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AJ ALMENDINGER

glimpse into the future of Roblox

Our vision to bring the world together through play has never been more relevant than it is now. As our founder and CEO, David Baszucki (a.k.a. Builderman), mentioned in his keynote, more and more people are using Roblox to stay connected with their friends and loved ones. He hinted at a future where, with our automatic machine translation technology, Roblox will one day act as a universal translator, enabling people from different cultures and backgrounds to connect and learn from each other.
During his keynote, Builderman also elaborated upon our vision to build the Metaverse; the future of avatar creation on the platform (infinitely customizable avatars that allow any body, any clothing, and any animation to come together seamlessly); more personalized game discovery; and simulating large social gatherings (like concerts, graduations, conferences, etc.) with tens of thousands of participants all in one server. We’re still very early on in this journey, but if these past five months have shown us anything, it’s clear that there is a growing need for human co-experience platforms like Roblox that allow people to play, create, learn, work, and share experiences together in a safe, civil 3D immersive space.
Up next, our VP of Developer Relations, Matt Curtis (a.k.a. m4rrh3w), shared an update on all the things we’re doing to continue empowering developers to create innovative and exciting content through collaboration, support, and expertise. He also highlighted some of the impressive milestones our creator community has achieved since last year’s RDC. Here are a few key takeaways:
And lastly, our VP of Engineering, Technology, Adam Miller (a.k.a. rbadam), unveiled a myriad of cool and upcoming features developers will someday be able to sink their teeth into. We saw a glimpse of procedural skies, skinned meshes, more high-quality materials, new terrain types, more fonts in Studio, a new asset type for in-game videos, haptic feedback on mobile, real-time CSG operations, and many more awesome tools that will unlock the potential for even bigger, more immersive experiences on Roblox.

Vibin’

Despite the virtual setting, RDC just wouldn’t have been the same without any fun party activities and networking opportunities. So, we invited special guests DJ Hyper Potions and cyber mentalist Colin Cloud for some truly awesome, truly mind-bending entertainment. Yoga instructor Erin Gilmore also swung by to inspire attendees to get out of their chair and get their body moving. And of course, we even had virtual rooms dedicated to karaoke and head-to-head social games, like trivia and Pictionary.
Over on the networking side, Team Adopt Me, Red Manta, StyLiS Studios, and Summit Studios hosted a virtual booth for attendees to ask questions, submit resumes, and more. We also had a networking session where three participants would be randomly grouped together to get to know each other.

What does Roblox mean to you?

We all know how talented the Roblox community is from your creations. We’ve heard plenty of stories over the years about how Roblox has touched your lives, how you’ve made friendships, learned new skills, or simply found a place where you can be yourself. We wanted to hear more. So, we asked attendees: What does Roblox mean to you? How has Roblox connected you? How has Roblox changed your life? Then, over the course of RDC, we incorporated your responses into this awesome mural.
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Created by Alece Birnbach at Graphic Recording Studio

Knowledge is power

This year’s breakout sessions included presentations from Roblox developers and staff members on the latest game development strategies, a deep dive into the Roblox engine, learning how to animate with Blender, tools for working together in teams, building performant game worlds, and the new Creator Dashboard. Dr. Michael Rich, Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School and Physician at Boston Children’s Hospital, also led attendees through a discussion on mental health and how to best take care of you and your friends’ emotional well-being, especially now during these challenging times.
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Making the Dream Work with Teamwork (presented by Roblox developer Myzta)
In addition to our traditional Q&A panel with top product and engineering leaders at Roblox, we also held a special session with Builderman himself to answer the community’s biggest questions.
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Roblox Product and Engineering Q&A Panel

2020 Game Jam

The Game Jam is always one of our favorite events of RDC. It’s a chance for folks to come together, flex their development skills, and come up with wildly inventive game ideas that really push the boundaries of what’s possible on Roblox. We had over 60 submissions this year—a new RDC record.
Once again, teams of up to six people from around the world had less than 24 hours to conceptualize, design, and publish a game based on the theme “2020 Vision,” all while working remotely no less! To achieve such a feat is nothing short of awe-inspiring, but as always, our dev community was more than up for the challenge. I’ve got to say, these were some of the finest creations we’ve seen.
WINNERS
Best in Show: Shapescape Created By: GhettoMilkMan, dayzeedog, maplestick, theloudscream, Brick_man, ilyannna You awaken in a strange laboratory, seemingly with no way out. Using a pair of special glasses, players must solve a series of anamorphic puzzles and optical illusions to make their escape.
Excellence in Visual Art: agn●sia Created By: boatbomber, thisfall, Elttob An obby experience unlike any other, this game is all about seeing the world through a different lens. Reveal platforms by switching between different colored lenses and make your way to the end.
Most Creative Gameplay: Visions of a perspective reality Created By: Noble_Draconian and Spathi Sometimes all it takes is a change in perspective to solve challenges. By switching between 2D and 3D perspectives, players can maneuver around obstacles or find new ways to reach the end of each level.
Outstanding Use of Tech: The Eyes of Providence Created By: Quenty, Arch_Mage, AlgyLacey, xJennyBeanx, Zomebody, Crykee This action/strategy game comes with a unique VR twist. While teams fight to construct the superior monument, two VR players can support their minions by collecting resources and manipulating the map.
Best Use of Theme: Sticker Situation Created By: dragonfrosting and Yozoh Set in a mysterious art gallery, players must solve puzzles by manipulating the environment using a magic camera and stickers. Snap a photograph, place down a sticker, and see how it changes the world.
OTHER TOP PICKS
HONORABLE MENTIONS
For the rest of the 2020 Game Jam submissions, check out the list below:
20-20 Vision | 20/20 Vision | 2020 Vision, A Crazy Perspective | 2020 Vision: Nyon | A Wild Trip! | Acuity | Best Year Ever | Better Half | Bloxlabs | Climb Stairs to 2021 | Double Vision (Team hey apple) | Eyebrawl | Eyeworm Exam | FIRE 2020 | HACKED | Hyperspective | Lucid Scream | Mystery Mansion | New Years at the Museum | New Year’s Bash | Poor Vision | Predict 2020 | RBC News | Retrovertigo | Second Wave | see no evil | Sight Fight | Sight Stealers | Spectacles Struggle | Specter Spectrum | Survive 2020 | The Lost Chicken Leg | The Outbreak | The Spyglass | Time Heist | Tunnel Vision | Virtual RDC – The Story | Vision (Team Freepunk) | Vision (Team VIP People ####) | Vision Developers Conference 2020 | Vision Is Key | Vision Perspective | Vision Racer | Visions | Zepto
And last but not least, we wanted to give a special shout out to Starboard Studios. Though they didn’t quite make it on time for our judges, we just had to include Dave’s Vision for good measure. 📷
Thanks to everyone who participated in the Game Jam, and congrats to all those who took home the dub in each of our categories this year. As the winners of Best in Show, the developers of Shapescape will have their names forever engraved on the RDC Game Jam trophy back at Roblox HQ. Great work!

‘Til next year

And that about wraps up our coverage of the first-ever digital RDC. Thanks to all who attended! Before we go, we wanted to share a special “behind the scenes” video from the 2020 RDC photoshoot.
Check it out:
It was absolutely bonkers. Getting 350 of us all in one server was so much fun and really brought back the feeling of being together with everyone again. That being said, we can’t wait to see you all—for real this time—at RDC next year. It’s going to be well worth the wait. ‘Til we meet again, my friends.
© 2020 Roblox Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Improving Simulation and Performance with an Advanced Physics Solver

August

05, 2020

by chefdeletat
PRODUCT & TECH
📷In mid-2015, Roblox unveiled a major upgrade to its physics engine: the Projected Gauss-Seidel (PGS) physics solver. For the first year, the new solver was optional and provided improved fidelity and greater performance compared to the previously used spring solver.
In 2016, we added support for a diverse set of new physics constraints, incentivizing developers to migrate to the new solver and extending the creative capabilities of the physics engine. Any new places used the PGS solver by default, with the option of reverting back to the classic solver.
We ironed out some stability issues associated with high mass differences and complex mechanisms by the introduction of the hybrid LDL-PGS solver in mid-2018. This made the old solver obsolete, and it was completely disabled in 2019, automatically migrating all places to the PGS.
In 2019, the performance was further improved using multi-threading that splits the simulation into jobs consisting of connected islands of simulating parts. We still had performance issues related to the LDL that we finally resolved in early 2020.
The physics engine is still being improved and optimized for performance, and we plan on adding new features for the foreseeable future.

Implementing the Laws of Physics

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The main objective of a physics engine is to simulate the motion of bodies in a virtual environment. In our physics engine, we care about bodies that are rigid, that collide and have constraints with each other.
A physics engine is organized into two phases: collision detection and solving. Collision detection finds intersections between geometries associated with the rigid bodies, generating appropriate collision information such as collision points, normals and penetration depths. Then a solver updates the motion of rigid bodies under the influence of the collisions that were detected and constraints that were provided by the user.
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The motion is the result of the solver interpreting the laws of physics, such as conservation of energy and momentum. But doing this 100% accurately is prohibitively expensive, and the trick to simulating it in real-time is to approximate to increase performance, as long as the result is physically realistic. As long as the basic laws of motion are maintained within a reasonable tolerance, this tradeoff is completely acceptable for a computer game simulation.

Taking Small Steps

The main idea of the physics engine is to discretize the motion using time-stepping. The equations of motion of constrained and unconstrained rigid bodies are very difficult to integrate directly and accurately. The discretization subdivides the motion into small time increments, where the equations are simplified and linearized making it possible to solve them approximately. This means that during each time step the motion of the relevant parts of rigid bodies that are involved in a constraint is linearly approximated.
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Although a linearized problem is easier to solve, it produces drift in a simulation containing non-linear behaviors, like rotational motion. Later we’ll see mitigation methods that help reduce the drift and make the simulation more plausible.

Solving

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Having linearized the equations of motion for a time step, we end up needing to solve a linear system or linear complementarity problem (LCP). These systems can be arbitrarily large and can still be quite expensive to solve exactly. Again the trick is to find an approximate solution using a faster method. A modern method to approximately solve an LCP with good convergence properties is the Projected Gauss-Seidel (PGS). It is an iterative method, meaning that with each iteration the approximate solution is brought closer to the true solution, and its final accuracy depends on the number of iterations.
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This animation shows how a PGS solver changes the positions of the bodies at each step of the iteration process, the objective being to find the positions that respect the ball and socket constraints while preserving the center of mass at each step (this is a type of positional solver used by the IK dragger). Although this example has a simple analytical solution, it’s a good demonstration of the idea behind the PGS. At each step, the solver fixes one of the constraints and lets the other be violated. After a few iterations, the bodies are very close to their correct positions. A characteristic of this method is how some rigid bodies seem to vibrate around their final position, especially when coupling interactions with heavier bodies. If we don’t do enough iterations, the yellow part might be left in a visibly invalid state where one of its two constraints is dramatically violated. This is called the high mass ratio problem, and it has been the bane of physics engines as it causes instabilities and explosions. If we do too many iterations, the solver becomes too slow, if we don’t it becomes unstable. Balancing the two sides has been a painful and long process.

Mitigation Strategies

📷A solver has two major sources of inaccuracies: time-stepping and iterative solving (there is also floating point drift but it’s minor compared to the first two). These inaccuracies introduce errors in the simulation causing it to drift from the correct path. Some of this drift is tolerable like slightly different velocities or energy loss, but some are not like instabilities, large energy gains or dislocated constraints.
Therefore a lot of the complexity in the solver comes from the implementation of methods to minimize the impact of computational inaccuracies. Our final implementation uses some traditional and some novel mitigation strategies:
  1. Warm starting: starting with the solution from a previous time-step to increase the convergence rate of the iterative solver
  2. Post-stabilization: reprojecting the system back to the constraint manifold to prevent constraint drift
  3. Regularization: adding compliance to the constraints ensuring a solution exists and is unique
  4. Pre-conditioning: using an exact solution to a linear subsystem, improving the stability of complex mechanisms
Strategies 1, 2 and 3 are pretty traditional, but 3 has been improved and perfected by us. Also, although 4 is not unheard of, we haven’t seen any practical implementation of it. We use an original factorization method for large sparse constraint matrices and a new efficient way of combining it with the PGS. The resulting implementation is only slightly slower compared to pure PGS but ensures that the linear system coming from equality constraints is solved exactly. Consequently, the equality constraints suffer only from drift coming from the time discretization. Details on our methods are contained in my GDC 2020 presentation. Currently, we are investigating direct methods applied to inequality constraints and collisions.

Getting More Details

Traditionally there are two mathematical models for articulated mechanisms: there are reduced coordinate methods spearheaded by Featherstone, that parametrize the degrees of freedom at each joint, and there are full coordinate methods that use a Lagrangian formulation.
We use the second formulation as it is less restrictive and requires much simpler mathematics and implementation.
The Roblox engine uses analytical methods to compute the dynamic response of constraints, as opposed to penalty methods that were used before. Analytics methods were initially introduced in Baraff 1989, where they are used to treat both equality and non-equality constraints in a consistent manner. Baraff observed that the contact model can be formulated using quadratic programming, and he provided a heuristic solution method (which is not the method we use in our solver).
Instead of using force-based formulation, we use an impulse-based formulation in velocity space, originally introduced by Mirtich-Canny 1995 and further improved by Stewart-Trinkle 1996, which unifies the treatment of different contact types and guarantees the existence of a solution for contacts with friction. At each timestep, the constraints and collisions are maintained by applying instantaneous changes in velocities due to constraint impulses. An excellent explanation of why impulse-based simulation is superior is contained in the GDC presentation of Catto 2014.
The frictionless contacts are modeled using a linear complementarity problem (LCP) as described in Baraff 1994. Friction is added as a non-linear projection onto the friction cone, interleaved with the iterations of the Projected Gauss-Seidel.
The numerical drift that introduces positional errors in the constraints is resolved using a post-stabilization technique using pseudo-velocities introduced by Cline-Pai 2003. It involves solving a second LCP in the position space, which projects the system back to the constraint manifold.
The LCPs are solved using a PGS / Impulse Solver popularized by Catto 2005 (also see Catto 2009). This method is iterative and considers each individual constraints in sequence and resolves it independently. Over many iterations, and in ideal conditions, the system converges to a global solution.
Additionally, high mass ratio issues in equality constraints are ironed out by preconditioning the PGS using the sparse LDL decomposition of the constraint matrix of equality constraints. Dense submatrices of the constraint matrix are sparsified using a method we call Body Splitting. This is similar to the LDL decomposition used in Baraff 1996, but allows more general mechanical systems, and solves the system in constraint space. For more information, you can see my GDC 2020 presentation.
The architecture of our solver follows the idea of Guendelman-Bridson-Fedkiw, where the velocity and position stepping are separated by the constraint resolution. Our time sequencing is:
  1. Advance velocities
  2. Constraint resolution in velocity space and position space
  3. Advance positions
This scheme has the advantage of integrating only valid velocities, and limiting latency in external force application but allowing a small amount of perceived constraint violation due to numerical drift.
An excellent reference for rigid body simulation is the book Erleben 2005 that was recently made freely available. You can find online lectures about physics-based animation, a blog by Nilson Souto on building a physics engine, a very good GDC presentation by Erin Catto on modern solver methods, and forums like the Bullet Physics Forum and GameDev which are excellent places to ask questions.

In Conclusion

The field of game physics simulation presents many interesting problems that are both exciting and challenging. There are opportunities to learn a substantial amount of cool mathematics and physics and to use modern optimizations techniques. It’s an area of game development that tightly marries mathematics, physics and software engineering.
Even if Roblox has a good rigid body physics engine, there are areas where it can be improved and optimized. Also, we are working on exciting new projects like fracturing, deformation, softbody, cloth, aerodynamics and water simulation.
Neither Roblox Corporation nor this blog endorses or supports any company or service. Also, no guarantees or promises are made regarding the accuracy, reliability or completeness of the information contained in this blog.
This blog post was originally published on the Roblox Tech Blog.
© 2020 Roblox Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Using Clang to Minimize Global Variable Use

July

23, 2020

by RandomTruffle
PRODUCT & TECH
Every non-trivial program has at least some amount of global state, but too much can be a bad thing. In C++ (which constitutes close to 100% of Roblox’s engine code) this global state is initialized before main() and destroyed after returning from main(), and this happens in a mostly non-deterministic order. In addition to leading to confusing startup and shutdown semantics that are difficult to reason about (or change), it can also lead to severe instability.
Roblox code also creates a lot of long-running detached threads (threads which are never joined and just run until they decide to stop, which might be never). These two things together have a very serious negative interaction on shutdown, because long-running threads continue accessing the global state that is being destroyed. This can lead to elevated crash rates, test suite flakiness, and just general instability.
The first step to digging yourself out of a mess like this is to understand the extent of the problem, so in this post I’m going to talk about one technique you can use to gain visibility into your global startup flow. I’m also going to discuss how we are using this to improve stability across the entire Roblox game engine platform by decreasing our use of global variables.

Introducing -finstrument-functions

Nothing excites me more than learning about a new obscure compiler option that I’ve never had a use for before, so I was pretty happy when a colleague pointed me to this option in the Clang Command Line Reference. I’d never used it before, but it sounded very cool. The idea being that if we could get the compiler to tell us every time it entered and exited a function, we could filter this information through a symbolizer of some kind and generate a report of functions that a) occur before main(), and b) are the very first function in the call-stack (indicating it’s a global).
Unfortunately, the documentation basically just tells you that the option exists with no mention of how to use it or if it even actually does what it sounds like it does. There’s also two different options that sound similar to each other (-finstrument-functions and -finstrument-functions-after-inlining), and I still wasn’t entirely sure what the difference was. So I decided to throw up a quick sample on godbolt to see what happened, which you can see here. Note there are two assembly outputs for the same source listing. One uses the first option and the other uses the second option, and we can compare the assembly output to understand the differences. We can gather a few takeaways from this sample:
  1. The compiler is injecting calls to __cyg_profile_func_enter and __cyg_profile_func_exit inside of every function, inline or not.
  2. The only difference between the two options occurs at the call-site of an inline function.
  3. With -finstrument-functions, the instrumentation for the inlined function is inserted at the call-site, whereas with -finstrument-functions-after-inlining we only have instrumentation for the outer function. This means that when using-finstrument-functions-after-inlining you won’t be able to determine which functions are inlined and where.
Of course, this sounds exactly like what the documentation said it did, but sometimes you just need to look under the hood to convince yourself.
To put all of this another way, if we want to know about calls to inline functions in this trace we need to use -finstrument-functions because otherwise their instrumentation is silently removed by the compiler. Sadly, I was never able to get -finstrument-functions to work on a real example. I would always end up with linker errors deep in the Standard C++ Library which I was unable to figure out. My best guess is that inlining is often a heuristic, and this can somehow lead to subtle ODR (one-definition rule) violations when the optimizer makes different inlining decisions from different translation units. Luckily global constructors (which is what we care about) cannot possibly be inlined anyway, so this wasn’t a problem.
I suppose I should also mention that I still got tons of linker errors with -finstrument-functions-after-inlining as well, but I did figure those out. As best as I can tell, this option seems to imply –whole-archive linker semantics. Discussion of –whole-archive is outside the scope of this blog post, but suffice it to say that I fixed it by using linker groups (e.g. -Wl,–start-group and -Wl,–end-group) on the compiler command line. I was a bit surprised that we didn’t get these same linker errors without this option and still don’t totally understand why. If you happen to know why this option would change linker semantics, please let me know in the comments!

Implementing the Callback Hooks

If you’re astute, you may be wondering what in the world __cyg_profile_func_enter and __cyg_profile_func_exit are and why the program is even successfully linking in the first without giving undefined symbol reference errors, since the compiler is apparently trying to call some function we’ve never defined. Luckily, there are some options that allow us to see inside the linker’s algorithm so we can find out where it’s getting this symbol from to begin with. Specifically, -y should tell us how the linker is resolving . We’ll try it with a dummy program first and a symbol that we’ve defined ourselves, then we’ll try it with __cyg_profile_func_enter .
[email protected]:~/src/sandbox$ cat instr.cpp int main() {} [email protected]:~/src/sandbox$ clang++-9 -fuse-ld=lld -Wl,-y -Wl,main instr.cpp /usbin/../lib/gcc/x86_64-linux-gnu/crt1.o: reference to main /tmp/instr-5b6c60.o: definition of main
No surprises here. The C Runtime Library references main(), and our object file defines it. Now let’s see what happens with __cyg_profile_func_enter and -finstrument-functions-after-inlining.
[email protected]:~/src/sandbox$ clang++-9 -fuse-ld=lld -finstrument-functions-after-inlining -Wl,-y -Wl,__cyg_profile_func_enter instr.cpp /tmp/instr-8157b3.o: reference to __cyg_profile_func_enter /lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libc.so.6: shared definition of __cyg_profile_func_enter
Now, we see that libc provides the definition, and our object file references it. Linking works a bit differently on Unix-y platforms than it does on Windows, but basically this means that if we define this function ourselves in our cpp file, the linker will just automatically prefer it over the shared library version. Working godbolt link without runtime output is here. So now you can kind of see where this is going, however there are still a couple of problems left to solve.
  1. We don’t want to do this for a full run of the program. We want to stop as soon as we reach main.
  2. We need a way to symbolize this trace.
The first problem is easy to solve. All we need to do is compare the address of the function being called to the address of main, and set a flag indicating we should stop tracing henceforth. (Note that taking the address of main is undefined behavior[1], but for our purposes it gets the job done, and we aren’t shipping this code, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯). The second problem probably deserves a little more discussion though.

Symbolizing the Traces

In order to symbolize these traces, we need two things. First, we need to store the trace somewhere on persistent storage. We can’t expect to symbolize in real time with any kind of reasonable performance. You can write some C code to save the trace to some magic filename, or you can do what I did and just write it to stderr (this way you can pipe stderr to some file when you run it).
Second, and perhaps more importantly, for every address we need to write out the full path to the module the address belongs to. Your program loads many shared libraries, and in order to translate an address into a symbol, we have to know which shared library or executable the address actually belongs to. In addition, we have to be careful to write out the address of the symbol in the file on disk. When your program is running, the operating system could have loaded it anywhere in memory. And if we’re going to symbolize it after the fact we need to make sure we can still reference it after the information about where it was loaded in memory is lost. The linux function dladdr() gives us both pieces of information we need. A working godbolt sample with the exact implementation of our instrumentation hooks as they appear in our codebase can be found here.

Putting it All Together

Now that we have a file in this format saved on disk, all we need to do is symbolize the addresses. addr2line is one option, but I went with llvm-symbolizer as I find it more robust. I wrote a Python script to parse the file and symbolize each address, then print it in the same “visual” hierarchical format that the original output file is in. There are various options for filtering the resulting symbol list so that you can clean up the output to include only things that are interesting for your case. For example, I filtered out any globals that have boost:: in their name, because I can’t exactly go rewrite boost to not use global variables.
The script isn’t as simple as you would think, because simply crawling each line and symbolizing it would be unacceptably slow (when I tried this, it took over 2 hours before I finally killed the process). This is because the same address might appear thousands of times, and there’s no reason to run llvm-symbolizer against the same address multiple times. So there’s a lot of smarts in there to pre-process the address list and eliminate duplicates. I won’t discuss the implementation in more detail because it isn’t super interesting. But I’ll do even better and provide the source!
So after all of this, we can run any one of our internal targets to get the call tree, run it through the script, and then get output like this (actual output from a Roblox process, source file information removed):
excluded_symbols = [‘.\boost.*’]* excluded_modules = [‘/usr.\’]* /uslib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libLLVM-9.so.1: 140 unique addresses InterestingRobloxProcess: 38928 unique addresses /uslib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libstdc++.so.6: 1 unique addresses /uslib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libc++.so.1: 3 unique addresses Printing call tree with depth 2 for 29276 global variables. __cxx_global_var_init.5 (InterestingFile1.cpp:418:22) RBX::InterestingRobloxClass2::InterestingRobloxClass2() (InterestingFile2.cpp.:415:0) __cxx_global_var_init.19 (InterestingFile2.cpp:183:34) (anonymous namespace)::InterestingRobloxClass2::InterestingRobloxClass2() (InterestingFile2.cpp:171:0) __cxx_global_var_init.274 (InterestingFile3.cpp:2364:33) RBX::InterestingRobloxClass3::InterestingRobloxClass3()
So there you have it: the first half of the battle is over. I can run this script on every platform, compare results to understand what order our globals are actually initialized in in practice, then slowly migrate this code out of global initializers and into main where it can be deterministic and explicit.

Future Work

It occurred to me sometime after implementing this that we could make a general purpose profiling hook that exposed some public symbols (dllexport’ed if you speak Windows), and allowed a plugin module to hook into this dynamically. This plugin module could filter addresses using whatever arbitrary logic that it was interested in. One interesting use case I came up for this is that it could look up the debug information, check if the current address maps to the constructor of a function local static, and write out the address if so. This effectively allows us to gain a deeper understanding of the order in which our lazy statics are initialized. The possibilities are endless here.

Further Reading

If you’re interested in this kind of thing, I’ve collected a couple of my favorite references for this kind of topic.
  1. Various: The C++ Language Standard
  2. Matt Godbolt: The Bits Between the Bits: How We Get to main()
  3. Ryan O’Neill: Learning Linux Binary Analysis
  4. Linkers and Loaders: John R. Levine
  5. https://eel.is/c++draft/basic.exec#basic.start.main-3
Neither Roblox Corporation nor this blog endorses or supports any company or service. Also, no guarantees or promises are made regarding the accuracy, reliability or completeness of the information contained in this blog.
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Victoria’s Secret: Have the Angels Fallen from Grace? (Interesting article on how the Epstein saga has affected the VS Brand)

Link to article
Link to archive of article: (I recommend archiving every article you come across. I usually use www.archive.is because I find it more user-friendly than The Wayback Machine.)
TEXT OF ARTICLE
Victoria’s Secret: Have the Angels Fallen from Grace?
by Dimitar Ganev | Oct 2, 2019

Victoria’s Secret, the largest lingerie retailer in the US, has been one of the most iconic apparel brands since the 1990s, not least because its sexually charged imaging set the industry’s standard for decades and exerted a strong influence on body image norms. But since 2015, the shares of its parent company L Brands have been dropping as sales keep taking hits from shifting consumer tastes, executive turnovers and emerging competition.
The Victoria’s Secret brand, built on skinny girls and scantily clad lingerie, is now largely perceived as inadequate for a time when consumers’ preferences have moved away from sex appeal and towards empowerment, inclusiveness and comfort. To many, the brand’s traditional marketing strategy, which bets on fashion shows where supermodels walk in stiletto heels and angel wings, seems tone-deaf in the era of #MeToo, which condemns all forms of objectifying women and imposing hard-to-achieve beauty standards.
The Victoria’s Secret Angels, once considered symbols of sexiness, have now started to alienate consumers: a recent study found that 68% of them like the brand “less than they used to” and 60% feel that Victoria’s Secret is “forced” or “fake.” Demand for its products has cooled as up-and-coming rival brands have become more attractive by promoting themselves through unedited images featuring women of more diverse shapes and sizes. The retail giant reported that it will close 53 stores in North America this year, citing a “decline in performance.”
The brand itself admitted that it relied on hypersexualised imaging for far too long and it needs to rethink its identity. At L Brands‘ recent investor day, John Mehas, head of Victoria’s Secret Lingerie, asserted that the company needs to evolve and to reconnect with consumers by launching new products, hiring new executives and using new marketing strategies.
An essential part of the narrative shift would be a more diverse group of models, improving the merchandise, replacing the brand’s marketing chief and “rethinking” its annual Victoria’s Secret fashion show, the only fashion show regularly broadcast around the world, whose ratings keep falling. The brand hinted that network television would no longer be the “right fit” for the event, which has been criticised for being focused on empowering the models who walk in it instead of trying to relate to consumers.
Inclusivity, Diversity and Epstein
Many specialised fashion publications and business outlets embarked on questioning how the once-beloved brand managed to garner such a bad reputation. Analysing the media conversation around Victoria’s Secret in the top-tier English language publications from October 2018 to September 2019, we found that the most often discussed topics were body inclusivity, the company’s ties with Jeffrey Epstein and gender diversity:
The strongest coverage drivers for both the “Body inclusivity” and “LGBTQ+ diversity” topics were the comments which 71-year-old chief marketing officer Ed Razek made in a 2018 interview with Vogue that quickly went viral. Razek, who reportedly has final say over who’s in the televised fashion show, said that he didn’t think Victoria’s Secret‘s fashion event should include transgender or plus-size models because it is supposed to be “a fantasy”.
“Shouldn’t you have transsexuals in the show? No. No, I don’t think we should,” he said. “Well, why not? Because the show is a fantasy. It’s a 42-minute entertainment special. That’s what it is. It is the only one of its kind in the world, and any other fashion brand in the world would take it in a minute, including the competitors that are carping at us. And they carp at us because we’re the leader.”
The remarks prompted a strong backlash from consumers. As with the most severe social media crises, Victoria’s Secret was embroiled in an outrage cascade — outbursts of moral judgment which start to drive the conversation around brands, their products and their corporate messages. In these cases, the virality of moral judgements is facilitated by the fact that most of the content on social media feeds and timelines is sorted according to its likelihood to generate engagement.
The fact that fashion brands in particular face a growing number of crises could be explained by the supposition that fashion items are often taken to be markers of cultural and social identity, and thus are susceptible to be perceived as controversial across social networks. For instance, designers often draw inspiration from other cultures’ traditions, which has recently given rise to accusations of “cultural appropriation”.
Razek later used the company’s Twitter account to issue a formal apology, saying that his remark “came across as insensitive.”
In August 2019, Razek retired just days after the lingerie brand hired its first openly transgender model for its teen label PINK: Brazilian Valentina Sampaio. The hire was generally welcomed by commentators – for instance, Kendall Jenner, daughter of trans icon Caitlyn Jenner, posted “celebrate trans women” to her 98 million Instagram followers.
Meanwhile, media monitoring organisation GLAAD, which deals with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues, said Sampaio’s move comes as transgender people are becoming more visible in advertising. Examples of the trend include recent campaigns by Calvin Klein, Gap and H&M, while Playboy’s first transgender Playmate appeared in 2017.
Another strong coverage driver within the ‘Body inclusivity‘ topic was the protest outside Victoria’s Secret‘s store on Oxford Street in London, in which protesters stripped to their underwear and held signs demanding more diversity in fashion. To address such concerns, the latest investor meeting saw Victoria’s Secret deciding it will no longer rely on a small group of supermodels to promote its sexy lingerie, in a bid to use more inclusive marketing.
An example of this new strategy was an Instagram post of model Barbara Palvin, which was celebrated for being more body-inclusive, as social media users perceived Palvin to be curvier than the other supermodels. The post received over 780,000 likes in two days, generating 4.2 times the average number of likes, with users commenting that the model looks “normal” and “healthy”.
But the brand wasn’t that successful in managing another crisis: the widely publicised ties between L Brands founder Les Wexner and financier Jeffrey Epstein, an accused child sex trafficker who committed suicide in jail. Although Epstein didn’t actually work for Victoria’s Secret or L Brands, he had control over Wexner’s finances and personal life, according to reporting by The New York Times, and used his connections with Victoria’s Secret to facilitate his alleged crimes.
L Brands tried to distance itself from Epstein, saying it had cut ties with him nearly 12 years ago and disclosing that it had hired outside counsel to review the case. Wexner said: “Being taken advantage of by someone who was so sick, so cunning, so depraved, is something that I’m embarrassed that I was even close to. But that is in the past.”
In many media reports, the ‘Epstein ties‘ topic was closely related to the ‘Sexual harassment‘ topic, which was dominated by a petition urging Victoria’s Secret to take a stand against sexual harassment and violence. The open letter was addressed to Victoria’s Secret CEO John Mehas and signed by more than 100 models, many of whom have worked with the brand in the past, and also by the Model Alliance, an advocacy organisation in the fashion industry, and the Time’s Up movement against sexual harassment which was founded in response to the Weinstein effect and #MeToo.
The petition cited “numerous allegations of sexual assault, alleged rape, and sex trafficking of models and aspiring models”. Several of the company’s photographers have been accused of misconduct, on top of the links with Jeffrey Epstein. A Victoria’s Secret spokesperson said the firm has been in conversations with the Model Alliance “for some time”: “We are always concerned about the welfare of our models and want to continue to have dialogue with the Model Alliance and others to accomplish meaningful progress in the industry.”
Crisis mode
Ed Razek‘s aforementioned controversial comments regarding transgender and plus-size models made him the most often quoted spokesperson in the discussion around Victoria’s Secret:
Razek’s dominance in the conversation underlined the crisis of perception the brand suffers: his remarks were taken by many media outlets as a sign that the brand is unwilling to adapt to the current sociocultural climate. Models who have previously worked with the brand and who had a relatively large share of voice in the media conversation were quick to criticise him. For example. Karlie Kloss and Lily Aldridge posted a photo reading “Trans and GNC [gender non-conforming] people are not a debate” to their Instagram stories.
Karlie Kloss was one of the most vocal critics: she recently told Vogue that she had decided to terminate her relationship with Victoria’s Secret because the image was not “truly reflective” of who she was and the “kind of message I want to send to young women around the world about what it means to be beautiful.” Model Tess Holliday was harsher, leaving a message to Razek on Twitter following his Vogue interview: “Who needs VS anyway? They never supported plus ladies & now they are trying to dis my trans sisters? Hell nah. Kiss my fat ass, [Victoria’s Secret].”
The majority of media reports on Razek’s retirement announcement cited these remarks as one of the key points in his career and highlighted that he was one of the main figures in the highly sexualised beauty ideal put forth by the brand. The crisis of perception was also emphasised by the fact that L Brands CEO Les Wexner, another major corporate spokesperson in the conversation, was quoted primarily in relation to the Epstein scandal.
However, some of the spokespeople portrayed Victoria’s Secret in a positive light. Adriana Lima, one of the best-known Angels, quit the label after two decades and 18 fashion shows with the brand, sharing the news on Instagram with a heartfelt caption: “Dear Victoria, Thank you for showing me the world, sharing your secrets, and most importantly not just giving me wings but teaching me to fly.”
And while she presented the brand positively, some media publications reminded their readers of a an interview she gave to Grazia in 2011 in which she outlined the physical challenges she went through in order to be in shape, especially after her pregnancy.
Angel Behati Prinsloo tried to defend the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show against the criticism for its lack of transgender models and diverse body types. In an interview with Elle, she explained what the show stands for: ‘There’s a lot of talk about everything but I think people need to also understand that it’s a show. It’s not saying negative or positive about any body type, it’s ‘this is who they are’.”
In the meantime, Barbara Palvin was named as a Victoria’s Secret Angel after the successful Instagram post which customers perceived to be more body-inclusive. She announced the news to fans also via Instagram and her hire was generally interpreted by the media as a sign that the label is finally starting to listen to its critics.
CEO John Mehas‘ comments about the brand’s marketing shift were met with similar enthusiasm, especially his plans to include messaging that responds to the #MeToo movement. But the most warmly welcomed move was the hire of Valentina Sampaio: although some publications suggested that the brand’s first openly transgender model came too late, most commentators said that the retailer has finally moved in the right direction.
Lingerie wars
While Victoria’s Secret is caught up in a fierce discussion, L Brands‘ other flagship label, Bath & Body Works, a personal-goods retailer, continues to report strong earnings, supporting its struggling parent. Many reports on Victoria’s Secret‘s controversial reputation outlined this development, making Bath & Body Works the most frequently mentioned brand in the conversation:
While L Brands is firmly focused on the Victoria’s Secret turnaround story, Bath & Body Work is perceived as staying relevant with updated stores and new product tests, maintaining a wholesome image as “America’s sweetheart of beauty brands.” Its loyal core consumer base of millennial women is boosted by fan blogs and YouTube accounts dedicated to sharing new products. The brand also plans to ramp up volume by having a digital makeover for the first time in India.
Investors have even started pressuring L Brands to make Bath & Body Works a standalone company which would not be associated with Victoria’s Secret. Hedge fund Barington Capital, whose CEO James A. Mitarotonda was one of the few corporate spokespeople in the conversation, sent a lengthy letter to L Brands CEO Les Wexner arguing for a spinoff.
But after Bath & Body Works posted its first unchanged quarter of store traffic in five years during 2019’s second quarter, Jefferies analyst Randal Konik suggested that the best days for the bath and candle retailer may be over. Konik also said that the teen brand PINK is the next sore spot for L Brands, with sales falling by low double digits in the fourth quarter, as the label is “without fans and rudderless.”
ThirdLove, American Eagle Outfitters and Savage X Fenty were identified as the main competitors which have capitalised on Victoria’s Secret’s reputational struggles. ThirdLove, an online bra startup which was launched in 2013, was perceived as coming head to head with Victoria’s Secret as it focuses on inclusive sizing and marketing, which have helped its annual sales to grow at a rate of 180% for the past four years.
The brand opened its first pop-up store in New York in July 2019, putting itself in direct competition with Victoria’s Secret as the lingerie giant had a store less than a 10 minutes’ walk away. ThirdLove also joined the discussion around Razek’s comments, taking out a full-page ad in The New York Times, in which co-founder and co-CEO Heidi Zak said she was appalled when she read them: “I’ve read and re-read the interview at least 20 times, and each time I read it I’m even angrier. How in 2018 can the CMO of any public company — let alone one that claims to be for women — make such shocking, derogatory statements?”
When asked whether Victoria’s Secret was worried its customers might now be looking for something different, Razek mentioned ThirdLove: “We’re nobody’s ThirdLove,” Razek said. “We’re their first love. And Victoria’s Secret has been women’s first love from the beginning.”
American Eagle Outfitters was also viewed as one of the main companies to break Victoria’s Secret‘s grip on the apparel industry by offering fitting bras and using messaging which pitches inclusiveness and comfort over sex appeal. Its activewear and lingerie brand Aerie has built an image of an “anti-Victoria’s Secret” label with untouched ads featuring models of all shapes and sizes. Kyle Andrew, American Eagle’s CMO, said the company’s success is due to its willingness to experiment and find ways to better listen to its teen customer base.
Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty recent show, streamed on Amazon Prime, has been making headlines everywhere, with commentators saying it was everything that Victoria’s Secret’s annual runway show wishes it could be by featuring models of all shapes, sizes, and ethnic backgrounds, with a clear focus on body inclusivity and acceptance.
Meanwhile, retail corporation Target also tried to capitalise on Victoria’s Secret’s struggles with a strategy similar to ThirdLove, American Eagle Outfitters and Savage X Fenty: it launched a new bra and underwear brand called Auden with a campaign featuring women “in all different shapes and sizes.”
Nike was mentioned as one of the brands which have gotten ahead of the curve with their socially-conscious marketing efforts featuring ex-NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who had participated in racial justice demonstrations during national anthem ceremonies. Fast-fashion brand H&M got involved in the discussion for selling a $199 bra similar to Victoria’s Secret’s $1 million Fantasy Bra as part of its collaboration with Moschino.
Victoria’s Secret‘s reputational woos come at a time when the fashion and apparel industries occupy a central place in the extensively covered #MeToo movement and play a major role in ongoing media discussions around gender and identity. Since such issues naturally polarise consumers, brands which are dealing with products directly related to them are regularly caught up in fierce debates.
The growing importance of the debates around gender in the fashion industry has also been highlighted in the accelerating gender-neutral trend. The latest seasons have seen luxury brands like Gucci, Saint Laurent and Haider Ackerman combining menswear and womenswear runway shows, Others, such as Proenza Schouler and Rodarte, have started showing women’s pre-collections or women’s ready-to-wear during the back-to-back menswear and couture calendar. Meanwhile, fast-fashion labels such as Zara started releasing ungendered collections with models of both sexes dressed in the same clothes.
There are also a growing number of new brands like the Phluid Project, Agender and Rebrand which are built around the concept of non-binary dressing. Beyond fashion houses, the trend has also been recently reinforced by the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), which added a unisex/non-binary option for New York Fashion Week. Spokespeople for the CFDA explained that this decision came as a response to “a growing number of designers whose collections are not delineated by gender”, which “reflects the cultural momentum.”
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Week 48; Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.

The humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico worsened with the inadequate response by the federal government. Amid criticism, Trump threatened to pull out, but later backed off. Although the death count officially stands at 45, reporting revealed possibly hundreds more preventable deaths related to the Hurricane Maria.
Trump remains silent on both California’s deadliest wildfires and the deadliest combat incident since he took office. He continues to focus on undoing Obama’s legacy, piece-by-piece. The Mueller investigation hit Trump’s inner-circle, and social media’s role in aiding Russia continues to unfold.
  1. On Saturday night, Richard Spencer led another white supremacist torch-lit rally at University of Virginia. The rally lasted 10 minutes and 40-50 people attended. Spencer vowed, “we will keep coming back.”
  2. On Sunday, Trump attacked former ally Sen. Bob Corker in a series of incendiary tweets, saying “Corker “begged” me to endorse him for re-election” and “wanted to be Secretary of State.” Trump claimed to have said no to both.
  3. Corker responded, tweeting it’s a shame the WH has become an “adult day care center,” and that someone “missed their shift this morning.”
  4. On Sunday, Pence left a Colts game after a protest during the national anthem. Pence later issued a full statement opposing the protests. The Colts were playing the 49ers, a team known to protest.
  5. Before the game, Pence tweeted a photo of him and the Second Lady wearing Colts gear. The photo was one he originally tweeted in 2014.
  6. Shortly after, Trump tweeted he had asked Pence to leave the game “if any players kneeled,” and said he was proud of Pence and the Second Lady.
  7. The pool of journalists covering Pence were not allowed into the stadium, and were told, “there may be an early departure from the game.” ABC estimated Pence’s flight cost taxpayers nearly $250k.
  8. Bowing to pressure from Trump, the Cowboys’ Jerry Jones, after kneeling with players in week 3 of the season, changed course saying any player who “disrespects the flag” by kneeling will not be allowed to play.
  9. On Tuesday, Trump threatened the NFL over protests saying the league is “getting massive tax breaks” and the law should be changed. This claim is false: the NFL gave up its 501(c)(6) tax-exempt status in 2015.
  10. On Tuesday, bowing to pressure from Trump and fans, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who previously had said players had the right to voice their opinions, sided with owners opposed to letting players demonstrate.
  11. On Monday, Pence headlined a fundraiser in CA for Republicans including controversial, Kremlin-ally Rep. Dana Rohrabacher. Rohrabacher had a previously undisclosed meeting in Russia with Veselnitskaya described in Week 47.
  12. University of Wisconsin approved a policy which calls for suspending or expelling students who disrupt campus speeches and presentations. The policy mirrors Republican legislation passed by the state Assembly.
  13. On Columbus Day, unlike Obama, Trump celebrated the “arrival of Europeans,” but did not mention of the suffering of Native Americans.
  14. On Sunday, the Trump’s DHS allowed the Jones Act waiver, which helped speed relief to Puerto Rico, to expire. No explanation was given.
  15. Trump’s EPA announced it would repeal the Clean Power Plan, Obama’s signature policy to curb greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. The statement described the regulation as the “so-called Clean Power Plan.”
  16. On Friday, Trump addressed the Value Voters Summit hosted by the Family Research Council, which has been classified by SPLC as an anti-gay hate group. Trump is the first US leader to address the group.
  17. Reuters reported the Trump regime has been quietly cutting support for halfway houses for federal prisoners, severing contracts with as many as 16 facilities, necessitating some inmates stay behind bars longer.
  18. ABC reported the Treasury Dept’s inspector general is looking into allegations reported by BuzzFeed in Week 47 that agency officials have been illegally looking at private financial records of US citizens.
  19. A report compiled by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) at House and Senate Democrats’ request, found the Trump transition team ignored ethics officials and refused to cooperate with the GAO.
  20. Trump named Kathleen Hartnett White to the WH’s Council on Environmental Quality. Hartnett White, a climate science denier, once also said, “fossil fuels dissolved the economic justification for slavery.”
  21. In response to a filing by CREW, Trump’s DOJ told a court in DC that Trump can destroy records without judicial review, including tweets.
  22. Brian Brooks became the second candidate under consideration for deputy Treasury Secretary to withdraw from consideration. Mnuchin said he has no plans to fill the number two slot in his agency.
  23. WAPO reported at the Interior Dept, when Zinke enters the building a staffer takes the elevator to the seventh floor, climbs the stairs to the roof and puts up a special flag. The flag comes down when he leaves.
  24. On Wednesday, NBC reported Tillerson calling Trump a “moron” was provoked by Trump suggesting a tenfold increase in the US nuclear arsenal during a July 20 meeting with the high-ranking national security leaders.
  25. In response to the story which he called “Fake News,” Trump tweeted a threat to revoke the broadcasting licenses of “NBC and the Networks.”
  26. Later that afternoon, at a news conference, Trump again lashed out at the independent news media saying it’s “frankly disgusting the press is able to write whatever it wants to write.”
  27. In a statement Wednesday night, Republican Sen. Ben Sasse asked Trump if he was “recanting” his oath to protect the First Amendment.
  28. Indiana Republican lawmaker Jim Lucas drafted a bill that would require professional journalists to be licensed by state police.
  29. Under pressure to confirm Trump’s judicial nominees, McConnell will no longer allow “blue slips,” used by senators to deny a nominee from their state a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing and vote on confirmation.
  30. The Trump regime withdrew from United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), citing anti-Israel bias and a being in arrears on a $550 million payment. Israel remains part of UNESCO.
  31. NYT published an interview with Corker in which he said Trump is treating his office like a “reality show” with reckless threats at other country that could put our country “on the path to World War III.”
  32. Corker said he is concerned about Trump, and Trump’s behavior should concern “anyone who cares about our nation.” He added there is no ‘good cop, bad cop’ underway with Tillerson — Trump is undermining diplomacy.
  33. Corker said nearly all Senate Republican share his concerns: “the vast majority of our caucus understands what we’re dealing with here.”
  34. WAPO reported Trump is frustrated by his cabinet and that he is not getting enough credit for his handling of three hurricanes. Trump is lashing out and rupturing alliances with both Republicans and Democrats.
  35. One confidant said Trump is like a whistling teapot, saying when he does not blow off steam, he can turn into a pressure cooker and explode: “I think we are in pressure cooker territory.”
  36. Politico quoted 10 sources current and former WH aides who employed strategies like delays and distractions as “guardrails” in trying to manage Trump’s impulsivity.
  37. Vanity Fair reported sources say Trump is “unstable,” “losing a step,” and “unraveling.” They say the WH is in crisis as advisers struggle to contain Trump who is increasingly unfocused and consumed by dark moods.
  38. Trump allegedly told his former bodyguard Schiller, “I hate everyone in the White House!” Kelly is allegedly miserable in the job, and is staying on in a sense of duty and to keep Trump from making disastrous decisions.
  39. One former official speculated Kelly and Mattis have discussed what they would do if Trump ordered a nuclear strike — “would they tackle him?”
  40. According to sources, Bannon said the risk to Trump’s presidency wasn’t impeachment, but the 25th Amendment. Bannon thinks Trump has only a 30% chance of making it the full term.
  41. In a column “What Bob Corker Sees in Trump,” conservative columnist Peggy Noonan urged Republicans they have a duty to speak on the record about what they see happening with Trump.
  42. On Thursday, at a signing ceremony for his health care executive order, Trump nearly walked out of the room without signing the order. Pence pulled him back in.
  43. On Tuesday, Trump said in an interview with Forbes that he could beat Tillerson in an IQ test. Trump met with Tillerson later that day at the WH.
  44. On Friday, Corker called out Trump for his effort to disempower Tillerson saying: “You cannot publicly castrate your own secretary of state without giving yourself that binary choice.”
  45. CNN’s Fareed Zakaria said, “It’s very clear now that we essentially have no diplomacy going on in the United States,” adding the way Trump has treated Tillerson is “the most dramatic example of it.”
  46. On CBS’s 60 Minutes, Parscale claimed he fine-tuned ads on Facebook to directly reach voters with the exact messages they cared most about. He also claimed he handpicked Republican Facebook employees to help.
  47. Daily Beast reported the Kremlin recruited two black video bloggers, Williams and Kalvin Johnson, to produce incendiary YouTube videos calling Hillary a racist. The videos were spread on social media platforms.
  48. WAPO reported Google has uncovered evidence about $100k of ads purchased by Russian agents to spread disinformation on across the company’s many products, including YouTube, during the 2016 election.
  49. Google said the ads do not appear to be from the same Kremlin-linked troll farm that bought ads on Facebook. Some ads touted Trump, Bernie Sanders, and Jill Stein, while others aimed to fan the flames of divisive issues.
  50. Rep. Devin Nunes, who recused himself as Chair of the House Intel Committee’s Russia probe, unilaterally signed off on subpoenas to Fusion GPS, the research firm that produced the Steele dossier. Democrats were not consulted.
  51. Reuters reported Chuck Grassley, the Republican chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is also taking steps to discredit the dossier according to Democrats on the committee.
  52. Carter Page told the Senate Intel Committee that he will not cooperate with any requests to appear before the panel on Russia, and will plead the Fifth.
  53. Daily Beast reported the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence is looking at Cambridge Analytica’s work from the Trump campaign as part of its Russian probe.
  54. Cambridge Analytica, which has ownership ties to the Mercers and Bannon, was brought in to help the campaign by Kushner. The company is also under investigation in the UK watchdog for its role in Brexit.
  55. NYT reported Israel caught Kaspersky Lab working with the Russian government to search the world for US secrets, using Kaspersky software to scan for classified words. Kaspersky software is used by 400 million people.
  56. WSJ reported that Russia’s use of the Kaspersky program to spy on the US is broader and more pervasive than the operation against one individual in Week 47. Trump continues to deny Russian meddling in the US election.
  57. Politico reported as part their posture to cooperate, Trump’s attorneys may offer Mueller a meeting with Trump. If Mueller doesn’t ask by Thanksgiving, attorneys may force the issue by volunteering his time.
  58. Legal experts were surprised by Trump’s lawyers strategy noting Trump would be speaking under oath and he routinely distorts facts, and that Trump would be interviewed in connection with a criminal investigation.
  59. CNN reported Russian operatives used YouTube, Tumblr, and even Pokémon Go as part of their effort to interfere in the election, using a campaign titled “Don’t Shoot Us” to spread a divisive message.
  60. NBC reported Manafort had a previously undisclosed $26 million loan from Deripaska through a series of transactions. It is unclear if the $26 million is a loan or an indirect payment from the Russian oligarch.
  61. The loan brings the total financial relationship between Manafort and Deripaska to $60 million over the past decade, according to financial documents filed in Cyprus and the Cayman Islands.
  62. Manafort’s spokesman, Jason Maloni, initially responded to NBC with a statement including: “Mr. Manafort is not indebted to former clients today, nor was he at the time he began working for the Trump campaign.”
  63. Maloni’s statement was later revised and that sentence was removed. Both Manafort and Maloni have received subpoenas to supply documents and testimony in the Mueller probe.
  64. Yahoo reported Andrew Feinberg, former correspondent for Sputnik, provided a guide and emails to FBI investigators looking into possible violations of the law which requires agents of foreign nations to register with the DOJ.
  65. Further, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is investigating RT and Sputnik as possible parts of the Russian state-run propaganda machine in the broader probe into Russia’s election meddling.
  66. On Friday, Mueller’s team interviewed Trump’s former chief of staff, Priebus. Priebus’ lawyer said he voluntarily met with investigators and “was happy to answer all of their questions.”
  67. Priebus was present during Trump’s efforts to limit the Russia probe, and for discussions that led to the firing of Comey. He was also asked to leave the Oval Office before the infamous Trump-Comey conversation.
  68. Politico reported Twitter deleted tweets and other user data of potentially irreplaceable value to investigators in the Russia probe.
  69. Federal investigators believe Twitter was one of Russia’s most potent weapons. Bots and fake accounts launched recurring waves of pro-Trump, anti-Clinton story lines that were either false or greatly exaggerated.
  70. AP reported Twitter has turned over 201 accounts linked to Russian attempts at influencing the 2016 election to Senate investigators. It is unclear if the posts associated with these accounts have been deleted.
  71. CNN reported an attorney for Roger Stone said he has complied with the House Intel Committee request to provide the identity of his intermediary to WikiLeaks’ Assange.
  72. WSJ reported Congressional investigators are homing in on connections between the Trump campaign, and Facebook, and Twitter. Digital director Parscale was paid $88 million during the campaign, the highest paid vendor.
  73. Every vendor that worked with Parscale on the Trump campaign signed a nondisclosure agreement, and there are no federal disclosure requirements for online ads.
  74. Both Congress and Mueller are investigating the role activity on Facebook and Twitter played in the 2016 election, and whether the Russian social-media activity was in any connected to the Trump campaign.
  75. A Morning Consult poll found Trump’s approval has fallen in every state since he took office. The swings were as high as 30 percentage points in blue-states IL and CA, to 11 points in red-state LA.
  76. A Reuters/Ipsos poll found Trump’s popularity is eroding in small towns and rural communities: in September 47 approve/47 disapprove, down from 55/39 in his first four weeks in office.
  77. WAPO reported as of October 10, Trump’s first 263 days in office, he has made 1,318 false or misleading claims.
  78. The Brookings Institute released a 108-page report which concluded Trump “likely obstructed justice” in his firing of Comey. If Mueller agrees, there are legitimate articles of impeachment that could be drawn up.
  79. In a letter to Mattis, over 100 Democrats are demanding proof that Trump did indeed consult with the Pentagon as he claimed in a tweet, prior to announcing his ban of transgender individuals from military service.
  80. A Kaiser Foundation poll found 62% of Americans say Puerto Ricans aren’t getting the help they need. 76% were aware Puerto Ricans are US citizens.
  81. On Thursday, in a series of tweets, Trump threatened to abandon Puerto Rico’s recovery effort, blaming the island for its infrastructure problems and saying and relief workers would not stay “in P.R. forever.”
  82. The tweets follow harsh criticism from Puerto Rico of the Trump regime’s response to Hurricane Maria. One Puerto Rican said, “He doesn’t think of us as Americans.”
  83. Trump also quoted a Sharyl Attkisson, a television journalist with Sinclair Broadcasting, in saying that while Puerto Rico survived Hurricane Maria, now “a financial crisis looms largely of their own making.”
  84. Later Thursday, the WH issued a statement committing “the full force of the U.S. government” for now, but adding “successful recoveries do not last forever.”
  85. At a House Energy and Commerce hearing about efforts to rebuild the island’s energy grid, Sec. Rick Perry referred to Puerto Rico as a country.
  86. Next day, Trump referred to the Virgin Islands’ governor as a president.
  87. VOX reported although the official death count in Puerto Rico is 45, they found 81 death linked to Hurricane Maria, as well as 450 more reported deaths, most of causes still unknown, and 69 still missing.
  88. Puerto Rico’s governor said four deaths are being investigated as cases of leptospirosis, a disease spread by animals’ urine through contaminated water. A total of ten people have come down with the disease.
  89. Rachel Maddow reported a doctor resigned from the disaster response team in Puerto Rico after seeing medical workers getting manicures and pedicures from residents of the island in medical triage tents.
  90. NYT reported on Puerto Rico’s health care is in dire condition, and continues to suffer from mismanagement. The US Comfort ship with 800 medical personnel which can serve 250, has seen 82 patients in six days.
  91. CNN reported Puerto Ricans are drinking water from a hazardous-waste site, having no other options for water.
  92. A Politico/Morning Consult poll found just 32% of registered voters think the federal government has done enough to help Puerto Rico.
  93. Bloomberg revealed one of its reporters was inadvertently put on the Pentagon’s internal email list which detailed how to spin Hurricane Maria to convince the public that the government response was going well.
  94. On Thursday, Trump also signed an executive order ending Obamacare subsidies for the poor. Not paying the subsidies could boost premiums for millions and send the health insurance exchanges into turmoil.
  95. NPR estimated consumers who earn 400% of the federal poverty level — $48k for individuals or $98.4k for a family of four — will see their the cost of their plans rise by, on average, 20% nationwide.
  96. Doctors, hospitals, insurers, state insurance commissioners and patient advocates denounced Trump’s move. Trump actions puts pressure on Congress to protect consumers from soaring premiums.
  97. WSJ reported if Congress doesn’t succeed, WH aides said Trump “will claim victory” for ending the Iran deal, cutting billions in payments to health insurers, and deporting hundreds of thousands of immigrants.
  98. On Friday, a coalition of attorneys general from 18 states and DC filed a lawsuit to block Trump’s halt to subsidy payments under Obamacare.
  99. NYT reported as of Friday, Trump has taken 12 actions which could weaken Obamacare and curtail enrollment, including spreading negative news releases and posting infographics criticizing the health law.
  100. On Saturday, Trump boasted on Twitter that health insurance companies’ stocks “plunged yesterday” after his steps to dismantle Obamacare.
  101. A Kaiser Health poll found 71% of Americans say the Trump regime should work to improve Obamacare, while just 21% say make it fail.
  102. On Friday, Trump slammed Iran as a “menace” and called for “decertification” of the nuclear deal, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA), saying Iran is “not living up to the spirit of the deal.”
  103. Trump sent the deal back to Congress with a 60-day window to address its “many serious flaws” or see it “terminated.”
  104. Top officials on Trump’s national security team, including Mattis and Tillerson, said Iran has technically complied with its restrictions. The International Atomic Energy Association also confirmed compliance.
  105. Daily Beast reported while McMaster also wanted to save the Iran Deal, Trump consulted Fox News’ Sean Hannity and former UN Ambassador John Bolton, two neoconservatives who pushed for decertification.
  106. The leaders of Britain, Germany and France declared their commitment to stand by JCPoA. They deal was the culmination of 16 years of diplomacy.
  107. After being added to Trump’s travel ban, Chad pulled its troops from the fight against Boko Haram in Niger. US officials had warned Trump his decision would have major consequences for the fight against terrorism.
  108. California’s deadliest wildfires charred more than 221,754 acres of land in Northern CA, and left at least 35 dead and hundreds more missing. Trump has yet to publicly comment or tweet about the wildfires.
  109. Nor has Trump publicly commented on the deadliest combat incident since he took office, which took place in Niger last Saturday while Trump was golfing. The ambush by ISIS left four soldiers dead and two wounded.
  110. As the week ended, 24 days after Hurricane Maria, just 64% of Puerto Ricans had access to drinking water, and only 14.6% had electricity.
  111. Trump spent his fourth weekend since Hurricane Maria golfing. On Saturday, he visited Trump National Golf Club in VA, his 72nd day of golf since taking office.
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[Steam] Winter Sale- Hidden Gems II; The Eleventh Hour

Personal Note: If you found any other hidden gems, or just have something to say, say it in the comments! It's the eleventh hour and people can actually hear you now!

Inspired somewhat by the recent post of Hidden Gems, I found that it's largely become completely congested. As such, I'll coalesce a lot of the deals posted by the guys there here, instead. I'll add others in case I find any of them in the original thread.
Personal Favorites
Puzzle Games found by crabbit
Random picks by ND1Razor
Unusual Games found by thelazyreader2015
RPGs loved by thelazyreader2015
Games Thrice Reposted by ParanoidAndroid1309
strikan33 posts the base list
With some other titles, Art4dinner recommends:
Gramis Silently slides:
A small list by thinkforaminute
Story rich, atmospheric game dragged into the light by BabyMustache
Less than a quid by Dux0r
A list of openish world RPGS from thelazyreader2015
Wishlist and personal favorites from gpt999
Misc Recommendations
With the large quantity of the old deals posted, I'd love to see any other hidden gems there might be out there. I'll post the two major things from the previous thread (The massive posts on Coop games and the massive post on games less than three dollars) below, and I'll post any other collections or mild reccomendations I find above.
submitted by Ullyses_R_Martinez to GameDeals [link] [comments]

Perpetual Option: Och-Ziff Capital Management Group (OZM)

In his book, You Can Be a Stock Market Genius, Greenblatt talks about using LEAPs to make leveraged bets. The book included his trade in Wells Fargo (WFC, another topic for a future post, I suppose).
But sometimes, stocks get down so cheap that they become priced like options. In the Genius book, the WFC LEAPs were priced at $14 while the stock was at around $77.
Here, we have a hedge fund manager trading less than $3.00/share, which is a typical price for regular options, not even LEAPs. Of course, all stocks are options on the residual value of businesses. But sometimes things are priced for either a large gain or zero, just like an option.
I call this a perpetual option, but that reminds me of those lifetime warranties. Like, who's lifetime? The manufacturer's? The store's? Yours? Nothing is forever, so I guess there really is no such thing as a perpetual option. But anyway...
Och-Ziff IPO'ed in 2007 at $32/share and traded in the mid $20's right before the crisis, then down to below $5.00 during the crisis and back up to the mid-teens. I've been watching this since the IPO and looked at it again when it was trading around $10/share. It's down quite a bit since then. I didn't own it back then but I did take a small bite down at $5.00/share.
I have mentioned other private equity and hedge fund managers here in the past but haven't owned most of them because of the amount of money that seemed to be going into alternatives. I was just worried that the AUM's of all of these alternative managers were going up so quickly that I couldn't imagine them earning the high returns that made everyone rush to them in the first place. Look at the presentation of any of these alternative managers and their AUM growth is just staggering.
Extremely Contrarian We investors walk around and think about all sorts of things; look at store traffic, taste new foods/restaurant concepts, count how many Apple watches people are wearing (I recently biked around the city with my kid (Brooklyn to Central Park, around the park (around the big loop) and all the way downtown back to Brooklyn (30+ miles) and I think I counted two Apple watches that I saw compared to countless iPhones. And this was in the summer so no coats or long sleeves to hide wrists).
And a couple of the things that we tend to think about are, What does everybody absolutely love, and what are they 100% sure of (other than that Hillary will win the election and that the market will crash if Trump wins), and What do people absolutely, 100% hate and don't even want to talk about? In the investing world right now, it seems like the one thing that everybody seems to agree with is that active investing is dead (OK, not completely true because we active investors never really lose faith in it). The data points to it (active managers underperforming for many years, legendary stock pickers too not performing all too well, star hedge funds not doing well etc...). The money flows point to it (cash flowing out of active managers and into passive funds, boom in index funds / ETFs; this reminds me of the 1990's when there were more mutual funds than listed companies. There are probably more ETFs now than listed companies). Sentiment points to it (stars and heroes now are ETF managers, quants etc.).
By the Way Oh, and by the way, in case people say that it is no longer possible due to this or that reason for humans to outperform indices or robots, I would just say that we have seen this before. Things in finance are cyclical and we've seen this movie before.
From the 1985 Berkshire Hathaway Letter, Most institutional investors in the early 1970s, on the other hand, regarded business value as of only minor relevance when they were deciding the prices at which they would buy or sell. This now seems hard to believe. However, these institutions were then under the spell of academics at prestigious business schools who were preaching newly-fashioned theory: the stock market was totally efficient, and therefore calculations of business value -- and even thought, itself -- were of no importance in investment activities. (We are enormously indebted to those academics: what could be more advantageous in an intellectual contest -- whether it be bridge, chess or stock selection than to have opponents who have been taught that thinking is a waste of energy?)
What Do People Hate? So, back to what people absolutely hate. People hate active managers. It's not even stocks that they are not interested in. They hate active managers. Nobody outperforms and their fees are not worth it. What else do they hate? They hate hedge funds. I don't need to write a list here, but you just keep reading one institution after another reducing their exposure to hedge funds. There is a massive shakeout going on now with money leaving hedge funds. Others like Blackstone argues that this is not true; assets are just moving out of mediocre hedge funds and moving into theirs.
This is a theme I will be going back to in later posts, but for now I am just going to look at OZM.
OZM OZM is a well-known hedge fund firm so I won't go into much detail here. To me, it's sort of a conventional equity-oriented hedge fund that runs strategies very typical of pre-Volcker rule Wall Street investment banks; equity long/short, merger arb, convertible arb etc. They have been expanding into credit and real estate with decent results. But a lot of their AUM is still in the conventional equity strategies.
What makes OZM interesting now is that chart from the Pzena Investment report (see here). These charts make it obvious why active managers have had such a hard time. The value spread has just continued to widen since 2004/2005 through now. Cheap stocks get cheaper and expensive stocks get more so. You can see how this sort of environment could be the worst for long/short strategies (and value-oriented long strategies, and even naked short strategies for that matter). Things have just been going the wrong way with no mean reversion.
But if you look at where those charts are now, you can see that it is probably exactly the wrong time to give up on value strategies or value-based long/short strategies; in fact it looks like the best time ever to be looking at these strategies.
Seeing that, does it surprise me that many pension funds are running the other way? Not at all. Many large institutions chase performance and not future potential.
Conceptually speaking, they would rather buy a stock at 80x P/E that has gone up 30%/year in the past five years that is about to tank rather than buy an 8x P/E stock that has gone nowhere in the past five years but is about to take off; they are driven by historic (or recent historic) performance.
OZM Performance Anyway, let's look at the long term performance of OZM. This excludes their credit and real estate funds which are doing much better and are growing AUM.
This is their performance since 1994 through the end of 2015:
OZM fund S&P500 1994 28.50% 5.30% 1995 23.50% 27.40% 1996 27.40% 23.00% 1997 26.70% 33.40% 1998 11.10% 28.60% 1999 18.80% 21.00% 2000 20.60% -9.10% 2001 6.30% -11.90% 2002 -1.60% -22.10% 2003 24.00% 28.70% 2004 11.10% 10.90% 2005 8.80% 4.90% 2006 14.80% 15.80% 2007 11.50% 5.50% 2008 -15.90% -37.00% 2009 23.10% 26.50% 2010 8.50% 15.10% 2011 -0.50% 2.10% 2012 11.60% 16.00% 2013 13.90% 32.40% 2014 5.50% 13.70% 2015 -0.40% 1.40% 5 year avg 5.85% 12.57% 10 year avg 6.69% 7.32% Since 1994 12.05% 8.87% Since 2000 7.59% 5.01% Since 2007 5.14% 6.53%
So they have not been doing too well, but it's really only the last couple of years that don't look too good. Their ten-year return through 2013 was +8.2%/year versus +7.4%/year for the S&P 500 index. It's pretty obvious that their alpha has been declining over time.
For those who want more up-to-date figures, I redid the above table to include figures through September-end 2016. And instead of 5 year and 10 year returns, I use 4.75-year and 9.75-year returns; I thought that would be more comparable than saying 5.75-year and 10.75-year, and I didn't want to dig into quarterly figures to get actual 5 and 10s.
OZM fund S&P500 1994 28.50% 5.30% 1995 23.50% 27.40% 1996 27.40% 23.00% 1997 26.70% 33.40% 1998 11.10% 28.60% 1999 18.80% 21.00% 2000 20.60% -9.10% 2001 6.30% -11.90% 2002 -1.60% -22.10% 2003 24.00% 28.70% 2004 11.10% 10.90% 2005 8.80% 4.90% 2006 14.80% 15.80% 2007 11.50% 5.50% 2008 -15.90% -37.00% 2009 23.10% 26.50% 2010 8.50% 15.10% 2011 -0.50% 2.10% 2012 11.60% 16.00% 2013 13.90% 32.40% 2014 5.50% 13.70% 2015 -0.40% 1.40% 2016* 1.10% 7.80% 4.75 year 6.53% 14.58% 9.75 year 5.48% 6.72% Since 1994 11.68% 8.92% Since 2000 7.29% 5.27% Since 2007 4.82% 6.86%
So over time, they have good outperformance, but much of that is from the early years. As they get bigger, it's not hard to see why their spread would shrink.
They are seriously underperforming in the 4.75 year, but that's because the S&P 500 index was coming off of a big bear market low and OZM didn't lose that much money, so I think that is irrelevant, especially for a long/short fund.
More relevant would be figures from recent market peaks which sort of shows a through-the-cycle performance. Since the market peak in 2000, OZM has outperformed with a gain of +7.3%/year versus +5.3%/year for the S&P, but they have underperformed since the 2007 peak. A lot of this probably has to do with the previous charts about how value spreads have widened throughout this period.
I would actually want to be increasing exposure to this area that hasn't worked well since 2007. Some of this, of course, is due to lower interest rates. Merger arb, for example, is highly dependent on interest rates as are other arbitrage type trades. (The less risk there is, the closer to the short term interest rate the return is going to be.)
One thing that makes me scratch my head, though, in the 3Q 2016 10-Q is the following: OZ Master Fund’s merger arbitrage, convertible and derivative arbitrage, corporate credit and structured credit strategies have each generated strong year-to-date gains through September 30, 2016. In merger arbitrage, certain transactions in which OZ Master Fund participated closed during the third quarter, contributing to the strategy’s year-to-date gross return of +1.3%. Convertible and derivative arbitrage generated a gross return of +0.5% during the third quarter, driven by gains in convertible arbitrage positions, commodity-related volatility, commodity spreads and index volatility spread trades. Year-to-date, convertible and derivative arbitrage has generated a gross return of +1.3%. In OZ Master Fund’s credit-related strategies, widening credit spreads and certain event-driven situations added +0.4% to the gross return within corporate credit during the third quarter, while in structured credit, a +0.9% gross return during the quarter was attributable to the realization of recoveries in certain of our idiosyncratic situations. Year-to-date, the corporate credit and structured credit strategies are each up +1.2% on a gross basis. Gross returns of less than 2% are described as "strong". Hmm... I may be missing something here. Maybe it is 'strong' versus comparable strategies. I don't know. Anyway, moving on...
Greenblatt Genius Strategies Oh yeah, and by the way, OZM is one of the funds that are heavily into the yellow book strategies. Here's a description of their equity long/short strategy: Long/short equity special situations, which consists of fundamental long/short and event-driven investing. Fundamental long/short investing involves analyzing companies and assets to profit where we believe mispricing or undervaluation exists. Event-driven investing attempts to realize gain from corporate events such as spin-offs, recapitalizations and other corporate restructurings, whether company specific or due to industry or economic conditions.
This is still a large part of their book, which is a good thing if you believe that the valuation spreads will mean revert and that Greenblatt's yellow book strategies are still valid.
One thing that may temper returns over time, though, is the AUM level. What you can do with $1 billion in AUM is not the same as when you have $10 billion or $30 billion. I don't think Greenblatt would have had such high returns if he let AUM grow too much.
This seems to be an issue with a lot of hedge funds. Many of the old stars who were able to make insane returns with AUM under $1 billion seem to have much lower returns above that level.
Here is OZM's AUM trend in the past ten years. Some of the lower return may correlate to the higher AUM, not to mention higher AUM at other hedge funds too reducing spreads (and potential profits).
Just to refresh my memory, I grabbed the AUM chart from the OZM prospectus in 2007. Their AUM was under $6 billion until the end of 2003 and then really grew to over $30 billion by 2007.
Their 10-year return through 2003 was 18%/year vs. 10.6%/year for the S&P 500 index.
From the end of 2003 through the end of 2015, OZM's funds returned +7.2%/year versus +7.4%/year for the S&P 500 index. So their alpha basically went from 7.4%/year outperformance to flat.
This is actually not so bad as these types of funds often offered 'equity-like' returns with lower volatility and drawdowns. The long/short nature of OZM funds means that investors achieved the same returns as the S&P 500 index without the full downside exposure. This is exactly what many institutions want, actually.
But still, did their growth in AUM dampen returns? I think there is no doubt about that. These charts showing tremendous AUM growth is the reason why I never owned much of these alternative managers in the past few years I've been watching them.
The question is how much of the lower returns are due to the higher AUM. Of course, some of this AUM growth is in other strategies so not all new AUM is squeezed into the same strategies.
Will OZM ever go back to the returns of the 1990's? I doubt that. First of all, that was a tremendous bull market. Plus, OZM's AUM was much smaller so they had more opportunities to take advantage of yellow book ideas and other strategies.
Boom/Bubble Doesn't Mean It's a Bad Idea By the way, another sort of tangent. Just because there is a big boom or bubble in something doesn't necessarily make that 'something' a bad idea. We had a stock market bubble in the late 1920's that ended badly, but owning parts of businesses never suddenly became a bad idea or anything. It's just that you didn't want to overpay, or buy stocks for the wrong reasons.
We had a boom in the late 1990's in stocks that focused on picking stocks and owning them for the long term as exemplified by the Beardstown Ladies. Of course, the Beardstown Ladies didn't end well (basically a fraud), but owning good stocks for the long haul, I don't think, ever became a bad idea necessarily.
We had a tremendous housing bubble and various real estate bubbles in recent years. But again, owning good, solid assets at reasonable prices for the long haul never became a bad idea despite the occasional bubbles and collapses.
Similarly, hedge funds and alternative assets go through cycles too. I know many value investors are not with me here and will always hate hedge funds (like Buffett), but that's OK.
We've had alternative cycles in the past. Usually the pattern is that there is a bull market in stocks and people rush into stocks. The bull market inevitably ends and people lose money. Institutions not wanting to lose money rush into 'alternative' assets. Eventually, the market turns and they rush back into equities.
I think something similar is happening now, but the cycle seems a bit elongated and, and the low interest rates is having an effect as alternatives are now attracting capital formerly allocated to fixed income. In the past, alternatives seemed more like an equity substitution, risk asset.
Valuation OK, so what is OZM worth?
Well, a simple way of looking at it is that OZM has paid an average of $1.10/year in dividends in the last five years. During the past five years, the funds returned around 6%/year, so it's not an upside outlier in terms of fund performance.
Put a 10x multiple on it and the stock is worth $11/share.
Another way to look at it is that the market is telling you that it is unlikely that OZM will enjoy the success even of the past five years over the next few years. Assuming a scenario of failure (stock price = 0) or back to sort of past five years performance ($11), a $3.00 stock price reflects the odds of failure at 73% and only a 27% chance that OZM gets back to it's past five year average-like performance. Of course, OZM can just sort of keep doing what it's doing and stay at $3.00 for a long time too.
There is a problem with this, though, as the dividends don't reflect equity-based compensation expense; OZM gives out a bunch of RSU's every year.
To adjust for this, let's look at the economic earnings of the past five years including the costs of equity-based compensation.
Equity-based compensation expense not included in economic income is listed below ($000):
2008 102,025 2009 122,461 2010 128,737 2011 128,916 2012 86,006 2013 120,125 2014 104,344 2015 106,565
It's odd that this doesn't seem to correlate to revenues, income or AUM; it's just basically flat all the way through.
If we include this, economic income at OZM averaged around $520 million/year. With fully diluted 520 million shares outstanding, that's around $1.00/share in economic earnings per share that OZM earned on average over the past five years. So that's not too far off from the $1.10/share dividends we used above.
One of the interesting things about investing is when you find alternative ways to value something instead of just the usual price-to-book values, P/E ratios etc.
So how would you value this?
What about adjusting the implied odds from the above. What if we said there's a 50/50 chance of recovery or failure. Let's say recovery is getting back to what it has done over the past five years on average, and failure is a zero on the stock.
50% x $0.00 + 50% x $10.00 = $5.00/share
In that case, OZM is worth $5.00/share, or 70% higher than the current price. You are looking at a 60 cent dollar in that case.
Let's say there is a 70% chance of recovery.
70% x $10.00 + 30% x $0.00 = $7.00/share.
That's 130% higher, or a 40 cent dollar.
By the way, the AUM averaged around $37 billion over the past five years, and remember, their return was around 5.9%/year so these figures aren't based on huge, abnormal returns or anything.
As of the end of September 2016, AUM was $39.3 billion, and this went down to $37 billion as of November 1, 2016. OZM expects continued redemptions towards year-end both due to their Justice Department/SEC settlement and overall industry redemption trends.
The above ignored balance sheet items, but you can deduct $0.60/share, maybe, of negative equity, or more if you think they need more cash on the balance sheet to run their business.
Preferred Shares As for the $400 million settlement amount and preferred shares, the settlement amount is already on the balance sheet as a liability (which was paid out after the September quarter-end). The preferred shares were sold after the quarter ended. They have zero interest for three years so I don't think it impacts the above analysis. You would just add cash on the balance sheet and the preferreds on the liability side.
If you want to deduct the full amount of the settlement of $400 million, you can knock off $0.77/share off the above valuation instead of the $0.60/share.
Earnings Model The problem with these companies is that it's impossible, really, to predict what their AUM is going to be in the future or their performance. Of course, we can guess that if they do well, AUM will increase and vice-versa.
But still, as a sanity check, we should see how things look with various assumptions in terms of valuation.
First of all, let's look at 2015. In the full year to 2015, a year that the OZM funds were down (master fund), they paid a dividend of $0.87. Adjusted economic income was $240 million (economic income reported by OZM less equity-based comp expense) and using the current fully diluted shares outstanding of 520 million, that comes to $0.46/share. OK, it's funny to use current shares outstanding against last year's economic income, but I am trying to use last years' earnings as sort of a 'normalized' figure.
Using these figures from a bad year, OZM is current trading at a 29% dividend yield (using $3.00/share price) and 6.5x adjusted economic income. This would be 8.3x if you added the $0.77/share from the settlement above.
OK, so average AUM was $44 billion in 2015, so even in a bad year, they made tons in management fees. Fine. We'll get to that in a second. AUM is $37 billion as of November 2016, and is probably headed down towards year-end.
2016 Year-to-Date So let's look at how they are doing this year so far. Fund performance-wise, it hasn't been too good, but they do remain profitable. These fund businesses are designed so that their fixed expenses are covered by their management fees. Big bonuses are paid out only when the funds make money.
Anyway, let's look at 2016 so far in terms of economic income.
In the 3Q of 2016, economic income was $57.4 million. Equity-based compensation expense was $18.3 million so adjusted economic income was $39.1 million. Annualize that and you get $156 million. Using 520 million fully diluted shares (share amount used to calculate distributable earnings in the earnings press release), that comes to $0.30/share adjusted economic income. So at $3.00/share, OZM is trading at 10x arguably depressed earnings. (This excludes the FCPA settlement amount). If you include $400 million of the FCPA preferreds (total to be offered eventually), then the P/E would actually be closer to 12.6x.
For the year to date, economic income was $195 million, and equity-based comp expense was $56 million so adjusted economic income was $139 million. Again using 520 million shares, that comes to $0.25/share in adjusted economic earnings per share. Annualize that and you get $0.33/share. So at $3.00/share, OZM is trading at 9x depressed earnings, or 11x including the FCPA preferred.
OK, so maybe this is not really 'depressed'. With still a lot of AUM, it is possible that AUM keeps going down.
AUM was $37 billion in November, but let's say it goes down to $30 billion. That's actually a big dip. But let's say AUM goes down there. And then let's assume 1% management fees, 20% incentive fees, and economic income margin of 50% (averaged 56% in past five years) and the OZM master fund return of 5%.
In this case, economic income would be $300 million. Equity-based comp costs seems steady at around $100 million, so we deduct that to get adjusted economic income. This comes to $200 million.
That comes to around $0.40/share. At $3.00/share, that's 7.5x adjusted economic earnings, or a 13% yield, or 9.4x and 10.6% yield including the FCPA preferreds.
So that's not bad. We are assuming AUM dips to $30 billion and OZM funds only earn 5%/year, and with that assumption the stock is trading at this cheap level.
Things, of course, can get much worse. If performance doesn't improve, AUM will keep going down. You can't really stress test these things as you can just say their returns will never recover and that's that.
On the other hand, any improvement can get you considerable upside.
If assets return to $40 billion and returns average 6% over time, economic income margin goes to 56% (average of past five years), adjust economic income per share is $0.76/share and the stock could be worth $7.60/share for more than a double.
Here's a matrix of possibilities. Skeptics will say, where are the returns below 5% and AUM below $30 billion?!
Well, OK. If returns persist at lower than 5%, it's safe to assume that AUM will go down and this may well end up a zero. That is certainly a possibility. It wouldn't shock many for another hedge fund to shut down.
On the other hand, if things do stabilize, normalize and OZM recovers and does well, there is a lot of upside here. What is interesting to me is that the market is discounting a lot of bad and not pricing in much good. This is when opportunities occur, right?
5% 6% 7% 8% 9% 10% 30,000 $0.45 $0.52 $0.58 $0.65 $0.71 $0.78 35,000 $0.56 $0.64 $0.71 $0.79 $0.86 $0.94 40,000 $0.67 $0.76 $0.84 $0.93 $1.01 $1.10 45,000 $0.78 $0.87 $0.97 $1.07 $1.16 $1.26 50,000 $0.88 $0.99 $1.10 $1.21 $1.32 $1.42 55,000 $0.99 $1.11 $1.23 $1.35 $1.47 $1.58 60,000 $1.10 $1.23 $1.36 $1.49 $1.62 $1.75
The row above is the assumed return of the OZM funds. The left column is the AUM. Assumptions are 1% management fee, 20% incentive fee, 56% economic income margin (excluding equity-based comp expense) and $100 million/year in equity-based comp expense.
It shows you that it doesn't take much for adjusted economic income per share to get back up to closer to $1.00, and can maintain $0.45/share even in a $30 billion AUM and 5% return scenario making the current stock price cheap even under that scenario.
Conclusion Having said all that, there is still a lot of risk here. Low returns and low bonuses can easily make it hard for OZM to keep their best people. But if their best people perform, I assume they do get paid directly for their performance so that shouldn't be too much of an issue.
A lot of the lower returns in recent years is no doubt due to their higher AUM. But it is also probably due to crowding of the hedge fund world and low interest rates leading to an overall lower return environment for all.
If you think these things are highly cyclical, then you can expect interest rates to normalize at some point. Money flowing out of hedge funds should also be good for future returns in these strategies. The part of lower returns at OZM due to higher AUM may not reverse itself, though, if OZM succeeds in maintaining and increasing AUM over time.
But even without the blowout, high returns of the 1990's, OZM can make decent returns over time as seen in the above table.
In any case, unlike a few years ago, the stock prices of many alternative managers are cheap (and I demonstrated how cheap OZM might be here) and institutional money seems to be flowing out of these strategies.
So: OZM is cheap and is in a seemingly universally hated industry Money is flowing out of these strategies, particularly performance chasing institutions (that you would often want to fade) there is a bear market in active managers and bubble in indexing (which may actually increase opportunities for active managers) value spreads are wide and has been widening for years making mean reversion overdue etc. These things make OZM a compelling play on these various themes.
I would treat this more like an option, though. Buy it like you would buy an option, not like you would invest in, say, a Berkshire Hathaway.
There are a lot of paths here to make good money, but there are also plenty of ways to lose. If you look at this like a binary option, it can be pretty interesting!
Posted by kk at 8:11 PM No comments: Links to this post Email This BlogThis! Share to Twitter Share to Facebook Share to Pinterest
Labels: OZM
Saturday, October 29, 2016 Gotham's New Fund Joel Greenblatt was in Barron's recently. He is one of my favorite investors so maybe it's a good time for another post.
Anyway, this new fund is kind of interesting as I am sort of a tinkerer; this is like the product of some financial tinkering. I don't know if it's the right product for many, but we'll take a look.
But first, let's see what he has to say about the stock market in general.
The Market Greenblatt says that the market is "expensive". The market is in the 21st percentile of expensive in the past 25 years. Either a typo or he misspoke, he is quoted as saying that the market has been more expensive 79% of the time in the past 25 years. Of course, he means the market has been cheaper 79% of the time.
The year forward expected return from this price level is between 2% to 7%, so he figures it averages out to 4% to 6% per year. In the past 25 years, the market has returned 9% to 10%/year so he figures the market is 12% to 13% more expensive than it used to be.
He says: Well, one scenario could be that it drops 12% to 13% tomorrow and future returns would go back to 9% to 10%. Or you could underearn for three years at 4% to 6%. We're still expecting positive returns, just more muted. The intelligent strategy is to buy the cheapest things you can find and short the most expensive.
But... Immediately, bears will say that this 25 year history is based during a period when interest rates went down. The 10 year bond rate was around 8% back in 1991, and is now 1.8%. In terms of valuation, this would have pushed up asset values by 6.2%/year ($1.00 discounted at 8%/year then and $1.00 discounted by 1.8% now).
Declining rates were certainly a factor in stock returns over the past 25 years. Of course, the stock market didn't keep going up as rates kept going down. The P/E ratio of the S&P 500 index at the end of 1990 was around 15x, and now it's 25x according to Shiller's database (raw P/E, not CAPE). So the valuation gain over the 25 years accounted for around 2%/year of the 9-10% return Greenblatt states.
Here are the EPS estimates for the S&P 500 index according to Goldman Sachs:
 EPS P/E 
2016 $105 20.4x 2017 $116 18.5x 2018 $122 17.6x
Earnings estimates are not all that reliable (estimates have been coming down consistently in the past year or so). But since most of 2016 is done, I suppose the $105 figure should be OK to use.
I don't know if it's apples to apples (reported versus operating etc.), but if we assume the 'current' P/E of the market is 20x, then the valuation tailwind accounted for 1.2%/year of the 9-10%. But then of course, even if this was a fair comparison, there is still the aspect of lower interest rates boosting the economy by borrowing future demand (and therefore overstating historical earnings).
In any case, one of the main bearish arguments is that this interest rate tailwind in the past will become a headwind going forward. Just about everyone agrees with that.
But as I have mentioned before, calling turns in interest rates is very hard, Japan being a great example. If you look at interest rates over the past 100 years or more, you see that major turns in trend don't happen all that often; it's been a single trend of declining rates since the 1980/81 peak, basically. What are the chances that you are going to call the next big turn correctly? I would bet against anyone trying. OK, that didn't come out right. I wouldn't necessarily be long the bond market either.
Gotham Index Plus So, back to the topic of Gotham's new fund. It is a fascinating idea. The fund will go long the S&P 500 index, 100% long, and then overlay a 90%/90% long/short portfolio of the S&P 500 stocks based on their valuations.
The built-in leverage alone makes this sort of interesting. Many institutions may have an allocation to the S&P 500 index, and then some allocation to long/short equity hedge funds. The return of the Gotham Index plus would be much higher (when things go well).
I think this sort of thing was popular at some point in the pension world; index plus alpha etc. Except I think a lot of those were institutions replacing their S&P 500 index portfolios with futures positions, and then using the cash raised to buy mortgage securities. Of course, when things turned bad, oops; they took big hits in S&P 500 futures, tried to post cash for the margin call and realized that their mortgage funds weren't liquid (and was worth a lot less than they thought).
Or something like that.
There is risk here too, of course. You are overlaying two risk positions on top of each other. When things turn bad, things can certainly get ugly.
I think Greenblatt's calculation is that when things turn bad, the long/short usually does well. I haven't seen any backtests or anything, so I don't know what the odds of a blowup are.
Expensive stocks tend to be high-beta stocks and cheaper stocks may be lower beta, so in a market correction, the high-beta, expensive names may go down a lot harder.
To some extent, lower valuations may reflect more cyclicality, lower credit risk / lower balance sheet quality too so you have to be a little careful. In a financial crisis-like situation, lower valuation (lower credit quality) can tank and some higher valuation names may hold up (like the FANG-like stocks).
But Greenblatt's screen is not just raw P/E or P/B, but is tied to return on capital, so maybe this is not as much of an issue compared to a pure P/B model.
The argument for this structure is that people can't stay with a strategy if it can't keep up with the market. Here, the market return is built in from the beginning and you just hope for the "Plus" part to kick in. In a long/short portfolio, the beta is netted out to a large extent so can lower potential returns. This fixes that. But there is a cost to that.
In any case, I do think it's a really interesting product, but keep in mind that it is a little riskier than Gotham's other offerings.
Oh, and go read the article on why this new fund is a good idea. Greenblatt is always a great read.
Chipotle (CMG) Well, Chipotle earnings came out and it was predictably horrible. The stock is not cheap so it hasn't been recommendable in a while, but I really like the company. There was a really long article on them recently which was a great read. It didn't really change my view of them all that much. I think they will get a lot of business back, eventually.
The earnings call was OK, but what was depressing about it was that they decided to ditch Shophouse. I don't think any analysts asked about it so it was a given, I guess. I had it a couple of times in DC and liked it and was looking forward to it in NY, but I guess that's not going to happen. As an investor, that was not baked into the cake, I don't think, even though there was probably some hope that the CMG brand can be extended into other categories.
This puts a lot of doubt into that idea. Someone said that brand extensions in restaurants/retail never work, and that has proven to be the case here. I wouldn't get too excited about pizza and burgers either. Burgers are really crowded now and will only get more so.
If CMG has to look to Europe for growth, that is not so great either as the record of U.S. companies expanding into Europe is not good. I would not count on Europe growth.
Anyway, this doesn't mean it's all over for CMG. I think they will come back, but there are some serious headwinds now other than their food poisoning problem; more competition etc. They were the only game in town for a while, but now everyone seemingly wants to become the next Chipotle, so there are a lot of options out there now.
As for Ackman's interest in CMG, I have no idea what his plan is. There is no real estate here as CMG rents all their restaurants, and their restaurants had high 20's operating margins at their peak. I don't know if they will ever get back up there, but it's not like these guys don't know how to run an efficient operation. Maybe Ackman sees SGA opportunities, but pre-crisis, SGA was less than 7%, so there wouldn't be that much of a boost from cutting SGA. Or maybe he thinks it's time for CMG to do what everyone else is doing and go for the franchise model. Who knows? I look forward to seeing what his thoughts are; hopefully some 500 page presentation pops up somewhere...
McDonalds I don't want to turn this into a food blog, but I can't resist mentioning this. I have been a lifelong MCD customer; I have no problem with it. OK, it may not be my first choice of a meal in most cases, but it's fine. And when you have a kid, you tend to go more often that you'd like. But still, it's OK. It is what it is, right?
I like the remodelling that they are doing, and the fact that they have free wifi is great too. But here's a big clustermuck they had with their recent custom burger and kiosk idea. I walked into a MCD without knowing anything about any of this recently. A lady said I can order at the kiosk and I said, no, I'll just go to the counter, thank you.
And I waited 10 minutes or so in line, looking up at the tasty looking special hamburgers on the HD, LCD menu board. It was finally my turn at the cash register and I said I want that tasty looking hamburger up there on the screen. And the lady said, oh, you can only order that at the kiosk. I was like, huh? That was really annoying. So I wait all this time and I can't get what I want; I have to walk all the way back and get in another line again? Come on! At that point, I didn't want any other burger so I just ordered a salad (and the usual for my kid).
OK, so it's my fault, probably. User error. But as a service company, as far as I'm concerned, that was a massive fail on the part of MCD.
OK, Now That I started... And by the way, since I got myself started, let me get these two out too. Yes, I spend too much time at fast food joints. Guilty. But still, here are my two peeves related to two of my favorite fast casual places:
Shake Shack: Being dragged there all the time, I have learned to love the Shack-cago hot dog. Chicken Shack is awesome too, in case you don't want to eat hamburgers all the time. But I can't tell you how often they get take-out and stay wrong. I had a long run where they didn't get it right at all and had to ask for things to be packed to go. It is really annoying and wastes everyone's time.
Chipotle: This hasn't happened to me the last couple of times, but this is the usual conversation that happens to me just about every time I go to Chipotle.
CMG: "Hi, what can we get you today?" (or some such) Me: "Um, I'll have a burrito..." CMG: putting the tortilla in the tortilla warmecooker, "and would you like white rice or brown rice? Me: "White rice is fine" CMG: with tortilla still in the cooker, "and black beans or pinto beans?" Me: "black beans". CMG: laying a sheet of aluminum foil on the counter and placing the tortilla on it, moving over to the rice area, "Was that white rice or brown rice?" Me: "white rice" CMG: sliding over to the beans, "and black beans or pinto beans?". Me: "black".
I can't tell you how many times this exact thing happened to me. If you can't remember what I say, don't ask beforehand! Just ask when we get to whatever you are going to ask me about! This is not rocket science, lol... Incredibly annoying.
Anyway, I still love CMG and will keep eating there.
Oh, and to make things interesting, I decided to post a contact email address in the "about" section of the blog. I will try to respond to every email, but keep in mind I may not look in that email box all the time.
I will try to post more, though.
http://brooklyninvestor.blogspot.com/2016/11/perpetual-option-och-ziff-capital.html (read original with tables)
submitted by BobFine to stocks [link] [comments]

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