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[l] at 10/19/20 6:00pm
Commission Changes Rules To Mute Microphones During Next Debate Tyler Durden Mon, 10/19/2020 - 20:00

Update (1955ET): Just as was suspected by the Trump campaign earlier, the completely non-partisan Debate Commission has decide to not only drop 'Foreign Policy' from the topics for discussion during Thursday's debate but AP has now confirmed that the mics of the two candidates will be muted in order to allow two minutes of uninterrupted time per debate segment.

Full Statement from the Debate Commission:

Following the first presidential debate in Cleveland on September 29th, the Commission on Presidential Debates issued a statement that "additional structure should be added to the format of the remaining debates in order to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues."

Since then, the Commission has considered the opinion of many who expressed concern that the debate fell short of expectations, depriving voters of the opportunity to be informed of the candidates' positions on the issues. They advocated a variety of changes that could be introduced for subsequent debates, including the turning off of microphones to avoid interruptions.

In considering this issue, the Commission is mindful of the distinction between enforcing rules already agreed upon by the candidates and making changes to the rules. The Commission has determined that it is appropriate to adopt measures intended to promote adherence to agreed upon rules and inappropriate to make changes to those rules.

Under the agreed upon debate rules, each candidate is to have two minutes of uninterrupted time to make remarks at the beginning of each 15 minute segment of the debate. These remarks are to be followed by a period of open discussion. Both campaigns this week again reaffirmed their agreement to the two-minute, uninterrupted rule.

The Commission is announcing today that in order to enforce this agreed upon rule, the only candidate whose microphone will be open during these two-minute periods is the candidate who has the floor under the rules.

For the balance of each segment, which by design is intended to be dedicated to open discussion, both candidates' microphones will be open.

During the times dedicated for open discussion, it is the hope of the Commission that the candidates will be respectful of each other's time, which will advance civil discourse for the benefit of the viewing public. As in the past, the moderator will apportion roughly equal amounts of time between the two speakers over the course of the 90 minutes. Time taken up during any interruptions will be returned to the other candidate.

We realize, after discussions with both campaigns, that neither campaign may be totally satisfied with the measures announced today. One may think they go too far, and one may think they do with the measures announced today. One may think they go too far, and one may think they do not go far enough. We are comfortable that these actions strike the right balance and that they are in the interest of the American people, for whom these debates are held.

We can only imagine how fast the mic will be 'accidentally' cut should President Trump decide to ask Biden about Hunter's laptop.

This seemed to sum things up rather succinctly...

1. Pathetic. 2. If you're not allowed to interact with your opponent, is it even really a debate anymore? 3. The @debates Commission might as well make it official and join the Biden campaign. https://t.co/lnQQhNOij5

— Andrew Surabian (@Surabees) October 19, 2020

We look forward to President Trump's response to this blatant attempt to rig the debate.

*  *  *

The Commission on Presidential Debates is meeting Monday afternoon to discuss potential rule changes for Thursday's debate between President Trump and Joe Biden, according to CNN.

"We are going to consider what changes we are going to make with regards to the debate on Thursday night," said one commission member, who added that there is also a chance that no changes will be made.

The Commission announced in late September that it would explore changes 'to ensure a more orderly discussion' following a heated first debate between Trump and Biden.

According to Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller, the commission may allow producers to "turn off the president's microphone whenever they want to, which again would be a gross violation of what we agreed to initially."

Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller on a call with reporters says he's hearing the debate commission may allow producers to "turn off the president's microphone whenever they want to, which again would be a gross violation of what we agreed to initially." https://t.co/2fwqta8FNP

— Geoff Bennett (@GeoffRBennett) October 19, 2020

Meanwhile, in the wake of the Hunter Biden laptop revelations - and in what we're sure is a coincidence, the Debate Commission has decided to ditch foreign policy as a topic for Thursday's face-off.

According to Miller, the Debate Commission "changed focus of final debate away from foreign policy so Joe Biden wouldn’t have to answer to being compromised by the Chinese Communist Party, supporting endless wars and sending pallets of cash to Iran."

Good morning to everyone except Presidential Debate Commission members who changed focus of final debate away from foreign policy so Joe Biden wouldn’t have to answer to being compromised by the Chinese Communist Party, supporting endless wars and sending pallets of cash to Iran.

— Jason Miller (@JasonMillerinDC) October 19, 2020

More via The National Pulse

The National Pulse understands that while “national security” has been included in the list of topics by moderator Kristen Welker, the campaigns had long been discussing the subject being the majority of the debate, rather than regurgitating on issues such as COVID, climate change, and race.

Those topics were both covered in the first debate, and in the substantive Vice Presidential debate which saw VP Mike Pence emerge unquestionably victorious over a hectoring Kamala Harris.

The Hunter Biden laptop and e-mails were initially reported by the New York Post last week, triggering a cavalcade of censorship by Big Tech firms, as well as a failure by reputable media outlets to ask Joe Biden about the distressing revelations contained within, such as Hunter’s ties to Ukraine, to Moscow, and to the Chinese Communist Party.

Speaking to Maria Bartiromo on Fox News on Monday morning, Jason Miller added: “If the moderator doesn’t bring [Hunter Biden’s e-mails] up, I think you’re safe to assume that the President will. Again, these are real simple questions that Joe Biden needs to answer to the American public. And keep in mind this is supposed to be a debate on foreign policy. I know the Debate Commission is trying to move the goal posts yet again and work in a bunch of other issues. We’re going to talk about Biden’s support for endless wars, talk about the piles of cash loaded up with billions of dollars and sent to Iran, and we’re going to talk about all the foreign corruption, the foreign money that’s been coming into the Biden family. If Joe Biden can’t answer these real simple questions, you know he’s running from something.”

*  *  *

Meanwhile, the moderator for the third debate, Kristen Welker, has been added to the list of 'anti-Trump' debate moderators - with President Trump calling her "terrible and unfair" on Saturday in response to a New York Post article accusing her of having "deep Democrat ties."

On Monday, Fox News host Brian Kilmeade called Welker "often the most abrasive, most dismissive, most disrespectful reporter" in White House press briefings.

Brian Kilmeade is mad that NBC's Kristen Welker is going to moderate Thursday's debate, because her parents donated to Democrats and "she was a registered Democrat before," even though Kilmeade's colleague/first debate moderator Chris Wallace is currently a registered Democrat. pic.twitter.com/L59N2jZ7rl

— Bobby Lewis (@revrrlewis) October 19, 2020

Others have noted that she accidentally tipped off Hillary Clinton's Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri in 2016 about at least one question she was about to ask.

In March 2016 Welker was busted on live television tipping off Hillary Clinton’s Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri about at least one question she planned to ask her during a post-debate interview in Michigan.https://t.co/5YD5TOADB9 pic.twitter.com/c3qTtwIG00

— Jon Levine (@LevineJonathan) October 17, 2020
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[l] at 10/19/20 6:00pm
Trump Announces Sudan's Removal From Terror List, Paving Way For Israel Peace Deal Tyler Durden Mon, 10/19/2020 - 20:00

President Trump indicated via a Tweet Monday afternoon that he is removing Sudan from the official terror blacklist as the Arab League nation is inching closer toward normalizing ties with Israel.

The president indicated that Sudan, which has long been on the list based on allegations of providing covert support to Islamic militants that have carried out attacks on Americans, has agreed to set aside $335 million for payments for American victims of terrorism in the region.

For example, Washington would later blame Sudan in part for funding operations related to the deadly al-Qaeda twin bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, which had killed 224 people, including 12 Americans. Another 5,000 people were injured in the major attacks. Sudan was known have given safe-haven to Osama bin Laden at one point.

GREAT news! New government of Sudan, which is making great progress, agreed to pay $335 MILLION to U.S. terror victims and families. Once deposited, I will lift Sudan from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list. At long last, JUSTICE for the American people and BIG step for Sudan!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 19, 2020

This means Sudan is likely to become the third Arab League member state to normalize ties with Israel, after the UAE and Bahrain inked historic, unprecedented agreements to establish peaceful diplomatic relations and economic cooperation. 

The timing is also crucial, given that just weeks before the Nov.3 election, the White House could tout this as a major foreign policy win.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on an official visit to Khartoum, Sudan in August. AFP via Getty Images

Talks between Sudan and Israel have been underway for some time, but full diplomatic recognition has recently been stalled after Sudan officials accused the US of threatening the country with remaining on the terrorism list if it didn't accept the normalization deal with Israel. 

Sudan has been on the State Department's list going all the way back to 1993, amid the lengthy rule of strongman Omar al-Bashir, who was toppled by Sudanese Army coup d'état in 2019.

During the post-9/11 'war on terror' Sudan became under even more scrutiny.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Sudanese Governing Council Chairman Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan will are expected to meet in Uganda.

Concerning the 1998 embassy bombings, Voice of America has recently detailed that "Leading up to the attacks, the Sudanese government harbored the al-Qaeda militants, providing them with Sudanese passports and allowed them to transport weapons and money across the border into Kenya."

"Sudan had also given safe haven to Osama Bin Laden leading the U.S. State Department to place the country on a list of state sponsors of terrorism in 1993," the report underscored.  

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[l] at 10/19/20 5:47pm
Supreme Court Sides With Democrats On Pennsylvania Mail-In Deadline After Justice Roberts Joins Liberals Tyler Durden Mon, 10/19/2020 - 19:47

In a decision that could have profound consequences for the outcome of the election, late on Monday the Supreme Court denied a request from Pennsylvania's Republican Party to shorten the deadlines for mail-in ballots in the state after Chief Justice John Roberts joined liberal justices Sotomayor, Kagan and Breyer to oppose the four conservative justices Thomas, Alito, Kavanaugh and Gorsuch who said they would have granted the application.

After a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision had moved the deadline for absentee ballots to be counted from 8 p.m. on Election Day to 5 p.m. the following Friday, Nov. 6, Pennsylvania Republicans and top officials from the state’s GOP-held legislature asked the Supreme Court to the ruling.

If the U.S. Supreme Court had granted a stay, it would have resulted in a return to the original deadline. However, due to the court's 4-4 deadlock, the previous decision stays and mail-in ballots can be counted.

As reported earlier, when discussing the implications of timing when absentee ballots are pre-processed, some states do not allow mail-in ballots to be opened before Election Day which could mean counting delays. This includes a few of the critical swing states – such as PA and WI.

And as previously discussed, with a recent WSJ/NBC poll finding that 47% of Biden supporters plan to vote by mail whereas 86% of Trump supporters will vote in person, the ruling is seen as a win for Democrats in the key battleground state, which President Trump won in 2016 by just over 44,000 votes, since Biden voters are considered more likely than Trump supporters to vote by mail in November.

Finally, as Axios adds, the deadlock underscores the importance for Republicans of confirming Trump's Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, who the president himself has said could be a deciding vote in an election-related dispute, since it is by now clear that Roberts plans on siding with liberals on election-related matters.

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[l] at 10/19/20 5:40pm
"WHAT THE F*CK! IM OUT": Rapper 50 Cent Melts Down Over Biden-Harris Tax Plan, Endorses Trump Tyler Durden Mon, 10/19/2020 - 19:40

Rapper 50 Cent has taken to Twitter to endorse President Trump after losing his mind over the Biden-Harris tax plan, which would result in a top tax rate of 62% in New York City.

"WHAT THE F*CK! (VOTE ForTRUMP)  IM OUT," tweeted the rapper, whose real name is Curtis James Jackson III. "F*CK NEW YORK The KNICKS never win anyway," he added.

"I don’t care Trump doesn’t like black people 62% are you out of ya fucking mind."

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[l] at 10/19/20 5:39pm
CNN, New Yorker Suspend Jeffrey Toobin For Masturbating During A Zoom Call Tyler Durden Mon, 10/19/2020 - 19:39

Update (1740ET): In a stunning 'correction' from Vice, which ratchets this story up to '11' on the Spinal Tap amplifier of WTF-ness,

"This piece has been updated with more detail about the call and the headline has been updated to reflect that Toobin was masturbating."

Hey look, we understand, an accidental exposure of a penis could be rubbed off as a one-off, awkward moment but spanking the monkey, that's a hard one to get over.

Quite a multitasker!!

*  *  *

From the "Not, The Onion" file (which is becoming far too regular in this farcical new normal), legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin has been suspended by CNN and The New Yorker after he exposed himself during a Zoom call last week between members of the New Yorker and WNYC radio.

“I made an embarrassingly stupid mistake, believing I was off-camera,” Mr. Toobin said in a statement to Vice, which reported the incident and the magazine’s investigation.

“I apologize to my wife, family, friends and co-workers.”

“I believed I was not visible on Zoom,” Mr. Toobin said of the call, which Vice, citing unnamed sources, said took place last week.

“I thought no one on the Zoom call could see me. I thought I had muted the Zoom video.” Mr. Toobin could not be immediately reached on Monday afternoon.

Natalie Raabe, a spokesperson for the New Yorker, confirmed that “Toobin has been suspended while we investigate the matter,” Vice reported. 

"Generously", CNN has "granted" Toobin some time off too...

Statement from CNN: "Jeff Toobin has asked for some time off while he deals with a personal issue, which we have granted.”

— Jeremy Barr (@jeremymbarr) October 19, 2020

It appears Mr. Toobin is popular among Canadian Twitterati...

Exactly how such an 'accident' happens during (or even near) a business Zoom call is unclear, but as the details 'firm up', social media erupted in mockery...

jeffrey toobin posted hog on zoom

— nuanced opinion guy (@charles_kinbote) October 19, 2020

the nine (inches)

— Erin
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[l] at 10/19/20 5:25pm
Streisand Effect: Twitter Ban On Biden Laptop Scandal Nearly Doubled Visibility According To MIT Tyler Durden Mon, 10/19/2020 - 19:25

Twitter's Orwellian decision to censor the Hunter Biden laptop scandal published by the New York Post completely backfired - 'nearly doubling' its visibility, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and media intelligence firm Zignal Labs.

Barbara Streisand's Malibu residence

The poorly-thought-through ban triggered the so-called Streisand Effect and helped turn a sketchy article into a must-share blockbuster. And then on Friday, the Republican National Committee filed a Federal Election Commission complaint against Twitter, claiming that the ban “amounts to an illegal corporate in-kind political contribution to the Biden campaign.” 

...

Looking at the firehose of Twitter shares of the URL—including original tweets, retweets, and quote tweets—Zignal found a surge of shares immediately after Twitter instituted the block, jumping from about 5.5 thousand shares every 15 minutes to about 10 thousand. -MIT Technology Review

So Twitter is back to where it was 2 days ago, only now everyone knows about Hunter's notebook. Brilliant

— zerohedge (@zerohedge) October 16, 2020

The Streisand Effect was named after Barbara Streisand's 2003 attempt to suppress a photo of her Malibu, California residence by trying to sue a photographer for $50 million over the aerial photograph. Before Streisand's lawsuit, the photo had only been downloaded from the photographer's website six times - two of which were Streisand's attorneys. Once the story went viral, however, over 420,000 people visited the site over the following month. The lawsuit was dismissed and Streisand was ordered to pay $155,567 to cover the photographer's legal fees.

And Twitter did the same thing when they banned the Post story - blocking people from posting it or sharing it over Direct Message, deleting tweets, and suspending others who shared it. Of note, the New York Post's Twitter account is still locked.

Twitter cited their policy against unverified information and "hacked materials," though they never explained how the Biden emails - obtained from a laptop which Hunter dropped off at a Delaware computer repair shop and failed to pick up - violated that policy.

After Twitter came under extreme fire for what some consider election meddling and an editorial decision, CEO Jack Dorsey expressed regret, tweeting that "[s]traight blocking of URLs was wrong, and we updated our policy and enforcement to fix. Our goal is to attempt to add context, and now we have capabilities to do that."

For their partisan censorship, the social media giant has earned themselves a Congressional investigation spearheaded by Sens. Josh Hawkey (R-MO) and Ted Cruz (R-TX). Dorsey will testify next Wednesday via videoconference in front of the Senate Commerce Committee.

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[l] at 10/19/20 5:20pm
ISIS Calls On Followers To Attack Westerners & Oil Pipelines Inside Saudi Arabia Tyler Durden Mon, 10/19/2020 - 19:20

Though the so-called Islamic State Caliphate was at its height in 2014 and 2015, the terror group has been driven underground since it lost 95% of its territory in Iraq and Syria by December 2017. And in October 2019 the US military said it killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on the outskirts of Idlib province in Syria. 

Effectively defeated, it's believed that ISIS has since organized itself into a network of terror cells in Iraq and Syria. This has been used as a prime justification for the Pentagon keeping some 500 to possibly 2,000 American troops in Syria, alongside Trump's 'secure the oil' campaign in Deir Ezzor. 

But now Reuters reports ISIS has issued a rare new message urging supporters to attack westerners and oil pipelines inside Saudi Arabia.

 Saudi Aramco facility, via Getty Images

Reuters cites ISIS spokesman Abu Hamza al-Muhajir who issued a recorded message calling for the stepped up attacks inside the kingdom:

“Targets are plenty... Start by hitting and destroying oil pipelines,‮‮ ‬‬factories and facilities which are the source (of income) of the tyrant government,” he said.

The message followed by alleging Riyadh is a supporter of Gulf states' unprecedented step of opening diplomatic relations with Israel. 

"He said the kingdom had supported normalization with Israel by opening its airspace for Israeli flights to neighboring Gulf states," Reuters continues.

Both the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain were among the first to sign historic agreements with the Jewish state, despite no Arab Gulf country ever recognizing Israel in history.

 Trump's 2017 visit to Riyadh, via AFP

The US State Department has lately expressed hope that Saudi Arabia could eventually do so as well. Currently Sudan is the next Arab League member said to be on the cusp of realizing a deal to normalize relations. 

With this latest ISIS message declaring Saudi Arabia a target, it all appears a repeat of prior al-Qaeda campaigns in the late 1990's.

Recall that Bin Laden when from being on the American/Saudi side of the Afghan war against the Soviets in the 1980s, but later called for attacks against Saudi Arabia and the US - by his own words outraged that the kingdom had allowed American troops to stage operations against Saddam during the first Gulf war on "sacred" Saudi soil, home to Mecca and Medina.

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[l] at 10/19/20 5:00pm
Hunter Biden Is Not The Problem, The Problem Is His Dad Tyler Durden Mon, 10/19/2020 - 19:00

Authored by Bruce Wilds via Advancing Time blog,

It seems in our complicated world many murky relationships develop that come across as inappropriate. Over the years, growing crony capitalism has become the bane of modern society and added greatly to inequality. This is why, when we look at Hunter Biden and how he benefited from his father's role as Vice President an investigation is in order. Even before we get to what happened in Ukraine, the ties between China and the Biden family are too many and too large to ignore. President Trump has received a lot of criticism related to how he gained his wealth, however, almost all of what Trump has done he did as an outsider and not as part of the ruling political class.

Before going deeper into this subject it is very important to look at how the "Biden revelations" are being handled by the media. The way media has handled these allegations reveal a flaw or bias in both mainstream media and social media to the point where even censorship is being deployed. A good example of the spin being put on this red flag of corruption can be seen in an article that appeared under trending stories on my city's main news outlet. Here in the conservation heartland of America, the media published a piece titled; "Biden email episode illustrates risk to Trump from Giuliani"

The Associated Press piece written by Eric Tucker shines the spotlight on Rudy Giuliani portraying him as the messenger of Russian contrived information aimed at damaging Biden and influencing the election. It starts off referring to "a New York tabloid’s puzzling account about how it acquired emails purportedly from Joe Biden’s son has raised some red flags." Then claims that during Giuliani's travels abroad looking for dirt on the Bidens he developed relationships with some rather questionable figures. These include a Ukrainian lawmaker who U.S. officials have described as a Russian agent and part of a broader Russian effort to denigrate the Democratic presidential nominee.

The piece then moves on to the area of how the FBI seems more interested in the emails as part of a foreign influence operation than wrongdoing by Hunter or his father. The people reading this article are informed how this is just another latest episode involving Giuliani that "underscores the risk he poses to the White House" which has spent years dealing with a federal investigation into whether Trump associates had coordinated with Russia.

The part of the article that got my goat was when it referred to how " The Washington Post reported Thursday that intelligence agencies had warned the White House last year that Giuliani was the target of a Russian influence operation." Sighting the Washington Post as an authority and bastion of truth is a common tactic used by journalists to add validity to their bias and lazy reporting. Tucker forgot to mention The Washington Post is the propaganda mouthpiece of Amazon and owned by its CEO Jeff Bezos the richest man in the world which has had several run-ins with the President.   

The effort to denigrate Giuliani rather than focus on Biden wrongdoings cites both "former officials' and statements made by a person "who was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity to AP," and of course, the exact scope of what was being investigated was not clear. Claiming that many people in the West Wing have been concerned about Giuliani's actions or saying the president has expressed private dismay at Giuliani’s scattershot style does not make it true.

Thinking a case can be made that Hunter enriched himself by selling access to his father but claiming Giuliani’s lack of credibility will cause the allegations to implode is a bit of a reach. This fact much of what appears to be bribe-taking at the highest levels of government has been overlooked for so long is in its self is a problem.  The appointment of an unqualified Hunter Biden to the board of a Ukrainian energy company with a reported compensation package worth some $50,000 per month led the Wall Street Journal, to publish a scathing article, on May 13, 2014. bringing the issue before the public.

At criminal.findlaw.com, FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors detail what constitutes bribery. It is offering or accepting anything of value in exchange to influence a government/public official or employee. Bribes can take many forms of gifts or payments of money in exchange for favorable treatment, such as awards of government contracts. Other forms of bribes may include property, various goods, privileges, services, and favors. Bribes are always intended to influence or alter the action of various individuals and are linked to both political and public corruption. In most situations, both the person offering the bribe and the person accepting can be charged.

Was Influence Peddled Or Bribes Taken?

Both giving and receiving bribes is usually a felony with significant legal ramifications. Influence peddling, the illegal practice of using one's influence in government or connections with persons in authority to obtain favors or preferential treatment falls into this category. One thing is clear, whenever we are talking about the involvement of huge sums of money, foreign players, officials holding high public office, or family members of politicians a few eyebrows should get raised. With this in mind, the Biden problem extends well past Hunter but also into how other family members have profited from Joe's time as Vice President such as his brother's involvement in a huge government contract in Iraq.

The issue of Hunter Biden receiving money from Russia, Ukraine, and China surfaced during the first Presidential debate and Biden claimed it was a story already discredited by authorities. This narrative was destroyed when the Washington Times acknowledged the Treasury Department records confirm Hunter Biden received a wire transfer for $3.5 million from the Mayor of Moscow’s wife. It is difficult to find anyone that holds Hunter in high esteem and the fact the United States suspects the woman sending him this money built much of her wealth through corruption does little to improve his standing. For those of us cynical of all the so-called public servants that seem to line their pockets and hold the attitude they are above the law this is a big red flag. 

If the veil of secrecy surrounding Hunter's career is lifted we will most likely find Hunter's dad did share in the spoils bestowed upon not only his son but others in the Biden family. I contend Joe Biden's cozy relationship with corruption is why former President Obama did not rush to endorse Biden when he announced he planned to run. To be clear, we are talking about, millions, and hundreds of millions of dollars or more. For us cynics, we see this as what may be only the tip of the spear when it comes to public officials throwing the American people under the bus for fun and profit. As a voter, this dovetails with my concern about Biden's relationship and attitude towards China which I consider a major issue. 

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[l] at 10/19/20 4:40pm
Struggling AMC Offers Pandemic Special: Rent An Entire Theater For Just $99 Tyler Durden Mon, 10/19/2020 - 18:40

AMC Entertainment Holdings, Inc., the largest movie theater chain in the world, with over 1,000 theaters across the US, is making a last-ditch effort to raise cash via renting out its auditoriums for private screenings. The move comes as the theater chain could run out of "liquidity" within six months as attendance levels remain weak. 

Starting at $99, AMC is renting out an auditorium, at select locations, for private parties, up to 20, with the ability to screen the latest movies. Depending on the movie, each private screening could range between $99-$349 but split 20 ways, and hopefully, everyone took a rapid COVID-19 test - could be a promising move by the company to raise some cash.

But how promising?

US virus cases surged above 70,000 on Friday, with threats of another wave, right before flu season - it's going to take a whole lot of convincing on AMC's behalf to bring people back to indoor movie theaters, especially since there is no proven or widely available vaccine. As for millennials, well, this could be a golden opportunity to take advantage of pandemic pricing - just like we've outlined (here & here).   

In case you're wondering what movies are available - right on AMC's website - they mention at least a dozen movies and pricing: 

The move comes as the entire movie theater industry has imploded, along with much of the service sector economy. AMC recently said attendance levels are down 85% since reopening over the same period last year. The possibilities are surging that AMC could experience bankruptcy within the next six months as attendance levels are expected to stay muted through 2021. 

As Rabobank's Michael Every said recently, "the movie industry - how we watch them, and so the money for how they are made, if they are made - could be dying, indicative of a whole key slice of the service-sector economy."

Even with the 70% of US movie theaters reopened during Labor Day, social distancing, virus fears, and surging cases across the Sun Belt kept people away.  

Ahead of Labor Day, "Tenet," an action-thriller and science fiction film directed by Christopher Nolan, was supposed to be Hollywood's big release to drive Americans back into theater seats. In short, it was not. One Twitter user captured video inside a movie theater in Baltimore around the release of the film in early September, on a Friday, in primetime, as it appeared no one showed up. We noted then:

"The moral of the movie theater story is if theaters reopen with top-notch movies by big-time producers, well, the American public is still not interested because they believe facilities are not safe from the virus. To bring consumers back, a lot of convincing by theater operators will be needed."

No one at the movie theater. pic.twitter.com/uJrDo7KZZp

— Alastair Williamson (@StockBoardAsset) September 12, 2020

October attendance has been so awful that Cineworld, the world's second-largest movie theater chain behind AMC, recently suspended operations in the US and UK. 

With AMC about to run out of cash, Cineworld shutting down its US theaters, and attendance levels across the industry in collapse - at what point will Hollywood ask Washington for a bailout of their own?

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[l] at 10/19/20 4:20pm
Steve Bannon: If Trump Loses The Election He Will Run Again In 2024 Tyler Durden Mon, 10/19/2020 - 18:20

Authored by Paul Joseph Watson via Summit News,

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon says that if Donald Trump loses the election to Joe Biden next month he will run for the presidency again in 2024.

Despite maintaining his belief that Trump “will win on election day,” Bannon told the Australian that a Biden victory wouldn’t mean the end of Trump.

“I’ll make this prediction right now: If for any reason the election is stolen from, or in some sort of way Joe Biden is declared the winner, Trump will announce he’s going to run for re-election in 2024,” said Bannon.

The political operative also said that the current presidential race is far closer than polls suggest and that its outcome “won’t be settled anytime soon” and could eventually end up before the Supreme Court.

Bannon previously stated that Trump would be able to claim victory as early as “10 o’clock or 11 o’clock” on 3 November after he wins Ohio and is up in Florida and Pennsylvania.

As we previously highlighted, Biden’s campaign is preparing voters to anticipate that Trump could be ahead on election night but then the result would later be overturned after mail-in ballots are fully counted, a process that could take weeks.

“The elites are traumatized. They do not want to go stand in line and vote. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a game-changer,” Bannon said.

It was also recently revealed that Bannon is the architect behind the roll out of Hunter Biden’s laptop contents.

*  *  *

In the age of mass Silicon Valley censorship It is crucial that we stay in touch. I need you to sign up for my free newsletter here. Also, I urgently need your financial support here.

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[l] at 10/19/20 4:10pm
Daily Briefing - October 19, 2020 Tyler Durden Mon, 10/19/2020 - 18:10 Senior editor, Ash Bennington, is joined by managing editor, Ed Harrison, to interpret how the rising COVID-19 infections in Europe and the U.S. will impact markets. Ed conducts a deep dive on best practices for containing the virus while mitigating the economic damage, reviewing protocols in Norway, Sweden, Belgium, and New Zealand, and Ash looks at how China’s remarkable GDP growth could be related to its own containment strategy. Ed gives a sneak peek of his upcoming interview with legendary value investor Joel Greenblatt while Ash tells viewers about Real Vision CEO Raoul Pal’s surprise update on Bitcoin and central bank digital currencies (CBDCs). Lastly, Ed and Ash discuss signs of stress emanating from the New York commercial real estate market. In the intro, editor Jack Farley gives a snapshot of today’s price action and looks at NASDAQ futures contracts and Royal Caribbean Cruises’ recent convertible bond deal.
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[l] at 10/19/20 4:05pm
Bonuses For Wall Street Traders, Dealmakers Expected To Shrink In 2020 Despite Surge In IB Profits Tyler Durden Mon, 10/19/2020 - 18:05

Two weeks ago, we reported that Wells Fargo, Deutsche Bank and many of their rivals were re-starting job cuts following a brief six-month "pause" announced back in March.

And now that banks' Q3 results are in, the topic of conversation in the industry is turning - as it always does around this time - the subject of bonuses. This year the dominant theme seems to be: how will the wide disparity in profitability between megabanks' various business lines impact bonuses, particularly bonuses for high-earners like traders and dealmakers?

The answer arrived Monday in the form of an FT report.

While traders, analysts and bankers have seen their positions insulated by gangbusters IB revenue (thanks to an explosion in trading and debt & equity underwriting), many will be disappointed to learn that they won't be seeing bonuses commensurate with the revenue explosion in these areas, as the world's biggest lending banks shore up their loan-loss provisions should the global economy lurch into a 'double-dip' recession.

Instead, the message from Bank of America, JPM and Citigroup, America's big lending banks, to their employees is clear: bankers should consider themselves lucky to still be gainfully employed after 2020. Despite exposing traders to the risk of COVID-19 infection during the early days of the crisis, and then again last month, JPM - along with Citigroup and Bank of America - has warned that bonuses likely won't be commensurate with the outsize revenue.

JPM has seen a 54% rise in fixed-income revenues at JPM and a 42% jump in fixed-income revenues at Citigroup. But profits for all three banks were weighed down by a combined $48 billion in loan-loss charges during the first nine months of 2020, the FT reports.

Senior investment bank executives at two of the banks told the Financial Times they were trying to “manage expectations” for 2020 bonuses by reminding staff that the wider businesses have booked huge loan loss charges to prepare for a surge in defaults as the pandemic ravages global economies. At the third, a senior executive said the bonuses were a “huge issue that we are grappling with”, as the bank tries to balance paying people for results with their need to be “good citizens”. This is in an environment where regulators and politicians have curbed shareholder payouts so they will have a cushion for potential loan losses. Investment banks walk a delicate line on pay every year, as executives try to balance the expectations of some bankers and traders with investors’ demands for cost control and public outrage about millionaire bankers getting richer.

Still, the challenges are greater than usual this year. “This is the first time since the financial crisis that we’ve had such a dramatic difference between parts of the big banks,” said Alan Johnson, founder of New York-based pay consultancy Johnson & Associates, referring to the gulf in the performance of the banks’ retail business and their advisory and trading divisions. The group-wide profits of Citigroup, JPMorgan and Bank of America were weighed down by a combined $48bn of loan loss charges in the first nine months of the year, more than three times as much as they set aside for souring loans in the first nine months of 2019.

Fortunately (for them), investment bankers at Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs will likely receive a bigger piece of the bonus pie, since those banks don't have massive lending businesses, according to one Wall Street recruiter quoted by the FT.

Mr Johnson said issues around pay would be less contentious at Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs because they did not have the same exposure to coronavirus-related loan losses as the big lending banks. Morgan Stanley and Goldman have collectively taken just $3.5bn in loan loss charges this year.

One insider reportedly familiar with JPM's reasoning told the FT that doling out massive bonuses to traders and their colleagues would be "foolish" given the uncertainty surrounding the global economic outlook. It would be “foolish, short-term, non-disciplined thinking to pay oversized payouts when medium to longer-term expectations (about the broader economy) are still unclear," they said.

Insiders at Citigroup and BofA insisted that their pay packages would be "in step" with the broader industry, but if profits in one business (say, fixed income trading) were up 50%, bankers in that department should expect their bonuses to rise by 25%.

A similar trend is expected to play out in Europe, where investment banks, including Barclays, DB and SocGen, are so deeply embroiled in trying to revive their flagging businesses and lure back shareholders in an age of negative interest rates that executives that weak bonuses are practically a foregone conclusion. "It seems simple to me; bonuses will be poor," said one London-based MD.

If there is a silver lining for traders and analysts, it's this: at the very least, they can expect larger bonuses thank their colleagues working for struggling business lines. Back in May, Johnson & Associates, the same firm quoted as the primary source in Monday's FT story, reported that bonuses would likely vary widely between business lines, with some retail bankers could see their bonuses shrink by 30% or more.

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[l] at 10/19/20 3:49pm
The Real Pandemic: Mass Munchausen's-Syndrome-By-Proxy Tyler Durden Mon, 10/19/2020 - 17:49

Authored by Craig Pirrong via THe American Institute for Economic Research,

It’s more than fair to say that we are experiencing a pandemic, but not the one you hear about ad nauseum. No, the pandemic is not a virus, it is a pandemic outbreak of Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy which focuses its obsessions on the virus.

Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy is a mental illness in which the sufferer fantasizes that others–usually people in their charge, such as children–are suffering from serious illness and require drastic medical intervention.

Observe what has happened over the last 7 months, and what if anything is increasing in intensity today. The obsession with Covid-19. The monomaniacal focus on “cases” (usually the result of hypersensitive tests prone to false positives), with the belief that people who test positive are sick, and huge numbers of those who become sick will die.

Given the actual experience over the last several months, these beliefs are wildly exaggerated–imaginary, fantasized illnesses, with fantasized severity, just the kind of thing that a sufferer of MSbP does.

And there’s more to the diagnosis. MSbP sufferers subject the people whom they imagine are ill with suffocating attention and unnecessary, and often harmful, health-related interventions. You know, like lockdowns; draconian restrictions on movement, social contact, and other features of everyday life; the shutting down of schools and colleges; and strident demands to wear masks–even between bites of your meal if you are in California.

Look at so many governors and mayors, e.g., Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Gavin Gruesome–excuse me, Newsom–in California, J. B. Pritzker in Illinois, or Tim Walz in Minnesota. (I could go on. And on. And on. Believe me.) They constantly invoke their power over you. But it’s for your own good! Trust them! Mommy is protecting you! And if you object, you will be punished! How dare you defy Mommy’s tender mercies, you ungrateful brats? If you do, you will be punished! To get your minds right and realize just what danger you are in, and why you need to listen to Mommy and do exactly as she says!

And if it were only limited to “authorities” who make Cartman look pleasant. You probably have neighbors or co-workers who have the Syndrome. Or you run into them in the grocery store. Or maybe it’s the fatso in the pharmacy checkout line. (Yeah, that’s an allusion to a personal experience, but no worries: I doubt said person can read.)

It was already bad enough before Trump was diagnosed with Covid. Then a super-virulent strain of the Syndrome appeared, through some Darwinian mechanism apparently. As soon as I saw his first remarks from the hospital–that he had learned a lot about Covid, and he was going to share that information and experience with us–I knew he would say exactly what he did say: it can be a serious illness, but the vast majority of people can beat it, and we shouldn’t let it dominate our lives.

And I knew that this would kick the MSbP crowd into apoplexy. They want a narrative of doom and gloom. They want people to be afraid. They want people to defer to them, and to depend on them, and most importantly to obey their commands. You could get really sick–ALL OF YOU! You could die–ANY OF YOU! Don’t listen to anyone who tells you otherwise! They don’t have your best interests at heart, like Mommy does. And put in your earplugs (so you don’t hear the Bad Orange Man), put on your eye shades (so you don’t read the Great Barrington Declaration)you know where to put the cork (aka the mask that makes it impossible for you to speak intelligibly).

So anything that contradicts the narrative triggers a mass attack of the Munchausens.

Is Covid like the seasonal flu, as Trump said? Well, the more data that comes in, the more it appears that yes it is a danger on the order of magnitude of a bad seasonal influenza strain–the kind we have endured multiple times in the past without draconian measures that cratered economies. And ironically, the data strongly suggest that it is less of a danger to children than the garden variety seasonal flu.

But it is beyond cavil that it is nothing remotely like the last great pandemic disease, Spanish Influenza of 1918-1919. But that doesn’t stop severe cases of MSbP like Gov. Gretchen Ratched from justifying their actions by reference to that episode, and invoking laws passed during that real pandemic to control your life today.

In normal times, most of the objects of MSbP sufferers are children, who have limited power to resist. Often medical professionals are the ones who identify a MSbP situation, and intervene to protect the object.

But today, adults are overwhelmingly the objects. And too many medical professionals enable MSbP (and may indeed be sufferers themselves–just look at the lunatic Twitter timelines of many medicos FREAKING OUT over Trump’s remarks and behavior, i.e., acting like someone suffering the flu, or a cold).

Given the coercive powers of the most important MSbP sufferers - the said governors, mayors, bureaucrats, etc. - this pandemic (the MSbP pandemic) is wreaking untold havoc. We need more people to say we aren’t going to take it. We need more people to push back. We should not be in the thrall of the mentally ill.

But alas, we are. Because there are so goddam many of them, and they infest the executive branches of government at every level.

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[l] at 10/19/20 3:22pm
Futures Rise After Pelosi, Mnuchin "Narrow Differences" On Stimulus Tyler Durden Mon, 10/19/2020 - 17:22

The sado-masochistic market rose after hours, when having sold off into the close on the reality that no stimulus deal is coming before the election, it rebounded from session lows after Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke at 3pm today for 53 minutes and "continued to narrow their differences" on a coronavirus relief package, Pelosi aide Drew Hammill said Monday, even as time to reach agreement on a stimulus deal by by Election Day has all but run out.

"The Speaker continues to hope that, by the end of the day Tuesday, we will have clarity on whether we will be able to pass a bill before the election,” Hammill tweeted, adding that "The two principals will speak again tomorrow and staff work will continue around the clock."

The Speaker continues to hope that, by the end of the day Tuesday, we will have clarity on whether we will be able to pass a bill before the election. The two principals will speak again tomorrow and staff work will continue around the clock. (2/2)

— Drew Hammill (@Drew_Hammill) October 19, 2020

The change in tone came after Pelosi earlier in the day told House Democrats that "significant areas of disagreement" are standing in the way of any deal, prompting stocks to selloff into the close. Democrats have been steadfast in refusing to compromise on their non-covid related priorities for local governments, workers, schools and health care. Hammill said Democratic committee chairmen have been directed to work with their Republican counterparts on a solution.

And while Emini futures jumped about 10 points on the news...

... the odds of a deal remain virtually nil as WaPo reported, noting that "a stimulus deal with Treasury Secretary Mnuchin is not sounding imminent based on comments from Pelosi and committee chairs" citing sources on the House Democratic caucus call.

Meanwhile, according to Fox's Chad Pergram explained, Mitch McConnell filed cloture on his new $500 billion coronavirus bill, although since it needs 60 yeas to end a filibuster it is "Likely going nowhere."

McConnell files cloture on his new $500 billion coronavirus bill. Will ripen for procedural vote to end filibuster Wednesday. Needs 60 yeas. Likely going nowhere

— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) October 19, 2020

Finally Politico's Jake Sherman said that according to a Democrat caucus call, while there has been some progress in stimulus discussions it's not enough, with Pelosi reiterating the Tuesday deadline for a deal.

Trump, who has flip-flopped on the issue, first ending negotiations with Democrats, then saying he wants a bigger fiscal stimulus than even the Democrats are asking for, had the final say: "We’re discussing it today very solidly - we’ll see what happens,” the President told reporters in Arizona. “Nancy Pelosi at this moment does not want to do anything that’s going to affect the election, and I think it will affect the election negatively for her."

While Trump has said he’s ready to match the $2.2 trillion spending level demanded by Democrats, or even go higher, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has consistently warned that most GOP senators will oppose any coronavirus relief package that big.

We can only hope that this farce will conclude tomorrow, although in the world of politics where it's all about the fingerpointing, we wouldn't be surprised if this remains a key market catalyst up until Nov 3.

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[l] at 10/19/20 3:01pm
Many Americans Are Now Planning To "Bug Out" Ahead Of Election Day As Authorities Brace For Chaos Tyler Durden Mon, 10/19/2020 - 17:01

Authored by Michael Snyder via The Economic Collapse blog,

Will you be safe where you currently are if the election results cause chaos to erupt in the streets of our major cities?  A lot of Americans are becoming deeply concerned about their personal safety as we approach November 3rd, because they can see what is coming.  It is going to take a lot of extra time to count all of the votes because tens of millions of Americans are voting by mail this time around, and both sides have recruited armies of lawyers and are prepared to contest the results of the election to the bitter end.  No matter who ends up being declared the winner when it is all over, there will be millions upon millions of very angry voters out there that are likely to feel as though the election was stolen from them, and that is a recipe for widespread societal unrest. 

I truly wish that we could go back and do things differently so that we would not be facing this sort of scenario, but it is too late for that now.  More than 27 million Americans have already voted, and more are voting every day.  Any attempts to fix the process will have to wait for future elections, and without a doubt it definitely needs to be fixed.

It is still difficult for me to believe that I am actually writing about the possibility of violence after a U.S. presidential election, but this is where we are at as a society.

In fact, there is violence in the streets right now.

This should break all of our hearts, because violence is not going to solve anything.

Unfortunately, an increasing number of people are not listening to voices of reason, and we are seeing anger and frustration rise to levels that we have never seen before.

At this point, most Americans are expecting the worst.  To be more specific, one recent survey found that 55 percent of all registered voters expect a rise in violence following the election…

In the YouGov survey, about 55 percent of registered voters said they thought violence would increase in the U.S. following the Nov. 3 presidential election.

Just under 11 percent of respondents said they didn’t expect a rise in violence to occur after the election, while 33 percent of voters were unsure.

Even more alarming, a different survey found that more than 40 percent of Republicans and more than 40 percent of Democrats believe that violence would be at least “a little” justified if their party ends up losing…

In September, 44 percent of Republicans and 41 percent of Democrats said there would be at least “a little” justification for violence if the other party’s nominee wins the election.

I truly wish that those numbers were not real, but they are.

As Election Day draws near, many Americans have decided that “bugging out” is the best thing to do.  For example, one 31-year-old New York resident is going to be staying with her parents on Election day because she believes “the city will be on fire” if Trump wins…

Flatiron resident Andrea, 31, also decided to pack up before Nov. 3. “I went to my parents in New Jersey for about two weeks when the BLM protests got bad and the looting started. So I definitely want to get out of here the week of the election,” said the public-relations specialist, a Republican who asked that her last name not be used. “I’m thinking if Trump wins, it’s going to be a disaster — the city will be on fire. People are going to go nuts.”

And 42-year-old Ooana Trien is planning to spend Election Day out of the city because she is concerned that “protesters will try and burn down Trump Tower”

The Trump supporter, who is mailing in her ballot, plans to open up her doors to others looking to escape. “I told my friends that whoever wanted to get out of the city was welcome here. One friend who lives in Washington Heights is going to vote in the morning [on Nov. 3] and come straight up to the beach,” she said. “My mother thinks that whether [Trump] wins or loses, protesters will try and burn down Trump Tower.”

Law enforcement authorities all over the nation are also deeply concerned about the potential for violence.

For example, in New Jersey officials have warned that we could potentially see “civil unrest resulting in riots, violent acts, and fatalities”

“Election result delays and recounts could result in protests and attempts to occupy election offices,” officials with the New Jersey Department of Homeland Security and Preparedness warned in a threat assessment issued in late September.

“Incidents of civil unrest resulting in riots, violent acts, and fatalities will converge with election uncertainty, producing confrontations between protesters and counter-demonstrators challenging election outcomes,” it noted.

Yes, you read that correctly.

They actually used the word “fatalities”.

In New York, residents were rattled by a leaked NYPD memo that warned of violent protests from October 25th through the early portion of 2021

New Yorkers are on edge after a leaked NYPD memo, obtained by The Post, revealed this week that police are preparing for protests to begin as early as Oct. 25 and grow in intensity through next year. The department decreed officers should “be prepared for deployment,” adding: “This November 3rd will be one of the most highly contested presidential elections in the modern era. There is also a strong likelihood that the winner of the presidential election may not be decided for several weeks.”

In Arizona, the information security officer for Maricopa County is encouraging people to have law enforcement authorities on speed dial just in case something happens

“Make sure that you’re reaching out to your law enforcement and say, on and around Election Day, what is our plan?” he said. “Do you have an emergency contact list? Do you have your police department, your sheriff, whoever, on speed dial ready to get them to respond to any kind of threat?”

Election Day is now just a little over two weeks away, and emotions are running really high.

Most Democrats fully expect Joe Biden to win, and many of them are still anticipating a landslide.

Of course most Republicans believe that the national polls are completely wrong again and that President Trump will ultimately emerge victorious.

In the end, one side will be proven wrong and the disappointment that they will feel will be very, very bitter.

We all remember the rioting that we witnessed earlier this year, and many believe that what is ahead could be far, far worse.

In 2020, gun sales have soared to levels that we have never seen before, and many Americans find themselves purchasing guns for the very first time.  One of those first time buyers is a 44-year-old single mother named Andreyah Garland

Andreyah Garland, a 44-year-old single mother of three daughters, bought a shotgun in May for protection in the quaint middle-class town of Fishkill, New York. She joined a new and fast-growing local gun club to learn how to shoot.

According to Reuters, a “potentially contested election that many fear could spark violence” played a role in her decision to purchase a firearm…

Like legions of other first-time buyers who are contributing to record sales for the U.S. gun industry this year, Garland’s decision to take up arms is driven in part by disturbing news about the coronavirus pandemic, social unrest over police killings of Black people and a potentially contested election that many fear could spark violence.

“With everything going on around us,” she said, “you see a need.”

If you could go back 50 years ago and tell Americans what conditions would be like in 2020, most of them would not believe you.

Our society is literally melting down right in front of our eyes, and I don’t think that anyone is going to be able to stop it from happening.

Of course this election will come and go, but the social instability that we are witnessing will remain, and at this point everyone should be able to see that America is heading into a very dark future.

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[l] at 10/19/20 2:55pm
Trump Slams "Idiot" Dr. Fauci: "Every Time He Goes On TV It's A Bomb...But There's A Bigger Bomb If You Fire Him" Tyler Durden Mon, 10/19/2020 - 16:55

During a conference call with campaign staff that White House reporters were bizarrely allowed to listen in on, President Trump complained that "there's a bomb" every time Dr. Anthony Fauci goes on television, which is most days.

This is far from the first time President Trump has complained about the good doctor. But it might be the first time he's offered some direct commentary on exactly why he won't fire Dr. Fauci, even as Trump seems to have moved on with a new COVID-19 advisor, Dr. Scott Atlas, who has faced persecution by Big Tech for his views on how to approach COVID-19.

Though he conceded that the good doctor is "a nice guy" who has "been around for 500 years", Trump said the problem with Dr. Fauci is that every time he goes on TV "there's a bomb", yet if you fire him, "there's an even bigger bomb".

"People are saying whatever...just leave us alone. People are tired of COVID...People are tired of hearing Fauci and these idiots, all these idiots who got it wrong...every time he goes on television there's always a bomb, but there's a bigger bomb if you fire him. This guy's a disaster."

With less than 3 weeks to go before election day, Trump also asserted that the American people are moving on from COVID-19 as cases rebound, while hospitalizations are also starting to creep higher. However, so far at least, deaths have been mostly subdued.

Confirming that he was speaking mostly off the cuff, Trump added after that if there was a reporter on the call (he didn't seem to realize that multiple WH reporters were apparently listening) they could report it "just how I said it."

"If there's a reporter on you can have it just the way I said it, I couldn't care less," Trump said.

According to the NYT, Trump's campaign manager had organized the call to discuss strategy, before Trump pivoted to Dr. Fauci, an issue that was clearly on his mind following the doctor'scriticisms of Trump's campaign ads last week.

The NYT also brought up an interview with Dr. Fauci on '60 Minutes' last night where the doctor refuted Trump's claims that the end of the outbreak is just around the corner.

Trump also reportedly called an NYT article claiming Trump was becoming increasingly dissatisfied with some of his aides - which followed Trump hinting that he might not bring back AG Bill Barr if elected for a second term due to his inability to charge any of the FBI officials involved with Operation Crossfire Hurricane despite the mountain of evidence suggesting some skulduggery was afoot as the FBI tried to put together an "insurance policy" to protect the nation from Trump.

"I love Mark Meadows," Trump reportedly said (the NYT report focused on frictions between the president and his chief of staff).

Finally, Trump also told staff that the Wall Street Journal - which is controlled by Rupert Murdoch, who also owns and controls the New York Post, the paper the published the string of damning reports about Hunter Biden's influence-peddling abroad - is working on "an important story".

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[l] at 10/19/20 2:48pm
IBM Reports Lowest Revenue This Century, Slowdown In Cloud, And Another Grotesque EPS Fudge Tyler Durden Mon, 10/19/2020 - 16:48

There was some hope last year that IBM was finally turning things around: after all, after 5 consecutive quarters of declining revenues, the company had just managed to grow its top-line for the first time since Q2 2018, and only for the 4th time in the past 8 years. Alas it was not meant to be, and moments ago IBM revealed that revenue declined in Q3, dropping for the third consecutive quarter, sliding another 2.6%, and while Red Hat sales boosted cloud and cognitive sales by 7% to $5.55BN Y/Y the number was an ominous slowdown in cloud sales of $5.748BN reported last quarter, with total Y/Y cloud growth also slowing from 30% in Q2 to just 19% last quarter.

Then again "boosted" may be using the term loosely: at $17.560BN in total revenue, and just shy of consensus expectations of a $17.6BN print,   IBM's Q3 2020 was its worst quarter for sales this century, below even the Q1 "covid quarter" revenue of $17.571 billion.

Some more Q3 revenue details, which beat across the key categories:

  • Cloud and cognitive software revenue $5.55 billion, estimate $5.41 billion
  • Global business services revenue $3.97 billion, estimate $3.93 billion
  • Global technology services revenue $6.46 billion, estimate $6.33 billion
  • Systems revenue $1.26 billion, estimate $1.46 billion
  • Global Financing revenue $273 million, estimate $280.6 million

And while IBM's EPS of $2.58 came inline with expectations, and down 4% Y/Y, as usual this was the product of lots of "artificial intelligence" and aggressive accounting magic because the unadjusted EPS was $1.89, or 27% below the adjusted number. The GAAP to non-GAAP bridge was, as usual, ridiculous and a continuation of an "one-time, non-recurring" addback trend that started so many years ago we can't even remember when, but one thing is certain: none of IBM's multiple-time, recurring charges are either one-time, or non-recurring.

We have said it before, but we'll say it again: here is IBM's "one-time, non-recurring" items In Q2...

... in Q1...

... and Q4 2019:

And here is the actual "beat" in context:

"The strong performance of our cloud business, led by Red Hat, underscores the growing client adoption of our open hybrid cloud platform," said IBM CEO Arvind Krishna. "Separating the managed infrastructure services business creates a market-leading standalone company and further sharpens our focus on IBM's open hybrid cloud platform and AI capabilities. This will accelerate our growth strategy and better position IBM to seize the $1 trillion hybrid cloud opportunity.”

To be sure, while IBM was clear to delineate this $1 trillion TAM, just like the past two quarters, IBM did not have enough visibility into the future to give any guidance, yet it was confident enough that no matter what happens it will keep handing almost every penny it makes to its shareholders, and then some: in Q3, when IBM’s free cash flow was just $1.1 billion, the company returned all of that and more to shareholders in dividends: some $1.5 billion.

Naturally, that's not how CFO James Kavanaugh saw it: "In the third quarter we continued to deliver strong gross profit margin expansion, generated solid free cash flow and maintained a sound capital structure with ample liquidity. We have the necessary financial flexibility to increase our investments in hybrid cloud and AI technology innovation and skills, while remaining committed to our long-standing dividend policy.”

And speaking of cash flow, IBM ended the second quarter with $15.6 billion of cash on hand which includes marketable securities, up $1.3 billion from Q2. Debt, including Global Financing debt of $20.9 billion, totaled $65.4, up from $64.7 billion. 

So while IBM's core business remains a melting ice cube, the bigger concern was the slowdown in Cloud growth, which led to another century-low revenue, and after algos read through the boilerplate, was enough to send IBM stock down by about 1%.

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[l] at 10/19/20 2:20pm
Will The Stock Market Be Dragged To The Guillotine? Tyler Durden Mon, 10/19/2020 - 16:20

Authored by Charles Hugh Smith via OfTwoMinds blog,

The Fed's rigged-casino stock market will be dragged to the guillotine by one route or another.

The belief that the Federal Reserve and its rigged-casino stock market are permanent and forever is touchingly naive. Never mind the existential crises just ahead; the financial "industry" (heh) projects unending returns of 7% per year, or is it 14% per year? Never mind the details, the Fed has our back and since the Fed is forever, so too will be the gains for everyone playing the rigged games in the Fed's casino.

What makes this presumption so childishly naive is the tides of history are about to sweep away the era of central banks, their fiat currencies and their rigged casino markets. That the global citizenry might realize these are all forms of financial tyranny doesn't occur to to the Financial Aristocracy, which has luxuriated in the neofeudal dominance of finance--the modern-era equivalent of Monarchy and the rights of royalty.

Under the guidance of the Financial Aristocracy, so-called democratic governance has mutated into totalitarian democracy, that is, a "democracy" in name only, a carefully managed simulacrum that props up a facade of "democracy" that is pure PR.

The Fed is busy planning a pivot to becoming "the people's source of free money forever" to save itself from oblivion. The pivot is called FedNow, an instant-payment system which bypasses both the traditional private banking sector and Congressional control of distributing money.

With FedNow, the Fed will be able to create trillions of dollars out of thin air and distribute the trillions directly into household accounts at the Fed. The idea here is that an economy that is no longer financially viable can be propped up indefinitely by Fed free money; all we need to do is bypass the obsolete private banking sector (sorry about that, buckos) and the equally obsolete shards of totalitarian democracy (Congress, the presidency, etc.) and stave off the revolt with endless free money.

That endless free money stripped of the last vestiges of discipline will stoke an inflationary death spiral--well, we'll worry about that tomorrow. The irony here is the Fed is only accelerating the demise of central banking, fiat currency and its rigged-casino stock market with its FedNow scheme to maintain its financial tyranny.

Alas, tyranny is still tyranny, feudalism is still feudalism, and history remains unkind to totalitarian regimes--even those which have morphed into a clever totalitarian democracy.

The Fed's rigged-casino stock market will be dragged to the guillotine by one route or another: either a populist reform that dismantles the neofeudal financial tyranny of central banks and their soon-to-be-worthless fiat currencies, or the implosion of the entire corrupt neofeudal financial system of central banking, fiat currencies and rigged casino markets, all of which are nothing more than engines of inequality.

*  *  *

My recent books:

A Hacker's Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet (Kindle $8.95, print $20, audiobook coming soon) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Will You Be Richer or Poorer?: Profit, Power, and AI in a Traumatized World
(Kindle $5, print $10, audiobook) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic ($5 (Kindle), $10 (print), ( audiobook): Read the first section for free (PDF).

The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake $1.29 (Kindle), $8.95 (print); read the first chapters for free (PDF)

Money and Work Unchained $6.95 (Kindle), $15 (print) Read the first section for free (PDF).

*  *  *

If you found value in this content, please join me in seeking solutions by becoming a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com.
 

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[l] at 10/19/20 2:00pm
Black-ish Monday: Stimulus Stumble Sparks Big-Tech's Worst Streak In 14 Months Tyler Durden Mon, 10/19/2020 - 16:00

The entire market is now playing a game of deal, or no deal and today's "no deal" headlines sent stocks reeling...

Nasdaq was down for the 5th straight day, its longest losing streak since Aug 2019...

Interesting the drop starte to accelerate around 1430ET - margin call time.

This drops Nasdaq to 10-day lows, erasing 'Nasdaq Whale' gains...

And erases most of last week's (early) relative outperformance of Nasdaq vs Small Caps...

As we detailed earlier, it would seem the short-squeeze ammunition in Nasdaq futs has run out...

Source: Bloomberg

And escalated quickly today...

Source: Bloomberg

But what was remarkable was the near record surge between the Oct 6 net short of -75K and the subsequent week's net long position of +17.8K. This was the biggest 3-week surge in NQ contracts in more than 15 years, and the second highest increase on record.

Source: Bloomberg

FANG Stocks sank further...

Source: Bloomberg

And Financials floundered...

Source: Bloomberg

VIX jumped back above 29 today...

Source: Bloomberg

Treasury yields were marginally higher on the day, despite equity weakness (but all the TSY selling was around the European open)...

Source: Bloomberg

And note that the overnight selling in 10Y pushed yields up to unch from the previous Friday before reversing...

Source: Bloomberg

The dollar ended the day lower but erased a lot of its losses as stocks began to dump in the afternoon...

Source: Bloomberg

Crypto was higher today with Bitcoin spiking back above $11,800, breaking put of its recent tight range...

Source: Bloomberg

Gold had a big roundtrip on the day, ending unch...

Silver followed a similar path, with futs topping $25 briefly...

WTI slipped back below $41 as demand fears drifted back...

 

Finally, as we noted earlier, today is the 33rd anniversary of Black Monday (of course, it's different this time)...

Source: Bloomberg

Now that would be an 'October Surprise'...

Excerpted from Art Cashin's reminisces of that day in 1987 (rings a lot of bells for 2020)...

The first two-thirds of 1987 on Wall Street was nothing short of spectacular... Fear seemed to disappear, and junior traders laughed at their cautious elders. The brash youngsters told each other to “buy strength” rather than sell it, as each buying wave was soon followed by another.

[ZH: Robinhooders?]

One thing that helped banish fear was a new process called “portfolio insurance.” It involved use of the newly expanded S&P futures. Somewhat counterintuitively, it involved selling when prices turned down.

[ZH: Nasdaq Whale buying calls, driving dealer gamma to extremes]

The rally topped out about Aug. 25, with the hitting 2,722 (less than a tenth of its current numerical value). Interest rates had begun creeping up amid concerns of early signs of inflation.

[ZH: Rally topped a week after that in 2020]

...

On Wednesday, Oct. 14, there were widely discussed rumors of a new punitive tax on takeover profits.

[ZH: Worries over Biden's tax plan?]

Friday the 16th was an option expiration day... selling intensified into the close.

[ZH: Today is op-ex day.. and selling intensified into the close]

The weekend was a rumormonger's delight.

[ZH: Well there is sure a lot of discussion about potentially shocking videos of Hunter Biden...]

And don't forget that we had margin increases across most of the major retail brokerages last week.

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[l] at 10/19/20 1:49pm
Morgan Stanley: 10% Correction Coming After Failure To Breach 30 Year Resistance Tyler Durden Mon, 10/19/2020 - 15:49

Back on September 2, when stocks hit an all time high, we asked if it "could be this simple" when showing the long-term resistance of the S&P:

could it be this simple pic.twitter.com/v0CGjqHLAV

— zerohedge (@zerohedge) September 2, 2020

Well, at least so far, the answer appears to be yes and is also the reason why in his weekly focus note, Morgan Stanley's chief equity strategist Michael Wilson writes that last week's failure to break through technical resistance for second time "suggests the correction isn't over."

To that point, last month and shortly after our initial observation, Wilson laid out his view that long-term resistance in the S&P500 around the 3550 level would be very difficult to surpass prior to the outcome of the US election and passage of CARES 2. As he explains "this view was based on very strong long-term technical resistance going back to the late 1980s."

Then, just days later, the index quickly retreated for its first 10% correction in this new bull market, and while last Monday the index once again staged a valiant effort to break through, it was thwarted once again. Of concern to Wilson is that this second attempt occurred on less momentum, "suggesting the correction that began in September is likely not complete."

Furthermore, the Morgan Stanley strategist also highlights the lack of a fiscal stimulus deal, election outcome/timing of final results, and second wave of the virus "as the primary headwinds to higher prices in the near term."

So with both fundamentals drivers and technicals limiting stock upside limited, with so many uncertainties over the next month Wilson says that "another 10% correction from Monday's highs is the most likely outcome in the near term before this bull market can resume, at least at the index level."

Next, to quantify the potential downside, Wilson says that he continues to view the 200-day moving average for formidable support from a technical standpoint, which today is at 3123.

Then, from a valuation perspective, Wilson refers to one of his preferred market indicators, the Equity Risk Premium, which he says "looks too low" given the near-term uncertainties and upside risk to long-term rates we see. As such, he would be more comfortable with a buffer of 50 bps to add risk here. Such an adjustment implies an ERP of ~425bps rather than the 375bps indicated by current level of realized vol and is shown in the next chart.

It's also how he gets the 10% downside estimate: at 380 bps and with a 10-year Treasury yield at 0.75%, the current S&P 500 P/E multiple is ~22x. If one add the 50bps buffer noted above to the implied ERP from Exhibit 3 while holding the 10-year yield constant, we get a 2 multiple drop in the P/E to 20x, which implies 10% downside. Coincidentally, this also lines up with the 200-day moving average noted above.

Bottom line, Morgan Stanley urges investors to remain "disciplined" on new money entry points, favoring the low end of our 3100-3550 range we established back in August.

Finally, to avoid any bearish labels, Wilson as usual concludes on a bullish note, writing that the recovery and new bull market "remain on track to resume next year. More importantly, we think the average stock will outperform the major average (SPX), which is now highly concentrated to the top 20 largest stocks." He believes that the best way to express this view is by owning an equal weighted S&P 500 relative to the market cap weighed S&P or by skewing one's portfolio to smaller capitalization stocks that can deliver better operating leverage and earnings growth next year.

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[l] at 10/19/20 1:35pm
TSA Passenger Traffic Tops One Million Sunday As Return To Normalcy Continues  Tyler Durden Mon, 10/19/2020 - 15:35

Shares of US airlines lifted off Monday morning after data this past weekend showed passenger numbers hit seven-month highs as air travelers take advantage of super low-cost airfare despite the reemergence of COVID-19.

TSA published a press release early Monday saying it "screened over 1 million passengers Sunday, representing the highest number of passengers screened at TSA checkpoints since March 17, 2020." 

The release continued: "In addition to screening one million passengers in a single day, TSA screened 6.1 million passengers at checkpoints nationwide during the week (Mon., October 12 through Sun., October 18). That weekly volume also represents the highest weekly volume for TSA since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic."

h/t Reuters

According to TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein, airport security checkpoints nationwide screened 1,031,505 people on Sunday - this is still 60% lower than one year ago. 

BREAKING NEWS: @TSA screened 1,031,505 people at security checkpoints nationwide yesterday, Sunday, Oct. 18. It's the first time volume topped 1 million since the pandemic low point of April 14, when 87,534 people were screened. It's still 60% lower throughput than one year ago.

— Lisa Farbstein, TSA Spokesperson (@TSA_Northeast) October 19, 2020

TSA numbers this month show a return to normalcy, about eight months since the virus pandemic began. So far, the numbers this month show a rapid increase in travelers: 

  • Oct. 18 – 1,031,505 people screened
  • October 14 – 717,940 people screened
  • October 7 – 668,519 people screened

Readers may recall the lowest number of people screened at US airports was 87,534 on April 14, during lockdowns, where much of the airline and travel and tourism industry ground to a halt. 

The increase in air travel has occurred as US virus cases topped 70,000 last Friday, the highest level since July. Single-day caseload records were seen in Wyoming, Minnesota, Wisconsin, West Virginia, North Dakota, Indiana, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado. 

As we've pointed out to our millennial readership, roundtrip airfare has never been cheaper - and with the virus mainly affecting the older segments of the population - now could be the time to travel. 

Goldman Sach's Jan Hatzius compiled travel and tourism high-frequency data that suggests US air travel is steadily increasing from the April-May trough. US international passenger arrivals at the top five airports are also rising. Global air travel has rebounded as well. 

Another proxy of the travel and tourism rebound is Airbnb searches, which rebounded and recovered back to the February baseline but have since slumped into fall. 

Robinhood traders have spent the last seven months panic buying JETS ETF, with hopes the airline industry will recover in a "V-shaped" fashion.

The question traders have on their mind: How long will it take for the airline industry to recover?

With a full recovery not expected anytime soon, the latest air travel increase could come to an abrupt end this fall/winter as virus cases are expected to continue to rise. Nevertheless, there's no proven or commercialized COVID-19 vaccine available - deterring many from flying. Is this as good as it gets?

As of 10/19/20 6:18pm. Last new 10/19/20 6:18pm.

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