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Global Military Spending Hit Record High In 2020 With US In The Lead

Global Military Spending Hit Record High In 2020 With US In The Lead

Authored by Dave DeCamp via AntiWar.com,

Despite the damage coronavirus lockdowns did to the world’s economy, 2020 marked a record high in global military spending, according to a new report. As always, the US was in the lead, accounting for 40.3 percent of the world’s military expenditures at $738 billion.

The report, released by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), says total military expenditures added up to $1.83 trillion in 2020, a 3.9 percent increase from 2019. “This came despite the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent contraction in global economic output,” the IISS said.

Via War on the Rocks

Second behind the US was China, which accounted for 10.6 percent, or $193.3 billion. After the US and China, the top spenders were India, the UK, and Russia.

The report said military spending increased in the US by 6.3 percent in 2020. In China, it grew by 5.3 percent, slightly lower than the 5.9 percent growth seen in 2019.

Based on the research, Stars & Stripes had some interesting observations on China:

However, IISS and other research groups have questioned China’s budget transparency in recent years. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute pegged Chinese defense spending at $261 billion in 2019.

China’s maritime paramilitary forces are using facilities in the South China Sea as forward operating bases, the report noted. China has also built artificial islands in the sea over the last decade and constructed bases on natural features claimed by other nations in the region.

“Beijing seems intent on achieving primacy in its littoral areas,” IISS said.

Meanwhile, China’s navy has maintained an “over-the-horizon” presence focused on extending its reach.

The top 15 military budgets in fiscal year 2020, via IISS

European NATO countries have increased military spending by 20 percent since 2014, according to the report. Although in 2020, Europe’s military spending only grew by 2 percent, compared with 4.1 the year prior.

But overall, IISS believes Europe could be where the most growth in defense spending is seen in the coming years.

Tyler Durden
Fri, 02/26/2021 – 19:00

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Police arrest panhandler suspected of punching 2-year-old in the face after social distancing dispute in NYC subway

Police have arrested a suspect in a brutal attack by a panhandler on a 2-year-old toddler on a New York City subway over a social distancing dispute.

The mother of the child told WLNY-TV that she was riding the subway on Saturday with her 2-year-old boy sleeping on her lap when a female panhandler came through the train asking for money.

When the woman came too close to the mother and her child, she asked her to stay 6 feet away, as per the social distancing guidelines.

“Ma’am, can you please stay 6 feet away?” the mother recalled saying. “Please back off.”

The mother said that that woman appeared angry at the request, stepped on her foot, and then turned to attack the child. She said the panhandler punched the child 4 times before running off.

In one retelling of the story, the woman told WCBS-TV that the bystanders just watched and did not intervene while the panhandler viciously attacked her child.

“And I was just asking people like, ‘yo can y’all please get my baby, please get him, like, and nobody tried to stop, like, she was standing there!” said the woman, who asked to remain anonymous.

The child was taken a hospital and eventually released, but the mother said that a doctor told her the boy might experience seizures from the assault.

On Friday, the NYPD said they had identified and arrested a suspect in the case, Elizabeth Galarza, 56. She was charged with assault and act in a manner injurious to a child.

The subway system in New York City has experienced a skyrocketing crime rate with assaults and murders accelerating during the pandemic lockdown.

Here’s more about the arrest:


Suspect Arrested In Attack On 2-Year-Old On Subway

www.youtube.com

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BEST OF THE WEB: Revolution 2020: How did we get here—and how will it end?

Understanding what drives the revolution that is destroying the American republic gives insight into how the 2020 election’s results may impact its course. Its practical question — who rules? — is historically familiar. But any revolution’s quarrels and stakes obscure the question: to what end? Our revolution is by the ruling class — a revolution from above. Crushing obstacles to its growing oligarchic rule is the proximate purpose. But the logic that drives the revolution aims at civilization itself. What follows describes how far along its path that logic has taken America, and where it might take us in the future depending on the election’s outcome. Regime Change Aristotle, in Book 5 of the Politics, describes how revolutions kill regimes (such as America’s) that balance the contrasting interests of ordinary people with those of the wealthy, of officials, and of other prominent persons. As the balance between any complex regime’s components shifts over time, the system may…

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“A New World Altogether”: Global Airlines Set To “Go Live In March” With COVID ‘Passports’ – SEC Suspends Trading In 15 Companies Due To “Questionable Trading And Social Media Activity” – US & Israel Convene Top Secret “Strategic Forum” On Iran

"A New World Altogether": Global Airlines Set To "Go Live In March" With COVID 'Passports' "So basically, we expect to have a fully functional working system over the next few weeks."#COVID1984 #COVID19 #Agenda21 #NWO https://t.co/261iDvwWE1 — Infinite Unknown (@SecretNews) February 26, 2021 SEC Suspends Trading In 15 Companies Due To "Questionable Trading And Social Media … Read more

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The Ten “Peaks” Behind BofA’s Call For A Second Half Crash

The Ten “Peaks” Behind BofA’s Call For A Second Half Crash

Having been bearish for much of the past 3 months, BofA’s Chief Investment Officer looks at the chaos unleashed by surging bond yields in the past week, and extrapolates a period of much greater pain across all markets, driven by a flood of what he calls the “contrarian Ps” which include:

  • pandemic (vaccine winning),
  • prices (bond crash),
  • positioning (bullish),
  • policy (excessive & impotent),
  • profits (peaking Q2)

… which leads Hartnett to an “absolute” call that the first half od 2021 will mark the top in stocks & credit, leading to a substantial market correction, while relative value call is inflation hedges, with Hartnett calling “energy the new BTD trade” (something we have been saying since last fall), while growth defensives such as staples the barbell partner to this core trade.

And just to round off the increasingly dismal picture, Hartnett then lays out ten “peaks” that underscore his pre-crash outlook:

Peak pandemic: global vaccines (219mn) outpacing global virus (113mn – Chart 3); anticipation of vaccine > virus has already been Q4/Q1 catalyst for reopening>lockdown, cyclicals>defensives, small>large, value>growth…sell-the-vaccine = risk>return.

Peak prices I: bond sell-off hitting speculative froth, ghosts of 1999, ARKK look ominously like Invesco (Chart 5).

Peak prices II: bond sell-off eroding bull leadership of i) Housing (past three months US house prices annualizing 19% gain, lumber prices have doubled – Chart 4), ii) Credit (LQD <$133, EMB <110 & HYG rolling), iii) Tech (Amazon down since Aug, NDX & KOSDAQ down YTD).

Peak prices III: bond sell-off…next risk big levels fail, e.g. Dow Jones 30k, Nikkei 30k, SOX 3k, KOSPI 3k, ChiNext 3k. bond sell-off has been wonderful for high yield, small cap, banks, energy, EM…when these reverse as bond yield rise = rate rise flips from good to bad (Chart 6); most imp triggers for bonds = cyclicals selloff…HYG <$85 (bond cyclicals breaking down), CNY >6.55 (China no longer tolerating FX appreciation).

Peak positioning: only reason to be bearish is there is no reason to be bearish…record, stunning $414bn inflow to stocks past 16 weeks (Chart 7), and yet stocks struggling; unlike ‘13 & ’18 bond losses in ’21 yet to incite bond fund outflows.

Peak policy I: rate cuts in 2020 = 191; rate cuts in 2021 = 3; no Fed YCC before >2% GT10 yields or <3400 SPX.

Peak policy II: monetary impotence or fiscal impotence inducing bond sell-off that exceeds on annualized basis 1994, 1999, but not quite taper tantrum of 2013 (Chart 8); bond busts (don’t forget 2018) lead to contagion, illiquidity, busts, bankruptcies…volatility & hedges against inflation & currency debasement set to outperform in 2021.

Peak policy III: 3Rs of Rates, Regulation, Redistribution historic catalysts end bull markets & bubbles…we say all ’21 events, not ’22, all spell lower/volatile coming quarters; 2020 = secular low for rates/inflation = “buy humiliation, sell hubris” = inflation assets to beat deflation in coming years.

Peak profits I: BofA Global EPS model says peak profits 20-25% YoY in Q2; could be >10% nominal GDP growth, surge in labor participation rates quashing wage growth, inflation peaks Q2 not EPS, productivity on up as COVID-19 inspires tech innovation means we wrong, but….

Peak profits II: a. even during stagflationary ‘70s, equities obeyed PMIs and today’s PMI levels rarely get higher;

… b. past 9 months…Asian exports…”V”, global PMIs…”V”, US housing…”V”, US retail sales…”V”, global capital goods orders “V”… yet no one believes global inflation will “V” despite epic stock market & housing inflation, US politicians about to spend another $2tn, TIPS breakevens highest since ’11…

maybe a straw that will break the camel’s back…watch March 30th Alabama vote on unionization at Amazon; trough labor unionization & peak corporate equity valuation not a good combo.

Tyler Durden
Fri, 02/26/2021 – 18:40

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Bank Of America Begins First Round Of Layoffs Since Pandemic-Inspired Freeze

This article was originally published by Tyler Durden at ZeroHedge. 

After being canceled last year, the annual culling of the underperformers is underway once again at BofA.

Following a slowdown in layoffs during the pandemic as a coterie of megabanks (including BofA and Deutsche Bank) announced plans to suspend layoffs, Wall Street’s talent-churning machine is firing back up. Bank of America’s Global Banking and Markets division is reportedly preparing to move ahead with layoffs now that 2020 is finally over. Last year, BofA CEO Brian Moynihan promised that BofA would hold off on any further layoffs until 2021, even as other Wall Street banks started handing out pink slips again once the fall months arrived.

The cuts impacted employees in capital markets, research, and investment banking according to Business Insider. Sources from inside the bank said the cuts are part of the typical cycle of Wall Street layoffs, as banks seek to preserve top talent and cull underperformers. They added that the number of people fired was in line with prior years.

Some of those being handed pink slips are senior staffers who volunteered for buyouts.

It’s not exactly clear what percentage of staffers from the Global Banking and Markets division are being cut.

Staffers across Wall Street already had to contend with what was by all accounts a disappointing bonus season, despite the blowout profits reaped by big banks in 2020 as markets boomed. Investment banking and trading operations posted blowout performances in 2020, but institutions as a whole suffered steep profit declines as they braced for loan losses tied to the pandemic.

At BofA, management’s decision to waive a new bonus policy for veteran traders and dealmakers has caused “internal drama”, as the new rules were supposed to be applied broadly. Those who weren’t subject to the policy have been “gathering on calls to vent frustrations and discuss options”. In some ways, the divisiveness dates back to BofA’s 2008 takeover of Merrill Lynch, the Wall Street investment bank that nearly went under during the financial crisis.

The post Bank Of America Begins First Round Of Layoffs Since Pandemic-Inspired Freeze first appeared on SHTF Plan – When It Hits The Fan, Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You.

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US intel finds Saudi crown prince approved murder of Jamal Khashoggi; Biden giving prince a pass

A U.S. intelligence report released Friday determined that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman signed off on the operation that led to the killing and dismemberment of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

In response, the Biden administration has issued sanctions on several individuals linked to the murder, but the prince himself will be spared any punishment over fears that holding him accountable might threaten the relationship between the two allied nations.

What are the details?

The Washington Post reported that the intelligence document states, in part:

“We assess that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill [Khashoggi]. Since 2017, the Crown Prince has had absolute control of the Kingdom’s security and intelligence organizations, making it highly unlikely that Saudi officials would have carried out an operation of this nature without the Crown Prince’s authorization.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken issued a statement reacting to the report and vowing “accountability for the murder” of Khashoggi. In the press release, Blinken announced a new “Khashoggi Ban,” which allows the State Department to impose visa restrictions against individuals believed to be involved in the type of “extraterritorial counter-dissident activities” such as what happened to The Post columnist.

Blinken noted that 76 Saudi nationals have already been hit with visa restrictions under the new ban, but the secretary of state made no mention of Mohammed, who is often referred to in the U.S. as MBS for short.

A journalist for The Post reported later that “When asked why the Biden administration didn’t sanction MBS for Khashoggi’s murder, Blinken says what we’ve done “is not to rupture the [Saudi] relationship but to recalibrate it.”

Senior Biden administration officials told The New York Times that the president “has decided that the price of directly penalizing” Mohammed “is too high.” The newspaper noted that during the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden had referred to Saudi Arabia as a “pariah” state with “no redeeming social value.”

The intelligence report reaffirmed long-held suspicions from earlier assessments that Mohammed was linked to Khashoggi’s death. Following the Virginia-based columnist’s murder, President Donald Trump was criticized for not holding the crown prince responsible.

After learning that the Biden administration had taken the same stance regarding Mohammed as the Trump administration did, CNN’s Jake Tapper blasted the current president for refusing to take action “even though MBS is the man the Biden administration says ordered this murder.”

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Trump Is “Still The Future Of The Republican Party” Says Don Jr.

Trump Is “Still The Future Of The Republican Party” Says Don Jr.

Authored by Jack Phillips via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

Donald Trump Jr. asserted that his father, former President Donald Trump, is still the future of the GOP ahead of his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) this weekend.

If you’re reading the room and you’re intelligent, you realize that Donald Trump is still the future of the Republican Party,” Trump Jr. said on Fox News. “Those people who are being displaced by illegals, those people who are being swept aside by the Democrat Party, who has just flagrantly ignored them for decades, Donald Trump is all over that,” he added.

Trump Jr. is scheduled to speak at CPAC on Friday, while the former president will give a speech on Sunday.

The former commander-in-chief has not yet indicated whether he would run for president in 2024. Trump was impeached and later acquitted by the Senate earlier this month, triggering a schism between Republicans who either voted to impeach or convict and those who did not.

Since the Jan. 6 Capitol breach, a number of corporations severed ties with Republicans. The younger Trump argued that it may ultimately be a positive development because it shows the GOP represents working-class Americans, rather than Democrats—who have for decades attempted to cast themselves as the party representing the working class and unions.

The Republican Party isn’t going to be bound to those corporate interests anymore,” he argued in the Fox interview. “So I love that they are making that link and breaking it, because we need more of that and we need candidates and people who will go to bat, who will go to war and fight for the American working class and make sure we put them first.

Trump added that it’s unprecedented in history for it to be considered “controversial” for “leaders of a nation to put their people first.” He added: “Why is it now, and how do the Democrats get away with making America last as opposed to first?”

A number of opinion polls in recent weeks suggest that Trump is still viewed highly by Republican voters, with one survey showing that up to 70 percent of Republicans would consider joining a Trump-backed political party.

Since the Jan. 6 incident, Trump was de-platformed by Big Tech firms, including Twitter—his once-favored social media platform—and has delivered messages to supporters and the media mainly via email. Should he run again for president, it’s not clear if he would attempt to join an alternative social media website and app like Parler or start his own.

Tyler Durden
Fri, 02/26/2021 – 18:20

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US & Israel Convene Top Secret “Strategic Forum” On Iran

US & Israel Convene Top Secret “Strategic Forum” On Iran

With expected EU-sponsored US and Iranian talks toward restoring the nuclear deal (JCPOA) still at an impasse before they’ve even begun, Israel is on a full diplomatic blitz of Capitol Hill to prevent what’s it’s long claimed to be merely Tehran’s “cover” for secretly developing a nuke, even with inspectors on the ground.

As Washington and Tehran continue their blame game and tit-for-tat on who will “comply first”, the Biden administration will sit down with Israeli security officials for a “strategic forum” on Iran. Axios first learned this week that the close allies have “elected to reconvene a strategic working group on Iran, with the first round of talks on intelligence surrounding the Iranian nuclear program expected in the coming days.”

Via AP

This will present Tel Aviv with an official forum with which to make Netanyahu’s case for permanently shooting down the 2015 nuclear deal, or at least to impose higher and more stringent requirements on Iran if it hopes to keep its nuclear energy program. Alternately, the White House is likely to use the opportunity to ensure a political fight will be avoided with America’s closest Mideast ally.

The “working group” on Iran was first established under the Obama administration, giving opportunity for intelligence sharing at the highest levels – even at a policy level – which has made it a ‘top secret’ initiative from the beginning. The need for the group became somewhat moot given Trump later ramped up ‘maximum pressure’ and turned toward regime change strategizing.

Axios reviews some of the details of the reestablished US-Israeli forum as follows

  • It was the main venue for strategizing over how to apply pressure to Iran during Obama’s first term, and it became the primary setting to air disagreements about the nuclear deal during Obama’s second term.
  • During Donald Trump’s tenure, the forum convened to discuss the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal and to coordinate the “maximum pressure” campaign.
  • The forum is headed by the U.S. and Israeli national security advisers — currently Jake Sullivan and Meir Ben-Shabbat — and includes top officials from across the various national security, foreign policy and intelligence agencies in both countries.

Meanwhile, the Netanyahu government has considered US re-entry into the JCPOA as nothing less than an “emergency” and national security crisis.

Further complicating matters was the fact that it took Biden a full month to actually return the Israeli Prime Minister’s phone call. The new forum will likely be Israel’s only shot at engaging the White House on the Islamic Republic.

Tyler Durden
Fri, 02/26/2021 – 18:00

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Amazon pulls Clarence Thomas documentary during Black History Month

Serving as just the latest example of Big Tech censorship, Amazon has pulled from its streaming service a documentary about Justice Clarence Thomas, the only black Supreme Court Justice, during Black History Month.

Viewers who attempt to watch the critically acclaimed documentary, “Created Equal: Clarence Thomas In His Own Words,” which aims to tell the story of Thomas’ celebrated life “truly and fully, without cover-ups or distortions,” have not been able to do so since early February.

“This video is currently unavailable to watch in your location,” reads the message viewers are presented with upon selecting the title. The documentary is also currently not available for purchase in DVD format on Amazon’s website.

The film’s producer and director, Michael Pack of Manifold Productions Inc., informed TheBlaze that the documentary was pulled from Amazon Prime Video on or around Feb. 8, meaning it has been unavailable for the better part of Black History Month.

Pack confirmed that Amazon stopped streaming the documentary at its own discretion and without providing an explanation.

TheBlaze reached out to Amazon’s public relations department for comment, but did not receive a response in time for publication.

The news will only raise further suspicions that Amazon, like many of its Big Tech counterparts, is engaged in the deliberate and systematic silencing of conservative voices.

Given that the company has made significant efforts to celebrate black voices during Black History Month, one might think it would embrace the opportunity to stream a documentary about the country’s only sitting black Supreme Court justice.

Although Thomas himself may be a controversial figure in American politics, the film has been largely praised since its premiere last spring, when it was broadcast nationally on PBS. The film has a 99% audience score on the film review site, Rotten Tomatoes, and has a 4.9-star rating from customer reviews on Amazon’s website.

The film received high praise from the media as well. The Washington Post wrote in April, “It is a marvel of filmmaking that two hours pass so quickly. At the end of a screening I recently attended, there weren’t many dry eyes in the room.”

Time Magazine added, “[It] offers viewers rare insight into the mind of a justice known for his reticence on the public stage.”

The film, though unavailable on Amazon, is still available for purchase or streaming elsewhere. Those interested can visit Manifold Productions Inc.’s website for more information.

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Federal Court Agrees: Prosecutors Can’t Keep Forensic Evidence Secret from Defendants

When the government tries to convict you of a crime, you have a right to challenge its evidence. This is a fundamental principle of due process, yet prosecutors and technology vendors have routinely argued against disclosing how forensic technology works.

For the first time, a federal court has ruled on the issue, and the decision marks a victory for civil liberties.

EFF teamed up with the ACLU of Pennsylvania to file an amicus brief arguing in favor of defendants’ rights to challenge complex DNA analysis software that implicates them in crimes. The prosecution and the technology vendor Cybergenetics opposed disclosure of the software’s source code on the grounds that the company has a commercial interest in secrecy.

The court correctly determined that this secrecy interest could not outweigh a defendant’s rights and ordered the code disclosed to the defense team. The disclosure will be subject to a “protective order” that bars further disclosure, but in a similar previous case a court eventually allowed public scrutiny of source code of a different DNA analysis program after a defense team found serious flaws.

This is the second decision this year ordering the disclosure of the secret TrueAllele software. This added scrutiny will help ensure that the software does not contribute to unjust incarceration.

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For Bonds, This Is Now The Second Worst Bear Market In 40 Years

For Bonds, This Is Now The Second Worst Bear Market In 40 Years

Last December, we predicted that the US was heading for a “titanic taper tantrum” in 2021, to an extent as a result of a sharp drop in bond demand as a result of reduced bond purchases by the Fed but also due to a spike in inflation which would lead to a sharp drop in demand for duration.

So fast forward to this week when the crash in US Treasurys, and especially the belly of the curve led by a plunge in 5Y prices…

… led to a historic vol shock as the real 10Y yield soared and which crushed both bond and equity bulls, but especially risk parity and balanced funds, who suffered tremendous losses as the conventional hedging role that bonds play was reversed as the bond stock correlation reversed from deeply negative to positive…

… resulting in a crushing blow to risk parity returns.

What is more remarkable is that while this week was terrible for bond bulls, the past year has been just as painful. As Bank of America’s Michael Hartnett writes today, the past 12 months have been great for equity investors with the GOAT rally since March, coupled with a GOAT V-shape macro recovery… yet on the other side we have had a bond bear market which is now also one of greatest-of-all-time. Consider that since Aug 4th annualized price return from +10-year US govt bonds = -29%, Australia -19% (they do YCC!), UK -16%, Canada -10%. Hartnett’s advice is to watch bank stocks for the “tell” on how badly the bond rout is hurting liquidity & growth expectations.

But going back to our original warning from December about a “titanic taper tantrum”, what we find stunning is that while Thursday may well have been the culmination of growing concerns about runaway inflation (and, to Michael Burry, hyperinflation), even if more pain is certainly coming if the US is set to suffer through a period of 4%, 5%, 6% or more inflation, the pain for bonds over the past year is absolutely staggering, and as Michael Hartnett notes, the “Vaccine Bear Market” in bonds is now the second worst bear market in history…

… and warns that the monetary impotence or fiscal impotence inducing bond sell-off that exceeds on annualized basis 1994, 1999, but not quite taper tantrum of 2013, may “lead to contagion, illiquidity, busts, and bankruptcies” … which is why volatility & hedges against inflation & currency debasement set to outperform in 2021.

Tyler Durden
Fri, 02/26/2021 – 17:40

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College students shocked at Biden appearing to excuse China’s human rights abuses as cultural ‘norms’

Campus Reform recently paid a visit to the University of Florida to quiz students on remarks President Joe Biden made about China’s human rights abuses — and specifically to see if they believed Biden uttered the words or a former president.

What are the details?

The outlet’s interviewer read students the quote Biden uttered at a town hall last week concerning Chinese President Xi Jinping — but she didn’t tell them Biden said it.

Here’s the quote: “And so the idea that I’m not going to speak out against what he’s doing in Hong Kong, what he’s doing with the Uyghurs in [the] western mountains of China…he gets it … Culturally there are different norms that each country and their leaders are expected to follow.”

Most students interviewed believed former President Donald Trump uttered the quote — and none thought Biden did.

To say they were shocked is an understatement.

“It was surprising for me to hear that that came from Biden,” one student said. “It doesn’t seem like the type of thing that he would believe in.”

“I’m disappointed that a sitting U.S. president would say that,” another student reacted.

“I voted for him,” another student said, adding that Biden is “not … representing my views.”

Anything else?

Around the time Biden seemed to excuse China’s cultural “norms,” a story emerged about Chinese women who alleged they were inside the country’s concentration camps and claimed that “extremely sadistic” guards carried out gang rapes and brutal beatings.

In June, the Associated Press reported that the Chinese government is “taking draconian measures to slash birth rates among Uyghurs and other minorities as part of a sweeping campaign to curb its Muslim population.” The investigation discovered “widespread and systematic” efforts to reduce the minority population, including state-mandated pregnancy checks of minority women, forced use of intrauterine devices, sterilization, and abortion.

Biden added at the town hall, “If you know anything about Chinese history, it has always been, the time when China has been victimized by the outer world is when they haven’t been unified at home. So the central — well, vastly overstated — the central principle of Xi Jinping is that there must be a united, tightly controlled China. And he uses his rationale for the things he does based on that.”


Students shocked to hear that Biden called Uyghur genocide a cultural ‘norm’

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FDA Panel Unanimously Endorses J&J Covid Vaccine

FDA Panel Unanimously Endorses J&J Covid Vaccine

While it was so widely expected the announcement was merely a formality, just after 5pm on Friday the FDA Advisory Panel voted unanimously (22-0) to endorse the (one-shot, no mRNA) J&J vaccine, saying the benefits outweigh the risks, and recommended the agency grant emergency authorization, moving the nation’s third vaccine one step closer to getting into Americans’ arms.

The vaccine was 66% effective in protecting any cases of moderate to severe illness. It was 85% effective against severe cases of COVID-19 and completely prevented hospitalizations and death, four weeks after inoculation.

The FDA could now give the green light to the single-dose vaccine as early as Saturday, and it probably will.

Vaccinations will then begin as soon as a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) panel recommends the vaccine and the CDC accepts that recommendation. The CDC panel is scheduled to meet Sunday.

“We are at the precipice of having another vaccine in our toolbox,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Friday. “Having an additional safe and effective vaccine will help protect more people faster.”

The Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine is different from the other two already on the market and could be a potential game changer. It is administered in a single dose, and does not need to be frozen when shipped and stored. It is also not based on the highly controversial mRNA technology used by Pfizer and Moderna. Unlike those two, the JNJ vaccine is what’s called a viral vector vaccine.

To create this vaccine, the Johnson & Johnson team took a harmless adenovirus – the viral vector – and replaced a small piece of its genetic instructions with coronavirus genes for the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein.

After this modified adenovirus is injected into someone’s arm, it enters the person’s cells. The cells then read the genetic instructions needed to make the spike protein and the vaccinated cells make and present the spike protein on their own surface. The person’s immune system then notices these foreign proteins and makes antibodies against them that will protect the person if they are ever exposed to SARS-CoV-2 in the future.

The adenovirus vector vaccine is safe because the adenovirus can’t replicate in human cells or cause disease, and the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein can’t cause COVID–19 without the rest of the coronavirus.

“We need vaccines that are effective and well-tolerated. And importantly, ones that are simple to deploy,” said Gregory Poland, director of the Mayo Clinic’s vaccine research group, who spoke to the panel as part of J&J’s presentation.

The endorsement from the FDA panel of experts comes as politically motivated federal officials are again scrambling to boost the panic meter by warning about the impact of recent highly contagious variants of the coronavirus, urging people not to grow complacent despite plunging cases and hospitalizations. The rise of variants makes vaccination more important than ever, CDC officials said.

CDC epidemiologist Adam MacNeil told the FDA panel said he expects the B.1.1.7 variant, first found in the United Kingdom, has likely spread throughout the entire U.S., and could become the dominant virus in mid-to-late March. However, inadequate genetic sequencing means we may never get the true picture. Furthermore, recent computer models have predicted that not even covid variants will prevent the US from basically being covid free by June.

While the pace of vaccinations has been steadily increasing, MacNeil said the U.S. is still “nowhere close” to herd immunity, which also is a politically-motivated falsity because as we showed earlier, at least 7 states are now on the verge of herd immunity. He emphasized the effectiveness of current strategies including masking and physical distancing.

Continuing with the political narrative, to date supply has been the primary constraint to the ramping up of the U.S. vaccination effort. A vaccine by U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, and another by Moderna were both authorized in December, but Pfizer has only shipped approximately 40 million doses, while Moderna has shipped about 45 million doses.

Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine will only be available at a relative trickle at first. The company will only have about 4 million doses available to ship immediately upon authorization, but that number will increase to 20 million by the end of next month.

J&J has a deal with the U.S. government to supply 100 million doses of its vaccine by the end of June, and White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said this week the federal government will do “everything we can” with the company to ramp up production.

The company asked the FDA to authorize the use of the vaccine in people aged 18 and older, but there were some concerns over the lack of data on recipients older than 75. There were also concerns over the effectiveness in people over the age of 60 with certain pre-existing conditions, like obesity and diabetes.

The J&J vaccine hasn’t been tested yet in children and teens under the age of 18, so it was not authorized for their use. A trial to study the safety and efficacy of the company’s vaccine in teens aged 17 and younger will begin late next month or early April.

Finally, while the two coronavirus vaccines already on the market may appear to be more effective than Johnson & Johnson’s, experts say it is difficult to compare them head-to-head because of different clinical trial designs and different endpoints. Furthermore, the fact that the two previous vaccines are mRNA based – a rather novel and untested technology – may have sparked skepticism among many Americans.

“I really think we need to be careful not to read into the data, to look across studies when they are so different, and instead look at each vaccine individually,” CDC’s Nancy Messioner said Friday during an interview with the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Tyler Durden
Fri, 02/26/2021 – 17:22

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Gulf Stream System at its weakest in over a millennium, last significant decline recorded during the little ice age

Never before in over 1000 years the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), also known as Gulf Stream System, has been as weak as in the last decades. This is the result of a new study by scientists from Ireland, Britain and Germany. The researchers compiled so-called proxy data – taken mainly from natural archives like ocean sediments or ice cores – reaching back many hundreds of years to reconstruct the flow history of the AMOC. They found consistent evidence that its slowdown in the 20th century is unprecedented in the past millennium – it is likely linked to human-caused climate change. The giant ocean circulation is relevant for weather patterns in Europe and regional sea-levels in the US; its slowdown is also associated with an observed ‘cold blob’ in the northern Atlantic.

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“A New World Altogether” – Global Airlines Set To “Go Live In March” With COVID ‘Passports’ 

“A New World Altogether” – Global Airlines Set To “Go Live In March” With COVID ‘Passports’ 

Imagine a world where the ability to travel on a commercial airliner depends on passing a COVID-19 test or taking a vaccine. If a traveler tests positive or did not receive or refused to take the vaccine, they would be locked out of air travel. 

This dystopic future could be the ‘new normal‘ in a matter of weeks. All along, maybe the “conspiracy theorists” who warned of an overreaching system of control by the government were right. 

During a Wednesday press conference, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said they would roll out a new travel app (called Travel Pass) to manage COVID-19 tests and vaccine certifications. IATA is the premier global trade organization for airlines, with 290 members. 

Since the early days of the pandemic (read: here & here & here), we’ve discussed “COVID passports,” “immunity passports,” or at least mentioned those who don’t get tested for the virus or vaccinated could face travel restrictions. 

From conspiracy theory to conspiracy fact, this appears to be the case as IATA’s new app will be rolled out in March.

Already, Singapore Airlines and twenty other airlines are testing the Travel App. In recent weeks, more airlines, such as American Airlines have expanded the use of immunity passports for international travel. 

“The key issue is one of confidence. Passengers need to be confident that the testing they’ve taken is accurate and will allow them to enter the country,” said Vinoop Goel, IATA’s regional director of airports and external relations.

“And then governments need to have the confidence that the tests that the passengers claim to have is one which is accurate and meets their own conditions,” Goel said. 

“We are currently working with a number of airlines worldwide and learning from these pilots. And the plan is to go live in March,” he said.

“So basically, we expect to have a fully functional working system over the next few weeks,” he added.

The development of the app suggests airlines and governments have worked together to come up with a global solution to restart the crippled airline industry. Despite the imminent release of the app, IATA expects summer travel to be slow

So the question we ask readers is if COVID passports could actually backfire on the airline industry? After all, who wants private corporations and governments holding your private health data?

A corporation or government holding private health data could be a deterrence for some travels. Monitoring people’s health erodes privacy, and electronic documentation leaves the data susceptible to hackers. 

A shortage of vaccines and or younger generations who are expected to get vaccinated later this year could result in unfair access to air travel. COVID passports appear to be a new form of discrimination. 

It comes as no surprise as billionaire and top vaccine pusher Bill Gates, for the last ten months, has been one of the most prominent figures discussing health passports.

After airlines, there is no telling what governments will do with these new health passports – they could be quickly extended to entering grocery stores, attending concerts and sports games, riding public transportation, and or even collecting unemployment. 

Already in Europe, Spain, Estonia, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, and Belgium have indicated immunity passports will be used for cross-border activity.  

Former Prime Minister and globalist Tony Blair recently said the “world is moving in this direction,” adding that he couldn’t see another way of this,” while referring to immunity passports. 

Blair has previously said that vaccine passports are inevitable and that “It’s going to be a new world altogether.”

Tyler Durden
Fri, 02/26/2021 – 17:20

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Arizona arizona senate Election 2020 Election audit Intelwars Maricopa county ballots Voting Machines

Arizona judge orders Maricopa County to turn over ballots to state Senate

A judge in Maricopa County, Arizona, ordered county election officials on Friday to answer a subpoena from the state Senate to turn over ballots from the November election and provide access to its voting machines for audit.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Timothy Thomason said that the Senate subpoenas were “legal and enforceable” in a ruling resolving a dispute between the Arizona Senate and county officials over how to interpret state law.

According to the Arizona Republic, the county had claimed it was illegal for the Senate to subpoena the ballots and contended that multiple audits of the election which had already been competed were sufficient. The Senate argued that there are still lingering questions about the validity of the ballots and the integrity of the machines and wants to commission its own audit of the election.

The dispute arose over two state laws, one defining the Senate’s subpoena powers and another law that orders county election officials to seal the ballots for two years after an election.

From Arizona Republic:

First, state law gives the Legislature sweeping authority to issue subpoenas and conduct investigations. The Arizona Attorney General’s Office weighed in on this, saying that legislative bodies or committee chairs can issue summonses either to inform future legislation or to “investigate whether a particular governmental entity properly discharged its functions.”

But state law also requires that, after results are certified, ballots be kept “in a secure facility managed by the county treasurer, who shall keep it unopened and unaltered for twenty-four months for elections for a federal office.”

That portion of the law also states that a court order could unseal the ballots.

Essentially, the county said that only a court order could request the ballots and contested the Senate’s ability to subpoena. In his ruling, Thomason sided with the Senate and said the law “does not immunize the ballots from being subpoenaed, let alone from being subpoenaed by the legislature, acting in its Constitutional role to ensure the ‘purity’ of elections.”

“This statute simply does not create a privilege, justifying non-disclosure,” he concluded after a hearing Thursday.

Last December, Arizona state Senate President Karen Fann issued two subpoenas to the Maricopa County election board.

The first subpoena calls for an audit of scanned ballots to collect an electronic ballot image cast for all mail-in ballots counted in the November 2020 general election. The second subpoena calls for a full forensic audit of ballot tabulation equipment, the software for that equipment, and the election management system used in the 2020 general election, the Washington Examiner reported.

The county has already conducted multiple audits of the election, including logic and accuracy tests for the machines and a hand count of a statistically significant number of ballots. The audits found that the machines counted votes accurately.

Most recently, an independent audit of the election published its findings Tuesday. The audit found that the voting machines produced accurate numbers.

“The combination of these findings, along with the pre and post Logic and Accuracy Tests performed by the Arizona Secretary of State, the post-election hand count performed by the political parties, and the many security protocols implemented by the Elections Department confirm that Maricopa County Elections Department’s configuration and setup of the tabulation equipment and election management system provided an accurate counting of ballots and reporting of election results,” the auditors said in a statement.

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Friday Squid Blogging: Far Side Cartoon

The Far Side on squid.

As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven’t covered.

Read my blog posting guidelines here.

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Federal Judge Rules Nationwide Eviction Ban Is Unconstitutional

Federal Judge Rules Nationwide Eviction Ban Is Unconstitutional

Authored by Janita Kan via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

A  judge in Texas on Thursday ruled that the federal government does not have the authority to issue a nationwide eviction moratorium.

Signs that read “No Job No Rent” hang from the windows of an apartment building in Washington on May 20, 2020. (Andrew Harnik/AP Photo)

U.S. District Judge John Barker, a Trump appointee, ruled in favor of a group of property managers and landlords who challenged a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) order that prevented them from temporarily evicting tenants for non-payment of rent during the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic.

The CDC order in question was initially issued in September 2020 and was originally set to expire on Dec. 31, 2020. It was extended to Jan. 31 and then again until the end of March. The order aimed to mitigate the spread of the pandemic by reducing congregation in shared living settings or in unsheltered homeless areas, and support state and local responses to the disease.

The order made it a crime for a landlord or property owner to evict a “covered person” from a residence, subject to several exceptions. Tenants who are covered by the order include those who have used their best efforts to obtain government assistance for rent or housing; or whose income falls below a certain income threshold.

A person who violated the order could face up to one year of imprisonment, to be followed by up to one year of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000.

The order only pauses evictions but does not relieve tenants from rent or housing payments.

Barker said eviction moratoriums are usually enacted by states and that the lawsuit does not question the states’ authority to do so. But plaintiffs in the case are asking the court to determine whether the U.S. Constitution allows the federal government to order or legislate a nationwide moratorium on evicting specified tenants.

“After analyzing the relevant precedents, the court concludes that the federal government’s Article I power to regulate interstate commerce and enact laws necessary and proper to that end does not include the power to impose the challenged eviction moratorium,” Barker wrote in his 21-page ruling (pdf).

The Southeastern Legal Foundation (SLF) and Texas Public Policy Foundation jointly represented the plaintiffs in the case. The groups welcomed the judge’s decision.

The court’s order today holding the CDC’s interference with private property rights under the veil of COVID-19 serves as notice to the Biden administration that the Constitution limits government power,” SLF General Counsel Kimberly Hermann said in a statement. The moratorium was first issued by the CDC under the Trump administration, and extended by Congress and then the CDC under Biden.

“The federal courts will continue to be a primary bulwark against unconstitutional overreach by federal and state governments. As our record shows, we have fought and won cases just like this for decades, and the current administration has shown no restraint. We are preparing cases across the constitutional spectrum to defend against unrestrained government action.”

The lawsuit was filed against the United States, the CDC, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and three HHS officials responsible for the order.

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to The Epoch Times’ request for comment.

Follow Janita on Twitter: @janitakan

Tyler Durden
Fri, 02/26/2021 – 17:00

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Baby boy comes back to life after doctors pronounce him dead following 10 rounds of chest compressions: ‘It was a miracle’

Kingston Lane has been defying the odds since his birth.

He and his twin brother were born in April 2020 at just 24 weeks. Kingston’s brother died a week later, and Kingston spent his first seven months after his birth in the neonatal intensive care unit at a Louisville hospital, WFIE-TV reported.

And now, even before his first birthday, the little man from Owensboro, Kentucky, who has had multiple surgeries on his head and heart, has wowed doctors again.

What happened?

On Saturday, Kingston’s parents saw their son was sick and believed he was suffering from stomach issues, but the next day, his mother, Brittany Lane, told WFIE, he “looked lifeless” and was transported to the emergency room at the local hospital.

Lane said her boy was taken straight to the trauma ward, his head swelling and his heart giving out. Doctors thought the problem might be related to the shunt tube in his head.

Teams at the hospital performed 10 rounds of chest compressions on the baby — and just before the 10th attempt, they had a heartbreaking warning for Mom.

“They were on the ninth one, and they were like, ‘Mrs. Lane, one more time and that’s all we can do for him,'” Lane recounted to WFIE. “He was completely blue, no pulse, no heartbeat — and cold. Super cold.”

He was pronounced dead at 5:45 p.m.

But Kingston wasn’t done.

As his mother noted, “He has proved everybody wrong multiple times. He is amazing.”

According to Lane, as the medical teams were walking away from the declared-dead infant, a nurse noticed that little boy’s pulse had returned.

Lane said that just minutes before she had been “telling him to come back to me … I thought my son was gone.”

What happened next?

Then: “He squeezed my finger,” Brittany told WFIE through tears of joy and thankfulness. “I really don’t have any words.”

Her conclusion: “It was a miracle.”

Owensboro doctors removed fluid from Kingston’s head and had him flown to Louisville where his broken shunt was replaced.

Lane said there have been zero signs of new brain damage, adding, “I can see it in his eyes. I can see that he loves me. He knows I’m mom, and he knows I’m here.”

Kingston is still in the ICU, but he came off the ventilator Wednesday, and Mom got to hold him Thursday WFIE said.

Watch the WFIE interview with Brittany Lane here.

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Alex Jones – 2021-Feb-26, Friday

No description available

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#PumpUpThaVolume: February 26, 2021

Media Monarchy plays Andrew W.K, King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard, Willie Nelson w/Diana Krall and more on #PumpUpThaVolume for February 26, 2021. ?

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LinkedIn yanks ‘be less white’ diversity training lesson following intense backlash

LinkedIn has removed a training seminar from its site that encouraged attendees to “be less white.”

What’s a very brief history?

Coca-Cola
came under fire earlier this week after a viral social media post purported that some Coca-Cola employees had completed a racial sensitivity seminar that encouraged its participants to “be less white” and “less oppressive.”

The webinar was created by author Robin DiAngelo, who wrote “White Fragility.”

A description of the course promised attendees that the training “gives you the vocabulary and practices you need to start confronting racism and unconscious bias at the individual level and throughout your organization. There’s no magic recipe for building an inclusive workplace. It’s a process that needs to involve people of color, and that needs to go on for as long as your company’s in business. But with these tools at your disposal, you’ll be well on your way.”

Elsewhere in the webinar, white participants were encouraged to be “less white, less arrogant, less certain, less defensive, less ignorant, and more humble.”

Coca-Cola took major flak following the viral social media post, prompting a statement on the controversy.

The statement read, “The video circulating on social media is from a publicly available LinkedIn Learning series and is not a focus of our company’s curriculum. Our Better Together global learning curriculum is part of a learning plan to help build an inclusive workplace. It is comprised of a number of short vignettes, each a few minutes long. The training includes access to LinkedIn Learning on a variety of topics, including on diversity, equity, and inclusion. We will continue to refine this curriculum.”

What are the details?

Earlier this week, LinkedIn announced that it would no longer host the webinar on its site.

Nicole Leverich, vice president of corporate communications at LinkedIn, told Newsweek in a statement that the site provides a “wide variety of learning content, including more than 270 courses on the topic of diversity, inclusion, and belonging.”

“The Confronting Racism course featuring Robin DiAngelo is no longer available in our course library, at the request of the 3rd party content provider we licensed this content from,” Leverich added.

“We will continue to add new courses to help people learn the skills they need to be more successful in their career, including the foundational skills we all need to be effective allies and help build a more equitable future,” Leverich vowed.

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Robinhood Is In Talks With FINRA To Settle March 2020 Probe Into Options And Outages

Robinhood Is In Talks With FINRA To Settle March 2020 Probe Into Options And Outages

Robinhood is reportedly in talks with Financial Industry Regulatory Authority to settle a March 2020 investigation that has been ongoing into the company. The probe is regarding app outages and option trading, Bloomberg reported on Friday.

At the center of the investigation was how Robinhood displays cash balances and buying power to its customers and the process that it undertakes to vet and approve traders for options trading. 

Robinhood noted the talks in a filing made on Friday, stating: “We have accrued in our statement of financial condition for the year ended December 31, 2020 of $26.6 million representing the bottom of the range of our probable losses. We cannot predict, however, whether these discussions will result in a resolution of these matters.”

The same filings show that the company had $154.2 million in net capital, Bloomberg reported.

And while fending off FINRA with one hand, Robinhood was also fighting a war of words against Charlie Munger with the other. We reported this morning that in an exclusive interview with the Wall Street Journal, the 97 year old Vice Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway sounded off about the “wild speculation” created by the budding brokerage.

“I hate this luring of people into engaging in speculative orgies. [Robinhood] may call it investing, but that’s all bullshit,” Munger said on Thursday. 

“It’s really just wild speculation, like casino gambling or racetrack betting. There’s a long history of destructive capitalism, these trading orgies whooped up by the people who profit from them.”

His comments on Thursday came after statements he made on Wednesday at the annual meeting of Daily Journal Corp., when he said “it’s really stupid to have a culture which encourages as much gambling in stocks.”

He said at the meeting: “You should try and make your money in this world by selling other people things that are good for them.”

And with one FINRA investigation off the plate, hopefully financial regulators will have plenty of time to look into Vlad Tenev’s non-liquidity-related liquidity issues that emerged weeks ago as a result of the chaotic trading in GameStop. 

After weeks of doubling down on his early insistence that Robinhood wasn’t suffering from a “liquidity issue”, Tenev finally explained days ago to Barstool Sports’ Dave Portnoy that “the ‘L’ word is a big thing in financial services: “A ‘liquidity issue’ means you can’t meet your deposit requirements, you can’t meet your margin requirements and are basically dead,” he said.

Tyler Durden
Fri, 02/26/2021 – 16:40

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