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Award-winning journalist Barrett Brown was re-arrested and taken into custody Thursday, the day before he was scheduled to be interviewed for a PBS documentary.
Brown quickly became a symbol of the attack on press freedom after he was arrested in 2012 for reporting he did on the hacked emails of intelligence-contracting firms. Brown wrote about hacked emails that showed the firm Stratfor spying on activists on behalf of corporations. Brown also helped uncover a proposal by intelligence contractors to hack and smear WikiLeaks defenders and progressive activists.
Faced with the possibility of 100 years in prison, Brown pleaded guilty in 2014 to two charges related to obstruction of justice and threatening an FBI agent, and was sentenced to five years and 3 months. In 2016, Brown won a National Magazine Award for his scathing and often hilarious columns in The Intercept, which focused on his life in prison. He was released in November.
Jay Leiderman, Brown’s lawyer, told The Intercept Brown was arrested Thursday during a check-in. According to his mother, Brown had not missed a check-in or failed a drug test since he was released to a halfway house in November. Neither his mother nor lawyer has been informed where he is being held.
According to his mother, who spoke with Brown by phone after his arrest, Brown believes the reason for his re-arrest was a failure to obtain “permission” to give interviews to media organizations. Several weeks ago, Brown was told by his check-in officer that he needed to fill out permission forms before giving interviews.
Since his release, Brown has given numerous interviews, on camera and by phone. But according to his mother, Brown said that the Bureau of Prisons never informed him about a paperwork requirement. When he followed up with his check-in officer, he was given a different form: a liability form for media entering prisons.
US media reports this week blamed North Korea for having a dastardly role in an alleged chemical weapons massacre in Syria. As if the two countries could not be demonized enough. The latest spin of the “axis of evil” suggests Washington is hell-bent on war.
Demonize, dehumanize, destroy. That’s the logic being throttled by the Trump administration toward both North Korea and Syria. This week war hawk US Senator Lyndsey Graham after a dinner with President Trump referred to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as a “nutjob,” while Trump earlier labeled Syrian leader Bashar Assad an “animal.”
Now the two “evil dictators” are bonded in US media reports for complicity in the alleged chemical weapons attack earlier this month in Syria’s Idlib Province, where it is claimed Assad’s armed forces dropped toxic munitions on civilians, killing up to 80.
The supplier of the alleged chemical weapons in Syria is the “Kim Jong-un regime” in North Korea, according to US reports.
USA Today claimed: “The horrors of the civil war in Syria have proved a blessing for North Korea. The regime of Kim Jong-un has made a killing from selling arms and ammunition to the regime of fellow dictator, Bashar Assad.” It goes on to cite claims that a “key supplier” of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal is the northeast Asian nation.
Another publication, Defense One, headlined: “Syria’s war has been a goldmine for North Korea.”
Both outlets rely heavily on one source, Professor Bruce Bechtol, from Angelo State University, Texas, who is described as a “North Korea expert.”
Bechtol is quoted as saying: “I would be stunned, I would be surprised if the nerve agent used by the Assad regime on April 4 in Khan Sheikhoun [Idlib Province] was not supplied by North Korea.”
In other words, this so-called “expert” doesn’t really know. Professor Bechtol is making a conjecture. Reference to his past research on the subject of North Korea-Syria military links, in 2015, make sweeping assertions about how the two nations have collaborated on developing chemical weapons.
Tellingly, the US “academic” makes a prominent citation of the CIA and other intelligence agencies in his assessment of North Korea and Syria’s military connections.
Trivago NV gained in the extended session Thursday after the online hotel booking site raised its outlook for the year following the earnings release of majority shareholder Expedia Inc. . U.S. shares of Düsseldorf, Germany-based Trivago rose 3.8% to $15.80 after hours. "Given our strong start to the year, we have increased our full-year guidance and now expect annual revenue growth to be around 50% in 2017," said Trivago Chief Financial Officer Axel Hefer in a statement. Trivago reports quarterly results on May 15. Expedia shares slipped 2% after hours as the online travel company's earnings missed Wall Street estimates by a penny.
Market Pulse Stories are Rapid-fire, short news bursts on stocks and markets as they move. Visit MarketWatch.com for more information on this news.
Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) on Thursday, US Pacific Commander Admiral Harry Harris Jr. refused to take an American invasion of North Korea off the table, as Pyongyang has already “provided provocation” to justify such an invasion, the District Sentinel reported.
In an exchange charitably describable as awkward, Harris was asked by South Carolina Republican and SASC member Lindsey Graham, "Is it fair to say, we do not have any intention of invading North Korea at all? Nobody has told you get ready to invade North Korea."
"That is not fair to say, sir," Harris answered, probably not the reply Graham was hoping for. "I believe the president has said that all options are on the table."
Harris: "I don't want to get into what we could or couldn't do."
"Well North Korea thinks we're going to invade at any moment. Do you think that's part of our national security strategy – without provocation to attack North Korea?" Graham asked.
"I think North Korea has provided provocation already," Harris said.
Graham then addressed the North Koreans directly: "In case North Korea's listening, none of us want to invade your country … All this military force going that way is to deter them from being able to protect us and protect our allies. We're trying to deter them from hurting us, we're not sending a bunch of people over there to invade their country without provocation."
Today, the White House is convening a rare briefing for 100 senators on North Korea with Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is planning to chair a special meeting at the UN Security Council on North Korea this Friday.
NORTH Korea has appealed to Southeast Asian countries for support in its row with the United States to prevent what it warned could be a “nuclear holocaust”.
In a letter to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ secretary-general, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho warned the situation on the Korean Peninsula was “reaching the brink of war” because of Washington’s actions.
He urged the ASEAN chief to inform the 10-nation organisation’s foreign ministers “about the grave situation” on the peninsula “and give them a proper proposal”, while criticising at length US-South Korean military exercises.
Ri’s letter appeared to be a highly unusual move. A Southeast Asian diplomat said that, as far as he could recall, it was the first time North Korea had written a letter seeking ASEAN’s help on the issue.
It comes after Pyongyang’s diplomatic ties with ASEAN member Malaysia were seriously damaged with the assassination in Kuala Lumpur in February of Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Last September we were among the first to note that Hillary's "Oh Shit Guy" (a.k.a Paul Combetta), who was responsible for wiping her private server clean with BleachBit despite acknowledging he was aware of a Congressional subpoena demanding the preservation of all records, was looking like he would be the 'fall guy' to take the blame for Hillary's various federal crimes.
For those of you who "do not recall" all of the specifics of Platte River's involvement in the Hillary email scandal, here are a couple of refresher posts:
Well, as it turns out, Combetta was one of the Clinton aides offered an immunity deal by Comey which the "FBI was handing out like candy."
That said, Platte River Networks' CEO Treve Suazo was not offered such a deal and, after obstructing an investigation led by Rep. Lamar Smith (R - TX) of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee for the better part of year, he has just been referred to the DOJ for prosecution. Per The Washington Free Beacon:
Rep. Lamar Smith (R., Texas), chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, has asked the DOJ to prosecute Platte River Networks CEO Treve Suazo for obstructing a congressional investigation into his company’s role in providing security for Clinton’s home brewed email server, which began the subject of widespread debate following revelations that it had multiple security vulnerabilities.
Senior congressional aides apprised of the situation said their investigation shows there is mounting evidence there were "pretty serious cyber security concerns" with Clinton’s server.
Multiple subpoenas and letters from the congressional investigation team went unanswered by Platte River, prompting Smith to refer the case to the DOJ for criminal prosecution. Congressional investigators allege that the company is guilty of failing to produce key documents, making false statements to Congress, and of obstructing the investigation into Clinton’s server.
At least two subpoenas issued by the committee were not answered by Platte River.
As one committee aide noted, "This is atypical. There were absolutely zero negotiations, there was no willingness on their part to discuss whether any information they would provide would satisfy the committee's request. It was just the company, with council, refusing to discuss the matter."
Seems that maybe not everyone can just wipe their problems clean, "like with a cloth", the way Hillary can.
I have come to the conclusion that capitalism is successful primarily because it can impose the majority of the costs associated with its economic activities on outside parties and on the environment. In other words, capitalists make profits because their costs are externalized and born by others. In the US, society and the environment have to pick up the tab produced by capitalist activity.
Last night Sean Hannity opened his program railing against “liberal fascism” and attempts on the left to silence every single conservative pro-Trump voice. Tonight he doubled down by going after “media fascism” (a phrase that prominently appeared in his over-the-shoulder graphic).
Groups from across the political spectrum (from Bikers-for-Trump to Antifa) gathered in various spots across Berkeley this afternoon to protest/discuss the now-canceled Ann Coulter event. While events are peaceful for now, two antifa protesters have been arrested and 100s of police are on the scene.
As The Daily Cal reports, many community groups who had planned on protesting at Coulter’s appearance Thursday decided to continue their demonstrations, even though the event was canceled.
Raphael Kadaris, a member of Refuse Fascism, addressed onlookers at Sproul Plaza with a megaphone. “Anyone who cares about free speech should be worried there’s a fascist regime in the White House,” Kadaris said.
Some conservative groups also gathered to protest the cancellation of Coulter’s event. Lauren Southern, a conservative activist and writer, said she might read Coulter’s speech about 2 p.m. “I am here to defend free speech,” Southern said, “Show Antifa it is not their land, and violence will not be tolerated.”
Individuals entering Sproul Plaza may be subject to search for weapons, banners and explosive devices, according to a sign posted on a pillar outside of the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union and UCPD Nixle alert released about 1:52 p.m. The alert declared Sproul Plaza an “event area” and advising the community that the area would have limited access.
Ann Coulter said Wednesday that she was forced to cancel her April 27 speaking event at the University of California, Berkeley amid concerns of violence but might still "swing by to say hello" to all her supporters.
"I'm not speaking. But I'm going to be near there, so I might swing by to say hello to my supporters who have flown in from all around the country," Coulter said in an email. "I thought I might stroll around the graveyard of the First Amendment."
* * *
Heavy police presence...
— NBC Bay Area (@nbcbayarea) April 27, 2017
Antifa are here...
And Bikers for Trump...
— Navy??????????Brat (@RavenHUWolf) April 27, 2017
And arrests have begun - police asking a protester to remove his mask...
— Sarah Ravani (@SarRavani) April 27, 2017
Having returned 5.9% in Q1, or just shy of the overall market's 6.1% return, it was not surprising to find the mood in Dan Loeb's just released Third Point letter to be far more uplifting than in the recently posted David Einhorn letter (whose punchline was "The Longs Say Stocks Can Only Go Up, Seemingly To Infinity And Beyond. We Have Seen This Before").
Looking back at the quarter, the Third Point head said that "during the First Quarter of 2017, volatility declined and most markets rose in anticipation of global reflation. Third Point generated returns across credit and equity strategies and most sectors through successful security selection and portfolio repositioning."
Again, contrary to Einhorn, Loeb says that he expects the "favorable environment for our investing style to continue for three reasons":
1) Corporate activity should pick up as President Trump’s tax plans are detailed and enacted;
2) Opportunities for activist and constructivist investing are robust; and
3) Combining security selection with a reasonable interpretation of the macro continues to be critical.
Loeb also notes that while we recognize that we are in the late stages of an economic cycle, "experience has taught us not to miss the end of an expansive period. This is especially true following Trump’s election. Animal spirits matter in markets and despite the obstacles that the new administration will face in passing legislation, the overall pro-business environment is in sharp contrast to the last “you didn’t build it” administration’s attitude towards business, enterprise, and free markets."
In other words, unlike many other hedge fund managers, Loeb does not believe that the Trumphoria is over, and is trading accordingly.
Or maybe not: as Loeb also says, "we have been more focused on improving global growth than on the “Trump trade”. The Goldman Sachs global GDP forecast for 2017 is +4.2% vs. +2% a year ago. We are seeing more opportunities in Europe because of strong and improving economic data, a trend that will likely continue now that the French elections have passed without incident. Although S&P earnings were flat over the past three years, we are expecting earnings growth to drive gains and cyclical names to get a tailwind from US policy shifts this year."
To be sure, Loeb highlights several risks, and writes that "while we think legislative failure on tax reform could be negative in the back half of this year, we are encouraged that BAT seems to be off the table."
Some other risk factors listed:
There is a risk of inflation catching the Fed flat-footed, but we see this surfacing later in 2018 or 2019, if at all. Recent dampening of data in the US, particularly in consumer spending, has raised a red flag and we will know more when we see Q1 GDP. Chinese nominal GDP growth has potentially peaked, but the main event there will be the change of government this fall and so we expect a muted status quo until then."
Loeb writes that if and when the "modest selloff comes", he will BTFD with both hands: "We have actively positioned our portfolio to absorb modest S&P sell-offs in order to remain aggressive buyers at appealing prices."
What we found most interesting in the entire letter, however, is just how liquid Loeb's portfolio is, to wit: "we were able to temporarily reduce over 20% of our equity exposure in advance of the French election at a relatively inexpensive cost of about 20 basis points." Few other hedge funds can put trades on and off so quickly and so cheaply. The reason is because "we continue to maintain the bulk of our exposure in equities, including in several new initiatives where we believe the environment is ripe to take actions to remedy poor performance."
Next, for anyone wondering why Honeywell is spiking afterhours, the reason is that Third Point has just disclosed a stake in the company. It also took stakes in Italian bank UniCredit and German utility operator E.On.
Finally, contrary to others, Loeb is not a fan of the conventional frac sand miner thesis, and is instead betting on Tier 2 sand:
Equity Position: FRAC Sand Miners
Is sand the new gold? In early Q1, the combined market capitalization of frac sand miners had reached $11 billion, pricing in an average Enterprise Value per ton of over $300 or over 15x replacement value. An army of consultants, sell-side analysts, and speculators were confidently pointing to the exponential rise in demand for frac sand as rig counts and company budgets turned a corner, drilling activity was on the upswing, and proppant intensity was rising. The frac sand industry’s cheerleaders were certain they could continue to outwit the laws of supply and demand.
Our field work identified an important shift from the use of northern white to abundant in-basin brown sand. In addition to a large and growing number of greenfield projects that are creating new capacity, we uncovered significant overhang that has been sitting on the sidelines and is now being reactivated.
As sand pricing starts to decline in summer or fall at the latest as a consequence of the outsized supply we have seen, we expect many of the publicly-listed frac sand miners to end up with little if any equity value.
His full letter below (link)
TRANSLATION: Washington State Citizens, You're on your own.
Google Inc. Chief Executive Sundar Pichai said Thursday that his company has taken "significant steps" to address advertisements appearing on controversial videos on YouTube, owned by Google-parent Alphabet. YouTube came under fire from brands this March after their advertisements had appeared alongside inappropriate content. Google has drawn upon machine learning and other technical solutions to prevent the issue from happening in the future, Pichai said. The company is still in its early stages of combating the issue, but Pichai said it has "made progress." "Advertisers have clearly noticed all the improvements that we've made," Pichai said, later adding that Google had made "thousands and thousands" of calls to advertisers in the past few weeks. Shares of Alphabet were up 4% late Thursday, following the company's first-quarter earnings beat.
Market Pulse Stories are Rapid-fire, short news bursts on stocks and markets as they move. Visit MarketWatch.com for more information on this news.
Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour is the most popular party for younger British voters, with nearly half of all women under 40 and a third of men in the same age bracket coming out for the socialist, new polling suggests.
At the end of last week, German police arrested a man accused of the recent bombing attack on the coach of the Borussia Dortmund (BVB) football team.
Texas is about to become the second state to outlaw sanctuary cities, jurisdictions that refuse to fully comply with federal enforcement of immigration laws. On Thursday, lawmakers in the Texas House of Representatives gave approval to legislation that would make it a misdemeanor crime for local law enforcement to not cooperate with federal immigration authorities, with penalties of up to $25,500 in fines for local governments and jail time for individual law enforcement officials who maintain sanctuary cities. The legislation would also allow local police officers to inquire about someone's immigration status during routine encounters such as traffic stops. A slightly different version of the bill already passed in the state senate, and Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who has made passing legislation banning sanctuary cities a top priority this legislative session, will likely sign the final measure.
Texas became one of the battlegrounds in the national debate over sanctuary cities when Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez, after taking office earlier this year, instituted a new policy for her department to not fully cooperate with federal immigration authorities. Gov. Abbott cut off funding in retaliation and even threatened to oust the sheriff. In a parallel effort, the Trump administration is also trying to cut off federal funding to jurisdictions that refuse to fully cooperate with federal immigration officials.
Thursday's vote followed an initial 16-hour overnight hearing on the House floor. State Rep. Mary González, a Democrat who was once an undocumented immigrant herself, told her colleagues that she was a victim of sexual assault, and that the proposal would actually make Texas less safe by discouraging immigrants from talking to the police when a crime has been committed. "We aren't exaggerating when we say the people empowered by this piece of the amendment will be criminals," Gonzalez said. "We aren't exaggerating when we say the people who will feel the biggest effects of this are the most vulnerable—the women and children who are victims of rape, sexual assault, human trafficking."
González also beseeched other lawmakers to limit questioning about immigration status to those who were under arrest. "If you ever had any friendship with me, this is the vote that measures that friendship," González pleaded during the hearing.
According to the Texas Observer, hundreds protested in the Capitol rotunda, where their chants opposing the legislation could be heard during the marathon debate. The protest didn't dissuade Republican Rep. Matt Schaefer, who added language to the bill that would allow police to check someone's immigration status during routine "detainments" like traffic stops. "This was about making sure that our law enforcement officers can continue to do what they have a duty to do, which is to make sure that we're safe," he said. "That means using every reasonable tool available under the law to inquire about criminal activity."
State Rep. Ana Hernandez, a Democrat who was also undocumented as a child, fought back tears as she described her fears growing up. "I knew I wasn't a U.S. citizen, and I feared the reactions from my classmates if they knew I wasn't a citizen," Hernandez said. "I see myself in many of those students now that share the same fear of being deported, or having their parents deported."
Sanctuary city legislation is expected to head to the governor's desk soon, but local leaders and civil rights advocates opposing the bill say the fight is only getting started, and they plan to file lawsuits challenging the legality of the measure. "The legislature is attempting to blackmail cities into violating our own resident's constitutional rights," Austin City Council member Greg Casar said on a press call. "I believe we have no responsibility to follow an unconstitutional law, and we should not be complying with a law that is so discriminatory and dangerous in its mandate."
On three occasions this week, I asked a FlexiSpy salesperson a simple question: If I wanted to, could I use their spyware to snoop on my wife's cellphone without her knowing? The answer each time was yes. When asked if it was legal, they responded with a canned disclaimer explaining it was necessary to get the permission of the target. But what if I didn't want my wife to know? They could help me anyway. If I wanted to break the law, I could use their $68-a-month app and they'd walk me through the 5-10 minute process of installing FlexiSpy on my wife's phone, hoovering up all her calls, WhatsApp and Facebook messages, and her location, whilst hiding the software so she'd never know.
That never happened. The enquiries were to find out how scrupulous FlexiSpy was and if it might be willing to help customers even if their actions were in breach of the U.S. Wiretap Act, which outlaws any surreptitious spying on another's communications without their permission. Procurement of another person to intercept comms is also deemed illegal under the statute. And outside of legal problems with spyware, there are clear moral issues: often such spyware is used in abusive relationships. In 2014, NPR surveyed 70 women's shelters; 85 per cent were working with victims who were tracked via GPS, or what's commonly called "spouseware."
Tens of thousands of Canadian clients of Shaw are suffering what appears to be a nationwide loss of internet, cable and phone services. According to the outage map below, the service interruption is widespread and has impacted most Canadian metropolitan centers.
Shortly before 4pm ET, the telecom company posted to its website advising that an outage was in progress and pologizing:
"Some customers nationally may be experiencing an interruption to Internet, Television and Home Phone services. We are investigating the situation and working to restore service as quickly as possible. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause."
At 4:20 ET they issued an update, saying they don't know when services will be restored.
"Our network technicians are working to restore services as quickly as possible. Currently no ETA. If we get any further information to share we will post another update. Thank you for your patience so far."
At 4:50 ET Shaw updated that its broadband team is still working to resolve service.
For more information on the service interruptions, see [https:]]
— Shaw Help (@Shawhelp) April 27, 2017
Shaw customers across the country were not impressed, as can be seen by the thousands of angry tweets.
— Outage Report CA (@outagereportca) April 27, 2017
Well, with the #shaw outage we've been knocked off our normal routine. Tweet us what your business is and we'll share with our audience!
— Bootkik (@bootkik) April 27, 2017
With this #shawoutage I can't work, I can't shop (cash only), and I can't even play my video game. I'mma have to play with my kids.
— Natasha (@natashafair) April 27, 2017
— WebMax (@WebMaxWebDesign) April 27, 2017
— Roman Sizer (@brightersideof) April 27, 2017
— Queenie Wei (@SoulVibe_SVC) April 27, 2017
“Military preparations” are currently underway as part of the Trump administration’s multifaceted plan towards North Korea, a senior official said Wednesday.
The top Trump aide, who asked not to be named, spoke with reporters while senators met at the White House for what has been described as an “unusual” classified briefing on North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
A British teenager has been jailed for masterminding a cyber-hacking business that carried out more than 1.7 million attacks on websites including Sony and Microsoft, wreaking havoc worldwide.
The Defense Department's inspector general has opened an investigation to determine whether Michael Flynn, Donald Trump's former national security advisor, accepted payments from a foreign government without permission, according to documents released Thursday by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.).
"These documents raise grave questions about why General Flynn concealed the payments he received from foreign sources after he was warned explicitly by the Pentagon," Cummings, the top Democrat on the House oversight committee, said in a statement. "Our next step is to get the documents we are seeking from the White House so we can complete our investigation. I thank the Department of Defense for providing us with unclassified versions of these documents." Earlier this week, Cummings blasted the White House for refusing to provide his committee with documents related to whether Flynn disclosed his foreign payments when he reapplied for a security clearance last year.
Prior to working for Trump, Flynn had led the Defense Intelligence Agency under former President Barack Obama. Flynn was pushed out of that job in 2014 and the DIA explicitly told Flynn that he could not to accept any compensation from a foreign state without prior permission from the federal government. Flynn, however, took $45,000 in speaking fees from television network RT (formerly know as Russia today), which U.S. intelligence officials describe as a Russian propaganda outlet.
Flynn claims the DIA was briefed on the payment, but the information released by Cummings shows that the agency cannot find any documentation "referring or relating" to his "receipt of money from a foreign source." There's also another relationship that Cumming says is alarming and may not have been properly disclosed: Flynn's company received $530,000 from a firm owned by a Turkish businessman with close ties to the government. Flynn's lawyer wrote that the business relationship "could be construed to have principally benefited the republic of Turkey," and Flynn filed belated paperwork identifying his work as a foreign agent after losing his post in the Trump administration.
During Thursday's White House briefing, Press Secretary Sean Spicer blamed the Obama administration when he was asked about the thoroughness of Flynn’s vetting by Trump's transition team. "There's an issue…that the Department of Defense Inspector General is looking into," Spicer said. "We welcome that, but all of that clearance was made by the Obama administration and apparently with knowledge of the trip that he took."
Earlier this week, Cummings and House oversight committee chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) held a joint press conference, during which they revealed that Flynn may have broken the law by not disclosing the payment from RT when he reapplied for a security clearance last year.
But Republicans on the oversight committee are furious about Cummings' decision to make the documents public. "Though we've walked hand-in-hand with the Democrats during this investigation, this morning they broke with long-standing protocol and decided to release these documents without consulting us," a spokeswoman for Chaffetz said on CNN.
Democrats say they've been working with the Pentagon to release unclassified versions of the documents to the public. A spokeswoman for Cummings said Republicans on the committee were informed the documents would be released this morning. "I honestly don't understand why the White House is covering up for Michael Flynn," Cummings said at a press conference today following the release of the documents. "There is a paper trail that the White House does not want our committee to follow it."
While investors insist the markets are currently NOT in a bubble, it would be wise to remember the same belief was held in 1999 and 2007. Throughout history, financial bubbles have only been recognized in hindsight when their existence becomes “apparently obvious” to everyone. Of course, by that point is was far too late to be of any use to investors and the subsequent destruction of invested capital. This time will not be different. Only the catalyst, magnitude, and duration will be.
Two Gwinnett County Police officers who were fired earlier this month after using excessive force during a routine traffic stop have now been criminally charged.
* Those having net worths of $10MM or more need not read.
The opinion piece at bottom is by Dr. Joe Romm, a Founding Editor of Climate Progress, “the indispensable blog,” as NY Times columnist Tom Friedman describes it. We thoroughly enjoyed reading it. And as writers with trading DNA we wanted to know where the trade was.
Long OJ? Long potable water? Short insurance companies, and other ideas were bounced around. All had risks we were uncomfortable with. Finally one of our group, "Bon Scott" summed it up perfectly in only the way he can. Implicitly, Buy infrastructure companies.
From Soren K. Group contributor "Bon":
Complete, total, globalist propaganda.
In the USA coastal property values are going nowhere but up. Period. Humans by nature want to be around water. Rich people like to be around other (white) rich people. Who do you think supports political campaigns?.... Beachfront property owners that's who!
Flooding... Hire mexicans that no longer have landscaping jobs due to suburban collapse to truck in more dirt and pave it. Raise homes, raise roads (it's happening now in NJ). Water? Pipe it in from the mountains all the way to Key fucking West. MOAR jobs! Print the fucking fiat to pay for it. Tax the world.
The result is like everything else we say here. The middle class, what remains of them, will have more financial burden to shoulder. The rich build walls, and the poor are cared for.
OH NO GLOBAL WARMING
Examples of Bon's point. Bill Gates bought a stake in the Four Seasons and its Caribean property in 2015. Think he is worried about his island sinking? Trump owns a mansion on St. Maarten bought in 2013 last we checked. Think he's worried? Gates also owns property in Palm Beach bought in 2013. Tech billionaire Larry Ellison has bought 98 per cent of Hawaiian island Lanai. Indian Creek Village in Miami's Biscayne Bay may be on a tiny island, but the neighborhood of just 86 residents is home to some of the biggest A-listers and some of America's richest business moguls.
Some of these purchases are basically "safe rooms" for the rich in case of civilization breakdown. Climate change isn't a deterrent. If it were they'd be buying mountain homes only.Capitalism Finds a way, Workers Will Pay
The author must be kidding us if he thinks a climate catastrophe awaits Trump. This is just another justification for Trump to ramp up infrastructure and thus GDP. Does he think we will just watch things sink? By his own admission it is in "slow- motion". China builds synthetic islands in the South Pacific. Romm, the academic globalist doesn't think the rich voting owners in coastal Fla will get their way through walls, levies, and tax breaks to protect their property? And Romm doesn't think that it will be a tax increase on the rest of us as a Patriotic Duty?
You will pay with higher taxes, lower purchasing power, an inability to access global competitors for pricing. your children will pay for it by becoming indentured servants to the Government when they cannot pay their student loans back. we know. We've seen it in Argentina first hand. The best educated, lowest paid MBAs in the Americas.
Mnuchin's tax statement yesterday basically implied the intention to remove tax cuts at the middle class level by removing home owner tax deductions. The working class is taken for granted. Even Ghandi had a point where he'd take up arms. Wake up people. Why aren't you mad?
That said, enjoy the piece below. -Soren K. Group
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Climate change poses ‘nightmare scenario’ for Florida coast, Bloomberg warns
Donald Trump’s presidency may make this future for South Florida and “Miami Island” unstoppable. CREDIT: Climate Central
“Pessimists selling to optimists.” That’s how one former Florida coastal property owner describes the current state of the market in a must-read Bloomberg story.
Right now, science and politics don’t favor the optimists. The disintegration of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets is speeding up, providing increasing evidence we are headed for the worst-case scenario of sea level rise?—?three to six feet (or more) by 2100.
The impacts are already visible in South Florida. “Tidal flooding now predictably drenches inland streets, even when the sun is out, thanks to the region’s porous limestone bedrock,” explains Bloomberg. “Saltwater is creeping into the drinking water supply.”
At the same time, President Trump is working to thwart both domestic and international climate action while slashing funding for coastal adaptation and monitoring. E&E News reported earlier this month that the EPA has already “disbanded its climate change adaptation program” and reassigned all the workers.
Faster sea level rise and less adaptation means the day of reckoning is nigh. Dan Kipnis, chair of Miami Beach’s Marine and Waterfront Protection Authority?—?who has failed to find a buyer for his Miami Beach home for nearly a year?—?told Bloomberg, “Nobody thinks it’s coming as fast as it is.”
But this is not just South Florida’s problem. The entire country is facing a trillion-dollar bubble in coastal property values. This Hindenburg has been held aloft by U.S. taxpayers in the form of the National Flood Insurance Program.
A 2014 Reuters analysis of this “slow-motion disaster” calculated there’s almost $1.25 trillion in coastal property being covered at below-market rates.
When will the bubble burst? As I’ve written for years, property values will crash when a large fraction of the financial community?—?mortgage bankers and opinion-makers, along with a smaller but substantial fraction of the public?—?realize that it is too late for us to stop catastrophic sea level rise.
When sellers outnumber buyers, and banks become reluctant to write 30-year mortgages for doomed property, and insurance rates soar, then the coastal property bubble will slow, peak, and crash.
The devaluation process had begun even before Trump’s election reduced the chances we would act in time to prevent catastrophic climate change. The New York Times reported last fall that “nationally, median home prices in areas at high risk for flooding are still 4.4 percent below what they were 10 years ago, while home prices in low-risk areas are up 29.7 percent over the same period.”
Sean Becketti, the chief economist for mortgage giant Freddie Mac, warned a year ago that values could plunge if sellers start a stampede. “Some residents will cash out early and suffer minimal losses,” he said. “Others will not be so lucky.”
As this week’s Bloomberg piece puts it, “Demand and financing could collapse before the sea consumes a single house.”
So here’s a question for owners of coastal property?—?and the financial institutions that back them?—?as they watch team Trump keep his coastal-destroying promises: Who will be the smart money that gets out early?—?and who will be the other kind of money?
“The market was extremely well-behaved from 1935 until 2000. It was an orderly world in which to be a value manager: there was mean reversion. If a value manager was patient, he was in heaven. The market outperformed when it was it cheap, and when it got expensive, it cracked.
Since 2000, it’s become much more complicated. The rules have shifted. We used to say that this time is never different. I think what has happened from 2000 until today is a challenge to that. Since 1998, price-earnings ratios have averaged 60 percent higher than the prior 50 years, and profit margins have averaged 20 to 30 percent higher. That’s a powerful double whammy.”
He is correct. As shown below the average CAPE ratio level rose, beginning in 1980 to 21.67 from the average of 14.42 over the previous 80-years.
Of course, the bulk of that increase is due to the valuation anomaly of the 1999 “Dot.com” bubble which skewed earnings to astronomical extremes. If we normalize that period, average valuation levels have only slightly increased in recent years. However, there is no argument that fundamental valuation measures have indeed changed, and arguably for the worse.
There is some truth to the argument that “this time is different.” The accounting mechanizations that have been implemented over the last five years, particularly due to the repeal of FASB Rule 157 which eliminated “mark-to-market” accounting, have allowed an ever increasing number of firms to “game” earnings season for their own benefit. Such gimmickry has suppressed valuation measures far below levels they would be otherwise.
While operating earnings are the primary focus of analysts, the media, and hucksters, there are many problems with the way in which these earnings are derived due to one-time charges, inclusion/exclusion of material events, and outright manipulation to “beat earnings.” This problem has been exacerbated since the end of the financial crisis, as we will discuss more in a moment, to the point to where only 13% of total revenue growth is coming from actual revenue, the rest is from accounting gimmickry, buybacks, and outright fudging.
The Wall Street Journal confirmed as much in a 2012 article entitled “Earnings Wizardry” which stated:
“If you believe a recent academic study, one out of five [20%] U.S. finance chiefs have been scrambling to fiddle with their companies’ earnings. Not Enron-style, fraudulent fiddles, mind you. More like clever—and legal—exploitations of accounting standards that ‘manage earnings to misrepresent [the company’s] economic performance,’ according to the study’s authors, Ilia Dichev and Shiva Rajgopal of Emory University and John Graham of Duke University. Lightly searing the books rather than cooking them, if you like.”
This should not come as a major surprise as it is a rather “open secret.” Companies manipulate bottom line earnings by utilizing “cookie-jar” reserves, heavy use of accruals, and other accounting instruments to either flatter, or depress, earnings.
“The tricks are well-known: A difficult quarter can be made easier by releasing reserves set aside for a rainy day or recognizing revenues before sales are made, while a good quarter is often the time to hide a big ‘restructuring charge’ that would otherwise stand out like a sore thumb. What is more surprising though is CFOs’ belief that these practices leave a significant mark on companies’ reported profits and losses. When asked about the magnitude of the earnings misrepresentation, the study’s respondents said it was around 10% of earnings per share.”
Of course, the reason that companies do this is simple: stock-based compensation. Today, more than ever, many corporate executives have a large percentage of their compensation tied to company stock performance. A “miss” of Wall Street expectations can lead to a large penalty in the companies stock price. Therefore, it is not surprising to see 93% of the respondents pointing to “influence on stock price” and “outside pressure” as reasons for manipulating earnings.
Note: For fundamental investors, this manipulation of earnings skews valuation analysis particularly with respect to P/E’s, EV/EBITDA, PEG, etc.
This was brought to the fore again recently by the Associated Press in: “Experts Worry That Phony Numbers Are Misleading Investors:”
“Those record profits that companies are reporting may not be all they’re cracked up to be.
As the stock market climbs ever higher, professional investors are warning that companies are presenting misleading versions of their results that ignore a wide variety of normal costs of running a business to make it seem like they’re doing better than they really are.
What’s worse, the financial analysts who are supposed to fight corporate spin are often playing along. Instead of challenging the companies, they’re largely passing along the rosy numbers in reports recommending stocks to investors.“
Here are the key findings of the report:
Less than one-year later, individuals are paying nearly $25 for 12-month reported EPS at roughly the same level as they were at the end of 2013.
The obvious problem when it comes to investing and the markets is that playing “leapfrog with a unicorn” has very negative outcomes. While valuations may not matter currently, in hindsight it will become clear that such valuation levels were clearly unsustainable. However, the financial media will report such revelations long after it is of use to anyone.This Time Is Not Different
The eventual outcome will be the same as every previous speculative/liquidity driven bubble throughout history. The only difference will be the catalyst that eventually sends investors running for cover.
Just as it was in 1999 where “investing like Warren Buffett was like driving Dad’s old Pontiac,” it is near the end of an elongated “bull market cycle,” where price discovery becomes impaired, that investors become lulled into a sense of false security. At the heart of these cycles is always a central thesis. In 1999 it was “dot.com” stocks, in 2007 it was “real estate,” and as noted recently it is now “passive indexing.”
“Our evidence suggests the growth of ETFs may have (unintended) long-run consequences for the pricing efficiency of the underlying securities.’
The detrimental effects to the market snowball from there. Fewer trades occur, so liquidity in single stocks deteriorates, raising transaction costs. That only further discourages professional traders, so the price discrepancies remain without the informational arbitrage to close the gaps.”
The problem with the lack of liquidity, as I discussed last week, is what happens when prices revert at a time when leverage is at historical highs. Throughout history, when prices have deviated more than 10% above their 3-year moving average, corrections and reversions have often followed.
Importantly, the magnitude of those corrections/reversions has often been dictated by the catalyst (the cause of the reversion), the amount of leverage in the system, and the economic damage caused by it.
For example, in 2008, the markets running at roughly 12% above the long-term mean, well below the 40% deviation is 2000, yet the catalyst (Lehman) and the subsequent economic fallout caused by the financial crisis, ripped through the financial markets to the same degree as the “Dot.com crash.”
Furthermore, the biggest market crashes have come from when valuation levels were trading above 23x earnings.
As David Einhorn recently wrote in an update to his investors:
“The bulls explain that traditional valuation metrics no longer apply to certain stocks. The longs are confident that everyone else who holds these stocks understands the dynamic and won’t sell either. With holders reluctant to sell, the stocks can only go up – seemingly to infinity and beyond. We have seen this before.
There was no catalyst that we know of that burst the dot-com bubble in March 2000, and we don’t have a particular catalyst in mind here. That said, the top will be the top, and it’s hard to predict when it will happen.”
For longer term investors who are depending on their “hard earned” savings to generate a “living income” through retirement, understanding the “real” value will mean a great deal. As Michael Lebowitz noted yesterday:
“There is no doubt that the market can grind higher to more dizzying valuations. However, there is also strong historical evidence this market will normalize to average valuations. In the wisdom of Bernard Baruch, there are times when you ‘make your money’ by not losing it. Perhaps more importantly, you preserve the ability to buy when better opportunities present themselves.”
Is this time different?
James Montier summed this question up perfectly in “Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast,”
“Current arguments as to why this time is different are cloaked in the economics of secular stagnation and standard finance workhorses like the equity risk premium model. Whilst these may lend a veneer of respectability to those dangerous words, taking arguments at face value without considering the evidence seems to me, at least, to be a common link with previous bubbles.“
While investors insist the markets are currently NOT in a bubble, it would be wise to remember the same belief was held in 1999 and 2007. Throughout history, financial bubbles have only been recognized in hindsight when their existence becomes “apparently obvious” to everyone. Of course, by that point is was far too late to be of any use to investors and the subsequent destruction of invested capital.
This time will not be different. Only the catalyst, magnitude, and duration will be.
Investors would do well to remember the words of the then-chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission Arthur Levitt in a 1998 speech entitled “The Numbers Game:”
“While the temptations are great, and the pressures strong, illusions in numbers are only that - ephemeral, and ultimately self-destructive.”
With one out of every 10 American adults actively taking an antidepressant, the need to promote mental health through natural means has never been greater. A healthy, organic diet and regular exercise are critical for laying the foundation of healthy living. Herbs like St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) are a source of antioxidants and other specialized nutrients that encourage physical and mental wellness. In fact, for centuries, people have turned to St. John’s wort as a natural remedy for an array of health concerns. Let’s take a closer look at its history and benefits.
|St. John’s Wort Quick Facts|
|Scientific Name:||Hypericum perforatum|
|Origin:||Europe and Asia|
|Plant Type:||Flowering, Perennial|
|Health Benefits:||Supports Mental Wellness, Women’s Health, and Healthy Skin|
Because of St. John’s wort’s ability to encourage a pleasant mood, much of its history includes superstition and spirits. The traditional Greek use was to hang the plant over religious paintings and statues to ward off “evil spirits.” Greek herbalists saw other uses for the plant and created tinctures to help with cuts, burns, harmful organisms, and even snakebites.
The name we use today—St. John’s wort—is a carry-over from early Christian beliefs and practices. Traditionally, the yellow flowers of the plant bloomed on June 24, which was a time of year filled with midsummer Christian holidays, including the birthday celebration of John the Baptist, also known as St. John. Wort is the Old English word for herb or plant; put it all together and you have St. John’s wort.
The mysticism surrounding St. John’s wort carried over to early American settlements where the plant was often sewn into door wreaths to drive away unfriendly spirits. Settlers also believed that the herb would induce a confession if placed in the mouth of a suspected witch. Today, most of the superstition that surrounded the plant is long forgotten and it’s understood that the plant’s ability to influence mood and temperament is owed to its nutritional components.St. John’s Wort and Depression
St. John’s wort has shown promise in relieving symptoms of depression. Depression can present itself in many different ways and is often described as a persistent feeling of extreme unhappiness. Left unchecked, it can affect sleep, appetite, energy, cognitive function, and even the immune system. Persistent or major depression is typically due to a chemical imbalance in the brain.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are one of the most commonly prescribed antidepressants. They work by targeting serotonin, an important neurotransmitter that affects mood. SSRIs increase serotonin levels by blocking serotonin absorption in the brain. In theory, this can increase the amount of available serotonin and strengthen the part of the nervous system that regulates mood. Unlike a SSRI, St. John’s wort is not selective in the neurotransmitters that it blocks. Instead, it inhibits the reuptake, or absorption, of all neurotransmitters including monoamines, dopamine, and noradrenaline, and the amino-acid neurotransmitters GABA and glutamate.
Many studies have evaluated the effectiveness of St. John’s wort. Nearly 30 international studies show that it worked better than placebo for those experiencing mild to moderate depression. However, other studies found it less effective at addressing more severe kinds of depression. More studies and research may bring clarity. In the meantime, many doctors in Germany continue to recommend St. John’s wort to patients who experience mild to moderate depression.St. John’s Wort and PMS
Over 80% of women in the United States have experienced premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Common symptoms of PMS include headaches, bloating, and fatigue. Women who suffer from more severe symptoms may have premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). Symptoms of PMDD include depression, mood swings, and anxiety. One double-blind, placebo-controlled trial found that St. John’s wort was effective at positively influencing physical and behavioral symptoms associated with PMS. More severe symptoms such as anxiety, depression, aggression, and impulsivity remained unchanged following St. John’s wort supplementation. More research is needed to determine if long-term supplementation is useful for PMS or PMDD symptoms.St. John’s Wort and Menopause
Menopause is associated with a natural decrease in reproductive hormones in women around ages 48 to 55. The symptoms of menopause include hot flashes, sleep disruption, moodiness, and a reduced sex drive. St. John’s wort could help address several of these symptoms. One randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 100 women reported a decrease in the severity, frequency, and duration of hot flashes after taking St. John’s wort extract daily for eight weeks. Another study involving 111 women ages 43 to 65 reported improvements in sexual well-being after taking St. John’s wort extract.Other Benefits of St. John’s Wort
Anxiety, stress, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have each has been studied to see if St. John’s wort is a practical alternative to traditional medications. Early results show promise, but more research is necessary to verify effectiveness. However, at least one study noted that the antioxidant properties alone in St. John’s wort could make it an effective neuroprotective agent.
Analysis of the herb’s other ancient applications, including remedying skin infections, burns, and cuts, is under way. In one study, over the course of a month, St. John’s wort seemed to help heal wounds of ICU patients. The plant’s soothing action and resistance to harmful organisms is a possible explanation for its ability to encourage healthy skin.St. John’s Wort Supplements and Tea
You can find St. John’s wort in a variety of forms, including pills, powders, and liquids. While carefully measured extracts assure potency, you can also make tea with the fresh flowers from the plant. St. John’s wort tea is easy to make; simply steep a handful of flowers in hot water for four minutes and strain.St. John’s Wort Side Effects and Precautions
One reason for the slow acceptance of St. John’s wort in the medical community is how it interacts with other drugs. It can reduce the effectiveness of birth control pills, heart medication, and even some HIV and cancer drugs. Establishing a standard potency and dosage is also a concern when using St. John’s wort. Side effects are rare but do occur. These include dry mouth, upset stomach, increased sensitivity to light, and increased feelings of anxiety. Like any supplement, use by pregnant or nursing women and children is not recommended without clear instruction from your personal, trusted health care advisor.Alternative Approaches to Mental Health
There are many natural alternatives to support mental wellness. Nutritional approaches to mental health can have a huge impact on how you look and feel. Consuming the right food that is whole, organic, and nutritious supports a positive mental state. Daily exercise, like yoga or walking, is extremely effective at encouraging physical and mental health. No matter your physical shape, adequate sleep and daily meditation can work wonders for relieving feelings of anxiety, boosting mood, and clearing the mind.
What do you do to support mental wellness? Have you tried St. John’s wort? Tell us about your experiences in the comment section below.
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The post St. John’s Wort Benefits: Natural Support for Mental Wellness appeared first on The Sleuth Journal.
Skyworks Solutions Inc. shares fell in the extended session Thursday even after the wireless chip supplier's quarterly results and outlook topped Wall Street estimates. Skyworks shares declined 2.6% to $101.50 after hours. The company reported adjusted fiscal second-quarter earnings of $1.45 a share on revenue of $851.7 million. Analysts surveyed by FactSet had estimated earnings of $1.40 a share on revenue of $840.4 million. For the third quarter, Skyworks sees adjusted earnings of $1.52 a share, while analysts estimate $1.49 a share. Shares of Skyworks have rallied nearly 33% since the company's previous earnings report on Jan. 19.
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