Zero Hedge

New US $275M Munitions Package Only Prolongs Ukraine's Agony, Russia Says

New US $275M Munitions Package Only Prolongs Ukraine's Agony, Russia Says

On Friday the Biden administration revealed a new $275 million aid package for Ukraine, to address its "urgent battlefield needs" - and which is said to include a large infusion of desperately needed artillery shells.

US sources have estimated that Russian artillery outpaces Ukraine's at ten to one. The new package comes as Ukraine forces are being driven back in Kharkiv oblast, leading to new desperation on the part of the West. However, Russia has said that the continued flow of new weapons and munitions to Kiev will only prolong the suffering of Ukrainians and the Zelensky government.

UK government handout, file image

Russia’s ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov in fresh remarks has said "It is emblematic" as "the US announces this supply of deadly products from the local defense industry on the very same day when the Russian leadership clearly and unequivocally confirmed its readiness for negotiations."

We detailed earlier that President Putin is newly signaling that he's ready for negotiations if it means 'freezing' current lines, which "must reflect realities on the ground- according to his Friday words.

Reuters whas written that "Three of the sources, familiar with discussions in Putin's entourage, said the veteran Russian leader had expressed frustration to a small group of advisers about what he views as Western-backed attempts to stymie negotiations and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's decision to rule out talks."

Any scenario which sees current lines frozen would mean Ukraine would have to cede substantial chunks of four Ukrainian regions. And in Kharkiv, for example, where a new Russian offensive is taking place, the border has been moved deeper into Ukrainian territory over the last weeks.

Putin also commented on the fact that the presidential election which was scheduled to be held in Ukraine this month was canceled under martial law. Zelensky will continue as president for as long as the war persists. Putin has as a result decried him as illegitimate.

"But with whom to negotiate? That’s a peculiar question, I agree," Putin told a press briefing, emphasizing that "the legitimacy of the incumbent head of the [Ukrainian] state has expired."

Meanwhile, the US government has not been secret about stating its ultimate long term goal...

Tyler Durden Sun, 05/26/2024 - 08:45

EU Says ChatGPT Outputs Too Much False Information To Comply With Rules

EU Says ChatGPT Outputs Too Much False Information To Comply With Rules

Authored by Tristan Greene via CoinTelegraph.com,

While the assessment remains ongoing, OpenAI appears to have made little in the way of progress since 2023...

The European Data Protection Board (EDPB) published the first progress report from its “GPT taskforce” and the news isn’t good for ChatGPT.

OpenAI’s efforts to bring its flagship AI model, ChatGPT, into line with European Union rules, including the comprehensive General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), were noted by the EDPB but ultimately deemed insufficient.

Per the EDPB document:

“Although the measures taken in order to comply with the transparency principle are beneficial to avoid misinterpretation of the output of ChatGPT, they are not sufficient to comply.”

The findings come as OpenAI has spent much of 2024 dealing with temporary stop orders from several European member states.

As Cointelegraph reported back in January, Italy’s data protection agency found that ChatGPT and OpenAI were still afoul of Italian and EU data privacy laws despite having been warned and subsequently banned back in March 2023.

According to the EDPB’s report, OpenAI hasn’t done enough in the time since to bring ChatGPT in line with the EU’s laws.

The chief complaint appears to be that ChatGPT is prone to outputting inaccurate information.

“As a matter of fact,” writes the EDPB, “due to the probabilistic nature of the system, the current training approach leads to a model which may also produce biased or made up outputs.”

The report also expresses EDPB worries that “the outputs provided by ChatGPT are likely to be taken as factually accurate by end users,” whether they’re accurate or not.

It’s unclear at this time exactly how OpenAI could bring ChatGPT into compliance. The GPT-4 model, for example, contains billions of data points and around a trillion parameters.

It would be infeasible for humans to comb through the dataset to verify its accuracy to a degree that would allow it to be said to be reasonably accurate by GDPR standards. 

Unfortunately for OpenAI, the EDPB explicitly wrote that “in particular, technical impossibility cannot be invoked to justify non-compliance with these requirements.”

Tyler Durden Sun, 05/26/2024 - 08:10

The Greeks Are Biggest Worriers About Their Financial Future

The Greeks Are Biggest Worriers About Their Financial Future

With the cost of living crisis and inflation having shot up in the last few years, many households are starting to look nervously at their bank balance.

This feeling is particularly pronounced in Greece, according to survey data conducted by Statista’s Consumer Insights, where as many as six in ten people said they are worried about their financial future.

This is well above the 38 percent average of the 39 countries surveyed. Portugal and Argentina also reveal high figures, hovering just shy of the 50 percent mark.

As Statista's Anna Fleck shows in the following chart, financial uncertainty is widespread.

 Financial Future Worries | Statista

You will find more infographics at Statista

Even in France, one of the countries with a comparatively lower share of people reporting that they were worried about their financial future, around three in ten reported feeling concerned.

Tyler Durden Sun, 05/26/2024 - 07:35

Poland's New "Russian Influence Commission" Aims To Influence The Next Presidential Election

Poland's New "Russian Influence Commission" Aims To Influence The Next Presidential Election

Submitted by Andrew Korybko

The reality is that Russian influence is non-existent in Poland due to the legacy of its former conservative-nationalist government.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk declared that he’s establishing a “Russian influence commission” to investigate alleged examples of this from 2004-2024. What’s hypocritical is that he condemned his predecessor for doing the exact same thing last summer, which he and the West condemned as a means for influencing last fall’s parliamentary election in the former government’s favor. It’s arguably the case that Tusk now wants to influence next spring’s presidential election in the same way.

Incumbent Andrzej Duda from what’s now the conservative-nationalist opposition has been able to obstruct some of the new liberal-globalist coalition government’s policies, which his envisaged successor (whoever they’ll be since he can’t run for re-election) envisages continuing to keep them in check. It’s precisely for this reason that Tusk is hellbent on ensuring that his party wins that post by hook or by crook, ergo why he’s now resorting to the same meddling that his predecessor employed against him.

The larger context concerns Poland comprehensively subordinating itself to Germany under Tusk’s rule so as to accelerate the resumption of the latter’s superpower trajectory, which the US supports in order for Germany to contain Russia on its behalf as it “Pivots (back) to Asia” once the Ukrainian Conflict ends. An important aspect of this policy involves fearmongering about Russia, most recently with respect to it allegedly carrying out sabotage inside of Poland, including the arson of Warsaw’s largest mall.

These accusations serve to keep Russia at the center of Poles’ minds, which in turn is intended to influence them into thinking that Poland cannot stand alone against its historical rival in the east and must therefore closely coordinate all relevant security matters with neighboring Germany. The notion is that newly remilitarizing and nowadays anti-Russian Germany is right next door while the US is halfway across the world and NATO’s collective action could be hamstrung by pragmatic members like Hungary.

Complementarily, the ruling liberal-globalist coalition has sought to connect the high-ranking Warsaw judge that fled to Belarus earlier this month to escape political persecution for his anti-proxy war views with the conservative-nationalist opposition. Shortly after that happened, Polish media then reported that the Supreme Audit Office is investigating the former government for allegedly misallocating funds spent on an anti-Russian propaganda campaign, which could potentially lead to charges by summertime.

Tusk exploited these narratives of Russia plotting to invade Poland, actively waging “hybrid war” against it, and even infiltrating the state itself to justify the revival of his predecessor’s “influence commission” in a new context that’s designed to lend it false legitimacy in order to distract from its true purposes. That aforementioned judge who just fled to Belarus predicted that it’ll lead to “purges and political prisons”, which aligns with this analysis’ argument that the end goal is to influence the next presidential election.

The reality is that Russian influence is non-existent in Poland due to the legacy of its former conservative-nationalist government whose premier boasted about his country being responsible for Russophobia going mainstream across the world and called the Russian World a “cancer”. He also “de-Russified” the energy sector, ramped up military spending, invited even more US troops into Poland, and ultimately turned Poland into NATO’s top logistics base for arming Ukraine against Russia.

These aren’t the policies of a government operating under Russian influence, yet Tusk wants to manipulate Poles into thinking otherwise so that they don’t vote for the conservative-nationalist candidate during the next presidential election, who might even be barred from running. If the liberal-globalist candidate wins, then the ruling coalition will be able to impose the most radical parts of their ideological agenda onto the country, though at the risk of Poland’s political crisis spiraling out of control.  

Tyler Durden Sun, 05/26/2024 - 07:00

Treason Of The Intellectuals And Danger From Within

Treason Of The Intellectuals And Danger From Within

Authored by William Brooks via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

The enemies from within are more dangerous to me than the enemies from the outside,” said Republican Presidential Candidate Donald J. Trump, at a rally in Wildwood, New Jersey, on May 11, 2024.

The United States flag at the dome of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington on May 12, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

At a Springfield, Illinois, event, some 20 years before the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln delivered a prophetic message to his fellow citizens: “At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”

The speech is said to be the origin of the popular quote wrongly attributed to Lincoln: “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”

While these were not Lincoln’s exact words, most Americans understand that the 16th and 45th presidents of the United States were troubled by the same thing—the potential self-destruction of their nation.

History has demonstrated that internal discord can be as dangerous to a sovereign country as a foreign aggressor.

A History of Betrayal

In 2013, American author Diana West published “American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation’s Character.” Her book initiated an important debate about the modern history of the American Republic.

Ms. West contended that Nov. 16, 1933, was the beginning of a long assault on the security of U.S. democracy. This was the date when Democrat President Franklin Delano Roosevelt decided to normalize relations with the murderous communist regime known as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. FDR’s fateful decision opened America’s doors to an unprecedented invasion of Marxist militants, communist spies, and domestic fellow-travelers.

In the decades that followed, progressive academics, journalists, novelists, artists, and entertainers all celebrated the socialist ideals of the Bolshevik Revolution. According to Ms. West, even American businessmen were “eager to buy their rope from Lenin.”

Ms. West’s views about the influence of communist ideologues in American politics were ridiculed by some of the most notable literary figures in the United States and Canada.

Other courageous scholars came to her defense.

One was the late Vladimir Bukovsky, a Russian-born writer and human rights activist who spent 12 years in Soviet psychiatric hospitals, prisons, and labor camps during the Brezhnev era. Another was Pavel Stroilov, a Russian Christian exile who fled to the UK after his academic research put his life and liberty in jeopardy.

Writing for Breitbart News in November 2013, Mr. Bukovsky and Mr. Stroilov insisted that Diana West’s book would make history. Both agreed that, despite the collapse of the Soviet Union and the unraveling of the Warsaw Pact in 1989, the United States never really won the Cold War.

Like Ms. West, they asserted that the conflict between the United States and the USSR was more than a military stand-off.

“It was an ideological war waged by the totalitarian utopia of Socialism against our civilization; and on that level, the most optimistic view of it is that it still goes on. The Soviet Union is gone, but Russia is still governed by a junta of Gestapo officers; China is still governed by the Communist Party; and the Western world is governed by closet Marxists and Mensheviks, imposing on us yet another version of the same socialist utopia,” they wrote.

Drawing on copious research and experience, Ms. West, Mr. Bukovsky, and Mr. Stroilov demonstrated that it was an elite American intelligentsia who surrendered the United States to the adversarial socialist culture. The U.S. establishment’s capitulation to the global left led to a complete occupation of U.S. institutions and the ultimate corruption of the free world.

Few scholars have produced better explanations for the precipitous decline of Western democracy in the 21st century.

Treason of the Intellectuals

For more than 150 years after the signing of the U.S. Constitution, Americans regarded their nation as a beacon of liberty and a model for representative democracy.

In the early decades of the 19th century, French political philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville expressed high praise for the United States, its citizens, and their civic institutions.

After abolishing slavery, Abraham Lincoln identified the U.S. Republic as “a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

Americans developed civil institutions that were second to none. In 1964, the American Civil Rights Act extended the foundational promises of the United States to all of its citizens.

Today’s woke left is destroying America’s legacy. While they claim to worry about “democracy,” they are really worried about losing their own power. They saw how actual democracy worked in 2016 and they don’t want any more of it.

Ordinary American citizens are victims of what French philosopher Julien Benda once called “La Trahison des Clercs” (The Treason of the Intellectuals).

Benda condemned early 20th-century European elites who were apologists for aggressive imperialism, military power, and racial discrimination. The elites who are betraying America today are proponents of aggressive globalism, technocratic power, and reverse racial discrimination.

Both Benda and Ms. West asserted that free societies can be ruined by a leadership class that rejects objective reasoning and ignores the difference between truth and lies.

From the New Deal to Bidenomics, Soviet show trials to corrupt courts, national sovereignty to open borders, education to indoctrination, free speech to censorship, honest elections to ballot harvesting, and freedom of religion to the suppression of faith, the survival of American democracy is more tenuous than ever.

These are the “dangers from within” that Presidents Lincoln and Trump were speaking about.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times or ZeroHedge.

Tyler Durden Sat, 05/25/2024 - 23:20

How Much Of India's Wastewater Is Left Untreated?

How Much Of India's Wastewater Is Left Untreated?

As is the case with rapid population growth and urbanization in many so-called developing nations, waste management becomes a problem not only in rural areas but also in densely populated cities.

As Statista's Florian Zandt details below, a textbook example of this growth outpacing infrastructural capacities is the situation in urban hotspots in India like Delhi, where a report by Euronews from May 2023 mentions neighborhoods with "open gutters [...] filled with plastic and grey-colored water". While the number of operational sewage treatment plants doubled between 2014 and 2020, the capacity for water treatment is still severely lacking.

 How Much of India's Wastewater Is Left Untreated? | Statista

You will find more infographics at Statista

According to the latest annual report by the Central Pollution Control Board, India generated 72.4 billion liters of wastewater per day across all provinces, with Maharashtra (9.1 billion), Uttar Pradesh (8.3 billion), Tamil Nadu (6.4 billion) and Gujarat (5.0 billion) being responsible for around 40 percent of wastewater.

The 1,093 sewage treatment plants only had operational capacities of 26.9 billion liters of wastewater per day, with around 400 plants either non-operational or under construction as of the latest available tally from 2020/2021. This translates to only 37 percent of sewage being treated, exacerbating the risks of communicable diseases and contaminated food and drinking water.

While India is seemingly hard-pressed to keep up with the amount of wastewater its population generates, measures to grant more people access to potable water and basic sanitation and hygiene were scaled up significantly in recent decades. For example, the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan campaign, translatable to Clean India, initiated in 2014 aims to eliminate open defecation by installing upwards of 100 million toilets in the country.

Nevertheless, in 2022, only 75 percent of rural Indian households had at least basic access to sanitation, while 30 percent of homes didn't have their own washing facility with soap and water according to data from the WHO and Unicef's Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene.

Tyler Durden Sat, 05/25/2024 - 22:45

Hidden Food Threat: Experts Warn Of Dangers Of RNAi Crops

Hidden Food Threat: Experts Warn Of Dangers Of RNAi Crops

Authored by Sayer Ji via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

Imagine a technology that could genetically rewire organisms in real-time, silencing critical genes across entire ecosystems with unknown effects. Sounds like science fiction? It’s not. It’s the reality of a new class of pesticides harnessing RNA interference—or RNAi—and they’re already being deployed in our fields and food supply with minimal testing or oversight. According to organic producers and non-GMO (genetically modified organisms) advocates, the risks could be catastrophic.

(Dejan82/Shutterstock) Environmental Organization Warns of RNAi Pesticide Dangers

In 2020, a groundbreaking report from Friends of the Earth (FOE) rang the alarm on the dangers posed by gene-silencing RNAi pesticides. According to the non-governmental environmental organization report, these products can genetically modify organisms in the open environment, with risks of unintended effects on non-target species, human health, and the integrity of organic and non-GMO agriculture. Despite these threats, RNAi pesticides face little to no regulatory scrutiny in most countries, and some have already been approved for use.

In June 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency green-lit the RNAi corn developed by Monsanto and Dow, now being marketed under the trade name SmartStax Pro.

In a press release announcing the approval of SmartStax Pro, regulators praised the product for its value to the farmer and the low impact it has on the environment.

“The ribonucleic acid interference (RNAi) technology found in SmartStaxPro works through a process of gene control that occurs naturally in plants, animals, and humans alike. Scientists harnessed this control process to create the product, which works as a pesticide by silencing or turning off the activity of a gene critical to corn rootworm survival, resulting in the death of the corn rootworm. This product is so specific that it only affects the corn rootworm,” states the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) press release.

RNAi works by using small RNA molecules to interfere with and “silence” the activity of specific genes. While that may sound precise, the FOE report emphasizes that RNAi technology is prone to “off-target effects,” meaning it can unintentionally silence genes in non-target organisms. Since many genes are conserved across species, a pesticide designed for one insect could end up harming beneficial pollinators, soil microbes, or even humans. What’s more, the alteration caused by RNAi can sometimes be passed down to future generations, meaning that a single application could spark uncontrollable ripple effects.

The Friends of the Earth report dubs RNAi pesticides “a vast, open-air genetic experiment,” with entire ecosystems at risk. Because they’re sprayed directly into the environment, controlling exposure is nearly impossible. Any organism that takes up the interfering RNAs could have its genome tinkered with. Some evidence suggests that ingesting RNAs from our diet may even influence human gene expression.

There’s also a risk that RNAi sprays could alter the genetic makeup of the very crops they’re meant to protect, changing nutritional content or toxicity in unpredictable ways.

Could RNAi Pesticides Impact Human Genes?

What’s particularly concerning is that the off-target effects of RNAi pesticides may extend beyond the farm and into the bodies of consumers. A 2008 study funded by Monsanto revealed that numerous small RNAs from corn, soybeans, and rice had perfect sequence complementarity to human genes. While Monsanto pointed to this finding as evidence of safety, the reality is far more complex and troubling.

As the study showed, there are numerous plant RNAs with sequences identical to human genes. If these dietary RNAs are indeed able to influence human gene expression, as mounting evidence suggests, then the genetic rewiring of our food crops with novel RNAi molecules could have far-reaching and entirely unpredictable effects on our health.

A 2012 study published in Cell Research demonstrated that a specific plant microRNA from ingested rice could be detected in human blood and tissues. When the same plant microRNA was fed to mice, it appeared to modulate the expression of a receptor involved in removing LDL cholesterol. If a natural plant RNA can have such a significant biological effect, what might be the consequences of engineered RNAi molecules?

Many genes are not consistently expressed, and their activity can vary based on environmental conditions. This adds yet another layer of complexity and unpredictability when it comes to assessing the risks of RNAi crops.

Furthermore, the human gut is home to a diverse community of microbes that play a vital role in our health and immune function. Preliminary research suggests that some of these bacteria may be capable of taking up dietary RNAs and incorporating them in such a way as to affect their gene regulation. The effects of RNAi crops on the human microbiome are unknown but could be significant given the importance of gut flora in everything from nutrient absorption to mental health.

Taking Advantage of Loose Regulations

In the United States, the EPA’s regulatory framework for genetically engineered crops was established in 1986 and has only been updated once in the last 30 years.

This old standard is being used to evaluate a whole new kind of pesticide. SmartStaxPro, the RNAi corn developed by Monsanto and Dow, produces a double-stranded RNA that disrupts a critical gene in a major agricultural pest, the western corn rootworm, causing its death. In 2023, the EPA registered an RNAi pesticide that targets the Colorado potato beetle.

According to the FOE report, the companies crafting RNAi pesticides are also filing broad patents that would grant them ownership rights over any organism exposed to their products. This could mean that if a farmer’s crops are unintentionally contaminated by drifting RNAi sprays, the company could lay claim to their harvest.

At the international level, RNAi is barely on the regulatory radar. Technically, RNAi products fall under the “living modified organisms” category defined in the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. According to one assessment published in the Annual Review of Plant Biology, “the European GMO regulatory framework is inadequate and needs to be updated.”

For organic and non-GMO advocates, this regulatory vacuum is a recipe for disaster. Without robust safety testing and labeling requirements, RNAi crops could soon infiltrate food supplies worldwide, turning consumers into unwitting test subjects in a massive uncontrolled experiment. Organic farmers may find their crops and local ecosystems irreversibly contaminated by drifting RNAi molecules.

Can We Prevent an Agricultural Disaster?

Despite these concerns, many consumers may already be eating this genetically altered corn. There is significant adoption of these advanced corn traits, particularly in regions where corn rootworms are prevalent. Based on recent information from Bayer, their SmartStax and SmartStax PRO traits are utilized in about 15 million acres across the United States—nearly 17 percent of the ninety million acres dedicated to corn growing in the United States.

An email was sent to Bayer Crop Sciences requesting comment on the FOE report and the threat of off target consequences related to their RNAi pesticides.  No response was returned.

Although advocates for RNAi pesticides promote it as a precise means for targeting a single pest, it’s clear the technology isn’t merely a tweak to existing agricultural practices—it represents a watershed moment in the industrialization of our food supply.

A review of RNAi transgenic plant technology from the Bioscience Resource Project,  notes several off-target effects the technology has demonstrated. The report suggests that this technology could lead to “distinct toxicological and environmental hazards.”

”… while RNAi holds great promise for agricultural applications, the potential for OTEs within the plant, in non-target organisms, and in mammals consuming the plant material warrants careful assessment and risk mitigation strategies,” state authors Jonathan R. Latham and Allison K. Wilson.

To mitigate these risks, researchers propose several preconditions for regulatory approval of RNAi transgenes, such as avoiding perfectly duplexed sequences, minimizing complementarity with known human and host sequences, ensuring minimal transgene expression levels, and using short RNAi-triggering sequences and naturally occurring miRNA (microRNA) promoters.

Until these off-target effects can be identified and eliminated, the report calls for “a precautionary approach” to furthering the technology and asks regulators to consider the possible hazards the development of RNAi-based genetically modified crops may cause.

With regulations as they now stand, biotech firms are granted the power to deliberately manipulate gene expression across entire species and ecosystems. Although the technology may be billed as a high-tech solution to move away from toxic pesticides, it is introducing a wide range of potential unintended adverse effects.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times or ZeroHedge.

Tyler Durden Sat, 05/25/2024 - 22:10

These Are The World's Wettest (And Driest) Countries

These Are The World's Wettest (And Driest) Countries

From tropical rainforest nations to the sandy deserts of North Africa and the Middle East, the world’s wettest and driest countries are a study in contrasts.

In the chart below, Visual Capitalist's Pallavi Rao maps and ranks the countries that receive the highest and lowest average annual precipitation in millimeters, per latest data from the World Bank.

Ranked: Top 10 Wettest Countries

Colombia tops the list of nations with the highest average precipitation at 3,240 millimeters (128 inches) in a year.

Its Tutunendo district is the one of the world’s wettest places, averaging nearly 12,000 mm (463 inches) of rain annually.

Note: Figures are rounded.

Off the coast of Africa however, Sao Tome & Principe is not far behind Colombia, receiving about 3,200 mm of rain in 2020.

Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands also average more than 3,000 mm of rain in a year, and Panama (2,928 mm) rounds out the top five.

Noticeably, all 10 countries lie in close proximity to the equator, and near oceans, where rising hot and humid air leads to abundant rainfall.

Ranked: Top 10 Driest Countries

On the other end of the scale, Egypt records the lowest average annual rainfall across all countries, at 18 mm (0.7 inches). For comparison, Colombia receives nearly 180x the amount of rain Egypt does.

Note: Figures are rounded.

In fact, countries from North Africa and the Middle East make up the entirety of this list of the driest countries in the world.

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out Mapping the Unequal Distribution of Global Precipitation which divides the world into two halves: one that receives more than global average of rain (or snow), and one that receives less.

Tyler Durden Sat, 05/25/2024 - 21:35

Gov. Newsom Signs Bill Allowing Arizona Doctors To Provide Abortions In California

Gov. Newsom Signs Bill Allowing Arizona Doctors To Provide Abortions In California

Authored by Katabella Roberts via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law on May 23, allowing Arizona doctors to travel to the Golden State on a temporary basis to perform abortions for their patients.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks support of Senate Bill 233, which would allow Arizona doctors to perform abortions in California, during a press conference at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., on April 24, 2024. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

Senate Bill 233, introduced by state Sen. Nancy Skinner of Oakland and Assembly Majority Leader Cecilia Aguiar-Curry of Winters, allows licensed Arizona abortion providers to come to California and provide abortions or abortion-related care to patients from Arizona who travel to the state for such procedures until near the end of this year.

The measure states that licensed Arizona doctors in good standing simply need to fill out an application form with the Medical Board of California or the Osteopathic Medical Board of California to perform abortions. Provided they meet certain requirements, their approval will be granted within five business days.

Arizona licensed doctors who chose to come to the state temporarily will only be able to do so until Nov. 30, when California officials expect Arizona voters to approve an abortion measure on their state ballot.

The measure, which is being implemented in partnership with the California Legislative Women’s Caucus, contains an urgency clause and takes effect immediately.

It also notes that physicians are prohibited from providing care or consultation for other purposes or to other patients, except under the circumstances outlined in the legislation. Arizona doctors must also provide an array of information to the Medical Board of California and the Osteopathic Medical Board of California, including their Arizona and temporary California addresses, as well as an affidavit attesting that they meet all requirements, according to the legislation.

Providing false information in that affidavit is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000, one year in prison, or both, the bill states.

Arizona Supreme Court Ruling

Senate Bill 233 was introduced in response to Arizona’s Supreme Court’s April 9 ruling which Mr. Newsom said reimposed a “regressive 1864 law imposing a near-total abortion ban” that threatens to “almost completely curtail access to abortion care in Arizona.”

The state Supreme Court last month upheld the 1864 ban on nearly all abortions in the state, except in cases where it will save the life of the mother, following the reversal of Roe v. Wade, which brought the issue back into the spotlight.

Under the Civil War-era law, anyone who performs an abortion or helps a woman access abortion services in Arizona risks a felony charge and between two to five years in prison. Exceptions for rape or incest are not allowed.

While the Arizona Legislature has since passed a bill repealing that ban, which Governor Katie Hobbs signed in early May, the ban will remain in effect until 90 days after the Arizona state Legislature’s session ends, which typically happens in June or July.

Currently, Arizona law allows abortions up to 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Senate Bill 233—which passed in California’s state Senate on May 21 after previously passing the state Assembly—has been described by Mr. Newsom as a “critical stopgap” for Arizona patients and providers while enforcement of the 1864 bill remains uncertain.

In a statement on May 23, the Democrat praised the legislation while touting his efforts to “defend and advance” reproductive rights and women’s health care.

Approximately 3,000 pro-life advocates met at the steps of the California Capitol in Sacramento, on April 22, 2024. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times) ‘Oppressive, Dangerous Attacks on Women’

“Arizona Republicans tried to turn back the clock to 1864 to impose a near-total abortion ban across their state,” the governor said in a statement. “We refuse to stand by and acquiesce to their oppressive and dangerous attacks on women,” he continued.

“I’m grateful for the California Legislative Women’s Caucus and all our partners for moving quickly to provide this backstop. California stands ready to protect reproductive freedom.”

The legislation was also welcomed by pro-abortion advocates, including Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California’s president & CEO Jodi Hicks.

“As we continue to navigate a chaotic national abortion landscape, we appreciate Governor Newsom and the California Legislative Women’s Caucus for their continued commitment to advocating for additional tools that support abortion providers’ ability to serve patients,” Ms. Hicks said.

Together, we will continue to work to ensure that all who are forced to leave their home state to access abortion care can get the services they need and deserve in California,” she added.

However, Republican lawmakers and pro-life advocates have criticized Mr. Newsom, accusing him of taking California’s “abortion sanctuary” status to a “new level.”

In a statement published earlier this month before the measure was signed into law, Greg Burt, vice president of the California Family Council, a Christian nonprofit group focused on life and family values, said it is a “disgrace that California legislators continue to find ways to promote the killing of innocent pre-born babies at every turn.”

“Instead of deceptively treating pregnancy as a disease requiring abortion ’treatment,' our state representatives should be seeking to create a culture where vulnerable women facing unplanned pregnancies feel supported and encouraged to give birth,” he added.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Tyler Durden Sat, 05/25/2024 - 21:00

24 GOP Governors Tell Biden Not To Sign WHO Pandemic Agreement

24 GOP Governors Tell Biden Not To Sign WHO Pandemic Agreement

Authored by Kevin Stocklin via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

Governors from 24 states have joined together to speak out against treaty negotiations being conducted by the Biden administration, which “would purport to grant” the World Health Organisation (WHO) “unprecedented and unconstitutional powers over the United States and its people.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) logo is seen at the entrance of their headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, on March 9, 2020. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images)

In a March 22 letter, the governors stated that they “stand united in opposition to two proposed instruments” currently under negotiation.

The objective of these instruments is to empower the WHO, particularly its uncontrollable Director-General, with the authority to restrict the rights of U.S. citizens, including freedoms such as speech, privacy, travel, choice of medical care, and informed consent, thus violating our Constitution’s core principles,” the governors wrote. “If adopted, these agreements would seek to elevate the WHO from an advisory body to a global authority in public health.”

The documents they refer to are a new treaty called the WHO pandemic agreement and amendments to the existing International Health Regulations (IHRs), which together would centralize a significant amount of authority within this United Nations subsidiary if the WHO declares a state of “health emergency.”

Governors from the following states signed the letter: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

As the negotiations among member nations move into their final phase before the start of the voting session at the World Health Assembly, scheduled to begin on May 27, the WHO appears to have scaled back some of the powers it had sought in hopes of finalizing a deal.

The latest IHR draft has deleted a prior provision that member nations “recognize WHO as the guiding and coordinating authority of international public health response” and commit to following the WHO’s directives during a health emergency. The latest draft also states that WHO recommendations are non-binding.

The WHO had attempted in previous drafts to obtain powers over “all risks with the potential to impact public health,” which could include environmental and climate issues. The latest draft seeks to limit the WHO’s authority to diseases.

The WHO has simultaneously launched a public relations campaign, using politicians, celebrities, and religious leaders, to encourage member states to sign the agreements. 

On March 20, WHO ambassador and Britain’s former Prime Minister Gordon Brown praised the efforts of a “100+ pantheon of global leaders” that have come to the WHO’s defense. 

“A high-powered intervention by 23 former national Presidents, 22 former Prime Ministers, a former UN General Secretary, and 3 Nobel Laureates is being made today to press for an urgent agreement from international negotiators on a Pandemic Accord, under the Constitution of the World Health Organization, to bolster the world’s collective preparedness and response to future pandemics,” Mr. Brown stated in a press release.

He called for an international effort to “expose fake news disinformation campaigns by conspiracy theorists trying to torpedo international agreement for the Pandemic Accord.”

No country will cede any sovereignty, and no country will see their national laws set aside,” he declared.

The issue of whether or not to grant the WHO additional powers has become a partisan issue, with Democrats generally supporting the plan and Republicans generally opposing it.

GOP Senators Demand Right to Approve Treaty

On May 1, all 49 GOP senators signed a letter to President Biden urging him either not to sign the WHO Pandemic Agreement and IHR amendments or, if he does, to submit the treaty to the Senate for approval, as required by the Constitution. Senate Democrats have thus far not supported efforts to require Senate approval for the treaty.

“The WHO’s failure during the COVID-19 pandemic was as total as it was predictable and did lasting harm to our country,” the Republican senators wrote.

“The United States cannot afford to ignore this latest WHO inability to perform its most basic functions and must insist on comprehensive WHO reforms before even considering amendments to the International Health Regulations or any new pandemic related treaty that would increase WHO authority,” they continued. “We are deeply concerned that your administration continues to support these initiatives and strongly urge you to change course.”

In the United States, the authority to deal with health issues is largely in the domain of states and outside the grasp of the federal government. States with Republican majorities have been active in opposing the WHO agreements.

Louisiana and Florida recently passed laws stating that state officials will not obey WHO directives, and other states, such as Oklahoma, are considering similar legislation.

Attorneys general from 22 U.S. states also signed a May 8 letter to President Biden urging him not to sign the WHO agreements and stating that they will resist any attempts by the WHO to set public health policy in their states.

“Although the latest iteration is far better than previous versions, it’s still highly problematic,” the attorneys general wrote. “The fluid and opaque nature of these proceedings, moreover, could allow the most egregious provisions from past versions to return. Ultimately, the goal of these instruments isn’t to protect public health,” they stated.

“It’s to cede authority to the WHO—specifically its director-general—to restrict our citizens’ rights to freedom of speech, privacy, movement (especially travel across borders), and informed consent.”

Tyler Durden Sat, 05/25/2024 - 19:50

Hypocrite Dems Demanding Alito Recusal Played Dumb Over Virulent Anti-Trumper Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Hypocrite Dems Demanding Alito Recusal Played Dumb Over Virulent Anti-Trumper Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Senate Democrats have found their latest tantrum to attack the Supreme Court since its conservative majority - the fact that Justice Samuel Alito reportedly flew two flags outside his homes they say makes him unfit to weigh in on matters concerning Donald Trump.

In mid-January 2021, Alito flew an upside down American flag - historically used by the military as a distress signal, while in July and September of 2023, he displayed an "Appeal to Heaven" flag - commissioned by George Washington in 1775 for maritime use - outside his New Jersey vacation home.

The flags have caused uproar among Democrats, who have been scheming for years to dilute the conservative power of the Supreme Court (see: court packing). In a Friday letter to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, Democrat Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin and subcommittee head Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse urged Roberts to take steps to ensure Alito recuses himself from cases related to the 2020 presidential election and Jan. 6 attack. The Court currently has two such cases pending before it - one concerning federal prosecutors' use of an obstruction charge against Jan. 6 defendants, and another which addresses whether Donald Trump is entitled to immunity from criminal charges stemming from his actions following the 2020 election.

Now, the New York Times and Obama's law professor Lawrence Tribe are engaging in what people are referring to as "High-brow QAnon" conspiracy theories (aka 'BlueAnon);

Absolute hypocrisy (what else?)

In 2016, Democrats were absolutely silent over Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's notorious and public hatred of Donald Trump - comments she later apologized over, calling them "ill-advised."

"I can’t imagine what this place would be — I can’t imagine what the country would be — with Donald Trump as our president," she told the NY Times during the election, adding "For the country, it could be four years. For the court, it could be — I don’t even want to contemplate that."

She also called Trump a "faker" and criticized him for not releasing his tax returns.

"‘Now it’s time for us to move to New Zealand,’" she joked.

Who cares, right? But Democrats playing in the sandbox want to throw sand over Alito.

When Sheldon Whitehouse, the guy currently demanding Alito's recusal, was asked by The Dispatch about Ginsburg's public comments opposing Trump during the 2016 campaign, he said "I don't know what cases she was ruling on at that point. They [Republicans] weren't asking for [recusal.].

Ginsburg notoriously weighed in on several cases involving Trump's policies, including the travel ban (Trump v. Hawaii), Trump's attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census (which was denied), and DACA - Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), though the major Court decision involving the case came after her 2020 death.

Wikipedia propagandists are hard at work

Meanwhile (and there's always a meanwhile), WikiPedia's entry on the Appeal to Heaven (aka 'Pine Tree') flag has radically changed over the past several days.

On Wednesday, it was referred to as 'a religious and political symbol by some conservative, nationalist, and Christian national activists' in the US. Now, the entry reads:

"The flag fell into obscurity until the 2020s, where it became seen as a symbol of Christian nationalism and support for President Donald Trump and his "Stop the Steal" campaign among far-right groups.

Oh...

The flag draws its meaning from a John Locke quote: "And where the Body of the People, or any single Man, is deprived of their Right, or is under the Exercise of a power without right, and have no Appeal on Earth, then they have a liberty to appeal to Heaven, whenever they judge the Cause of sufficient moment," -The Second Treatise on Civil Government (1689).

 

Tyler Durden Sat, 05/25/2024 - 19:15

US Weapons Accuracy Drops To 10% In Ukraine Due To Jamming

US Weapons Accuracy Drops To 10% In Ukraine Due To Jamming

Authored by Mike Shedlock via MishTalk.com,

Many high-tech US weapons systems in Ukraine are now useless due to jamming signals by Russia.

Useless Weapons

Please consider Russian Jamming Leaves Some High-Tech U.S. Weapons Ineffective in Ukraine

Russia’s jamming of the guidance systems of modern Western weapons, including Excalibur GPS-guided artillery shells and the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, which can fire some U.S.-made rockets with a range of up to 50 miles, has eroded Ukraine’s ability to defend its territory and has left officials in Kyiv urgently seeking help from the Pentagon to obtain upgrades from arms manufacturers.

The success rate for the U.S.-designed Excalibur shells, for example, fell sharply over a period of months — to less than 10 percent hitting their targets — before Ukraine’s military abandoned them last year, according to the confidential Ukrainian assessments.

Six months ago, after Ukrainians reported the problem, Washington simply stopped providing Excalibur shells because of the high failure rate, the Ukrainian officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive security matter. In other cases, such as aircraft-dropped bombs called JDAMs, the manufacturer provided a patch and Ukraine continues to use them.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine created a modern testing ground for Western arms that had never been used against a foe with Moscow’s ability to jam GPS navigation.

But even before the United States ceased deliveries, Ukrainian artillerymen had largely stopped using Excalibur, the assessments said, because the shells are harder to use compared with standard howitzer rounds, requiring time-consuming special calculations and programming. Now they are shunned altogether, military personnel in the field said.

Dense web of jamming
A web of Russian electronic warfare systems and air defenses menace Ukrainian pilots, the documents said, adding that some Russian jammers also scramble the navigation system of planes. The Russian defense is so dense, the assessment found, that there are “no open windows for the Ukrainian pilots where they feel that they are not at gunpoint.”

HIMARS launchers were celebrated during the first year of Russia’s invasion for their success in striking ammunition depots and command points behind enemy lines.

But by the second year, “everything ended: the Russians deployed electronic warfare, disabled satellite signals, and HIMARS became completely ineffective,” a second senior Ukrainian military official said. “This ineffectiveness led to the point where a very expensive shell was used” increasingly to strike lower-priority targets.

Another US Precision-Guided weapon Fails

Defense One reports Another US Precision-Guided Weapon Falls Prey to Russian Electronic Warfare

A new ground-launched version of an air-to-ground weapon developed for Ukraine on a rapid timeline failed to hit targets in part because of Russian electro-magnetic warfare, Bill LaPlante, the Pentagon’s acquisition chief, said at an event held by think tank CSIS.

LaPlante suggested that Ukraine may no longer be interested in the weapon. “When you send something to people in the fight of their lives that just doesn’t work, they’ll try it three times and they’ll just throw it aside,” said LaPlante.

The weapon LaPlante is referring to is very likely the Ground-Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB) based on his description, according to Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.

A Boeing spokesperson did not confirm that LaPlante was referring to GLSDB, but said the company is “working closely with the [Defense Department] on spiral capability improvements to the ground-launch SDB system.” Spiral capability improvements refers to an iterative software development process.

The GLDSB boasts a range of 90 miles—double the range of the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMRLS) missiles Ukraine previously used to wreak havoc on Russia’s logistic centers. Funding for the weapon was approved in February 2023, and Ukraine was reportedly using the weapon by February 2024.

GPS spoofers work by sending false location data to GPS navigation devices. Because GPS signals are weak, a stronger, false signal can be sent to override the correct inputs. Russia has used GPS spoofing in Ukraine since at least 2018. But advancements in technology mean spoofers can be created cheaply with just a software-defined radio and open-source software.

The weapons the spoofers are working against, meanwhile, are anything but cheap. A GMLRS missile costs around $160,000, while an Excalibur round can cost as much as $100,000. The GLDSB costs around $40,000.

Tactical Nuclear Weapons

Former CIA analyst Larry Johnson on Sullivan’s words about Russia’s plans to use nuclear weapons: “His statement sounds like he had a meeting with Zelensky, where he was given some of Zelensky’s cocaine. Russia will not use nuclear weapons unless there is a real threat. If the US deploys F-16s in Poland, then Russia will destroy them “with conventional weapons, because they do pose a nuclear threat. The Taurus missiles are the same situation. If they are deployed, then you know – Russia has admitted that they can be used to launch a nuclear strike.”

Use Nukes First Would You Mind Not Shooting at the Thermonuclear Weapons? Get Russia to Strike First Using Nukes First Is a Risk/Reward Setup Is Nuclear War Bullish? What’s the Real Background Story Behind Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine?

On February 24, 2022 I asked, and answered the question What’s the Real Background Story Behind Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine?

What Happened in Ukraine?

The mess today in Ukraine has its roots in the 2014 when democratically elected Ukrainian President Yanukovych was toppled in a US-backed coup. 

Q: Why did the US want to get rid of Yanukovych? 

A: Because he was against Ukraine joining NATO.

The current comedian president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, repeated two days ago his desire to join NATO.

I use the term comedian because he literally is a comedian who ran for office and won.

McCain dined with Svoboda Party leader Oleg Tyagnibok. The Svoboda Party is a group of neo-Nazis. 

The citizens of Ukraine were used as pawns in yet another US mission that backfired. 

Well who cares about Neo-Nazis as long as they want Ukraine in NATO.

And that’s the rest of the story US media will not discuss. 

This no way absolves Putin, but US meddling backfires again, and again, and again.

Sometimes the Best Thing to Do Is Nothing At All

Please consider Sometimes the Best Thing to Do Is Nothing At All

After pointing out how much US and EU sanctions have backfired, someone asked me what I would do.

I responded, why do I have to do anything? 

The urge to do something should not be so intense that it overpowers analysis as to whether any actions can possibly work.

President Biden on Putin

On March 26, President Biden proclaimed “For God’s Sake, this Man Cannot Remain in Power”

The Wall Street Journal and perpetual warmongers agreed. But Biden’s staff quickly backtracked on his controversial statement.

On March 29 I pointed out all the loopholes in  sanctions on Russia, For discussion, please see Misguided Souls Still Do Not Understand This Simple Truth: Sanctions Don’t Work

I wrote that on April 8, 2022.

Also in 2022, I said the war would end in a negotiated settlement and nobody would win.

What did I get wrong?

It’s Time for a New Strategy

On March 16, I wrote Ukraine Won’t Win the War, It’s Time for a New Strategy

The sad thing is US meddling precipitated this whole sorry affair.

It’s time for a new strategy and a goal: Negotiated settlement.

If we supply Ukraine with anything, we should only do so if it aids that goal. For now, we still have no goals.

What’s the Goal?

On November 7, 2023, I asked If the US Has a Goal in Ukraine or Israel, What the Hell Is It?

We still don’t have a clearly defined goal or a clearly defined amount of money we are willing to spend.

Any Questions?

I have one:

Given US meddling in Ukraine precipitated this war, are we obliged to start a nuclear war to stop it, or is the lesson to just stop meddling?

Tyler Durden Sat, 05/25/2024 - 18:40

Special Counsel Requests (Another) Gag Order For Trump In Classified Docs Case

Special Counsel Requests (Another) Gag Order For Trump In Classified Docs Case

Authored by Caden Pearson via The Epoch Times,

Special counsel Jack Smith’s prosecutors asked the judge presiding over former President Donald Trump’s classified documents case in Florida on Friday to issue a gag order following remarks he made about the FBI raid on his Mar-a-Lago estate.

In a filing on Friday, prosecutors asked Judge Aileen Cannon to modify the conditions of President Trump’s release from jail before trial to prevent him from making statements that may pose a “significant, imminent, and foreseeable danger” to the FBI agents involved in the planning and execution of the search and seizure of presidential documents stored at his Florida estate.

“Those statements create a grossly misleading impression about the intentions and conduct of federal law enforcement agents—falsely suggesting that they were complicit in a plot to assassinate him—and expose those agents, some of whom will be witnesses at trial, to the risk of threats, violence, and harassment,” the filing states.

Earlier this month, an operations plan for the Mar-a-Lago raid was produced through discovery. The plan stated that FBI agents would be prepared to “engage with” President Trump and his Secret Service agents should he arrive at the estate during the raid.

The use of deadly force was included in a statement on the document, which quoted standard government policy that noted deadly force may be used “only when necessary” in such cases when the subject of the force “poses an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to the officer or to another person.”

President Trump’s lawyers stated that there was no justification for the FBI to bring guns into Mar-a-Lago.

Prosecutors say President Trump “distorted the standard inclusion of the policy” when he made statements that the FBI “WAS AUTHORIZED to SHOOT ME.”

Additionally, the former president’s 2024 presidential campaign issued an alert stating that the Department of Justice (DOJ) was “locked and loaded” and “ready to take me out” because the FBI was authorized to “use deadly force” during the raid.

Prosecutors say in their Friday filing that the law enforcement agents participating in the raid acted in an “appropriate and professional manner, subject to the Department of Justice’s standard use-of-force policy.”

“Trump‘s repeated mischaracterization as an attempt to kill him, his family, and Secret Service agents has endangered law enforcement officers involved in the investigation and prosecution of this case and threatened the integrity of these proceedings,” the filing states. ”Those deceptive and inflammatory assertions irresponsibly put a target on the backs of the FBI agents involved in this case, as Trump well knows.”

Prosecutors noted that “an armed attack on an FBI office in Cincinnati, Ohio, was carried out by one of his supporters in the wake of Trump’s Truth Social statements inflaming his supporters regarding the search of Mar-a-Lago.”

The Epoch Times contacted President Trump’s attorneys for comment.

President Trump’s lawyers objected to the prosecution’s motion and timing of their request on the Memorial holiday weekend, according to prosecutors.

“They do not believe that there is any imminent danger, and asked to meet and confer next Monday,” the filing states.

However, prosecutors pointed to President Trump’s Truth Social account evidence not to wait until Monday, highlighting a statement by a third party that he shared. Prosecutors say, “Trump has continued to issue false statements, smearing and endangering the agents who executed the search.”

The reshared post included the statement “claiming that the FBI was authorized to use ‘Lethal Force’ on Trump or anyone at MAL– WHILE the FBI/DOJ plants evidence to frame Trump!!!”, according to the filing.

The request for a gag order is the first in President Trump’s classified documents case.

An aerial view of former U.S. President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home after FBI agents raided it, in Palm Beach, Fla., on Aug. 15, 2022. (Marco Bello/Reuters)

On Thursday, Attorney General Merrick Garland responded to claims about FBI agents being authorized to use deadly force.

Mr. Garland disputed the former president’s claims, saying that the document President Trump referred to “is the Justice Department’s standard policy.”

“And in fact, it was even used in the consensual search of President [Joe] Biden’s home,” he added.

Earlier this week, the FBI told The Epoch Times that its agents had “followed standard protocol” in the Mar-a-Lago search “as we do for all search warrants.”

Tyler Durden Sat, 05/25/2024 - 18:05

Republicans Are Winning The Voter Registration Battle In Battleground States

Republicans Are Winning The Voter Registration Battle In Battleground States

Authored by Austin Alonzo via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

Republicans are closing the gap on voter registrations in key swing states. Political observers say it could be a sign the party will perform well in November.

(Illustration by The Epoch Times, Shutterstock)

The gap between registered voters in the Democratic Party and Republican Party shrank significantly in Pennsylvania, Nevada, and North Carolina, according to voter registration statistics collected in April. 

Taking the combined voter totals in the three states, Republicans have eroded the Democratic registration advantage by more than 54 percent between 2019 and 2024.

In Arizona, a fourth critical state, Republicans extended their lead in registered voters by more than 71 percent during the same period.

The four states are among the most prized possessions in presidential politics. Collectively, they represent 52 electoral votes. In 2020, Joe Biden carried all except North Carolina. In 2016, Donald Trump took everything but Nevada.

The registration trends don’t necessarily mean Republicans will sweep the states, but they’re a sign that the GOP will be able to more easily target and turn out its voters in those states than it did in 2020.

On balance, you'd certainly rather have more registrations in your direction than the other direction,” Daniel Hopkins, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Ronald O. Perelman Center for Political Science and Economics, told The Epoch Times.

The largest numerical shift occurred in the Keystone State where the Democrat lead has shrunk by some 400,000 votes since May 2019.

In May 2019, more than 4 million were registered as Democrats, and about 3.2 million were registered Republicans, according to voter registration data collected by the Pennsylvania Department of State.

By the end of April, almost 3.9 million Pennsylvanians were registered as Democrats, while nearly 3.5 million were registered as Republicans. 

During the same period, the total number of registered voters increased to more than 8.7 million from nearly 8.5 million. The electorate registered with the Libertarian Party or “other parties,” as the state identifies them, remained relatively stable at 1.2 million during the same period.

Along with the rematch between President Biden and former President Trump, Pennsylvania voters will consider a Senate race crucial to the balance of power in Washington. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) will square off against Republican businessman Dave McCormick.

Election volunteers prepare mail-in ballots for scanning at the Lancaster County Government Center in Lancaster, Pa., on April 23, 2024. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

Mr. Hopkins said the seismic change in voter registration could be linked to a growing number of what he called “ancestral Democrats” in rural Pennsylvania either falling off the rolls or registering with another party. These moderate voters are just as likely to vote Democratic as Republican, he predicts.

Nevertheless, Mr. Hopkins said the statistics indicate the state’s voters are moving toward the right and there is more parity in the electorate than in previous cycles. This aligns with the Republican Party’s growing appeal with white, high-school-educated voters, he said.

Pennsylvania GOP chairman Lawrence Tabas said erasing the voter registration deficit is a “top priority” in the state.

Mr. Tabas said volunteers are knocking on doors and making phone calls in efforts to register more Republican voters.

So far this year, all 67 counties have registered more Republican voters than any other party,” Mr. Tabas said in a statement provided to The Epoch Times. 

“These numbers, coupled with our mail-in ballot increases, are sure to help set up Republican victories in all regions of the Commonwealth this November.”

Representatives of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party didn’t respond to a request for comment from The Epoch Times.

North Carolina

The biggest percentage change occurred in the Tarheel State and the most significant statistic is that unaffiliated voters now exceed those of either major party.

The unaffiliated electorate grew to about 2.7 million members from about 2.2 million between April 2019 and April 2024, while the overall registered voter tally increased to 7.4 million from 6.8 million.

In the same time period, the number of registered Republicans rose to about 2.2 million from about 2 million and the number of registered Democrats fell from about 2.5 million to 2.4 million, according to statistics collected by the North Carolina State Board of Elections.

Overall, the gap between party registrations diminished 62 percent between that five-year period.

“Growth in ... unaffiliated registration could be seen as dissatisfaction with the major parties or a preference against that identification,” said Jon Green, an assistant professor of political science at Duke University’s Trinity College of Arts & Sciences.

“That certainly reflects a low enthusiasm, but may or may not reflect a change in behavior.”

Ultimately, the unaffiliated vote will decide the statewide races, he told The Epoch Times.

North Carolinians will pick a new governor in the fall. Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat who was first elected in 2016, isn’t seeking a third term in office. Lieutenant Gov. Mark Robinson, a Republican, is running against North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, a Democrat.

Read more here...

Tyler Durden Sat, 05/25/2024 - 17:30

What History Reveals About Interest Rate Cuts

What History Reveals About Interest Rate Cuts

The Federal Reserve has overseen seven cycles of interest rate cuts, averaging 26 months and 6.35 percentage points (ppts) each.

Visual Capitalist partnered with New York Life Investments to examine the impact of interest rate cut cycles on the economy and on the performance of financial assets in the U.S. to help keep investors informed. 


A Brief History of Interest Rate Cuts

Interest rates are a powerful tool that the central bank can use to spur economic activity. 

Typically, when the economy experiences a slowdown or a recession, the Federal Reserve will respond by cutting interest rates. As a result, each of the previous seven rate cut cycles—shown in the table below—occurred during or around U.S. recessions, according to data from the Federal Reserve.

Understanding past economic and financial impacts of interest rate cuts can help investors prepare for future monetary policy changes.

The Economic Response: Inflation

During past cycles, data from the Federal Reserve, shows that, on average, the inflation rate continued to decline throughout (-3.4 percentage points), largely due to the lagged effects of a slower economy that normally precedes interest rate declines.

However, inflation played catch-up and rose by +1.9 percentage points one year after the final rate cut. With lower interest rates, consumers were incentivized to spend more and save less, which led to an uptick in the price of goods and services in six of the past seven cycles. 

The Economic Response: Real Consumer Spending Growth

Real consumer spending growth, as measured by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, typically reacted to rate cuts more quickly. 

On average, consumption growth rose slightly during the rate cut periods (+0.3 percentage points) and that increase accelerated one year later (+1.7 percentage points).

The COVID-19 pandemic and the Global Financial Crisis were outliers. Spending continued to fall during the rate cut cycles but picked up one year later.

The Investment Response: Stocks, Bonds, and Real Estate

Historically, the trend in financial asset performance differed between stocks, bonds, and real estate both during and after interest rate declines.

Stocks and real estate posted negative returns during the cutting phases, with stocks taking the bigger hit. Conversely, bonds, a traditional safe haven, gained ground.

However, in the quarters preceding the last rate cut, all three assets increased in value. One year later, real estate had the highest average performance, followed closely by stocks, with bonds coming in third.

What’s Next for Interest Rates

In March 2024, the Federal Reserve released its Summary of Economic Projections outlining its expectation that U.S. interest rates will fall steadily in 2024 and beyond.

Though the timing of interest rate cuts is uncertain, being armed with the knowledge of their impact on the economy and financial markets can provide valuable insight to investors. 

Tyler Durden Sat, 05/25/2024 - 16:55

Average US Vehicle Age Hits 12.6 Years As Inflation Takes Toll

Average US Vehicle Age Hits 12.6 Years As Inflation Takes Toll

Cars, trucks, and SUVs across the U.S. are getting older, with the average vehicle age now at a record 12.6 years. According to S&P Global Mobility, which monitors state vehicle registration data, high prices for new cars and massive economic pressures on buyers account for the trend, ABC News reports.

Despite a small recovery in new vehicle sales and a recent drop in prices — the average new car cost just over $45,000 last month, down from a peak in December 2022 — many people still find new cars too expensive. "It’s prohibitively high for a lot of households now," said Todd Campau, aftermarket leader at S&P Global Mobility. "So I think consumers are being painted into the corner of having to keep the vehicle on the road longer."

In April of 2019, the average car cost $33,695.

Another possible factor is that people are hesitating on vehicle purchasing decisions due to uncertainty about whether to choose an electric vehicle (EV), a hybrid, or stick with gasoline - as many are concerned that the availability of EV charging stations (VW recently stepped away from plans to go all-electric). However, Campau notes that cars are better made now and last longer, which is good news for car owners.

That said, new car sales are picking up, while around 16 million new vehicles are projected to be sold this year, which would be an increase over last year.

As new car sales increase, the fleet of aging vehicles, which currently stands at 286 million passenger vehicles in the nation, should see its average age stabilize. Increased sales of lower-cost vehicles might also help reduce the average price of new cars, making them more accessible.

Auto repair shops are loving America's aging fleet - of which around 70% of vehicles on the road are over six years old and no longer under manufacturer warranty.

Overall, while the high cost of new vehicles continues to influence consumer choices, the improved quality and durability of cars are helping Americans manage by keeping their older vehicles on the road longer.

Tyler Durden Sat, 05/25/2024 - 15:45

Extreme Hurricane Season Could Trigger "Carrier Revenge"

Extreme Hurricane Season Could Trigger "Carrier Revenge"

By Craig Fuller, CEO of FreightWaves

For the past two years, shippers have had enormous leverage in the freight market, as excess capacity has kept rates under significant pressure. Shippers, who suffered under the weight of sizable market stress during COVID have inflicted “shippers revenge” on motor carriers, something we were warned was coming back in August 2022. 

Truckload spot rates, when adjusted for inflation, have plummeted to lows not seen since 2009.

In the early part of the Great Freight Recession, contract rates stayed persistently high as shippers monitored the market and wondered if the market reset was a short-term development or something greater.

In the first quarter of 2023, reassured that the Great Freight Recession was unlikely to end quickly, shippers started to insist on significant rate concessions from carriers. This process accelerated earlier this year. 

As a result, carrier profitability hit 14-year lows in the first quarter. 

According to FreightWaves channel checks, shippers still insist on rate concessions from motor carriers. This may be ill-advised. 

On April 17, FreightWaves reported that we were likely at the bottom of the market and the “end to the worst freight markets in history may be closer than it appears.” 

We believe that this analysis is still true, and shippers, not carriers, bear the greater risk. In fact, if the economy continues to grow, freight market volumes will do so as well. 

While we are not expecting a massive surge in freight activity, we continue to monitor risks that could change this perspective. 

Like all commodity markets, rates become massively volatile when an unexpected sudden demand shock occurs. For trucking markets, no event has more short-term impact on demand than a major hurricane hitting a large U.S. city. 

FreightWaves’ early success was largely due to its coverage of Hurricane Harvey, which devastated Galveston and parts of the Texas Gulf Coast around Houston. 

NOAA released its May hurricane forecast, where it spells a warning to shippers to prepare for significant disruptions. It is the most aggressive forecast on record. NOAA forecasts that there will be 17-25 named storms, with 4-7 being Category 3 or greater. On average, a hurricane season usually has 14 named storms and three Category 3 or greater storms. 

The administration described the 2024 season as “hyperactive” and “the highest NOAA has ever issued in the May forecast.” 

Shippers that assume they will be able to react to changing market conditions, in time, may find that carriers lack sympathy for their plight. In fact, carriers have been warning shippers that forcing significant rate concessions will be a mistake when the market flips in the carrier’s favor. 

Whether the hurricane season lives up to NOAA’s forecast or ends on a whimper, one thing is certain: at some point, the freight market pendulum will swing against shippers and when it does trucking firms will inflict carrier revenge. 

In many ways, Carrier’s revenge is more vicious than shipper’s revenge in the sense that price is easier for shippers to deal with than having freight left on their docks and factories disrupted. 

Tyler Durden Sat, 05/25/2024 - 14:00

52% Of Top US Hedge Funds Own Bitcoin ETFs

52% Of Top US Hedge Funds Own Bitcoin ETFs

534 institutions with over $1 billion in assets now hold Bitcoin ETFs, according to bitcoin app River.

In a blog post published this week, River noted that over 534 entities, each managing assets exceeding $1 billion, have now incorporated Bitcoin ETFs into their portfolios.

The diverse group of owners includes hedge funds, pension funds, and insurance companies, underscoring the wide-ranging acceptance of Bitcoin, the blog wrote, adding that notably, more than half of the top 25 hedge funds in the United States are now exposed to Bitcoin.

Among these are Millennium Management, which now holds an impressive $2 billion in Bitcoin assets. Furthermore, 11 of the top 25 Registered Investment Advisors (RIAs), alongside numerous smaller advisors, have also allocated investments in Bitcoin.

“If you sell your bitcoin to Blackrock, you probably won’t be getting it back," River's CEO Alex Leishman said. 

Specific to their company, they wrote that they are witnessing a trend of bitcoin becoming a staple on every company's balance sheet live. 

Currently, over a thousand companies using River's platform maintain bitcoin in their financial reserves, the company wrote. Just a year ago, the typical business held 2.5 BTC, valued at approximately $70,000. Since then, these holdings have grown to more than 4 BTC, with their value surging to beyond $280,000.

They wrote: "It is no longer just the MicroStrategy’s of the world accumulating Bitcoin, but businesses of all sizes."

Recall days ago, Michael Saylor commented in wide-ranging interview that bitcoin had now officially pierced the veil into the KYC and AML regulated banking world.

When asked about how bitcoin is homogenizing itself in a world of increasing regulations, he said: “I think it's doing it now. I mean, you're watching it, right? For example, Block sells $10 billion worth of Bitcoin every year via Cash App. They're a publicly traded company. They abide by AML and KYC regulations. They have compliance. They have responsibilities." 

“Fidelity, you know, Fidelity Digital Assets is custodying billions and billions of dollars of Bitcoin. I'm sure they've got an army of lawyers and finance people thinking about it.”

Tyler Durden Sat, 05/25/2024 - 13:25

Inflation To The Nines

Inflation To The Nines

By Peter C. Earle of the American Institute for Economic Research

Twice in the past few weeks President Joe Biden has claimed that when he took office in January 2021 inflation was “over nine percent.” First on CNN’s OutFront with Erin Burnett on May 8 and again on May 14 in a Yahoo! Finance interview, the bizarre comment was made. And as has become a routine with the gaffe-prone chief executive, White House staffers added shamelessness to what could have been limited to embarrassment by issuing a statement: “The President was making the point that the factors that caused inflation were in place when he took office. The pandemic caused inflation around the world by disrupting our economy and breaking our supply chains.”

Americans will have to decide for themselves if the claim made by Biden was a lie intended to mislead anyone not familiar with the trajectory of prices over the past several years, or an innocent error. It is a choice US citizens have been confronted with frequently, in particular where assertions regarding the health of the economy have been made. 

If an honest mistake, it simply may be that the President confused the January 2021 inflation number with a number of other price statistics beginning with the number nine in the month of his inauguration. Below are several possibilities.

  • In January 2021, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in their consumer prices summary that the average price of a boneless sirloin steak was $9.418. By April 2024 that price had risen 27.5 percent to $11.662. 

  • In January 2021, fifteen subindices of CPI began with the number nine. Their levels in that month, in the April 2024 report, and the percent change are shown below.

Alternatively, Mr. Biden may have mistaken a different January 2021 economic statistic with the July 2022 year-over-year headline CPI number.

  • The spread between the 1-year US Treasury bill and the 10-year US Treasury note was 97.9 basis points (0.98 percent) in mid-January 2021. That spread inverted in mid-2022, about the time that headline CPI year-over-year actually reached 9.1 percent. A normal yield curve slopes upward, with a positive spread showing that longer-term bonds yield more than shorter-term ones, typically reflecting expectations of economic growth and rising future interest rates. An inverted yield curve slopes downward with a negative spread as shorter-term bonds yield more than longer-term ones. Those conditions are often considered a predictor of an economic recession. As of May 2024, the 1-to-10 year spread has been negative for over 600 days.

1-year Treasury bill 10-year Treasury note spread (Jan 2021 – present)

  • The Federal Reserve’s Industrial Production (IP) Index was at 98.8 in January 2021. Owing to lockdowns and other pandemic policies, the index plummeted to a low of 84.6 in April 2020 and was recovering early in 2021. But despite hitting a post-pandemic high of 103.5 in September 2022, the IP Index hasn’t yet recovered its September 2018 all-time high of 104.1. Since the start of 2024, the index has declined, currently oscillating between 101.8 and 102.8.

Industrial Production (2014 – present), with all-time high (red dotted line), and January 2021 (black vertical line) indicated 

It’s possible that Mr. Biden has once again fumbled details accidentally. Yet the consistency of those blundered messages, each absolving his administration of responsibility for declining economic conditions, is simply not consistent with randomness. American citizens have been told that corporate profits, Vladimir Putin, owners of gas stations, and ocean shippers are responsible for the huge surge in prices. Month-to-month and year-to-year price change data has been conflated misleadingly, as have statistics regarding how the US inflationary surge compares to those in other nations.

Whatever the specific reasons, the desperate evasiveness is glaring. Knowing that the CPI was not “over 9 percent” in January 2021, but rather 1.4 percent, hitting 9.1 percent in July 2022, is one thing. Recognizing that the administration of monetary policy has become a third-rail issue to be evaded at all costs is another, more pressing, matter. Instead of properly attributing the increase in prices to expansionary monetary policies (and to a lesser extent, massive debt and deficits), many in the political establishment prefer to tell ham handed-lies which further erode an already ramshackle credibility.

It may be that the political establishment believes that the American public is not sophisticated enough to understand the Fed. More likely, the ability of the Fed to provide a swift economic boost during crises (without the lengthy process that fiscal stimuli require) is deemed too important to endanger by drawing attention to: even the staunchly anti-high finance Elizabeth Warren voted against auditing the Fed in 2016. The bipartisan inclination to keep the US central bank out of critical discussions is one which, whether inflation subsides or the Fed heeds calls to normalize at the 3-percent level, demands closer scrutiny.

Tyler Durden Sat, 05/25/2024 - 12:50

Biden's $320M Gaza Pier Has Detached & Drifted Onto Israeli Beach

Biden's $320M Gaza Pier Has Detached & Drifted Onto Israeli Beach

A section of the $320 million floating pier built and erected off Gaza's coast has broken off and floated onto an Israeli beach. The Saturday mishap is the latest setback for the US humanitarian aid project, after three US troops were reported injured aboard the pier two days prior, including one critically.

The Times of Isreal's military correspondent Emanuel Fabian has reported that "An American vessel used to unload humanitarian aid from ships into the Gaza Strip via a floating pier disconnected from a small boat tugging it this morning due to stormy seas, leading it to get stuck on the coast of Ashdod, eyewitnesses say."

The recovery operation has not gone well either, as "Another ship was then sent to try and extract the stuck vessel, but also got beached," Fabian writes.

And yet a second US Army vessel also got stuck in shallow waters while trying to rescue the pier section. Overnight US ships had been moving two pieces of the floating pier to the Port of Ashdod in southern Israel when the now beached section detached and drifted away. American troops can be seen in footage standing helplessly on the beach.

An official US Central Command (CENTCOM) statement says the following:

This morning four U.S. Army vessels supporting the maritime humanitarian aid mission in Gaza were affected by heavy sea states. The vessels broke free from their moorings and two vessels are now anchored on the beach near the pier.

The third and fourth vessels are beached on the coast of Israel near Ashkelon. Efforts to recover the vessels are under way with assistance from the Israeli Navy.

The pier operation was already last week off to a rough start -- and was paused for two days -- after desperate Palestinians mobbed and ransacked the first trucks transporting aid unloaded from the pier before they could reach a distribution warehouse managed by the World Food Programme.   

Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel

The pier has been center of controversy, given a number of land routes for aid into Gaza are possible, but have been blocked by Israel's military.

Now, to mitigate that devastation amid reports of famine the US government has spent $320 million to build a pier to bypass its own beneficiary's land-route blockade. But operating it has proven tricky especially due to inclement conditions in the eastern Mediterranean

At best, the pier will only put a dent in the daunting humanitarian challenge. "I just want to be clear that this humanitarian maritime corridor alone is not enough to meet the staggering needs in Gaza, but it is an important addition," said USAID Levant response management team director Daniel Dieckhaus. "It is meant to augment, not replace or substitute for land crossings into Gaza."    

At this point, with a section of the pier stuck on an Israel beach, and coming over two months after President Biden first unveiled the ambitious project, the whole initiative is becoming a bit of an embarrassment involving setback after setback.

Tyler Durden Sat, 05/25/2024 - 12:15

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