China protests cool global markets

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Over the weekend, mainland China experienced something not seen in more than 30 years: Thousands of protesters took to the streets against the Communist Party.

The protests have had an immediate impact on global markets and have raised questions about the path forward for China’s increasingly sluggish economy.

How is this going?

Protests began on Friday after 10 people died in a fire in China’s Xinjiang province, where Covid lockdown restrictions reportedly prevented first responders from reaching the blaze.

The blaze sparked three years of frustration with the country’s zero-coronavirus policy, which has seen millions of people locked down for weeks at various times.

Quarantine and testing protocols have taken their toll psychologically and financially. Economic growth has slowed and unemployment has risen. During the lockdown, many residents complained of inhumane conditions and faced shortages of food and medicine. A human rights group reported at least five suicides in Lhasa, Tibet, where some residents have been living under lockdown for more than 100 days.

The people are struggling, and the anger is directed at President Xi Jinping and the party leadership. On the first night of demonstrations in Shanghai, crowds chanted “Xi Jinping step down! Communist Party step down!”

Meanwhile, the prospect of social unrest in the world’s second-largest economy has put a chill on global markets.

On Monday, the Dow lost more than 500 points as European and Asian indexes fell. Oil prices fell sharply as investors worried that surging Covid cases and protests in China would dent demand in one of the world’s largest oil consumers. US oil prices hit their lowest price in almost a year, falling 2.7% to $74 a barrel.

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Officials in Beijing have a hard time here.

In order to repair the economy, China needs to ease the blockade and allow people to return to normal life.

But doing so — in a country with little natural immunity to the virus and shying away from importing Western-made boosters — could lead to a deadly outbreak.

Xi, who is just starting his third term and doubling down on his support for zero coronavirus, doesn’t want to risk a public health disaster that could damage his credibility. Of course, suppressing peaceful protesters and continuing a policy of repression is an option — an option that China has long pursued. But none of Mr. Xi’s options is ideal for a leader with a long-term focus on stability.

related: A Twitter search for protests in China returned a deluge of spam, pornography and gibberish that researchers say may be images of demonstrations deliberately being covered up by the Chinese government or its allies.

The label on a cup of Velveeta’s microwaveable mac and cheese says the food will be “ready in 3.5 minutes.” A Florida woman disputed that claim, amounting to $5 million.

Yes, a class-action lawsuit has been filed against Kraft Heinz alleging that its Velveeta Shells & Cheese takes longer to prepare than advertised, court documents show.

According to court documents, her attorneys argued that the three-and-a-half-minute commitment failed to account for the other four steps required to prepare the dish: removing the lid and sauce bag, adding water, microwave and stirring.

In a statement, Kraft Heinz dismissed the lawsuit as “frivolous.”

ah ah ah ah America

Introducing the latest victim of the financial crisis triggered by the collapse of Sam Bankman-Fried’s empire…

Crypto lending firm BlockFi filed for bankruptcy today. Its demise wasn’t a huge surprise in the cryptocurrency world — the company had essentially been on death watch for three weeks — but it was still a significant player in the FTX contagion being knocked down.

Earlier this month, as FTX disintegrated, BlockFi (which considers it a cryptocurrency bank — it makes loans using digital assets as collateral) halted withdrawals, citing Bankman-Fried’s FTX exchange and its sister hedge funds. The fund “has significant risk” to Alameda. Of course, FTX and Alameda are now bankrupt and are practically synonymous with the mismanagement of the slick and wacky company known as SBF.

There is a tragic interconnection in the way the dominoes fell after FTX. BlockFi is one of several recipients of SBF’s modern JPMorgan play. Over the summer, as the value of digital assets plummeted, SBF swooped in to engineer a financial lifeline for struggling businesses.

For BlockFi, this equates to a $400 million line of credit from FTX.

Before this month, people thought SBF was The Good Crypto Guy. While internet bros are (rightly) used to discredit the cryptocurrency faithful, there is something salutary about the ragtag nerds who are risking their lives for the greater good.

Clearly, we now know that this was all an act – a bold and proven strategy to distract investors from the reality that FTX and Alameda are built on a house of cards

(Again, I understand that the crypto space in general and FTX in particular can seem like a bunch of confusing internet bullshit, so I wrote a couple of very simple stories trying to get it across in plain English. This one is About cryptocurrencies. This is about FTX.)

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