses and how evolutionary forces can cause mutations to spread. “I certainly wouldn’t update them now,” says Bieniasz.

One model that COVID vaccine updates could follow is that of seasonal flu vaccines, says Subbarao, who directs the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza in Melbourne. Centres including hers monitor emerging flu strains for genetic changes that might influence vaccines’ effectiveness. Researchers use studies with ferret and human antibodies to determine whether a new flu strain is likely to evade a previous season’s vaccine, and therefore necessitate an update. These reviews are conducted annually for each hemisphere’s flu season, and changes are made only when a vaccine-evading strain is widespread, says Subbarao. “If it’s localized to one region, one country, we wouldn’t change the vaccine for the whole hemisphere.”

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Drug pricing is not the scandal here.

COVID19 Vaccine Developers Ask SEC to Help Keep Price Setting Secret (DP)

When the U.S. government awarded over $10 billion in contracts and advance- purchase commitments to drug companies working on COVID-19 vaccine and treatments, it did not require the recipients of government money to agree to offer their products at fair prices or share intellectual property rights to enable faster production. Now, two of the companies awarded those contracts—Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson—are trying to prevent shareholders from voting on resolutions to require the companies to disclose information about the impact of government funding on vaccine access. The U.S. government has purchased 200 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 100 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccines, for about $20 and $10 per dose, respectively.

The shareholder resolutions, filed by members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), a shareholder activism organization, ask those two companies to inform their shareholders how “receipt of public financial support for development and manufacture of products for COVID-19 is being, or will be, taken into account when making decisions that affect access to such products, such as setting prices.” Similar resolutions were also filed at Eli Lilly, Gilead, Merck, and Regeneron. Both Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson filed “no action requests” with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in December, asking the agency to rule that the companies can withhold the proposals from shareholders.

In nearly identical filings prepared by the same lawyer, both Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson argued that the proposals attempt to “micromanage” the companies “by requesting an intricately detailed report.” Meg Jones-Monteiro, ICCR’s health equity director, called the micromanaging claim “ludicrous.” The claim that investors are trying to “micromanage” the companies comes from an SEC precedent finding that certain “ordinary business operations” should not be subject to shareholder oversight. But Jones-Monteiro argues that the issue of vaccine pricing during pandemics doesn’t fall into this category.

“Anything related to drug pricing has been established as a social policy issue,” Jones-Monteiro told The Daily Poster, meaning it isn’t just ordinary business that doesn’t need any shareholder oversight. She noted that the proposals don’t ask about ordinary pricing decisions or ask for intricate details about pricing algorithms. “We are asking very generally: did you take government funding into account? And how did you take it into account?” Oxfam, an ICCR member who filed the proposed resolution with Johnson & Johnson, wrote in a supporting statement that “JNJ stated publicly that it will distribute a COVID-19 vaccine on a “nonprofit” basis,” adding: “JNJ has not clarified what ‘nonprofit’ means when the government funds a significant portion of the research and development cost.”

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Pretty bad.

The Brazil Variant Is Exposing the World’s Vulnerability (Atl.)

Even in a year of horrendous suffering, what is unfolding in Brazil stands out. In the rainforest city of Manaus, home to 2 million people, bodies are reportedly being dropped into mass graves as quickly as they can be dug. Hospitals have run out of oxygen, and people with potentially treatable cases of COVID-19 are dying of asphyxia. This nature and scale of mortality have not been seen since the first months of the pandemic. This is happening in a very unlikely place. Manaus saw a devastating outbreak last April that similarly overwhelmed systems, infecting the majority of the city. Because the morbidity was so ubiquitous, many scientists believed the population had since developed a high level of immunity that would preclude another devastating wave of infection.

On the whole, Brazil has already reported the second-highest death toll in the world (though half that of the United States). As the country headed into summer, the worst was thought to be behind it. Data seemed to support the idea that herd immunity in Manaus was near. In Science this month, researchers mapped the virus’s takeover last year: In April, blood tests found that 4.8 percent of the city’s population had antibodies to SARS-CoV-2. By June, the number was up to 52.5 percent. Since people who get infected do not always test positive for antibodies, the researchers estimated that by June about two-thirds of the city had been infected. By November, the estimate was about 76 percent. In The Lancet this week, a team of Brazilian researchers noted that even if these estimates were off by a large margin, infection on this scale “should confer important population immunity to avoid a larger outbreak.”

Indeed, it seemed to. The city was able to largely reopen and remain open throughout its winter with low levels of COVID-19 cases. Yet now, the nightmare scenario is happening a second time. The situation defies expert expectations about how immunity would help protect the hardest-hit populations. By estimates of leading infectious-disease specialists, such as Anthony Fauci, when roughly 70 to 75 percent of the population is immune, there can still be clusters of cases, but sustaining a large-scale outbreak becomes mathematically impossible. Still somehow, according to The Washington Post, hospitals in Manaus that had thought they were well prepared are now overwhelmed.

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What a clown.

Fauci 180º: Double Masking For Covid-19 Doesn’t ‘Make A Difference’ (JTN)

First he said don’t wear a mask. Then he said wear a mask. Then he said wear two masks. Then he said just wear one mask. Keeping up with Dr. Anthony Fauci’s mask-wearing recommendations is getting tough. Back in March, just as the COVID-19 pandemic was emerging, Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, said, “There’s no reason to be walking around with a mask.” “When you’re in the middle of an outbreak, wearing a mask might make people feel a little bit better and it might even block a droplet, but it’s not providing the perfect protection that people think that it is,” the doctor said on CBS News. Of course, we didn’t know much back then, and how to slow the spread has since evolved.

Soon after Fauci made his comments, experts – including those in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention – said Americans should wear masks, citing estimates that 40% or more of those infected were asymptomatic but could still spread the virus. “We were not aware that 40% to 45% of people were asymptomatic, nor were we aware that a substantial proportion of people who get infected get infected from people who are without symptoms. That makes it overwhelmingly important for everyone to wear a mask,” Fauci said in September, noting that “the data now are very, very clear.”

Fauci, an immunologist and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who served on President Trump’s White House Coronavirus Task Force and is now President Biden’s chief medical adviser on COVID-19, said last month that wearing two masks is likely more effective than wearing one. “If you have a physical covering with one layer, you put another layer on it, just makes common sense that it likely would be more effective,” Fauci told NBC News. Then over the weekend, Fauci said: “There are many people who feel, you know, if you want to have an extra little bit of protection, maybe I should put two masks on. There’s nothing wrong with that, but there’s no data that indicates that that is going to make a difference and that’s the reason why the CDC has not changed the recommendation.”

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HCQ research has been dead since April, thanks to the Lancet. That’s also when the vaccine trials started.

Oversight Board Reverses Facebook Removal Of HCQ Post (JTN)

Facebook’s independent Oversight Board has reversed the social media platform’s decision to remove an October 2020 post pertaining to the drug hydroxychloroquine in the treatment of COVID-19. “In October 2020, a user posted a video and accompanying text in French in a public Facebook group related to COVID-19,” the board explained on its website. “The post alleged a scandal at the Agence Nationale de Sécurité du Médicament (the French agency responsible for regulating health products), which refused to authorize hydroxychloroquine combined with azithromycin for use against COVID-19, but authorized and promoted remdesivir. The user criticized the lack of a health strategy in France and stated that “[Didier] Raoult’s cure” is being used elsewhere to save lives.

“The user’s post also questioned what society had to lose by allowing doctors to prescribe in an emergency a “harmless drug” when the first symptoms of COVID-19 appear.” While the person’s post pushed back against a government policy, it did not urge people to obtain or take medicine without a prescription, the board noted. “[The] user was opposing a governmental policy and aimed to change that policy,” the board said in explaining its ruling. “The combination of medicines that the post claims constitute a cure are not available without a prescription in France and the content does not encourage people to buy or take drugs without a prescription. Considering these and other contextual factors, the Board noted that Facebook had not demonstrated the post would rise to the level of imminent harm, as required by its own rule in the Community Standards.”

Facebook also failed to show why it did not opt for a less severe remedy than removing the post from the platform, the panel found. “Given that Facebook has a range of tools to deal with misinformation, such as providing users with additional context, the company failed to demonstrate why it did not choose a less intrusive option than removing the content,” the board explained. The board also determined that the social media giant’s misinformation and imminent harm rule is too vague and recommended that the platform consolidate and clarify its standards on health misinformation in one place.

“The Board also found Facebook’s misinformation and imminent harm rule, which this post is said to have violated, to be inappropriately vague and inconsistent with international human rights standards,” the panel said. “A patchwork of policies found on different parts of Facebook’s website make it difficult for users to understand what content is prohibited. Changes to Facebook’s COVID-19 policies announced in the company’s Newsroom have not always been reflected in its Community Standards, while some of these changes even appear to contradict them.”

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“It looks like they mean bidness.”

The Game is On (Jim Kunstler)

It’s been fifty years since precious metals enjoyed any official peg with the US dollar, but for five thousand years previously gold and silver were money itself and paper currencies became mere representations of that money. That relationship ended in 1971 when President Nixon closed the “window” that allowed foreign countries to redeem gold in exchange for dollars they accumulated from the commercial trade of goods — and, our dollar being the world’s supreme reserve currency, the rest of the world’s currencies followed.

Despite all efforts since then by banking authorities to denigrate the value and the role of gold and silver in financial affairs, the “barbarous relics” retained a persistent influence in men’s minds because of their intrinsic qualities. These were: the vested energy they represented from mining and refining, their physical durability, portability, and divisibility, their freedom from counterparty obligations, and, especially in modern times, their vital usefulness in electronics and other industrial applications. The latter quality is greatly reinforced by the powerful wish to transition from a fossil fuel economy to an alt-energy economy of solar cells and wind turbines — a wish that probably won’t come true.

And so, as promised by the subreddit vigilantes, the silver price was up around $3 or ten percent in overnight trading going into the week’s Monday open. It looks like they mean bidness. And that could mean many things. The most obvious is a very conscious effort to punish the high hats of Wall Street for years of lawless game-playing that made them ultra-rich and left everybody else in the country impoverished. Some of the vigilantes frankly express the desire to wreck the degenerate banking system altogether, a great purge of evil to restore something like God-fearing accountability, moving toward a fresh and honest re-start of markets and banking. I’m not convinced that we would get any such orderly re-start in the sense that global banking could be reconstructed along pre-2020 lines.

Rather, wrecking the banks in a daisy-chain of shattered obligations would be an express ticket to the Palookaville of neo-medievalism I’ve been warning about, and probably in a sharp, disorderly, violent, and deadly episode of losing everything that has made us civilized. In any case, the country has already prepped itself for some kind of spectacular failure with all the social mind-fuckery of the past four years that eventuated with the empty shell of Joe Biden in the White House, and millions of his supporters swept into an epic hysteria of manufactured moral outrage over pseudo-realities initiated by academic racketeers and then weaponized by our politicians. But the game is on, whether you like it or not. This may be a last opportunity to get your minds right before you lose your country and your future.

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There are hundreds of them.

Figures Tied To Past Controversies Increasingly Land Jobs On Team Biden (JTN)

Jake Sullivan was one of the most prolific users of Hillary Clinton’s forbidden email server. Now he’s Joe Biden’s national security adviser. Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland previously had ties to Christopher Steele in the Russia scandal. White House domestic adviser Susan Rice once falsely declared the Benghazi terror attack was provoked by an anti-Muslim video and later wrote the famously curious did-it-by-the-books email in the Russia scandal during her last minutes in he Obama administration. And top Securities and Exchange Commission enforcement official Melissa Hodgman is married to Peter Strzok, the fired FBI agent who supervised the discredited Crossfire Hurricane probe into Russia-Trump collusion. As Biden fills out his team, the list of people tied to past scandals and controversy keeps getting bigger.


And the pattern has some prominent Republicans taking note. “If you look at the larger picture, the Russia hoaxers, the people that were pushing this out from the very beginning and lying about it after the fact, they’re all at the top echelons of the Biden administration,” former House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said Sunday. During an appearance on Fox News’ Sunday show hosted by Maria Bartiromo, Nunes took issue with Hodgman’s appointment as acting chief of the SEC enforcement division, saying while she “could be a great public servant,” it created the appearance of a Democratic payback to her husband for pursuing Trump. “Looks like Peter Strozk is actually going to get reimbursed for all of his troubles,” Nunes said. “The guy lost his job, but nothing’s happened to him at this point.”

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Incompetence as a strategic move.

Why You Haven’t Seen A Sit-Down Biden Interview Yet (Pol.)

Joe Biden waited nearly four decades to become the most powerful man in the free world. Now that he is, he’s making himself scarce. Biden is leaning on doctors and health experts to publicly detail his Covid policy. He’s relying on his Cabinet, economic advisers and other high-ranking administration officials to help sell his nearly $2 trillion rescue package. Biden’s press team, meanwhile, is standing in for their boss by blanketing TV programs with pledges to tell the truth even when it’s inconvenient. It’s one of the more arresting shifts after four years of a president who delighted in torturing the media with sudden pronouncements that often surprised and befuddled his own advisers.

“He trusts them, and Americans will trust experts,” John Anzalone, a top Biden adviser and campaign pollster, said of the president’s approach to his team. “Plus,” he added, “Biden is dealing with multiple crises and is a good delegator.” White House aides describe the strategy not so much as delegation but as an concerted effort to restore confidence with a public battered by the contradictory messaging and scorched-earth politics of the Trump years. In just over a week, the White House has booked 80 TV and radio interviews with 20 senior administration officials, members of the Covid-19 response team and Cabinet secretary designates. They’ve had officials on each major network, booking them on every Sunday show in the first week.

And they worked with CNN to have three of the doctors in charge of its Covid-19 response take questions from the public during a coronavirus town hall, said Mariel Sáez, the White House director of broadcast media. Who’s not been booked for any sit-down interviews: Biden. But the president hasn’t exactly been absent either. He appeared for brief ceremonies where he signed executive orders and delivered mostly scripted remarks. He’s taken a handful of questions from the news media. And he’s expected to give a major foreign policy address on Monday amid a planned trip to the State Department, his first visit to a Cabinet agency.

As main protagonists go, Biden’s role has been comparatively limited — a startling contrast to the omnipresent president who preceded him. Donald Trump didn’t so much love the spotlight as he sought to totally consume it. Whether he was sending Twitter screeds at all hours or shouting answers over the ear-splitting blades of his presidential aircraft, Trump craved media attention like no American leader before him.

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Who built the cages?

Hundreds Deported Under Biden, Including Witness To Massacre (AP)

President Joe Biden’s administration has deported hundreds of immigrants in its early days despite his campaign pledge to stop removing most people in the U.S. illegally at the beginning of his term. A federal judge last week ordered the Biden administration not to enforce a 100-day moratorium on deportations, but the ruling did not require the government to schedule them. In recent days, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has deported immigrants to at least three countries: 15 people to Jamaica on Thursday and 269 people to Guatemala and Honduras on Friday. More deportation flights were scheduled Monday.

It’s unclear how many of those people are considered national security or public safety threats or had recently crossed the border illegally, the priority under new guidance that the Department of Homeland Security issued to enforcement agencies and that took effect Monday. Some of the people put on the flights may have been expelled — which is a quicker process than deportation — under a public health order that former President Donald Trump invoked during the coronavirus pandemic and that Biden has kept in place. In the border city of El Paso, Texas, immigration authorities on Friday deported a woman who witnessed the 2019 massacre at a Walmart that left 22 people dead.

She had agreed to be a witness against the gunman and has met with the local district attorney’s office, according to her lawyers. Rosa was pulled over Wednesday for a broken brake light, detained based on previous traffic warrants, then transferred to ICE, which deported her before she could reach her attorney, said Melissa Lopez, executive director of the nonprofit Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services, which represents her.

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They want him off the map.

Biden Considers Revoking Trump’s Rights To Be Briefed On Secrets (DM)

The Biden administration is reviewing whether to take away the ability of former President Donald Trump to receive classified security briefings as the former president in the wake of the Capitol riot.White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki punted on the question when asked about a topic that also came up during the transition – but also confirmed Monday the administration was reviewing the matter. ‘This is a good question,’ said Psaki. ‘It’s something that’s obviously under review.’ The review comes as Trump critics demand he be forced to relinquish some of the perks of power that follow a president even after he leaves office. Former presidents get classified briefings by tradition – although not at the very highest levels reserved for the current officeholder.

In Trump’s case, the briefings would go to a former president who failed to attend the inauguration and spent months claiming that he had ‘won.’ Trump’s statement on his impeachment legal team over the weekend referred to him as the ’45th president of the United States.’ Trump has a small staff that has been running out of Mar-a-Lago. Former presidents get a substantial office stipend, and Secret Service protection costing up to $1 million per year. Even Trump’s adult children are getting Secret Service protection for the next six months, ABC News reported this month. If the Senate were to convict Trump of ‘incitement of insurrection’ following his impeachment trial, it could also vote to strip him of his ability to hold future office. It is unclear what current perks, if any, would go away if he were convicted.

Trump caused an uproar during his 2017 meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and former ambassador to the U.S. Sergei Kislyak after it was reported he revealed highly classified information about ISIS in Syria to the U.S. adversary. He gave up highly sensitive information from a U.S. ally, reported to be Israel, that resulted in the U.S. having to extract a top-level source inside the Russian government. Trump also once tweeted out what appeared to be a classified photo of an Iranian nuclear installation. Trump said he had the power to declassify material. All that preceded the Capitol riots, which followed Trump telling his supporters to ‘fight’ on the day Congress was counting the Electoral College vote.

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“Green” has more than one meaning. It’s what the Paris accord is based on.

Kerry Gifts Wall Street the Green New Deal (Pettifor)

Last week the Biden team delivered their first press conference on the Democrat’s much-anticipated Climate Plan. The good news is that Climate Envoy, John Kerry and Advisor, Gina McCarthy are talking about the Climate Plan delivering “Good paying Union Jobs”. All hail to that ambition. The bad news is that this ain’t no Rooseveltian New Deal. Roosevelt confronted Wall St from the get go. His administration systematically drained the Street of power, and made it servant to the economy and ecosystem. Henry Morgenthau, Roosevelt’s Treasury Secretary could rightly boast: “We moved the financial capital from London and Wall Street right to my desk at the Treasury. (Rauchway, 2017, p. 227)”

John Kerry on behalf of President Biden did the reverse. With breath-taking haste he genuflected to Wall St. by paying homage to the CEO of Blackrock, and then implied the mighty United States government was dependent on Wall St titans to deliver those “Good paying Union Jobs”. Kerry began the press conference by welcoming CEO Larry Fink’s recent letter and “the new awareness among asset managers about the need to be putting resources into this endeavour.” Remember readers, that Larry Fink presides over assets valued at $8.6 trillion. Blackrock’s clients include pension funds, insurance companies, charities, endowment funds and central banks. Tucked into that basket are your pensions, your insurance, your charitable donations – and your taxpayer-backed central bank.

And just this weekend, Gillian Tett of the Financial Times reminded us, in an article titled – Wall St.’s New Mantra: Green is Good – that Blackrock “Exploded in size and power this century by amassing exchange traded funds and “passive’ strategies that automatically track mainstream indices, such as the S&P 500 – which include fossil fuels… to which Blackrock is heavily exposed…” In other words, this private company uses the world’s savings to make massive capital gains from ‘passive’ almost effortless investment strategies. Worse they use their power to accelerate the climate crisis by investing “heavily” in fossil fuels. All that is bad enough. But Blackrock is able to amass their vast, global power because economists and politicians (including ‘the Left’ of the political spectrum) have conceded that power to them.

John Kerry is our witness. After paying homage to CEO Fink, Kerry placed the United States government in the role of humble supplicant – and effectively begged Wall St. to come to the rescue of the Biden Climate Plan. He could not have addressed the Street more plainly: “What the financiers, the big banks, the asset managers, private investors, venture capital, are all discovering is that there is a lot of money to be made in the jobs to be created in these sectors…” Gina McCarthy, National Climate Advisor, drove home the point: “The question won’t be, will the private sector buy into it? The private sector is going to drive it…”

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“Twitter has silenced JCN and the 30 million small business owners it represents..”

Twitter Suspends Account of Group That Called For Regulating Big Tech (JTN)

Twitter has suspended the account of the Job Creators Network, a nonpartisan group that advocates for small businesses and policies that protect Main Street jobs. According to the group, the social media giant sent them a message late last week saying JCN had violated Twitter’s “rules against platform manipulation and spam.” Company President and CEO Alfredo Ortiz rejects that claim, saying the deplatforming effort is retaliation against JCN for implying that Twitter should be regulated as a utility. “Twitter has silenced JCN and the 30 million small business owners it represents after JCN implied that the tech giant should be regulated as a utility,” Ortiz said in a statement. “Given that JCN’s internal review demonstrates we did not violate Twitter’s terms and conditions, the tech giant’s bold move is likely pure retaliation against us for our position on tech regulations.”


Twitter on Monday did not respond immediately to several attempts to contact the company to learn why JCN, which advocates for lower taxes and progressive policies, had been removed from the site. Last month, Ortiz wrote an op-ed published by RealClearPolitics titled, “Big Tech’s Conservative Purge Changes the Free Speech Debate.” JCN Chief Communications Officer Elaine Parker on Monday told the “John Solomon Reports” podcast the op-ed argued for Washington to begin regulating social media platforms and other tech giants as utilities. “The reason behind that is because it would it would preclude them from excluding services based on political beliefs and ideology,” Parker told host John Solomon. “I mean, when when you’re getting your phone service through AT&T, they don’t care who you vote for, or who you support or what your political background is. They just want to sell you a service … right?”

Read more …

 

 

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“It is my great hope someday, to see science and decision makers rediscover what the ancients have always known. Namely that our highest currency is respect.”
– Nassim Nicholas Taleb

 

 

“Strap yourself to a tree with roots.”
– Bob Dylan

 

 

This So Real

 

 

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Feb 012021
 
 February 1, 2021  Posted by at 10:21 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  30 Responses »


Balthus Therèse dreaming 1938

 

The Store of Value Generation is Kicking Your Ass (Mark Cuban)
Is Robinhood On The Brink Of Collapse? (GIH)
Silver Prices, Miners Surge As Retail Buyers Pile In (R.)
To The Brink And Back On GameStop (R.)
Melvin Capital Loses 53% In January Over Bet Against GameStop (RT)
Bill Gates, Big Pharma and Entrenching The Vaccine Apartheid (M&G)
France & Germany Threaten AstraZeneca With Legal Action (RT)
GOP Tries To Gut Survival Checks (DP)
Trump Announces New Lawyers To Lead Impeachment Defense Team (JTN)
ExxonMobil and Chevron Held Merger Talks In 2020 (G.)
China Building Digital Silk Road From Asia Through Africa To Europe (RT)
Vitamin B1 Deficiencies Are Plaguing Fish and Birds (Atl.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Wall Street and the agency that governs it, the SEC have become fat and happy. Fat and Happy makes old school slow and resistant to change.”

The Store of Value Generation is Kicking Your Ass (Mark Cuban)

[..] there are a growing number of investors and traders who think that the digital goods and CryptoAsset marketplaces are better than old school physical markets and the stock market and most of them are young. They love the fact that NO ONE has power over them. That there is no central authority and they get the results of their own efforts without some government agency or big company fucking with them. Every negative , consequential financial moment in their collective lives has been the result of some massive entity getting greedy and fucking things up for them. On the flipside, they have also been watching some of their peers gain wealth with Crypto and Digital Assets, most starting with not much capital.

Those peers have also been very vocal about the lack of interference by Old Schoolers with Crpto and Digital Assests and much of those gains have come from all of them doing the same thing, buying and Holding On for Dear Life. They have learned that with digital assets, acting in unison can bring wealth to those who otherwise would not have access to it. That is power and they know it and they are learning how to use it. So what does this have to do with Wall Street Bets (WSB) and $GME and the other stocks they are trading ? Well, it’s pretty obvious that the WSB traders are applying the same principles of the digital/CryptoAsset world to the stock market and they are loving the fact that the old schoolers are hating it.

They know that Wall Street hasn’t changed much in generations. Sure it has gone digital in many respects, but the way the game has been played has not changed. Wall Street is 100pct top down controlled and regulated. Which stock is next in the S&P 500 ? Which is removed ? No one knows, but it is provocative and can change fortunes for investors. SEC decides to use their own in-house Administrative Law Judges and prevent defendants from having their constitutional right to a jury trial ? Yup. You can’t afford to fight them. Tough shit. Big brokerages get to have calls and put out notes to their millions of clients with price targets in hopes of moving markets, but think its wrong for Sub Reddits to do the same ? Yup. The ultimate in stock manipulations, corporate stock buy backs were illegal prior to 1982, till the SEC put a former Broker CEO in charge. Wanna guess what has happened to CEO compensation since then ?

Wall Street and the agency that governs it, the SEC have become fat and happy. Fat and Happy makes old school slow and resistant to change. Very resistant. And obviously very unaware of the change that is happening around them.

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What hat does Robinhood have on?

“For equity brokers who clear their orders properly, there is no reason to limit $GME purchases to one. There is no reason to limit withdrawals..”

Is Robinhood On The Brink Of Collapse? (GIH)

The question remains – is Robinhood running a b-book. For those who are not familiar with OTC brokerage, a b-book is where the losers trade. When you open an account, you get flagged either as a winner or a loser, if you are on the A-Server then your trades flow through to the market, this is known in OTC as “Straight Through Processing” minus a small fee, or the “A-Book.” The “B-Book” or “Broker Book” or “Bad Book” depending on who you ask, is where your trades are placed directly against the broker itself – like spread betting. In this case, the customer losses become the brokers profits, and the reverse. This typically works well for brokers as most retail traders lose. But is Robinhood running a b-book? The answer is we don’t know and would not know, because a b-book broker would never disclose it.

According to public data, this may be a complex convoluted b-book. Citadel not only pays Robinhood for order flow data, Citadel Securities also clears orders for Robinhood. Not only that, Robinhood gets 35% of it’s revenue from Citadel: According to a June report from the Financial Times, $39 million of Robinhood’s revenues from equities and options order flow came from Citadel Securities, a market maker sister firm of Citadel. At the time, this represented more than 35% of the trading platform’s revenues. Which looks like the FXCM trick; Robinhood is not operating a b-book. They clear through Citadel Securities, a market maker, who b-books the trades (goes short basically) by not clearing them. In addition to that, Citadel is heavily invested in Melvin Capital, the hedge fund with a massive short position in $GME.

NOTE: It is not possible to short private equity stock. Robinhood is currently a private company, available on private markets. They claim to have plans for an IPO but so did Refco. If Robinhood’s book is as toxic as it seems, there is no way out for the firm other than to drive the prices of these stocks back down, or to simply reverse the positions which never really existed in the first place. They might want to call b-book mastermind Dror “Drew” Niv who was able to mask his b-booking operation by creating an offshore entity who was the sole counterparty of transactions below a certain size. He’s currently chumming it up with his bros in Greenwich, CT since his firm FXCM has been permanently banned by the NFA.

We aren’t saying that Robinhood is a fraud, we are saying that all the signs are there. For equity brokers who clear their orders properly, there is no reason to limit $GME purchases to one. There is no reason to limit withdrawals, or need ‘liquidity’ for net cap requirements. Running a broker-dealer is not so complicated like an OTC desk, orders match up and it’s all exchange traded. Broker dealers don’t take any risk, at least any meaningful risk. Market makers do. This is the question that we should be asking Vladimir – are you acting as an agent or a principal?

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WallStreetBets is now setting prices?

Silver Prices, Miners Surge As Retail Buyers Pile In (R.)

Silver prices leapt to a five-month high on Monday and small silver miners listed in Australia surged after social media calls to buy the metal and emulate the frenzy that has driven GameStop shares up 1,500% in two weeks. Spot silver rose as much as 7.4% to $28.99 an ounce, the highest since mid-August. Shares in a handful of mining firms such as Argent Minerals, Boab Metals and Investigator Resources leapt more than 15%. Coin-selling websites also reported unprecedented demand and flagged delays in delivering bullion. The moves are the latest example of small-time traders buying en masse, particularly of stocks and other assets that were heavily bet against, resulting in large losses for major investors.


“There is this curious situation now where the Reddit crowd has turned its sights on a bigger whale in terms of trying to catalyse something of a short squeeze in the silver market,” said Kyle Rodda, an analyst at brokerage IG Markets in Melbourne. “The most important factor here is that silver is heavily shorted, the paper market is much, much larger than the underlying commodity can justify,” he said. “There’s a lot of commentary on these platforms to pile in to the miners.” Silver prices are up 15% since Wednesday’s close, around when messages began circulating on forums such as Reddit encouraging users to buy the metal and drive up prices.

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“..the idea to short GameStop had long been a favorite at exclusive “idea dinners”, where fund managers swap their best trades.”

To The Brink And Back On GameStop (R.)

The extent of losses has exposed a big weakness on Wall Street. Analytics firm S3 said GameStop short sellers had mark-to-market losses of nearly $20 billion so far this year. Several hedge fund managers said the idea to short GameStop had long been a favorite at exclusive “idea dinners”, where fund managers swap their best trades. Managers also noted traders, many of whom who work at multi-strategy funds that employ pods of portfolio managers, traders and analysts, often know each other well and may compare notes. Gabe Plotkin’s Melvin Capital, one of the funds gored most by GameStop’s gains, took a $2.75 billion bailout from his one-time mentor Steve Cohen and Citadel’s Ken Griffin. The funds involved have taken a dent: Cohen’s Point72 Asset Management lost roughly 15% in January partly because of its investment in Melvin.


Melvin’s assets slid during the month from around $12.5 billion to $8 billion, a source familiar with the situation said. Maplelane Capital, another fund that bet against GameStop, had lost roughly 45% in January, a person familiar with the fund’s returns said. Even Viking Global Investors, one of the world’s best-performing hedge funds, was off some 7%, people familiar with the returns said. “Being short consensus stocks is just bad business,” said Dinakar Singh, a former Goldman Sachs trader who now runs hedge fund Axon Capital and was not short the stock. “It is great while it is working but when it isn’t anymore one guy’s problem triggers everyone’s headache. It becomes a circular disaster.”

Read more …

This is not over.

Melvin Capital Loses 53% In January Over Bet Against GameStop (RT)

Hedge fund Melvin Capital felt the effects of the buying spree spurred by individual buyers from the r/WallStreetBets subreddit account, with the group losing 53 percent in January. Despite the loss, Melvin Capital received fresh cash from investors by the end of January after taking heavy losses due to the unexpected and record stock gains for companies like GameStop, according to a source cited by Reuters. Melvin started January with $12.5 billion in assets, but is closing out the month with $8 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal’s report on the losses. It closed out its short position on GameStop in the wake of the massive surge. Other groups like Citron have also felt the squeeze by betting against GameStop and have closed their short positions with heavy losses.


GameStop became the center of controversy after motivated buyers sought to flood the market and increase its stock price aiming to upset Wall Street hedge funds. Trading at a mere $10 a share in October, GameStop closed out Friday at $325 a share. It has seen a total gain of over 1000 percent this year. Redditors also invested into other surprising companies like AMC leading to a frenzy on Wall Street as longtime investors found themselves trading in a quickly fluctuating and unpredictable market. Traders who bought into GameStop mainly did so through the app Robinhood, which controversially stepped in and halted trading on certain companies and then limited it, claiming this was a move to prevent market manipulation.

Read more …

Rania Khalek: “Too bad there’s so much hatred for bill gates over a conspiracy theory that he wants to micro chip us when actually he’s just a billionaire monster trying to cash in on vaccine profits.”

Bill Gates, Big Pharma and Entrenching The Vaccine Apartheid (M&G)

In October 2020, diplomats from South Africa and India approached the World Trade Organisation (WTO) with a revolutionary proposal. Together, the two countries argued that countries should be allowed to ignore any patents related to Covid-19 vaccines, for the duration of the pandemic. In other words: everyone should be allowed to manufacture the vaccine, without penalty. In their official communication, the countries said: “As new diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines for Covid-19 are developed, there are significant concerns [about] how these will be made available promptly, in sufficient quantities and at affordable prices to meet global demand.” Just a few weeks later, Pfizer and BioNTech announced the first successful phase three trials for a Covid-19 vaccine, followed swiftly by Moderna and AstraZeneca.

In developing countries, jubilation at the prospect of a swift end to the devastating pandemic turned quickly into fear and anger, as it became clear that vaccines would only be made available to the rich, with little thought to equitable distribution. Canada, the worst offender, has pre-ordered so many vaccines that it will be able to vaccinate each of its citizens six times over. In the UK and US, it is four vaccines per person; and two each in the EU and Australia. The vaccines that have been made available to the developing world are either untested — such as the Chinese and Russian vaccines, for which insufficient clinical trial data has been released — or expensive. South Africa has ordered 1.5-million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, but will pay more than double what the EU is paying per dose.

The EU says that it is entitled to a lower price because it invested in the vaccine’s development — nevermind that the AstraZeneca vaccine was literally tested on the bodies of South Africans who volunteered to be part of the clinical trial in Johannesburg. In lower income countries, the situation is even worse. As of 18 January, 39-million vaccine doses had been administered in the world’s 50 richest countries, compared to just 25 individual doses in low-income countries. It appears that South Africa and India were right. Under the current rules, the vaccine cannot be made quickly or cheaply enough to meet global demand, which vaccines are only going to those countries that can afford it. This is a “catastrophic moral failure”, said the head of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Some activists have described the situation as a “vaccine apartheid”. Nonetheless, the proposal for a patent waiver has been repeatedly rejected at the WTO by wealthier countries including the European Union, the United Kingdom, US and Switzerland; countries which, as Reuters wryly noted, are “all home to major pharmaceutical companies”. They also all enjoy early access to the vaccine. Nor has South Africa and India’s proposal received support from the most influential non-state actor in global public health: Bill Gates. The pandemic has been good to Gates. In 2020, the Microsoft cofounder added $18-billion to his fortune, which now stands at a cool $131-billion (the annual GDP of Ethiopia, a country of 112-million people, is $96-billion). He is the fourth-richest person in the world.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has since its inception in 2000 spent more than $54-billion combating diseases such as polio and malaria and bolstering the health systems of developing countries. It funds everything from governments to civil society organisations to health journalism outlets, which means it has an enormous say in how health policy is shaped and communicated. It also contributes 12% of the WHO’s total budget. But despite Gates’ stated commitment to an equitable distribution of the Covid vaccine, he is refusing to back South Africa and India’s calls for a waiver on patents.

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The wrong fight.

France & Germany Threaten AstraZeneca With Legal Action (RT)

Tensions in a row between AstraZeneca and the EU over vaccine shortages have heightened further as Paris and Berlin said the company should face penalties or even legal action if it turns out it preferred Britons to Europeans. “I am not saying that there is a problem but if there is a problem and that [they] have favored other destinations, other countries – for example the UK – over us then we will defend our interests,” France’s Secretary of State for European Affairs Clement Beaune told the French Radio J on Sunday, adding that the company is now facing “serious accusations” and that is not something that Brussels treats “lightly.” The official then said that the British-Swedish vaccine manufacturer could face “penalties or sanctions” if found to have prioritized its British clients over the European ones.


Beaune added that Brussels could punish the company by refusing to order any supplementary doses or imposing penalties “foreseen by the contract.” The EU has struck an advance purchase agreement with AstraZeneca worth €336 million ($407.8 million) but not all of the money has been paid to the company. Beaune admitted that there is an investigation into AstraZeneca that is still ongoing and the Europeans first need “clarity and transparency.” Still, he said, “if there has been a preference granted to the British, then that’s a problem.” A similarly stark rebuke came from Germany, where the Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told Die Welt daily that “if it turns out that individual companies are not complying with their obligations, a decision must be made about legal consequences.”

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Biden promised the $2,000 checks “immediately”. Where are they? Why try and blame this on the GOP instead?

GOP Tries To Gut Survival Checks (DP)

A group of Republican senators is pushing to cut the size of the next round of COVID-19 relief checks and significantly limit who’s eligible to receive the payments, as the Biden administration continues to indicate that it would be open to further restricting who’s eligible for survival checks. Last month, President Joe Biden promised that $2,000 checks would “go out the door immediately” if Democrats managed to win the two Georgia senate runoff races and claim control of the Senate. After Democrats pulled off two miracle victories in Georgia, Biden quickly narrowed his pledge to new $1,400 checks, asserting that the $600 checks authorized by Congress in December were a down payment on his plan.


On Sunday, ten moderate Republicans proposed new $1,000 checks instead as part of their own scaled-down coronavirus relief package. Under their proposal, survival checks would go to far fewer Americans than in previous relief bills — only to “families who need assistance the most,” according to a letter they sent to the White House. While the details haven’t been released yet, one Republican involved in the effort, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, told CNN on Sunday that direct payments should only go to individuals earning less than $50,000 and families earning less than $100,000. In previous COVID relief bills, full rounds of survival checks have gone to individuals earning up to $75,000 and couples earning up to $150,000. Limiting assistance the way Portman described would cut off relief to millions of Americans who have previously received economic impact payments.

Read more …

Like the spotlight?

Trump Announces New Lawyers To Lead Impeachment Defense Team (JTN)

Lawyers David Schoen and Bruce L. Castor Jr. will lead former President Trump’s impeachment trial defense team, according to an announcement on Sunday from the Office of Donald J. Trump. The announcement notes that the two attorneys consider the impeachment unconstitutional and that Schoen had already been working with Trump and other advisors to get ready for the approaching Senate trial. “It is an honor to represent the 45th President, Donald J. Trump, and the United States Constitution,” Schoen said in a statement included in the announcement. “I consider it a privilege to represent the 45th President,” Castor said. “The strength of our Constitution is about to be tested like never before in our history. It is strong and resilient. A document written for the ages, and it will triumph over partisanship yet again, and always.” The House of Representatives voted in favor of impeaching Trump earlier this month during the waning days of his term in office.

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110 years after Standard Oil.

ExxonMobil and Chevron Held Merger Talks In 2020 (G.)

The chief executives of American oil companies ExxonMobil and Chevron held preliminary talks in early 2020 to explore combining the two largest US oil producers in what would have been the biggest merger of all time, according to people familiar with the matter. The discussions, which are no longer ongoing, are being seen as having tested the waters for the huge corporate marriage after the coronavirus pandemic shook the world last year, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday. Such consequential discussions are indicative of the pressure the energy sector’s most dominant companies faced as Covid-19 took hold and crude prices plunged. The talks between Exxon chief executive, Darren Woods, and Chevron CEO, Mike Wirth, were serious enough for legal documents involving certain aspects of the merger discussions to be drafted, one of the sources told Reuters.

[..] The discussions were described as preliminary and although were not ongoing could come back in the future. Such a deal would reunite the two largest descendants of John D Rockefeller’s Standard Oil monopoly, which was broken up by US regulators in 1911, and reshaped the oil industry, the Journal reported. A combined company’s market value could top $350bn, creating the world’s second largest oil company by market capitalization and production, second only to Saudi Arabia’s state oil producer, Aramco. Such a big American oil merger could run into regulatory and antitrust hurdles in the new Biden [presidency], which has taken the US back into the Paris climate accords.

Last week Biden signed new environmental orders, saying the climate crisis was an existential threat demanding urgent remedies and introduced his team, including former secretary of state John Kerry as the new US climate global envoy. During the election campaign last October, Biden said he would push the US to “transition away from the oil industry”.

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Huawei.

China Building Digital Silk Road From Asia Through Africa To Europe (RT)

The final stretch of a cross-border fiber optic cable is set to be laid by China in Pakistan to create the Digital Silk Road (DSR), Nikkei Asia reports. The DSR is part of the broader Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
The fiber cable will link to the Pakistan East Africa Connecting Europe (PEACE) submarine cable in the Arabian Sea, to service countries participating in BRI, and Europe. It is currently being laid between Pakistan’s Rawalpindi city and the port cities of Karachi and Gwadar. The $240-million project, which is in partnership with China’s Huawei Technologies, was approved by the government last week.

The laying of sea cable in Pakistan’s territorial waters will begin in March, following government approval this month for Cybernet, a local internet service provider, to construct an Arabian Sea landing station in Karachi. The Mediterranean section of the cable is already being laid, and runs from Egypt to France. The 15,000 kilometer-long cable is expected to go into service later this year. The PEACE cable will provide the shortest direct internet route between participating countries, and will drastically reduce internet data transfer speeds.

It is expected to help reduce Pakistan’s exposure to internet outages from damaged submarine cables by providing an additional route for internet connectivity. According to Eyck Freymann, author of ‘One Belt One Road: Chinese Power Meets the World,’ the BRI is evolving to place less emphasis on traditional heavy infrastructure, and more on high-tech cooperation and digital services. He told Nikkei Asia that “Beijing wants to dominate the physical infrastructure underlying global communications, particularly the internet,” adding: “This will give it an advantage in internationalizing its tech sector and pursuing future tech-related deals with partner countries.”

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“..some unexplained process is compromising the foundation of the Earth’s food web by depleting ecosystems of this critical nutrient.”

Vitamin B1 Deficiencies Are Plaguing Fish and Birds (Atl.)

Disoriented little fish caught the attention of staff members at the Coleman National Fish Hatchery in Red Bluff, California, in early January 2020. Looking down into the outdoor tanks—called raceways—the facility’s employees noticed that among the dark, olive-colored clouds of live fish, there were occasional slivers of silver from the undersides of tiny fry that were struggling to swim. These small fish would roll onto their sides, sink to the bottom for a moment, spring back upright, swim a few strokes, and then roll over again. Many were dying, too. While a few hundred mortalities daily in a facility containing millions of fish is normal, something was definitely amiss. Daily mortality “was in the thousands, and it didn’t go down,” says Brett Galyean, complex manager at the hatchery.

Galyean and his team had already hatched and released into the raceways between six and seven million fish—about half of Coleman’s annual production—and the prospect of losing many or most of them began to seem very real. Biologists at the California-Nevada Fish Health Center, an on-site lab at the hatchery, which is located on a tributary of the Sacramento River, inspected the fish but couldn’t make a diagnosis. A few samples were sent to the University of California, Davis, for more testing. Around that time, Galyean recalls, other salmon hatcheries in the state began reporting unusually high mortality rates in their fish. Whatever was afflicting Coleman’s salmon was evidently impacting fish across Northern California. Short of better explanations, Galyean and his colleagues grew concerned that a virus was sweeping through their brood.

Grasping for ideas as thousands of fish expired each day, they turned to the internet, where they dug up research on nutritional deficiencies in trout from the Great Lakes, as well as Atlantic salmon on the East Coast. Several decades ago, sick and dying fish in these regions had been found to be deficient in thiamine, or vitamin B1—a basic building block of life, critical to the functioning of cells and in converting food into energy. Encouraged by this finding, biologists at the Fish Health Center ran a trial, submerging about half of the fry in a bath of water and dissolved thiamine powder. It worked like a charm, Galyean says. After several hours, nearly all of the treated fish were behaving normally, while symptoms continued in an untreated control group.

Coleman, as well as the other hatcheries, scaled up the treatment and applied it to more than a million fry. It did the job in the short term, but it didn’t solve the underlying problem. Because the fish acquire thiamine by ingesting it through their food, and females pass nutrients to their eggs, the troubling new condition indicated that something was amiss in the Pacific Ocean—the last place the fish eat before entering fresh water to spawn. Now, California researchers investigating the source of the salmon’s nutritional problems find themselves contributing to an international effort to understand thiamine deficiency, a disorder that seems to be on the rise in marine ecosystems across much of the planet. It’s causing illness and death in birds, fish, invertebrates, and possibly mammals, leading scientists to suspect that some unexplained process is compromising the foundation of the Earth’s food web by depleting ecosystems of this critical nutrient.

Read more …

 

 

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Jan 312021
 
 January 31, 2021  Posted by at 10:23 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  37 Responses »


Tamara de Lempicka The refugees 1937

 

Reddit Preparing To Unleash “World’s Biggest Short Squeeze” In Silver (ZH)
Bitcoin Could Be About To Become The New GameStop (F.)
Just 0.04% Of Israelis Caught COVID19 After 2 Shots Of Pfizer Vaccine (JPost)
‘Get to Zero’ or Face Catastrophe (Tyee)
Germany Threatens Legal Action Over Vaccine Delivery Delays (G.)
Mighty Amazon Looks All But Unassailable As Covid Continues (O.)
Navalny Scam Sells Empty Concrete Shell As ‘Putin’s Luxurious Palace’ (MoA)
Trump’s Top Impeachment Lawyer Has Left His Team (Pol.)
Ohio Lawmakers Want To Mark Trump’s Birthday As ‘Donald J. Trump Day’ (JTN)
The Secret Social Network Of Trees (SMH)

 

 

 

 

Most infections are among the youngest. That doesn’t sound good.

 

 

Long John Silver.

Reddit Preparing To Unleash “World’s Biggest Short Squeeze” In Silver (ZH)

While all eyes have been focused on GameStop and a handful of other heavily-shorted stocks as they exploded higher under continuous fire from WallStreetBets traders igniting a short-squeeze coinciding with a gamma-squeeze, the last few days saw another asset suddenly get in the crosshairs of the ‘Reddit-Raiders’ – Silver. On Thursday, we asked “Is The Reddit Rebellion About To Descend On The Precious Metals Market?” … One WallStreetBets user (jjalj30) posted the following last night: “Silver Bullion Market is one of the most manipulated on earth. Any short squeeze in silver paper shorts would be EPIC. We know billion banks are manipulating gold and silver to cover real inflation. Both the industrial case and monetary case, debt printing has never been more favorable for the No. 1 inflation hedge Silver.

Inflation adjusted Silver should be at 1000$ instead of 25$. Link to post removed by mods. Why not squeeze $SLV to real physical price. Think about the Gainz. If you don’t care about the gains, think about the banks like JP MORGAN you’d be destroying along the way. Tldr- Corner the market. GV thinks its possible to squeeze $SLV, FUCK AFTER SEEING $AG AND $GME EVEN I THINK WE CAN DO IT. BUY $SLV GO ALL IN TH GAINZ WILL BE UNLIMITED. DEMAND PHYSICAL IF YOU CAN. FUCK THE BANKS. Disclaimer: This is not Financial advice. I am not a financial services professional. This is my personal opinion and speculation as an uneducated and uninformed person.”

…and judging by the unprecedented flows into the Silver ETF (SLV) they just got started… SLV saw inflows of almost one billion dollars on Friday, almost double the previous record inflow for this 15 year-old ETF.

 

 

Rainman Sacks
https://twitter.com/i/status/1355368285592715265

Read more …

There are more candidates.

Bitcoin Could Be About To Become The New GameStop (F.)

Bitcoin has surged this week, climbing after Tesla TSLA -5% chief executive Elon Musk gave the cryptocurrency a tacit endorsement. Musk sent the bitcoin price sharply higher as a long-running battle between bullish retail traders organised via Reddit’s WallStreetBets forum and Wall Street hedge funds that have long been shorting GameStop shares reached its climax—with regulators and brokerages trying to calm frantic markets with heavy-handed restrictions. Now, data has revealed hedge funds are short bitcoin to the tune of more than $1 billion, even as retail traders pile into bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Hedge funds have been increasing their bitcoin short positions—effectively bets that the price of an asset will fall—since the bitcoin price began climbing in October, data from crypto news and analysis company The Block showed.

The net short position in bitcoin futures is now the biggest it has ever been, according to the CFTC’s latest Traders in Financial Futures report. The bitcoin price has soared around 200% since October, surging to over $40,000 per bitcoin before falling back slightly. The blistering bitcoin rally has largely been put down to institutional investors warming to the cryptocurrency and payments giants such as PayPal adding their support—though bubble fears have emerged. As hedge funds increasingly bet against the bitcoin price, to some extent covering their long positions, retail traders empowered by apps and bored by lockdowns are speculating on bitcoin and everything else.

“Being stuck at home due to pandemic lockdowns and restrictions seems to have spurred an influx of day traders,” Frédérique Carrier, head of investment strategy at RBC Wealth Management, wrote in a note. “Investor attitudes are being shaped by the headline-making gains of some high-profile issues. For example, the 35% gain made by bitcoin in the first nine days of 2021, on the heels of a fivefold surge in price from March to December 2020; or the more-than-sixfold increase in GameStop shares in less than two weeks to January 26; or even Tesla, now the fifth-largest stock in the S&P 500 by market capitalisation, with a market cap larger than that of the major U.S., European, and Japanese automakers combined.”

Read more …

Encouraging, but too early to draw conclusions.

Just 0.04% Of Israelis Caught COVID19 After 2 Shots Of Pfizer Vaccine (JPost)

A total of 371 out of 715,425 Israelis who passed at least a week after receiving two doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine have contracted the virus – 0.04%, with 16 being sent to the hospital – according to a Health Ministry report released on Thursday. Immunity to COVID-19 is supposed to kick in a week after receiving the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. According to the studies conducted by Pfizer, the vaccine had an efficacy of about 95%, which is considered very high. The Israeli data appear to confirm the inoculation’s effectiveness, showing an even more promising result.

Later in the day, Maccabi Healthcare Services – one of the country’s four health maintenance organizations – released the first results of the vaccination campaign of its members, with the organization also comparing the data to a control group that did not get inoculated. Some 248,000 Maccabi members were already a week after the second shot as of Thursday. Of those, just 66 got infected with the virus, the majority of them over the age of 55 and about half of them with preexisting conditions. All those infected experienced only a mild form of the disease, and none were hospitalized.

Over the same period of time, some 8,250 new cases of COVID-19 emerged in the control group of some 900,000 people having a diverse health profile. Those who were not inoculated were therefore 11 times more likely to get the disease than those who were immunized, showing 92% effectiveness. “The fact that seven to 18 days after receiving the second dose the vaccine shows a 92% efficacy is very encouraging data,” according to Dr. Anat Aka Zohar, head of Maccabi’s Information and Digital Health Division. “We will continue to monitor the situation to see if the number increases and reaches the 95% demonstrated during the Pfizer study.”

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“We pretended we could live with this virus and that vaccines would save the day. We were wrong. Dead wrong.”

‘Get to Zero’ or Face Catastrophe (Tyee)

Are you tired of COVID? I fucking am. But as a longtime science writer and the author of two books on pandemics, I have to report what you probably don’t want to hear. We have entered the grimmest phase of this pandemic. And contrary to what our politicians say, there is only one way to deal with a rapidly mutating virus that demonstrates the real power of exponential growth: Go hard. Act early. And go to zero. Last January, one strain of this novel virus began its assured global conquest, and since then our leaders have hardly learned a goddamn thing. So yes, I am angry, and I will not disguise my frustration with comfortable or polite language. In the last three months, several super-variants have emerged that are 30 to 70 per cent more infectious than the original Wuhan strain.

The old COVID-19 doubled its numbers every 40 days under a particular set of restrictions; under the same conditions, the variants double every 10 days. That means they can outrun any vaccination campaign.* That means if you haven’t eliminated — or almost eliminated — cases in your region, you are going to learn the meaning of grief. These highly-contagious variants have emerged in jurisdictions with high infection rates: the U.K., Brazil, South Africa and California. They became global tourists months ago, before you read about them. Meanwhile, governments still do not understand the threat at hand. To illustrate it, British mathematician Adam Kucharski recently compared a virus mutation that was 50 per cent more deadly with one that increased transmission by 50 per cent.

With a reproduction rate of about 1.1 and a death rate of 0.8 per cent, current strains of COVID-19 now deliver 129 deaths per 10,000 infections. A virus that is 50 per cent more lethal will kill 193 people in a month. A variant that is more transmissible wins the game with 978 deaths in just one month. The virus is finding its optimal configuration, its ideal form for contagiousness. And you thought this was over? Now don’t think of these variants as the same old COVID-19. That’s a big mistake. They actually represent an entirely new pandemic. In this new maelstrom, this complex coronavirus is just getting warmed up. It has the potential to become even more infectious than the current variants. We allowed this to happen by not taking the measures needed to go to zero, doing whatever was needed to eliminate COVID-19 in our province or country. We pretended we could live with this virus and that vaccines would save the day. We were wrong. Dead wrong.

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This feels like the wrong fight.

Germany Threatens Legal Action Over Vaccine Delivery Delays (G.)

In case you missed this earlier: Germany’s government on Sunday threatened legal action against laboratories failing to deliver coronavirus vaccines to the European Union on schedule, amid tension over delays to deliveries from AstraZeneca, AFP reports.“If it turns out that companies have not respected their obligations, we will have to decide the legal consequences,” economy minister Peter Altmaier told German daily Die Welt. There has been growing tension in recent weeks between European leaders and the British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, which has fallen behind on promised delivers of its Covid-19 vaccine.The company said it could now deliver only a quarter of the doses originally promised to the bloc for the first quarter of the year because of problems at one of its European factories.


Brussels has implicitly accused AstraZeneca of giving preferential treatment to Britain at the expense of the EU.The EU briefly threatened to restrict vaccine exports to Northern Ireland by overriding part of the Brexit deal with Britain that allowed the free flow of goods over the Irish border. It backed down after British prime minister Boris Johnson voiced “grave concerns”. AstraZeneca is not the only drugs company in the firing line. Last week Italy threatened legal action against US pharmaceutical firm Pfizer over delays. Top German officials are due to meet with the drugs manufacturers to thrash out the problems.On Friday the European Medicines Agency cleared the vaccine produced by AstraZeneca for use inside the EU, the third Covid vaccine it has approved after Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

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There goes small business.

Mighty Amazon Looks All But Unassailable As Covid Continues (O.)

The earliest references to the “one-stop shop” emerged during the first decades of 20th century as the fast-growing US economy spurred rapid retail innovation. A single location for various products provides obvious benefits: removing the hassle of travelling around town to visit different stores. Jeff Bezos redefined that logic for the internet age, making Amazon a dominant (and perhaps ambivalent) force first in selling books, and then in pretty much everything else. Before 2020 Amazon was a phenomenon, but the coronavirus pandemic has made it all but ubiquitous. The numbers in its financial results for the last three months of 2020, to be published on Tuesday, will be even bigger than Amazon’s earlier instalments in the first pandemic year.


Christmas and Thanksgiving always make the final quarter of the year the strongest for Amazon. Christmas 2020 will mainly be remembered for locked-down celebrations, but analysts predict that it will also mark the first time Amazon’s revenue surpasses $100bn in one quarter. In fact, consensus estimates collated by S&P Global Market Intelligence are forecasting sales of about $120bn – 37% up on the same period in 2019. Profits before tax are pegged at $4.4bn – shy of the record $6.8bn it made in the three months to September, but higher than any single quarter before the pandemic. It was only in 2016 that single-quarter profits topped $1bn, but that’s because the Bezos strategy is to invest spare cash in relentless, ruthless expansion and innovation, so that rivals cannot creep up on it.

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The story has been sold since 2010. CIA.

Navalny Scam Sells Empty Concrete Shell As ‘Putin’s Luxurious Palace’ (MoA)

In 2010 some minor Russian businessman, Sergei Kolesnikov, who had pissed off people above his pay grade, resettled from Russia to Estonia. To make himself interesting, and likely to get financial support, he made up a story. David Ignatius, the CIA’s resident writer at the Washington Post, picked it up: You can see the sprawling, Italian-style palace on the Black Sea in satellite photos. There’s a fitness spa, a hideaway “tea house,” a concert amphitheater and a pad for three helicopters. It’s still under construction, but already the cost is said to total more than $1 billion. And most amazing of all, according to a Russian whistleblower named Sergey Kolesnikov, it was predominantly paid for with money donated by Russian businessmen for the use of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

The funds have come “mainly through a combination of corruption, bribery and theft,” charges Kolesnikov, a businessman who until November 2009 worked for one of the companies he alleges was investing money for Putin. In 2012 BBC Newsnight again picked up the story and made it into a nine minutes long anti-Putin segment. Putin’s Palace? A Mystery Black Sea Mansion Fit For A Tsar “On a thickly wooded mountainside overlooking Russia’s Black Sea coast, an extraordinary building has gradually taken shape. It is alleged to be a palace built for the personal use of Vladimir Putin, with massive and illegal use of state funds. Originally conceived, it is said, as a modest holiday house with a swimming pool, it now boasts a magnificent columned facade reminiscent of the country palaces Russian tsars built in the 18th Century. The massive wrought-iron gates into the courtyard are topped with a golden imperial eagle. Outside are formal gardens, a private theatre, a landing pad with bays for three helicopters, and accommodation for security guards.”

At the end of 2020 the ‘Putin’s palace’ story was recycled to promote the rightwing Russian nationalist and anti-corruption campaigner Alexey Navalny. Navalny was at that time in Germany’s Black Forrest area where he recovered from an alleged poisoning. A studio was needed to produce a video about the ‘palace’. A German producer couple who had recently opened a TV-studio received a request. As the German daily Badische Zeitung reported (my translation): “Early December a request arrived via email from a U.S. production company in Los Angeles. There was talk of a documentation. It was looking for adequate locations, people and equipment in southern Germany. The German producers did not know the company, even though they have good contacts in L.A., but the request made a very professional impression.

The studio was rented to create the ‘palace’ material for the Navalny campaign. “The studio was actually only rented for just under a week, but the filmmakers liked the location with its atmosphere and the cinematic possibilities so much that the shooting was extended to a total of two weeks and parts of the 20-person international crew from Berlin, where actually a last shoot was planned before the flight to Moscow came to Kirchzarten.” On January 17 Navalny flew back to Russia and was immediately arrested for having violated his probation in a case where he had been sentenced for funneling a company’s money into his own pockets. On January 19 Navalny’s anti-corruption campaign FBK uploaded a two hour long polemic in which Navalny repeats the decade old claim that there is a palace at the Black Sea that is actually owned by Putin. But none of the many documents he provides proves that Putin is in any way involved in the project.

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Trump and his lawyers. A sordid tale all around.

Trump’s Top Impeachment Lawyer Has Left His Team (Pol.)

Former President Donald Trump has lost his top impeachment lawyer just days before his trial is to begin, a person familiar with his legal strategy and two attorneys close to the team confirmed on Saturday night. Butch Bowers, a South Carolina lawyer who was reportedly set to play a major role in the Senate’s trial of the former president, is now no longer with the team. Deborah Barbier, another South Carolina lawyer, won’t be either. The person described it as a “mutual decision” and said new names will be announced shortly. In addition, CNN reported on Saturday night that a third member of Trump’s prospective legal team, Josh Howard, was also leaving. The network reported that the ex-president had wanted his lawyers to focus on erroneous arguments of mass election fraud rather than the constitutionality of impeaching an ex-president.

The decision by Bowers, Barbier, and Howard to not join the team raised immediate questions, both about what compelled them to part ways and who actually will play the role of lawyer to Trump when the impeachment trial starts in early February. Trump has had difficulty finding legal help for his second impeachment, with some of the lawyers who worked on his first trial saying they wouldn’t do the same this go around. Bowers’ hiring was first announced by Trump ally and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham. A longtime Republican attorney, Bowers represented former South Carolina Govs. Mark Sanford and Nikki Haley, and had experience in election law.

News outlets in South Carolina also named trial attorneys Greg Harris and Johnny Gasser as part of Trump’s impeachment team, although aides to Trump never officially confirmed who would be representing the former president. Trump’s first legal filing in the impeachment trial is due this coming Tuesday. In a statement, Trump spokesperson Jason Miller did not address the uncertainty around the legal team but, rather, railed against impeachment itself, noting that the vast majority of Senate Republicans voted that convicting a former president is an unconstitutional act — a conclusion with which legal scholars disagree.

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What do you mean Not The Onion?

Ohio Lawmakers Want To Mark Trump’s Birthday As ‘Donald J. Trump Day’ (JTN)

Two Ohio lawmakers are reportedly seeking support from their fellow legislators to mark former President Donald Trump’s birthday in that state as “President Donald J. Trump Day.” State Reps. Reggie Stoltzfus and Jon Cross reached out to lawmakers in the Ohio House on Friday, asking them to “recognize the accomplishments of [Trump’s] administration, and [show] that the Ohio House believes it is imperative we set aside a day to celebrate one of the greatest presidents in American history.” The lawmakers are seeking to designate June 14, Trump’s birthday, as the holiday in question. The news was first reported in the Ohio Capitol Journal, which said it obtained the co-sponsor request sent by Stoltzfus and Cross. In addition to being Trump’s birthday, the United States also marks June 14 as Flag Day, commemorating the date in 1777 on which the Continental Congress officially adopted the flag of the United States.

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Wonderful.

The Secret Social Network Of Trees (SMH)

By the time she was in grad school at Oregon State University, however, Simard understood that commercial clear-cutting had largely superseded the sustainable logging practices of the past. Loggers were replacing diverse forests with homogeneous plantations, evenly spaced in upturned soil stripped of most underbrush. Without any competitors, the thinking went, the newly planted trees would thrive. Instead, they were frequently more vulnerable to disease and climatic stress than trees in old-growth forests. In particular, Simard noticed that up to 10 per cent of newly planted Douglas fir were likely to get sick and die whenever nearby aspen, paper birch and cottonwood were removed. The reasons were unclear.

The planted saplings had plenty of space, and they received more light and water than trees in old, dense forests. So why were they so frail? Simard suspected the answer was buried in the soil. Underground, trees and fungi form partnerships known as mycorrhizae: threadlike fungi envelop and fuse with tree roots, helping them extract water and nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen in exchange for some of the carbon-rich sugars the trees make through photosynthesis. Research had demonstrated that mycorrhizae also connected plants to one another and that these associations might be ecologically important, but most scientists had studied them in greenhouses and laboratories, not in the wild.

For her doctoral thesis, Simard decided to investigate fungal links between Douglas fir and paper birch in the forests of British Columbia. Apart from her supervisor, she didn’t receive much encouragement from her mostly male peers. “The old foresters were like, “Why don t you just study growth and yield? ” Simard told me. “I was more interested in how these plants interact. They thought it was all very girlie.” Now a professor of forest ecology at the University of British Columbia, Simard, who is 60, has studied webs of root and fungi in the Arctic, temperate and coastal forests of North America for nearly three decades. Her initial inklings about the importance of mycorrhizal networks were prescient, inspiring whole new lines of research that ultimately overturned long-standing misconceptions about forest ecosystems.

By analysing the DNA in root tips and tracing the movement of molecules through underground conduits, Simard has discovered that fungal threads link nearly every tree in a forest – even trees of different species. Carbon, water, nutrients, alarm signals and hormones can pass from tree to tree through these subterranean circuits. Resources tend to flow from the oldest and biggest trees to the youngest and smallest. Chemical alarm signals generated by one tree prepare nearby trees for danger. Seedlings severed from the forest’s underground lifelines are much more likely to die than their networked counterparts. And if a tree is on the brink of death, it sometimes bequeaths a substantial share of its carbon to its neighbours.

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Jan 302021
 
 January 30, 2021  Posted by at 9:54 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  43 Responses »


Wassily Kandinsky Clear connection 1925

 

GameStop Short Sellers Not Quitting Despite $20 Billion In Losses (CNBC)
GameStop Craziness Pulls Back the Curtain on the Stock Market (Dayen)
Google Deletes 100,000+ One-Star Ratings Of Robinhood App (RT)
The Man Who Isn’t There (Kunstler)
AGs: ‘Principal Political Control’ Of Government Lies With Congress (JTN)
How Biden’s Executive Orders Impact The Oil Industry (Rapier)
Macron: Oxford Vaccine Appears ‘Quasi-Ineffective’ On Elderly Patients (JTN)
Newsom Signs Bill To Extend COVID-19 Eviction Protections Through June (LAT)
Facebook’s Oversight Board Is Taking Public Comments On Trump’s Ban (F.)
Jon Stewart Joins Twitter To Defend Reddit GameStop Traders (NYP)

 

 

 

 

 

 

$20 billion or $70 billion?

Anyway, they can’t quit, because not nearly enough shares are available to cover their shorts. For now, they’re stuck.

GameStop Short Sellers Not Quitting Despite $20 Billion In Losses (CNBC)

The astronomical rally in GameStop has imposed huge losses of nearly $20 billion for short sellers this month, but they are not budging. Short-selling hedge funds have suffered a mark-to-market loss of $19.75 billion year to date in the brick-and-mortar video game retailer, including a nearly $8 billion loss on Friday as the stock kept ripping higher, according to data from S3 Partners. Still, short sellers mostly are holding onto their bearish positions or they are being replaced by new hedge funds willing to bet against the stock. GameStop shares that have been borrowed and sold short have declined by just about 5 million over the last week, marking an 8% dip in the short interest, according to S3. Most of the short covering occurred on Thursday, when the stock fell for the first time in six days.

“I keep hearing that ‘most of the GME shorts have covered’ — totally untrue,” said Ihor Dusaniwsky, S3 managing director of predictive analytics. “In actuality the data shows that total net shares shorted hasn’t moved all that much.” “While the ‘value shorts’ that were in GME earlier have been squeezed, most of the borrowed shares that were returned on the back of the buy to covers were shorted by new momentum shorts in the name,” Dusaniwsky added in an email. Shares of GameStop, along with other heavily shorted stocks, spiked once again Friday, after Robinhood said it was resuming limited trading of previously restricted securities. The gain pushed GameStop’s rally this week to over 400% and this month to more than 1,600%. The video game stock has been the star of the show on the WallStreetBets Reddit forum, whose membership has grown rapidly to over 5 million.

A wave of day traders continued to encourage each other to pile into GameStop’s shares and call options, creating a massive short squeeze that inflicted pain for hedge funds betting against the stock. The borrow fee on GameStop’s stock — or the cost-to-borrow shares for the purpose of selling them short — jumped to 29.32% on existing shorts and 50% on new short positions, S3 said. “If most of the shorts had covered, we would not be seeing stock borrow rates at these high levels — by now you would be able to borrow GME stock at single digit levels due to an increase in the lendable stock loan supply due to borrowed shares being returned after all the ‘supposed’ buy-to-covers,” Dusaniwsky said. GameStop remained the most-shorted name in the market as short interest as a percentage of shares available for trading stands at 113.31%, S3 said.

Bianco GameStop

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It would be nice if this led to some kind of reform, but it’s been a very lucrative racket for a long time.

GameStop Craziness Pulls Back the Curtain on the Stock Market (Dayen)

This is, and there’s no other way to put it, hilarious. A bunch of people trading stocks on their phones have brought some of the lords of finance to their knees. They weren’t using some amazing or novel strategy: The run-up in GameStop is just the “pump” of a pump-and-dump scheme, where hype pulls people into a stock before the rug gets pulled out. In fact, that’s what hedge fund managers do all the time, making bets and using research to puff up a stock, then taking the profits off moving a stock, through force of will—theirs—rather than the inherent value of the company. The only real difference here is that ordinary investors are driving the train, and the hedge fund guys are getting run over.

The hedge funders are mad because distorting corporate stock prices beyond the fundamentals is supposed to be their thing, not the work of the hoi polloi. Now, they’ve been outfoxed. If you can think of a better use of $600 stimulus checks, let me know. Never was there a more apt name for an app in this moment than “Robinhood.” Now, this will not stay hilarious forever; we still have the “dump” part of the pump-and-dump scheme to reach. And there appears to be a lot of institutional money front-running the whole thing, capitalizing on the populist story line to take their winnings. But that’s why this can also be a teachable moment, and a moment to fully re-regulate this entire casino.

The idea that the stock market value represents a snapshot of a company’s true worth or expected future profits was always a little cockeyed, and now it’s just been revealed as absurd. Financial-market rigging was always discreetly lurking in the background of stock tickers, like the one that flashes across CNBC, and now it’s been screamingly placed into the foreground. The same dopamine rush that fuels sports betting and online poker has moved into retail market trading, but it was always there at the level of big money. These markets were always reckless and disconnected from reality.

I’m certain that institutional investors will use this as a moment to demand regulation to stop the Robinhood frenzy. But that’s a slippery slope, as there’s not much difference between what the Robinhooders are doing and the normal course of Wall Street looting. Maybe all of that should be investigated. Maybe financial transaction taxes should be applied to encourage limits on trading, and pump-and-dumps strongly restricted. Maybe the real economy should be nurtured with public investment, and these private, more corrupt markets subject to root-and-branch overhaul. (It’s also funny to see the hedge fund guys super-mad that a stock is going up.)

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And Apple too. WTF?

Google Deletes 100,000+ One-Star Ratings Of Robinhood App (RT)

Google has come to the rescue of the stock-trading app Robinhood, deleting negative reviews flooding the company after it had blocked the purchase of stock in companies like GameStop, AMC, and others. After Robinhood controversially stepped in and made the “risk management decision” to block the purchasing of stocks being made unusually popular thanks to the r/WallStreetBets subreddit, its app on Google Play was inundated with reviews from unsatisfied customers. The app’s near-perfect rating stumbled to just one star on Thursday after over 100,000 reviews came in. Google has now deleted enough of those reviews, however, that the app’s rating has jumped to over four stars (out of five).


Google admitted to actively deleting the reviews, as they violate a policy the company has on reviews that are published specifically to manipulate a company’s overall rating. On Apple’s App Store, Robinhood holds a near-perfect five-star rating, though there are numerous one-star reviews from Thursday when the app made the controversial decision to delist certain stocks for individual traders, a move that has drawn the ire of everyone from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York).

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Now you see him, now you don’t.

The Man Who Isn’t There (Kunstler)

The New York Times, mouthpiece of Wokery, is working triple overtime to sell the narrative of white supremacists on the loose. Anyone to the right of Woke is now an enemy of the state. Last time I looked, it was Antifa and BLM tearing up the streets, setting federal courthouses and police stations on fire, looting stores, destroying businesses, and injuring policemen — in the case of Portland, OR, and Seattle, WA, all summer long. Democrats somehow omitted to label them as any kind of threat to the public interest. Vice-president Kamala Harris (then-senator), led a campaign to raise bail money for Antifas and BLMs arrested during last year’s riots. Woke District Attorney’s dropped charges against hundreds of them. Governors and mayors sat on their hands. There were no consequences for any of that.

If anything, the political right-wing of the USA has shown miraculous self-restraint through four years of FBI / DOJ / CIA sedition, tech company tyranny, impeachment chicanery, and the rage-fueled calumnies of Pelosi and Company, all aggravated by questionable Covid-19 lockdowns, and climaxing in a fraud-inflected election that has not had been subject to any adequate judicial audit.

How much of the current artificial hysteria these first weeks of the “Biden” regime is designed to divert attention from the question of who is actually running Joe Biden? My guess would be Barack Obama via Susan Rice, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council and formerly Mr. Obama’s National Security Advisor. I would suppose that Ms. Rice is on the phone with Mr. Obama bright and early every morning, and for more than casual conversation. She is surely plugged into the rest of the Obama network, too, in effect a shadow government, which may explain the seeming flimsiness of the crew assembled around Joe Biden. Seems to work for now. But how many weeks will go by before the whole country realizes that Mr. Biden is not actually functioning as president?

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“[A] president is not a Prime Minister or a King..”

AGs: ‘Principal Political Control’ Of Government Lies With Congress (JTN)

Half a dozen state attorneys general wrote in a letter to President Joe Biden this week that the president’s role in the U.S. is “limited” by the Constitution, and that the primary political power of the national government lies in Congress, not the executive office. The letter, signed by the attorneys general of Texas, Mississippi, West Virginia, Arkansas, Montana and Indiana, sought to stress the “limited presidential power” the office of the presidency enjoys within the American framework of government. “Under the Constitution, the principal political control of our government is entrusted not to the President, but to the carefully constructed Congress which serves as both sail and anchor of the federal ship of state,” they wrote.


“Congress writes the laws and the President and his officers are limited under the Constitution to the role of faithfully carrying them out.” Noting that the divided structure of the U.S. government “makes it quite difficult to enact significant legislation,” the attorneys general wrote that “it is just as important to respect the absence of legislation as its passage.” “[A] president is not a Prime Minister or a King and must respect that his constitutional office is a limited Chief Executive not the supreme authority of the state,” they wrote, arguing further that “overreaching and defying Congress will not be rewarded or succeed.”

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Not.

How Biden’s Executive Orders Impact The Oil Industry (Rapier)

On his second day in office, President Biden signed Executive Order on Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis. The biggest takeaway from the Executive Order was the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline permit. The project had been rejected by President Obama in late 2015, fast-tracked by President Trump in 2017, and now once more rejected by President Biden in 2021. But there is no mention of fracking in this executive order. Last week the administration also issued Secretarial Order No. 3395, which implemented a 60-day suspension of new oil and gas leasing and drilling permits for federal land and water.

This week President Biden followed that action up with Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad. The biggest takeaway from this order was an indefinite “pause on new oil and natural gas leases on public lands” until a comprehensive review on the climate change impacts can be completed. The sound bite for many from this executive order was that President Biden had banned fracking as a consequence of this action. But as with the previous order, fracking isn’t mentioned in this executive order. Further, if an operator has an existing lease and permit but haven’t drilled yet, they can still drill the well and frack it.

The order does potentially impact some future fracking operations, but Biden did reiterate before he signed it “Let me be clear, and I know this always comes up, we’re not going to ban fracking.” But what Biden can’t do by executive order is an overall ban on fracking, because most fracking takes place on private land. A complete ban would have to be passed by Congress, and that looks like a longshot. [..] I spoke with Stacey Morris, who is Director of Research for midstream index and data provider Alerian. She explained that the orders were certainly not as bad as they seemed:

“These executive orders were pretty well-telegraphed. They were even a little bit softened from what was said during the campaign. The language on the Biden website discussed banning permitting on federal land. The executive order is a pause on new leases. They aren’t looking at a full out fracking ban.” When I asked how companies might be affected, she explained “Companies have been stockpiling permits in anticipation of a move like this. Right now there are 7,700 unused permits. For example, Devon Energy has over four years of permit backlog and drilling inventory.

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More of that vaccine mess.

Macron: Oxford Vaccine Appears ‘Quasi-Ineffective’ On Elderly Patients (JTN)

French President Emmanuel Macron claimed on Friday that the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine appears to have little effect on elderly patients, though a major European medical authority said the data in that regard was too limited to yet make an ultimate determination. Macron told reporters that AstraZeneca’s vaccine “doesn’t work the way we were expecting it to,” and that the injection appears “quasi-ineffective on people older than 65, some say those 60 years or older.” Macron noted that France was still waiting on data from the European Union’s European Medicines Agency to guide its vaccination policy; the EMA later in the day deemed the vaccine safe for all adults.


“There are not yet enough results in older participants (over 55 years old) to provide a figure for how well the vaccine will work in this group,” the EMA said in a statement. “However, protection is expected, given that an immune response is seen in this age group and based on experience with other vaccines.”

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As long as you pay 25% of your rent, you’re fine. Do we call this deflation?

Newsom Signs Bill To Extend COVID-19 Eviction Protections Through June (LAT)

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday signed an emergency bill that will extend through June eviction protections for Californians suffering financial hardship because of the COVID-19 pandemic, acting just days before an earlier moratorium was set to expire. Newsom’s action on the legislation followed the measure’s approval Thursday by the state Legislature and was aimed at heading off what many state officials warned would be mass evictions and a surge in homelessness as Californians struggle with lost income during the pandemic. The measure prevents landlords from evicting tenants who pay at least 25% of their rent through June and attest that they face financial hardship because of COVID-19 and its effect on the economy.

The bill also provides $2.6 billion in federal funds for rent subsidies that will help pay most past-due rent by low-income tenants dating back to last April. “The issue of evictions, the issue of this moment, the economic anxiety that so many people are struggling and suffering through, is the issue, and we have not lost sight of that,” Newsom said during a livestreamed bill-signing ceremony, adding that the law he signed is “protecting millions and millions of people, tenants as well as landlords, and addressing their anxiety head-on.” [..] About 90,000 California households are behind on their rent by a collective total of $400 million, according to an estimate last week by the independent Legislative Analyst’s Office, although other estimates have been much higher.

Under the new bill and the measure approved last year, tenants cannot be evicted as long as they pay 25% of their rent. The measure was submitted as a budget bill, which allowed it to be approved with a majority vote. A regular bill requires a two-thirds vote to take effect immediately. Under the bill, tenants can qualify for the protections if they pay 25% of their rent each month or in a lump-sum payment by June 30, and attest that they face a financial hardship because of the pandemic. Unpaid rent converts to debt that landlords can pursue through the courts, but it can’t be used to seek an eviction.

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Facebook oversees itself.

Facebook’s Oversight Board Is Taking Public Comments On Trump’s Ban (F.)

Facebook’s Oversight Board, an independent panel of experts established to review contentious cases, is accepting public comment on whether Facebook was correct in banning former president Donald Trump, allowing the public-at-large to directly weigh in on a Facebook decision relating to Trump for the first time. Facebook banned Trump indefinitely earlier this month following the riot at the Capitol, citing two posts during the attack: A video where he told rioters he “loved” them and that the election was “stolen from us” as well as a post where he said, “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots.”

Though Facebook believes it was right in banning Trump, the company referred the case to the oversight board last week, which will determine whether Trump’s ban will remain permanent because Facebook has to abide by the board’s decisions. The board says the public comment process is meant for “subject matter experts and interested groups” to share relevant research and information that may help, though anyone can submit a comment. The public has 10 days to submit comments [..] “We believe our decision was necessary and right,” Facebook Vice President Nick Clegg said in a statement last week. “Given its significance, we think it is important for the board to review it and reach an independent judgment on whether it should be upheld.”

Facebook’s Oversight Board was established in 2019 in response to widespread criticism of the social network’s moderation policies. The 20-person panel includes academics and other experts, such as the former prime minister of Denmark, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, and Director of Stanford University’s Constitutional Law Center Michael McConnell. The board says their mission is to “support people’s right to free expression” by upholding or reversing Facebook’s content decisions. In its first set of rulings released this week, the board found that Facebook mistakenly took down posts in five out of six cases.

Tulsi Huckabee
https://twitter.com/i/status/1355123535333609481

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He has a brother who’s a big shot on Wall Street.

Jon Stewart Joins Twitter To Defend Reddit GameStop Traders (NYP)

Jon Stewart was prompted to join Twitter on Thursday to defend the renegade Reddit traders who turned Wall Street upside down this week. The former “Daily Show” host hit back at critics of the rogue day traders who used WallStreetBets to send GameStop’s stock skyrocketing in defiance of large hedge funds shorting the business. “This is bull—t. The Redditors aren’t cheating, they’re joining a party Wall Street insiders have been enjoying for years,” Stewart tweeted. “Don’t shut them down…maybe sue them for copyright infringement instead!!” He added: “We’ve learned nothing from 2008.”


The comedian signed his first tweet “StewBeef.” His account @jon_actual quickly became verified and was granted a blue check. “The Late Show” host Stephen Colbert responded to Stewart with: “Well, one thing changed since 2008- a friend of mine joined Twitter.” In a follow-up tweet a few hours later, Stewart, 58, thanked fellow users for the warm welcome to the social media platform. “I promise to only use this app in a sporadic and ineffective manner,” he joked.

Read more …

 

 

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Jan 292021
 


Gustave Courbet The wave 1870

 

Suck It, Wall Street (Matt Taibbi)
GameStop Soars 75% After-Hours After Robinhood Lifts Trading Ban (ZH)
Janet Yellen Received $810K In Speaking Fees From Hedge Fund (DC)
Losses On Short Positions In US Firms Top $70 Billion (R.)
AMC Entertainment Explores New Capital Raise Amid Stock Surge (MSN)
GameStop: Intentionally Dying (Chris Arnade)
D.C. Bar Yet To Disbar Ex-FBI attorney Clinesmith (JTN)
Novavax Vaccine Only 50% Effective Against South African COVID Strain (ZH)
Biden Stops Trump Order To Slash Price Of Insulin, EpiPen (DW)
Democrats Introduce Senate Bill To Make D.C. The 51st State (Turley)
Wall Street To Require Traders Wear A Top Hat And Monocle (BBee)

 

 

The craziest thing about the ongoing Robinhood and WallStreetBets saga must be that the former was selling their clients’ positions in GameStop without permission. That’s even worse than halting trading. It’s like your bank selling your home because that pleases them for some reason. Bet a lot of people never knew that Robinhood was just a division of Citadel. Well, they know now.

Also pretty crazy is Janet Yellen receiving $800,000 in “speaking fees” from Citadel but refusing to recuse herself from the case. That could mean Biden needs to find a replacement, fast. Because her ethics agreement appears quite clear on the matter. Then again, she’s gobbled up so many of these fees from so many financial companies that she would be a lame duck Treasury Secretary if the ethics were actually applied and enforced. To be continued.

 

 

 

 

 

Greenwald GameStop

 

 

Politicians are getting involved, and not only to defend Wall Street.

 

 

Tucker Portnoy

 

 

 

 

“In case this was lost on folks, yesterday’s Total Volume on the Nasdaq eclipsed the previous daily record…by 50%!!”

 

 

 

 

“They are like looters after a hurricane,” seethed Andrew Cuomo, then-Attorney General of New York State, who “promised to intensify investigations into short selling abuses.”

Suck It, Wall Street (Matt Taibbi)

In the fall of 2008, America’s wealthiest companies were in a pickle. Short-selling hedge funds, smelling blood as the global economy cratered, loaded up with bets against finance stocks, pouring downward pressure on teetering, hyper-leveraged firms like Morgan Stanley and Citigroup. The free-market purists at the banks begged the government to stop the music, and when the S.E.C. complied with a ban on financial short sales, conventional wisdom let out a cheer. “This will absolutely make a difference,” economist Peter Cardillo told CNN. “Now, if there is any good news, shorts will have to cover.” At the time, poor beleaguered banks were victims, while hedge funds betting them down as the economy circled the drain were seen as antisocial monsters.

“They are like looters after a hurricane,” seethed Andrew Cuomo, then-Attorney General of New York State, who “promised to intensify investigations into short selling abuses.” Senator John McCain, in the home stretch of his eventual landslide loss to Barack Obama, added that S.E.C. chairman Christopher Cox had “betrayed the public’s trust” by allowing “speculators and hedge funds” to “turn our markets into a casino.” Fast forward thirteen years. The day-trading followers of a two-million-subscriber Reddit forum called “wallstreetbets” somewhat randomly decide to keep short-sellers from laying waste to a brick-and-mortar retail video game company called GameStop, betting it up in defiance of the Street. Worth just $6 four months ago, the stock went from $18.36 on the afternoon of the Capitol riot, to $43.03 on the 21st two weeks later, to $147.98 this past Tuesday the 26th, to an incredible $347.51 at the close of the next day, January 27th.

The rally sent crushing losses at short-selling hedge funds like Melvin Capital, which was forced to close out its position at a cost of nearly $3 billion. Just like 2008, down-bettors got smashed, only this time, there were no quotes from economists celebrating the “good news” that shorts had to cover. Instead, polite society was united in its horror at the spectacle of amateur gamblers doing to hotshot finance professionals what those market pros routinely do to everyone else.

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Yossi Gestetner on Twitter: “Shorting more stocks than what is available likely means that brokerages double lent shares that they hold. Big chance is @RobinhoodApp did it and could not provide shares for Hedgies who wanted to close their shorts. Hence RH stopped everyone from buying shares. RH needed it!”

GameStop Soars 75% After-Hours After Robinhood Lifts Trading Ban (ZH)

Gamestop shares began to trade higher after Robinhood folded on its earlier trading ban. The move accelerated after-hours and GME is now up 75%, having erased all the day’s losses… The rally appeared to gain ground as Robinhood CEO appeared on CNBC… “In order to protect the firm and protect our customers we had to limit buying in these stocks,” Tenev told CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin Thursday evening. “Robinhood is a brokerage firm, we have lots of financial requirements. We have SEC net capital requirements and clearing house deposits. So that’s money that we have to deposit at various clearing houses. Some of these requirements fluctuate quite a bit based on volatility in the market and they can be substantial in the current environment where there’s a lot of volatility and a lot of concentrated activity in these names that have been going viral on social media,” said Tenev.

Tenev also awkwardly denied there was any existing liquidity issue at the firm and said Robinhood had tapped credit lines as a proactive measure. “We want to put ourselves in a position to allow our customers to be as unrestricted as possible in accordance with the requirements and the regulations,” said Tenev. “So we pulled those credit lines so that we could maximize within reason the funds we have to deposit at the clearinghouses.”

Summary of today’s trading chaos:

GME Stock Rallies After-Hours, Erases Day’s Losses.

Protesters At NYSE & Robinhood HQ; Angry At Discount Brokerage.

Robinhood Draws Down On Credit Lines With Banks.

Citadel Securities Denies It Influenced Robhinhood In Restricting Stock Trading In GME.

Robinhood Releases Statement Saying Stock Trading In GME Restarts Friday.

Robinhood Users Complain Their GME Positions Are Being Sold Without Notice.

Elon Musk Agreed With Congresswoman AOC For Investigation In Robinhood Banning Users From Trading GME.

Barstool’s David Portnoy Starts Twitter Spat With Citadel Point72’s Steve Cohen.

User Sues Robinhood In Southern District of New York For “Removing GME From Platform.”

AOC Livid With Robinhood’s Decision To Place Trade Restrictions On Users; Calls It “Unacceptable.”

Robinhood Confirms Users Having Issues With “Equities, Options, And Crypto” Trading.

Interactive Brokers Put AMC, BB, EXPR, GME, and KOSS Option Trading Into liquidation.

Robinhood Restricts Trading In AMC, BB, BBBY, EXPR, GME, KOSS, NAKD & NOK.

TD Ameritrade Placed GME, AMC On Trade Restrictions.

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“Janet Yellen accepted $810,000 in speaking fees from Citadel, owner of Robinhood.
Reporter: Are there any plans to recuse herself from advising the President on GameStop and Robinhood situation?
Psaki: ‘No and she’s an expert and deserves that money.’”

Janet Yellen Received $810K In Speaking Fees From Hedge Fund (DC)

Treasury Sec. Janet Yellen received more than $800,000 in speaking fees from a hedge fund that has become embroiled in the saga over stock trades for video game retailer GameStop, according to her financial disclosures. Citadel, a hedge fund founded by Ken Griffin, a major GOP donor, paid Yellen $810,000 to speak at several events from October 2019 to October 2020, according to Yellen’s filings with the Office of Government Ethics. The Chicago-based hedge fund paid Yellen $292,500 for a speech on Oct. 17, 2019, $180,000 for one on Dec. 3, 2019, and $337,500 to speak at a series of webinars held from Oct. 9-27, 2020.


Citadel is invested heavily in Melvin Capital, a hedge fund that was reportedly on the brink of bankruptcy this week due to a surge in GameStop share prices. Reddit users on a page called “wallstreetbets” encouraged purchases of GameStop shares in order to exploit Melvin Capital’s short position on the company. A buying spree from retail investors forced Melvin to cover its short position by buying shares of GameStop at elevated prices. Citadel and another firm, 72Point, invested $2.75 billion in Melvin this week after it lost 30% of its capital, according to The Wall Street Journal. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday that Yellen, who was confirmed by the Senate on Monday, is “monitoring the situation.”

Tucker Yellen
https://twitter.com/i/status/1354980441778843650

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A lot of money even for a hedge fund.

Losses On Short Positions In US Firms Top $70 Billion (R.)

Short-sellers are sitting on estimated losses of $70.87 billion from their short positions in U.S. companies so far this year, data from financial data analytics firm Ortex showed on Thursday. The hefty losses come as shares of highly-shorted GameStop jumped more than 1,000% in the past week without a clear business reason, forcing short-sellers to buy back into the stock to cover potential losses — defined as a short-squeeze — while retail investors then piled in to benefit from the surge. Chasing shorted companies became a trend among retail traders, rippling across U.S. markets and Europe.


Ortex data showed that as of Wednesday, there were loss-making short positions on more than 5,000 U.S. firms. Its data also showed that estimated losses from shorting GameStop at $1.03 billion year-to-date, while those shorting Bed, Bath & Beyond were looking at a $600 million loss. Ortex said the figures are based on the change in trading prices between the start of January to Wednesday’s close, and the number of short positions. The company sources short interest data from submissions by agent lenders, prime brokers, and broker-dealers.

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AMC cashes in on WallStreetBets.

AMC Entertainment Explores New Capital Raise Amid Stock Surge (MSN)

AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc is exploring raising more capital, including through yet another possible stock sale, to weather the COVID-19 pandemic and take advantage of this week’s rally in its shares, people familiar with the matter said on Thursday. The world’s largest movie theater chain, with about 1,000 cinemas worldwide, suffered unprecedented turmoil after the pandemic last year forced it to temporarily close many venues while attendance dropped at those that remained open. AMC staved off bankruptcy through a debt restructuring deal last summer with its creditors and private equity firm Silver Lake, and a series of other financial transactions in recent months.

AMC said on Monday it had raised $917 million since mid-December through equity and debt issues. “This means that any talk of an imminent bankruptcy for AMC is completely off the table,” Chief Executive Adam Aron said in a statement accompanying disclosure of the additional funds. On Wednesday, AMC said it raised an additional $304.8 million by selling shares this week, cashing in on an unprecedented social media-driven rally powered by amateur traders taking on hedge funds that had shorted its shares. On Thursday, it said Silver Lake and other creditors decided to convert debt holdings to equity in a transaction expected to reduce AMC’s obligations by $600 million.

AMC is considering attempting to raise even more money to capitalize further on the frenzy in its shares, the sources said. While its shares dropped about 57% on Thursday, erasing most of the week’s gains, they are still up more than 300% since the beginning of January. AMC said on Monday its “financial runway has been extended deep into 2021.” Still, it could use proceeds from a new capital raise to further trim its $5.5 billion debt pile as of the end of September, according to the sources.

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“The dog caught the car. The losers got to level twelve of a game nobody, including themselves, thought they would get past level four of.”

GameStop: Intentionally Dying (Chris Arnade)

At the very, very top of our meritocracy is a big game called Wall Street, that the smartest and cleverest get to play, and get paid big bucks for it. They get to choose their character: Trader, Salesperson, Broker, or Lawyer. The traders get to choose their weapon: Stocks, Bonds, Mortgages, Derivatives. Then they are off, navigating different levels, slaying this and that company, currency, or country. Below that is that vast landscape of losers who spend their days building roads, growing food, flipping hamburgers, teaching kids, building small businesses, landscaping yards, and their nights shooting hoops, or reading books, or caring for kids, or going to church. Or, God forbid, playing XBOX or PS4. Those are the worst. A lot of those losers, of every variety but especially the people who play video games, also spend a lot of time on Reddit, or Discord, or Twitch, live-streaming, shitposting, and just having fun.

When they were doing this, some of them noticed that Wall Street was also just a game, and a very profitable one. Sure, it was a little different than Zelda, or Grand Theft Auto, or Demon Souls, but it was a game nonetheless. So they started dipping their toes in and learning this pretty cool and serious game. Then they started telling their friends about it, who told their friends and so on and so on. Some made a little money here and there, others got run over, but hey, it was just another game. Cool. Of course they were the outsiders, the losers, the clowns fucking around for shits and giggles. They understood that. They knew nobody treated them seriously. Hell, they had been called lazy losers all their lives. Might as well embrace that. So they proudly named themselves “Degenerates” and “Autistic Retards.”

Own the stigma, because you ain’t gonna ever shake it or lose it no matter how hard you try. They dabbled here and there, got a little better at it, and soon attracted a few serious players with serious money into their fold. Wall Street players, slumming it, who saw a community of misfits they could lead, teach, or scam, depending on their ethics. So it went, and their numbers and ability grew, and then this summer some of the cleverest Wall Street players, who specialized in making big bets on companies failing, came after GameStop, something they had personal views on. That perked up their interest. Making it even cooler, some legitimately skilled Wall Street players who had joined their island of misfit toys pointed out that GameStop was a good buy, not a good sell, and convinced some of the degenerates to join them.

Also, this mob of shitposters and neophytes was really learning the Wall Street game, and they noticed a flaw and weakness in it. The big players going after GameStop had left themselves exposed. Really exposed. So they did what any gamer does. They attacked by buying GameStop, and hyped and hyped it until everyone smelled blood and joined the attack, and bought GameStop. It worked. Kind of, and unexpectedly. GameStop, which was trading at $5 or so this summer is, as of this writing, trading at $300, give or take $150. A head-turning move even by Wall Street standards. The dog caught the car. The losers got to level twelve of a game nobody, including themselves, thought they would get past level four of.

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Because many others might then follow?

D.C. Bar Yet To Disbar Ex-FBI attorney Clinesmith (JTN)

Former FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith will be sentenced Friday for illegally altering a document that was used to authorize the agency’s effort to wiretap former Trump 2016 campaign adviser Carter Page. However, Clinesmith remains in good standing with the District of Columbia’s bar association, which has not begun an investigation into whether the group should strip him of his license to practice law, according to a new report. The D.C. bar as of Thursday still lists Clinesmith as an attorney in “good standing,” despite his pleading guilty nearly six months ago for altering the document. Clinesmith’s guilty plea was reported to the bar, and in September, the National Legal and Policy Center filed a complaint with the group.


“The only appropriate sanction for committing a serious felony that also interfered with the proper administration of justice and constituted misrepresentation, fraud and moral turpitude is disbarment. Anything less would minimize the seriousness of the misconduct,” reads the complaint. Clinesmith was formerly licensed to practice in Michigan, where he attended law school, in addition to the district. The State Bar of Michigan automatically suspended the 38-year-old’s license in mid-August, when the court accepted his guilty plea. The suspension will remain in effect until a review panel determines the ultimate fate of his license.

Read more …

The vaccine mess is growing fast.

Novavax Vaccine Only 50% Effective Against South African COVID Strain (ZH)

The latest COVID-19 vaccine news is unequivocally disappointing. Novavax, one of six US companies that received hundreds of millions of dollars upfront from the US government to develop a COVIID-19 vaccine, has just released preliminary data from its Phase 3 trials. The data showed the vaccine was 89.3% effective in the UK branch of the trial.Vaccine trials were held in nearly half a dozen countries, but in the UK, 62 people (out of roughly 15K) came down with COVID-19 symptoms after receiving either the vaccine or a placebo. Of these, six had received the vaccine, while 56 had gotten the placebo. Yet, in a separate, middle-stage study in South Africa, the trial data suggested the vaccine was much less effective. In South Africa, the Novavax shot was about 49.4% effective against Covid-19 in the study.

Preliminary results showed that more than 90% of the sick subjects for whom sequencing data were available were infected with the new variant circulating in South Africa. The news comes at an inopportune time: A few hours ago, the CDC revealed that the first two confirmed cases of the hyper-infectious South African COVID mutation had been confirmed in South Carolina. In a separate Novavax trial held in South Africa, the efficacy was significantly lower. In a small trial the rate of protection was just 50%. Almost all the cases that scientists have analyzed there so far were caused by the mutated strain, known as B.1.351.

What’s even more disturbing: The data also showed that many trial participants were infected with the variant even after they had already had COVID-19. Novavax tried to put a bright spin on the results. “We have the first trial — we are the first to conduct an efficacy trial — in the face of a changing virus,” said Stanley Erck, the president and chief executive of Novavax. He said that researchers expected the variants could change the trial results, but “the amount of change has been a bit of a surprise to everyone.”

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Probably nothing.

Biden Stops Trump Order To Slash Price Of Insulin, EpiPen (DW)

President Joe Biden’s United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Thursday stopped executive orders from his predecessor designed to significantly lower prescription drug prices for Americans, including insulin and epinephrine. The new administration will apparently re-evaluate the executive action from President Donald Trump toward the end of March. It remains unclear if it will be reinstated. “The HHS Thursday froze the former Trump administration’s December drug policy that requires community health centers to pass on all their insulin and epinephrine discount savings to patients,” Bloomberg Law reported Thursday. “Centers that don’t pass on the savings wouldn’t qualify for federal grants.”

“This freeze is part of the Biden administration’s large-scale effort announced this week that will scrutinize the Trump administration’s health policies,” the report noted. “If the previous administration’s policies raise ‘fact, law, or policy’ concerns, the Biden HHS will delay them and consult with the Office of Management and Budget about other actions.” A report for Bloomberg Government said the Biden administration is on a “different page” about curbing drug prices than the Trump administration, noting of the Biden team awaiting “at least a dozen lawsuits … over Trump-era moves to lower drug prices”: “Biden enters the presidency with at least a dozen lawsuits waiting over Trump-era moves to lower drug prices, an issue the new administration will likely tackle in its own way.

“The Department of Health and Human Services under Biden inherits challenges to rules that tie drug reimbursement to cheaper foreign drug prices and allow medication imports from Canada. It also faces complaints over Trump’s push for drugmakers to ship discounted drugs bought by low-income health centers to commercial contract pharmacies.” Trump signed four executive orders in July that directed the secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to “[e]nd a shadowy system of kickbacks by middlemen that lurks behind the high out-of-pocket costs many Americans face at the pharmacy counter,” the department announced at the time, noting that they would provide Americans more options on purchasing the drugs.

During the signing ceremony, Trump said the high price of insulin and EpiPens have cut off low-income people in “desperate” need of the treatments. “The four orders I’m signing today will be on the prescription drug market in terms of pricing and everything else to make these medications affordable and accessible for all Americans,” said Trump, surrounded by health care professionals. “The first order will require federal community health centers to pass the giant discounts they received from drug companies on insulin and EpiPens directly to their patients. You know insulin became so expensive people weren’t able to use it. They desperately needed it.”

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Shouldn’t adding states require a two-thirds majority?

Democrats Introduce Senate Bill To Make D.C. The 51st State (Turley)

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and other Democratic senators are introducing a bill for D.C. statehood today, a proposal with heavy opposition in the public in continuing polls. Indeed, the bill was one of the reasons that members and advocates demanded the killing of the filibuster rule to force through the change in status based on a bare majority. If successful, it would give the Democrats two more senators in a city-state that will expected to remain reliably blue. I have testified repeatedly on this issue. There are strong arguments for changing the status of the District and statehood is a viable option. It would clearly be constitutional unlike past proposals. The question is whether it is the best option for the country. Roughly 20 years ago, I proposed a “modified retrocession plan” that would be an alternative if the Congress wanted full voting rights for citizens of the District.


The proposal would make create the first city-state in our history with a population of 700,000. However, half of the country opposes the idea. A new Harris/Hill poll shows fifty-two percent of respondents said they favored statehood while 48 percent said they opposed it. That is heavy opposition for such a statehood change. [..] The debate over D.C. statehood is a complex issue with historical, constitutional, and legal dimensions. It is also an issue with important and unresolved racial issues of a black-majority city without direct representation in Congress. I have previously voiced my view that such lack of representation for the District is unacceptable and untenable in our country.

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And giant bags of money.

Wall Street To Require Traders Wear A Top Hat And Monocle (BBee)

Stock exchanges on Wall Street, together with brokerages and the SEC, have instituted new rules to stop the wrong people from winning in the stock market. In particular, there is a new dress code for those looking to trade stocks. To protect against market volatility, the SEC has banned from trading anyone who doesn’t dress up like the Monopoly Man and carry around giant bags of cash. This rule is enforceable whether you are trading in person or online, with apps requiring you to send a picture of yourself holding bags and bags of cash or gold bars to prove you’re rich enough to trade. “We are making this change to keep the poors out,” said an SEC spokesperson. “There were too many smelly poor people trading stocks, when the stock market was always intended just to help the rich people make more money. Now that the big investors started losing, we are changing the rules of the game. Don’t make us flip the game board over — we’re warning you!”

Read more …

 

 

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The end of a meme?

 

 

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