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The Epstein-funded MIT lab has an ambitious project that purports to revolutionize agriculture. Insiders say it's mostly smoke and mirrors.

Sat, 09/07/2019 - 5:41pm  |  Clusterstock

  • An ambitious MIT project that purported to turn anyone into a farmer with a single tool is scraping by with smoke-and-mirror tactics, employees told Business Insider.
  • Ahead of big demonstrations with MIT Media Lab funders, staff were told to place plants grown elsewhere into the devices, the insiders said.
  • In other instances, devices delivered to local schools simply didn't work.
  • "It's fair to say that of the 30-ish food computers we sent out, at most two grew a plant," one person said.
  • MIT didn't provide a comment for this story.
  • Read more stories like this on Business Insider's homepage.

An ambitious project that purported to turn anyone into a farmer with a single tool is scraping by with smoke-and-mirror tactics, employees told Business Insider.

The "personal food computer," a device that MIT Media Lab senior researcher Caleb Harper presented as helping thousands of people across the globe grow custom, local food, simply doesn't work, according to two employees and multiple internal documents that Business Insider viewed. One person asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation.

Harper is the director of MIT's Open Agriculture Initiative and leads a group of seven people who work on transforming the food system by studying better methods of growing crops.

The food computers are plastic boxes outfitted with advanced sensors and LED lights and were designed to make it possible for anyone, anywhere to grow food, even without soil, Harper has said. Instead of soil, the boxes use hydroponics, or a system of farming that involves dissolving nutrients in water and feeding them to the plant that way.

"We design CO2, temperature, humidity, light spectrum, light intensity, and the minerality of the water, and the oxygen of the water," Harper said.

On Saturday, Joi Ito, the director of the MIT Media Lab, resigned following a lengthy expose in the New Yorker about the Media Lab's financial ties with late financier Jeffrey Epstein. Epstein died by suicide while in jail and faced sex-trafficking charges.

Staff placed food grown elsewhere into the devices for demos and photoshoots, they say

Ahead of big demonstrations of the devices with MIT Media Lab funders, staff were told to place plants grown elsewhere into the devices, the employees told Business Insider.

In another instance, one employee was asked to purchase herbs at a nearby flower market, dust off the dirt in which they were grown, and place them in the boxes for a photoshoot, she said.

Harper forwarded an email requesting comment on this story to an MIT spokesperson. The spokesperson didn't provide a comment.

The aim was to make it look like the devices lived up to Harper's claims, the employees said. Those claims, which included assertions that the devices could grow foods like broccoli four times faster than traditional methods, landed Harper and his team articles in outlets ranging from the Wall Street Journal to Wired and National Geographic

Harper's vision for the personal food computer is bold: "You think Star Trek or Willy Wonka, that's exactly what we're going for," he said in a March 2019 YouTube video produced by the news site Seeker.

Harper's coworkers told Business Insider a different story. They said the devices are basic hydroponic setups and do not offer the capabilities Harper outlines. In addition, they simply don't work, they said.

'They were always looking for funding'

Paula Cerqueira, a researcher and dietitian who worked as a project manager at the Open Agriculture Initiative for two years, told Business Insider that the personal food computers she worked with were "glorified grow boxes."

Cerqueira was part of a team that, on several occasions, delivered the personal food computers to schools. She also helped demonstrate the boxes to big-name MIT Media Lab investors.

During the organization's "Members Weeks" — once-a-semester events that drew donors including Google, Salesforce, Citigroup, and 21st Century Fox — Cerqueira and her coworkers would show investors how the technology worked.

On one occasion, Cerqueira said, her coworkers were told to fetch basil grown from a nearby location and place it into the personal food computers to make it look like it had been grown inside the boxes.

"They wanted the best looking plants in there," Cerqueira told Business Insider. "They were always looking for funding."

Cerqueira said in another instance, she was told by another MIT Media Labs manager to buy edible lavender plants from a nearby flower's market and place them in the boxes for a photoshoot, she said. Before any photos were taken, she carefully dusted off the tell-tale soil on the plants' roots.

The boxes simply didn't work, one employee told Business Insider

The central problem with the personal food computer was that it simply didn't work, Cerqueira and another person with knowledge of the matter told Business Insider.

"It's essentially a grow box with some sensors for collecting data," Cerqueira, a dietitian who worked as a project manager at the Open Agriculture Initiative for two years, told Business Insider. Cerqueira left her post after becoming increasingly frustrated with working conditions at the Media Lab, she said.

The boxes were not air-tight, so staff couldn't control variables like the levels of carbon dioxide and even basic environmental factors like temperature and humidity, Cerqueira and the other person said.

Other team members were aware of these issues, according to several internal emails that Business Insider viewed.

One email, on which Harper is copied, also said that team members weren't given the chance to test the devices' functionality for themselves. Another person with knowledge of the matter also described these issues to Business Insider.

'Of the 30-ish food computers we sent out, at most two grew a plant'

In the Spring of 2017, Cerqueira was part of a pilot program that delivered three of Harper's devices to local schools in the Boston area. Initially, the idea was for the students to put the devices together themselves. But Cerqueira said that didn't work — the devices were too complex for the students to construct on their own.

"They weren't able to build them," Cerqueira said.

In response, Cerqueira's team sent three MIT Media Lab staff to set up the computers for them. Of the three devices the staff members tried to setup, only one was able to grow plants, she said. That one stopped working after a few days, however.

When Cerqueira and her coworkers would visit the school, students would joke that the plants they were growing in plastic cups were growing better than the ones in the personal food computers, she said. The pilot ended shortly thereafter.

On another occasion, her team sent two dozen of the devices to classrooms across greater Boston as part of a curriculum being designed by one of MIT Media Lab's education partners.

"It's fair to say that of the 30-ish food computers we sent out, at most two grew a plant," Cerqueira said.

No one knew exactly what was wrong, but in general, the team was aware that the devices weren't functioning as they should be. In a last-ditch attempt to make the devices deliver, Cerqueira's team sent new packages of fresh seedlings to the school. When that didn't work, they tried it again. No matter what, the plants just kept dying, according to Cerqueira.

At one point, a representative from the Bezos Family Foundation, a private nonprofit foundation cofounded by Jackie and Mike Bezos, stopped by the school for a visit, Cerqueira said. Harper had been hoping to entice the group to help fund a new foundation that he was just getting off the ground. Even then, the devices wouldn't work. 

"It was super embarrassing," said Cerqueira.

Want to tell us about your experience with MIT Media Lab? Email the author at ebrodwin@businessinsider.com.

SEE ALSO: uBiome insiders say key science at the buzzy startup was flawed from the start. Now, the company and a top science journal are investigating.

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Super-Earths are real and they could be an even better place to live than Earth

We got an exclusive look at the pitch deck buzzy marijuana-tech startup Headset used to raise $12 million and ink deals with Nielsen and Deloitte

Sat, 09/07/2019 - 11:44am  |  Clusterstock

Fresh off a $12 million raise, Headset CEO Cy Scott is trying to navigate a future filled with as many roadblocks as opportunities. 

The Seattle-based analytics startup has so far carved out a lucrative niche in the booming cannabis industry, collecting retail-sales data and providing market intelligence to dispensaries across the country — but, as Scott told Business Insider in a recent interview — the only constant in cannabis is that change is inevitable.

Scott broke down what made his pitch deck successful in a webinar moderated by Business Insider. Scott was joined by Poseidon Asset Management partners Emily and Morgan Paxhia, who discussed which parts of Scott's pitch attracted them to invest in the company. 

Scott said he pitched 20 to 30 investors over a six-month period in order to nail the round. He learned a lot about what makes a successful pitch in the process, specifically that a startup needs to home in on a concise mission statement, and how to make Headset stand out in an increasingly crowded cannabis-tech market. 

"The whole industry is just moving at an insane clip," Scott previously told Business Insider. "We don't really know what the future holds. Anybody who tells you that they do with the cannabis industry is just trying to make it up."

What Scott does know, however, is that cannabis companies, and traditional corporations trying to muscle into the cannabis world, are hungry for data and anything that can give them an edge in an increasingly competitive business. 

It's a trend that hasn't gone unnoticed in the venture-capital world. Initially targeting $6 million on a $30 million pre-valuation for Headset's Series A funding round, Scott decided to double that funding number to just over $12 million when it raised in January. 

Read more: The CEO of cannabis-tech startup Headset told us why having a concise mission statement is crucial to successfully pitching investors

"When we initially went out, we thought six [million] would be enough to get by and reasonable to do in a quick fashion," Scott said. As he hit the fundraising circuit, he found a number of funds that wanted to lead the round, ready to write large checks.

"We started to reevaluate what we could do with more capital," Scott said. "It's always a fine line, you know, raising too much capital. There's the analogy that it's like pouring water on a plant — just like dumping too much water won't make the plant grow any faster."

Headset raised money from a mix of investors from inside and outside the cannabis world. The round was jointly led by AFI Capital Partners and the cannabis-focused Poseidon Asset Management, with Canopy Rivers (the venture-capital arm of Canadian marijuana giant Canopy Growth) participating.

"We really deprioritized traditional VCs and really prioritized more of the cannabis-related firms just because there's less of that education component," Scott said. Cannabis-specific firms, which generally don't take money from institutions like pension funds that are restricted from investing in cannabis since it's federally illegal in the US, have grown rapidly over the past two years. Their larger competitors from the traditional VC world largely remain boxed-out of the high growth industry.

Partnering up with Nielsen and Deloitte

On top of raising $12 million, Headset also inked partnerships with Nielsen, one of the leading market-research firms, as well as the consulting and accounting firm Deloitte. 

As more big consumer-packaged-goods (CPG) companies evaluate how to get into the cannabis industry, Scott said Headset's data — and the platform that its partnerships provide — would be crucial.

As big CPG companies watched cannabis legalization spread across the US and Canada, they were asking Nielsen questions like, "Where's the opportunity? What's the risk to my business?" Scott said.

Read more: Nielsen is diving into marijuana as the world's biggest consumer companies look for an edge in the booming industry

Nielsen, Scott said, didn't really have a good answer. "So they realized pretty quickly that they needed to go out and find a partner that can bring that type of insight," Scott added.

And while Scott and his team have their hands full after their most recent raise, he's still getting lots of interest from investors. That Rolodex will come in handy in the future.  

"Just yesterday I was fielding emails and kind of deferring — give us 18 months before we start talking — we just closed this round," Scott said. "If there's a real opportunity to race ahead, we might raise a little earlier, but I'd say 18 to 24 months is a safe bet." 

See below for the pitch deck Headset used to raise $12 million: 

SEE ALSO: An early investor in Juul is raising $75 million to make venture investments in pot companies

























































In the battle of the Tesla Model S and the Porsche Taycan, it's really no contest (TSLA)

Sat, 09/07/2019 - 11:22am  |  Clusterstock

Last week, Porsche officially launched its much-anticipated Taycan all-electric car.

The German sporting brand, famed for the legendary 911 and more recently the Cayenne SUV, will initially offer a pair of staggeringly expensive versions of the vehicle, which bears more than a passing resemblance to Porsche's Panamera sedan.

Incongruously, both Taycans bear the "Turbo" moniker, but that's because Porsche perhaps hopes to fit the Taycan into the overall naming logic of the the portfolio (being electric, neither has a turbocharger). The Taycan Turbo stickers at $153,510, while the Turbo S rises to the stratospheric level of $187,610.

If that sounds like a lot, given that EVs such as the Chevy Bolt and Nissan Leaf sell for a lot less than $50,000, well, welcome to Porsche. The priciest Panamera, the wagon version of the hybrid four-door, comes in at nearly $200,000. There are literally dozens of other Porsches that crack the $100,000 ceiling. There's a reason why Porsche posts some of the juiciest and most envied profit margins in ther car business. If you want a daily driver, look to Volkswagen (Porsche has since in inception after World War II been entwined with VW and is now part of the gigantic VW Group). 

Read more: It's time for Tesla to redesign the Model S sedan — here are 9 changes I'd like to see

Taycan versus Tesla, a "rivalry" that goes way back

Ever since the Taycan was first touted as a concept car, known then as the Mission E, it's been pitted against Tesla, currently the dominant all-electric automaker, with 2018 sales of nearly 250,000 vehicles. There's something to this: the EV market, even in the affluent and early-adopting, tech-giddy US, is tiny relative to the gas-powered realm. But Tesla has shown that an upstart brand can validate the prospects of cars that run not on incinerated dinosaur remains, but on electrons.

That's given the world's established automakers a legitimate excuse to pursue electrification, despite the general lack of receptivity among the buying public. (The 10-20% sales penetration that car companies were throwing around for EVs back in 2010 has manifested as something more like 2%.)

But take it all with a grain of salt. Porsche sold only around 8,000 Panameras in the US last year — a perfectly satisfactory result because the vehicle is so expensive. The alternative-propulsion versions of the car make a marginal contribution to that total, and are priced accordingly. Even a cheaper version of the Taycan would likely cost more than the least expensive Panamera, which already costs about as much as the most fully blinged-out Tesla Model S (if you maximally trick out the highest-spec Model S, you're looking at something like $115,000).

Sales volumes matter to Porsche, but bear in mind that the company isn't trying to sell to everybody. In fact, it's ultimately trying to sell to almost nobody — nobodies who would joyfully cough up six figures to be able to quote Tom Cruise in "Risky Business," from behind the wheel of a 928: "Porsche — there is no substitute." Porsche sold about a quarter of a million vehicles in 2018, so it's not breathing the same rarefied air as Ferrari (less than 10,000 in total 2018 sales), but when one goes shopping for a Porsche, one does not bring a lightweight checkbook.

See also: Apply here to attend IGNITION: Transportation, an event focused on the future of transportation, in San Francisco on October 22.

The finest cars made by human hands on planet Earth

What you get for the hefty outlay is the best-driving car on the planet. And it doesn't matter if you choose the 911 or the Cayenne. I've driven a lot of Porsches, and something special always happens when you fire up for example, the legendary flat-six boxer engine in a 911 and apply throttle: on the asphalt, Porsches are magic. In a recent test of the new Cayenne SUV, it took me all of five seconds to be transported to that transcendent Porsche state of mind. I like to say that if I had to drive for my life, I'd want to be driving a Porsche.

Another reason for Porsche to throw down an electrified gauntlet with the Taycan is that the company, like all automakers, is up against a future of more stringent fuel-economy and emissions regulations. EVs help with overall fleet compliance, enabling continued sales of big-ticket petrol cars. The VW Group overall also has run smack into a major problem with its diesel strategy, in the gloomy wake of its 2015 emission-cheating scandal. As a result, the group has pivoted to electrification in a major way.

So what should Tesla make of the Taycan?

No much, to be honest. Tesla proved that EVs could be more than glorified golf carts when it rolled out its sexy original Roadster, and the Performance trim of the Model S can be configured to outrun supercars from zero to 60 mph. But the Model S is rather long in the tooth at this juncture, dating back to 2012 with only a few modest refreshes since then. With the less-expensive Model 3 and forthcoming Model Y crossover, Tesla is moving away from the Mercedes-Audi-BMW-Lexus luxury sedan market and concentrating more on a kind of tweener space, just above the mass market.

Porsche has no interest in those segments, leaving them to Audi and VW. Porsche also leads with performance, so typical EV fixations such as range are less important. That's why Porsche is using an 800-volt design and a 93 kilowatt-hour battery architecture for the Taycan, aiming to optimize dynamics and recharge times rather than raw distance-per-charge. A Taycan owner is unlikely to care about range if their Porsche doesn't drive like, you know, a Porsche.

Read more: Porsche's $153,510 electric sports car, the Taycan, is set to compete with Tesla's Model S — here's how they stack up

Tesla owners don't care about Nürburgring laps, while Porsche owners most definitely do

That implicit standard means that Taycan and Tesla occupy different cognitive regions, beyond the basic distinctions of a $188,000 EV versus a $115,000 one. Tesla Model S owners don't care that their car hasn't lapped the Nürburgring in 7 minutes, 42 seconds (the Taycan's impressive time), or even lapped the Nürburgring at all (a Model S hasn't, at speed, and Tesla has never officially taken on the famous German track). Porsche Taycan owners, meanwhile, would be dismayed if the Taycan hadn't conquered the "Green Hell." They're deeply aware that much of Porsche's history was forged and its credibility nurtured in motorsports.

The tricky thing here is that because the EV market is so small, there's currently a lack of meaningful competition. Tesla, understandably, has the market more or less to itself. And that's no bargain, because in 15 years of existence, the company has posted less than a handful of profitable quarters.

In that time, of course, Tesla has sold its cars for around $100,000 on average, and that's what garnered the attention of the Porsches. Established luxury automakers figure they're much better at building vehicles than Tesla and can effectively "create" new market share in EVs, with very high prices converting to rich margins. Tesla, after all, has bungled its way to 250,000 in annual sales, adding a point or so of share to a US market that prior to 2018 had looked pretty well locked up in terms of market-share expansion. 

See also: Apply here to attend IGNITION: Transportation, an event focused on the future of transportation, in San Francisco on October 22.

Tesla bulls and bears always make the same error

Of course, Wall Street short-sellers cheerleading for Tesla's demise are going to herald the Taycan's arrival as a watershed moment when Tesla's luxury-sedan business collapses as all the Model S customers jump to Porsche. Likewise, Tesla bulls will argue that the Taycan is too expensive and not tech-y enough to unsettle the Model S.

They're both making the same error: assuming that the cars are attempting to capture the same customers. Sure, there could be some overlap, but for the most part if you seek high-performance four-door electric driving, and you have the cash, the Taycan is your ride. If you want an electric alternative to something like a BMW 5- or 7-Series, the Model S has always been for you. Although with the Model S aging and no redesign on the horizon, it's not out of the question that Tesla may let the car wither as it shifts farther downmarket with the Models 3 and Y. So get your Model S while the getting is good!

You're going to hear a lot about Tesla-Porsche competition now that the Taycan is a reality, and that's fine. But it's also the script that both automakers want to hear everybody reading from, yielding as it does a welter of free advertising (especially valuable for Tesla, where the ad budget is CEO Elon Musk's Tesla feed). There's also some reflexive truth to Tesla versus Taycan; car people are raised on the concept of competition as central, and by the time they rise to the executive ranks, they dutifully recite the shibboleths in the same way that major-league ballplayers tell reporters that they're taking things one game at a time and are in it for the team.

That rhetoric masks what is often a healthy absence of competition, particularly when you're dealing with something esoteric, such as high-performance electric sedans. Nobody needs a $115,000 Tesla Model S or a $188,000 Porsche Taycan Turbo S (reliable motorized transport can be obtained for $20,000).

But there's a significant number of people who want a Tesla or a Porsche, and their mindshare tends to be well-capitalized. Auto execs who hope to live well have few qualms about creating products that will separate those people from a percentage of their net worth. Porsche has been doing it for decades. 

The bottom line is that in the battle between Tesla and Taycan, there's really no contest. Everybody wins. Especially wealthy consumers, who now have in Porsche not just more all-electric choice, but an EV that's based on the explicitly hedonistic values of driving performance, while simultaneously borrowing Tesla's save-the-Earth ethics.

That said, I must admit that after driving every Tesla ever made — and quite enjoying them all — I'm personally looking forward to some Taycan seat time for something entirely different.

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Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Amazon invested $700M into an electric vehicle startup. Here's how Rivian is doing exactly what Tesla isn't.

The VSCO girl is taking over the internet — here's the ultimate starter kit for becoming the latest 'it' girl

Sat, 09/07/2019 - 10:43am  |  Clusterstock

The VSCO girl has taken over the internet in 2019.

Named after the photo-editing VSCO app, the VSCO girl is easy to spot on Instagram or IRL (in real life). She can be the girl on the street, but she can also be a popular influencer, like Emma Chamberlain. But she's not just appearing on her own social media channels.

Media outlets from Buzzfeed News and Cosmopolitan to The New York Times and The Cut have all commented on the rise of the VSCO girl.

Read more: Scrunchies, $80 Fjallraven backpacks, and Birkenstocks: There's a new type of 'it' girl online, and of course the internet is already hating on her

"Normally when you're talking about a VSCO girl, it is predominantly people who are white and very skinny and they own all these big name brands," Caiti DeCort, a 15-year-old YouTuber, told Lauren Strapagiel of Buzzfeed News. "So typically it's associated with being rich."

The VSCO girl has also been parodied online. But while some love to hate on the cool-girl, carefree aesthetic, others aspire to it.

A VSCO girl is easy to spot. She tries to embody a '90s-meets-surfer-girl look. Here, the ultimate starter kit on how to be a VSCO girl, from the uniform to the lifestyle.

SEE ALSO: There's new competition in town for influencers who can rake in as much as $1 million per Instagram post — and it isn't even human

DON'T MISS: A 25-year-old YouTuber quit her job and now makes 6 figures recording herself eating, and it's a trend more and more influencers are cashing in on

The products: The VSCO girl is known for her "no-makeup" makeup — a natural vibe that contrasts with the contoured faces of Instagram influencers. Burt's Bees or Carmex lip balm and Glossier Cloud Paint will do.

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It's a fresh and dewy look — which can be achieved with help from Mario Badescu facial spray.

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The VSCO girl likes a good tan — but not without protection, so go ahead and grab some Sun Bum.

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The VSCO girl paints her nails in pastel rainbow colors. For that, you'll need candy colored nail polish.

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The clothes: The VSCO girl also keeps her clothes casual. She's all about the crop tops or tube tops — so look no further than VSCO-loved brand Brandy Melville.

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But the VSCO girl alsos love the opposite of small baby tees: the oversized graphic t-shirt.

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And since the VSCO girl lives at the beach in the summer, you'll of course need a bathing suit ...

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... and an oversized sweater for the colder months.

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You'll also need high-waisted denim shorts for the summer and mom jeans for the fall — both preferably ripped.

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The shoes: The VSCO girl alternates between a trio of shoes: checkered Vans, crocs, and Birkenstocks.

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The accessories: No outfit is complete without the right accessories. A puka shell necklace is a must.

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The VSCO girl's go-to hairstyle is beachy waves — but she always has an assortment of scrunchies on hand to put it up in a ponytail.

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Pura Vida bracelets are essential, too — to stack on your arms along with scrunchies, of course.

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Another staple is the wave ring, which keeps in tune with the VSCO girl's beachy, surfer vibe.

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The VSCO girl is always seen sipping from her Hydro Flask ...

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... or touting a Starbucks tea.

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The VSCO girl keeps her Hydro Flask, lip balm, and scrunchies in the Fjällräven backpack, which retails for $80.

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Source: Fjällräven



You'll also need a Fujifilm Instax mini to take Polaroids of your VSCO girl life.

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You can paste those Polaroids to your bedroom walls. You'll also need string lights and succulents for decor.

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And while not required, it helps to get around in ultimate VSCO girl style — via Jeep.

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And don't forget your Ron Jon Surf Shop stickers — the VSCO girl loves to sticker everything from her Jeeps to her iPhones.

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The food: Many a VSCO girl's Instagram features a beach shot complete with watermelon.

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The catchphrase: Forget "OMG" — the VSCO girl lets the world know she's excited by saying "sksksksksk."

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Source: The Cut



And for surprise, there's "and I oop," referencing a video of drag queen Jasmine Masters.

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Source: The Cut



The cause: And you have to care about the environment. The VSCO girl is environmentally friendly and cares about "saving the turtles" — as evidenced by her stainless steel Hydro Flask and love for metal straws.

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Chase's Ink Business Unlimited is perfect if you're a small-business owner who wants to earn both cash back and travel rewards, and it has no annual fee

Sat, 09/07/2019 - 10:37am  |  Clusterstock

  • If you're a small-business owner looking for a good credit card with no annual fee, the Ink Business Unlimited Card is a great choice.
  • It earns you 1.5% on every purchase, and you can redeem you rewards as cash-back statement credits on your account.
  • If you're interesting in using rewards to cover travel, you can pair the Ink Business Unlimited with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or another card that earns Ultimate Rewards points, and then transfer your rewards to travel partners like Hyatt and United.
  • The Ink Business Unlimited also offers some helpful protections, including primary rental car insurance and purchase protection.

Business owners have a lot to think about when it comes to how they manage their finances. To streamline and easily monitor company expenses, it's best to separate them from personal expenses. 

For business owners who prefer earning cash back to travel rewards points, the Ink Business Unlimited is a great option. It's a simple card with no fee and some solid benefits.

Read more: The best small business credit cards to open now

Ink Business Unlimited card details

Annual fee: $0

Sign-up bonus: $500 bonus cash back after you spend $3,000 in the first three months

Cash-back earning: 1.5% back on every purchase you make

Foreign transaction fee: 3%

Sign-up bonus and cash-back earning

With the Ink Business Unlimited card, you can earn $500 cash back as a sign-up bonus if you spend $3,000 within the first three months of opening the account.

You can also earn 1.5% unlimited cash back on all your purchases for your business.

Read more: The best cash-back credit cards

Annual fee and other charges

The Ink Business Unlimited doesn't have an annual fee, which makes it great for startup business that are looking to minimize expenses.

Currently, there's a 0% APR on purchases for the first 12 months from opening the account, and a 15.24% to 21.24% variable APR after that.

You can also request extra cards for your employees at no additional cost.

Read more: The best no-annual-fee credit cards to open now

Ink Business Unlimited travel benefits

Chase offers primary car rental insurance if you rent a car using your Ink Business Unlimited card. This means you can decline the coverage offered for an extra fee by the rental car company. You just need to be renting a car for a business purpose for this coverage to be valid.

As a cardholder you'll also have travel and emergency assistance in case anything comes up during travel. While you will have to cover the cost of any emergency assistance, a Chase benefit administrator can help you navigate the process of getting help during an unexpected event. 

Finally, the Ink Business Unlimited offers roadside dispatch services. As with the emergency assistance services, you'll be responsible for covering the cost of any services, but Chase can help you arrange booking them.

Redeeming your Ink Business Unlimited rewards

Even though this card is primarily for those who prefer cash back, Chase provides more than one way for cardholders to redeem their earned rewards.

Cash back

The most straightforward way to redeem your rewards is in the form of cash, meaning a statement credit or money deposited into your bank account. Since the Ink Business Unlimited card offers 1.5% back on every purchase, you're getting 1.5 cents back for every dollar you spend.

Travel

For those of you who want the option to use your rewards toward travel benefits, the Ink Business Unlimited card allows you to have the best of both worlds.

While it's technically a cash-back card, through Chase Ultimate Rewards, you can use your rewards from the Ink Business Unlimited to book travel expenses such as airfare (without any blackout dates), rental cars, and hotels.

To do this, you need to have another Chase card in addition to the Ink Business Unlimited — one that earns Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR) points. Options include the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve, and the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card.

If you have one of these cards, you can move the cash-back rewards from your Ink Business Unlimited over to your Ultimate Rewards-earning account, then redeem the rewards as points for travel directly with Chase, or with transfer partners like United, British Airways, Hyatt, and Virgin Atlantic.

Read more: How to turn cash back into Ultimate Rewards points with Chase cards

Gift cards

Chase gives you the option to redeem your rewards toward gift cards with more than 150 brands. 

Apple Ultimate Rewards store

You can choose to use your rewards toward Apple technology purchases, but you'll get less than 1 cent per point with this redemption option.

Purchase protection

Your purchases will be covered for 120 days and up to $10,000 per claim for damage or theft, and up to $50,000 per account.

You'll also be able to extended a manufacturer's warranty by one year on items purchased with your Ink Business Unlimited. This warranty extension is only applicable to manufacturer warranties of three years or less.

Benefits for your business

Using the Chase Ink Business Unlimited card for your business purchases does more than just separate personal and company-related expenses. It can also help you keep better track of your business finances — this make things easier when it's time for tax season.

Having this card can help build your credit as you build your business. It also provides insight into your spending patterns, and you can check in on your balances and spending 24/7. You can view account details, get quarterly reports, and access your monthly statements anytime you want.

The Ink Business Unlimited also offers its cardholders account protection in the form of alerts to you so you can easily monitor the activity on your account and identify any possible fraud. You get to choose the alerts you want to get and how you want to receive them.

Bottom line

The Ink Business Unlimited is a great option for business owners who want to keep their rewards simple. It has a flat cash-back rate of 1.5% on all purchases, and if you decide to dip your toe into travel rewards, you can pair it with another Chase card to start redeeming Ultimate Rewards points.

I personally have this card and have found it to be greatly valuable in separating and organizing my business finances for tax and accounting purposes. Plus, the bonus cash back has made a difference in my cash flow. It's like getting a discount on everything you buy for your business, without an annual fee.

Click here to learn more about the Ink Business Unlimited from our partner The Points Guy.

SEE ALSO: All our credit card reviews — from cash-back to travel rewards to business cards — in one place

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FREE SLIDE DECK: The Future of Fintech

Sat, 09/07/2019 - 10:02am  |  Clusterstock

Digital disruption is affecting every aspect of the fintech industry. Over the past five years, fintech has established itself as a fundamental part of the global financial services ecosystem.

Fintech startups have raised, and continue to raise, billions of dollars annually. At the same time, incumbent financial institutions are getting in on the act, and using fintech to remain competitive in a rapidly evolving financial services landscape. So what's next?

Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service, has the answer in our brand new exclusive slide deck The Future of Fintech. In this deck, we explore what's next for fintech, how it will reach new heights, and the developments that will help it get there.

Join the conversation about this story »

VCs just bet $3.5 billion that tech will transform the future of healthcare. These are the top 9 firms making the most digital health investments.

Sat, 09/07/2019 - 10:02am  |  Clusterstock

In healthcare lately, tech is king. 

Startups taking a tech-based approach to healthcare have been a magnet for VC investment dollars, and the trend shows no sign of slowing down. Around the world, VCs poured $3.5 billion into about 371 different digital health deals and financings in the second quarter of this year, according to CB Insights.

Nine VC firms were especially active in the space, according to a recent CB Insights report focused on the second quarter of 2019. CB Insights ranked the VCs based on the number of unique digital health company investments they had made, but the the report doesn't disclose those figures. 

Never miss out on healthcare news. Subscribe to Dispensed, our weekly newsletter on pharma, biotech, and healthcare.

These VCs have invested in such companies as Alma Health, which makes coworking spaces and tech for therapists, the digital therapeutics startup Omada, and health data platform LunaDNA.

At a time when iPhones are omnipresent and AI is taking over the world, healthcare is a relative latecomer to the potential of technology. The highly-regulated industry moves slowly, and isn't exactly known for its tech-savviness, but a new wave of startups is betting it can change that. 

Read more: One sector has emerged as the hottest area for AI investment. A top investor at Andreessen Horowitz told us why it's the 'natural next step' for the industry.

In an indication of how competitive the field has become, there's a two-way tie for the #1 slot on the CB Insights ranking. After that, there are a stunning seven VCs ranked as the #2 most active digital health firms. 

Here's who they are, and what they've been betting on: 

#2. Khosla Ventures

Menlo Park, California-based Khosla Ventures invests across a variety of industries, including healthcare, with the internet as one of its focuses. It's ranked as the #2 most active digital health VC along with six others. 

Investments: Microbiome diagnostics platform Whole Biome, memory-health-focused digital platform Neurotrack, tech-enabled physical therapy company Sword Health



#2. Illumina Ventures

Founded by the genome-sequencing giant Illumina in 2016, Foster City, California-based Illumina Ventures was built with the mission of "unlocking the power of the genome." 

The firm aims to invest in life science tools, clinical diagnostics and therapeutics, according to PitchBook. Illumina Ventures is one of seven total companies ranked as the #2 most active digital health VCs. 

Investments: Genome care delivery platform Genome Medical, health data platform LunaDNA

Read more: A tiny startup wants to pay you for your DNA, and it could lead to the next wave of medical innovation



#2. F-Prime Capital

The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based F-Prime Capital invests in healthcare subsectors like biopharma and medical technology, as well as enterprise information technology and fintech, according to PitchBook. 

Healthcare is "the largest sector of our economy and arguably the least efficient in many ways," Carl Byers, a partner at F-Prime, told Business Insider.

"That leads to huge opportunities to improve care while reducing cost. And people who create the technology and services in the middle can earn and should earn in terms of making that happen," he said. "So it's just a great opportunity for that reason."  

Investments: Health data platform LunaDNA, animal DNA testing company Embark, mental healthcare platform Quartet



#2. Echo Health Ventures

The Seattle, Washington-based Echo Health Ventures was founded in 2016 and is a collaboration between nonprofit healthcare company Cambia Health Solutions and healthcare VC Mosaic Health Solutions. 

Rob Coppedge, CEO of Echo Health Ventures, who's been looking at investments in healthcare services and health technology since the 1990s, says that the industries are at something of an inflection point today. 

"And I feel like we're finally at a point where we can make good on some promises we've been talking about as a system, as an industry, for 20-something years," he told Business Insider. 

Investments: Genome care delivery platform Genome Medical, on-demand urgent care company DispatchHealth, big data analytics platform GNS Healthcare



#2. Perceptive Advisors

The New York City-based Perceptive Advisors invests across healthcare sectors like biotech, pharma, diagnostics and health services.

Investments: Genomic care delivery platform Genome Medical, women's fertility startup Kindbody, next-generation genomic sequencing company Archer



#2. Civilization Ventures

San Francisco, California-based Civilization Ventures is focused on cutting-edge health tech and biology, and was founded in 2017. 

Investments: AI-powered chronic disease platform Gali Health, digital therapeutics startup Omada, at-home health tech platform Pillo Health



#2. Chiratae Ventures

Founded in 2006, Chiratae Ventures invests across areas like internet, health technology, e-commerce, media, biotech and more. 

Investments: Online fitness platform CureFit, AI-based medical diagnosis platform SigTuple, online cancer consultation platform Onco.com



#1. Jumpstart Foundry

Jumpstart Foundry, in Nashville, Tennessee, was founded in 2010 and focuses on healthcare investments like digital health, tech-based health services and consumer health. 

Jumpstart is tied as the #1 most active digital health investor with the VC First Round.

Investments: Digital health management platform Lytic, hospital health software startup Medifies, billing software company iTherapyDocs, doctor real-time documentation platform ScribeLink



#1. First Round

Founded in 2004, First Round invests in a variety of sectors, including ones that are tech-based.

It's tied at #1 for most active digital health investor with Jumpstart Foundry. 

Investments: Alma Health, which makes coworking spaces and tech for therapists, AI-based hospital triage platform Vital, healthcare provider communication platform Karuna Health, dental care insurance platform Level



The SEC won't play ball on bitcoin ETFs. Here's how Franklin Templeton and others are launching funds with crypto and blockchain twists.

Sat, 09/07/2019 - 9:55am  |  Clusterstock

  • Two asset managers are making crypto-related plays: one is launching a bitcoin fund open only to big investors, and the other is offering a money-market fund with a blockchain twist.
  • The SEC hasn't budged on approving bitcoin-backed exchange-traded funds, which would be open to investors large and small. The ETF field is hyper-competitive, with firms constantly looking for a new niche to lure assets. 
  • Franklin Templeton is hoping blockchain can help with fund transparency and offer other benefits. And VanEck has teamed up with SolidX to create what could be a predecessor to a bitcoin ETF. 
  • Click here for more BI Prime stories.

Asset managers haven't been able to persuade the SEC to greenlight bitcoin exchange-traded funds. Now they're turning to putting a crypto spin on other kinds of products. 

The field is crowded with ETFs tracking benchmarks like stock and bond indexes, and firms are constantly looking for a new niche to lure assets. Intense competition has prompted a race to, and even below, zero for fees on some more basic funds. 

$50 billion asset manager VanEck for years has been pursuing approval for an ETF that holds bitcoin. Another firm's attempt to launch ETFs with bitcoin futures instead was a non-starter — in February, Reality Shares withdrew a filing for an actively-managed currency and bitcoin futures portfolio.

VanEck this week said it's teamed with fintech partner SolidX on a bitcoin fund with the same behind-the-scenes plumbing as an ETF. But the new fund is not registered like an ETF, and it's off-limits to individual investors. 

And Franklin Templeton is putting a blockchain twist on the staid money fund realm. It already has a suite of money market funds, but said in a statement the new product is aimed at a "different and unique customer base."

The Franklin Blockchain Enabled US Government Money Fund keeps a traditional record of share ownership as well as a record on the blockchain technology that underpins bitcoin. It does not hold any crypto.

Read more: A new ETF is actually paying investors to hold it and it's the latest sign in how insane the fee war has gotten

A gradual process

The Franklin fund is "an interesting pilot," said Ben Johnson, Morningstar's director of global ETF research. Firms' margins are getting squeezed  as investors flee active management in favor of low-cost passive funds.

 "Asset manager fees are under greater pressure than they've ever been," Johnson said, leaving "no stone unturned" when it comes to their own expenses.

In 2017, Vanguard said it would work with two other groups to share index data using blockchain with the aim of improving benchmark tracking.

While the Franklin Templeton fund may in the future be maintained solely on blockchain, the $710 billion asset manager said in a filing there's "no guarantee" that will happen. Blockchain is "a ripe development platform," a firm spokesperson said.

Morningstar's Johnson said the VanEck bitcoin trust helps investors avoid the "headaches" of bitcoin custody, but noted "it's awfully hard to predict" demand.

Grayscale Investments offers crypto for big investors via periodic private placements. Its bitcoin trust charges a 2% fee, the asset manager's website says, and collected $2.4 billion since its 2013 launch. 

"Given the channel we're focused on, we think it'll be a gradual process – institutions will take their time to evaluate," said Ed Lopez, VanEck's head of ETF product.

For perspective, SPDR Gold Shares, State Street's physical gold ETF with an expense ratio of 0.4%, has picked up nearly $44 billion since its 2004 listing. 

Read more: Asset managers losing billions are hoping a new kind of fund can turn their business around. 

Volatile ride

Providers pushing to lock down ETF approval could risk crypto falling out of favor in the meantime.  SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce said in May it may be a long time before a bitcoin ETF gets green-lighted.

Todd Rosenbluth, head of ETF and mutual fund research at CFRA, highlighted the inherent uncertainty around new crypto products. 

"While the security's price has partially recovered from lows in early 2019, it has been a volatile ride and demand remains uncertain," he said. 

Only investors with over $100 million in assets can buy VanEck SolidX Bitcoin Trust shares. If the SEC ever does allow a mainstream ETF, institutions' shares could roll over into that product, Lopez said. Fees are 2% to the fund sponsor, plus a 0.9% insurance fee to cover bitcoin theft, VanEck's website says. 

Institutional investors lack the framework, including central clearing and brokerage accounts set up for crypto, to hold bitcoin, Lopez said. 

"What we're hoping this does for them is it wraps all that stuff together and makes a tradeable product," Lopez said. 

BNY Mellon is the VanEck fund accountant and administrator. 

Read more: The 'godfather' of a $4.7 trillion market says a bitcoin ETF will be approved 'no time soon'

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NOW WATCH: Stewart Butterfield, co-founder of Slack and Flickr, says 2 beliefs have brought him the greatest success in life

The US-China trade war is helping drive the massive fires burning the Amazon rainforest

Sat, 09/07/2019 - 9:45am  |  Clusterstock

  • The Amazon rainforest has been seized by massive fires as Brazilian farmers cut down trees for farmland.
  • China's desire for more soybeans and agricultural products is helping drive the need for more farmland in Brazil.
  • China's need for more agricultural products form non-US countries is partly being driven by the US-China trade war.
  • Sal Gilbertie is the president, CEO, chief investment officer, and founder of Teucrium Trading.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The Amazon rainforest is burning, and it's sparking outrage around the world. One reason for this growing ecological tragedy may be the escalating US-China trade war.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has been accused of not acting forcefully enough to fight the fires because he is said to be beholden to Brazilian farmers and ranchers eager for new hectares of income-producing arable land.

Many Brazilian farmers are now converting rainforest to farmland partly to meet China's growing demand for soybeans, soybeans that China was sourcing from the US until the trade war began last year.

US President Donald Trump has also been linked to the Amazon fires, thanks to his resolve in the US-China trade war. It is reasonable to assume that China would still be buying soybeans from the US if Trump hadn't started the trade war in the first place.

But this narrow viewpoint risks underestimating the dangers that China's long-term plans for securing a global food-supply chain pose to places like the Amazon. When viewed strategically, it becomes clear that the trade war is simply providing China's Communist Party the cover it needs to secure the future supply chains it will require as the preeminent global superpower.

The trade war has accelerated China's food push, endangering the Amazon

Recall that the trade war began over theft, espionage, and strong-armed commercial practices on behalf of the Chinese. Practices that include forcing intellectual-property transfers, intentional patent infringement, embedding commercial and military spyware in technology exports, dumping of government subsidized goods, and a host of other unscrupulous tactics. These are the things at the heart of the trade war and why a majority of Americans support confronting China on economic issues.

The heart of China's trade war strategy has been to target US farmers in order to politically pressure what was Trump's strongest base of support in the 2018 election. By placing tariffs on American soybeans, Beijing has artificially priced the US out of the Chinese market.

Chinese importers are instead turning to Brazil for their soybeans, which has in turn driven up demand for farmland. This desire for more planting area has helped fuel the fires burning thousands of acres of Amazon rainforest.

China has no problem with the burning of the Amazon, nor does China care to reign in its economy for the sake of appeasing those concerned about the environment and climate change.

The Chinese know that Brazil has far more land available for new farmland than perhaps any other country on earth; that land just happens to be covered by rainforest. In Nero-esque fashion, China is gleefully watching the rainforest burn with eyes toward a new Brazil, one with more soybeans for China.

The trade war is also enabling the Chinese to advance its plans of securing non-US-sourced food supplies long into the future by conveniently providing both cover and opportunity to create a more globally diversified food supply for its people.

China's push for Brazilian land goes beyond the trade war

The leadership in China is not too old to remember the Great Famine of 1959-61, when tens of millions of Chinese starved to death, primarily as a result of government policies preventing private ownership of land and businesses. China has come a long way since then, partially embracing free-market policies that have helped transform the country into an economic powerhouse. But not even its rapidly growing economy can help China domestically produce all the food it requires.

Despite recent efforts to improve its internal supplies, there is not enough available farmland in China to grow the food required to sustain its massive population. Chinese central planners have a very long-term plan to solve this issue, which they can implement with ruthless efficiency because of China's one-party totalitarian political system.

Under President Xi Jinping, China has embarked on an investment plan of epic proportions to achieve its long-term food-security goals.

Relatively small transactions like the purchase of US-based Smithfield foods to secure both supplies of pork and advanced agricultural technologies, and direct investments in agricultural land in South America and Equatorial Africa, are examples of China's food-security plan unfolding before our eyes.

Of course the crown jewel of its plan is the Belt and Road Initiative, which involves more than 60 countries and will extend China's economic and military reach across the globe, creating a super supply chain able to support China's needs for as long as earth's resources last.

The trade war is providing convenient cover for China to advance its long-term plans of securing food supplies long into the future. Those plans include decreasing Chinese reliance on single-source suppliers, such as US soybean farmers.

China is adroitly exploiting a double opportunity: It is undermining support for Trump by imposing tariffs on US soybeans hurting the farm belt (Trump's political base), while perhaps weakening the US resolve to win the overall trade war. And it is cultivating new supply chains by turning to Brazil to fulfill its demand for soybeans.

By using the trade war as a cover to accelerate its plans in Brazil, China is exacerbating ecologic pressures in the Amazon jungle by motivating farmers to burn and clear more land, all fulfilling a plan that's been in place long before the trade war began and will remain long after the trade war ends.

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Inside Teterboro Airport, NYC's private jet airport, where celebrities slip in unnoticed and Jeffrey Epstein was arrested on sex trafficking charges in July

Sat, 09/07/2019 - 9:27am  |  Clusterstock

  • Teterboro Airport is New York City's private jet airport, where celebrities slip into the city unnoticed and where Jeffrey Epstein was arrested on sex trafficking charges on July 6.
  • It's only about 12 miles from Manhattan, making it the closest private jet airport to the city.
  • Teterboro has five fixed-base operators (FBOs) responsible for aircraft services including passenger handling, aircraft fueling, parking, maintenance, charters, rentals, and more.
  • The airport's FBOs, like the award-winning Meridian Teterboro, offer some swanky amenities including lounges, a gym, a private movie theater, and hotel and limousine concierge services.
  • Despite those offerings, a visit to the airport showed me that the true luxury of flying through Teterboro lies not in its amenities, but in the time it allows travelers to save. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Just 12 miles from New York City, Teterboro Airport in New Jersey is the city's primary private jet airport.

Teterboro is a general aviation airport, which means its main purpose is to remove smaller, slower aircraft — i.e. private jets — from the regional air traffic and reduce congestion at the commercial airports such as Newark Liberty International Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport, and LaGuardia Airport.

Celebrities like Miley Cyrus, Usher, and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have been spotted at Teterboro, and late financier Jeffrey Epstein, who recently died in jail while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges, was arrested at the New Jersey airport in July.

I recently spent a few hours at the airport and got a tour of some of its facilities — here's what it was like.

SEE ALSO: Take a tour of the private jet that a billionaire chief executive flies around the world

DON'T MISS: I visited the long-awaited TWA Hotel at JFK airport, and it's a must-see for travel nerds, aviation geeks, and history buffs

Teterboro Airport in New Jersey is the main private jet airport serving New York City.

The 827-acre airport in Teterboro, New Jersey, is a general aviation airport, which means its main purpose is to remove smaller, slower aircraft — i.e. private jets — from the regional air traffic and reduce congestion at the commercial airports such as Newark Liberty International Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport, and LaGuardia Airport.



Teterboro is only about 12 miles from Manhattan, making it the closest private jet airport to the city.

Depending on traffic, it's only about a 30-minute drive from Teterboro to Midtown Manhattan.



Opened in 1919, Teterboro Airport is the oldest operating airport in the New York and New Jersey metro area, according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

"During the 1920s, Teterboro Airport was at the center of America's golden age of aviation," The New York Times reported in 1976.

Famous aviators including Charles A. Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart spent time at the airport.



Today, many celebrities pass through the airport as an alternative to the area's major commercial airports: Newark Liberty International Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport, and LaGuardia Airport.

Stars including Miley Cyrus, Usher, and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have been spotted there.

Jeffrey Epstein, the financier who recently died in jail while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges, was arrested at Teterboro Airport in July.



Teterboro isn't served by commercial airlines like Delta or United. Instead, when someone flies in or out of Teterboro, they go through what's called a fixed base operator, or an FBO.

FBOs are responsible for aircraft services including passenger handling, aircraft fueling, parking, maintenance, charters, and de-icing. They also handle towing and baggage handling, car rentals, hotel reservations, and some include pilot lounges.

The five FBOs operating at Teterboro are Atlantic Aviation, Jet Aviation, Signature Flight Support, Signature Flight Support - South, and Meridian Teterboro.



On a recent summer day, I took the PATH train and a Lyft from Business Insider's Manhattan office to Teterboro Airport.

I was on my way to get a tour of the airport and its facilities with the marketing director of Meridian Teterboro, which was recently voted the top FBO in the northeast and one of the top 5% in the US by an Aviation International News survey.



But one does not simply drive into Teterboro Airport.

My Lyft was stopped at the gate, and the security guard asked to see both my ID and the driver's ID.

I was on a visitors list, so we were let in without any problem.



Meridian Teterboro's 30,000-square-foot executive terminal includes a lobby, lounges and rest areas, work stations, a gym with showers and lockers, a pool table, and a private movie theater.

Meridian Teterboro, which started as a maintenance business, is "like a fancy gas station for private planes," Kirk Stephen, Meridian's director of marketing, told me jokingly.



Travelers passing through Meridian Teterboro are personally greeted by the customer service team at the reception desk.

Betsy Wines, Meridian's vice president of customer service and human resources who's been at Meridian for 34 years, told me that many of Meridian's customers are repeat customers that the team knows by name.

Meridian's customer service team handles any special customer requests as well as hotel reservation, rental cars, and limousines.  



The lobby is airy and bright, with high ceilings and walls of glass.

It's filled with comfortable seating and several large plants. Stephen likens Meridian's facilities to a "five-star hotel."

Having visited the 5-star hotel Amangani in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, not long before I went to Teterboro, I'm not quite sure that's a claim I agree with. Teterboro's airport was sparkling clean and modern, but the rooms and lobby in Amangani were full of texture, sumptuous wood accents, and furniture that was designed to look rustic but was clearly extremely expensive.

I get where Stephen was going with the comparison, though: Teterboro's interior is far nicer than any airport I've been to — and miles ahead of nearby LaGuardia, one of the most hated airports in the US.



Most of Meridian's clientele go straight to and from their planes rather than lingering in the terminal, so facilities like the work stations and rest areas are more often used by pilots passing through the airport, according to Stephen.

"Usually passengers just want to just want to walk through and get out and get to where they're going, but the pilots may have to be here for a while, so we wanted to provide those amenities for them," Stephen said.



In a lounge with a TV and pool table, I saw one pilot taking a nap on a couch and another relaxing in an armchair.

Pilots can get some shut-eye in a windowless rest area where small pillows and blankets are provided.

The terminal also includes a gym outfitted with cardio and weight lifting equipment.

There's even a private 10-seat movie theater.

Most people who pass through Meridian Teterboro are business travelers, both companies and individuals, according to Stephen.

"Most people think that private jets are for, you know, celebrities and athletes and [that] it's a luxury segment," Stephen said. "There are people that use private jets for those reasons, but believe it or not, the vast majority of private jets are used for business."

While it could take days for a business traveler to fly commercial between certain destinations, "if you have a private jet, you can go from A to B to C to D all in a very short period of time," he said. "So it's really saving time that's saving money for businesses."



On a slow day, about 40 planes pass through Meridian's terminal. On a busier day, it could be up to 80.

In 2018, Teterboro Airport saw more than 174,000 total take-offs and landings, according to data from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Meridian is coming up on one of its busiest times of the year, according to Stephen, including the day after Labor Day, New York Fashion Week, and the United Nations General Assembly, all in September.



Meridian operates its own charter fleet of 20 planes, which range from mid-size aircraft to ultra-long-range planes that can travel almost halfway around the world without having to stop for fuel.

While costs can vary, chartering a small plane with eight seats starts at about $3,500 per hour, while a larger plane that can hold about 16 people can go up to $11,000 per hour, according to Chris Battaglia, Meridian Teterboro's director of charter sales.

Meridian has three hangars: two are 40,000 square feet (one of which is new), and one is 20,000 square feet.



In the hangars, Meridian's maintenance team services, repairs, and cleans planes.

I got to take a peek into one of Meridian's planes, a Gulfstream G200.



The G200 has a roughly 25-foot by seven-foot cabin and can carry eight to 10 passengers.

It has a range of about 3,800 miles and a maximum speed of 541 miles per hour.



The interior is luxuriously appointed with beige leather seats and wood veneer.

The G200 includes seven leather armchairs and a divan that seats three people.



A small additional seat can be used in the bathroom.

Water bottles and a basket of snacks are placed on board before each charter.

Meridian's customer service team does its best to accommodate any request of its clientele, no matter how outlandish.

"You know, you'll have a customer call that wants to maybe a particular bottle of wine or Champagne," Wines said, "or there's someone's birthday on an aircraft and the crew will call and say, 'Can you get me a birthday cake and some balloons or some flowers?'" 

Those are normal requests, she said. But they've also had a customer call mid-flight and say something like, "Look, my boss forgot his suitcase and he's supposed to play tennis with somebody."

Wines' team will ask for the correct sizes, go to the store, and buy a full tennis outfit to have waiting at the terminal.



Unlike at a typical commercial airport, Teterboro customers don't have to bundle their liquids in one tiny plastic bag or take off their shoes and pass through a full-body scanner.

In fact, they don't even necessarily have to show up for their flight on-time — it's not going to leave without them.

"But you know, if time is money, they'll be there when they're supposed to be there," Stephen said. "Otherwise, it could cost them more money, or if they're expecting to land in a certain place and they have to be there by a certain time ... they can put themselves in jeopardy by not getting to where they need to be. But for the most part, they can probably be here a half hour beforehand and it would be OK."

In addition to their charter and aircraft handling services, Meridian manages aircraft for private jet owners, which includes flight operations, maintenance, and charter sales for those owners who charter their planes to mitigate costs.

 



I wasn't allowed to take photos of travelers at Teterboro, but I did see a small group of people walking out onto the tarmac to board a jet. They were dressed in business casual attire.

While the amenities at Meridian Teterboro were perfectly comfortable, the airport as a whole was much less glamorous than I'd expected. 

After my tour of Teterboro, it was clear that's because the true luxury of flying through the private jet airport is saving time. 

Teterboro's proximity to Manhattan — one of the major business centers of the world — as well as the hours saved by not having to show up to an airport two or three hours early or adhere to commercial flight schedules, embody the airport's true appeal to business travelers.



Meet the star women running Silicon Valley's largest IPOs; PE firms are hiring more undergrads

Sat, 09/07/2019 - 9:22am  |  Clusterstock

 

Ah, WeWork. The gift that keeps on giving. 

This week, it was reported that the coworking firm is considering the drastic move of cutting its $47 billion valuation in half before its planned IPO. WeWork's roadshow is reportedly set to kick off next week, but it remains unclear if that'll happen. Some investors that I spoke to said they're still concerned about opacity around WeWork's financials and lack of disclosures. They think ultimately the deal will get done — it just may not be at the company's ideal price.

Meanwhile, even seasoned asset managers are confused about WeWork's valuation, reports BI's Bradley Saacks. 

Fidelity, which has exposure to WeWork through its massive Contrafund, slashed the fund's valuation on WeWork shares between the end of last year and the middle of this summer, according to a regulatory filing. The mutual-fund giant once valued the company significantly higher than its peers but has cut the valuation of WeWork shares in the Contrafund by roughly a third.

Other funds, like T. Rowe Price's Diversified Mid-Cap Growth Fund, have hiked the value of their WeWork stakes.

There does seem to be one thing that all the funds can agree on: WeWork is listed in the real-estate section of each funds' reports. It's a far cry from the high growth tech company that WeWork is trying to position itself as to prospective investors.  

Here's some more of our WeWork coverage from this past week:

If you were away all summer...welcome back! 

Olivia

Meet the star women running Silicon Valley's largest IPOs at Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and JPMorgan

Facing outside criticism and investor concern over its all-male board, WeWork amended its IPO registration on Wednesday to include a new female board member, Harvard Business School professor Frances Frei.

But behind the scenes, much of the heavy lifting of the controversial initial public offering is being handled by two female bankers, Alice Takhtajan at JPMorgan, and Kim-Thu Posnett at Goldman Sachs, sources told Business Insider.

In the world of IPOs, much like the rest of banking and much of tech, high-profile male leaders are front and center of nearly every deal. But there's an influential rank of female bankers, each with more than a decade of experience behind them, quietly guiding some of the biggest deals in the industry.

READ MORE HERE »

PE firms are hiring more undergrads and casting a wider net — here's the new schools where top shops like KKR and Blackstone are scouting future stars

Private-equity firms have been casting a wider net for undergraduates. Through recruiters, academic advisers, and PE hiring executives, as well as public sources like LinkedIn, Business Insider gathered some of the schools outside the Ivy League where private equity is scouting future stars.

That push into undergrad outreach and recruiting reflects a battle for talent at the associate level — and marks a pivot from the more traditional route of private-equity firms hiring young people only after they do a stint in investment banking.

READ MORE HERE »

The CEO behind a tech-led turnaround at Domino's Pizza now wants to land huge private-equity deals. He told us the areas he's targeting and why he's excited about voice technology.

The Carlyle Group is partnering with Patrick Doyle, the former CEO of Domino's Pizza known for turning around its business by overhauling its recipe and implementing new technology like online ordering.

Doyle, 56, is now a private-equity investor and will help Carlyle identify multibillion-dollar deals in the consumer and retail sectors.

Doyle spoke with Business Insider about how companies could improve operations and said they would increasingly benefit from the use of voice technology.

READ MORE HERE>>

Barclays insiders say a hiring freeze is afoot as roles stay unfilled, bonuses get slashed, and senior staff flee

Barclays has raised the bar for hiring outsiders, and it isn't filling vacancies after people leave, according to five sources familiar with the situation. Some of those sources described it as an ongoing informal hiring freeze that's hitting areas including investment banking and FICC trading.

The UK-based bank shed 3,000 jobs company-wide in the second quarter and has upped its 2019 cost-cut outlook. Barclays is pushing to hit a return target set by CEO Jes Staley, and its bonus pool shrank in the first half.

READ MORE HERE »

Bloomberg is investing in ways to make complex alternative data sets easier to use for hedge funds

One of the largest data providers in the world wants to make it easier for investors to digest complex, unique data sets.

Bloomberg LP is working to help investment firms, such as hedge funds, use alternative data despite lacking the resources or experience often required to digest it. The efforts come just over six months after Bloomberg announced a move into the booming market for data such as stats on drug approvals, retail foot traffic tracked through cellphones, and construction permits.

READ MORE HERE »

Wall Street move of the week:

Goldman Sachs has poached a top credit trader from a $30 billion hedge fund to jump-start its high-yield trading business

In markets:

In tech news:

Other good stories from around the newsroom:

Join the conversation about this story »

Lyft's newest service: Driving yourself (LYFT)

Sat, 09/07/2019 - 9:13am  |  Clusterstock

  • Lyft has been quietly offering a car-rental service in three California cities. 
  • When you book a vehicle in San Francisco, Oakland, or Los Angeles, the company will also offer customers $40 of ride credit to get to and from the pickup location. 
  • The company said it's another way to help stave people off of individual car ownership. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Lyft is trialling a car-rental service in California, the company confirmed to Business Insider this week. 

The service, which works much like a traditional car-rental, is available in San Francisco, Oakland, and Los Angeles. It also comes with a $40 credit to ride to and from the pickup location.

Rates are fairly similar to those of some legacy car-rental companies like Enterprise and Avis among others ($40 to $80 per day, depending on the type of vehicle). A Volkswagen Passat, for example, was offered at $75 per day when Business Insider reporters tried out the service on Friday. Other options are the Volkswagen Atlas, Mazda 3, and the Mazda CX-5.

See also: Apply here to attend IGNITION: Transportation, an event focused on the future of transportation, in San Francisco on October 22.

The minimum age for Lyft's car-rental service is 22-years-old, the company says, and there doesn't appear to be an extra fee for drivers under 25, as with most car-rental companies.

The test is an extension of other transportation forms Lyft has recently expanded into, like bikes and scooters, a representative said. The company has long said it wants to see a world where no one owns personal vehicles and they are instead shared. This seems to be another move in that direction.

Lyft has long offered drivers on its platform the option to rent cars through a program called Express Drive. That's made possible through a partnership with Avis Budget Group, FlexDrive, and Hertz.

SEE ALSO: 14 women have filed a lawsuit against Lyft accusing the company of not addressing a 'sexual predator crisis' among drivers

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: How Area 51 became the center of alien conspiracy theories

A 150-foot, champagne-colored superyacht reportedly once owned — and apparently abandoned — by Nicole Kidman just hit the market. Take a look inside.

Sat, 09/07/2019 - 9:02am  |  Clusterstock

A superyacht reportedly once owned by actress Nicole Kidman is up for sale, according to yacht management firm Imperial.

The superyacht's price is being kept under wraps, however. Potential buyers will only see the price tag after submitting an application to Imperial.

Read more: 11 of the most expensive yachts in the world

The yacht shares the Hawaiian name Kidman told InStyle Magazine that her parents gave her at birth: "Hokulani." (Kidman was actually born on the Hawaiian island of Oahu but is Australian by nationality.) The actress (best known for her roles in the television drama "Big Little Lies" and the films "Moulin Rouge!" and "The Hours") is next set to star as news anchor Gretchen Carlson in "Bombshell," a film about Fox News, alongside Charlize Theron as Megyn Kelly, Insider previously reported.

Kidman's last estimated net worth was $338 million Australian (or $259 million US), according to the Australian Financial Review's 2017 Rich List; she was ranked the 197th richest Australian that year. While Hokulani's ownership hasn't been confirmed by either Kidman or Imperial, the Independent reported in 2008 that Kidman owned and subsequently abandoned the yacht (which was built by Palmer Johnson, designed by Nuvolari Lenard, and launched in 2007, according to Imperial) in a Sydney marina when she moved out of a nearby apartment complex.

Keep reading to learn more about the superyacht and for a closer look at the distinctive watercraft.

SEE ALSO: How the ultra-wealthy attend Burning Man, from $55,000 private jet flights to personal chefs — and why other burners aren't happy about it

DON'T MISS: Take a look inside the most expensive hotel room in the world, a 2-story sky villa designed by Damien Hirst that runs $100,000 per night and was just named one of the 'world's greatest places'

Hokulani is best known for its iconic champagne color.

Source: Imperial Yachts



Despite being more than a decade old, Imperial says the 45.7-meter (or about 150-foot) yacht is still in "perfect condition," thanks to its seven-person crew.

Source: Imperial Yachts



Even the bridge looks luxurious.

Source: Imperial Yachts



Hokulani has five guest staterooms that can sleep up to 10 guests total. Each stateroom has its own ensuite bathroom.

Source: Imperial Yachts



There are two VIP cabins with double beds ...

Source: Imperial Yachts



... and a grand master suite with a king-sized bed, study area, and walk-in closet.

Source: Imperial Yachts



It also has a private, fold-out balcony.

Source: Imperial Yachts



Hokulani even features a hydraulically-powered tender garage to store jet skis that keep guests entertained while the yacht is anchored.

Source: Imperial Yachts



There is also plenty of room for everyone to hang out and relax on the sun deck ...

Source: Imperial Yachts



... or in the main salon during inclement weather.

Source: Imperial Yachts



The superyacht's other amenities include a sunbathing area and cinema room.

Source: Imperial Yachts



Despite its luxurious amenities, Kidman reportedly "abandoned" the superyacht in a Sydney marina after relocating to Tennessee with husband Keith Urban.

"A spokesman for Kidman told the Sydney Morning Herald that the boat had been left at the marina because she had contemplated buying another apartment in the same block, which did not happen," The Independent reported in 2008.

Source: The Independent



Brex, the buzzy credit card startup valued at $2.6 billion, is opening a restaurant in the heart of San Francisco's VC district

Sat, 09/07/2019 - 8:01am  |  Clusterstock

  • Brex, the buzzy credit card startup with a $2.6 billion valuation, is opening a restaurant in San Francisco's South Park neighborhood. 
  • The venture-backed startup decided to revive a neighborhood favorite, South Park Cafe, while introducing a whole new menu and updated vibe. 
  • "We saw this as, how could revitalize this for ourselves and for the community and make something that was awesome, awesome again without the worries of it being like a super profitable business," Brex co-CEO Henrique Dubugras told Business Insider. 
  • Head chef, Peter Mosqueda, considers the menu at South Park Cafe a "classic California cuisine with more of a comfort focus and a little bit of a twist." 
  • South Park Cafe sits directly under Brex's member-only lounge, known as the "Oval Room," which opened earlier this spring. 
  • Larissa Rocha, Brex's first employee and head of community, said most of the company's investors were excited about the project because many used to frequent the original South Park Cafe before it shut down in 2017. 
  • Brex's South Park Cafe officially opened its doors on Friday. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

South Park Cafe isn't your typical coffee-and-a-pastry-type of establishment. Espresso drinks are on offer in the morning hours, featuring locally roasted Four Barrel beans. But by lunchtime, the space transforms into a chic, sit-down, California bistro featuring pricey, gluten-free plates and trendy mixed drinks. 

The owners of South Park Cafe are also far from typical. They have never opened a restaurant before and are not renowned inside Bay Area foodie-circles. Actually, both couldn't be further from what you would expect. 

You see, the new proprietors of South Park Cafe — which is located a few city blocks south of San Francisco's financial district — aren't local restauranteurs. They're tech entrepreneurs. Namely, they are Henrique Dubugras and Pedro Franceschi, the co-CEO, wonder-kids who founded the buzzy credit card company Brex, which after its most recent funding in July now boasts a $2.6 billion valuation. 

As the 23-year-old Dubugras tells the story, the South Park neighborhood has been an important part of Brex's history even before its initial launch in early 2017. The quaint, sunny oasis — which, like its name suggests, contains an actual park — is tucked between the concrete thoroughfares of San Francisco's SOMA District and China Basin and has long had a reputation for being a favorite meeting place for venture capitalists and hopeful startup founders. 

Brex was no different. Many of the startup's early VC meetings, Dubugras said, took place in South Park. It's also less than a five-minute walk from Brex's new headquarters, which houses most of its 240 current employees. 

So when the original South Park Cafe decided to close its doors after more than 20 years — reportedly due to a mix of pressure from rising rents and the previous owner wanting to retire — Dubugras said he and his team saw an opportunity. 

"We saw this as, how could we revitalize this for ourselves and for the community and make something that was awesome, awesome again without the worries of it being like a super profitable business," Dubugras told Business Insider in an interview this week. 

"It's fine for a startup to not succeed because then the founder will then go start something else. But it's not fine for them to fail and not pay their bills." 

To date, Brex has raised over $380 million on the promise that it will become the corporate credit card of the future. 

Initially, Brex launched a credit card built for startups with rewards tailored to the kinds of expenses most common among young, Silicon Valley tech companies — cloud computing software, Uber rides, and food delivery, to name a few.  

Getting higher credit limits has also become easier for startups using Brex. Instead of using a founder's credit history to set initial limits — which can be the experience with a traditional bank — Brex mostly considers how much capital a startup has raised and how much money they actually have left in the bank. As a result, million-dollar-plus credit lines can be offered in a matter of minutes. 

"We understand that you have an investor backing you. It is much lower risk than someone starting a traditional business in terms of credit," Dubugras told Business Insider in a March interview. "You can go from zero to a working card in five minutes." 

Brex makes money every time someone uses its card. As a credit card issuer, it receives interchange fees that are charged to the businesses that accept their card. Interchange fees can typically range from 1% to 3%, depending on the transaction. 

Today, Brex does not charge startups late fees or fees for insufficient funds, a common way most credit card companies turn profits. 

"We have a very low default rate," Larissa Rocha, Brex's first employee and head of community, told Business Insider in an interview this week. "When that happens at all, it's typically, 'Oh, I moved my bank account and forgot to let you know.' It's typically that." 

Rocha said she thinks part of the reason default rates are so low is that Silicon Valley is a close-knit community and founders don't want the reputation of not paying their bills. 

"It's fine for a startup to not succeed because then the founder will then go start something else," Rocha said. "But it's not fine for them to fail and not pay their bills. They want their reputation for when they go do their second thing."

Beyond catering to tech startups, Brex has expanded to customers in sectors like ecommerce and life sciences. When asked which business sector the company would tackle next, co-CEO Dubugras said he wasn't quite sure. 

"We actually don't know," Dubugras said. "We do know that we want to go [into] verticals that have a macro tailwind. So we're probably not going to go into retail next because that sector is not doing really well. We're probably going to go into a growing sector." 

Brex cardholders will now be able to order food while working out of its second story, members-only lounge.

This March, Brex launched the first phase of its unorthodox effort to offer a physical space for customers with a member's only lounge for Brex cardholders. 

Dubbed the "Oval Room" — named after both the Oval Office (where big decisions are made) and the literal shape of South Park — the lounge is designed to be a place where startup founders can network and have a place to work in-between meetings with VCs or interviews with potential candidates.

Read more: Here's a look inside credit card startup Brex's new member-only San Francisco lounge

Dubugras told us the space was "not about exclusivity," but instead about "the ability to deliver on the promise of combining a meeting space with the services and support entrepreneurs actually need to run their business."

Still, with Fyre Festival documentaries fresh in the popular zeitgeist at the time, comparison's between Brex's Oval Room and Billy McFarland's Magnises Townhouse in New York City were hard to ignore.

Today, the Oval Room sits directly atop the South Park Cafe on the building's second floor. 

The company's grand vision now that the cafe is open is that Brex cardholders will be able to order food while working out of the lounge. Dubugras said that the team has been "testing out a few things" regarding perks they can offer Brex members who choose to eat-in. So far, one of the leading ideas is to have a "special dish" for cardholders. 

Rocha, who oversaw the cafe's re-opening, insists that the restaurant itself won't be shut down for exclusive cardholder or employee-only events. 

South Park Cafe's head chef considers his menu a "classic California cuisine with more of a comfort focus and a little bit of a twist." 

This week, as a part a "soft" re-opening event, a few members of Business Insider's San Francisco bureau were invited to dine at Brex's South Park Cafe. 

We were greeted by the restaurant's friendly head chef, Peter Mosqueda, who's worked in a number of kitchens around the Bay Area, including his most recent stint on the food team at the online payment company, Stripe. 

Mosqueda's approach to what he cooks, he said, is to keep it "super simple and super clean," letting the ingredients speak for themselves. He considers the menu at South Park Cafe a "classic California cuisine with more of a comfort focus and a little bit of a twist." 

A few standout dishes included cured trout with olive oil, chives, and capers with a dollop of creme fraiche on the side, and the gluten-free fried chicken with collard greens and a summer corn relish. A personal favorite was the koji-rubbed steak with brandied mushrooms, which I considered the best representation of Mosqueda's style — not overly ornate or finicky. Just good. 

Brex co-CEO Dubugras said he wasn't sure if he could pick a favorite dish, but if he had to, it would be the lamb meatballs that come with a house-fermented cayenne hot sauce. 

South Park Cafe isn't as pricey as some of the Michelin-starred restaurants San Francisco has to offer. But for people not employed by a VC firm, the cafe is a bit on the spendy side. Small plates range from $6 (for bread and butter) to $16 for the lamb meatballs or chorizo and mussels. Mains range from $24 to $32. The lunch menu will be similar to the dinner menu, Mosqueda said, with an addition or two, like a burger. 

The vibe inside was pretty much indistinguishable from any other trendy, new restaurant in the city with big money behind it. Besides one of the kitchen workers who came out to the front wearing a black Brex polo-shirt, there were no other signs that a multi-billion-dollar tech company was behind the financing and operating of the space. 

Technically, Rocha said, those who work at South Park Cafe are not employed by Brex, the credit card startup, but one of its holding companies instead. That means, cafe staff members don't receive potentially lucrative stock option packages. They do, however, receive "good benefits packages," Mosqueda said, as one advantage of opening a restaurant with a venture-backed startup on its side. 

As for what its investors think of its young founders using their money to finance a restaurant, Rocha said many were "excited" by the idea because they used to frequent South Park Cafe when it was under its original ownership. 

"We have a very good relationship with our investors," Rocha said. "If anything we are way behind in terms of cash burn. We're very conservative. There were questions [about the project], but there wasn't any big push back. If anything, they were excited we were opening the restaurant they used to go to."

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: 7 lesser-known benefits of Amazon Prime

The chief strategist at a $1 trillion investing giant says Trump is doomed to lose his trade war — and explains why that would be the best possible outcome for markets

Sat, 09/07/2019 - 6:05am  |  Clusterstock

  • Kristina Hooper, chief global markets strategist for $1.2 trillion Invesco, says the Trump administration will have to end its trade war soon, and probably won't get any concessions from China beyond narrowing the US' trade deficit.
  • Hooper says President Trump is in an inferior bargaining position with China and has essentially zero chance at remaking the US-China trade relationship.  
  • Even if the outcome is disappointing relative to Trump's stated aims, she says the market will cheer any ending to the trade war — and adds that that ending to the dispute might stop other countries from starting major trade disputes.
  • Click here for more BI Prime stories.

President Donald Trump is used to making big demands — and in the trade war, those demands might be far grander than anything he's able to win.

While the president has vowed to curb intellectual property theft and forced technology transfers, free up trade, and wipe out the US's wide trade deficit with China, Kristina Hooper — the chief global market strategist at $1.2 trillion Invesco — says it's not going to happen.

"I can't find any compelling reason why China is going to make any major concessions," she told Business Insider in an exclusive interview. 

Hooper said that Chinese President Xi — who is essentially president for life — can afford to wait out Trump, who is up for re-election next year. At the same time, China's command economy means its government has more fiscal and monetary tools to counteract damage caused by the trade skirmish.

Hooper said the administration will likely have to be satisfied with an agreement that ends the tariffs of the past two years and reduces the trade deficit, which totaled $621 billion in 2018.

"That is the only concession that I believe China is willing to make," she said.

While she doesn't think a resolution will come this year, Hooper said that continued signs of weakness in the US economy would do a lot to get Trump's team back to the bargaining table with those modest goals.

 "The US will have to try to present this as a victory even though it really will fall very far short of the US's goals in embarking on these tariff wars," said Hooper.

Read moreTrade fears are making stocks wildly unpredictable. The chief of Wells Fargo's $1.9 trillion investing business told us how you should play defense in the market.

Skip to the end

As many people on Wall Street have said, there are no winners in a trade war. So Hooper says any conclusion — even one Trump might be frustrated with — will be cheered by the market. It would preserve the US-China trade relationship, the which is the largest that exists between any two countries.

After all, Trump himself commented this week that the Dow Jones Industrial Average might be 10,000 points higher if not for the trade war.

Hooper names Chinese tech stocks as big winners in the trade scenario she's describing, saying investors dumped the sector because they assumed China would lose the fight. US agriculture stocks would benefit from greater sales to China, and the stocks most vulnerable to tariffs, like automakers and industrials, all look like winners in the her scenario.

"A lot of the industrial companies have been eating the tariffs as opposed to passing them on to consumers and that's impacting profit margins," she said.

While that ending of the trade war might be difficult for the Trump team, Hooper said she sees one other big benefit to this outcome, as it might push other countries not to embark on big trade wars.

"Hopefully this provides a cautionary tale for world leaders and there's more of a focus in the future on reforming the World Trade Organization and really utilizing it as the referee for trade disputes, which was what it was designed to do and what it has been effective in doing," she said.

SEE ALSO: A $60 billion investing firm breaks down why a force that's helped the market's biggest companies for 30 years is headed for a reckoning

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Jeff Bezos is worth over $160 billion — here's how the world's richest man makes and spends his money

The crypto whiz kid who paid $4.6 million for lunch with Warren Buffett asked Donald Trump and several crypto bosses to join them. Here's everyone he invited.

Sat, 09/07/2019 - 5:57am  |  Clusterstock

The crypto whiz kid who paid $4.6 million to have lunch with Warren Buffett asked Donald Trump and a slew of crypto bosses to join them.

Justin Sun — the founder and CEO of Tron, which operates the 15th largest cryptocurrency — can bring up to seven companions to the lunch with Berkshire Hathaway's billionaire CEO. He has invited executives from Ethereum, Litecoin, Binance, Circle, Huobi, eToro, and other crypto firms to attend, but not all have accepted.

Sun is working to reschedule the meal after postponing it in July, a move that sparked conspiracies he was in trouble with the Chinese government. However, finding a date that fits everyone's diaries has proven challenging.

"It took about two months for us to get all nine people to come to San Francisco and sit in one room for five hours with Warren Buffett," Cliff Edwards, Tron's communications director, told Blocktv. "We are in the process of corralling all of those nine people again to get it back on track."

Here's everyone Sun has invited to his lunch with Buffett.

SEE ALSO: 6 things to know about Justin Sun, the crypto whiz kid who postponed a $4.6 million lunch with Warren Buffett

Donald Trump

Justin Sun asked Donald Trump to attend his lunch with Warren Buffett after the president criticized cryptocurrencies on Twitter.

"I am not a fan of Bitcoin and other Cryptocurrencies, which are not money, and whose value is highly volatile and based on thin air," Trump tweeted on July 12. "Unregulated Crypto Assets can facilitate unlawful behavior, including drug trade and other illegal activity."

Sun invited the president to the Buffett lunch less than three hours later.

"Mr. President, you are misled by fake news," he tweeted. "#Bitcoin & #Blockchain happens to be the best chance for US!"

"I'd love to invite you to have lunch with crypto leaders along with @WarrenBuffett on July 25," he continued. "I guarantee you after this lunch, nobody will know crypto more than you!"

Trump hasn't publicly responded to Sun's invite.



Charlie Lee, creator of Litecoin

Charlie Lee is the creator of Litecoin, the fifth-largest cryptocurrency with a $4.3 billion market capitalization, according to CoinMarketCap. Lee was at the top of Sun's invite list.

"I'm thrilled to invite my good friend @SatoshiLite, creator of Litecoin, to be the 1st guest to join my lunch with @WarrenBuffett," Sun tweeted on June 16. "More friends to be announced!"

Lee accepted the invite later that day.

"Thanks Justin! I'm excited about this opportunity to meet a legend," he tweeted.

 



Changpeng Zhao, CEO of Binance

Changpeng Zhao is the founder and CEO of Binance, a global cryptocurrency exchange where users can trade more than 100 cryptocurrencies. Zhao declined Sun's lunch invite, saying he couldn't make the trip to San Francisco.

".@justinsuntron kindly invited me to go, but I can't make it," Zhao tweeted. "Too far. I guess that's like turning down $1,000,000, assuming 5 guys going, lol... But very much appreciated."

However, Zhao made time to ridicule Buffett, a vocal cryptocurrency critic who has dismissed bitcoin as "rat poison squared."

"I guess Buffet will be eating a lunch funded by 'rat poison' after all, lol," Zhao tweeted. "It's good to be famous, people pay millions of dollars to educate you," he added in another tweet.



Livio Weng, CEO of Huobi

Livio Weng is the CEO of Huobi, a Hong Kong-listed company founded in China and run out of Singapore. Huobi runs a major online cryptocurrency exchange and operates Huobi Token, the 14th largest cryptocurrency.

We couldn't find Sun's invitation to Weng on Twitter, but the Tron boss name-checked Huobi in another tweet.

"As of now we've only invited @SatoshiLite of Litecoin, @Binance and @HuobiGlobal to the @WarrenBuffett lunch," Sun wrote on July 5.

 

 



Vitalik Buterin, co-founder of Ethereum

Vitalik Buterin is the co-founder of Ethereum, the second-largest cryptocurrency with a market cap of $19 billion, according to CoinMarketCap. Sun invited Buterin to the lunch, but the Ethereum co-founder hasn't publicly accepted, FT Alphaville said.

Sun and Buterin have jostled and clashed on Twitter in the past.

When Elon Musk tweeted the word "Ethereum" in April, Buterin invited the Tesla and SpaceX boss to attend his company's Devcon conference in October. Eager to share the spotlight, Sun replied to Musk's tweet with the names of his two companies: "TRON" and "BitTorrent."

Moreover, after Sun tweeted last December that Ethereum's bull run was fueled by hype, Buterin suggested Sun was a "self-identified shill" who's "not worth listening to."

 

 



Jeremy Allaire, CEO of Circle

Jeremy Allaire is the founder and CEO of Circle, a peer-to-peer payments company that has received over $100 million in funding from the likes of Goldman Sachs. Circle aims to bring digital currency into the mainstream.

"I'd like to invite my good friend @jerallaire, Co-founder & CEO of Circle, to join my lunch with @WarrenBuffett," Sun tweeted. "7 days to go and more friends to be announced!"

Allaire replied three minutes later.

"Hi Justin, I would be honored to join you and @WarrenBuffett next week to discuss crypto!!" he wrote.

"Count me in. Crypto is now a major global policy issue and there is a great deal for Mr Buffet to understand and for us to learn from him as well," Allaire added.

 



Helen Haiyu, head of blockchain at Binance Charity Foundation

Helen Haiyu is the head of blockchain at Binance Charity Foundation, the cryptocurrency exchange's non-profit arm. The foundation engages in blockchain-powered philanthropy, and has raised money for causes such as disaster relief,  education, and combating hunger, according to its website.

"I'd like to invite my good friend @helenhaiyu, Head of @BinanceBCF, to join my lunch with @WarrenBuffett," Sun tweeted. "5 days to go and more friends to be announced! @binance."

Haiyu replied five minutes later.

"It is my great honor to join @justinsuntron and @WarrenBuffett next week to discuss crypto & philanthropy," she wrote.

 



Yoni Assia, CEO of eToro

Yoni Assia is the CEO of eToro, a social-trading platform where users can buy and sell multiple assets including stocks, ETFs, and cryptocurrencies, as well as mirror other investors' trades.

"I'd like to invite my good friend @yoniassia, Founder & CEO of @eToro, to join my lunch with @WarrenBuffett," Sun tweeted. "4 days to go and more friends to be announced!"

Assia replied in under 10 minutes.

"Justin, it is my honor to join you for lunch with @WarrenBuffett, A big step for bridging between the traditional finance world and the new one!" he wrote.

"There is a huge opportunity to use #BlockChainForGood and happy to share our research on @TheGoodDollar with #TheOracleFromOmaha," he added.

 



Chris Lee, CFO of Huobi

Chris Lee — also known as Li Shufei — is the head of finance at Huobi, the crypto exchange.

"I'd like to invite @Chrislee_crypto, the CFO, Board Secretary and VP of International Business Development from @HuobiGlobal to join my Charity lunch with @WarrenBuffett," Sun tweeted. "3 days to go and more friends to be announced!"

"Thanks for Justin's invitation! @justinsuntron It's my great honor to be the guest of this remarkable event," Lee replied.

"@warrenBuffett Lookin forward to meeting with blockchain iconic fellows & Mr. Buffett to share knowledge of blockchain/crypto and traditional finance world @HuobiGlobal," he added.



Trump's hardline campaign against Iran is failing to check its nuclear ambitions and risking a 'catastrophic' war

Sat, 09/07/2019 - 5:00am  |  Clusterstock

  • President Donald Trump's "maximum pressure" strategy against Iran is not working and has exacerbated tensions in the Middle East. 
  • Trump's maximum pressure strategy aims to cripple Iran's economy and squeeze it into agreeing to a more stringent version of the 2015 nuclear agreement orchestrated by the Obama administration to keep Iran from building nuclear weapons.
  • Iran is speeding up its uranium enrichment while the West and Iran are at an impasse, strongly suggesting the Trump administration's strategy to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions is failing.  
  • "Iran is not just being emboldened but is being left in some ways to take actions that say they will not be pushed back," Wendy Sherman, who served as lead negotiator on the deal for the Obama administration, told Insider. 
  • Another former US official who negotiated with Iran warned that one slight misstep or misunderstanding on either end could jeopardize the fragile US-Iranian relationship and tilt the two countries to war — which neither side wants.
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump's strategy of exerting "maximum pressure" against Iran is faltering as Tehran appears emboldened to stand up against the West and takes steps closer to building a nuclear bomb, former US officials warn. 

Since withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal — also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — last year, the Trump administration has imposed crippling economic sanctions against Iran, with the aim of depriving its leadership so badly that they eventually capitulate to the US's wishes.

But Iran announced its third major step away from the JCPOA this week, stating it would begin developing more advanced centrifuges that would speed up its uranium enrichment, and lift all limits on its nuclear research and development. This came after Iran in July announced it's breaching the nuclear deal's limitations on uranium stockpiling and enrichment. 

Iran has said that these measures are reversible, and gave European powers two months to save the JCPOA and coax them back to the deal.

Wendy Sherman, who served as lead negotiator for the Obama administration on the JCPOA, told Insider, "It's all concerning, because it's moving away from a framework that ensured Iran would not get a nuclear weapon, which President Trump said is the most important thing to him."

"Iran is not just being emboldened but is being left in some ways to take actions that say they will not be pushed back. We are at a very, very difficult place," Sherman added. "All of the steps they have taken are reversible, of course, but if they do start down the road to research centrifuge technology and to test different levels of centrifuges they will gain more knowledge and that is of serious concern." 

Sherman said the discussions regarding limitations on research were a "tough" point during the JCPOA negotiations and an important aspect of the agreement to the Obama administration. 

"If indeed they really do move forward on research they're obtaining more knowledge and you can't wipe away knowledge, which is something that President Obama understood and why he went into negotiations," Sherman said. 

"Even if we had taken military action to bomb all of their nuclear sites, which we certainly could do, they could rebuild them and would have likely rebuilt them in secret," Sherman added. "You can't bomb away knowledge, so this move is a little bit more complicated and concerning."

Trump's maximum pressure campaign has not stopped Iran from stepping away from the JCPOA or made the Middle East more peaceful.

Tehran has repeatedly insisted that it doesn't want to build nuclear weapons, only nuclear power for civilian purposes.

Nonetheless, Iran's actions on Friday are a major act of defiance against the US and European Union, which have separately been trying — unsuccessfully — to coax Iran back to honoring its JCPOA commitments in recent weeks.

Last week Trump said he would be open to restarting talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, in what looked like the first thaw between the two countries.

But Rouhani has consistently refused to talk to the US until it lifts economic sanctions — which US officials have consistently ruled out unless Iran winds down its nuclear program, which Tehran has also vowed not do to until the US removes sanctions.

On Tuesday, Rouhani also ruled out ever holding bilateral talks with the US, but said he would be open to multilateral talks only if sanctions are lifted.

"It appears that the Trump administration is not willing to open a door to a negotiation with Iran. Even though the president has said he's ready at any time without conditions — there are obviously conditions on both sides. So we are in a very tough place," Sherman said. 

Read more: CIA predicted the Iran crisis that spiraled out of Trump pulling the US from the 2015 nuclear deal

Sherman said that there's an "unfortunate dynamic" in both the US and Iran at present in which extreme hardliners have taken the helm and it leads to "mixed signals" from both sides.

Iran is speeding up its uranium enrichment while the West and Iran are at an impasse, strongly suggesting the Trump administration's strategy to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions is failing.  

"The maximum pressure campaign has not stopped Hezbollah as a proxy for Iran, it has not stopped the risks to Israel's security and to Middle East security, it has not stopped Iran from taking steps away from JCPOA, and it has certainly pushed away our allies who worked so hard with us to try and ensure Iran would never obtain a nuclear weapon," Sherman added. 

Iran is looking for 'leverage.'

Iran is looking for "leverage" amid crippling sanctions from the US and whether the stalemate can be broken will require someone to show "courage and wherewithal" or "there's going to have be some quiet diplomacy behind the scenes to orchestrate a meeting," Sherman said.  

Another reason why Iran has so far ignored US attempts to get it back to the negotiating table is the fractured nature of the Trump administration's Iran policy, said Richard Nephew, the lead sanctions expert for the US negotiating team with Iran from 2013 to 2014. He is currently a senior research scholar at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said the US's end goal for the maximum-pressure campaign is to weaken the leadership so that it complies with its JCPOA obligations, as has Trump in recent weeks. But John Bolton, the National Security Advisor, has repeatedly advocated regime change in Iran. 

"This incoherence isn't just an interesting problem," Nephew told Insider. "I think it's a potential strategic calamity. That absence of clarity in what the US is trying to achieve is why the Iranian is refusing to enter into talks with them."

"Iranian officials are pretty clear they refuse to talk to people who are trying to engineer their destruction, and so it makes it even harder to imagine there will be serious substantive talks," Nephew said, "because they can't even clear that first hurdle of: Do you want to topple our government?"

Europe wants to save the deal, but it's not powerful enough.

French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday offered Iran a $15 billion in EU money in exchange for its return to JCPOA negotiations. The move, which would allow Iran to get foreign currency, would undermine the American maximum-pressure sanctions campaign.

But Iran has also rejected this, the country's state-run Press TV reported.

"I don't think they actually believe that the French government's going to be able to pull it together, whether French banks will be willing to facilitate, that US sanctions won't get involved in some point anyway," Nephew said.

Accepting the bailout is "basically the equivalent of Iranians [being] on European welfare, and that's not something they're terribly interested in doing," he added.

US-Iran tensions could just keep going — but one slight misstep could accidentally tilt them into 'catastrophic' war.

Iran's strategy is likely just to keep the pressure on the US and Europe until one of them budges.

"The Iranians have showed us since May 2018 [when the US pulled out of JCPOA] that their first priority is to take small steps that demonstrate they can take bigger steps, but not to do things that fundamentally change" the geopolitical landscape, Nephew said.

Read more: The US hit Iran with a secret cyberattack to disrupt oil tanker attacks the same day Trump almost authorized military strikes

"[They are] increasing the Iranian stockpile but also keeping it at a relatively low level of 4.5%," he added. The JCPOA limit on uranium enrichment is 3.67%, and experts say 90% enrichment is required for weapons-grade uranium.

"They are talking about advanced centrifuge research and development, but they're not talking about changing the Arak reactor back to making plutonium," Nephew said, referring to the country's large-scale, heavy-water reactor.

He warned, however, that one slight misstep or misunderstanding on either end could jeopardize the fragile US-Iranian relationship and tilt the two countries to war — which neither side wants.

After Iran downed an American drone this June, Trump said he almost ordered a military strike on the country, but pulled out at the last minute.

"I don't see any reason why we can't have continued pressure build — I think that's actually completely consistent with where we're going," Nephew said.

"What I find harder to believe is that the pressure can build without somebody accidentally lighting a match, and that's what I'm more nervous about," he added. "That's what I think is a bigger short-term risk."

Echoing these sentiments, Sherman warned: "War in the Middle East likely would be catastrophic whether by intention, accident, or inadvertence. Military action must always be the last resort."

SEE ALSO: Avi Berkowitz was a White House administrative aide 2 years ago. Now he's taking on the Middle East peace process

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WeWork reportedly hired the parents of a high-ranking exec as real estate brokers, among other potential conflicts of interest

Fri, 09/06/2019 - 8:21pm  |  Clusterstock

  • WeWork, in its public offering documents, disclosed a slew of related-party transactions involving CEO Adam Neumann, his wife, and various family members.
  • But the company didn't disclose a collection of deals involving the family members of other company officials, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.
  • The deals the Journal reported involved family members of Michael Gross, WeWork's vice chair; Arash Gohari, its co-head of real estate; and Granit Gjonbalaj, its chief real estate development officer.
  • WeWork is facing pushback among investors over its planned IPO in part over concerns about such transactions and its broader corporate governance.
  • Read all of Business Insider's WeWork coverage here.

WeWork's recently filed public offering paperwork raised eyebrows with its list of numerous deals the company has been a party to that involve the family members of CEO Adam Neumann and his wife, Rebekah.

As bad as those related-party transactions looked to many corporate governance experts, they weren't all-inclusive. The document left out a collection of transactions involving the family members of other employees, including the parents of Vice Chair Michael Gross, according to a new report in The Wall Street Journal.

WeWork spokeswoman Erin Clark declined to comment on the report.

Read this: Here's how WeWork answered the 5 biggest questions about its business — and why analysts are still worried about its upcoming IPO

The Journal's report details some instances of such so-called related-party transactions, some of which had been previously reported.

WeWork hired Gross' parents to serve as its real-estate brokers for a lease it was negotiating in Miami, The Journal reported, citing unnamed sources familiar with the deal. The company also leased space in Miami at a building partially owned by the brother of Arash Gohari, its co-head of real estate, according to the report.

Additionally, the commercial real-estate company was involved in a series of transactions with the brothers of Granit Gjonbalaj, its chief real estate development officer, according to the Journal. WeWork hired Gjonbalaj from UA Builders, a New York contracting company that had overseen the build out of some of WeWork's early office spaces. Even after hiring Gjonbalaj, WeWork continued to extensively work with UA Builders, which was then run by his brothers, Albert and Jimmy, according to the report.

WeWork has a web of related-party transactions

Gjonbalaj told people at WeWork that he had divested his stake in UA Builders and recused himself from any dealings with the firm, the Journal reported. But the people who interacted with UA Builders still reported to him, a situation that made many feel "uncomfortable," according to the report.

WeWork hired Albert and Jimmy Gjonbalaj last year to set up its own internal contracting operation, according to the Journal. After hiring them, WeWork continued to do business with other firms they owned, including a plumbing company, according to the report. WeWork ended those contracts last year, and Albert and Jimmy Gjonbalaj left the co-working startup earlier this year, the Journal reported. Their brother, Granit Gjonbalaj, remains at WeWork.

It's unclear whether WeWork had an obligation to report the transactions in its IPO paperwork. Standard accounting rules require companies to disclose related party transactions involving not just the principal owners of a company, but also its management and their family members. However, companies may be able to exclude such transactions from their reports if they aren't material to their businesses.

In its filing, WeWork did disclose a series of transactions involving Neumann and his family members. The company has leased space in buildings Neumann partly owns. It purchased the trademark on the name "We" from him for $5.9 million. And it loaned him hundreds of millions of dollars.

Earlier this week, WeWork said Neumann had given the $5.9 million he was paid for the trademark back to the company.

The Journal's report comes as WeWork is facing significant pushback on its planned IPO from potential investors. Other reports this week indicate it's considering debuting on the public markets with a market capitalization of as little as $20 million, or less than half its last private valuation.

Got a tip about WeWork or another company? Contact this reporter via email at twolverton@businessinsider.com, message him on Twitter @troywolv, or send him a secure message through Signal at 415.515.5594. You can also contact Business Insider securely via SecureDrop.

SEE ALSO: WeWork wants investors to think of it as a tech company. These 5 slides illustrate how its numbers tell a different story.

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The American Airlines mechanic charged with sabotaging a plane was previously fired from another airline

Fri, 09/06/2019 - 4:40pm  |  Clusterstock

  • The American Airlines mechanic who was arrested and charged with sabotaging a plane has worked for the airline since 1988.
  • However, for about 10 years, he simultaneously worked for Alaska Airlines, court documents show.
  • He was fired in 2008 for a series of mistakes — and double dipping by clocking in to both jobs at the same time — some of which led to investigations by the FAA, according to court documents obtained by Business Insider from an unsuccessful discrimination suit the mechanic filed against Alaska Airlines.
  • The mechanic said he sabotaged the plane in July because of frustration over contract negotiations between his union and American Airlines, according to the criminal complaint filed against him.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The American Airlines mechanic who was arrested and charged with sabotaging a plane this summer was fired from Alaska Airlines in 2008 after a series of missteps that led to several Federal Aviation Administration investigations, according to court documents obtained by Business Insider from an unsuccessful discrimination suit the mechanic filed against Alaska Airlines.

Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani was arrested by the FBI on Thursday morning and charged with deliberately sabotaging an American Airlines plane that was about to operate a flight from Miami to Nassau, Bahamas.

The criminal complaint filed against Alani said he was "upset" over stalled contract negotiations between the union representing the airline's mechanics — the TWU-IAM Association — and tampered with a sensor connecting to the plane's air data module, or ADM, on July 17. The pilots noted an error message from the ADM as they were positioning on the runway to takeoff and returned to the gate, authorities said in the complaint.

After his arrest, he said he was not trying to hurt anyone on board the plane or cause lasting damage to the aircraft, according to the criminal complaint, and was trying "to cause a delay or have the flight canceled in anticipation of obtaining overtime work."

Alani has worked for American Airlines since 1988 without any major performance or disciplinary issues, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Although he was working in Miami at the time he is suspected of sabotaging the plane, and when he was arrested on Thursday, he was previously based in California, according to public records and the discrimination lawsuit filed by Alani. The FBI described him in a statement to Business insider as a resident of Tracy, California, a town about 60 miles east of San Francisco, where he appears to have been previously based — it was unclear whether Alani had moved to the Florida area, or whether he was commuting for duty using employee travel benefits.

Court documents show that from 1998 to 2008, Alani was also employed by Alaska Airlines. The airline confirmed his dates of employment to Business Insider. He was fired from the airline in 2008 following a maintenance mistake after working there for about 10 years, according to the discrimination lawsuit he filed against Alaska Airlines.

Alaska Airlines also confirmed to Business Insider that Alani was an employee for several months in 1990.

He sued the airline in 2010, alleging he was discriminated against; the court found in favor of Alaska the following year.

During the lawsuit, numerous instances of mistakes by Alani were reported, starting about three years before his termination, according to the court documents viewed by Business Insider.

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According to the court documents, the errors occurred between 2005 and 2008. During some of the incidents, he filed reports under a program called the Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP), which allows employees to self-report safety-related issues and errors, according to court documents of the judge's decision in the lawsuit. ASAP reports can be submitted to the Event Review Committee, or ERC, which is made up of a union representative, an airline representative, and the FAA.

  • In 2005, Alani filed an ASAP report after he entered the wrong code into a maintenance tracking database, according to documents Alaska Airlines entered as evidence. The ERC sent Alani to a "Back-To-Basics" remedial training program, the documents say.
  • Also in 2005, he forgot to check required inspection items when finishing a repair, according to the documents. The ERC closed the report without any further action.
  • In 2007, Alani made a mistake when installing an altimeter, according to the court documents of the judgement, and he submitted an ASAP report and notified the FAA of the potential safety hazard. Afterward, Alani was given an oral warning and told to attend training sessions again, according to the court documents.
  • Also in 2007, he made a mistake while installing a pitot tube, a sensor that helps determine a plane's air speed, according to documents Alaska Airlines entered as evidence. The FAA launched an investigation, while the airline gave Alani a written warning, the documents say.
  • Again in 2007, Alani made a mistake when sending a broken part — a Heads-up Guidance System (HGS) — to a mechanic base in Seattle, leading to it being installed in an in-service aircraft, according to the court documents. He received another oral warning and was told that any additional incidents could lead to his termination, the court documents say.
  • In 2008, according to additional court documents from Alaska, Alani and another employee accidentally installed the wrong battery on a plane. Alani filed another ASAP report and was told that day that he would be suspended pending an internal investigation, according to the documents. Like with the pitot-tube incident, the FAA opened its own investigation, according to the documents, and two weeks later, Alani was fired.

When he was terminated, Alaska Airlines told Alani he was being discharged because of the battery incident, the HGS mistake, and the altimeter issue, the court documents say. Alaska also alleged during the lawsuit that while the airline was investigating the battery episode, the airline found at least three occasions in which Alani was clocked in at both Alaska and his other job at American Airlines.

Alani also had his avionics-technician certificate suspended by the FAA for 30 days after the investigation into the battery error, according to the court documents.

In the ruling against Alani in his discrimination suit, the judge wrote that Alani's performance while at Alaska was clearly below standards.

"Plaintiff has not proved that he was performing his job satisfactorily," he wrote. 

"While it may be true that portions of the blame for the four events that preceded plaintiff's termination may be attributable to other employees, plaintiff is the clear-cut common denominator in all of the incidents," the judge added. "Serious mishaps clustered to plaintiff to an unusual extent."

Alaska Airlines said in a statement that Alani had been a technician for the company but declined to provide further details of his employment, saying that "Alaska does not comment on specific personnel matters of past and present employees."

In a statement on Thursday, American Airlines said it was cooperating with the federal government's investigation:

On July 17, flight 2834 from Miami to Nassau, Bahamas, returned to the gate due to a maintenance issue. Passengers boarded a new aircraft which then re-departed for Nassau. At American we have an unwavering commitment to the safety and security of our customers and team members and we are taking this matter very seriously. At the time of the incident, the aircraft was taken out of service, maintenance was performed and after an inspection to ensure it was safe the aircraft was returned to service. American immediately notified federal law enforcement who took over the investigation with our full cooperation.

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If you are a current or former aircraft technician or airline empolyee and have opinions or experiences to share, email this author at dslotnick@businessinsider.com.

SEE ALSO: An American Airlines mechanic is accused of sabotaging a plane in Miami because of stalled contract negotiations

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Stocks rise as traders are reassured the Fed will cut rates in September

Fri, 09/06/2019 - 4:08pm  |  Clusterstock

  • Stocks rose on Friday after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said during a speech in Zurich that the central will continue to "act as appropriate" to support US economic growth. 
  • Powell has repeated the statement several times before, and investors are interpreting it as a sign the Fed will continue to lower borrowing costs this year. 
  • The August jobs report from the Labor Department showed that US hiring slowed but remained solid  last month. 
  • Visit the Markets Insider homepage for more stories.

Stocks climbed on Friday after Federal Chairman Jerome Powell reassured investors that the central bank will cut its benchmark interest rate again this year to support economic growth. 

Powell said the fed will "act as appropriate" to sustain the US expansion while speaking at a forum in Zurich on Friday. The Fed chairman has repeated the same statement during other speeches, and investors are interpreting it as a hint that the central bank will step in to shore up the US economist with rate cuts. 

Powell also said the Fed doesn't expect the US to fall into a recession and that low rate are already propping up the economy. 

"The Fed has through the course of the year seen fit to lower the expected path of interest rates," he said during his speech. "That is one of the reasons why the outlook is still a favorable one."

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Major US indexes were relatively flat early in the day after the August jobs report from the US Labor Deparment showed hiring slowed but remained solid last month. The US economy added 130,000 nonfarm payrolls last month, fewer than the 160,000 expected by economists. 

Here's a look at the major indexes as of the 4 p.m. close on Wednesday:

Shares of Facebook tumbled as much as 2.4% after New York Attorney General Letitia James announced her office is leading a multi-state probe into the social media company. The investigation is expected to focus on the social media company's handling of a consumer data and whether or not its engaged anticompetitive practices. 

Lululemon's stock price surged 8% after the retailer posted second-quarter results that smashed Wall Street expectations. The company also raised its full-year profit forecast following the strong performance. Mens sales grew 35% from the same period last year, fueling Lululemon's sales and earnings beat. 

Within the S&P 500, these were the largest gainers:

And the largest decliners:

Materials and energy stocks posted the strongest gains within the S&P 500 on Friday, rising 0.52% and 0.48%, respectively. Utilities fell 0.33%, while communications services slipped 0.23%.

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