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Lost in the Sauce: Barr's DOJ shut down investigations of Trump and admin officials
Welcome to Lost in the Sauce, keeping you caught up on political and legal news that often gets buried in distractions and theater… or a global health crisis. Housekeeping:
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On Saturday, Trump announced on Twitter that he has put his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani in charge of his campaign's long-shot post-election legal challenges. Other people on the team include Joseph diGenova, Victoria Toensing, Sidney Powell, and Jenna Ellis.
Giuliani worked with a Russian agent to smear Biden. diGenova and Toensing tried to get the Justice Department to drop charges against corrupt Ukraine oligarch Dmytro Firtash. Powell represents Michael Flynn and champions "deep state" conspiracies. Ellis said gay marriage leads to pedophilia.
NYT: Mr. Trump turned to Mr. Giuliani earlier on Friday in reaction to the latest setback he faced in court, this one relating to votes in Maricopa County, Arizona… A half-dozen other Trump advisers have described Mr. Giuliani’s efforts as counterproductive and said that he was giving the president unwarranted optimism about what could happen… In an Oval Office meeting with aides on Thursday, Mr. Trump put Mr. Giuliani on speakerphone so the others could hear him. He angrily accused the aides of not telling the president the truth
Giuliani’s conspiracy-riddled rant at Four Seasons Total Landscaping was so disastrous that it “scared off many of the lawyers” recruited to argue election-related lawsuits.Politico: “Campaign officials described the episode as disastrous...there are widespread concerns within Trumpworld and GOP circles that Giuliani’s antics are thwarting the president’s legal machinery from within.” Two major law firms have withdrawn from Trump campaign cases as his legal challenges crumble. Arizona’s largest law firm Snell & Wilmer dumped the RNC and Trump campaign effort to challenge votes in Maricopa County. Porter Wright Morris & Arthur is abandoning Trump’s attempt to block Pennsylvania's popular vote for Joe Biden.
In one day (Friday), nine cases meant to attack President-elect Joe Biden's win in key states were denied or dropped - seven in Pennsylvania, one in Arizona, and one in Michigan.
The new federal chief information security officer, Camilo Sandoval, has already taken leave from his day job to participate in a pro-Trump effort to hunt for evidence of voter fraud in the battleground states. The group, Voter Integrity Fund, is a newly formed Virginia-based group that is analyzing ballot data and cold-calling voters. Sandoval was officially appointed on Nov. 4, 2020, but lists his starting date at October on his personal LinkedIn page.
WaPo: Sandoval is part of a hastily convened team led by Matthew Braynard, a data specialist who worked on Trump’s 2016 campaign. Another participant is Thomas Baptiste, an adviser to the deputy secretary of the Interior Department who also took a leave to work on the project. Braynard said in an interview that several other government officials on leave are also assisting the effort, but he declined to identify them.
Facebook Cut Traffic To Leading Liberal Pages Just Before The Election: Liberal page administrators who spoke with BuzzFeed News said that their reach declined by as much as 70%, and still hasn’t recovered.
Facebook Live Spread Election Conspiracies And Russian State-Controlled Content Despite Employee Fears: The social network’s live video tool has recommended videos featuring misinformation and the hyperpartisan views of Trump allies leading up to and following election day in the US.
In the week after the election, Trump’s postings dominated Facebook, accounting for the 10 most engaged status updates in the United States, and 22 of the top 25. “I WON THIS ELECTION, BY A LOT!” was his top post.
YouTube Is Doing Very Little to Stop Election Misinformation From Spreading
Social media app Parler receives financial backing from conservative hedge-fund investor Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah, The Wall Street Journal reported. Parler turned into a kind of de facto home for conservatives’ protests against the election— including the persistent “Stop the Steal” campaign— after the race was called for former Vice President Joe Biden. Several high-profile conservative social media personalities encouraged people to abandon Twitter and Facebook because of their moderation policies, and instead follow them on Parler.
Emily Murphy, the head of the General Services Administration, still hasn’t signed the official letter that would allow the incoming Biden team to formally begin the transition. House Democrats are assessing options to force the GSA’s hand, which could include summoning Murphy to the Hill to testify or suing her. “Obviously, Congress could file suit against the GSA administrator for failing to do her duty. We could seek to get a court to, in fact, issue an order
Her ascertainment is the legally necessary precursor to the government’s assistance to the Biden-Harris Presidential Transition Team. It releases $6.3 million dollars to the team, which is funded by public and private money; a loan of expanded federal office space and equipment; access to government agencies that will begin sharing information and records about ongoing activities, plans and vulnerabilities; national security briefings for the president; and other support.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence recently confirmed that it is not providing national security briefings to the president-elect. The Defense Department has also reportedly indicated that it will not meet with the Biden-Harris transition team until Murphy formally affirms the apparent winner.
One of the officials fired in Trump’s latest purge was helping prepare for the transition to the new administration. USAID Deputy Administrator Bonnie Glick was removed abruptly to make way for a Trump loyalist after she had been supportive of transition planning, including the preparation of a 440-page manual for the next administration. The GSA’s refusal to enact the transition has locked Biden’s team out of crucial Covid-19 pandemic data and government agency contacts. The president-elect’s Covid-19 task force has been trying to work around the federal government by connecting with governors and the health community.
The head of Operation Warp Speed, Moncef Slaoui, called on the White House to allow contact with the Biden team, saying “It is a matter of life and death for thousands of people.”
White House’s Office of Management and Budget is considering 145 new regulations and other policy changes they could enact before Biden’s inauguration - rules that will be challenging to undo once they are finalized. Critics and supporters of the administration say they expect a final burst of regulations to be finalized in the weeks before Jan. 20.
The rules under development include policies that the incoming Biden administration would probably oppose, such as new caps on the length of foreign student visas; restrictions on the Environmental Protection Agency’s use of scientific research; limits on the EPA’s consideration of the benefits of regulating air pollutants; and a change that would make it easier for companies to treat workers as independent contractors, rather than employees with more robust wage protections.
Last week, both Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said they’re preparing for a second Trump term. “There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration,” Pompeo said during a news conference Tuesday afternoon (clip). Pompeo then doubled down on Fox News (clip). “We are moving forward here at the White House under the assumption there will be a second Trump term,” Navarro said on Fox Business Friday (clip).
Attorney General William Barr stopped career prosecutors in DOJ’s Public Integrity Section from investigating whether President Trump broke any laws related to his conduct with Ukraine last year. The section was initially given the green light to pursue “a potentially explosive inquiry” into Trump, but after the Senate acquitted the president during impeachment proceedings, Barr sent the case to the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn. Prosecutors in DOJ’s Public Integrity Section were also prevented from bringing charges against former interior secretary Ryan Zinke by political appointees atop the Justice Department. Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen told prosecutors that they needed to gather more evidence and refine the case against Zinke for lying to Interior investigators.
The investigation into Zinke stemmed from his decision to block two Native American tribes—the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan—from opening a casino in Connecticut. Zinke’s office had been lobbied heavily by MGM Resorts International, which had been planning to open its own casino very close to where the tribes intended to break ground.
Sixteen assistant U.S. attorneys specially assigned to monitor malfeasance in the 2020 election urged Barr on Friday to rescind his memo allowing election-fraud investigations before results are certified. "It was developed and announced without consulting non-partisan career professionals in the field and at the Department. Finally, the timing of the Memorandum's release thrusts career prosecutors into partisan politics," the prosecutors wrote. An internal Justice Department investigation found that federal prosecutors who oversaw a controversial non-prosecution deal with Jeffrey Epstein in 2008 exercised “poor judgment” but did not break the law. “They just say he used poor judgment, and that's their way of basically letting everyone off the hook while offering some sort of an olive branch to the victims that we acknowledge weren't treated perfectly,” said Brad Edwards, who sued the DOJ in 2008 on behalf of Epstein accusers.
Eastern District of New York Judge Nicholas Garaufis (Clinton-appointee) ruled that Chad Wolf was not legally serving as acting Homeland Security secretary when he signed rules limiting DACA program applications and renewals. Therefore, in a win for Dreamers and immigration activists, Garaufis said the changes were invalid.
The judge described an illegitimate shuffling of leadership chairs at the Department of Homeland Security, the agency responsible for immigration enforcement, for the predicament of Wolf's leadership and that of his predecessor, Kevin McAleenan. "Based on the plain text of the operative order of succession," Garaufis wrote in the Saturday ruling, "neither Mr. McAleenan nor, in turn, Mr. Wolf, possessed statutory authority to serve as Acting Secretary. Therefore the Wolf Memorandum was not an exercise of legal authority."
There's a renewed push to get Chad Wolf confirmed as Homeland Security secretary -- a position in which he's been serving in an acting capacity for a yearr -- before Inauguration Day. In the past week, Homeland Security officials spoke to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's office about bringing the nomination to a floor vote in the coming weeks.
Within the last six months, as the coronavirus pandemic gripped the US, the Trump administration filed 75 lawsuits to seize private land along the US-Mexico border for the border wall." People right now are having to choose between their health and their homes," said Ricky Garza, a staff attorney at the Texas Civil Rights Project, a legal advocacy group. After a series of price increases, Trump’s border project will cost taxpayers $20 million per mile of border fence. A review of federal spending data shows more than 200 contract modifications, at times awarded within just weeks or months after the original contracts, have increased the cost of the border wall project by billions of dollars since late 2017. DHS has expelled unaccompanied immigrant children from the US border more than 13,000 times since March,using the coronavirus as an excuse to deny children their right to asylum. Previously, unaccompanied children were sent to government-run shelters as they attempted to pursue their asylum cases. Migrant children from Central America are being expelled to Mexico, where they have no family connections. The expulsions not only put children in danger - the policy violates a diplomatic agreement with Mexico that only Mexican children and others who had adult supervision could be pushed back into Mexico after attempting to cross the border. The House Judiciary Committee released a report on the Trump administration’s policy of separating families at the border, revealing that the federal agency that cares for migrant children was not told about the policy. The chaos contributed to the inability to later reunite parents and children. The Trump administration is trying to deport several women who allege they were mistreated by a Georgia gynecologist at an immigration detention center. Hours after one detained woman spoke to federal investigators about forced hysterectomies at a Georgia detention center, she said ICE told her that it had lifted a hold on her deportation and she faced “imminent” removal. Six former patients who complained about Dr. Mahendra Amin had already been deported. Northern District of Illinois Judge Gary Feinerman (Obama-appointee) blocked a key Trump administration policy that allowed officials to deny green cards to immigrants who might need public assistance Advocates who had feared that the policy would harm tens of thousands of poor people, particularly those affected by widespread job loss because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Microsoft said it has detected attempts by state-backed Russian and North Korean hackers to steal valuable data from leading pharmaceutical companies and vaccine researchers. “Among the targets, the majority are vaccine makers that have COVID-19 vaccines in various stages of clinical trials.” Two census takers told The AP that their supervisors pressured them to enter false information into a computer system about homes they had not visited so they could close cases during the waning days of the once-a-decade national headcount. The Supreme Court on Tuesday signaled it’s unlikely to tear down Obamacare over a Republican-backed lawsuit challenging the landmark health care law. Chief Justice John Roberts and Trump appointee Justice Brett Kavanaugh strongly questioned whether the elimination of the mandate penalty made the rest of the law invalid. Kavanaugh appeared to signal on several occasions that he favored leaving the rest of the law intact if the mandate is struck. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) was sued last week by four whistleblowers claiming that he abused his office to benefit himself, a woman with whom he was said to have had an affair, and the wealthy donor who employs her before retaliating against the members of his staff who reported him to the FBI. The Trump administration is rushing plans to auction drilling rights in the U.S. Arctic National Wildlife Refuge before the inauguration of Biden, who has vowed to block oil exploration in the rugged Alaska wilderness. Biden’s efforts could be complicated if the Trump administration sells drilling rights first. Formally issued oil and gas leases on federal land are government contracts that can’t be easily yanked.
Dec/29/2020 news: \\ political party law reformed: idea > individual; transparency; female % \\ Pashinyan responds to "not being enough pro-Russian" \\ who owns which business? \\ protests & snap elect. \\ burglary case & HHK MP \\ humanitarian aid for Artsakh \\ Vitalik flexes muscles \\ bills pass
Your 14-minute Tuesday report in 3589 words.
Pashinyan about pre-war negotiations and "avoiding" the war:
The idea that a flexible foreign policy could have avoided this war is being constantly circulated. Those [former officials] who believe in this thesis must answer at least one question: as a result of their "flexible" policy, why was it not possible to avoid the war of 2016, which was preceded by the unprecedented escalation of 2015 and 2014? The "flexible" policy adopted by Armenia for many years led to the introduction of Russian proposals in January 2016, which proposed the return of 7 territories (5 + 2) without any legal status for Nagorno-Karabakh. Why did Russia make such an offer? For one simple reason, as a result of Armenia's "flexible" policy, the Madrid process had come to a standstill because Artsakh could receive a Status outside Azerbaijan only with the consent of Azerbaijan. It was obvious to Russia and everyone else that Azerbaijan would not agree to this, so it was necessary to find ways to break the deadlock. And, by the way, if certain people claim that Armenia's foreign policy after 2018 was not sufficiently pro-Russian and this was the reason for the war, then why in the conditions of the "sufficiently pro-Russian" policy of 2016 were Russian proposals born and why did the April war take place? There was only one way to prevent this war: return the regions and forget about Artsakh's legal status. Now, after the war is over and we know the outcome, the number of supporters of [giveaway of 7 regions] is growing. What they forget is that if we gave away the lands to avoid the war, we would have the same situation in Syunik borders. They used to accuse us of "selling lands" [he means the contradictory statements like Nikol sold the lands, and why didn't Nikol sell the lands earlier to avoid the war]. The biggest failure by the supporters of the "flexible policies" is that they spent years trying to avoid a war instead of preparing for it. Our biggest failure is that we weren't able to recover enough embezzled public property in the past 2.5 years to help us better prepare for the war. https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1039231.html
businesses owned by opposition leaders
What are the known businesses owned by some of the famous people you might have seen in the public square lately?
20% share in Lorva Amrots Ltd which plans to operate two hydro-power plants on Dzoraget river. Manukyan purchased the shares in 2011 after being appointed by Serj as the head of the Public Council. In 2015-2016, he owned 30% shares in Vanavka Group. In 2015-2017 he had 30% shares in Jermakunq Group. These companies extracted and bottled water. At the time, the director of these companies was charged with illegal bottling and causing ֏55 million in damages to the state. The corruption case was sent to the IRS, which terminated the investigation after "not finding a crime". The companies export the products mostly to Russia.
Vanetsyan is a poor boy, according to the public declarations database. But if you have time, take a look at the investigative report I covered in Ap29/2020 news, according to which Vanetsyan's family allegedly used offshore firms and owns mining shares. More on that here. Here is a Hetq investigative report. Vanetsyan's father owns AV Group flower importing business. About a year ago, the police investigated several flower sellers near a stadium. An opposition outlet claimed that the sellers were "beaten and forced" to testify that Vanetsyan's father was running an underground business. This was never properly proven and the opposition's claim that Vanetsyan was about to be charged did not happen. The police confirmed that there was an investigation against several flower sellers. These flower sellers ended up hiring Vanetsyan's co-party-creator Arsen Babayan as a lawyer. Vanetsyan's father owns 50% shares of A B Export oil import company that began operating in 2017. It was a minor player that quit the market in 2019. Vanetsyan's father also owns 60% of A B Trans transportation company. In Nov/2019, CivilNet wrote about Arthur Vanetsyan's cousins' possible involvement with Zangezur Copper factory (massive business). The same offshore firm in Cyprus, which purchased Zangezur shares, was tied to Vanetsyan's cousins' another business in the same offshore. Vanetsyan's cousins also own a Switzerland-based Exoil wholesale cooking oil and shipping company. In 2019 it had a revenue of $148 million (11 billion Rubles). The cousins don't do this business in Armenia. Per 2019 registration, Arthur Vanetsyan himself owns one apartment, $10,000, and ֏1 million. Media reported in May/2020 that Vanetsyan's cousin purchased a ֏300 million mansion in Yerevan, which was donated to then-new political party "Hayreniq", co-founded by Arthur Vanetsyan and Arsen Babayan (the guy who is accused of helping HHK to fabricate documents in 2018 to hijack the Constitutional Court by appointing HHK MP Hrayr Tovmasyan as a judge). Arthur Vanetsyan's mother served as the chief of the personnel-management department in Serj and Pashinyan administrations, before quitting and working as Serj's aide. Vanetsyan's wife owns Villa Montessori preschool in Yerevan. She also runs the Young Education Center Ltd.
ARF Ishkhan Saghatelyan
Pashinyan appointed Saghatelyan as Gegharquniq governor for a brief period after the 2018 revolution, when Pashinyan created a unity-government, represented by all political parties. The honeymoon soon ended and each party went their way. Saghatelyan owns shares in i-mega Service Ltd. It's a tourism agency founded in 2006. It operates in Armenia, Artsakh, and Georgia. Saghatelyan founded Navasar company and serves as director. It's owned by his father. Saghatelyan family owns the Tsovasar hotel complex on Lake Sevan shores. It's 10,000 m2 (a hectare?). As of 2018, Saghatelyan declared ownership of 8 pieces of land, 2 apartments, ֏18.5 million, $45,000, and €15,000. Saghatelyan's father is the mayor of Gegharquniq's Geghamavan settlement. This municipality had recently sent a letter demanding Pashinyan's resignation. Saghatelyan used to be a shareholder of Shiman Ltd which is no longer active.
BHK leader Gagik "dodi gago" Tsarukyan
BUCKLE UP, KIDS! Overall, Tsarukyan runs 54 companies. Студент, комсомолец, спортсмен, u наконец, он просто красавиц. His business empire was covered in details here. Textile, gas stations, malls, Multi Group empire, Shangri-La Casino, Ararat Cognac & Wine Factory, BMW official office Euromotors (also Hyundai, Gazel, Niva), Multi Motors, Magas Invest, Multi Wellness, Olimpavan sports complex, Kotayk beer factory, TechnAlyumin door & window factory, Multi Rest House hotel chain, Paravon luxury restaurant, Onira Club, Zvartnot's airport's upper-level service company Avia Service, Farm Adama, Multi Pharm pharmacy, Multi Leon gas stations, Multi Solar solar panels. He owns shares in Frank Mueller Yerevan watch company, Fortsa, Multi Gold, Multi Diamond jewelry firms, several fish-breeding businesses. He also runs businesses in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Czechia, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Latvia. Per official declaration, he owns $168 million, €29 million, ֏675 million, 14 pieces of land, 6 houses, 2 public buildings, 1 apartment.
Details for BHK MP Mikael Melkumyan and HHK Vahram Baghdasaryan in the link below.
The street demonstrations, organized by the former regime and its allies, continue. They demand Pashinyan's resignation and the appointment of their candidate Vazgen Manukyan as the Prime Minister for the duration of a year, after which they agree to hold new elections. ARF leader Artsvik Minasyan said they don't plan to discuss snap elections with Pashinyan. "Right now, our only demand is Pashinyan's resignation. We demand SIS to immediately hold every criminal accountable". The demonstrators gathered in front of the SIS building to present the demands. https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1039316.html
Pashinyan meets leaders of several opposition parties
felony case: ex-HHK MP charged with armed attack on ex-IRS official
In August of this year, Russia extradited a former HHK MP Alraghatsi Lyovik to Armenia. He was wanted for allegedly burglarizing and shooting at a senior IRS official a decade ago. At the time, his case was "frozen". It was relaunched in 2018. (magic wand) NSS says: suspect Lyovik, with the help of citizens AK and AN, organized an armed burglary against IRS Chief (?) Avetisyan in 2008. AK was in the United States. In 2004, he stole $150,000 from jewelry shops in Los Angeles. He got caught but managed to flee to Armenia. Once in Armenia, AK colluded with policeman AN to organize a similar criminal ring in Armenia. [MP] Lyovik personally knew AK, and learned about their burglaries. Since Lyovik had bad relations with the IRS chief (victim), he decided to punish the victim by urging AK to burglarize his house. Lyovik revealed the plot to his brother-in-law, who happened to be the victim's personal aide. The latter gave all the personal habits and details about the victim to the burglars. [read the article for the full story, or wait for a Hollywood movie in theaters near you] The burglars and organizers are charged with felonies. https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/203835 , https://youtu.be/brdozVbwQ6A , https://factor.am/274836.html , https://armtimes.com/hy/article/183522 , https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/203835 ,
Russian Orthodox chapel will be built
... in the Armenian settlement near Nakhijevan where Azerbaijan had earlier shut down a Russian helicopter, which killed and wounded Russian pilots. It'll be on a hill in Yeraskh. Construction starts on January 6th. https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1039259.html
Vitalik Balasanyan will return the lands, kicks junkies, and restrict Facebook
Artsakh President Arayik earlier announced that he will allow his opponents to take jobs in the new coalition government. Kocharyan-ally Vitali Balasanyan became the Security Council chief. Vitalik: we will return Hadrut and Askeran region with the help of Russian and Armenian military-political efforts. We are in a better situation now to solve territorial issues. We will soon create border guard forces. It will report to MoD, which will report to the Security Council (his office). Drugs have no place in Artsakh. Drug users must quit or leave Artsakh now. We need to return to traditional values of giving women as wives after asking if the man had served in the army. No public official will be allowed to use Facebook during work. More: https://youtu.be/DceHyi4AB5g https://www.panarmenian.net/arm/news/289056/
search operations are paused / the "welcome to Azerbaijan" sign
Azerbaijan received criticism for refusing to allow search teams to enter the Hadrut region yesterday. They also prevented UNESCO from checking the status of several Armenian cultural sights, after complaining that UNESCO was "biased" against Azerbaijan during the war. HR Ombudsman: Any untrue information can not be a reason to disrupt the humanitarian process [referring to unconfirmed rumors on social media that Armenians opened fire at Azeris in Hadrut. An unofficial Iranian social media channel claims 3 Azeris were killed but due to an internal fight.] The Human Rights Ombudsman also criticized the Azeri troops for installing a provocative "welcome to Azerbaijan" sign on part of a road that went under Azeri control near Syunik borders. The Ombudsman says it's meant to intimidate the locals. https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1039233.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1039237.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1039244.html , https://factor.am/325511.html
Context: BHK MP Naira Zohrabyan referred to the majority of Armenian voters as human trash *(or as she says: impure), and called for the establishment of forced re-education camps so people won't vote for a "wrong party" again. The ruling QP party launched a process to terminate her chairmanship in Parliamentary Human Rights Committee. Read yesterday's thread for more details.* QP MP Arthur: the law states that the Parliament can appoint and terminate the chairman. The termination of this seat does not require the same procedures as in the case of MPs and Judges. Armenian Constitution states that in Armenia, human beings are of the highest value, and inalienable human dignity is the inseparable basis of their rights and freedoms. MP Zohrabyan's public conduct is against it. // The law gives the second-largest political party the mandate to appoint the chairman of this particular Committee. BHK, being the second-largest party, said they wouldn't appoint a replacement if Zohrabyan is voted out. QP MP Arthur: per rules, if BHK refuses to appoint a new candidate, the largest (QP) party will receive the mandate. // Parliament voted 78-4 to terminate Zohrabyan's chairmanship. BHK and LHK did not vote. BHK MP Zohrabyan: this termination was a Constitutional crime. https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1039245.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1039264.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1039304.html , https://factor.am/325132.html
Parliament votes: registering parties becomes easier / ideology instead of person / financial transparency
The goal of this reform is to have political parties that are more about ideology and less about an individual. The reform will boost internal democracy within parties; it will expand the powers of the Party Assembly. Parties will be required to add more anonymous voting mechanisms. The law also requires more financial transparency. The required membership to register a party is lowered from 800 to 300. Some of the public funding given to political parties will depend on the % of female members in the administrative boards. Parliament voted 99-1 to approve it. https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1039270.html , https://youtu.be/bPuZViCCCxo
Parliament votes: monthly fees towards soldiers' recovery are raised
Most workers pay a monthly 1000 Dram towards the Soldiers' Fund, which takes care of wounded soldiers and families of those who died. The govt found it necessary to raise the fee to cover thousands of new recipients. Here are the new fees and salary brackets: ֏1,500 for < ֏100k/month ֏3,000 for < ֏200k ֏5,500 for < ֏500k ֏8,500 for < ֏1 million ֏15,000 for > ֏1 million Parliament voted 89-0 to approve it. https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1039296.html
Parliament votes: ban on public smoking is delayed until 2022
The govt had adopted a law to ban smoking in public cafes and the public display of cigarettes in grocery shops. The ruling party wanted to delay parts of the bill that were set to go into effect in January, citing possible financial issues for businesses caused by the pandemic. QP MP: the cigarette industry pays $383 million to state coffers. Healthcare Ministry: it will be a mistake if you delay this bill for the sake of $10 million in tax revenues. Parliament voted 86-0 to delay the anti-smoking bill until 2022. https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1039295.html
Parliament votes: no tax on goods donated to Armenia
QP MP: When you donate a charitable product to the Republic of Armenia, you are exempt from customs duties and other tax payments, except for one payment, which we are trying to exempt with this bill as well. // Parliament voted 80-0 to approve it. https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1039297.html
how is the Judicial Branch doing?
The Supreme Court protects or punishes judges. It also handles complaints. It's separate from the Constitutional Court. bad boys 19 complaints against judges were heard, 14 of which were petitioned by Justice Ministry and 4 by Judicial Ethics Board. 10 judges ended up receiving disciplinary penalties, 3 received a warning, 3 were reprimanded, 2 were terminated, 4 were cleared. the system is overloaded 61 judges are handling 6470 felony cases. 86 judges handle 175,940 civil cases. 24 judges handle 17,390 administrative cases. The number of Arbitration cases rose from 3100 to 9900. finances This year, Supremes appointed 20 new judges. Supreme's budget remained the same this year. They returned ֏607 million in savings back to state coffers. https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1039249.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1039284.html
anti-corruption: SIS busts an IRS agent
SIS says: IRS border inspector took a bribe from a citizen to help him avoid paying Millions of ֏ in import taxes by splitting a large load into smaller pieces, so each piece would fall below the taxable threshold. https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1039293.html
Police and Nature Ministry have set up additional checkpoints as part of measures against whitefish poaching in Sevan. 24/7 monitoring on all alleys leading to the lake. They will also travel across markets to catch contraband whitefish. Why? It's the egg-laying season. Fishing is banned for now. The legally-allowed fishing tools were temporarily removed from the lake. https://youtu.be/8ZyRGpEazMQ https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1039339.html
...the rest should have access to other jobs. There is an opportunity now because many businesses operate remotely. Call Center workers don't have to visit an office. Businesses would rather pay less to hire a rural remote worker than more to hire someone in a Yerevan office. The High Tech Ministry has an ongoing program to teach IT to 5,000 citizens. We must help workers to expand their skillset. We're working on a program to allow a worker to quit the job, not worry about the food on the table, and have enough time for education and learning new skills. The villagers should ideally lease their smaller lands to large agricultural producers," said Economy Minister Qerobyan. Full interview: https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1039319.html
State regulators bust another price-fixing ring: fruit mafia
Yesterday, the Economic Competition Committee busted the egg industry's alleged price-fixing and anti-competitive practices. Today they say a similar collision was observed in the orange, mandarin, kiwi, lemon industry. The companies Best Fruits, Art-Fruits, and Promout were slapped with a ֏39 million in penalties for colluding to raise the prices for the products that had an increased demand during the pandemic period. http://www.competition.am/.../resources/Vo370_17_12_2020.pdf https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1039269.html
Lenovo slapped for "anti-competitive practice"
The Economic Competition Committee heard a petition filed by Oazis Computer company against Lenovo. The latter was issued a warning for anti-competitive behavior. Public Regulator: "Lenovo" company had the ability to influence the process of importing Lenovo computers to Armenia from non-EAEU trade bloc countries. "Lenovo" took steps to reduce the import of Lenovo computers from non-EAEU states, by discriminating against Oazis Computer importer. Lenovo is given a month to correct the issue and fix the requirement and standards related paperwork. (Facebook next?) https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1039333.html
Artsakh will also increase childbirth benefits
First child: ֏300k instead of ֏100k Second child: ֏300k instead of ֏200k (or ֏500k if one parent is disabled) As for monthly child care subsidy payments, it goes from ֏15k to ֏27k until the child turns 2. https://factor.am/325487.html
700 Artsakh families continue to live in 40 settlements of Gegharquniq province. The All Armenia Fund (HimnaDram.org) has provided food and household items to 241 families ahead of New Year. https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1039313.html
daily life in Syunik bordering villages Shurnukh and Vorotan
Hello all, I am a graduate student in finance with a bachelor's degree in Accounting. I wrote my thesis on how macroeconomic policy affects US equity markets (equity markets = stock market). I've spent the last 3 years studying this stuff and I'd say that I am not qualified in any sense to give sound investment advice. What that should tell you is that the stock market is an extremely complex landscape and takes years to understand. Even the best of the best lose money. With that being said, this comment is for informational purposes and not to be taken as investment advice or direction. I originally wrote this post as a comment to another user, but thought that it may be beneficial for others to use. It's very surface level, but I think it does a good job of answering some more abstract questions that people may have about equity markets. I also think it does a good job of establishing a solid, albeit basic idea of value investing and financial analysis. --- Understand that the last ten years does not accurately represent equity markets historically. From 1925 to 1941, if you invested in the S&P 500 index, you would have seen an average annual return of less than 5% with several of those years being negative- over the next ten years. Same goes for 1960 to 1975. (Disclaimer: Before people tear me apart saying you can't invest in the S&P 500 directly, I know. I'm using it as an example.) We've experienced a remarkably strong bull market over the last ten years, with 20% annual returns on the S&P 500 index; however, just because we've had a strong market the last ten years does not mean it will stay that way. Consider Japan in the early 1990s. Their bull market turned into a bubble (google: financial bubble) and for the next 10 years they saw no long term growth in their equity markets. They call the 1990s in Japan, "the lost decade". So this begs the question: if there are 10, sometimes 15 year long periods where we have almost no growth, or perhaps negative returns, when, where, and why should I park my money in equities? The first thing I think we should understand is risk. Risk is at the heart of almost all things "investing". If you go to the casino, and place $5,000 straight at the roulette table, your payout is a massive 35:1. If your bet hits, you walk away with $180,000. But statistically, your chances of winning are less than 3%. The risk is massive. Alternatively, if you buy a 3-month US treasury bill, the payout is around .1%. Meaning you would made $5 on a $5,000 investment. Why? The risk is so low. Also, what is a 3-month US treasury bill? Let me explain. A US Treasury bill is a short-term government debt security. Here's how it works. You give the US government $5,000. They now owe you $5,000 PLUS interest at a future date. In this example, it's 3 months. The US government says, "Thank you! We will give you $5,005 back in three months!" In three months, they give you the money back. Ask yourself, if you had to guess the percentage likelihood of the US government collapsing in the next three months, what would it be? Pretty low, right? That's why the return is so low. The United States government has the power, means, right, and infrastructure to tax the wealthiest population on the planet. Also, they aren't going out of business anytime soon. Therefore, that $5 return on a $5,000 investment is essentially guaranteed. Check out this chart. All stocks sit somewhere on this line of risk and return. But, how do we know the risk and return? Great question. How do we assess the value of an asset? An asset's worth is the sum of its future cash flows discounted to today's dollars. Read that again. An asset's worth is the sum of its future cash flows discounted to today's dollars. This is what we call "Net Present Value". Here's a video over it.Here's the NPV formula. Let's say we have a machine that spits out one dollar every year for 5 years. What is the value of that machine assuming a 2% inflation rate every year? Let's find out! Remember our NPV formula? Let's do the math. [$1 / (1+ .02)1] + [$1 / (1+ .02)2]+ ... + [$1 / (1+ .02)5] = $4.71. In this example, inflation rate is the discount rate; however, the discount rate can be many other things. We won't go into that right now though. So what does this mean to you? It gives you perspective. All those price movements in the stock market are the product of huge investment banks, mutual funds, and hedge funds moving money in and out of equities in massive quantities, with those decisions backed by hundreds, if not thousands of hours of research with private data that you can't access even if you had the money too. One of the big ways they (big banks) make these decisions is by using the NPV formula with Net Income in the numerator to determine the value of the asset and a rate to discount the cash flows at (there are ways to do this, again, we won't go into it). Then they use more complex methods to assess risk. Other methods of valuation may be used, but again, this is one of the big ones. So far, we've learned that risk and reward are positively correlated and companies are valued by their earnings. But, if companies are valued by their earnings, then why do bubbles happen? Why does the market tank sometimes? Shouldn't the market accurately reflect all companies at any given time? In theory, yes. But humans are irrational creatures, and often wrong. Therefore, stock prices are not always appropriately valued. I am going to introduce you to two financial ratios: earnings per share (EPS) and price to earnings (P/E) ratio. NOTE: EARNINGS = NET INCOME. Earnings per share is the net income of a company divided by it's number of outstanding shares. EPS = Net Income / Shares Outstanding. So let's say my company has a net income of $100 for the 2020 year and there are 100 shares outstanding. That would mean that my company's EPS is $1. Let's look at a real example: Apple. Click on this link. In the top left hand corner, click on sections>financial statements>consolidated statements of operations. Find EPS. Apple's EPS is 3.31. That's pretty solid. EPS puts a companies earnings in perspective with respect to the number of shareholders it has, which allows you to compare a companies earnings to its competitors, whether they be smaller or larger. Next, the price to earnings ratio. This is easy to calculate. It is just the share price divided by the EPS. PE = Price / EPS. What this does is puts the price of the stock in perspective with respect to its earnings. Consider the example where my company had an EPS of $1. Let's say the price of my stock is $30 per share. That would mean my PE ratio is 30 (PE raio of 30 = $30/$1 EPS). For some perspective on the PE ratio- the average P/E ratio in the S&P 500 is 25-30. But they can be as high as 1,000 (like Tesla) or as low 4 or 5. What the PE ratio does is says, "Hey man, here's a metric to determine how justifiable the price of this stock is considering how much the company makes." Generally speaking, investing in companies that have low PE ratios tend to show higher returns. Why? Because there is more of an acceptable margin (historically) for the price to increase with respect to earnings. For example: Five years ago, Apple's PE ratio was around 10. Now it's 40. This means the price went up, the earnings went down, or both. Over the last 5 years, Apple's EPS has increased. Therefore, because it's PE ratio is increasing as well, this means that it's price of the stock is increasing faster than it's earnings. Reference this chart. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, it just means that the big boys like Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, etc. think that Apple is going to do really well over the coming years as of right now. But let's say that tomorrow Apple was outed as a front for a money laundering scheme and they were going to be audited by the SEC and FBI. The price would tank. Why? Because people would be questioning if Apple would even exist as a company in the following years. They (the big boys, the government, me and you) would doubt their earnings. Rightfully so, I should add. What I (and many others) do is look at companies and determine:
Are their earnings sound? (Is it positive? If not, will it be positive? Will the company grow? Will another company come in and do whatever this company is doing, better?) This will help you determine if the return will be solid.
What is the current price of the equity in relation to the earnings? (What's the PE? Is it going up? Is it going down? Why?) This will help you determine how risky is your investment.
A solid company is generally one that has a high EPS, a low PE ratio, and is expected to grow. The reason Tesla has a PE ratio of >1,000 is because people expect it to grow. Like, they expect it to be the largest electric vehicle company by net income in the next 10-20 years AND expand into other markets like solar energy and batteries. Will they be right? I guess we'll see! This is the tip of the ice berg when it comes to investing. If you truly want to learn how to capture returns without exposing your investment to a large amount of risk, you are going to have to spend time learning how to do this. Here are some resources:
The Intelligent Investor (with Commentary) by Benjamin Graham. Read it entirely, the commentary first, then the chapters (Commentary, chapter, commentary, chapter, ...). Then read the commentary again and make notes.
Learn how to read three financial statements: The balance sheet, the income statement, the statement of cash flows.
Watch Martin Shkreli's investing lessons on Youtube. Specifically the first 5 or 6. Yes, he's done some bad stuff. But he really is an excellent teacher and extremely smart.
In my opinion, experience is a great teacher. Play with a small amount of money. Throw $100 at a stock you like and see what happens to it. If it drops 10% in a day, figure out why. If it goes up 10% in a day, figure out why. If it goes up steadily over the next six months, figure out why. If it doesn't do anything- figure out why. I'd like to note again that these opinions do not constitute investment advice. They are my personal opinions and do not guarantee any sort of returns. This is how I personally approach the stock market. Investing in any asset carries risk and all investors should conduct their own due diligence and analysis before investing. "Be fearful when others are greedy; be greedy when others are fearful." -Warren Buffett Cheers
Warning: massive amount of text ahead. I created a mostly functional race route around the world (all loactions like buildings, businesses, landmarks, etc. are REAL locations and could theoretically actually work in the race). I tried to have a good variety in locations and types of challenges, but it's really hard! I find it a lot harder to complain about challenge design after making this. Even though this could technically happen there are probably some safety concerns in going to South Africa and Lesotho and it's probably not possible for the American Amazing Race to film in Cuba, but I decided to do it anyway. If you have any questions or feedback please let me know! RACE #2 Leg 1 (USA - Japan) Leg 2 (Japan - South Korea) Leg 3 (South Korea - India) Leg 4 (India - Oman) Leg 5 (Oman) Leg 6 (Oman - South Africa) Leg 7 (South Africa - Lesotho) Leg 8 (Lesotho - Greece) Leg 9 (Greece) Leg 10 (Greece - North Macedonia) Leg 11 (North Macedonia - Cuba) Leg 12 (Cuba - USA) LEG 1 USA - Japan Start at Cloud Gate, Chicago, Illinois Run to clue at Millenium Monument Clue #1 Make your way to the Gunma region of Japan, and travel to Sarugakyu Onsen. However, to get your tickets to Japan, you must make your way on foot through the busy streets of Chicago to Navy Pier, where flights will be given out according to the order of your arrival. Flights go to Tokyo, and you must make your own travel arrangements from there. Flight 1 (5 teams): Chicago - Los Angeles - Tokyo, arrives 8:00 AM Flight 2 (4 teams): Chicago - Tokyo, arrives 9:30 AM Flight 3 (2 teams): Chicago - San Francisco - Tokyo, arrives 9:45 AM Clue #2 Both team members must go into the hot springs and search it for the partly submerged cluebox to get your next clue. Clue #3 Travel to Sarugakyo Bungy for your next clue. Clue #4 Roadblock: Who’s ready to take a jump? Bungy jump at the largest bungy jump in all of Japan at 62 meters, or over 200 feet! Once you’ve taken your leap of faith, you’ll receive your next clue. Clue #5 Travel to Uenokunirokunomiya Haruna Shrine, Takasaki, for your next clue. Clue #6 Create one string of paper cranes in Senbazuru. Senbazuru is the crafting of 1000 paper cranes for good luck. Following the demonstration, learn how to craft paper cranes. Once you have created forty of them and strung them together, deliver them to a Shinto priest at Akiba Shrine. He will give you your next clue. Clue #7 Travel by train to Akihabara, Tokyo, and go to the top of the Tokyo Skytree to receive your next clue. Clue #8 Roadblock: Who can ‘go’ kart? The teammate who did the first roadblock cannot do this one. Travel to Akihabari Street Kart 1 and dress up in one of the many ridiculous costumes the company has to offer. Then, join a fifteen minute go-karting tour around the streets of this bustling region and look for three enormous signs in race colors with three different Japanese characters on them. If you can spot and write all three characters down correctly during the rush of Tokyo, you’ll receive your next clue. If you can’t get it right, you’ll have to join the next available tour. Clue #9 Travel to Horin Park on foot to find the first pit stop! The last team to check in here may be eliminated. Pit Stop, Leg 1 trip to Canada last: eliminated LEG 2 Japan - South Korea Clue #1 Fly to Busan, South Korea! Upon arrival, make your way to Beomeo-sa for your next clue. Fast Forward, Leg 2 Go to Songdo Beach and swim out into the ocean, locating the five whale statues in the water. At each statue, pick up marked letter tiles. Once you have all seven (two statues have two tiles), you can go back to the beach and unscramble the letters that spell out the name of a traditional South Korean delicacy that the other contestants eat at their first challenge. If you get the right word, you’ll be given a clue that takes you straight to the end of the leg. Clue #2 Master the art of Korean meditation. If you can master all of the moves correctly, then your instructor will give over your next clue. Clue #3 Head to Taejongdae for your next clue. Clue #4 Roadblock: Who’s desperate to eat? Take the marked path over one mile uphill to the marked food stand, and finish one serving of Soondae, a traditional South Korean delicacy that is made of pig intestines and pork blood. Once you have finished the food, you can run down to your partner and get your next clue. Clue #5 Take the Songdo Marine Cable Car from Songnim Park to Amnam Park to receive your next clue. Clue #6 Detour: Fish Identity or Fish Delivery Fish Identity: Go to Jagalchi Fish Market and search for the marked stall. Once there, sort an enormous box of fish and organize them. Once the stall owner approves, put them up for stock in the stall to receive your next clue. Fish Delivery: Go to Jacky’s Seafood and take three orders and three addresses that need to be delivered. Once you have delivered all the fish to all the correct addresses throughout the Gamcheon Culture Village, you will receive your next clue. Clue #7 Make your way to the pit-stop at Haedong Yonggungsa. The last team to arrive may be eliminated. Pit-Stop, Leg 2 -first: trip to Belize -last: non-elimination LEG 3 South Korea - India Clue #1 Fly to Hyderabad, India, and go to the Charminar for your first clue. Clue #2 Travel to Ramoji Film City Main Entrance to receive your next clue. Speed Bump, Leg 3 Make your way to Saha’s Adventure Park and zorb down a steep hill. Once you’ve made it, you can continue racing. Clue #3 Detour: Birdy Woods or Bollywood Birdy Woods: Dressing up in clumsy bird costumes, search through Asia’s largest aviary for a cutout of the bird your partner is dressing up as. Once you’ve found the two cutouts, head to the Bonsai Garden. If you match the right bird, you’ll receive your next clue. Bollywood: Head to Ramoji Movie Magic. Dressing up in traditional Indian outfits, memorize a short dance to the tune of some Bollywood music and perform it to the live audience and judges. If you meet their standards, you’ll receive your next clue. Clue #4 Head to Nehru Zoological Park where your next clue will be waiting. Clue #5 Take an amazing elephant ride! With both teammates on the elephant’s back guide it through a short course. If you can reach the end in under two minutes, you’ll receive your next clue. Clue #6 Make your way to Bidar Fort by public transport for your next clue. Clue #7 Roadblock: Who’s itching to get etching? One team member must help in the process of the creation of bidriware. First, you must chisel one section in the piece of bidriware very precisely. Any error and you must restart. If given the clear, then you must then make their way inside Bidar Fort and collect a total of three baskets of soil for the artisans to use later in the process. Finally, you must use some of the soil you collected and coat a piece of bidriware in it. If every part of the challenge was done to the satisfaction of the artisans, you will receive your next clue. Clue #8 Make your way to the Bahmani Tombs and the pit-stop! The last team to arrive will be eliminated. Pit-Stop, Leg 3 -first: trip to Japan -last: eliminated LEG 4 India - Oman Clue #1 Fly to Muscat, Oman! Once you have arrived, make your way to Al Alam Palace, where you will find marked cars waiting outside. Your clue will be waiting on the car. Clue #2 Drive all the way to the Nizwa Souq in Nizwa, Oman, where you will find nine different tags, each releasing teams at different times the next morning, when you will be given your next clue. Tag 1: departure at 7:00 AM Tag 2: departure at 7:05 AM Tag 3: departure at 7:10 AM Tag 4: departure at 7:15 AM Tag 5: departure at 7:20 AM Tag 6: departure at 7:25 AM Tags 7-9: departure at 7:30 AM Clue #3 Detour: Selling Goats or Weighing Dates Selling Goats: Navigate through the souq to the weekly goat market. You must select a seller and help them sell their goats. First, thoroughly clean five goats so they are ready for selling. Then, parade five goats around the “walking circle,” where potential buyers will inspect which goats to buy. You must finally buy a goat yourself, haggling for a price under 100 riyals, or 260 US dollars. Once you can purchase a goat, you will receive your next clue. Keep the goat for the next challenge. Weighing Dates: Find the marked stall in the souq that is selling dates. Your goal is to weigh out 200 grams of Ajwa Dates, 175 grams of Barhi Dates, and 125 grams of Hayani Dates. To do this, you must travel across the market to a scale at a different date stall. If you can get the perfect amount of dates, you will receive your next clue. Keep the dates for the next challenge. Clue #4 Travel on foot to the Contemporary Mosque with either your goat or dates and trade them with the man waiting out front for your next clue. Clue #5 Make your way back to the souq, and head to Omani Craftsman's House where you will find your next clue. Clue #6 Roadblock: Who can work and weave? The teammate participating in this roadblock must help create a small basketwork bowl. After watching the example, you must use the provided materials to finish off the bowl. If it meets the requirement of the shop owner, you will receive your next clue. Clue #7 Make your way to the pit-stop for this leg of the race, Nizwa Fort! The last team to arrive may be eliminated. Pit-Stop, Leg 4 -first: continue racing -last: continue racing LEG 5 Oman Clue #1 Drive yourself to Bimmah Sinkhole in Muscat, Oman! You will receive your next clue after having a cup of delicious locally-made coffee. Caution! Double U-Turn ahead! Clue #2 Detour: Script Write or Shipwright Script Write: Drive to Bait al Zubair and go into the Manuscript Room. Using a provided paper and translation guide, figure out what the marked manuscript says in English. If anything is wrong when submitting it, though, you must start completely over. Shipwright: Drive to Oman Maritime Boatyard and find the marked boat. Oman Maritime has been reviving the craft of making the traditional wooden boats of Oman’s past, and you must help with the process. First, you must hand-sand a small section of the marked vessel. Then, you and your partner must work together to stitch coconut palm fiber through twenty holes, or eighty total stitches. Once you’re done, you’ll receive your next clue. Clue #3 Make your way to Mutrah Souk for your next clue and the U-Turn board! Clue #4 Search through the enormous market for one of three marked stalls. One you’ve found a stall, search through their wares for a trinket with a red/yellow flag on the bottom. Give the correct trinket to the shop owner, and they will hand you your next clue. Clue #5 Drive yourself to Qurum Beach, where you will receive your next clue. Clue #6 Roadblock: Who will pass the shells? For this challenge, one team member must watch the demonstration of two fishermen playing a traditional Omani game, Al Hawalees. You must first create a “board” in the sand and collect the required amount of shells to play. You must then challenge a local fisherman. If you can win while following all of the rules correctly, you will receive your next clue. Clue #7 Make your way to the pit-stop at Wadi Bani Khalid. The last team to check in will be eliminated. Pit-Stop, Leg 5 -first: trip to Tanzania -last: eliminated LEG 6 Oman - South Africa Clue #1 Fly out of Oman to Durban, South Africa, on one of two flights. Flight 1 (2 teams): Muscat - Durban, arrives 7:30 AM Flight 2 (6 teams): Muscat - Dar es Salaam - Durban, arrives 8:00 AM Upon touching down, make your way to Moses Mabhida Stadium, where you will find your next clue. Clue #2 Roadblock: Who will swing for the skies? One team member must strap in and complete the Big Rush Big Swing, the largest swing in the world! Dive 263 feet down. Once you have finished the swing, you will receive a section and seat number. You will search the stands for your next clue. Clue #3 Make your way to Umhlanga Lighthouse for your next clue. Clue #4 Shake it up! In this challenge, you must create Lighthouse Bar’s famous “Umhlanga Schling.” Use the provided recipe to create fifteen drinks to perfection, and you will receive your next clue. Clue #5 Head to Addington Beach and dig underneath one of the large sandcastles for your next clue. Clue #6 Detour: Tree or Sea Tree: For this detour, go to Durban Botanical Gardens. Use a provided golf cart to make your way to the famous Wood’s Cycad, a tree dating back to the age of dinosaurs. It has been cared for here since 1848. Once there, use one of the provided pieces to put together a large 3d puzzle of the tree. Once it has been approved, you will be handed your clue, and you can drive back to the front of the gardens and continue racing. Sea: Go to uShaka Marine World and help out with some chores! First, help the kitchen staff and prepare 5 pounds of specially made vegetables for some of the aquarium’s fish. Second, travel around the park and take water samples from each of the specified exhibits. Finally, record blood test results taken during routine health check-ups. If you’ve completed all of the steps correctly, you will receive your next clue. Clue #7 Head to the pit-stop at Suncoast Casino and Entertainment World! The last team to check in may be eliminated. Pit-Stop, Leg 6 -first: 5k each -last: eliminated LEG 7 South Africa - Lesotho Clue #1 Drive yourself through Qacha’s Nek and into Lesotho! Once in Lesotho, drive yourself to Maletsunyane Falls where you’ll find your next clue. Fast Forward, Leg 7 By completing this fast forward, you will skip an overnight rest point and will be able to head directly to the pit-stop. Head to Sehlabathebe National Park. Once there, using the provided map and compass, ride by horseback to the nomadic tribal people’s current village. At the village, help cook pap-pap, a type of porridge common in Lesotho. The first team to complete the challenge will be able to head directly to the pit-stop. Clue #2 Drive yourself to Seshoeshoe Decor and Fashion Designers in Maseru for your next clue. Clue #3 Who can cut up a pattern? One teammate will choose one of the complicated tribal Lesotho designs, and must find five pieces of fabric that match it perfectly. But be careful, the designs have miniscule differences between them. Once you’ve found all of your fabric, cut them at the directed places to receive your next clue. Clue #4 Make your way to the Subeng River Dinosaur Footprints, where you will find seven tags, each releasing you at a time in the morning when you will receive your next clue. Tags 1-2: departure at 7:00 AM Tag 3: departure at 7:20 AM Tag 4: departure at 7:40 AM Tags 5-7: departure at 8:00 AM Clue #5 Detour: Cave or Maze Cave: For this challenge, go to Liphofung Cave. You must memorize all of the rock paintings in a specified section (15 paintings), and then run approximately a quarter-mile away and select the correct paper cutouts and put them in the right order as they were shown in the cave. When you have everything selected and ordered correctly, you’ll receive your next clue. Maze: Make your way to the second largest dam in Africa, Katse Dam. Enter the first marked gallery and record the air temperature and the humidity. Use those observations to crack a complicated code, and enter the parallel gallery it directs you into. Be careful, it might be hard to find! If you enter the correct gallery, you will find a boat key, which you must give to the boatmaster. He will then give you a small ride around the reservoir and you’ll receive your next clue. Clue #6 Drive yourself to Sani Stone Lodge for your next clue. Clue #7 Help a local Basotho Shephard and their dogs move their sheep to a new grazing location. Don’t let the sheep get away! Once they’ve all been successfully moved, you’ll receive your next clue. Clue #8 Make your way on foot to the pit-stop at Sani Top Chalet! The last team to check in may be eliminated! Pit-Stop, Leg 7 -first: trip to Egypt -last: non-elimination LEG 8 Lesotho - Greece Clue #1 Via Maseru International Airport, make your way to Athens, Greece, known to be the home of the first democracy! From there, make your way to the Theatre of Dionysus on The Acropolis, where you will take part in a U-Turn vote. The two teams with the most votes will be sentenced to an automatic U-Turn when they arrive at the detour. After the vote, teams will be given their next clue. Clue #2 Fly to Chania, Greece on the island of Crete! Upon touching down, use the provided cars to make your way to the Agora and search for the marked stall. Speed Bump, Leg 8 Together, team members must eat through a total of twelve Greek figs. Once all of the fruits have been stomached, that team can continue racing. Clue #3 Detour: Traverse or Immerse Traverse: Make your way to the Maritime Museum of Crete, and find the small yacht model outside the museum. Your goal is to remember as much as you can without writing it down, then make a half mile walk through the streets of Crete to the yacht harbor, where you must find a marked yacht and rearrange the items until it is just like it was in the model. Once the actual yacht matches the model, you’ll receive your next clue. Immerse: Travel to Minoan’s World 3D Museum, and get treated to a five minute long “9D movie” on Cretan History which engages all of your senses. If you can answer all five questions correctly, you’ll receive your next clue. However, only two teams can participate in the show at once. Clue #4 Drive to the Palace of Knossos for your next clue. Clue #5 Use the provided map to navigate through the ruins, collecting puzzle pieces at each of the marked rooms. Once you have all ten bundles of pieces, head outside and recreate the large painting using the pieces you collected. Once it has been finished, you’ll receive your next clue. Clue #6 Drive to Cretan Olive Oil Farm for your next clue. Clue #7 Roadblock: Who is feeling oily? In this challenge, one teammate will help in the process of creating olive oil. First, set up special tree-shaking equipment and a net, used to efficiently get olives out of the tree without bruising them. You will then sort the olives between bruised and fair. Finally, crush both bruised and fair olives with a traditional granite olive press. Once they have been successfully grinded into a paste, you’ll receive your next clue. Clue #8 Find the pit-stop along the coast of the small village of Loutro back on the west side of Crete. You will soon discover, however, that the village is completely blocked off from the mainland by mountains, so you will have to find alternate transportation. Hurry, because the last team to arrive will be eliminated. Pit-Stop, Leg 8 -first: trip to Austria -last: eliminated LEG 9 Greece Clue #1 Fly back to the mainland in Thessaloniki! When you’ve arrived, search Aristotelous Square for your next clue. Clue #2 Detour: Serve or Observe Serve: For this detour head on foot to Bougatsa Giannis, a renowned restaurant in the Ladadika area. You must take the orders of twelve total people and retrieve the correct dishes for them from the kitchen. Each person also has a dessert, which must be retrieved from nearby pastry shop Trigona Elinidi. You may take notes, but if you mess up someone’s order, you must start it over again. Observe: Go by taxi to the Thessaloniki Science Centre Technology Museum and make your way to the main planetarium. The night sky will be projected above, and will be moving around you at one hour of regular movement per second. Using the provided key, identify five Greek constellations first identified by Claudius Ptolemy- Orion, Ursa Major, Cassiopeia, Centaurus, and Perseus. Be careful, it might be dizzying! Once you’ve found all of the constellations, you’ll be rewarded with your next clue. Clue #3 Find the Arch of Galerius for your next clue. Clue #4 Use one of the marked cars to drive yourself for the rest of the leg. Go to the Thessaloniki Concert Hall for your next clue. Clue #5 Roadblock: Who can blow a note and hold a tune? Macedonian brass bands are extremely popular in the Macedonia region of Greece, so for this roadblock, learn how to play the trumpet, a popular instrument played in these bands. If you can play a few notes of the folk song with the band, you’ll get your next clue. Clue #6 Drive to Dalamara Winery. Once there, follow the guide to the directed area, where you must load two empty kegs onto a horse drawn cart. Direct the horse approximately half a mile through the vineyard and return back to the kegs. You will continue to load and deliver a total of eight kegs to receive your next clue. Clue #7 Drive to Ski Center Voras and take the lift to the top where Kajmakcalan, a chapel right on the border between Greece and North Macedonia is situated. The last team to arrive at this pit-stop may be eliminated. Pit-Stop, Leg 9 -first: trip to Colombia -last: eliminated LEG 10 Greece - North Macedonia Clue #1 Drive yourself across the border into North Macedonia to Popova Kula Winery! Once there, pull a tag that departs you at a certain time the next morning. Tag 1: departure at 8:00 AM Tag 2: departure at 8:10 AM Tag 3: departure at 8:20 AM Tags 4-5: departure at 8:30 AM Clue #2 Roadblock: Who is a master chef? The teammate doing this roadblock will use the provided recipe to cook the national dish of North Macedonia, Tavche Gravche, a special type of baked beans. If it is cooked to perfection, you’ll receive your next clue. Clue #3 Drive yourself to the Millenium Cross in Skopje for your next clue. Clue #4 Detour: Art Block or Charity Walk Art Block: Drive to the Art Bridge, which is home to 29 statues of important Macedonian artists and musicians. Wandering on and around the bridge are 29 people dressed up as those artists and musicians. You must match nine total people to their statues. A maximum of three teams can complete this challenge. Charity Walk: Drive to the Mother Teresa Memorial House and load a trolley cart with a marked group of items that will almost completely fill the trolley. On foot, travel to the SOS Children’s Village National Office where you are to deliver the items. If you do not choose this option, your items will still be donated after the leg. Clue #5 Drive to the city of Struga, where the North Macedonian national anthem was created. Make your way to the Saint Archangel Michael Cave Church for your next clue. Clue #6 Teammates must work together to memorize four total stanzas of the Macedonian national anthem- in Macedonian. If you can perform it with the orchestra without forgetting the lyrics, you’ll receive your clue to the next pit-stop. Clue #7 Drive to the Monastery of St. Naum and the pit-stop! The last team to check in may be eliminated. Pit-Stop, Leg 10 -first: trip to Indonesia -last: eliminated LEG 11 North Macedonia - Cuba Clue #1 Make your way back to Skopje, then fly to Havana, Cuba, on two predetermined flights. Once there, go by taxi to Taller Calle 8, a car repair shop, where you will receive your next clue. Flight 1 (2 teams): Skopje - Paris - Havana, arrives 6:30 AM Flight 2 (2 teams): Skopje - London - Miami - Havana, arrives 7:10 AM Clue #2 Roadblock: Who can fix it up? The teammate doing this roadblock must follow the example to repair one of the classic Cuban cars. If it makes it past inspection, you’ll receive your next clue. Clue #3 For the remainder of the leg, you’ll have to drive the car you just fixed. Head to Fusterlandia, where you’ll find your next clue. Clue #4 Find where the attached image is in person throughout the folk neighborhood of Fusterlandia. If you can find where the image actually is and show the judge, you’ll receive your next clue. Clue #5 Sell the Box or Find the Band Sell the Box: Drive to Santa Maria del Mar Beach and sell the provided boxes of boxed rum, the “juice box for bug kids.” While never selling any box for under 25 Cuban Pesos, make 375 Cuban Pesos (around fifteen US dollars). Once you’ve made your sales, you’ll receive your next clue. Find the Band: For this detour, drive to the Cuban Art Factory and observe the large, marked piece of sheet music in the first room. Going from room to room in the factory, try to find the band who is playing the music that was in the first room. You must make your guesses ten minutes apart, so be confident in your answers! Once you have chosen the right band, you’ll be rewarded with your next clue. Clue #6 Drive to Vinales Valley Tobacco Field and search the marked area for your next clue. Clue #7 Perfectly roll ten Cuban cigars, five per contestant. Watch the example closely, as any small mistake in rolling the tobacco leaf will cause the cigar to fail. Once all of the cigars have been perfectly rolled, you’ll receive your next clue. Clue #8 Take a long drive to the eastern side of Cuba and the pit-stop at Ignacio Agramonte Park in Camaguey! The last team to check into the pit-stop will be eliminated. Pit-Stop, Leg 11 -first: trip to Botswana -last: eliminated LEG 12 Cuba - USA Clue #1 For the first part of this leg, you’ll be staying in Cuba! Drive yourself using the car you used in the last leg down Neptuno street in Havana, where you will find a guarapo stall with a flag. Clue #2 Using the hand-press to crush sugarcane, make forty glasses of guarapo. Once all of the glasses have been successfully made, you’ll be handed your next clue. Clue #3 Drive to the Tropicana Night Club for your next clue. Clue #4 Roadblock: Who can make it and shake it? For this challenge, one team member must follow the instructions of the costume designer to create a costume for one of the showgirls. If the costume is made correctly and given a pass, teams will be given their next clue. Clue #5 Teams must drive to Aeropuerto de La Habana Ciudad Libertad, where you will embark on a charter flight to Key West, Florida, back in the United States. Once in Key West, teams must go to the southernmost point in the continental United States for their next clue. Clue #6 Make your way to the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, where you’ll find your next clue. Clue #7 Roadblock: Who is a reader, a writer, and a decipherer? Ernest Hemingway, known for books like The Old Man and the Sea, had a notoriously bad handwriting, with little regards to punctuation or accuracy. One team member must copy one of Hemingway’s notes perfectly, letter for letter, on the provided typewriter. If it was typed perfectly, you will be handed a decoder key which you can use to find the hidden message, which will reveal the location of your final challenge. Answer: Smathers Beach Clue #8 Now that you’ve made it to Smathers Beach, you’ll partake in a final challenge. Out in between the marked buoys are bundles of letter tiles. You must dive down to retrieve them and bring them back up to shore. Figure out what you’re supposed to spell out with them, and once you think you have the answer, hang the tiles in order on your clothesline. If you have the correct answer, you’ll be given the final clue. Answer: United States, Japan, South Korea, India, Oman, South Africa, Lesotho, Greece, North Macedonia, Cuba, United States (teams must figure out that they have to spell out all of the countries they visited in order on the race) Clue #9 Congratulations! Make your way to the final pit-stop at Fort Zachary Cruise Pier! Go, go, go, the first team to reach the pit-stop will win 1 MILLION dollars! Pit-Stop, Leg 12 10 countries 4 continents over 27,000 miles first: 1 million dollars
After I tried to stop this series and start a new series (which failed), I am back in the driver's seat for King's Survivor's final phase, since it would probably have lasted longer if Adobe didn't cancel Flash (thanks for rushing my series, mate!). This season, I tried to do what u/swoldow did before and make a season called Saints Vs Sinners, where 10 people who embody the term "Saint" will face off against the people who embody the term "Sinner", but unfortunately, it seemed like a lot of the people who signed up misunderstood the definition of saints and sinners. For the love of god, someone who is slightly villainous is not a "sinner", and average people are not "saints". Oh well. I guess it's the best I'm gonna get. Here is the cast: Kahramanca (Saints) Tribe: Ardet Prifti, 31, Rhythm Guitarist, u/Twig7665 Ardet lived a difficult life. Born in Albania with a family that was associated with the mafia meant that Ardet was never safe, and one day, he came back home to find his whole family had been murdered by the Albanian mafia. He spent years on the street, struggling to survive, before he discovered his musical talent. He played a guitar (which he had to steal), which enabled him to earn money. After a few years of doing that, he moved to the United States, where he did his best to get into the largest music college in that country, and actually succeeded. He met some people that became his bandmates, and soon they were pretty popular in the underground scene. When their fame exploded, Ardet's bandmates grew either egotistical or paranoid, but Ardet saw fame as a way to spread awareness for mental illness. He has now become a strong supporter of mental health charities around the country, and he signed up for Survivor to raise money for one of the charities he supports. Ava Chrisly, 23, Kindergarten Teacher, u/Gemini_B Ava was born deaf. After her father died when she was 3, her birthmother struggled to care for her and her 3 siblings. Ava was especially tough since she needed special treatment and one night her birthmother left her on the doorstep of a rich widow with a note explaining how Ava got there. The Widow, not wanting to deal with a deaf child, left her outside where she spent a cold night alone and scared. She came across Marissa, a young girl who ran away from home. Marissa took pity on her and the two banded together. They spent years together on the street with Ava learning to read lips and Marissa learning sign language. Marissa quickly saw that Ava had a gift with children and encouraged her to find a job with kids. Ava didn’t want Marissa to leave, but then Marissa surprised her by revealing she had a scholarship to a teachers college. Ava went off to the collage and became a kindergarten teacher, but when she returned she learned that Ava had gone to jail for stealing from a rich old woman and using the money to bribe a college administrator. Ava promised she’d help bail Marissa out, and learned about survivor. She’s hoping she can win the million to help free Marissa and get their lives on track. Chelsea Rutherford, 22, Lifeguard, u/IAmWolfNinja Chelsea was the heiress to the throne of a foreign country with a corrupt government. The wealth that came with such a status meant nothing to her, since she was utterly disgusted with the actions of her family. Knowing her resentment for their governmental policies, Chelsea's family gradually became verbally abusive towards her. Unable to take any more, she escaped as a teen to pursue her own path. When she arrived in America, Chelsea wanted to do everything she could to erase her dark past and the actions of her family, so she got a job as a lifeguard, where she has saved countless lives. She's occasionally recognized as an heiress, but when it's brought up, she tends to have nervous breakdowns. Chester "Cap'n" Richardson, 67, Retired Naval Officer, u/swoldow Some may see him as just the average old man, but Cap’n has seen and done things most people couldn't fathom. Cap’n joined the navy at a ripe young age about 5 years before the Cold War began, and learned everything from afar, slowly working up the ranks. When things got bad in Vietnam, he was given the chance to take charge of a ship during the war, and he immediately said yes. He ran the ship strictly, but he got both respect from everyone, as well as being genuinely liked as a person by his crew. He led them to many naval victories but unfortunately that didn't last, when his ship was shot with a torpedo, which blew the whole thing up and killed everyone on it, except for Cap’n. With the emotional baggage of watching people he has gotten to know kick the bucket, he immediately resigned from the navy after. As a result of the shipwreck, his mindset has changed, as he’s now super overprotective of his family, and still can't let the explosion go after years and years of retirement. He hopes Survivor can help him learn more about himself, and be the thing he needs to live the rest of his life in peace. Cornelius Von Helton, 52, CEO, u/Gemini_B Cornelius was raised by a family that had fallen from riches and was in tough times. He never expected to get to go to university but got lucky by getting a scholarship for his creative greeting cards. While at university, he enrolled in a business course and after collage started a greeting card business with some friends. All of his friends quickly gave up on the business, but Cornelius stuck through it. When he made a greeting card that was delivered to Eddie Murphy, the comedian was impressed and hired him to do his greeting cards to his friends, family, and invitations to parties. Quickly other celebrities started to hire his business and many fans wanted to get into the trend. His business rapidly expanded and he soon found himself with a company that covered parties, greeting cards, published books and even dabbled in a touch of Realestate. While in his thirties though, Cornelius was mugged while on a walk in the park and got stabbed. He was quickly rushed to the hospital and while there, he was nursed back to health by his soon to be wife. He claims that she saved his life and proceeded to date her after leaving the hospital. She was reluctant at first, but he quickly charmed her and the two have been married for 15 years now. He has two children, a son aged 10 and a daughter aged 8. He's continued to run his business, but leaves most of the work to his higher-ups as he wants to be able to spend as much time with his family and employees as possible. He views his employees as his family and does his best to remember all their names and make the workspace as nice for them as possible. He's come to survivor because his wife loves the show and wanted to compete, but due to growing health issues can't. She's trained him to win, and he wants to do this and win for her. Dana Vasquez, 43, Stay At Home Mom, (filler character) Greg Zimmer, 40, High School Teacher, u/AngolanDesert Greg is one of the nicest people you will ever meet. He is very trusting and kind and will do anything for the people he loves. Since he grew up in Texas, hard work has always been his priority. He knows that if he wants to win this game, he has to work hard at everything he does. Greg decided to be a high school teacher so he could teach his students the importance of hard work. He has been a fan of survivor for a while, so when he saw that applications for survivor were going out, he knew he had to join in. Hopefully, he won’t disappoint his students. Gwendolyn "Gwen" Wallerby, 52, Baker, u/ghetra Gwen works at a bakery where she gets to do what she loves every day: make many different kinds of pies. She is a very warm, loving person and has a reputation for helping out whoever needs it, usually by baking for them. Baking takes a lot of patience and strength, and she is stronger than she looks. She naturally has a very loud voice that sometimes irks people, but once they get to know her it quickly becomes endearing. Now that her children are out of the house, she has started reading much more and taking classes on different subjects that interest her. The world is her oyster. Kirk Smolarek, 62, History Teacher, u/Twig7665 Kirk never had a normal childhood. His mom walked out on his family not long after he was born, and his father was a former Polish soldier with PTSD and a severe drug addiction, leading to Kirk experiencing abuse from him for as long as Kirk can remember. Wanting to escape his miserable life, he smuggled himself on a boat bound for Australia when he was 16. Lo and behold, the ship got caught in a windstorm and ended up sinking, and Kirk and a few other survivors ended up stranded on an island. After spending more than a month there, he was taken back to his homeland after being found there. He ended up being the only survivor of the whole ordeal. He was returned to his deranged father, where the next time his father tried to abuse him, he fought back, causing his father to end up in the hospital. Deemed not guilty because he defended himself, Kirk did not spend time in prison for this. His father on the other hand did spend time there for drug-related charges and child abuse, but was killed by another inmate before he could be released. Kirk then went to college, where he studied history there, and decided to become a history teacher. He then kept that job title for over 40 years now, and despite being in his 60s, he is still an enjoyable presence for his students, as he incorporates unusual teaching methods to make his students interested in what he's teaching. Despite being financially stable, he wants to win the money so he can be well off when he retires in a few years. Maralyn Sander, 32, Tour Guide, u/Void_Drone Maralyn gives tours of New York, driving around in her bus, answering questions, watching broadway shows. And she spends most of her money on her family, except for the money she spent on her pink pearl necklace. She enjoys the tours for the most part, but when she's alone she vents about how annoying the tours can be. Kotu Adam (Sinners) Tribe: Alexa Station, 20, YouTuber, u/IAmWolfNinja A 3AM YouTuber who arrived late to the trend, Alexa has a tendency to flex her belongings when no one really cares. She was recently involved in a scandal where she faked her boyfriend's death, causing endless amounts of controversy, and a near arrest. Her sub count is dropping significantly every day, so she joined to help gain her popularity (relevancy) back. Carter Witworth, 23, College Student, u/JTsidol Witworth, he was born to a extremely rich family, but his parents didn’t have time for him, but spoiled him rotten, when he got into school, he was known for being a bully, however no one confronted him, and everytime he’d get in trouble or fail a test, his parents would pay his way out, last year, he got a slap in the face, when his parents yet again had to bribe the college board to accept him, they cut off his allowance, he’s playing just for the money, nothing else. Irvin Eamers, 32, Olympic Sprinter, u/asiansurvivorfan A born athlete, Irvin loved competing in all sports but wasn’t known to play fair as he was never a team player and would often torment others to win. He started training for the Olympics at the age of 17 and eventually got the opportunity to compete in multiple Olympics where he took home many gold medals. However, they were striped from him when he was caught doping and using steroids to give him an edge in races. After the controversy, Irvin’s current wife left him and he was banned from competing in any future competitions. He came on Survivor for one reason and that is that is the money as he’s currently being sued by the Olympic committee. Jessica Abrefa, 25, Poker Player, u/Twig7665 Jessica wasn't the most well off growing up, she lived in Alabama, where racism was rampant. As such, she was bullied for her race, until one day, she decided that they will all be wrong about her not being able to do anything because of her skin colour. She publicly humiliated the whole football team at her high school, and that stunt got her expelled in her senior year. She didn't care, and then she decided to run away to Las Vegas, which she did. While there, she started modeling, but found it boring. She then picked up the hobby of gambling, and played her first poker match when she was 21. She proved herself to be a formidable foe by beating one of the top poker players at the time, a dude named Brett Herman. Impressed by her skills, he tried to form a bond with her, but she turned him down due to him being a very paranoid man. Now, Jessica dates and cheats on men almost daily, and is considered one of the top female poker players, despite only playing for a few years. An avid Survivor fan, she wants to be as flirty and manipulative as she is in her real life. The only problem would be meeting another poker player, but she finds it unlikely that she will. Joey "Wildcard" Caruso, 24, Poker Player, u/wordonthestreet2 Joey did not grow up with the best moral compass as his father notoriously had ties to the mafia. He used the money his father made through illegitimate businesses to gamble throughout his teenage years. When his father learned about his poker abilities and how easy it was for him to manipulate his opponents they began using his poker career as a way to launder mafia money through various casinos. He is known for his excellent poker face and unpredictable style of play which earned him the nickname Wildcard. Maize Nguyen, 28, Heiress, u/Vicctoryy From the outside looking in, the Nguyen Family Dynasty of San Francisco looks like a well supported and strong business, but from the inside, things are crumbling apart. The matriarch and patriarch are always at each other's necks over the company, leaving their children to clean up their messes. Maize, being the oldest, has taken it upon herself to lead the company, and she leads with an iron will and even harder iron fist. While she seems like a worthy replacement for her faulty parents, she has never been afraid to leave with force. Anyone at the receiving end of a verbal lashing from Maize is likely to not return to work the next day, or ever again. She is arrogant, rude, demeaning, and yet she gets things done. Saving the company from absolute bankruptcy caused a lot of backlash, but Maize couldn't care less. Success should be accomplished by stepping on the necks of those who aren't ready for the power, and Maize has done that exact thing. Any person in Maize's way has been an obstacle she has to conquer, and with a flip of her finger, that obstacle is no longer a problem. She has never been afraid to crack a few eggs to make an omelette, and unfortunately, those eggs have just been working class people struggling to make minimum wage and put dinner on their table. Too bad for them according to Maize. Maize has come to Survivor to prove that the Nguyen Dynasty is far from over, and their business monopoly will run on for years with Maize at the front of it. She is the iceberg, everyone else is a ship with no idea of what's in their way. Those too bold to step in her way are trampled, quite literally. Maize has no problem with controversy, controversy brings attention, attention brings money, and money brings power. Molly-Anne Benson, 26, Marketing Assistant, u/ghetra Molly-Anne is a social butterfly. She loves chatting with people about pretty much anything and loves meeting and getting to know new people. She has a natural charm about her that draws people in, but sometimes people are bothered by how chatty she is. She also loves to gossip and is not above spreading rumors. However, she is rather sensitive and can be set off by just about anything. She frequently will push people's buttons if they offend her and will hold a grudge until the end of time. Nikki Lopez, 29, Stripper, u/Void_Drone Randall Martin, 49, Real Estate Agent, u/TDSwaggyBoy Being a self proclaimed sleazeball, which is a very weird thing to be proud of, Randall's life was never too good. He didn't grow up with a lot of close friends. Sure, people liked him at first, but when they really got to know him they didn't appreciate him nor his antics very much. Randall had to make a name for himself. He quickly found a career in the world of real estate. Not even his co-workers enjoyed his company, but they appreciated his skills. Being a fast and smooth talker really pays off in his industry. And now, Randall wants to put his skills to use in SURVIVOR. How well will that pan out? Vito Luco, 49, Used Car Salesman, u/swoldow Vito is the last person you'd want to trust with anything. A true con-artist at heart, he now has a job selling used cars, but his past jobs would make you run away from him in fear. When he was younger, he was a part of a major drug-trafficking operation run by the mafia, and he later got a job selling illegal fireworks, both of which got him to do jail time for a decade. Newly released, he seems to be back to his old ways, as he scams people out of their money daily with his faulty cars. He was born constantly overshadowed by his perfect younger brother, who is a popular politician, while he just swindles from people. As a result, he hates people who play loyally, and wants to prove that evil is the best way to play. He isn't afraid to play hard, as that's what he did all his life, and he'll either win, or go out swinging. Link to Season Episode 1: The 20 new contestants are welcomed into Turkey, where their first task is to compete in a challenge for reward. The Sinners tribe win this reward due to having more young and fit members than the Saints tribe. As a result, the Saints are already demoralized as they arrive at camp. Cap'n starts to feel good vibes from Ardet and Maralyn, and takes them under his wing to form an alliance. Ava, on the other hand, reveals that she is deaf to Chelsea and Gwen, and the three form another alliance due to being close to one another already. Cap'n sees this and scrambles to find an idol, and does so. Over at the Sinners tribe, Witworth and Jessica see their opportunity to look for an idol, and they find it, giving them more security, while back at camp, Maize and Nikki get into a fight over thinking that the other has an idol, which neither of them do. Vito becomes the moderator of this fight, saying that the three of them plus Irvin and Molly need to stick together in the long run. Randall sees this alliance form and tries to get Alexa, Jessica, Witworth, and Wildcard on board, which they all agree to at first, but then Wildcard sees this as his opportunity to cause conflict within his tribe, so he becomes content with being a swing vote. The Sinners win immunity, and on the Saints tribe it quickly becomes a race to see who can scrape up the swing votes the fastest between Cap'n's alliance and Ava's alliance. Dana becomes the target for Ava's alliance because of her weakness in challenges and her blind loyalty, while Greg is targeted by Ardet and Cap'n due to his shiftiness. They are able to get Kirk and Dana on board to blindside Greg, and they try to talk to Gwen, but she does not flip. Instead, at tribal council, we end up with a 5-5 split, followed by a 4-4 vote split due to no one flipping. Then a rock draw occurs on the first vote of the season. Ardet becomes the victim of the rocks, sending him out of the game despite never receiving a single vote. Episode 2: After an explosive first vote, Cap'n tries to figure out who flipped on the six and sent Ardet home. No one tells him who did it, so he assumes it was Ardet. Ava tries to flip Maralyn from Cap'n's alliance, but is unsuccessful at doing so. At the Sinners camp, Jessica and Witworth, despite being closely aligned, argue over who gets to keep the idol, and Witworth ends up keeping it in the end. The Saints pull out a surprise victory over the fractured Sinners, and back at camp, Wildcard decides to snake the alliance he was pretending to work with, and joins Vito's alliance. Their first target is none other than Alexa, who saw this game as nothing other than a tool to get more relevancy back, and it particularly irked Vito, who wanted to play against people who played hard. So together, with his alliance and Wildcard, they vote for Alexa. Meanwhile, the four person alliance realizes that Wildcard snaked them, so they vote for him, and Alexa becomes the second person voted off in a 6-4 vote. Episode 3: After Alexa's vote off, Irvin tries to bond with Vito, wanting to be his right hand man, and they become closer due to both being sleazy people. Wildcard begins to feel like he's in control, and it starts to annoy people on his tribe. At the Saints camp, Cap'n starts to rub people the wrong way because of his cockiness due to having an idol, but no one catches on to him having an idol, which is good news for him, because he plans on holding onto the idol until the merge. The Sinners win immunity for the third time, and they grow cocky because of this. Cap'n and Kirk, being the two oldest men on the tribe, join forces with Dana and Maralyn to take out their biggest threat in the opposing alliance, Greg. However, the other side has majority, and they decide that Dana has been blindly loyal to the other three, and hasn't been pulling her weight in challenges, so she becomes the third person voted out in a 5-4 vote. Episode 4: After a somewhat boring vote, Greg starts to get paranoid, since he's already gotten 9 votes and it's only episode 4. He then tries to get the minority alliance to pin their votes onto Gwen, but Gwen gets angry at him for doing so, and they have an argument. At Sinners camp, Jessica tries to talk to Irvin, trying to get his alliance to help hers take out Wildcard, and Irvin tells Vito about the plan, and Vito starts to see Wildcard as not being of use anymore. After losing the reward challenge, the Saints come back harder and beat the Sinners at the next challenge. Wildcard lets Vito know that he is going to vote Maize, since he wants to make a big move early on. This becomes the final nail in Wildcard's coffin, as Vito was quite close to Maize. At tribal council, Wildcard becomes the first unanimous boot of the season, going out in a 8-1 vote. Episode 5: Vito starts to think that Irvin has been playing way too loyally, and he gets into a discussion with him that slowly devolves into a full-blown fight between them, but Vito, realizing that Irvin would make a bad enemy, tries to make it up to him, and it works. The Sinners win both reward and immunity, and they feel elated about it. Cornelius goes to Cap'n and proposes an alliance to him, allowing them to control things from behind the scenes with Maralyn. He also reveals that he has grown a disdain for Greg, and that they need to flip the numbers on him. They get Gwen and Kirk on board, or so they think, but Gwen blabs to Greg and their alliance, leading to Kirk to flip as well. They decide to vote Cornelius out due to him being the biggest gamer on the tribe, and he goes in a 5-3 vote. Episode 6: The tribes pack up their things, anticipating a swap, but then the host announces that they will be competing for individual immunity on their tribe, and whoever wins will be safe from the double tribal council taking place that night. Maralyn wins for the Saints, and Vito wins for the Sinners. The Sinners also win reward, earning food to enjoy while they watch the other tribe go to tribal council. Witworth, Jessica, and Randall decide it was now or never to get rid of Maize, who had a fight with Randall earlier that day, but Vito, hearing about this, decides that Randall is the biggest sleaze on his tribe, and he needed to go as soon as possible. In his voting confessional, he states there can be only one sleazy guy on the tribe, and that was himself, so Randall had to go, and Randall becomes the sixth person voted out in a 5-3 vote, and he is bitter as all hell about it. At the Saints tribe, Cap'n becomes angry over the fact he cannot vote in the majority, and it makes the majority annoyed with him, so they decide to vote him off. Luckily for Cap'n, he still has an idol, so he and Maralyn vote for the most threatening player in their minds, Chelsea, and Cap'n plays his idol, sending Chelsea out of the game in a 2-0 vote. Episode 7: After Chelsea's idol out, Cap'n officially became public enemy number one on his tribe, and he tries to find his rehidden idol, but Kirk finds it instead. Maralyn and Greg have a fight due to the food on their tribe running low, and morale being even lower. At the Sinners tribe, Nikki begins to be seen as an easy goat due to her one-sided loyalty to Vito. Morale at the Saints tribe dips even lower when they lose both reward and immunity. Not wanting to lose again,the majority decide to vote off their oldest member, Cap'n, as a last ditch attempt to prevent them from going on a losing streak. Cap'n and Maralyn vote for Greg, and Cap'n becomes the eighth person voted out in a 5-3 vote, missing out on the jury by one placement. Episode 8: After Cap'n's vote out, there are only five members on the Saints tribe, compared to the Sinners having seven. The Sinners increase their winning streak by two by winning both reward and immunity. At the Sinners camp, Jessica and Witworth have another fight over the idol, with Jessica insisting that she keep it. This causes the rest of the tribe to be alerted to the fact that Jessica and Witworth have an idol, and Witworth becomes a target because of this. At the Saints tribe, the women form a tight three, and Kirk and Greg are forced to band together to survive. At tribal council, the three women stay strong, and Greg is voted out 3-2 and becomes the first member of the jury, leaving only four Saints left in the game. Episode 9: With his back up against the wall, Kirk knows that he's probably gone next if he didn't have the idol, which ensured his survival until merge. The Saints finally win a challenge, a reward challenge, but lose immunity once again to the inflated egos of the Sinners. Not much else happens this episode, but Kirk tries to get Maralyn to flip and vote out Ava, but she disagrees to do so, and she votes for Gwen instead, making Kirk not trust her, and he decides to vote for her, while also playing his idol. This causes a 1-1-0 tie between Gwen and Maralyn, and Ava, misunderstanding what would happen if she forced a tie, votes for Gwen while Kirk votes for Maralyn, and Ava becomes the second person in King's Survivor history to be eliminated by default, due to there being no other options, and she becomes the second member of the jury Episode 10: At long last, the tribes merge into the purple Ucurum tribe, meaning balance in Turkish. Left in the game is Witworth, Gwen, Irvin, Jessica, Kirk, Maize, Maralyn, Molly, Nikki, and Vito. At first, it seems like it would be Saint Vs Sinner, but Jessica and Witworth come to the three Saints left in the game, and they convince them to vote with them come tribal council. Vito wins his second immunity challenge of the season, and his target was Witworth for being the strongest male not in his alliance, and also for lying about not having an idol, which he believed was given to Jessica. At tribal council, the lines cause a 5-5 divide between Irvin and Witworth, and on the revote, Maralyn randomly decides to flip to avoid a tie, and Carter Witworth becomes the third member of the jury, and also another person to go out with an idol in their pocket. He is understandably pretty pissed about this ordeal, but wishes his tribe well. Episode 11: The day after Witworth's blindside, the nine remaining contestants compete in a reward challenge, which the team containing Irvin, Maralyn, and Vito win. At the reward, Irvin and Vito realize how dangerous Maralyn could be after she starts trying to talk game with them. Soon afterwards, Maralyn finds the idol, and Jessica calls out Molly for following Vito almost blindly. Nikki wins the second post merge immunity challenge, and Vito tries to recruit Jessica for the vote, which succeeds. They then choose to target Maralyn, since she was the most threatening out of the three Saints, and the six remaining Sinners pin votes onto her. Unfortunately for them, Maralyn pulls out an idol, and the Saints vote for Irvin, a potential immunity threat, making him the fourth member of the jury in a 3-0 vote. Episode 12: After Irvin's blindside, only two men are still in the game, compared to the six women. Nikki is able to find an idol, after thinking that she hasn't been playing hard enough, while Molly gets into a fight with Maralyn over the latter pulling out an idol, which she hadn't wanted her to do. Molly wins immunity, and it becomes a battle of the Saints Vs the Sinners, just like the theme of the season. The Saints go after Maize, wanting to weaken Vito further before going after him, but they are unable to swing anyone over and Vito, fueled by vengeance, gets his alliance to vote for Maralyn. In a 5-3 vote, Maralyn becomes the fifth member of the jury. Back at camp, the final seven become annoyed at Nikki's arrogance after being safe from being voted out, so she becomes a target for the two remaining Saints left. Kirk also becomes a target for being a perceived leader for Gwen, causing him to be target numero uno. After Kirk wins immunity, the target shifts from him to Gwen, due to her being perceived as not wanting to play the game, and rather would be along for the ride, which Vito found unpalatable. Kirk and Gwen then try to vote out Molly for her strength in challenges, and in the end, Gwen gets the boot in a 5-2 vote, making her the sixth juror. Episode 13: With only six people left in the game, the final reward challenge takes place. Maize wins it, and she shares it with Vito, her closest ally, and Jessica, who her and Vito wanted to bring closer. Soon, they realize what a threat she could be, especially because she's a poker player, she becomes the biggest target instead of Kirk. Luckily for her, she wins immunity. Kirk tries to bond with Maize as a way to get Vito to not vote him out, but it backfires, and he becomes the biggest target yet again. At tribal council, he votes for Molly, but everyone else votes for him, making him the seventh juror in a 5-1 vote and completely eliminating the Saints from the game. Finale: Jessica, Maize, Molly, Nikki, and Vito remain. Five players who had remarkably different playing styles, but all came from the same tribe. They compete in the second-to-last immunity challenge, which Maize wins, and the biggest target becomes Jessica again, who has proven herself to be the only player not following Vito, and only voting with him just to get further in the game. Vito does not feel the same way about keeping Jessica around, so he and his alliance with Nikki, Molly, and Maize vote for her, and Nikki plays her idol in case someone flipped on her, and Jessica becomes the eighth juror in a 4-0 vote. Back at camp, Vito feels incredibly cocky, and he tries to influence a fight, and he does so between Nikki and Maize. He then goes on to win final immunity, and Nikki tanks her own game with her fight with Maize, and everyone votes her out, causing her to become the ninth juror in a 3-1 vote. The final three consists of Maize, Molly, and Vito. Molly gets criticism for her lack of strategy, only using her social game to get far, and her challenge capabilities. Maize is seen as following too closely to Vito, but the jury is willing to vote for her if Vito tanks his jury speech. He does not, and explains his game in great detail, saying he started out forming a five person alliance on the first night, he commenced the Wildcard blindside, the Witworth blindside, the Jessica blindside, etc. He did it all, but the bonds he formed in the game were genuine, and he didn't intend his villainous backstabbing to be taken personal. In the end, he gets all the jury votes, even from two people he never met, Greg and Ava. Maralyn wins the Fan Favorite for standing up to Vito and her idol play. Winner: Vito Luco, u/swoldow Fan Favorite: Maralyn Sander, u/Void_Drone Potential Returnees (yeah, I haven't done this in a while): Vito, Jessica, Kirk, Maralyn, WItworth, Ava, Cap'n, maybe Ardet, if I do a first boot season Next season, will be the final season before season 35, I won't spoil the theme for 35, but trust me, it won't be a season to miss. Season 34 however, with the release of the new Island Of The Idols sim, it will feature two King's Survivor Idols, who will be revealed with the sign ups. Next season will be King's Survivor Venezuela: Island Of The Idols!
The best laid PLANs of mice and men often go awry. Welcome back to another effortpost by me generally on the developing arms race in East Asia, this time covering the People's Liberation Army Navy, hereafter referred to as the "PLAN", and its massive growth... and... mostly, well, its massive growth. What that means is mostly covered in other posts about how other countries are responding to it. The why is a bit difficult because, well, China is not well known for open debate, or open anything, really, which will turn up repeatedly.
First And Last Stand Of The Tin Can Navies [ASEAN + Australia and the smaller adversaries China may contend with]
Boned: Problems in the US Air [and space!] Force
--Unnamed-- effortpost on Japanese military matters, mostly about how weird the JSDF status is
--Unnamed--effortpost on Indian military matters, and why they can't focus on China or buy anything that works
--Unnamed--effortpost on the rest of the PLA, mostly the air force though
--Unnamed--effortpost on the rest of the US Armed Forces, mostly talking about how the marines are changing and the Army's new love affair with INF-busting weapons
Glossary: PLA = People's Liberation Army = the armed forces of the People's Republic of China, or China PLAN = People's Liberation Army Navy = the naval forces of the PLA PLANAF = People's Liberation Army Navy Air Force = the air force of the navy of the PLA Ashm = Anti-ship missile, cruise missile unless specifically described as otherwise--there's only one anti-ship ballistic missile in existence and its efficacy and whether or not it functions is questionable CIWS = close-in weapons system, like the Phalanx gun or Goalkeeper VLS = vertical launch system for missiles AEGIS = Aegis Combat System if described specifically in that context, a US naval warfare system, but we'll usually be talking about "Chinese AEGIS", which is a nomiker used by the Chinese media in particular comparing the Type 346 radar to the AN-SPY family, with which it shares numerous technical characteristics--but how comparable the "Chinese AEGIS" system is to what the US uses is a complete unknown. SAM = Surface-to-air missile, in this case usually a S-300 derivative First Island Chain = The islands, stretching from Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Japan, which keep China inside its littoral seas much as the GIUK [Greenland-Iceland-UK] gap has kept various continental powers out of the Atlantic. Some PLAN equipment you might see described--the nomenclature is confusing and a relic of the cultural revolution, and as a result China now has more Types than the British. Type 003 = China's new conventionally powered supercarriers, currently under construction Type 002 = China's first truly "operational" carrier Type 001 = China's first carrier, built on a Soviet hull purchased from Ukraine ostensibly to make a floating casino Type 055 = Guided-missile cruiser, though generally called a destroyer it's probably more descriptively labeled a cruiser Type 052D = Guided-missile destroyer using "Chinese AEGIS" Type 052/051B/052B/052C = the gradual progression of evolving Chinese naval tech, largely built as practice/demo ships like the Type 001. Some of the earlier ones are steam-powered but by the Type 052C you have something almost as advanced as the Type 052D, albeit with turbine problems Type 054A = the standard modern frigate of the PLAN Type 053[anything] = old PLAN frigates Type 096 = China's newest SSBN class, under construction Type 094 = China's first functional SSBN class, very noisy Type 092 = China's first "SSBN", believed to have never left port with an actual nuke on board Type 095 = China's newest SSN class, under construction Type 093 = China's current SSN class, noisy Type 091 = China's first SSN class, dumb dumb dumb and is at a 1950s tech level Type 039[A] = China's new SSK class Kilo = China's older SSK class, imported from Russia Sovremenny = China's first capable anti-air destroyers, imported from Russia
1. The Last Time A Rising Navy Challenged A Dominant Foe
The last time we've seen something like this was in the late 19th century. After the First World War shipbuilding was restricted by the landmark Washington Naval Treaty, one of the first great arms control treaties, and during the Cold War the Soviet Union never really had any hopes of surpassing American naval power. China, however, seems intent on replacing the US as the world's dominant naval power, or at least building a force that can stop the US Navy, even combined with the forces of Japan and other regional allies. The nations in question, of course, in the last naval arms race, were the United Kingdom and a newly-unified Germany. Germany never reached the level of the UK, but seriously threatened it. Previously the UK had maintained a policy of having more ships than the next two largest fleets combined, but this was no longer possible, and the UK legitimately was fearful for its naval supremacy. It didn't last too long in the end--under a decade--and a resumption was foiled by first a world war and then the Washington Naval Treaty. The impact of the arms race, though, was massive. It set Germany and the UK at odds with each other, it resulted in a general buildup of warships pretty much everywhere [South America was, believe it or not, one of the biggest offenders there], established Germany for a time as the world's second naval power, having eclipsed both France and Russia and turning a small coastal defense navy into something that was able to defeat the Royal Navy itself, though never comprehensively enough to change the course of the first world war. China dwells in a much different situation than Germany did at the turn of the last century, so we can only extend the analogy so far--substituting in Japan for the UK, India for Russia, and so on is possible but not, in my view, educational. However, we can see many of the same elements playing in here. China seems intent on replacing the US as a dominant power, or at least as regional hegemon--the ancient tributary system seems to lie fairly heavily on Chinese minds--and in order to do that, it must be able to have some degree of power projection and the capability to deny the US Navy access to areas within the first island chain. It remains to be seen, however, how successful that quest will be. Much as with the dreadnought battleships, I wouldn't be surprised if we never actually do find out if most of the shiny naval toys people have built actually work. But their mere existence shows the mutual hostility developing in the region and demonstrates the size of the Chinese threat. Another lesson learned here is that China, like Germany, may not develop a naval force capable of defeating the US comprehensively, but only partially, and that one of the powers--in this case, China--might be pressured to strike first before the US Navy can close the gap. That ~2030 gap I talked about in my last post is, I think, an especially vulnerable point, because China may look at a degraded, but rejuvenating US Navy, then at their own capable forces, and decide to strike then in Taiwan and the South China Sea, only to back down when the US Navy again eclipses them. Whether or not that will happen, we will see--but I find it a very dangerous and perhaps likely possibility.
2. What the PLAN looked like 20 years ago
The PLAN has undergone an absolutely stunning evolution in the past two decades. In the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis the US could intimidate China with a pair of aircraft carrier strike groups and China could do pretty much nothing about it. Now the US is afraid of sending anything more than a destroyer through the strait. Twenty years ago, the PLAN was a bit of a joke. Even Taiwan figured it could hold the seas against the PLAN. It consisted of a few tens of outdated coastal-defense frigates, some Soviet-era diesel-electric subs, and a large number of unsophisticated missile craft. The pride of the Chinese fleet were a handful of destroyers assembled using cobbled-together Western technology--copied French missiles, American gas turbines, the lot. According to American accounts at the time, the instructions for the equipment hadn't even been translated. The most advanced ship in the fleet used steampower. There were nuclear submarines, but of 1950s quality. Of particular note was the fact that the Chinese fleet had no area air defense capabilities--their premier surface-to-air-missile was an unlicensed knockoff of the French Crotale, and couldn't shoot anything outside of visual range, at high altitudes, or really doing anything more sophisticated than trying to kill their ships with low-altitude dumb bombing runs. In the past twenty years, however, the PLAN has, much like the German Navy towards the end of the 19th century, gone from an afterthought to the world's second most powerful force. It began, as modern China's military capabilities almost all began, with the looting of the former Soviet Union for naval technology. While Soviet naval tech was generally lacking, it was much better than anything else China could get its hands on after the arms embargo placed on it in the 1990s by the US and Europe in response to Tienanmen and the end of the Cold War. China bought Soviet diesel submarines, Soviet air-defense destroyers, and Soviet aircraft carriers, which it promptly left lying around [and turned one of them into a theme park]. This was combined with copies of various pieces of Western, mostly European, technology for everything from sonars to surface-to-air missiles. China then began developing its first modern indigenous surface combatants, the Type 052C, but there were still problems. The engines were Ukrainian and had reliability trouble, the gun jammed, there was no VLS. It is really in the last ten years that things have begun to move extremely quickly, and even only in the latter portion of the decade. In 2012 the Type 001 Liaoning entered service, and although it remains more of a training ship than an operational vessel, and is held back by a poor carrier aircraft, the mere fact that China "built" a carrier was a surprise to many. In 2014 the first Type 052D destroyer came online. It had learned the lessons from the Type 052C, and in just the last six years at least ten have entered service, with a class size of about 23 expected. This rapid expansion is what has frightened competing navies the most--in a little over a decade, the PLAN is constructing more destroyers than the British, French, and Australian navies have in service combined. It is also building the Type 055, which has generally been called a "destroyer" despite being more aptly described as a cruiser in line with the Ticonderoga-class. China has also built 30 modern frigates in the past decade, which has also swelled its numbers, along with numerous smaller corvettes, submarines, and so on. This is why the PLAN has become such an object of concern. While it cannot challenge the US Navy yet, at least outside its littoral zones, the decline of the USN and rapid expansion of the PLAN means that it is a serious threat. And the speed at which it has developed has made many fearful. As recently as 2010, the idea of China operating an aircraft carrier or modern destroyers seemed distant, possibly preposterous. Now China speaks openly of having a six-carrier fleet in the 2030s, although, as with many of China's plans to operate full US-replicated tech and doctrine, these may have somewhat caved to realism. China is mighty, but it has already done the easy part--the last part is much harder, in economics and in military matters. Building the software, the institutional knowledge, the hardware to compete with the US Navy will prove difficult.
3. What the PLAN looks like now--submarines
Submarines are one of the PLAN's weak spots, particularly nuclear submarines. China is, however, making some fairly rapid advances in this area. Their nuclear submarine program has been considered a bit of a joke for some time. In the late 1950s when all the cool kids great powers were getting nuclear submarines, China decided [or at least Mao did] that China needed nuclear submarines too. About 16 years later, the product of this effort finally emerged as the Type 091 submarine. Based on 1950s technology, with poor radiation shielding and basically nothing done in the name of noise reduction, and not even a teardrop hull, the Type 091 was probably more of a threat to the sailors who were on it than anyone else, except maybe the two Tench-class submarines that Taiwan operates, which use 1940s technology and are the world's longest-serving submarines, though they're mostly used for training nowadays. Even then, my money would be on the Tench despite the upgrades the PLAN has made to the Type 091. There's only so much you can do to put lipstick on a pig. China also produced an SSBN, the Type 092, which was probably the only submarine more useless than the Type 091. About the only useful thing it did for the PLAN was that it served as a test platform for SLBM launches. Reports suggest that the Type 092 is the noisiest SSBN ever made, and is thought to have only ever undertaken a single patrol. It stayed at port for so long that it was thought to have sunk in an accident. And the experience turned the PLAN off from building SSBNs for over twenty years, until the Type 094 came online in 2007. More recent submarines are growing in capability, though. The Type 094 is not the noisiest SSBN ever made, and may not even be the noisiest in current service--that honor going to the Delta III operated by the Russian Navy, which uses 1970s technology, and, which, according to the US Office of Naval Intelligence, is about as noisy as the Type 094. The Type 093 is also moderately capable--it actually functions and can fire anti-ship missiles. However, the Type 093 is still considered only comparable to the Soviet Victor III class, again using 1970s technology. Future submarines have not yet been seen, but expectations are that China will make another step forward to late 1980s or early 1990s tech levels, producing something on par with the Los Angeles or Akula for the first time. China also operates a fairly capable fleet of coastal diesel-electric submarines. While some are quite old--the Type 035--most are pretty average for the global submarine force, a mix of Kilos and domestic AIP designs. The large number of boats in operation and their anti-ship missile capability means that these should be considered a real threat, at least in the littoral waters near to China, but they aren't decisive by any means, especially since China is facing off against such threats as Japan's Soryu class, probably the most advanced diesel-electric sub in existence. In conclusion, the PLAN is still pretty weak on the submarine front--weaker here than on anything but its carrier force, but its capabilities are advancing rapidly and should not be underestimated.
4. What the PLAN looks like now--surface combatants
The surface fleet is definitely the most impressive and capable portion of the PLAN, no questions about it. China once had a fleet consisting mostly of coastal frigates and missile boats. As recently as 2000, its fleet had no real area-air-defense destroyers, and no SAMs that could operate outside visual range. Now, though, the PLAN operates tens of advanced guided-missile destroyers, advanced frigates, and still retains a large number of small, stealthy missile boats. The major focus of Chinese warships appears to be on anti-air, with anti-surface being a somewhat secondary concern for all but the smallest vessels. This makes sense when you realize that the primary focus is, at least for the moment, on using land-based aircraft to strike against hostile fleet formations using long-range anti-ship missiles, in a very Soviet sort of way--"Backfire raids" using long-range land-based aircraft with anti-ship missiles were one of the US Navy's major concerns during the Cold War, and the very reason for the F-14's existence along with the AIM-54 Phoenix it carried. However, China has been developing anti-surface capabilities as well using ashms and land-attack cruise missiles [generally the same thing, actually]. Since China has finally developed a VLS system that allows it to use the same launcher for multiple missiles, its most recent ships have become more versatile in that role. How effective these ships are at that task is, however, a relatively open question. Their radars at least seem to quite sophisticated, using flat-panel AESA, and have been dubbed "Chinese AEGIS" by the highly reliable Chinese domestic media. The basic platform their surface-to-air missiles are based on also seems to be fairly capable--the HQ-9 is an S-300 derivative, a respectable SAM system though, again, how capable it is against opponents in an active electronic warfare environment is questionable, and it has basically no capabilities against stealth aircraft like the F-35 as far as anyone knows. The efficacy of their CIWS, again, is open to question. Really this is true of everything about the modern PLAN, and PLA in general. The PLA is secretive, has not exported most of its hardware, and has developed largely independently of foreign militaries, though it is definitely influenced by them. Now that the PLAN has moved away from simply copying foreign hardware and patching it together, its capabilities are much harder to discern. However, they should be taken as a very real threat, and not written off. My guess would be that their warships are about as capable as most of their non-American counterparts, save those equipped with AEGIS, but that's all my guess is---a guess.
5. What the PLAN looks like now--carriers
The PLAN currently has two carriers in service, and two more known to be under construction, and most suspect that it will build several more. However, at the moment, the PLAN's carrier force is largely a paper tiger, designed around training. The first carrier, the Type 001, basically was a "how do you build a carrier" kit bought from Russia, possibly by accident--the "fully functional" Minsk ended up as a theme park, believe it or not. The hull was purchased from Ukraine and then completed in China years later. It is also believed that the PLAN may have learned some things about aircraft carriers from the HMAS Melbourne, which was sold to a Chinese firm for scrapping--rumor has it the PLAN had no clue this had happened and then had a field day looking at all the stuff that hadn't been taken out. This was back in the old days when nobody could imagine that China would have an aircraft carrier. The Type 002, however, is built from scratch, but isn't particularly capable especially as it's a ski-jump carrier, leaving the Type 003 the first carrier which will prove actually useful. The main thing holding China's carrier fleet back, though, is a lack of a suitable aircraft. Originally China was considering purchasing Su-33s from Russia, hardly a good carrier-based aircraft but functional, but after Russia discovered that China had been mucking about building a Su-27 derivative without asking the deal fell through [China tells a different story, saying that Russia demanded exorbitant amounts to reopen production which it was unwilling to pay for a nearly obsolete aircraft]. As a result China operates the J-15 as its naval fighter, with... less than stellar results. It's extremely heavy, and, if it takes off from the carrier, has minimal range if carrying anything at all--it can't take more than two short range air to air missiles into the sky to fight enemy aircraft. However, the J-15 isn't really intended for combat service--it's intended to teach China how to run carriers, and it seems to work well enough for that task, aside from the multiple fatal crashes. There is, however, thought to be a new carrier fighter in the pipeline--most say the J-31/FC-31, which has reduced RCS and a number of carrier-unique features, is being pitched as a carrier-based aircraft and will serve as China's carrier fighter in the future. China also lacks any fixed wing carrier-based airborne early warning, which could prove troublesome--a lack of AEW means that its view is limited by the horizon--and has no resupply aircraft like the C-2 Greyhound. As a result, for the moment at least, China lacks an effective carrier force, but it is likely to continue developing rapidly in the next decade and become a fairly substantial threat. Remember that as recently as 2010, a Chinese aircraft carrier seemed preposterous to many people, and now they have two.
6. Some attention to land-based aircraft
Land-based aircraft as a naval weapon are not generally used by the US, which has never had a reason to develop them as a doctrinal focus. Sure, you could potentially envision them as being used, and there even were situations where they were utilized, but it just wasn't generally a priority or how things were done. For China, though, taking influence from the Soviets, and lying on littoral seas with hostile powers in the First Island Chain, land-based aircraft and missiles are a key part of doctrine. Although this is often viewed as a new thing, called A2/AD [anti access/area denial], it's really the result of a long historical evolution of naval power, probably most refined by the Soviet Union. As a result, land-based naval aviation plays an important role, firing anti-ship missiles at standoff distances at enemy vessels, and shore-based launchers of anti-ship missiles are also an important weapon. The combination of these systems means that venturing within China's littoral seas is a dangerous proposition during war, and some waters, like those of the Taiwan Strait, are effectively considered closed at this point in the event of hostilities breaking out. For this reason air superiority is also important in this sort of naval warfare, as if either side gains air superiority it can pummel its opponents with air-launched anti-ship missiles. China's capabilities in this area are sophisticated and should not be underestimated, but they are unlikely to go through a rapid period of growth like the PLAN's fleet. And a brief note dedicated entirely to the DF-21D "Carrier killer" that the PLA likes to show off. It's a pretty impressive capability, on paper, using a ballistic missile to hit a carrier. The CEP [circular error probable] means that it could even happen, presuming that an aircraft carrier was good enough to sit in one place, not moving, long enough to be detected by China. Aircraft carriers look big, but the seas are huge, and they're surprisingly hard to find. They also move quite fast, in excess of of 35mph/55kph, and thus by the time the ballistic missile has launched it might well be out of range given the fact that ballistic missiles are not particularly known for their maneuverability in terminal stages, at least not in the realm of miles. The DF-21D is not a particular threat to the modern aircraft carrier. It could potentially be one if it evolves into a hypersonic boost-glide vehicle, but that's a whole additional can of worms, that I might address a different day.
7. The PLAN's plans for the future--what will it look like in 2030?
Unfortunately the PLAN is not exactly the most open of navies, as I've repeatedly mentioned. There are no public debates over acquisitions programs, no big fleet shape plans, relatively little detail. However, a few things are fairly sure bets or publicly announced. China has repeatedly announced plans to build a six-carrier force, including the Type 001 and Type 002, but also a pair of Type 003 [already under construction] conventionally powered supercarriers and a pair of Type 004 nuclear powered supercarriers. However, it seems that the Type 004 is currently on hold. Why, exactly, is unclear, but it seems to be technical difficulties, which are not particularly surprising given that China's experience with nuclear maritime propulsion seem to be rather limited and have had poor results in their submarine fleet. The costs were also expected to be too high--China does not have an unlimited quantity of money, despite what it may flaunt, and nuclear carriers are expensive to develop especially given that China has not built a nuclear-powered surface ship before. A new carrier-based fighter is almost certainly in the cards because the J-15 is pretty much useless. The FC-31 seems by far the most likely candidate but it could be another aircraft we haven't seen yet. The addition of this aircraft will greatly improve the PLAN's capabilities. China also has two Type 075 amphibious assault ships/LHDs under construction, and I would expect this class to be much more prolific. These ships are much more affordable than the full carriers, and focus on areas in which China is particularly concerned--amphibious assaults, say, on islands in the South China Sea or on Taiwan, and anti-submarine warfare, which is of particular importance given that submarines cannot be easily halted with land-based anti-ship missiles and air-launched cruise missiles provided for in their area denial doctrine--submarines are one of the few things that can slip through that net. The surface combatant fleet is likely to continue growing, but I am not sure if it will swell much beyond the ~23 Type 052D ships planned and the 8 Type 055s. We're likely to see the retirement of the classes preceding the Type 052C destroyer and the Type 054 frigate, and they may be offloaded to Bangladesh, Myanmar, or Pakistan--there is substantial precedent here, and it seems that China is interested in expanding the naval capabilities of its partners around India. The submarine fleet is likely to see rapid expansion if the PLAN is satisfied with the Type 095 and Type 096 classes, and we're likely to see more diesel-electric subs built as well. Submarines are generally quite good at fighting submarines and conducting area-denial missions, and the large and capable subsurface forces of Japan, Korea, and the United States means that this has to be an area the PLAN invests more in--and the fact that several Southeast Asian nations are also looking at acquiring submarines makes the issue more pressing.
China has in the past decade gone from a third-rate navy to perhaps the greatest threat the US Navy has faced since the Second World War. This has significant geopolitical implications, and has resulted in neighbors scrambling to overhaul their naval forces. The growth of the PLAN means that the US can no longer easily defend Taiwan or the South China Sea, or any of China's littoral waters. This, more than anything else, is what has everyone scrambling in the US talking about "great-power competition" because denying access to the US Navy and working on power projection, an inherently naval thing, is essentially a clear sign that China is looking to directly compete with the United States. Underestimate the PLAN at your own peril. I hope to have more detail and citations in future posts, but unfortunately the PLAN is very secretive [yes, I've said that fifty times already] and this is a pretty big topic to discuss without going into details about all sorts of naval tidbits. Thanks for reading the fourth post in what I hope will be a fairly substantial series, probably around ~12 posts.
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Top 10 Biggest Casinos in the World 2014 - YouTube
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