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Investing Guru Whitney Tilson Doubles Down: Democrat Landslide Coming In 2020

Investing Guru Whitney Tilson Doubles Down: Democrat Landslide Coming In 2020



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Whitney Tilson’s email to investors discussing why there WON’T be a liberal landslide; Oil crash busted Broker’s computers and inflicted big losses; Facebook names the 20 people who can overrule Mark Zuckerberg; Using a buff to cover my face.

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Q1 2020 hedge fund letters, conferences and more

1) In my e-mails on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and yesterday, I shared data about the coronavirus crisis, the economy, and the upcoming election in November and concluded that "every piece of evidence I can find points to another liberal landslide on November 3."

Not surprisingly, I got lots of feedback. The problem is that most of it – such as "Joe Biden is a weak candidate" – wasn't data-driven. I'm trying not to be partisan, so I want to focus on cold, hard data – like polls.

One reader obliged, writing:

If you can't find something to contradict your hypothesis, in any endeavor, you're not trying very hard. It might also be a sign that you really need to expand the media sources you go to.

I don't disagree. I have a very bad feeling about this fall and have ever since Trump has tied himself to an economy that was long in the tooth. And I don't like Trump but I do want limited government and free markets so he's the only horse, as limp as it may be, that I have. Actually, I thought Trump would be more like a Democrat governing so I didn't vote for him in 2016.

Regardless, there are some positives that Trump can look to:

1) Democrats aren't excited about Biden. Yes, their utter hatred and suffering of Trump Derangement Syndrome (possibly more contagious than COVID-19) might be enough excitement, but we don't know. Conservatives really disliked Obama but that wasn't enough to get them excited about Romney.

Here's an article about this, which has plenty of data: Joe Biden Has An Enthusiasm Problem. Excerpt:

A new poll from Emerson University released Tuesday found that while Biden leads Trump by 6 points, only 45% of Joe Biden's supporters said they're extremely or very excited to vote for him, while 55% said they're only mildly or not that excited, a –10 point deficit.

Trump, meanwhile, enjoys much more excitement from his base, with 64% saying they're extremely or very excited, compared to just 37% saying they're mildly or not that excited.

2) Republicans just took two seats in special elections, one in blue state California. Now reading much into this election is probably not worth much, but the same could be said of 2018.

3) I believe most Americans believe in fair play and don't like to be played. I think between impeachment, overreach by governments in the lock down, and the possible issues coming from Biden (Obama/Biden using the NSA/FBI to target incoming administration, Biden and Co. in Ukraine and Russia, Biden's tendency to smell people, and MeToo allegations) the American populace won't want to follow who the media wants them to.

4) Lastly, for me today, the very graph you had in your email to show that Trump's approval took a "hit" seems to support that he's actually doing better than his first year in office. His disapproval is actually better than the beginning of the year. I wouldn't be happy with 52% if I were him, but everything is relative. He must be either winning over people or at least moving people to neutral. Neutral people don't go to the polls, especially if this disease is raging, to vote against someone.

As much as a "liberal wave" is a possibility I wouldn't bet the house on it.

Here's another reader's reply... It's light on data, but makes good arguments:

Midterm elections are inversely correlated with presidential elections. See Obama, Bush, Clinton, Reagan, etc... This is so well known that starting off with that discredits anything that follows in his argument.

Second, as I said the other day, if this were a normal economic crisis, then I would agree that Trump would be facing an uphill battle. It is not. Although the pandemic undoubtedly has economic consequences, this is perceived as a public health crisis, more like a war. The reaction of the voters is likely to be almost exactly the opposite in these situations – change is scary. And, if anything, the public mood and Biden's announced positions are in favor of creating more economic damage not less. If the public gets tired of the lockdown and the economic consequences by election time, as I can only hope, they will likely not perceive Biden as the way out, but rather stick with Trump.

Third, in the last 60 years the Democrats that won the presidency were Kennedy, Carter, Clinton, and Obama (not counting Johnson because of the special circumstances). All young unknown outsiders with an exciting aura of new ideas and fresh thinking (at least at the time of the election). Add Joe Biden to that list and tell me which one doesn't belong. He is an inside the beltway lifer who brings nothing exciting to the table.

Fourth, Joe Biden is brain dead. Although these circumstances reduce the cost of that massive flaw, it will become more apparent as non-focused voters listen to him for the first time. That has not yet happened so all polls are meaningless at this point. Right now, the polls are purely a reflection of Trump versus a generic Democrat, but once the campaign begins in earnest, people will start to focus on Biden.

Fifth, Trump is a once in a generation political animal and will find a way to resonate with voters on the fake impeachment, the Flynn witch trial, and the rest. And, he's right on those points.

Sixth, Biden's announced policies (green new deal, massive tax hikes) appear to be designed to repel voters in the swing states like Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania, so I think he will lose on the issues to the extent anyone cares about those anymore.

Thank you for the feedback! I haven't changed my view that a liberal landslide is roughly 70% likely (versus betting sites around 40% likely right now), but I'll be tracking this closely and will share my updated thoughts and investment implications over the next five-and-a-half months...

2) Oops! Here's a good lesson for novices speculating in options... Oil Crash Busted Broker's Computers and Inflicted Big Losses. Excerpt:

Syed Shah usually buys and sells stocks and currencies through his Interactive Brokers account, but he couldn't resist trying his hand at some oil trading on April 20, the day prices plunged below zero for the first time ever. The day trader, working from his house in a Toronto suburb, figured he couldn't lose as he spent $2,400 snapping up crude at $3.30 a barrel, and then 50 cents. Then came what looked like the deal of a lifetime: buying 212 futures contracts on West Texas Intermediate for an astonishing penny each.

"I was in shock," the 30-year-old said in a phone interview. "I felt like everything was going to be taken from me, all my assets."

3) It's good to see Facebook (FB) doing this: Facebook Names the 20 People Who Can Overrule Mark Zuckerberg.

4) I've been dutifully wearing a mask for the past couple of months, but have yet to find one I like.

The metal part that's supposed to curve around my nose instead just hurts after a while... and so do the elastic straps around my ears. And what am I supposed to do with it if I want to eat or drink? On top of it all, it looks lousy as well.

Yesterday, I tried using one of my buffs (also known as neck gaiters) and loved it! I've seen plenty of folks wearing them, but the idea crystalized yesterday when I met up with John – one of the first responders from the Samaritan's Purse hospital I volunteered at – and took him on a 14-mile bike tour of the city (we did the full loop of Central Park, then went down the river on the west side, saw the Intrepid, Hudson Yards, Times Square, Grand Central Station, and Rockefeller Center).

My buff was very comfortable, both when it was over my face as well as when I had it pulled down around my neck. It's super easy to pull up and down as needed, it protected the back of my neck from getting sunburned, I could pull it up (even under my helmet) to cover my ears and/or head if I got cold, it's easy to wash in the sink and dries quickly, and they come in lots of colors and styles (like this one, for those of you with a certain sense of humor!).

That said, there are some important caveats...

As this article (Neck Tubes and Scarves Are Not Ideal Face Masks) notes, buffs don't block small particles. This means they aren't as good as medical-grade face masks or N95 respirators, so should probably only be used for outdoor activities. They also need to be washed frequently to prevent them from becoming a den of bacteria. For more on the various types of masks, see: Preventing Coronavirus, Which Type of Mask Is the Safest?

Best regards,


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Sex work is real work: Global COVID-19 recovery needs to include sex workers

Societally, we need to recognize that sex workers have agency and deserve the same respect, dignity and aid as any other person selling their labour.



Globally, sex workers have been left to fend for themselves during the pandemic with little to no support from the government. (AP Photo/Bikas Das)

During the pandemic, business shifted from in person to work-from-home, which quickly became the new normal. However, it left many workers high and dry, especially those with less “socially acceptable” occupations.

The pandemic has adversely impacted sex workers globally and substantially increased the precariousness of their profession. And public health measures put in place made it almost impossible for sex workers to provide any in-person service.

Although many people depend on sex work for survival, its criminalization and policing stigmatizes sex workers.

Research shows that globally, sex workers have been left behind and in most cases excluded from government economic support initiatives and social policies. There needs to be an intersectional approach to global COVID-19 recovery that considers everyone’s lived realities. We propose policy recommendations that treat sex work as decent work and that centre around the lived experiences and rights of those in the profession.

Sex work and the pandemic

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) recently reported that apart from income-loss, the pandemic has increased pre-existing inequalities for sex workers.

In a survey conducted in Eastern and Southern Africa, the UNFPA found that during the pandemic, 49 per cent of sex workers experienced police violence (including sexual violence) while 36 per cent reported arbitrary arrests. The same survey reported that more than 50 per cent of respondents experienced food and housing crises.

Lockdowns and border closures adversely impacted Thailand’s tourism industry which relies partially on the labour of sex workers.

Read more: Sex workers are criminalized and left without government support during the coronavirus pandemic

In the Asia Pacific, sex workers reported having limited access to contraceptives and lubricants along with reduced access to harm reduction resources. Lockdowns also disrupted STI or HIV testing services, limiting sex workers’ access to necessary healthcare.

In North America, sex workers have been excluded from the government’s recovery response. And many began offering online services to sustain themselves.

A woman stands backlit next to a dimly lit bus that reads 'Thailand' with green lighting.
Sex workers stand in a largely shut-down red light area in Bangkok, Thailand on March 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Government vs. community response

Globally, sex workers have been left to fend for themselves during the pandemic with little to no support from the government. But communities themselves have been rallying.

Elene Lam, founder of Butterfly, an Asian migrant sex organization in Canada, talks about the resilience of sex wokers during the pandemic.

She says organizations like the Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform are working in collaboration with Amnesty International to mobilize income support and resources to help sex workers in Canada.

Organizations in the United Kingdom, Germany, India and Spain have also set up emergency support funds. And some sex worker organizations have developed community-specific resources for providing services both in person and online during the pandemic.

Global recovery needs to include sex workers

The International Labour Organization’s “Decent Work Agenda” emphasizes productive employment and decent working conditions as being the driving force behind poverty reduction.

Sociologist Cecilia Benoit explains that sex work often becomes a “livelihood strategy” in the face of income and employment instability. She says that like other personal service workers, sex workers also should be able to practice without any interference or violence.

In order to have an inclusive COVID-19 recovery for all, governments need to work to extend social guarantees to sex workers — so far they haven’t.

As pandemic restrictions disappear, it is crucial to ensure that everyone involved in sex work is protected under the law and has access to accountability measures.

A woman stands wearing a mask with a safety vest on in front of a collage of scantily clad women and a sign that reads 'nude women non stop'
A volunteer helps out at Zanzibar strip club during a low-barrier vaccination clinic for sex workers in Toronto in June 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn


As feminist researchers, we propose that sex work be brought under the broader agenda of decent work so that the people offering services are protected.

  1. Governments need to have a legal mandate for preventing sexual exploitation.

  2. Law enforcement staff need to be trained in better responding to the needs of sex workers. To intervene in and address situations of abuse or violence is critical to ensure workplace safety and harm reduction.

  3. Awareness and educational campaigns need to focus on destigmatizing sex work.

  4. Policy-makers need to incorporate intersectionality as a working principle in identifying and responding to the different axes of oppression and marginalization impacting LGBTQ+ and racialized sex workers.

  5. Engagement with sex workers and human rights organizations need to happen when designing aid support to ensure that an inclusive pathway for recovery is created.

  6. Globally, there needs to be a steady commitment towards destigmatizing sex workers and their services.

Despite the gradual waning of pandemic restrictions, sex workers continue to face the dual insecurity of social discrimination and loss of income support. Many are still finding it difficult to stay afloat and sustain themselves.

Societally, we need to recognize that sex workers have agency and deserve the same respect, dignity and aid as any other person selling their labour.

The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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OU researchers award two NSF pandemic prediction and prevention projects

Two groups of researchers at the University of Oklahoma have each received nearly $1 million grants from the National Science Foundation as part of its…



Two groups of researchers at the University of Oklahoma have each received nearly $1 million grants from the National Science Foundation as part of its Predictive Intelligence for Pandemic Prevention initiative, which focuses on fundamental research and capabilities needed to tackle grand challenges in infectious disease pandemics through prediction and prevention.

Credit: Photo provided by the University of Oklahoma.

Two groups of researchers at the University of Oklahoma have each received nearly $1 million grants from the National Science Foundation as part of its Predictive Intelligence for Pandemic Prevention initiative, which focuses on fundamental research and capabilities needed to tackle grand challenges in infectious disease pandemics through prediction and prevention.

To date, researchers from 20 institutions nationwide were selected to receive an NSF PIPP Award. OU is the only university to receive two grants to the same institution.

“The next pandemic isn’t a question of ‘if,’ but ‘when,’” said OU Vice President for Research and Partnerships Tomás Díaz de la Rubia. “Research at the University of Oklahoma is going to help society be better prepared and responsive to future health challenges.”

Next-Generation Surveillance

David Ebert, Ph.D., professor of computer science and electrical and computer engineering in the Gallogly College of Engineering, is the principal investigator on one of the projects, which explores new ways of sharing, integrating and analyzing data using new and traditional data sources. Ebert is also the director of the Data Institute for Societal Challenges at OU, which applies OU expertise in data science, artificial intelligence, machine learning and data-enabled research to solving societal challenges.

While emerging pathogens can circulate among wild or domestic animals before crossing over to humans, the delayed response to the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for new early detection methods, more effective data management, and integration and information sharing between officials in both public and animal health.

Ebert’s team, composed of experts in data science, computer engineering, public health, veterinary sciences, microbiology and other areas, will look to examine data from multiple sources, such as veterinarians, agriculture, wastewater, health departments, and outpatient and inpatient clinics, to potentially build algorithms to detect the spread of signals from one source to another. The team will develop a comprehensive animal and public health surveillance, planning and response roadmap that can be tailored to the unique needs of communities.

“Integrating and developing new sources of data with existing data sources combined with new tools for detection, localization and response planning using a One Health approach could enable local and state public health partners to respond more quickly and effectively to reduce illness and death,” Ebert said. “This planning grant will develop proof-of-concept techniques and systems in partnership with local, state and regional public health officials and create a multistate partner network and design for a center to prevent the next pandemic.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes One Health as an approach that bridges the interconnections between people, animals, plants and their shared environment to achieve optimal health outcomes.

Co-principal investigators on the project include Michael Wimberly, Ph.D., professor in the College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences; Jason Vogel, Ph.D., director of the Oklahoma Water Survey and professor in the Gallogly College of Engineering School of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science; Thirumalai Venkatesan, director of the Center for Quantum Research and Technology in the Dodge Family College of Arts and Sciences; and Aaron Wendelboe, Ph.D., professor in the Hudson College of Public Health at the OU Health Sciences Center.

Predicting and Preventing the Next Avian Influenza Pandemic

Several countries have experienced deadly outbreaks of avian influenza, commonly known as bird flu, that have resulted in the loss of billions of poultry, thousands of wild waterfowl and hundreds of humans. Researchers at the University of Oklahoma are taking a unique approach to predicting and preventing the next avian influenza pandemic.

Xiangming Xiao, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Microbiology and Plant Biology and director of the Center for Earth Observation and Modeling in the Dodge Family College of Arts and Sciences, is leading a project to assemble a multi-institutional team that will explore pathways for establishing an International Center for Avian Influenza Pandemic Prediction and Prevention.

The goal of the project is to incorporate and understand the status and major challenges of data, models and decision support tools for preventing pandemics. Researchers hope to identify future possible research and pathways that will help to strengthen and improve the capability and capacity to predict and prevent avian influenza pandemics.

“This grant is a milestone in our long-term effort for interdisciplinary and convergent research in the areas of One Health (human-animal-environment health) and big data science,” Xiao said. “This is an international project with geographical coverage from North America, Europe and Asia; thus, it will enable OU faculty and students to develop greater ability, capability, capacity and leaderships in prediction and prevention of global avian influenza pandemic.”

Other researchers on Xiao’s project include co-principal investigators A. Townsend Peterson, Ph.D., professor at the University of Kansas; Diann Prosser, Ph.D., research wildlife ecologist for the U.S. Geological Survey; and Richard Webby, Ph.D., director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Studies on the Ecology of Influenza in Animals and Birds with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Wayne Marcus Getz, professor at the University of California, Berkeley, is also assisting on the project.

The National Science Foundation grant for Ebert’s research is set to end Jan. 31, 2024, while Xiao’s grant will end Dec. 31, 2023.

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GSK and IQVIA launch platform of US vaccination data, showing drop in adult rates

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the issue of vaccine uptake has been a point of contention, but a new platform from GSK and IQVIA is hoping to shed more…



Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the issue of vaccine uptake has been a point of contention, but a new platform from GSK and IQVIA is hoping to shed more light on vaccine data, via new transparency and general awareness.

The two companies have launched Vaccine Track, a platform intended to be used by public health officials, medical professionals and others to strengthen data transparency and display vaccination trends. According to the companies, the platform is intended to aid in increasing vaccine rates and will provide data on trends to assist public health efforts.

Judy Stewart

The platform will also allow users to identify vaccination trends for adults in the US across multiple vaccine types. Users will also be able to scan claims data nationally to track trends alongside pre-Covid metrics.

“For the first time, Vaccine Track brings quarterly data tracking and trends together in a comprehensive platform for immunization partners, decision-makers and stakeholders. Our goal for Vaccine Track is to support the return to pre-pandemic vaccination rates for adults and to go beyond by empowering the vaccine and public health community with frequently updated, actionable information to get ahead of disease together,” said Judy Stewart, GSK’s head of vaccines in a statement.

This move comes as vaccination rates in adults were already low even before the pandemic, with a CDC report stressing that vaccine coverage in adults was low across all age groups.

So far the platform’s data show a decline in adult immunizations, excluding flu vaccinations, across the country during the pandemic. The platform currently only has information from January 2019 to December 2021 on hand but will be updated every quarter.

The data itself observed that rates were especially low in minority populations, which were already showing lower rates of immunization pre-pandemic.

The platform also showed that national trends for adults aged 19 and older are still low, with an average decrease of 18% through last year in overall claims. Average monthly claims through 2021 for recommended vaccines were between 12% and 42% below 2019 rates, with nearly half of the states in the US facing greater than 30% reductions in overall claims for recommended vaccines from pre-pandemic levels.

In Medicare patients, the platform’s analysis found a more than 30% reduction in overall claims for recommended vaccines among Black and Hispanic populations between 2019 and 2021.

The information itself is sourced from medical claims data and longitudinal prescription data, the companies said.

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