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BloCKcHaiN 2020 Election ConSpiRACY *Alert*



FT Alphaville has spent some of this week marvelling at the audacity of the White House Gift Shop (a privately owned entity that’s entirely unaffiliated with the actual White House) to be pre-selling a commemorative series of coins dubbed: “PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP DEFEATS COVID WITH ICONS OF HIS ENTIRE FIRST TERM!

The coins’ artistic merits are described thusly on the gift shop’s website:

. . . a new commemorative that vividly shows President Trump’s historic presidential candidacy win, itself, from his descent on the elevator in Trump Tower, against a veritable army of superb Republican presidential candidates confluent with taunts, jeers, sneers by Media naysayers—to present day with design motifs of President Trump’s ascendance over and personal defeat of the deadly COVID pandemic virus.

The series creator and designer is one Anthony Gianni, who happens to be both the CEO of the gift shop but also (according to his LinkedIn) someone who “guides a unique team in the research and development of supercomputer systems for neural network mapping, simulation and AI models for use in neuroscience research as well as synergistic intelligence and defence systems modelling.”

Intriguing. Yes?

We then found the following tweet bearing some gratuitous imagery of Donald J. Trump fighting off coronavirus that began circulating on Nov 2, which may or may not be related:

While we cannot confirm that the depiction is definitely related to the giftshop series, we couldn’t help but clock its stylistic similarity to some of the artistic visualisation often found in the cryptocurrency realm, especially the HODL coins.

Could there be more to Donald Trump and crypto than first meets the eye?

What we do know is that the Donald famously disappointed crypto lovers when he disparaged bitcoin back in July 2019, noting:

But thanks to Emily Dreyfuss, a journalist at the Harvard Shorenstein Center’s Technology and Social Change project, who was published in the New York Times on Thursday, we now know that Trump’s iconoclastic tweeting and/or use and abuse of typos may be part of an elaborate strategy to backchannel secret messages to his most loyal fans.

Of course, the idea Trump is possibly working in tandem with the mysterious “Q”, who drops esoteric messages on message boards such as 8kun in a bid to reveal the reach and scale of the deep state, has long been at the heart of the Qanon conspiracy theory.

That theory states that Trump’s tweets are being used as proofs that the messages being put out by Q are really linked to insiders with special or advanced knowledge of things to come. That the system links to the seediest ends of the “free speech” internet, however, has done little for Qanon’s credibility with the mainstream press. Qanon followers have, instead, been labelled as deluded and potentially dangerous extremists who can’t help seeing connections where there are none, and who may also be preparing for a coup.

The retort from the Qanon followers is that the presence of Q on such sites is not an endorsement of the extremist content. Rather, the backchannel system was established there precisely because it was the only way to guarantee resilience in the face of censorship by major platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

Either way, there is no escaping the fact that The New York Times, by seeing fit to publish an opinion piece pandering to the delusional idea that DJT is smart enough to use secret codes in his Tweetstorms, has inadvertently also confirmed the worst of the Qanon fears.

DoNALd TrUMp really is speaking in Code.

So is it conceivable that Donald might secretly be a crypto blockchain bro too?

Well, there’s a cute but desperate theory also doing the rounds that the current election capitulation is actually all just Kayfabe — a sort of Sun-Tzu “art of war” diversion. In “reality” the STOP THE COUNT mess was entirely pre-engineered and Donald outwitted everyone by secretly watermarking ballot papers and tying them to the immutable power of the blockchain. So every illegal ballot is fully traceable and detectable. Yes really.

Here’s the vid where Steve Pieczenik, a former state department guy, explains how the elaborate sting operation was set up and how it will prove the true scale of the rigging at hand.

What can we say? Clearly the Donald has not been reading Alphaville. Even if the theory wasn’t bunkum, which of course it is, there’s the longstanding problem that blockchain can’t and never has been able to control for the garbage-in and garbage-out problem.

Pieczenik also neglects to mention that if blockchain was indeed used to trace every single ballot, it would be a major breach of voter secrecy rules. In the best-case scenario, Trump would just be replacing one illegal act with another illegal one.

What’s more, there’s no one in the official coinspace that gives the theory credence.

Adding fuel to the conspiracy fire, however, was an interesting side development that got buried as a result of the election debacle. The US attorney’s office in San Francisco has now revealed it was behind the $1bn in bitcoin that was transferred unexpectedly on Nov 4. The sum — linked to the 2013 Silk Road bust — had previously sat unmoved in a mysterious wallet since 2015.

How and to what degree that will be linked to the debacle is still unknown. What we can be sure of is that until waters settle and power is properly transferred, the consensus-reality of conspiracyland will be ablaze with all sorts of bonkers possibilities.

Related links:
Did An Alternate Reality Game Gone Wrong Predict The Rise of QAnon? – Schism Project

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Oil hits highest price since April 2019 before moderating




The price of crude oil briefly hit its highest level for more than two years on Monday, lifting shares in energy companies, as traders banked on strong demand from the rebounding manufacturing and travel industries.

Brent crude crossed $75 a barrel for the first time since April 2019 before falling back slightly, while energy shares were the top performers on an otherwise lacklustre Stoxx Europe 600 index, gaining 0.7 per cent.

The international oil benchmark has risen around 50 per cent this year, underscoring strong demand ahead of next week’s meeting of the Opec+ group of oil-producing nations.

US manufacturing activity expanded at a record rate in May, according to a purchasing managers’ index produced by IHS Markit. Air travel in the EU has reached almost 50 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, ahead of the July 1 introduction of passes that will allow vaccinated or Covid-negative people to move freely.

“This is a higher consuming part of the year,” said Pictet multi-asset investment manager Shaniel Ramjee, referring to the summer travel season. “And the oil market is pricing in strong near-term demand that is better than previous expectations.”

In stock markets, the Stoxx Europe 600 dipped 0.3 per cent while futures markets signalled Wall Street’s S&P 500 share index would add 0.1 per cent at the New York opening bell.

The yield on the 10-year US Treasury was steady at 1.494 per cent. Germany’s equivalent Bund yield gained 0.02 percentage points to minus 0.154 per cent.

Equity and bond markets have consolidated after an erratic few sessions since US central bank officials last week put out forecasts indicating the first post-pandemic interest rate rise might come in 2023, a year earlier than previously thought.

US shares tumbled last week, while government bonds rallied, on fears of tighter monetary policy derailing the global economic recovery.

Wall Street equities then bounced back on Monday, with a follow-on rally in some Asian markets on Tuesday, as sentiment got a boost from more dovish commentary from Fed officials.

Fed chair Jay Powell, in prepared remarks ahead of congressional testimony later on Tuesday said the central bank “will do everything we can to support the economy for as long as it takes to complete the recovery”.

John Williams, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, also said that the US economy was not ready yet for the central bank to start pulling back its hefty monetary support.

Jean Boivin, head of the BlackRock Investment Institute, said that “the Fed’s new outlook will not translate into significantly higher policy rates any time soon”.

“We may see bouts of market volatility . . . but we advocate staying invested and looking through any turbulence,” Boivin added.

The dollar index, which measures the greenback against trading partners’ currencies and has been boosted by expectations of US interest rates moving higher before other major central banks take action, was steady at around a two-month high.

The euro dipped 0.1 per cent against the dollar to purchase $1.1901, around its lowest level since early April. Sterling also lost 0.1 per cent to $1.3909.

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Wall Street rebounds as markets adjust to Fed rate rise outlook




Wall Street stocks bounced back and government bonds softened on Monday following tumultuous moves last week after the Federal Reserve took a hawkish shift on interest rates and inflation.

The S&P 500 added 1.2 per cent in early New York dealings. The share index’s resurgence came after it posted its worst performance in almost four months last week in the wake of Fed officials signalling the central bank could raise rates to tame inflation sooner than investors had expected.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year US Treasury bond dropped sharply last week as investors viewed the Fed as ready to control surges in inflation that erode the returns from fixed interest securities. On Monday it rose 0.02 percentage points to 1.472 per cent.

Fed policymakers on Wednesday projected that interest rates would rise from record-low levels in 2023, from their earlier median forecast of 2024. James Bullard, president of the St Louis Fed, told television network CNBC on Friday that the first rate increase could come as soon as next year as inflation grew.

However, Gregory Perdon, co-chief investment officer at private bank Arbuthnot Latham, urged caution. “The facts are that the Fed hasn’t done anything yet. Wall Street loves to climb the wall of worry.”

Fed officials’ statements last week prompted fears of rapid policy tightening by the world’s most powerful central bank that could derail the global economic recovery from Covid-19. Investors also backed out of so-called reflation trades, which had involved selling government bonds and buying shares in companies that benefit from economic growth, such as materials producers and banks.

On Monday, however, energy, basic materials and banking stocks were the best performers on the S&P 500. The technology-focused Nasdaq Composite index was also up, gaining 0.7 per cent in early dealings.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller US companies, whose fortunes are viewed as pegged to economic growth, gained 1.7 per cent. Europe’s Stoxx 600 share index rose 0.7 per cent, with materials stocks at the top of its leaderboard.

The yield on the 30-year Treasury briefly fell below 2 per cent on Monday morning for the first time since February 2020 before bouncing back to 2.065 per cent.

Investors last week had taken profits on reflation trades that had become “crowded” and “expensive”, said Salman Baig, portfolio manager at Unigestion.

Baig added that, following the initial shocks after the Fed meeting, markets would probably return to betting on “a cyclical recovery as economies reopen”.

Other analysts said the bond market reaction had been too pessimistic, predicting a broad-based economic slowdown in response to Fed rate increases that had not happened yet.

The fall in long-term yields “is only justified if the Fed is making a policy error, choking the economy”, said Peter Chatwell, head of multi-asset strategy at Mizuho. “We think this is far from the truth — the Fed has simply sought to prevent inflation expectations from de-anchoring.”

Elsewhere in markets, the dollar index, which measures the greenback against other major currencies, dropped 0.3 per cent after gaining almost 2 per cent last week.

Brent crude, the international oil benchmark, rose 0.9 per cent to $74.18 a barrel.

Additional reporting by Tommy Stubbington in London

Unhedged — Markets, finance and strong opinion

Robert Armstrong dissects the most important market trends and discusses how Wall Street’s best minds respond to them. Sign up here to get the newsletter sent straight to your inbox every weekday

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Saudis agree oil deal with Pakistan to counter Iran influence




Saudi Arabia has agreed to restart oil aid to Pakistan worth at least $1.5bn annually in July, according to officials in Islamabad, as Riyadh works to counter Iran’s influence in the region.

Riyadh demanded that Pakistan repay a $3bn loan last year after Islamabad pressured Saudi Arabia to criticise India’s nullification of Kashmir’s special status.

But the acrimony between the two longtime allies has eased after Imran Khan, the prime minister, met Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in May.

News of the oil deal with Pakistan comes as Saudi Arabia embarks on a diplomatic push with the US and Qatar to build a front against Iran, said analysts. Riyadh lifted a three-year blockade of Qatar in January in what experts said was an attempt to curry favour with the newly elected Joe Biden.

Pakistan had shifted closer to Saudi Arabia’s regional rivals Iran and Turkey, which, along with Malaysia, have sought to establish a Muslim bloc to rival the Saudi-led Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

Khan has developed a strong rapport with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, encouraging Pakistanis to watch the Turkish historical television series Dirilis Ertugrul (Ertugrul’s Resurrection) for its depiction of Islamic values.

Ali Shihabi, a Saudi commentator familiar with the leadership’s thinking, said that “bad blood” had accumulated between Riyadh and Islamabad, but recent bilateral meetings had “cleared the air” and reset relations to the extent that oil credit payments would restart soon.

A senior Pakistan government official said: “Our relations with Saudi Arabia have recovered from [a downturn] earlier. Saudi Arabia’s support will come through deferred payments [on oil] and the Saudis are looking to resume their investment plans in Pakistan.”

The Saudi offer is less than half of the previous oil facility of $3.4bn, which was put on hold when ties frayed.

But Fahad Rauf, head of equity research at Ismail Iqbal Securities in Karachi, said: “Any amount of dollars helps because time and again we face a current account crisis. And with these prices north of $70 a barrel anything helps.”

Pakistan’s foreign reserves were more than $16bn in June compared with about $7bn in 2019 before it entered its $6bn IMF programme.

Robin Mills at consultancy Qamar Energy said: “Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are allies, but their relationship has always been rocky. And the Pakistan-Iran relationship is better than you might think.”

Mills said that the timing of the Saudi gesture was “interesting” given that Iran was preparing to step up oil exports with the US considering easing sanctions.

“The Saudis are on a bridge-building mission more generally. They have sought to mend fences with the US and there is also the resumption of relations with Qatar,” he said.

Ahmed Rashid, an author of books on Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Taliban, said that there were a variety of factors that might have spurred Riyadh to restart the oil facility.

It may be “partially linked to the American need for bases” to launch counter-terrorism attacks in Afghanistan from Pakistan, he said, but added that its priority was probably to prevent Islamabad from falling under Tehran’s influence.

Rashid pointed out that Pakistan was caught between China, which has invested billions of dollars in infrastructure projects, and the US.

“Pakistan has to play it carefully, it is dependent on China for the Belt and Road, dependent on the west for loans,” said Rashi. “This is a very complex game.”

Anjli Raval in London and Simeon Kerr in Dubai

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