U.S. Blacklists 28 Surveillance Giants

U.S. Blacklists 28 Chinese Companies for "Campaign of Repression"

The U.S. has added 28 Chinese tech companies to an export blacklist, citing the role they played in the regime’s oppression of millions of Muslims in the northwest province of Xinyang. (I hear the security cameras there are absolutely lovely this time of year.)

We’ve been banging this old drum in the pages of One Last Thing for months now.

If you somehow missed it (or tend to skim over articles on light-to-medium genocide), the Chinese government is rounding up Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other members of Muslim minority groups and sticking them in concentration camps with no trial and no formal sentencing.

Now, I’m no fancy-pants Chinese city lawyer, but that don’t seem right to me.

The international community has been dragging their feet on taking any sort of tangible action against China simply because they are one of the biggest economic powerhouses in the world, only rivaled by the U.S.

And as we saw with the blacklisting of the Houston Rockets over a single tweet this weekend, China takes constructive criticism about as well as an alligator caught in a multi-level marketing scheme. (#BossGator)

However, the plight of those minorities is becoming harder to ignore as reports of organ harvesting prisoners have started to emerge from the camps. (Did I not mention the Chinese government had transformed into video game Nazis?)

Finally, the U.S. has taken the decision to blacklist 28 companies, whose tech has been used by the regime to create the Chinese-knockoff 1984 surveillance state under which these minorities live.

“These entities have been implicated in human rights violations and abuses in the implementation of China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, and high-technology surveillance against Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other members of Muslim minority groups,” the Commerce Department said in a bulletin.

The list of 28 organisations includes some of China’s biggest surveillance and AI companies, including Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology, Megvii Technology Inc., iFLYTEK, and SenseTime Group Ltd. (If you want to track the every move of an entire minority based on their facial features, these are your guys!)

That said, the Commerce Department’s decision is a mostly symbolic action that will have little to no effect on these Chinese companies. Many of these firms already use non-U.S. suppliers and have been moving supply chains out of the U.S. since telecom giant Huawei was blacklisted in May.

In a statement issued this morning, AI company and huge fan of the caps lock iFLYTEK said that the blacklisting will not have any significant impact on its daily operations. (At least I think it did. The statement was in Chinese and Google translate will only do so much.)

The Commerce Department said this announcement is not related to U.S. trade talks. But you can bet your bottom Uighur it’s going to be a point of contention at negotiations which are scheduled to resume this week.

“I think the Chinese are probably going to see a connection, even if the administration says there isn’t one,” Matthew Goodman, senior adviser for Asian economics at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told the Wall Street Journal.

“It’s going to complicate the discussions this week… the timing is going to be awkward for the Chinese.”

What’s your take on this? The Commerce Department has been threatening this action for months. But its timing makes it seem like a direct reaction to the China/NBA drama over the weekend.

Legal Weed Will Give an Unexpected Boost to This Industry

Marijuana legalisation poses a significant threat to the booze industry, according to a new study published in the peer-reviewed journal Marketing Science.

(I’ve been trying to get my journal peer-reviewed for years, but the elitist nerds at Harvard said a proprietary rating system for gas-station fried chicken “is not science.”)

A team of researchers at the University of Georgia, led by Research Scientist Pengyuan Wang, developed a test to measure changing attitudes towards alcohol and tobacco in regions where marijuana has been legalised.

Wang and the gang partnered with a U.S.-based web portal that provided the team with reams of online data including online searches, advertising click-through rates, and ad revenues.

All told, the team tracked 28 million searches and 120 million ad impressions related to alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana in six states — California, Alaska, Maine, Oregon, Massachusetts, and Nevada (as well that one state which we’ve all secretly agreed to pretend doesn’t exist, Humpsylvania).

The researchers found that search volumes for alcohol-related terms decreased significantly after marijuana was legalised, suggesting that many consumers will substitute weed for booze if it’s legal.

On the other hand, marijuana legalisation significantly increased tobacco-related search volumes, advertising impressions, and advertising revenues. Which means tobacco manufacturers could actually get an unexpected boost from marijuana legalisation.

“Historically, both alcohol and tobacco companies have been actively sponsoring/supporting campaigns against recreational cannabis legalisation because they are strongly concerned that legal marijuana may pose threats to them,” said the researchers in their report.

“However, our results suggest that tobacco companies may need to re-examine their presumption and that anti-cannabis legalisation is not in their best interest.”

Amid tumbling beers sales and snowballing momentum for legalisation on a national scale, it’s no wonder booze giants like Heineken, Constellation Brands, and Molson Coors are investing heavily in weed-infused alternatives.

Trump Threatens Turkey After Greenlighting Invasion of Syria

President Trump has warned Turkey of going “too far” in Syria, just a day after giving Turkish President Erdogan the greenlight to invade. (So it’s going to be one of those nice and fluffy invasions where nobody gets hurt.)

The White House came under fire from the Republican Party yesterday, after the administration announced that all U.S. forces will be withdrawn from Syria and Turkey will proceed with its long-planned invasion of the country’s northern region.

Once our guys are out of there, Turkey’s forces will launch a full-scale attack on America’s Kurdish allies, who worked with U.S. forces to dismantle ISIS’s Caliphate. (But we’ve already got plans for this weekend, so good luck with that whole Turkey thing, guys.)

Senior members of the Republican Party raised their voices in protest, saying the withdrawal would be a victory for ISIS and Russia and kind of a crummy thing to do to our most loyal allies in the fight against global terrorism.

“A precipitous withdrawal of US forces from Syria would only benefit Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime,” said Senate Majority leader and low-hanging fruit for jokes about his appearance Mitch McConnell. “And it would increase the risk that ISIS and other terrorist groups regroup.”

Senator Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally that has repeatedly bumped heads with the President on foreign policy, railed against the decision in an interview on Fox & Friends and called the move a “disaster in the making” on Twitter.

Meanwhile, Utah Senator and life-sized creature from the Jim Henson Workshop Mitt Romney called the decision to abandon our Kurdish allies in the region a “betrayal.”

“The President’s decision to abandon our Kurd allies in the face of an assault by Turkey is a betrayal,” tweeted Romney. “It says that America is an unreliable ally; it facilitates ISIS resurgence; and it presages another humanitarian disaster.”

Senator Marco Rubio, who serves with Graham on the Foreign Relations Committee and is on the record as “not being a fan of disco music,” warned that removing U.S. troops from Syria is a “grave mistake that will have implications far beyond Syria.”

“It would confirm #Iran’s view of this administration & embolden then to escalate hostile attacks which in turn could trigger much broader & more dangerous regional war,” said Rubio.

The President seemed to walk back his carte blanche to tear the Kurds a new one today in a tweet in which he threatened Turkey with economic action if they went “too far” in the region.

“As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!),” tweeted the president in his great and unmatched wisdom.

Turkey brushed aside the warning this morning, as Vice-President Fuat Oktay responded saying: “Turkey is not a country that will act according to threats.”

In Other News

The (Good) Newsroom: Financial Crisis Might Not Be So Bad

The world’s economic septic tank is overflowing with a putrid slushy of doom, gloom, and classic recession indicators.

The most famous of these indicators is the inversion of the yield curve.

The yield curve (AKA the Oh No Machine) is a strong predictor of an economic downturn and easy enough to understand that even your average financial writer (who are historically ding dongs) gets it.

Now, the curve inverted earlier this year, which means we’re probably in for an economic butt-kicking sometime in the next year or so.

Yet, the fella who first established the relationship between the yield curve and recessions is now saying that investors shouldn’t be worrying their pretty little heads off.

Campbell Harvey, finance professor at Duke University, told MarketWatch that investors should expect a drawdown in stocks.

However, this recession is going to be relatively shallow compared to the 2008 financial crisis.

Given the gloom, “it’s naive to think you won’t have a drawdown,” said Harvey. But because companies, investors, and the public are so highly attuned to any sign of a recession right now, the hit to the economy will be fairly limited.

“[That awareness] increases the probability of a soft landing,” said Harvey.

So there you have it. Some good news for once.

Actually, I guess it’s still bad news, but not as bad as we thought news. Which is good in how not bad it is.

 

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