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White House Comms Director: Big Tech Should Be “Accountable” For Vaccine “Misinformation”

White House Comms Director: Big Tech Should Be "Accountable" For Vaccine "Misinformation"

Authored by Jonathan Turley,

There was an unnerving conversation between between Biden White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield and MSNBC..

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White House Comms Director: Big Tech Should Be "Accountable" For Vaccine "Misinformation"

Authored by Jonathan Turley,

There was an unnerving conversation between between Biden White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield and MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski that shows how much ground has been lost on principles of free speech. In an exchange on Morning Joe, Brzezinski asks Bedingfield why Biden has not completed his promised review of Section 230 and create an avenue to held social media companies “accountable in a real way” for spreading “misinformation” about vaccines.

Brzezinski ignores not only the constitutional implications of such a move but ignores how such an approach would eviscerate free speech and free press rights. 

Equally chilling is the response.

Bedingfield agrees and assured Brzezinski that the Biden Administration believes these companies should be held accountable for allowing others to voice doubts or dissenting opinions on such questions.

Bedingfield assures Brzezinski that they are “reviewing” Section 230 and that the Biden Administration does believe that the media companies need to d be held “accountable.”

Vaccine “truth” has become the latest means for calling for more censorship from social media companies.

It is better than the prior use of election misinformation because now advocates can claim that free speech is actually killing people.  Indeed, President Joe Biden recently declared publicly that Facebook is “killing people” by not censoring free speech.  He later walked back his comments.

Keep in mind that these companies already have the largest censorship system in our history. It is being managed by private corporations but directed to some extent by government officials. Just this week, the White House admitted it has been flagging “misinformation” for Facebook to censor. This outsourcing of censorship allows government officials to do indirectly what they cannot do directly. It creates the specter of a type of shared shadow state.

Facebook only recently announced that people on its platform may discuss the origins of COVID-19, after previously censoring such discussion — but it still bars opposing views on vaccinations and the pandemic. Other companies actively block wayward thoughts and views; last week, YouTube was fined by a German court for censoring videos of protests over COVID restrictions.

When Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey came before the Senate to apologize for blocking the Hunter Biden story before the election as a mistake, senators pressed him and other Big Tech executive for more censorship.

In that hearing, members like Sen. Mazie Hirono (D., HI) pressed witnesses like Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey for assurance that Trump would remain barred from speaking on their platforms: “What are both of you prepared to do regarding Donald Trump’s use of your platforms after he stops being president, will be still be deemed newsworthy and will he still be able to use your platforms to spread misinformation?”

Rather than addressing the dangers of such censoring of news accounts, Senator Chris Coons pressed Dorsey to expand the categories of censored material to prevent people from sharing any views that he considers “climate denialism.” Likewise, Senator Richard Blumenthal seemed to take the opposite meaning from Twitter, admitting that it was wrong to censor the Biden story. Blumenthal said that he was “concerned that both of your companies are, in fact, backsliding or retrenching, that you are failing to take action against dangerous disinformation.” Accordingly, he demanded an answer to this question:

“Will you commit to the same kind of robust content modification playbook in this coming election, including fact checking, labeling, reducing the spread of misinformation, and other steps, even for politicians in the runoff elections ahead?”

“Robust content modification” has a certain appeal, like a type of software upgrade.

It is not content modification. It is censorship. If our representatives are going to crackdown on free speech, they should admit to being advocates for censorship.

The public however is not entirely sold on censorship on an expanding array of subjects from gender identification to election fraud to criticism of foreign governments. That is why the pandemic is the perfect vehicle for getting a free people to turn against free speech. You simply declare, as did Biden, that free speech kills. It can kill you. You then push companies to censor more under the threat of being held “accountable.”

The fact is that you generally cannot hold people legally “accountable” for saying things that politicians or media figures like Brzezinski do not like about vaccines or climate change or any other controversy. The regulation of companies can offer some regulatory avenues for inducing corporate censorship like threatening to take away immunity if they do not serve as surrogate censors. However, that can also raise constitutional issues both as a question of corporate speech or converting these companies into state actors.

The greatest danger is that these political and media figures are signaling that they want even greater levels of censorship and that these private companies will accommodate them. They already have. The result is the expansion of an already massive censorship system that controls much of our political discourse.

Tyler Durden Wed, 07/21/2021 - 14:14

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Economics

Weekly investment update – Emerging markets miss out on equities and bonds surge

At first sight, the direction of financial markets in July might have come as a surprise: global equities posted their sixth consecutive monthly gain despite a steep drop in emerging market equities, while bond markets also recorded strong advances, again

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At first sight, the direction of financial markets in July might have come as a surprise: global equities posted their sixth consecutive monthly gain despite a steep drop in emerging market equities, while bond markets also recorded strong advances, again except for those in emerging markets.

Volatility spiked at times during July. Indeed, it hit its highest since early May and took equities from a historical peak to the lowest level in a month within the space of a week before they set another high towards month-end. Emerging market equities suffered from a persistent sell-off in Chinese stocks over the government’s regulatory clampdown on sectors ranging from ride hailing to gaming.

Economic growth – On an even keel  

While markets worried that the economic recovery had peaked, the latest purchasing managers’ data – seen as a leading indicator of the direction of growth – did not signal a sharp slowdown. China’s PMI for July, typically also a proxy for wider emerging market growth, fell by 0.5 of a percentage point from the previous month, indicating that company activity had slowed down. Remaining at above 50, the indicator also signalled that overall economic expansion overall is continuing.

In the eurozone, business activity rose at its fastest rate in just over 15 years in July. At 59.8 in July, after 58.3 in June, the services sector PMI was at its highest since June 2006 and consistent with a sharp rate of activity growth.

US GDP growth was 6.5% annualised in Q2 after 6.3% in Q1 and fell short of expectations. While inventories and net exports contracted, personal spending on consumption and non-residential private investment grew strongly. GDP was above its pre-Covid peak. Thanks to massive fiscal and monetary stimulus, it is now back on its pre-Covid trend.

Despite this economic progress, the US Federal Reserve has continued to indicate that there is still ‘some ground to cover’ before it will start reducing its pandemic support for the economy. Employment is still some seven million jobs below pre-Covid levels. Risks to the outlook remain, not least as Delta variant Covid cases rise.

Equities: Record-setting

July saw concern over slowing global growth offset by news of strong corporate earnings and still record-low interest rates. Markets were buoyed by optimism over the outlook for the US economy in the second half of 2021, even in the face of a pickup in Covid infections due to the more contagious Delta variant.

Some observers are pointing to the small chance of widespread lockdowns, while others have noted that although caseloads are rising rapidly, hospitalisations and fatalities are not.

US stocks recorded their sixth monthly rise in a row. The S&P 500 rose by more than 2%, while the tech-heavy NASDAQ and the Dow Jones added more than 1%.

There were all-time highs for European stocks as well, allowing them to record a sixth consecutive month of gains. Mid-caps, IT and dividend stocks led the market, while the energy sector lagged.

Asia takes a dip

In contrast, Asian equity indices had a poor month due to rising Covid cases across the region and concerns that a regulatory crackdown on tech businesses in China could slow already decelerating growth. This came on top of spreading Delta cases in the country and a softening land and property market. The developments clouded market sentiment across various regions.

Japanese equities lost more than 2% on concerns about another coronavirus wave and its impact on the economic recovery. Investor worries over global economic growth not only drove down US Treasury yields, but also the US dollar, allowing the yen to strengthen. The break in what had been the yen’s weakening trend also roiled Japanese markets.

Tepid domestic data, concerns about growth in China and volatile oil prices – Japan imports some three quarters of its oil consumption – also weighed on the market.

We believe there are reasons to be somewhat cautious on equities despite the good recent earnings momentum and the continued support from central bank pandemic measures. Recent recoveries followed sell-offs on a modest scale rather than sharp retrenchments and dips have not attracted many more new buyers or more widespread buying. Recent gains look vulnerable to us.

Bonds: The rally rolls on

Yields fell as investors sought shelter in haven assets such as US Treasuries and Bunds, extending the rally by a third month.

In the US market Treasury, 2- and 10-year yields notched their biggest one-month drops in over a year (March 2020), even as the Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge rose sharply in June for the fourth big gain in a row. However, June’s increase was smaller than forecasters had expected.

Investors still appear to be siding with the Fed, accepting its view that higher inflation is due to supply bottlenecks and shortages and that these should ease off as the recovery matures. Ironically, the pressure should also ease as a growth slowdown tamps demand.

Over the month, long-dated debt yields fell to around five-month lows.

What’s up with real yields?

Some investors appear to worry that very low real yields — which measure the returns investors can expect once inflation is taken into account — are warning of a (coming) sharp slowdown in growth as the more contagious Delta variant spreads, turning businesses and consumers cautious again.

Others have argued that market pricing has become too pessimistic, pointing to the US economy’s strong rebound, even if growth has now peaked.

A further explanation could be that continued large-scale bond buying by central banks is still holding down yields across the board – even yields that are adjusted for inflation that has seen high readings in the US, the UK and Europe. An end to this form of support for economies does not appear to be in sight any time soon.

The Fed, which has bought about USD 120 billion of bonds monthly throughout the pandemic to pin down borrowing costs for households and businesses, reiterated after its latest policy meeting that the economy was making ‘progress’, but it remained too early to tighten monetary policy. Any tapering of bond purchases could be delayed by a growth slowdown, which should support markets.

Elsewhere in bond markets, high-yield credit in USD, EUR and GBP had another good month, extending their run of gains by a seventh month. UK inflation-linked bonds were in the lead in the fixed income segment.   

Gold was supported by the continued rise in inflation and the declines in real yields that have made it more attractive as an inflation hedge. Commodities more broadly were the best-performing asset class in July.

BOND MARKETS      
10-year yields   Monthly change 2021
US T-note 1.22 -25 31
JGB 0.02 -4 0
OAT -0.11 -23 23
Bund -0.46 -25 11
EQUITY MARKETS      
Euro Stoxx 50 4089.3 0.6% 15.1%
Stoxx Europe 50 3555.8 1.2% 14.4%
       
Dow Jones 30 34935.5 1.3% 14.1%
Nasdaq 14672.7 1.2% 13.8%
S&P 500 4395.3 2.3% 17.0%
       
Topix 1901.08 -2.2% 5.3%
       
MSCI all countries (*) 724.2 0.6% 12.1%
MSCI Emerging (*) 1277.8 -7.0% -1.0%
(*) in USD      

Any views expressed here are those of the author as of the date of publication, are based on available information, and are subject to change without notice. Individual portfolio management teams may hold different views and may take different investment decisions for different clients. The views expressed in this podcast do not in any way constitute investment advice.

The value of investments and the income they generate may go down as well as up and it is possible that investors will not recover their initial outlay. Past performance is no guarantee for future returns.

Investing in emerging markets, or specialised or restricted sectors is likely to be subject to a higher-than-average volatility due to a high degree of concentration, greater uncertainty because less information is available, there is less liquidity or due to greater sensitivity to changes in market conditions (social, political and economic conditions).

Some emerging markets offer less security than the majority of international developed markets. For this reason, services for portfolio transactions, liquidation and conservation on behalf of funds invested in emerging markets may carry greater risk.

Writen by Nathalie Benatia. The post Weekly investment update – Emerging markets miss out on equities and bonds surge appeared first on Investors' Corner - The official blog of BNP Paribas Asset Management, the sustainable investor for a changing world.

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International

Montreal real estate market: Sales return to pre-pandemic levels in July and price increases slow down

  L’ÎLE-DES-SŒURS – The Quebec Professional Association of Real Estate Brokers (QPAREB) has just released its residential real estate market statistics for the Montreal Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) for the month of July, based on the real estate…

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L’ÎLE-DES-SŒURS – The Quebec Professional Association of Real Estate Brokers (QPAREB) has just released its residential real estate market statistics for the Montreal Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) for the month of July, based on the real estate brokers’ Centris provincial database.

“The month of July has confirmed a substantial decrease in sales that began in May, thus returning to its pre-pandemic level for the summer period. You may remember that in July of last year, we saw spectacular sales levels that went beyond the simple postponement of transactions that could not be concluded in the spring,” said Charles Brant, director of the QPAREB’s Market Analysis Department. “While this slowdown is partly due to a drop in active listings of single-family homes to historically low levels, it can also be explained by the shrinking pool of buyers who can afford a property at current market prices. However, we have indeed seen a slowdown in price increases and a levelling off of price changes since the spring, for all property categories combined,” he added.

July highlights

  • The real estate brokers’ Centris system recorded 3,799 sales transactions in the Montreal CMA in July. This represents a 29 per cent decrease in sales compared to the peak recorded in July of last year, and solidifies the downtrend in sales that began in early spring. However, this is the second best result ever recorded for a month of July since Centris began compiling market statistics in the year 2000.
  • Sales on the Island of Montreal fell by 20 per cent compared to July of last year. For a second consecutive month, single-family homes registered the largest decrease in sales at 33 per cent.
  • Sales were down in all the periphery areas as well, and these decreases can also be attributed to a slowdown in single-family home transactions: Vaudreuil-Soulanges (-48 per cent), the North Shore (-38 per cent), Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu (-31 per cent), Laval (-30 per cent) and the South Shore (-26 per cent).
  • All three main property categories registered a drop in sales compared to July of last year. Sales of single-family homes tumbled by 37 per cent, while sales of condominiums fell by 22 per cent. Plexes registered a more modest decrease in sales, with a 4 per cent drop in transactions.
  • The increase in the supply of plexes on the market (+27 per cent) contrasted with the drop in active listings for single-family homes (-37 per cent) and condominiums (-15 per cent).
  • In terms of prices, the median price of single-family homes stood at $500,500 in July, an increase of 18 per cent compared to July of last year. The median price of condominiums reached $360,000, a 16 per cent increase, while that of plexes stood at $670,000, up 7 per cent. The market is still in a situation of overheating, as almost half of all transactions in July were concluded at a price that was above the asking price. However, this situation has been easing for three months now.

The Quebec Professional Association of Real Estate Brokers (QPAREB) is a non-profit association that brings together more than 13,000 real estate brokers and agencies. It is responsible for promoting and defending their interests while taking into account the issues facing the profession and the various professional and regional realities of its members. The QPAREB is also an important player in many real estate dossiers, including the implementation of measures that promote homeownership. The Association reports on Quebec’s residential real estate market statistics, provides training, tools and services relating to real estate, and facilitates the collection, dissemination and exchange of information. The QPAREB is headquartered in Quebec City and has its administrative offices in Montreal. It has two subsidiaries: Centris Inc. and the Collège de l’immobilier du Québec.

Centris is a dynamic and innovative technology company in the real estate sector. It collects data and offers solutions that are highly adapted to the needs of professionals. Among these solutions is Centris.ca, the most visited real estate website in Quebec.

We seek Safe Harbor.

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Government

White House Ready To Lift Ban On Foreign Travel But Only For The Vaccinated

White House Ready To Lift Ban On Foreign Travel But Only For The Vaccinated

As Canada prepares to welcome fully-vaxxed Americans into the country for the first time since the pandemic started, over in Washington, plans are brewing for the…

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White House Ready To Lift Ban On Foreign Travel But Only For The Vaccinated

As Canada prepares to welcome fully-vaxxed Americans into the country for the first time since the pandemic started, over in Washington, plans are brewing for the US to reopen travel only to foreigners who can prove they are fully vaccinated.

According to a Reuters exclusive, President Biden and his administration are preparing a plan to require nearly all foreign visitors to the US to be fully vaccinated. The new policy will replace the current border restrictions, which bar travelers from most of the world from reaching the US.

Because COVID cases are still climbing, the White House isn't ready to simply lift all travel restrictions. That's where the border restrictions come in: The Biden administration has interagency working groups working "in order to have a new system ready for when we can reopen travel." When this happens, the US will start with "a phased approach that over time will mean, with limited exceptions, that foreign nationals traveling to the United States (from all countries) need to be fully vaccinated."

Last week, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said the Biden Administration planned to maintain its travel restrictions on visitors from Europe and elsewhere. The announcement was a blow to the travel industry, which had hoped that a lifting of the travel bans could increase tourism for the remaining summer months, helping hotels, airlines and other businesses that have been struggling since the start of the pandemic.

Even the liberal Washington Post complained about Biden's decision to continue restricting travel, with one opinion writer claiming that the continued moratorium on international travel was both "medically unnecessary and financially unwise," per WaPo.

However, we suspect some foreign governments might be offended when the US inevitably excludes travelers who received a foreign vaccine, including those made by Russia and China. Or when foreigners from certain countries have been shut out of the US for years, as the developing world waits for the emerging world to catch up on vaccinations.

Washington's cautiousness mirrors the return of travel restrictions in Europe, where pubic health officials are cracking down to combat the delta variant. The report comes less than a week after President Biden announced new requirements for federal workers to get vaccinated (with a handful of exceptions). But on the bright side, pretty soon, Americans might be flocking to the Caribbean to make up for two summer travel seasons spoiled by the pandemic.

Tyler Durden Wed, 08/04/2021 - 17:30

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