Did Amazon Hire GM Executive To Help Build A Self-Driving Car?

A Wall Street Journal story about two executive departures at GM included a stray detail that raised eyebrows elsewhere in the financial press.

As GM works through an extensive restructuring in its North American operations that will involve the shuttering of several factories and some 14,000 layoffs, two executives who report directly to CEO Mary Barra are departing the company. Alan Batey, the longtime head of GM’s North American business, will be retiring.

Meanwhile, Alicia Boler Davis, GM’s global manufacturing chief and reportedly a top Barra lieutenant, is leaving to join Amazon.

Alicia Boler Davis, GM’s head of global manufacturing, is leaving to take a position at Amazon.com Inc., according to people familiar with the matter. Ms. Boler Davis couldn’t be reached for comment and her future position at the retailing giant couldn’t be learned. An Amazon spokesman declined to comment.

Ms. Boler Davis, 49, has been a rising star and one of Ms. Barra’s most trusted lieutenants, having also run the auto maker’s connected-car and quality divisions. She has led manufacturing for nearly three years.

While it’s unclear what Davis’s role will be at a Amazon, CNBC swiftly followed up by raising an important question: Is Davis’s hiring a sign that that Amazon might be working on its own driverless car?


Alicia Boler Davis

Considering that Amazon recently invested in two automotive tech firms, Rivian and Aurora, it’s not an unreasonable thing to ask, as CNBC pointed out.

GM recently initiated a broad restructuring effort to save the company some $6 billion in costs through 2020.

Amazon recently invested in two automotive tech firms. It led a $700 million investment in electric vehicle makers, Rivian. Rivian’s all-electric pickup and SUV could pose a direct challenge to established truck manufacturers like General Motors. Amazon also invested in a $530 million round of funding for Aurora, a startup developing autonomous systems that could rival those from GM Cruise. The company is already hauling some cargo in self-driving trucks from a startup called Embargo.

While Amazon is investing in automotive tech, it’s not known whether the e-commerce and cloud computing titan will seek to manufacture its own driverless cars. Boler Davis’ experience could also be useful as Amazon seeks to automate its warehouses and other facilities.

Given Davis’s close relationship with Barra, it’s unlikely that she was pushed out. More plausible would be the notion that Amazon was looking for an executive who could organize large-scale automobile manufacturing system. Barring that, her expertise could at least be useful as Amazon pushes to further streamline and automate its warehouses.

And, if nothing else, Davis would also bring a little diversity to the upper ranks of a company that has been under scrutiny for being too white and too male.

Whether Amazon is working on a car, or not, it’s unlikely that we’ll hear anything concrete from the company in the near future. Tech firms have been notoriously tight-lipped about their efforts to build driverless cars – just look at Apple’s secretive “Project Titan.” 

But it’s definitely something to consider.

via ZeroHedge News https://ift.tt/2Tny5xE Tyler Durden

Prof: Use Black History Month To Rectify “Hegemonic Whiteness”

Via The College Fix,

A sociology and health professor at Lehigh University says we all should make use of Black History Month to do something about that thing called “whiteness.”

Specifically, hegemonic whiteness.

Sirry Alang (who perhaps should not have waited until the second-to-last day of the month to issue such a proclamation) says hegemonic whiteness is the metaphorical “wall” right here within the United States which prevents “full citizenship, [and] inhibits social and economic inclusion” of people of color. It also undermines their very humanity, she adds.

That’s just the first analogy. Unfazed by the truth about the Covington Catholic High School boys, Alang writes in The Morning Call that hegemonic whiteness is “the wall behind which the family of a smirking teenager paid a public relations firm to defend his actions toward a Native American elder.”

The hyperbolic maximum is then reached: Many chose to view Covington teen Nick Sandmann’s “occupation of the space” just mere inches from the Native gentleman within the “context of white racial entitlement.” This, Alang says, is “a precursor to the Native American genocide.”

From the op-ed:

Hegemonic whiteness is denying and invalidating negative experiences of people of color that are a result of their race. It is what enabled a potential presidential candidate to say that he does not see color, thereby undermining the roles of race and racism in shaping the life chances of people of color.

When unquestioned, hegemonic whiteness enables whites to take for granted that they spend most of their time with other white people in predominantly white spaces, yet question why people of color sit next to each other in these same spaces.

Hegemonic whiteness is the invisible wall between diversity and inclusion, and between inclusion and justice. Verna Myers famously wrote: “Diversity is being asked to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.” I think justice is having the freedom, support and resources to master and execute your own dance moves. …

As the fight for the southern border wall continues, let’s realize that hegemonic whiteness is an invisible wall serving some of the same purposes, only more insidiously. It creates an inferior “other” — people of color. It polices our actions and reminds us that we do not belong in certain spaces. It questions our motives and our authenticity. It assumes the worst about us, yet rationalizes these assumptions as being for our own good or for public safety.

Alang says her experience in local government and higher education has taught her three things: One, “don’t include people of color to check a box”; two, “move beyond inclusion and engage with justice”; and three, “inclusion and justice are not about a set of written mission statements or core values.”

It would be much easier to give credence to expertise if a person acknowledges facts, not narratives. Given that the professor prefers the latter with regards to the Covington kids, it leaves one to wonder …

via ZeroHedge News https://ift.tt/2TfmbGj Tyler Durden

What Is Behind The Fixed Income Selloff And What To Do About It

Submitted by Mark Orlsey of PrismFP

After declaring duration was a snooze fest on Wednesday, we now get some action in outright duration (will spare you of more steepener talk). The oft cited micro reasons for the selloff has been 1) corporate deals and 2) bad month end longs. From a very big picture macro level, the selloff got kicked off by the growing belief that the global data is starting to bottom. These type of charts are starting to get widely circulated…

It’s a bit early to proclaim a bottom IMHO, but that is the building narrative in the market. China easing measures + FOMC “let it run hot” mentality will reverse the weak data trend. Thus Bunds, Gilts, and UST 10yrs are all seeing breakdowns (in price terms). But let’s look at some of the real macro reasons why rates are starting to breakout higher on a country specific level…

US 10yrs:

Checking the fancy PCA model Prism has built, we know that two of the primary drivers of yields are 1) oil and 2) breakevens (we can ignore $yen because we know rates drive $yen). We also all know breakevens are driven by oil, so oil is really THE primary catalyst for yields.

And as we can see from the below chart, in Q4 oil led breakevens lower which led yields lower. Now oil is bouncing and that is the major reason why rates are finally moving higher, not anything economic or Fed led.

US 10yr rates breaking out higher but still lag oil (purple) and breakevens (green)…

It is also notable that breakevens are actually HIGHER than oil. That makes complete sense based on everything we discussed in Wednesday’s note. Namely that the Fed is talking about letting inflation run above target so of course there is an additional firming of inflation expectations outside of energy.

If energy is leading US 10yr rates higher, you need to have an oil view. I would flag a bullish setup due to:

  • Growing expectations of an extension of the successful OPEC supply cut in 2H
  • A few Supertankers heading (possibly already here?) to the US to alleviate the glut (recall China loves the US light sweet crude product)
  • Big Cushing draw this week
  • Gas also breaking out so you are getting a coordinated bullish message in the energy complex
  • US/China trade war deal potential
  • Very positive seasonal period
  • Strong technical setup

February, March, and April are the seasonal sweet spots for WTI…

WTI crude formed and broke the neckline of a bullish inverse head and shoulder pattern. It then retested that neckline which held which validates the bullish setup. Target is $67…

So given that 10yrs are still lagging the move in oil and breakevens, plus the bullish view that oil can go even higher would suggest you should look at long end downside (to fit the overall steepener view). I did a simple screen in Prism’s analytical model for the best structure in the 10yr space using the following as my guide:

  • Delta of at least -10 and no more than -40
  • Have downside limited to premium paid (so no 1×2’s etc.)
  • Selecting what has the best leverage ratio for the “relative strike” (so same distance OTM and time to expiry throughout history)
    • TYM9 121/119/118 1x3x2 put fly for ’17 (-15 delta)

This has a nice 6.5 to 1 max payout potential and covers the possible trade war resolution.


The selloff feels very much EU/UK led so what’s been going on in Bunds? First and foremost, positioning has gotten very skewed towards the idea that the ECB is on perma hold. Certainly all the recent data and ECB speak would point folks that way but that makes it susceptible to any sort of positive news.

Now those longs are getting tested with the growing talk of a new TLTRO announcement (along with the oil and global data bottoming theories) which is helping European yields shift higher. The idea is that TLTRO’s loosens credit which allows banks to lend which will be a tailwind for the EZ economy that desperately needs a tailwind.

Most importantly, it is helping the floundering European banks. Thus Bunds are breaking down into an ABC correction and are starting to follow the EU bank index (inverted in purple) lower…

So for bunds, it is the combo of: the narrative of global growth bottoming + higher oil + LTRO expectations. Going back to PAM to screen for the best Bund downside using the same parameters gets to a simple expression:

  • RXJ9 161.5 Put for 0.22 (-23 delta)


Gilts is a simple story of all of all the above mentioned reasons for TY and Bunds to move lower plus a more optimistic Brexit outlook. We therefore can see that Gilts are tracking GBP/USD (inverted in purple)…


So that’s the macro and micro explanations for the selloff. The complete list:

  • Corporate deals
  • Bad month end longs
  • Growing belief that the global data is starting to bottom (mostly because of China stimulus)
  • Oil and gas break out + the bullish setup for a move even higher
  • Breakevens surging on the back of oil + Fed “let it run hot” rhetoric
  • Expectations for a new round of TLTRO in the EZ
  • Improved Brexit outlook

Therefore, it has become a perfect storm across the G3 for higher yields at a time when the market is still positioned for pessimism. The next question becomes: how deep can this fixed income correction become? Because we know what happens to risk assets if yields go too high….

Recall my view that this will be a long end phenomenon as central banks have pegged the front end. Thus my conviction in the steepener and why you should focus your downside on the long end not the front end.

If you believe my steepener narrative but are concerned about a deeper selloff, you can do a conditional bear steepener which looks much more attractive compared to bull steepeners as bull steepeners have been “picked over.” Let’s check our model one more time for the optimal expression:

  • Sell OEM9P 97.375 Put vs. buying the 4EM9P 97.25 Put for flat

These puts are both out of the money by the same amount. Last year this would have been a tough trade given the Fed hiking stance led to a bear flattening. However, in this new regime with the Fed neutral (likely done hiking IMO) and talking a new inflation approach that would allow above target inflation; the days of reds leading the selloff are likely over.

If you compare 2019 to a recent prior year, it would be 2016 when the Fed was essentially on hold all year. You can see from the below regression that in hiking years like 2017 and 2018, the Eurodollar curve would bear flatten. In 2016, when the Fed was neutral, the ED curve bear steepened!

Therefore, fund a cheap “Gold” put by selling an expensive “Red” put. In the new regime, you will like the extra duration of Golds.

via ZeroHedge News https://ift.tt/2TlPaYN Tyler Durden

With Key Deadline Friday, Is the Trade War With China About to End?

America’s trade war with China may be nearing an end, but if anyone can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, it’s President Donald Trump.

Just days before Friday’s March 1 deadline to reach a trade deal with China, the president gave us yet another glimpse of the hard-headed thinking that has pushed America into an economically damaging trade war and complicated his administration’s efforts to end it.

The scene unfolded in the Oval Office as Trump and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer fielded questions from the press during a meeting with Chinese trade officials. In response to one question about the so-called “memoranda of understanding” (MOU) that would be issued by the U.S. and China as part of a trade deal, Trump declared that he did not like signing MOUs because “to me, they don’t mean anything. I think you’re better off just going into a document.”

That’s when Lighthizer interrupted the president to issue a pretty stark correction. Actually, Lighthizer pointed out, the MOU is the contract that’s signed by the two governments. “A memoranda of understanding is a binding agreement between two people,” Lighthizer said. “That’s what we are talking about. It’s detailed, it covers everything in great detail.”

Trump, however, refused to back down. “I disgaree. I think that a memoranda of understanding is not a contract to the extent that we want,” Trump said, before asking Lighthizer to roll the MOU into “a final, binding contract” that would, somehow, be more significant.

A clearly exasperated Lighthizer tried to defuse the awkward situation by announcing to the press that the two sides would no longer use the term “MOU” to refer to the legal document outlining the prospective trade deal. Instead, “we’re going to use the term ‘trade agreement,'” he said, waving his arms frantically. “We’re never going to use ‘MOU’ again.”

In the midst of the disagreement, the top Chinese negotiator laughed out loud.

In the grand scheme of things, this spat between Trump and Lighthizer seems unlikely to derail whatever deal is being hammered out between trade officials from the world’s two largest economies. Still, both the style—Trump’s willingness to openly fight with his top trade official in front of the media and China’s trade delegation—and the substance of the dispute highlight how Trump has jeopardized negotiations. As The New York Times put it last week, Lighthizer has been growing frustrated with “the president’s superficial understanding of the trading relationship with China and his tendency to jump unpredictably into the fray.”

With the White House now backing down from a months-long promise to increase tariffs on China on March 1 unless a deal is reached, observers seem increasingly confident that an agreement is near. Trump seems eager to sign a deal. He undercut Lighthizer again by declaring last week that the March 1 tariff deadline would be ignored, and signaled that he would be willing to meet one-on-one with Chinese President Xi Jinping later in March to hash out the deal. It’s clear that policy details are not Trump’s forte, and it’s unlikely that the meeting between Trump and Xi will accomplish a more substantive deal than what could be worked out by the trade officials who at least understand what an MOU is.

That any deal could be reached at all is something of a minor miracle, given the many ways in which Trump has damaged relations between the U.S. and China. He pulled the U.S. out of negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal shortly after taking office because he saw the deal as being too beneficial for China—despite the fact that China was not part of the TPP, which was meant in part as a way to counterbalance China’s growing influence in the region.

Since launching the trade war last year, Trump has repeatedly bragged about how tariffs on steel, aluminum, and other imported products are filling the U.S. Treasury with money paid by China. In reality, American importers and consumers are paying the higher taxes created by the tariffs, and the revenue generated by those levies has been canceled out by his administration spending $12 billion to offset losses incurred by American farmers as a result of the trade war—a policy that has had only mixed results.

Trump has repeatedly confused the difference between the federal budget deficit, which is the gap between the federal government’s revenue and its spending levels, and the trade deficit, which is the gap between how much America imports and how much it exports. He’s argued that revenue from tariffs are reducing the trade deficit, which is impossible since revenue from tariffs flows into the federal government and does not directly influence the trade deficit. Regardless, he’s also wrong about either deficit being reduced—since taking office, Trump has presided over sharp increases in both the federal budget deficit and America’s trade deficit with China.

And, as he demonstrated last week, Trump has little understanding of how the details of trade deals work—but seemingly endless confidence in his ability to reshape the global economy to his liking. He’s the “Tariff Man” who doesn’t understand how tariffs work.

The most likely outcome is probably one that satisfies Trump’s desire to look like he accomplished something while letting China save face. That’s why some observers of the negotiations are now predicting Trump and Xi will reach a “weak” deal that does not address China’s abuses of intellectual property or the forced transfer of American technology. That’s the outcome Lighthizer and other China hardliners are trying to avoid.

In many ways, that would be an outcome free-traders could root for. It would allow Trump to claim a political victory over China and give him a reason to lift the tariffs that are hurting mostly American businesses. Additionally, it would leave the U.S. in a position to challenge China’s unfair trade practices in front of the World Trade Organization—where this whole dispute probably should have been taken in the first place—or to team-up with other major trading partners to resurrect the TTP and use it to apply market-based pressure on China.

The deal will have to be judged on its own merits, of course, but any deal has the benefit of bringing to a close the Trump administration’s tragic comedy of unforced errors.

from Hit & Run https://ift.tt/2tI7zk9

House To Call Trump Organization CFO Weisselberg To Testify

The House Oversight Committee will seek testimony from several Trump Organization officials who Michael Cohen indicated were involved in hugh-money payments to adult film actress Stephanie Clifford. 

Among those expected to be called will be Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg, who Cohen on Wednesday said was involved in the payments, reports the Wall Street Journal

Mr. Cohen showed lawmakers an Aug. 1, 2017, check to him signed by President Trump, and another signed by his son Donald Trump Jr. and Mr. Weisselberg. He said they were portions of the reimbursement for the $130,000 payment he made to conceal an alleged sexual encounter between Mr. Trump and Ms. Clifford, known as Stormy Daniels.

House Oversight Committee chairman Elijah Cummings (D., Md.), whose panel hosted the hearing Wednesday, said Thursday his committee would seek to call in witnesses for either public hearings or closed interviews. –WSJ

“If there were names that were mentioned or records that were mentioned during the hearing, we’re going to take a look at all of that,” said Cummings. “We have now got a number of avenues we’ll be going down.”

Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna (CA) said “We need to get Weisselberg and Donald Trump Jr. here.”

Weisselberg was granted immunity in exchange for grand jury testimony last summer in the Manhattan US attorney’s office during the investigation into Michael Cohen’s finances, according to the Journal

In 2017, Weisselberg reportedly coordinated the Trump Organization’s reimbursement of Cohen’s $130,000 payment to Clifford, and claimed he didn’t know what the payment was for, according to the Journal, citing “a person familiar with the CFO’s thinking,” when he agreed in January 2017 to pay Cohen $35,000 per month for “persuant to retainer agreement.” 

That month, according to charging documents filed Tuesday, Mr. Cohen gave executives at the Trump Organization a copy of the bank statement from his bank account for Essential Consultants LLC, the company he used to pay Ms. Clifford the previous fall. The statement reflected Mr. Cohen’s $130,000 payment to Ms. Clifford, as well as an additional $50,000 that Mr. Cohen added in handwriting was for “tech services.”

Executives at the Trump Organization “ ‘grossed up’ for tax purposes” Mr. Cohen’s requested reimbursement, doubling it to $360,000, and added a $60,000 bonus, the document said. The next month, one executive at the company asked another executive to pay Mr. Cohen’s monthly retainer “from the trust” and to “post to legal expenses.” –WSJ

Speaking from Hanoi, Vietnam, President Trump downplayed Cohen’s testimony – saying his former attorney was lying to get a shorter prison sentence.  

“He lied a lot but it was very interesting,” said Trump. “He said no collusion and I think I was a little impressed by that frankly. He could have gone all out.”

Considering that special counsel Robert Mueller has been down the same road with the same people, looking into the same subject – it’s hard to imagine the House Oversight Committee will find anything of substance Mueller may have missed. 

via ZeroHedge News https://ift.tt/2EkgflS Tyler Durden

Average New Car Payment Hits Record High $545 Per Month

Two weeks ago, the NY Fed made waves in the finance community when it reported that a record 7 million Americans are delinquent on their auto loans. Of course, to regular readers, none of this was new as we covered that exact same topic back in May 2018 when we reported that “Subprime Auto Loan Default Rates Are Now Higher Than During The Financial Crisis.”

Alas, that does not make the Fed’s conclusions incorrect, and in fact according to the Experian’s latest State of the Automotive Finance Market report, the situation is getting worse by the day as not only are auto loan delinquencies rising but Americans are now paying a fresh record high monthly payment for both a new and a used car and assuming a larger amount of debt to make it happen as affordability continues to decline. Americans now hold $1.178 trillion of outstanding auto loan debt (a record) up from $1.072 trillion two years ago….

… with the average new car loan jumping $623 year-over-year to $31,722 in Q4 2018, while used vehicle loan amounts increased $488 to surpass $20K for the first time, or specifically $20,077.

And with loans still easy to come by, dealers can keep hiking prices and they sure are doing just that: according to Edmunds.com the average transaction price for a new vehicle in December hit an all-time high of $37,260, an increase of $6,598 from December 2010.

Not only are consumers borrowing more to pay for a new vehicle, they are also making higher monthly loan payments. Experian said the average monthly payment for a new vehicle hit a record high of $545, up $30 from a year earlier. That increase is driving up interest in used vehicles, which sell at a far lower price and typically carry a lower monthly payment; even so the average monthly payment for a used vehicle has also surpassed $400 for the first time, rising by $18 to $403.

Taking a closer look at the data, the gap between new and used financing payments continues to widen, reaching $158 in the fourth quarter. For some consumers, that gap can often mean the difference between buying a new or used vehicle.

A breakdown of the auto financing market shows that in Q4, 85% of all new vehicles and 54% of used cars were purchased with financing, while the number of leased vehicles in the quarter rose modestly from a year ago to 28.8% from 28.3%.

More troubling, however, and further depressing auto affordability is that interest rates continued to creep higher across all loan types. The average new car loan is now the highest in a decade, rising above 6% for the first time in 10 years, or 6.13% to be precise – up a whopping 102bps bps Y/Y, while the average used car can be had if a consumer can afford the annual 9.59% interest rate.

Also not surprising is that consumers are staying with a “strategy” of taking out long-term loans, to try and offset higher sticker prices, higher interest rates and higher loan amounts. The flipside is that longer terms mean consumers pay more interest over the life of a loan. The average term for a new car in the second quarter was just under 69 months, marginally lower than a year ago, even as the terms for all used, franchise used and independent used cars all hit new all time highs.

The effect is being felt mostly at the risky end of the credit spectrum, where compared with last year, lenders are becoming increasingly more skittish and conservative as market share for subprime and deep-subprime automotive loans continues to fall.

And yet, despite a sharp drop in deep subprime loan issuance in early and mid 2018, it appears that as the year ended, lenders once again hit the gas on issuing subprime loans, and as a result there was a 6% surge in deep subprime loan balances in Q4…

… even as the average new credit score for loans and leases rose once again to 718 on average in Q4 from 716 in the prior quarter.

There was some good news in the latest auto loan data: the percentage of delinquent loans showed a decline in the fourth quarter.  Experian reported 30-day delinquencies accounted for about 2.32% of outstanding balances in the second quarter, vs. 2.36% a year ago.

“The percentage of delinquencies has trended upward within the last few years,” said Melinda Zabritski, senior director of automotive financial solutions for Experian. “But it is worth noting, the percentages are still well below the high-water mark set in 2009.”

The rising delinquencies are a clear indicator that millions of Americans are struggling financially to even make their monthly auto payments. As noted above, earlier this month, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported that more than 7 million borrowers were at least three months behind on their auto loans at the end of last year — more troubled borrowers than at the end of 2010 when overall delinquency rates were at their worst. The delinquency rates are lower now because the market for auto loans has since grown.

Meanwhile, as the map below shows, 30-day delinquencies still remain a substantial problem across much of the southern US.

Of course, what is most troubling is the following chart from Fitch showing the ongoing surge in 60+ day delinquencies, and which hardly needs an explanation.

Zabritski says the stats are worth watching, but not yet to the point of serious concern. “It’s only natural to see an uptick in automotive delinquent loan volume. It’s important to view these trends within the larger industry context,” she said according to CNBC.

But the key data which seems to suggest that the auto bubble may have run its course comes from the following charts which confirm that traditional banks and finance companies continue to aggressively slash their share of new auto originations especially when it comes to the subprime segment, while OEM captives (and Credit Unions) are being forced to pick up the slack in an effort to keep the ponzi schemes going just a little longer.

And while some can claim that this is just a natural result of healthy competition between lenders, what is likely causing sleepless nights at banks who have tens of billions in outstanding loans, is the coming tsunami of lease returns which will lead to a shock repricing for both car prices and existing LTVs once the millions in new cars come back to dealer lots.

via ZeroHedge News https://ift.tt/2Xtpvg5 Tyler Durden

Burning Aid: An Interventionist Deception on Colombia-Venezuela Bridge?

Authored by Max Blumenthal via GrayZoneProject.com,

Sen. Marco Rubio and coup leaders claim the Venezuelan National Guard burned US aid trucks on the bridge in Colombia. But all available evidence points in the opposite direction…

The Trump administration’s coup against Venezuela culminated on February 23 with US-backed opposition attempting to ram several trucks loaded with boxes of USAID “humanitarian aid” across the previously unused Francisco de Paula Santander bridge connecting Colombia to Venezuela.

The trucks failed to reach the other side — but that was never really the point of the stunt. As Father Sergio Munoz, a right-wing Venezuelan activist posted on the Colombian side of the border, explained to journalist Dan Cohen, the humanitarian “aid” was a purely symbolic provocation aimed at discrediting Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in international eyes and generating waves of destabilizing violence.

By the end of the day, the trucks lined up on the Francisca de Paula Santander bridge were flanked by gangs of guarimberos.

Photo courtesy: Telesur

These were the nihilistic masked youth who form the shock troops of the right-wing opposition, and who placed Caracas under siege with violent barricade protests, known as guarimbas, at several points between 2014 and 2017. A mob of guarimberos burned to death Orlando Figuera, a 22-year old black Venezuelan accused of supporting Maduro, on an eastern Caracas street in broad daylight, back in June 2017.

On the Santander bridge this February 23, the guarimberos rained down a hail of rocks and molotov cocktails on Venezuelan national guardsmen holding the line against the USAID trucks. Suddenly, the trucks caught fire and the masked youth began unloading boxes of aid before they burned. Within minutes, pro-opposition media reported that the Venezuelan national guard forces were responsible for the fires.

A reporter for the private anti-government channel NTN24 claimed without evidence that the Venezuelan security forces had caused the fires with tear gas:

The claim was absurd on its face. I have personally witnessed tear gas canisters hit every kind of vehicle imaginable in the occupied Palestinian West Bank, and I have never seen a fire like the one that erupted on the Santander bridge.

In 2013, the San Bernadino Sheriff’s Department deployed special incendiary teargas canisters (“burners”) to torch the house where fugitive cop killer Chris Dorner had holed up. But it is highly unlikely that the Venezuelan national guardsmen had anything like this weapon in their arsenal when they confronted the rioters on February 23.

The total lack of evidence of Venezuelan culpability did not stop Cuban-American Senator Marco Rubio from tweeting this accusation from nearby in Cucuta, Colombia:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who is facing calls for her own resignation after video appeared of her condescendingly browbeating a group of environmentalist children, repeated Rubio’s baseless allegation, using it to call for Maduro to step down.

By blaming the Venezuelan government for burning the USAID trucks, Rubio was clearly attempting to establish the casus belli he had been seeking. Yet neither he nor anyone in the “whole world” had seen the national guard set the fire, as he claimed. In fact, the evidence pointed in the exact opposite direction, suggesting that the masked opposition youth had torched the trucks themselves.

Colombian writer Humberto Ortiz produced footage from a pro-opposition channel showing what appears to be the exact moment when a guarimbero sets the aid on fire with a molotov cocktail:

Telesur reporter Madelein Garcia published photographs showing a guarimbero with a gas canister next to one of the burning trucks:

Drone footage also published by Garcia shows how far away the trucks were from Venezuelan national guardsmen when they caught fire, and demonstrates that they were clearly on the Colombian side of the border:

Even Bloomberg News, which has run a relentless stream of pro-opposition reports, published video showing guarimberos on the bridge making molotov cocktails, which could easily set a truck cabin or its cargo alight:

Meanwhile, the International Red Cross issued a statement condemning Venezuelan opposition activists disguising themselves as Red Cross workers – a blatant breach of humanitarian protocol. A screenshot from pro-opposition NTN24 coverage shows a fake Red Cross worker near one of the burning trucks:

Days ago, self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido announced that he would lead a “human wave” across the bridge and into Venezuela. But as darkness fell on February 23, Guaido found himself at a stormy press conference with other right-wing, US-aligned Latin American leaders. By his side was Colombian President Ivan Duque, who repeated the evidence-free allegation that Venezuelan security forces had burned the aid trucks.

Having failed miserably at every phase of the coup he had attempted engineer, Rubio ended the day with a Twitter tantrum that peaked with a call for “multilateral actions” against Venezuela’s government. What form that action could take is still unclear, but it will certainly be justified by a series of baseless claims about what took place on the Santander bridge.

via ZeroHedge News https://ift.tt/2XvpHeI Tyler Durden

Tesla Tumbles As Musk “Mystery Announcement” Appears To Disappoint

“The Wait is Over” now and Elon Musk’s big mystery announcement is reportedly a cheap Model 3 with a shorter range…


Electrek reports – just ahead of the unveil at 5pmET – that the automaker is now making several new versions of the Model 3 available with a shorter range and new interior options.

All the details are expected to become available in the next hour, but here what we know so far:

  • Customers are going to be to order the $35,000 Model 3 with a standard interior and 220-mile battery pack today

  • Tesla is also making a new “Partial Premium Interior” with better seats than the standard interior available with the standard battery pack for a $2,500 premium

Those two options are significantly bringing the price of Model 3 down:

This appears to have disappointed investors as TSLA shares are down after hours on the news as Musk’s mismanagement of expectations comes back to bite once again…

TSLA is now halted ahead of the actual news release.

via ZeroHedge News https://ift.tt/2Ue6vAb Tyler Durden

‘What’s a Libertarian To Do?’: Podcast

Earlier today, I taped a podcast with The Bulwark‘s Charlie Sykes and Jim Swift. We talked about the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which I’m attending near Washington, D.C.; the brain rot infesting much of Republican politics today; what if anything libertarians have in common anymore with right-wingers; and why pot legalization makes sense even (especially!) for conservatives. It’s a fun, wide-ranging conversation. Click here or below to listen.

|||Bulwark Online

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Opposition Leader Calls On Justin Trudeau To Resign

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s standing within his own government has never been more tenuous.

On Wednesday, former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, an MP who was once the country’s top prosecutor before resigning from Trudeau’s cabinet, testified to a Parliamentary committee about the “political pressure” and “veiled threats” she endured as Trudeau and members of his office pushed her to offer a deferred prosecution agreement to Quebec-based engineering firm SNC-Lavalin. Her testimony directly implicated Trudeau, who, according to Wilson-Raybould, insinuated during a meeting last year that he needed her to go easy on SNC-Lavalin to improve his prospects for reelection (he reminded her that he’s an MP representing an area of Quebec that could be hurt by job losses if SNC-Lavalin decided to move).


Justin Trudeau

And although Trudeau’s support within the Liberal Party remains relatively steady – he told reporters on Wednesday that he has no plans to resign – opposition figures are doing their best to stoke public anger with Trudeau. Late Wednesday, after Wilson-Raybould had finished her testimony, Canada’s Conservative opposition leader Andrew Scheer demanded Trudeau resign, saying the prime minister had “lost his moral authority” to govern.

Here’s more from Al Jazeera:

Andrew Scheer said late on Wednesday that Trudeau “has lost moral authority to govern” and “must resign” at once.

“Mr Trudeau can no longer, in good standing and with a clear conscience, lead this great nation,” he added.

Trudeau has steadfastly disputed Wilson-Raybould’s characterization of what happened, and insisted that he didn’t do anything improper.

Wilson-Raybould left his government earlier this month after being abruptly transferred to lead the country’s Veterans Affairs ministry, which was widely seen as a demotion. In her testimony, Wilson-Raybould implicated at least 11 employees in Trudeau’s office and members of the privy council for participating in the pressure campaign.

Even if he doesn’t resign, polls show that the scandal could cost Trudeau his job during October elections.

via ZeroHedge News https://ift.tt/2SuSzQB Tyler Durden