Currency War: U.S. Hedge Funds Mount New Attacks on China’s Yuan – By Juliet Chung and  Carolyn Cui Jan. 31, 2016 5:30 a.m. ET


Bets against the yuan by hedge funds come at a time of enormous sensitivity for Chinese leaders.

Kyle Bass, of Hayman Capital Management, at the Skybridge Alternatives Conference last May. He believes the yuan could fall as much as 40% over the next three years.

Kyle Bass, of Hayman Capital Management, at the Skybridge Alternatives Conference last May. He believes the yuan could fall as much as 40% over the next three years. Photo: Rick Wilking/REUTERS

Some of the biggest names in the hedge-fund industry are piling up bets against China’s currency, setting up a showdown between Wall Street and the leaders of the world’s second-largest economy.

Kyle Bass’s Hayman Capital Management has sold off the bulk of its investments in stocks, commodities and bonds so it can focus on shorting Asian currencies, including the yuan and the Hong Kong dollar.

It is the biggest concentrated wager that the Dallas-based firm has made since its profitable bet years ago against the U.S. housing market. About 85% of Hayman Capital’s portfolio is now invested in trades that are expected to pay off if the yuan and Hong Kong dollar depreciate over the next three years—a bet with billions of dollars on the line, including borrowed money.

“When you talk about orders of magnitude, this is much larger than the subprime crisis,” said Mr. Bass, who believes the yuan could fall as much as 40% in that period.

Billionaire trader Stanley Druckenmiller and hedge-fund manager David Tepper have staked out positions of their own against the currency, also known as the renminbi, according to people familiar with the matter.  David Einhorn’s Greenlight Capital Inc. holds options on the yuan depreciating.

The funds’ bets come at a time of enormous sensitivity for China’s leaders. The government is struggling on multiple fronts to manage a soft landing for the economy, deal with a heavily indebted banking system and navigate the transition to consumer-led growth.

Expectations for a weaker yuan have led to an exodus of capital by Chinese residents and foreign investors. Though it still boasts the largest holding of foreign reserves at $3.3 trillion, China has experienced huge outflows in recent months. Hedge funds are gambling that China will let its currency weaken further in a bid to halt a flood of money leaving the country and jump-start economic growth.

The effort is a lot riskier, though, than taking on a currency whose value is set by the market. China’s state-run economy gives the government a number of levers to pull and tremendous resources at its disposal. Earlier this year, state institutions bought up so much yuan in the Hong Kong market where foreigners place most of their bets that overnight borrowing costs shot up to 66%, making it difficult to finance short positions and sending the yuan up sharply.

The situation grew more tense after billionaire investor George Soros predicted at the World Economic Forum gathering in Davos, Switzerland, recently that “a hard landing is practically unavoidable” for China’s economy. He said he is betting against commodity-producing countries and Asian currencies as a result.

George Soros, of Soros Fund Management, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, recently. He said he is betting against Asian currencies.

George Soros, of Soros Fund Management, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, recently. He said he is betting against Asian currencies. Photo: Bloomberg News

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Error Found in Study of First Ancient African Genome – By Ewen Callaway, Nature magazine on January 2016


Finding that much of Africa has Eurasian ancestry was mistaken

An error has forced researchers to go back on their claim that humans across the whole of Africa carry DNA inherited from Eurasian immigrants.

This week the authors issued a note explaining the mistake in their October 2015 Science paper on the genome of a 4,500-year-old man from Ethiopia—the first complete ancient human genome from Africa. The man was named after Mota Cave, where his remains were found (For more about the initial findings, please read the following article: “First Ancient African Genome Reveals Vast Eurasian Migration).

Although the first humans left Africa some 100,000 years ago, a study published in 2013 found that some came back again around 3,000 years ago; this reverse migration has left its trace in African genomes.

In the Science paper, researchers confirmed this finding. The paper also suggested that populations across the continent still harbour significant ancestry from the Middle Eastern farmers who were behind the back-migration. Populations in East Africa, including Ethiopian highlanders who live near Mota Cave, carried the highest levels of Eurasian ancestry. But the team also found vestiges of the ‘backflow’ migration in West Africans and in a pygmy group in Central Africa, the Mbuti.

Andrea Manica, a population geneticist at the University of Cambridge, UK, who co-led the study, says the team made a mistake in its conclusion that the backflow reached western and central Africa. “The movement 3,000 years ago, or thereabouts, was limited to eastern Africa,” he says.

Article continues:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/error-found-in-study-of-first-ancient-african-genome/

If You Go Near the Super Bowl, You Will Be Surveilled Hard – APRIL GLASER. 01.31.16. 7:00 AM


Super Bowl 50 will be big in every way. A hundred million people will watch the game on TV. Over the next ten days, 1 million people are expected to descend on the San Francisco Bay Area for the festivities. And, according to the FBI, 60 federal, state, and local agencies are working together to coordinate surveillance and security at what is the biggest national security event of the year.

The Department of Homeland Security, the agency coordinating the Herculean effort, classifies every Super Bowl as a special event assignment rating (SEAR) 1 event, with the exception of the 2002 Super Bowl, which got the highest ranking because it followed the September 11 terror attacks—an assignment usually reserved for only the Presidential Inauguration. A who’s-who of agencies, ranging from the DEA and TSA to the US Secret Service to state and local law enforcement and even the Coast Guard has spent more than two years planning for the event.

All of which means that if you’re attending the game, or just happen to be in the general vicinity of the myriad events leading up to the Super Bowl, you will be watched. Closely. The festivities started Saturday and run through February 7, when the Carolina Panthers meet the Denver Broncos at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. Here’s a sampling of the technology Big Brother can use to surveil you during the Super Bowl in the Bay Area.

Article continues:

http://www.wired.com/2016/01/govs-plan-keep-super-bowl-safe-massive-surveillance/

Chris Christie Tells Iowans That Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio Are Liars – —By Patrick Caldwell | Sat Jan. 30, 2016 1:12 PM EST


“What else are they not going to tell you the truth about?”

Congressional Quarterly/ZUMA

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s presidential campaign never really caught steam. In Iowa, he’s barely registering in the polls, and in New Hampshire (seemingly friendlier territory) he’s generally in sixth place. So with the first votes fast approaching, he’s settled on a strategy of attacking the non-Trump frontrunners, particularly Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, as dishonest politicians who are lying to voters.

At a town hall at the University of Iowa early Saturday morning, Christie devoted much of his stump speech to lambasting Cruz and Rubio for dissembling when it comes to their stances on immigration reform. “Here’s my only problem with Sen. Rubio and Sen. Cruz: they won’t tell you the truth,” Christie warned the Iowans, noting their equivocation on the immigration issue during Thursday’s GOP debate. “They stood there and tried to tell you that what you saw and what you heard, you didn’t see and you didn’t hear. That they didn’t change their positions at all. Sen. Rubio in particular.”

Article continues:

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/01/chris-christie-calls-ted-cruz-and-marco-rubio-liars

The Federal Response To Oregon Occupation May Have Roots In Ruby Ridge – RACHEL MARTIN January 31, 20166:05 AM ET


Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms stand next to the outbuilding located near the Randy Weaver home near Naples, Idaho, in September 1992.

Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms stand next to the outbuilding located near the Randy Weaver home near Naples, Idaho, in September 1992. — Gary Stewart/AP

The armed standoff between anti-government militants and law enforcement in Oregon has lasted more than four weeks. After the arrest of 11 people last week, it was expected that the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge would come to an end, but the killing of the group’s spokesman in an encounter with police has re-energized protesters.

We have been here before. Back in the 1990s, there were several showdowns between armed anti-government extremists and the federal government.

One of the longest standoffs involved the Freemen of Montana in 1996, who held out for 81 days before surrendering peacefully to law enforcement. It was a different story in 1993, when the standoff with the Branch Davidians near Waco, Texas, ended with the deaths of at least 75 people — many of whom were children — in a fire.

But it was the events at Ruby Ridge in Idaho that would become the symbol of government overreach. This week on For the Record: the lessons of Ruby Ridge.

“Ruby Ridge is a complex case,” says Jess Walter, author of the book Ruby Ridge: The Truth and Tragedy of the Randy Weaver Family. In 1992 he was a cub reporter for the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Wash. “It’s one of the reasons when it first unfolded in 1992, it slipped beneath the radar of the national media and the public.”

As he tells NPR’s Rachel Martin, the story begins with Randy Weaver and his family.

“He lost his job at a tractor farm in Iowa, and they made their way west,” Walter says. “They were apocalyptic Christians who believed the world was about to end. And they began practicing a form of religion called Christian identity, which is the religion of skinheads and white supremacists.”

One summer, Weaver took his family to a camp run by the Aryan Nations. He sold two sawed-off shotguns to a man he met at that gathering, but that man turned out to be a federal informant. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms planned to use the illegal weapons sale to recruit Weaver as an informant, as well.

Article continues:

http://www.npr.org/2016/01/31/465000760/the-federal-response-to-oregon-occupation-may-have-roots-in-ruby-ridge

Presidential primaries set to begin with Iowa caucuses – January 30, 2016 10:53AM ET


The long and sometimes arcane ritual of electing the next U.S. president begins on Monday in more than 1,100 schools, churches and libraries across Iowa, a state that wields political influence far greater than its small size.Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at Jan 31, 2016 3.45

After more than a year of up-close and personal evaluation of the candidates, Iowans will gather with their neighbors on what promises to be a cold wintry night to kick off the state-by-state process of picking the Republican and Democratic nominees for the Nov. 8 presidential election.

The starring opening-night role of the largely rural Midwestern state in the presidential drama, now four decades old, is a source of pride for Iowa voters, who spend months evaluating the candidates, looking them in the eye and asking questions.

“Iowans see it as a great privilege and a great gift. They take their role very seriously,” said Tom Henderson, chairman of the Democratic Party in Polk County, home to Iowa’s biggest city, Des Moines.

The caucuses will begin on Monday at 7 p.m. CST, and results are expected within two or three hours. Most gatherings will be in schools, community centers or other public locations, although at least two Republican caucuses will be in private homes and one Democratic caucus will be held at an equestrian center.

Turnout varies by community, with up to 1,000 people typically gathering in cities like Des Moines, while a few dozen or less may gather in more sparsely populated areas.

The state Republican and Democratic parties run their caucuses separately, although in some areas they hold them in different parts of the same building. Republicans will have more than 800 caucus sites, and Democrats will have about 1,100.

The two parties also have different rules. Iowa Democrats gather in groups by candidate preference in a public display of support, a tradition that can allow for shifts back and forth. If a candidate does not reach the threshold of support of 15 percent of voters in a caucus needed to be considered viable, that candidates’ supporters are released to back another contender, leading to another round of persuasion.

Republicans are more straightforward. They write their vote privately on a sheet of paper that is collected and counted at the site by caucus officials. A surrogate or volunteer from each campaign may speak to their neighbors in a last-ditch plea for support, adding to the uncertainty going into the process.

Neither party is offering voter turnout estimates this year, although many Iowans predict the Republicans will surpass the 121,503 who turned out in 2012. In the last contested Democratic caucus, in 2008, excitement over Barack Obama’s candidacy spurred a record turnout of 239,872.

Iowa, the 30th most populated state, and tiny New Hampshire, which holds the second nominating contest on Feb. 9, have traditionally served as early filters to winnow out the losers and elevate the top contenders for later contests.

But Iowa Republicans recently have had a spotty record at backing the ultimate presidential nominees. Neither the Republican winner in 2008, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, nor the winner in 2012, former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, managed to win the party nomination.

Iowa Democrats did back the party’s last two nominees: John Kerry in 2004 and Obama in 2008, which ultimately launched Obama’s drive to the White House.

Reuters

Martin Shkreli on Drug Price Hikes and Playing the World’s Villain – Vice News Published on Jan 29, 2016


Martin Shkreli is a 32-year-old entrepreneur and company builder. A modern day Horatio Alger story, Shkreli grew up the son of two janitors in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, hustled his way into the hedge fund game, and is now worth at least $45 million. Although he made his money betting against the pharmaceutical industry, Shkreli switched to running a drug companies in 2012.

In August of last year, one of his companies acquired the rights to a drug that treats an infection that effects in people with AIDS and other immunodeficiencies.

Over night, the price per pill raised by more than 5000 percent and Shkreli became the poster child for capitalistic greed.

Shkreli ran with the bad-boy image, flaunting his trollish behaviour in the media, He’s not your typical pharma tycoon anyways. Over the past year he’s also funded an indie record label, claimed he would bail Bobby Shmurda out of jail, and purchased the singular copy of a legendary Wu-Tang Clan album … with no immediate plans to even play it.

In December, Shkreli was indicted on securities fraud charges and is now under investigation by Congress and the Federal Trade Commission for price gouging… so his time in the spotlight is not over yet.

VICE caught up with him at his midtown apartment to meet the man behind the headlines.

READ MORE: Everything I Know About the Wu-Tang Album from Hanging Out with Martin Shkreli – http://bit.ly/1NFBt8p

Yanis Varoufakis: Capitalism will eat democracy — unless we speak up – Filmed December 2015 at TEDGlobal>Geneva


Have you wondered why politicians aren’t what they used to be, why governments seem unable to solve real problems? Economist Yanis Varoufakis, the former Minister of Finance for Greece, says that it’s because you can be in politics today but not be in power — because real power now belongs to those who control the economy. He believes that the mega-rich and corporations are cannibalizing the political sphere, causing financial crisis. In this talk, hear his dream for a world in which capital and labor no longer struggle against each other, “one that is simultaneously libertarian, Marxist and Keynesian.”