Death Toll Rises As Ukraine Ramps Up Attacks On Russian Border Towns

Death Toll Rises As Ukraine Ramps Up Attacks On Russian Border Towns

Casualties have risen after intense shelling of a Russian village in the Bryansk region near the Ukrainian border, an attack which happened Saturday, with emergency responders initially citing two killed. 

The casualty count as been revised as rescuers comb through rubble of a residential building. Four civilians have died and another two wounded “as a result of the actions by Ukrainian nationalists,” governor Aleksandr Bogomaz announced Sunday.

Authorities declared a state of emergency in the village of Suzemka, where the strike took place. It lies a mere 10km from Ukraine.

The governor further said the wave of Ukrainian strikes hit a residential area, according to CNN

Unverified video posted on Bogomaz’s Telegram channel shows people emerging from a damaged building at night.

A person can be heard on the video saying, “They pulled a woman out. They’re still checking for a kid. Not sure. Horrible.”

Attacks, including with drones, on Russian territory have increased of late as Ukrainian forces are reportedly preparing for a spring counteroffensive. 

The biggest weekend attack was deep inside Crimea. Multiple drones hit a fuel depot early Saturday, unleashing a huge multiple-hours long blaze which could be seen for miles.


It appeared a retaliation strike in response to Friday’s major Russian cruise missile and drone attacks against several Ukrainian cities, particularly in the central part of the country.

Additionally, international reports indicate over the weekend cited Moscow-installed officials in eastern Ukraine who said “Ukrainian shelling had killed nine people, including an eight-year-old girl in the city of Donetsk.”

Tyler Durden
Sun, 04/30/2023 – 19:00

via ZeroHedge News Tyler Durden

There Were 70 Major Bankruptcies In Just 4 Months This Year

There Were 70 Major Bankruptcies In Just 4 Months This Year

By Mish Shedlock of Mishtalk

For 2009 there were 118 bankruptcies through April. In Covid-impacted 2020, there were 71 bankruptcies. In 2023 there have been 70.

This is the third worst start to the year since 2000. Here’s the Tweet.

2023 Bankruptcy Spotlight 

  • Bed Bath & Beyond: April 2023: Home goods, baby goods
  • David’s Bridal: Date: April 2023: Bridal apparel
  • Boxed: April 2023: An e-commerce platform selling wholesale consumer goods
  • Independent Pet Partners: February 2023: Pet supplies
  • Tuesday Morning: February 2023: Discount home goods
  • Serta Simmons Bedding: January 2023: Bedding and accessories
  • Party City: January 2023: Party supplies
  • Forma Brands: January 2023: Beauty products 

The bankruptcy spotlight list is condensed from a detailed report by CBInsights

Spotlight Bed Bath and Beyond

NBC reports Bed Bath and Beyond Prepares for Store Closings

“Thank you to all of our loyal customers,” Bed Bath & Beyond said in a message posted to social media on Monday. “We have made the difficult decision to begin winding down our operations. Bed Bath & Beyond and buybuy BABY stores remain open to serve you.”

According to the retailer’s website, “deep discount” store closing sales are expected to begin in stores and online beginning Wednesday, and “all purchases during our store closing sales will be final.”

According to the retailer, Bed Bath & Beyond websites, along with 360 brick-and-mortar stores and 120 buybuy BABY locations will “remain open and continue serving customers as the Company begins its efforts to effectuate the closure of its retail locations.”

In Illinois, only eight Bed Bath & Beyond stores remain open, along with five buybuy BABY stores. Earlier this year, Bed Bath & Beyond announced closures of 19 stores across Illinois, many of them in the Chicago area.

Deep Discounts, No Coupons

Bed Bath and Beyond is no longer accepting coupons. Gift cards and loyalty certificates are still valid. All sales are final. 

Spotlight David’s Bridal 

CNN reports One in four brides wear David’s Bridal to their wedding. Now, it’s filing for bankruptcy

“An increasing number of brides are opting for less traditional wedding attire, including thrift wedding dresses,” David’s Bridal said in a bankruptcy filing. “These shifting consumer preferences have significantly exacerbated” the company’s financial crunch.

“The demand for formal wedding dresses, bridesmaid dresses, and related accessories has decreased substantially in the current environment,” the company said in its filing.

David’s Bridal will keep its nearly 300 stores and website operating and fulfill all customer orders as it searches for a buyer for the company. It will also honor gift cards, returns and exchanges. But if David’s Bridal is not able to find a buyer, it could have to close all stores and liquidate.

The company has around 10,000 full and part-time employees, but last week it said it was laying off 9,000 workers.

David’s Bridal, the successor to a bridal retailing business that began as a single bridal salon in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, in 1950, said approximately 25% of brides in the United States wear one of its gowns at their wedding.

Nonstore Retail Sales as Percent of Advance Retail Sales

Data from Commerce Department, chart by Mish.

To create the chart I subtracted food, gasoline, motor vehicles, and items one does not normally buy online, then took the nonstore percentage of what remained. 

Not only have consumer preferences shifted on what people buy, preferences have shifted in the way people buy. 

The percentage of shopping online has been steadily rising but the Covid pandemic goosed the trend. It’s about four percentage points above the prior trend. 

Amazon was the big beneficiary. It explains Amazon’s earnings report. Nonetheless, not all is well with Amazon.

Amazon Layoffs

On April 26, Geekwire reported Latest round of Amazon layoffs begins today, impacting AWS and human resources

Amazon began notifying Amazon Web Services and human resources employees impacted by its latest round of layoffs on Wednesday, as the company continues to trim headcount to cut costs.

The layoffs are part of the 9,000-person corporate workforce reduction announced by the company in March. The cuts mostly affect AWS, human resources (which Amazon calls PXT, for People Experience and Technology), Amazon Advertising, and Twitch.

Amazon in January announced a 18,000-person layoff, the largest in the Seattle company’s history. The additional 9,000 layoffs bring the total to 27,000 job cuts, about 8% of Amazon’s corporate workforce, which previously numbered around 350,000 people.

The company has trimmed back and eliminated several products, services, and entire businesses over the past year to help cut expenses, including its Scout neighborhood delivery robots, its Amazon Care primary healthcare business, bricks-and-mortar Amazon bookstores, and others. Amazon said Wednesday that it was shutting down its Halo health devices and service.

M2 Money Supply Declines 8 Straight Months, ODL Down 12 Straight Months

On April 12, I commented Fed Minutes Now Predict a Recession This Year Along With Higher Unemployment. Also note M2 Money Supply Declines 8 Straight Months, ODL Down 12 Straight Months.

The economy is slowing fast. A rise in unemployment will follow,

Tyler Durden
Sun, 04/30/2023 – 18:30

via ZeroHedge News Tyler Durden

New California Gold Rush Coming As Record Snowpack Melts

New California Gold Rush Coming As Record Snowpack Melts

Authored by Jill McLaughlin via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

Gold isn’t raining from the sky in California, but it might be flooding into the rivers by summer.

Tourists are seen panning gold during a tour with the California Gold Panning. (Courtesy of Nick Prebalick)

“Nugget Nick” Prebalick expects the record snowpack in northern California to deposit even more gold in Woods Creek in Tuolumne County, where he shares a claim with his father and son near Jamestown. The family has been offering tours to those who want to experience gold mining and learn about the history of the gold rush in the state.

I’m already finding more gold,” Prebalick told The Epoch Times. “I’ve been finding gold every tour.”

The Prebalicks, who own California Gold Panning, usually find about an ounce of gold a day when they take guests to pan for nuggets on their claim. The most he and his father have found was 127 ounces in one day.

(L-R) Nick Prebalick, Nathania Prebalick, and prospector Terry Prebalick of California Gold Panning. (Courtesy of Nick Prebalick)

As this year’s snow melts from the Sierra Nevada and other mountains, the runoff will wash away silt and deposit more gold in rivers and streams, prompting some to predict a modern-day gold rush this summer.

California’s first gold rush in 1848 brought fortune seekers from all over the world. More than 300,000 came to the territory, and gold was worth $20.67 per ounce, according to the National Museum of American History.

Today, each ounce is worth about $2,000.

“I think this summer. I’m going to be swamped,” he said. “We’ll probably get 10 groups a day.”

Mark Keene, who owns the mining equipment company Keene Engineering in Chatsworth—about 30 miles northwest of the city of Los Angeles—with his brother, told The Epoch Times he also anticipates a big increase in gold mining activities when the snow starts to melt.

“In my lifetime, I don’t remember this much snowpack in the mountains,” Keene said, adding that he expects to see a superflood. Keene sells gold pans, sluice boxes, and other tools used by armatures and professionals.

“When you have a catastrophic flood like that all the riverbanks and the mountainsides wash down in the river and you see a lot of gold,” he said. “It could be one of the best years in decades for mining.”

Keene and his family have a secret mining spot and they visit on the weekends, he said.

Gold flakes are being found in the Klamath River. (Courtesy of the New 49’ers Prospecting Association)

“It’s not always about the gold,” he said. “It’s about the journey and the adventure of it, too.”

First-timers need to know the rules before heading out to look for treasures, though, said Dickey Melton, manager of The New 49’ers Prospecting Association, a gold mining club based about 20 south of the Oregon border in Happy Camp, California.

What we have now is a whole bunch of hand miners,” Melton said, as state law prohibits any type of mining other than panning, sluice boxes, or shovels.

Even with restrictions, many people come out to the club’s 63 claims on 83 miles on the Klamath River, which flows more than 250 miles through Oregon and northern California.

“We get people from all over the world who come here,” Melton said. “Right now, all of that snow is melting, and the rivers are running really high. We’re seeing some hand miners coming in with some pretty good gold.”

Tyler Durden
Sun, 04/30/2023 – 17:30

via ZeroHedge News Tyler Durden

“Falsification Of History”: Egypt Goes Ballistic On Netflix Over Cleopatra’s Race

“Falsification Of History”: Egypt Goes Ballistic On Netflix Over Cleopatra’s Race

According to Egypt’s antiquities ministry, an upcoming four-part drama-documentary produced by Netflix has made a serious error regarding the race of one of Egypt’s pharaohs. It appears that ‘woke capital’ is distorting history. 

“Queen Cleopatra,” released May 10, has Black actor Adele James featured as the legendary leader. The move by Jada Pinkett Smith, the producer and narrator of the series, has infuriated Mostafa Waziri, head of the Supreme Antiquities Council, who said: portraying Cleopatra as Black is “a falsification of Egyptian history.”

Waziri said nothing was racist about his comments, which were entirely motivated by “defending the history of Queen Cleopatra, an important part of the history of Egypt in antiquity.”

Egyptian experts insist Cleopatra had “white skin and Hellenistic characteristics.” But don’t tell ‘woke Netflix’ this… 

An online petition on titled Cancel Netflix’s “Queen Cleopatra” has nearly 8,000 signatures. It alleges:

“Afrocentrism is a pseudoscience that is pushing a group’s agenda to claim Egypt’s history and rob the actual Egyptians of it. By using false articles and zero evidence, they are still attempting to falsify history.”

“Cleopatra was born in Alexandria, Egypt in the Ptolemaic dynasty to Greek descent. She was NOT black. This is in no way against black people, and is simply a wake up call to preserve the history and the integrity of the Egyptians and the Greeks.”

“The show is clearly done to complement the Afrocentric movement, which claims to be the owner of the ancient Egyptian civilization, and to consolidate what the movement promotes. Egypt was never black and it was never white, Egypt is just Egypt. There are many great African/black civilizations, but Egypt was/is NOT one of them. Sign the petition to stop the falsification of history!” 

Meanwhile, Egypt has been critical of Netflix’s content. It recently demanded the online streaming platform to drop content that runs counter to its “societal values,” such as Western-produced television shows featuring gay and lesbian characters onscreen. 

So, in Egypt’s view, woke Netflix is distorting history. 

Tyler Durden
Sun, 04/30/2023 – 17:00

via ZeroHedge News Tyler Durden

In Big Win For Gun-Rights Advocates, Federal Judge Enjoins Illinois’ Assault Weapons Ban

In Big Win For Gun-Rights Advocates, Federal Judge Enjoins Illinois’ Assault Weapons Ban

Authored by Jonathan Turley,

In a major victory for gun rights advocates, U.S. District Judge Stephen McGlynn has granted a preliminary injunction of Illinois’ ban on assault weapons and large capacity magazines. The decision comes after two other district courts ruled in favor of the law — sending this issue to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and potentially the Supreme Court.  These long-awaited challenges will test the Democratic calls for removing all AR-15s and similar weapons, including calls from President Joe Biden.

I have previously raised doubts over some of these laws, which are based on questionable factual claims and distinctions between weapons. Indeed, President Biden has made dubious constitutional and historical claims about the Second Amendment and AR-15s.

Illinois and New York have previously supplied gun rights advocates with huge victories by drafting facially unconstitutional laws. Moderate efforts at gun control are often ramped up in the legislative process to become more and more sweeping.

McGlynn recognized that gun bans are popular in states like Illinois but noted that “even legislation that may enjoy the support of a majority of its citizens must fail if it violates the constitutional rights of fellow citizens.”

The court tackles the argument made by many gun control advocates that states can ban “non-essential accessories” like magazines because they are not themselves “arms” under the Second Amendment.

PICA outlaws possession of a “semiautomatic pistol” with a detachable magazine if it is equipped with any of the following: “a threaded barrel,” “a shroud attached to the barrel or that partially or completely encircles the barrel,” “a flash suppressor,” or “arm brace.” PICA further outlaws possession of a magazine for a handgun capable of holding more than 15 rounds of ammunition and of “[a] semiautomatic pistol that has a fixed magazine with the capacity to accept more than 15 rounds.” Defendants contend that such items are not necessary to the functioning of a firearm and are thus not “arms” and therefore not protected by the Second Amendment.

Defendants’ argument is not persuasive. The Seventh Circuit has recognized the Second Amendment as extending to “corollar[ies] to the meaningful exercise of the core right to possess firearms for self-defense.” It is hard to imagine something more closely correlated to the right to use a firearm in self-defense than the ability to effectively load ammunition into the firearm. The Third Circuit recognized the importance of this corollary and held that “a magazine is an arm under the Second Amendment.”

McGlynn also stated that it is “bordering on the frivolous” to claim that neither large capacity magazines nor assault weapons are protected because they were not in common use when the Second Amendment was ratified. He cited the long-standing rule that “the Second Amendment extends, prima facie, to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding.”

The court also rejected the claim that the standard is whether a weapon was in common use for self-defense:

Bruen clearly holds that the Second Amendment protects “possession and use” of weapons “in common use” not just weapons in common use for self-defense as Defendants’ argued. Even if there was a requirement that the “common use” of an “arm” be self-defense, AR-15 style rifles would meet such a test considering that 34.6% of owners utilize these rifles for self-defense outside of their home and 61.9% utilize them for self-defense at home.

The court further noted that large capacity magazines are commonly owned and used by sporting enthusiasts and there are more AR-15s than F150s in this country.

Judge McGlynn also noted that these weapons are commonly used for self-defense and that there are up to 2.5 million instances each year in which civilians used firearms for home defense. He added:

“In no way does this Court minimize the damage caused when a firearm is used for an unlawful purpose; however, this Court must be mindful of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution. While PICA was purportedly enacted in response to the Highland Park shooting, it does not appear that the legislature considered an individual’s right under the Second Amendment nor Supreme Court precedent. Moreover, PICA did not just regulate the rights of the people to defend themselves; it restricted that right, and in some cases, completely obliterated that right by criminalizing the purchase and the sale of more than 190 “arms.” Furthermore, on January 1, 2024, the right to mere possession of these items will be further limited and restricted Accordingly, the balance of harms favors the Plaintiffs.

The Court recognizes that the issues with which it is confronted are highly contentious and provoke strong emotions. Again, the Court’s ruling today is not a final resolution of the merits of the cases. Nothing in this order prevents the State from confronting firearm-related violence. There is a wide array of civil and criminal laws that permit the commitment and prosecution of those who use or may use firearms to commit crimes. Law enforcement and prosecutors should take their obligations to enforce these laws seriously. Families and the public at large should report concerning behavior. Judges should exercise their prudent judgment in committing individuals that pose a threat to the public and imposing sentences that punish, not just lightly inconvenience, those guilty of firearm-related crimes.”

Here is the opinion: 2023-04-28-Order-Granting-MPI

Tyler Durden
Sun, 04/30/2023 – 16:30

via ZeroHedge News Tyler Durden

The Great American Opt-Out: A Matter Of Willingness, Willfulness, And Will

The Great American Opt-Out: A Matter Of Willingness, Willfulness, And Will

Authored by Bob Maistros via American Greatness,

A Great American Opt-Out, the partition of the world’s foremost superpower into separate red and blue nations, is certainly not a subject to be taken – nor a suggestion to be made – lightly. 

But a superpower won’t remain super when, as Victor Davis Hanson lately lamented, it must “fixate only on the irrelevant that we think we can address while ignoring the existential.” 

These existential yet insoluble problems? They are self-inflicted wounds like weakened security, economic ruin, dysfunctional cities, nonexistent borders, transgender tyranny, and the weaponization of our justice system. 

And add as a coup de grace—the ultimate point past the point of no return—Joe Biden’s diktat disappearing the internal combustion engine. This will accelerate a death spiral for automakers and power producers already overwhelmed by renewable mandates. It will accentuate energy poverty, lead to decreased private ownership of soon-to-be-unaffordable automobiles, and ultimately actuate a forced flight from capacious suburbs to cramped spaces in family-unfriendly urbs—and a crimped American Dream.

Why are these problems insoluble? Because any dissent from the ruling class narrative risks persecution, prosecution, “peaceful” (read riotous) protests, lawsuits, suspensions, canceling, and cutoffs of livelihoods and necessities. 

Moreover, all meaningful avenues to counter mendacious, monolithic misrule by out-of-touch elites remain stubbornly blocked.

Today’s executive branch is a pen-and-phone and deep state-dominated operation, utterly disdainful of the people it is ostensibly devoted to serve.

Our justice system systematically weaponizes itself against that citizenry and the judiciary injudiciously generates inventive subversions of its will (See: Obamacare, DACA, transgender rights). 

Corporate America co-opts portfolios and pension funds to undermine investors’ and workers’ interests in the service of a woke ideology, an even more woke corporate media colludes with one political party, and our woke culture devalues core American values. 

We have a solve-nothing, spend-everything (and more) Congresses. 

We have an electoral process that—whether or not irretrievably tainted by systemic fraud and rigged by an elite “cabal”—dubiously delivered not just the White House but also net midterm senatorial, gubernatorial, and state legislative gains to the party of the most decrepit, degenerate, disdained and disaster-inducing presidential incumbent in history. 

Stein’s Law (as in Herbert) posits, “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.” America’s paralysis in fixing existential problems cannot go on at all, much less forever, without a ceding of its superpower status—if not a Weimar-level collapse.

It must stop. Soon. But how? 

Just as Issues & Insights has documented millions of citizens fleeing blue-state economic, political and social rot, the sole solution for Red America is to simply vote with its feet. 

That is, walk. Opt out.

Some suggest the union’s geographically dominant red counties could lead such an exodus. But a more likely route is for red states—perhaps the 18 that unsuccessfully banded together to challenge the 2020 election results—to declare the union dissolved, whether due to that illegitimate outcome or because of the unceasing, extraconstitutional thwarting of sovereignty in the swamp. Perhaps invite red counties in blue jurisdictions to be annexed into neighboring jurisdictions, or even form new states

In either event, it’s not difficult to conceive the formation of a provisional government, pending a new constitution and elections, including current members of Congress and federal judges from departing states, and an executive of existing governors. 

Nor is it difficult to conceive the negotiation of dissolution terms, as previously suggested, including a joint defense pact and shared assumption of responsibility for unfunded liabilities. (Division of “trust funds?” A mere fiction in a nation $31 trillion in debt.) 

An overwhelmingly conservative government could otherwise set about dismantling the nanny state in its jurisdictions while instituting the remedies to current maladies Victor Davis Hanson also identified.

In short, the logistics and implementation of partition are imaginable and manageable. The musts to muster? The willingness to admit that “out” is the only sustainable avenue to making America great again, given the hijacking of its commanding heights. The willfulness to advocate and agitate for that result. And the will to see a separation through. 

Those elements may seem far off and unattainable given the lack of seriousness with which partition suggestions have been regarded to date, even among conservatives, and its regrettable association with the ill-fated and immoral Confederate cause. 

But where was the transgenderism now darkly gripping America even a few years back? Who foresaw Black Lives Matter’s rapid rise and the rule of law’s sudden suspension? Or the Green New Deal’s nanosecond-long advance from political punch line to administration policy? 

Opt-out must proceed, to succeed, with the same insistence, sense of urgency and level of volume as those efforts. Starting with igniting and incessantly fanning a fire in forums like these. Making it a theme of an unceasing series conservative gatherings and marches and hearings. Confronting candidates for every office at every level at every opportunity and thereby choosing and encouraging champions. 

At America’s accelerated rate of decline, there is not a moment to waste. And with every elite political, economic, social, cultural, and judicial institution mobilized against its citizenry, no further “point of no return” to be passed.

Tyler Durden
Sun, 04/30/2023 – 15:30

via ZeroHedge News Tyler Durden

200 Years Of Global Gold Production, By Country

200 Years Of Global Gold Production, By Country

Although the practice of gold mining has been around for thousands of years, it’s estimated that roughly 86% of all above-ground gold was extracted in the last 200 years.

With modern mining techniques making large-scale production possible, global gold production has grown exponentially since the 1800s.

In the infographic below, Visual Capitalists Govind Bhutada and Miranda Smith, using data from Our World in Data, visualizes global gold production by country from 1820 to 2022, showing how gold mining has evolved to become increasingly global over time.

A Brief History of Gold Mining

The best-known gold rush in modern history occurred in California in 1848, when James Marshall discovered gold in Sacramento Valley. As word spread, thousands of migrants flocked to California in search of gold, and by 1855, miners had extracted around $2 billion worth of gold.

The United States, Australia, and Russia were (interchangeably) the three largest gold producers until the 1890s. Then, South Africa took the helm thanks to the massive discovery in the Witwatersrand Basin, now regarded today as one of the world’s greatest ever goldfields.

South Africa’s annual gold production peaked in 1970 at 1,002 tonnes—by far the largest amount of gold produced by any country in a year.

With the price of gold rising since the 1980s, global gold production has become increasingly widespread. By 2007, China was the world’s largest gold-producing nation, and today a significant quantity of gold is being mined in over 40 countries.

The Top Gold-Producing Countries in 2022

Around 31% of the world’s gold production in 2022 came from three countries—China, Russia, and Australia, with each producing over 300 tonnes of the precious metal.

North American countries Canada, the U.S., and Mexico round out the top six gold producers, collectively making up 16% of the global total. The state of Nevada alone accounted for 72% of U.S. production, hosting the world’s largest gold mining complex (including six mines) owned by Nevada Gold Mines.

Meanwhile, South Africa produced 110 tonnes of gold in 2022, down by 74% relative to its output of 430 tonnes in 2000. This long-term decline is the result of mine closures, maturing assets, and industrial conflict, according to the World Gold Council.

Interestingly, two smaller gold producers on the list, Uzbekistan and Indonesia, host the second and third-largest gold mining operations in the world, respectively.

The Outlook for Global Gold Production

As of April 25, gold prices were hovering around the $2,000 per ounce mark and nearing all-time highs. For mining companies, higher gold prices can mean more profits per ounce if costs remain unaffected.

According to the World Gold Council, mined gold production is expected to increase in 2023 and could surpass the record set in 2018 (3,300 tonnes), led by the expansion of existing projects in North America. The chances of record mine output could be higher if gold prices continue to increase.

Tyler Durden
Sun, 04/30/2023 – 15:00

via ZeroHedge News Tyler Durden

Cash Use Rises As Households Struggle To Cope With High Inflation

Cash Use Rises As Households Struggle To Cope With High Inflation

Authored by Bryan Jung via The Epoch Times,

Cash payments have made a comeback as households struggle to cope with high inflation, according to a new study.

After decades of falling cash use, the impact of the rapid inflation growth has been reversing the trend toward digital.

Credit Karma and The Harris Poll conducted a survey last month, which showed that 53 percent of adults in the United States and 46 percent in the United Kingdom are more likely to use cash than a year ago, reported Bloomberg.

Individuals preferring cash rose 19 and 4 percentage points, respectively, over those who did not use it more.

Roughly three in five cash users in both countries said using physical money makes them spend less.

The change in preferences towards cash over digital is also a reaction to the growing dominance of the latter, such as Apple Pay to Venmo to tappable credit cards, which some consumers say make it too easy to spend through their budget.

Over two-thirds of the 3,171 survey respondents admit that digital payment methods made them spend more than intended.

Cash Use Rises Among Young

High inflation rates have made people more self-conscious about what they spend daily, especially in the U.K., where price gains remain above 10 percent.

“As the world is getting back to normal after the pandemic and prices are going up significantly, we see cash as being one of the most enduring ways of managing money,” said Courtney Alev, an associate director of product management at Credit Karma.

“It really transcends generations and financial situations.”

The surge in cash use was especially pronounced among younger generations, such as Millennials and Gen Z, the survey found.

Younger consumers facing hard times are following the trend towards “cash-stuffing” by watching TikTok videos, that teach people how to separate their cash into different envelopes to use for different expenses, much like their grandparents or great-grandparents might have done during the Great Depression.

Consumers are also utilizing social media venues like Facebook to avoid businesses that do not accept cash.

Natalie Ceeney, chairwoman of Cash Access UK, told Bloomberg, “a lot of the theory on payments has been to remove friction,” and that “actually, a lot of people want friction back.”

Cash Access’s mission is to promote easier access to cash following legislation to stem its decline.

A woman holds British pound banknotes in this illustration taken on May 30, 2022. (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

Ceeney said that studies found a large increase in sales when businesses in personal contact with consumers, such as the sports industry, switch to contactless payments.

“One of the reasons is people are more likely to just tap and buy things without thinking, ‘Gosh, that’s a lot of money.’”

Some fintech companies are trying to assist struggling consumers by introducing features that help with setting limits on everyday spending, reported Bloomberg.

Digital Currency Proposed

The survey findings suggest that the recovery in payments in cash after pandemic lows might not be temporary, as studies by the Federal Reserve and the Bank of England seem to confirm.

The BOE noted in October that it had seen a “sustained, if partial, recovery in cash use” post-pandemic and that banknotes in circulation have risen close to a historic high.

The U.K. bank, Nationwide Building Society, reported in January that more than 30.2 million withdrawals were made from its ATMs last year, a 19 percent jump from 2021, likely due to the rising cost of living.

The British central bank said that the use of paper currency and coins are especially useful for lower-income households that are struggling to deal with inflated costs, ranging from food to rent payments.

Meanwhile, central banks worldwide, including the BOE, are pushing ahead with plans to introduce digital versions of their currencies, which is a very unpopular move among the public.

Privacy advocates worry about a loss of privacy and the potential for government surveillance if digital currencies become mandatory.

The Fed itself published a paper outlining the benefits of a digital dollar, but officials say there will be no “Fedcoin” without any action by Congress.

The continuous rise in cash use may depend on how the central banks will manage to tame stubbornly high inflation rates in the coming months.

Tyler Durden
Sun, 04/30/2023 – 14:30

via ZeroHedge News Tyler Durden

Vultures Circling: Bearish Bets Against REITs Soar As CRE Meltdown Risks Mount

Vultures Circling: Bearish Bets Against REITs Soar As CRE Meltdown Risks Mount

As storm clouds gather over the commercial real estate market, it faces ever-darker prospects by the week. Short-seller vultures are circling above CRE REITs, targeting these investment vehicles with significant exposures to office, retail, and hotel with massive bearish bets on the hope “more borrowers will default on office debt as interest costs increase and property values fall,” as reported by Bloomberg

New data compiled by S&P Global Market Intelligence shows short interest in some of the largest REITs with exposure to commercial properties, Blackstone Mortgage Trust Inc. and Starwood Property Trust Inc., have soared in recent weeks. 

Hedge funds are making bearish bets in the credit derivatives and equities spaces on the premise remote and hybrid work will continue to paralyze demand for tier 2 and 3 properties and crush landlords. Data from broker Cushman & Wakefield indicates office vacancy rates are rising at alarming rates. 

The gold-standard measure of office occupancy trends is the card-swipe data provided by Kastle Systems. The average office occupancy nationwide is around 46%, still well off the highs from pre-pandemic levels. 

The problem now is borrowers lack new tenants, which means default risk increases and negatively impacts REITs. These investment vehicles generate revenue from the spread between their capital costs and the interest rates charged to borrowers for loans. 

Gavriel Kahane, the co-founder of real estate investment firm Arkhouse, warned there’s mounting concern among top investors about “ballooning defaults on held loans” due partly to higher refinancing costs. He noted:

“Mortgage REITs in general do better when the Fed funds rate stays constant, and in this hyper-turbulent environment distress bubbles up.” 

The surge in bearish bets is an ominous sign market participants recognize the CRE space is headed for severe pain. The Mortgage Bankers Association reported a delinquency rate on office loans across all lenders climbed to 2.7% at the end of 2022, up from 1.6% in the previous quarter. We suspect that the rate will continue to rise throughout this year.  

Bloomberg noted, “Office loans are a minority of the portfolios for the mortgage REITs that are being shorted.” 

Recall last month, we pointed out that regional banking turmoil would have spillover effects in the CRE space — especially the office sector (Read: New “Big Short” Hits Record Low As Focus Turns To $400 Billion CRE Debt Maturity Wall). And since then, JPMMorgan Stanley, and Goldman Sachs have all joined the CRE gloom parade. 

We highlighted the next big short: BBB- tranches of CMBX Series 15, due to its outsized exposure to office commercial real estate…

BBB- tranches of CMBX Series 15 is sliding again. 

We also cautioned about a large maturity wall in the CRE sector, with $400 billion of debt due this year. Morgan Stanley data shows $2.5 trillion in CRE debt comes due over the next five years.

Perhaps last week’s Vornado Realty Trust announcement about delaying its dividend is a harbinger of what’s to come. The REIT just hit a 27-year low. 

Read this: 

“We expect private equity and commercial real estate to suffer as regional banks were disproportionate funders of these sectors and the crisis has shut leveraged lending primary markets for the time being,” fund managers James Hanbury and Jamie Grimston of Brook Asset Management wrote in a letter to investors seen by Bloomberg.

The latest BofA Fund Managers Survey (available to pro subs in the usual place) shows institutional players are most bearish on real estate since 2009.

Meanwhile, CRE Billionaire Sam Zell recently told New York University graduate students that remote work is a “bunch of bullshit” and that they should dismiss the idea of working from home. It might be hard for Zell to persuade folks to return to the office. These work trends seem permanent and will exert pressure on the CRE space, with mounting risks of a default wave. The dominos appear to be already falling. 

Tyler Durden
Sun, 04/30/2023 – 14:00

via ZeroHedge News Tyler Durden

The New York Times Uncovered The Worst-Kept Secret In Academia

As a general matter, law professors do not have to teach during the summer. Indeed, we barely teach during the academic year, as compared to virtually all other academic disciplines. The standard load is two lectures classes, plus a small seminar. The only way universities can attract elite faculty to teach in the summer is to situate the classes in exotic locations. Professors, and their families, have all-expenses-paid vacations to foreign cities. Sure, there are a few hours of teaching in the morning. But the rest of the time is free. And those same classes could easily be taught at the home institution. But again, professors would never sacrifice their summer breaks to teach domestically. What about students? Most law schools offer summer classes on this side of the pond. But who wants to toil in the heat? It’s far more fun to study some esoteric topic that in Europe.

Everyone knows these facts. It is not a secret. Indeed, over my career, I’ve challenged law professors who teach abroad. They insist that these programs are rigorous. So are classes in the United States. They insist that students can build camaraderie. They can do that here as well. They insist that students can be exposed to faculty who do not teach at our institution. Well, now Zoom can do that quite well. Plus, it pains me that students take on more debt to pay for cushy vacations, rather than trying to earn an actual salary over the summer. If I am reviewing a resume, and I see a summer-abroad program, I immediately think the person made a poor decision of how to spend the 2L summer.

I’m sure I’m an outlier. Plenty of professors who benefit from these programs love them. Same for administrators who tag along on the trips! Plus all students love vacations with academic credit. Rant over.

This background brings me to the latest breathless reporting in the New York Times. Now, the newspaper of record has focused on my alma mater, the Scalia Law School. The article is long. Really long. But the upshot is that George Mason has placed a priority on recruiting Justices Thomas, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh to teach at summer study programs. Shocker! A DC law school works hard to connect its students with the leaders of the profession. My own law school has organized similar programs in the past with Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Ginsburg. (My students described it as a once-in-a-lifetime experience.) So have countless other law schools. The only reason this story exists is because GMU is subject to FOIA. I’d love to look through the efforts at Harvard, Yale, and other elite private schools to recruit the Justices. There is also an issue lurking under the surface. Elite institutions can no longer invite conservative Justices. So Mason, as well as Notre Dame have filled that gap.

Moreover, I am scratching my head at the apparent conspiracy between GMU study-abroad program and GMU clinics that file amicus briefs. Does anyone really think that Justice Gorsuch is more likely to read an amicus brief from a GMU clinic because he taught several GMU students in a clinic? The reason why conservative justices read amicus briefs by conservative scholars is because they find those ideas persuasive. And Mason punches far above its weight class with regard to prominent conservative scholars. Does anyone think elite Supreme Court clinics at Harvard or Stanford are tainted because of the close connections those institutions have with the Justices? Indeed, those clinics actually argue cases, and do not just file amicus briefs destined for the circular file.

D.C. is–for lack of better words–an incestuous swamp. Everyone “knows” everyone else. And there is a nonstop effort by people with less power to try to gain access to people with more power. When you meet someone in D.C., the first question you are asked is “What do you do?” They are not curious about what you do. They want to know if you can provide them with more influence. The Times fails to place any of these allegations in context. Everything is about the one law school that proudly extolls its conservative connections. This sort of journalistic paint-by-numbers fails to ever substantiate their claims. It’s only enough to raise some concerns, and hope uninformed readers fill in the gaps on their own.

Nothing to see here. Wait till the next empty shoe drops.

The post The <i>New York Times</i> Uncovered The Worst-Kept Secret In Academia appeared first on

from Latest