Monthly Archives: January 2016

Republicans are fundraising off Bernie Sanders with a hammer-and-sickle image

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Bernie Sanders.
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REUTER/Carlos Barria

The campaign arm of House Republicans used Soviet imagery in a Bernie Sanders-themed fundraising pitch.

The National Republican Congressional Committee released a fundraising note aimed at Sanders, the Democratic presidential candidate. With a large hammer and sickle image on the page, the pitch urged Republicans to “take a stand against socialism” by donating.

“It’s a real possibility that the Democrats may actually nominate a socialist,” the fundraising letter said. “Self-proclaimed socialist Bernie Sanders is catching fire in the Democrat primary. He’s smashing online fundraisng [sic] records and has even reported over two million online donations.”

It continued: “We have to stop this! Pitch in today to keep America free from socialism.”

The fundraising pitch comes as Sanders, a self-avowed democratic socialist, has attempted to quell concern among some Democrats. Those Democrats, many of whom support Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, have expressed fear that being on the same ticket as Sanders could alienate more moderate voters in swing states and districts.

Sanders has aggressively countered the impression that his nomination would not bode well for Democrats in a general election, pointing out that he performs well in theoretical head-to-head matchups with some Republican presidential candidates.

On Sunday, Sanders said the enthusiasm he’s generated behind his insurgent candidacy will motivate irregular and first-time voters to participate, which he asserted will propel him and other Democrats to victory.

“I think in fact, Hillary Clinton will be the problem,” Sanders told NBC’s Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press.”

“Because I think our campaign is the campaign that is generating excitement and energy that will result in a high voter turnout. Republicans win when voter turnout is low. Democrats win when voter turnout is high,” he continued. “I think our campaign is raising issue about a rigged economy, a corrupt campaign-finance system.”

Clinton on Sunday suggested she agreed with lawmakers like Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri), who has said that Republicans “can’t wait to run an ad with a hammer and sickle” against Sanders.

“That certainly is what a lot of Democratic leaders are saying, and I take them at their word,” Clinton said when asked about concerns about how Sanders would affect Democrats down the ballot.

“They know their states. They know the country. They know we have to take back the Senate,” she continued. “They want to make some advances in the House as well as at governor and legislature levels across the country.”

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An image from the NRCC fundraising page.
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NRCC

Republicans haven’t been shy in expressing their enthusiasm about Sanders’ rising popularity among Democratic voters.

During the last Democratic debate, the Republican National Committee sent out a series of emails fact-checking Clinton’s attacks on Sanders. Last week, a super PAC founded by a prominent Republican donor also began running attack ads against Sanders in Iowa that actually touted traits that Democratic voters support.

Republican candidates themselves have begun to criticize Sanders’ ideology.

During last week’s Republican presidential debate, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) garnered one of the biggest applause lines of the night by knocking Sanders’ identify as a Democratic-socialist.

“Bernie Sanders is a socialist. I think Bernie Sanders is a good candidate for president – of Sweden,” Rubio said. “We don’t want to be Sweden, we want to be the United States of America.”

Affluent shoppers are abandoning traditional retailers — and now cheap fast fashion is taking over

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A woman inside a Zara store in Madrid.
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Thomson Reuters

Fast fashion has become popular largely because of its signature cheap prices.

Stores like Forever 21 and H&M churn out affordable runway knockoffs, which are particularly appealing to cash-strapped teens.

But now Refinery 29 is reporting that these retailers are abandoning the very thing that made them so successful: being cheap.

Instead, the retailers are selling items that are priced more in line with Nordstrom.

Refinery 29 points to Topshop’s Unique line, which sells pricier dresses. One dress from the line goes for $435.

A more obvious example might be H&M’s collaboration with Balmain, which sold out instantly. Items were reselling on eBay for thousands of dollars.

The clothing was already pricier than H&M’s standard disposable fare, but it was still markedly cheaper than Balmain’s offerings.

This is ultimately an ingenious way for fast-fashion companies to cement their grasp on shoppers, whom the companies hope will have less of a reason to graduate to shopping elsewhere.

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Balmain designer Olivier Rousteing, center, with his star models, showing off the Balmain and H&M collaboration.
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Getty Images

“They’re making it easier for people to never leave them, you know, and … not have to make that transition away,” Gesina Gudehus-Wittern, a consultant at Vivaldi Partners Group, told Business Insider.

“It’s a perfectly normal transition as consumers become more affluent, and at a certain life stage that they’re going to develop a certain understanding of quality and maybe want to transition away” from fast fashion.

This strategy hopes to keep consumers from growing out of stores like H&M (which has more “grown up” counterparts Cos and & Other Stories) and Zara. That strategy could arguably be hurting traditional retailers, which are struggling as it is.

In the past, shoppers might have moved on from fast fashion to stores like Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, and J. Crew. Now these shoppers can stay with their fast-fashion companies, which have an opportunity to maintain customers rather than just pick up new ones – thereby contributing to even more growth.

Banana Republic has been trying to compete with stores like Zara. In February, it will sell some of the styles appearing on the runway at New York Fashion Week online immediately.

Much of the fashion community has been scrambling to keep up with fast fashion, with social media giving everyone easy access to the runway.

“We have designers, retailers and everybody complaining about the shows. Something’s not right anymore because of social media, people are confused,” Diane von Furstenberg, chairwoman of theCouncil of Fashion Designers of America, toldWomen’s Wear Daily.

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Getty

This strategy also seeks to help those who may be embarrassed about shopping at fast-fashion stores feel better about their choices.

“It’s also a way to, let’s say validate the shopping habits of people who are aware of … the downsides of fast fashion but who still shop there,” Gudehus-Wittern said. “And if you have, you know, a fast-fashion company engaging in a designer collaboration on the one hand that … gives them that stamp of approval showing, ‘If a big-name brand designer is willing to collaborate with us and give us that stamp of approval,’ that kind of trickles down to the customer and their perception of, ‘It’s OK to still shop here even if I [have] issues with [the company].”

Additionally, she said, selling unique, original designs takes the focus off of the fact that these companies often sell knockoffs.

“If they are more vocal about having original designs,” she said, “those things help people stick to the brand because it sort of justifies their shopping habit in a way.”

And while some might think that this could alienate younger, less affluent shoppers, it actually does the contrary. It gives them something else to aspire to, while also verifying that where they shop is indeed cool. Gudehus-Wittern pointed to the organization of Zara’s stores, which has the Studio and Zara Woman collections up front, and the less expensive apparel toward the back – ultimately, it makes shoppers feel good.

She said it was “the idea of giving them a good feeling about where they’re shopping, giving them a justification of still sticking to that place.”

And the companies seem very aware of what they are doing.

“Our customers appreciate that we can offer such a wide range, for every occasion, in accordance with our business idea of fashion and quality at the best price in a sustainable way,” Mary Beth Schmidt, H&M’s US communications director, told Refinery 29. “We offer something for everyone without compromising style or quality.”

Report: 30-year-old Calvin Johnson is retiring from the NFL

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Tom Lynn/Getty Images

Calvin Johnson reportedly told Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell that 2015 was his final season in the NFL, according to ESPN (via Pro Football Talk).

According to the report, Johnson gave Caldwell the news on the day after the Lions’ final game of the season. He also reportedly told the same thing to family and friends during the season.

Johnson, who was the second pick of the 2007 NFL Draft, played all nine of his seasons with the Lions.

Caldwell reportedly told Johnson to take some time before making his final decision and Johnson is said to have agreed to that request.

Johnson made $113.8 million in his career, according to Spotrac. He still had four years and $67.7 million left on the $113.5 million contract he signed prior to the 2012 season.

If this is really the end for the three-time first-team All-Pro, he ends his career with 11,619 yards receiving, 27th all-time.

A guide to Russia’s T-14 Armata tank

Since unveiling the T-14 Armata tank in May 2015 during the Victory Day Parade, Russia has kept the specifics of the tank underwraps.

A video walk through translated by Ukraine War Awareness, explains some of the capabilities of Russia’s newest battle tank.


Here the Armata tank variations show off their impressive turn radius:

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Ukraine War Awareness via Youtube

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The tanks are coated in a radar baffling paint, making them difficult to detect and target.


Russia also says the tanks use magnetic sensors to repel incoming anti-tank rockets.

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Ukraine War Awareness via Youtube

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If a laser targets the tank, the Armata is capable of releasing a cloud of debris which tricks the incoming threat.

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Ukraine War Awareness via Youtube

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The Armata is almost entirely covered in thick armor plates.

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Ukraine War Awareness via Youtube

Footage from inside the tank shows touch screens and 360-degree view cameras.

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A look at the tanks internal systems.
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Ukraine War Awareness via Youtube

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Additionally, the tanks software can set and track targets by itself, leaving the crew free to focus on other objectives.

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The tanks tracking systems even work at night.
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Ukraine War Awareness via Youtube

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The first ever released footage of the tank firing shows the large cannon has surprisingly little recoil in the tank.

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The first public footage of the T-14 Armata firing.
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Ukraine War Awareness via Youtube

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While the tank may be a technical marvel, it is still some time away from full production.

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A T-90A tank firing its main gun at Engineering Technologies 2012.
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Vitaly V. Kuzmin

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Watch the full video below:

(H/T to We Are The Mighty)

Here are the powerful Mexican drug cartels that operate in the US

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US Special Agent Rodney Irby looks over some 500 pounds of marijuana seized on January 18, 2011, in the Tohono O’odham Nation, Arizona.
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Getty Images

Virtually the entire US illicit-drug market is controlled by seven Mexican cartels, according to the US Drug Enforcement Administration’s 2015 National Drug Threat Assessment Summary.

The DEA report notes that there are no organizations at this time with the infrastructure and power to challenge these cartels and their hold over the US market.

Trafficking heroin, meth, cocaine, and marijuana, these organizations will continue to dominate throughout the US, according to the DEA.

“Narcotics are the biggest black market earner of all,” wrote Ioan Grillo, author of “Gangster Warlords: Drug Dollars, Killing Fields, and the New Politics of Latin America.”

“Estimated to be worth more than three hundred billion dollars a year, the global industry has pumped huge resources into criminal empires decade after decade.”

A number of criminal organizations have risen and fallen over those decades, but we have listed the seven Mexican cartels that currently supply the US drug market below.


The Sinaloa cartel

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Gunmen associated with the Sinaloa cartel pose in front of a sign threatening the Los Zetas cartel.
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinaloa_Cartel#mediaviewer/File:ElChapoGuzman-gunmen.jpeg

The Sinaloa cartel is generally regarded as the most powerful and wealthiest cartel in Mexico and in the world.

The cartel is based in Sinaloa state on Mexico’s Pacific coast – a rugged and mountainous area known as the Golden Triangle for its extensive drug cultivation.

Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán and Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada took leadership of the Sinaloa cartel in the early 1990s (after thedisintegrationof the Guadalajara cartel).

In 2012, the Chicago Crime Commission named Guzmán as Chicago’s Public Enemy No.1 due to the Sinaloa cartel’s dominant role in supplying large quantities of drugs to the city and the region around it.


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Mexico’s federal government/Amanda Macias/Business Insider

In 2013, the DEA said that Guzmán’s organization shipped “80% of the heroin, cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine” most of which flowed through the Chicago region each year, a supply with a value of $3 billion.

The DEA’s 2015 National Drug Threat Assessment revealed even more extensive control, with only New Mexico and the southern half of Texas out of the Sinaloa cartel’s grasp.


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Sinaloa areas of influence, colored orange, span throughout the US, with the exception of New Mexico and parts of Texas.
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DEA/Amanda Macias/Business Insider

On the morning of January 8, the Mexican government arrested Guzmán, and hours laterfrog-marched himfrom northwestern Sinaloa state, where he was captured, back to the prison near Mexico City from which he escaped in July – where he will reportedly be even more closely monitored.

Most observers believe that Guzmán will eventually end up in a US supermax facility and that his cartel will continue to operate from Mexico through its vast networks.

“The drug trade will continue to operate without ‘El Chapo,’ but ‘El Chapo’ represented drug traffickers who could defy the government,” Grillo, author of “Gangster Warlords,” told Business Insider.


The Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG)

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Members of the Mexican drug cartel Jalisco New Generation.
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Screen grab

The Jalisco New Generation Cartel is one of the fastest-growing and most powerful cartels in Mexico.

According to the DEA, the group now rivals the Sinaloa cartel in terms of trafficking operations in parts of Asia, Europe, and Oceania.

“It is spreading like a cancer in Mexico,” Mike Vigil, former head of international operations for the DEA told The Global Post.

“It’s the fastest expanding cartel and they could in the near future overtake the Sinaloa cartel as the most significant organized group in Mexico.”

Originally part of the Sinaloa cartel, CJNG split off and formed its own organization in Jalisco, Mexico – a longtime home of drug traffickers.

At the helm is Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, the kingpin better known as “El Mencho” – who is most likely going to take the top spot as Public Enemy No. 1 for the Mexican government, Grillo toldBusiness Insider.


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DEA/Eames Yates/Business Insider

Rivaling the power “El Chapo,” the CJNG leader is the “top crime boss right now in Mexico,” according to Tristan Reed, a security analyst for Stratfor.

“El Mencho” began violently seizing other gangs’ turf and was able to expand rapidly in western Mexico’s Michoacan state – where the Knights Templar cartel was deteriorating.

What’s more, CJNG has the capability to build its own guns.


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Screen grab

During a raid in October 2015, investigators found evidence that CJNG members were making their own AR-15 assault rifles with “highly sophisticated machinery,” according toJalisco Attorney General Luis Carlos Najera.

Moreover, according to the US Treasury Department, the CJNG maintains a “close alliance” with Los Cuinis, another Mexican cartel, and the two organizations “have rapidly expanded their criminal empire in recent years through the use of violence and corruption,” according to a Treasury official.


The Gulf cartel

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A senior Gulf cartel leader is presented during a press conference.
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Mexican Government

One of the oldest Mexican drug cartels, the Gulf cartel is based in eastern Mexico along the Gulf Coast states.

In the 1980s, the cartel brokered a deal with Colombia’s powerful Cali Cartel by agreeing to smuggle Colombian cocaine across the Mexican border for a cool 50% of the profits.

The Gulf cartel controls a lucrative smuggling corridor along the US-Mexico border into Texas.


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Gulf cartel areas of influence span throughout parts of Texas.
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DEA/Amanda Macias/Business Insider

This area of control allows the Gulf to dominate the drug trade throughout southern and eastern Texas and portions of the US Gulf Coast.

The Gulf cartel became one of the first Mexican groups to turn into a mega-operation with a dedicated military wing that eventually mutated into Los Zetas.

When the Zetas eventually violently broke from the Gulf cartel, they began waging a war for territorial control in the Gulf cartel’s home state of Tamaulipas.

The Zetas are now one of the most violent criminal groups in the Western Hemisphere.


Zetas

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YouTube

In 1997, 31 men from the Mexican army’s elite airborne group defected, joining the Gulf cartel and using their tactical and logistical know-how to act as assassins and bodyguards.

After the Gulf cartel leader was arrested in 2003 and extradited to the US, the approximately 300 members of what became known as Los Zetas struck out on their own.

True to their training, the Zetas used military-grade force to take control of territory and overwhelm their enemies.

The DEA described the Zetas as “the most technologically advanced, sophisticated and violent of these paramilitary enforcement groups,” Insight Crime notes.


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The letter “Z” is seen painted on a hill next to a tollbooth on the freeway between Monterrey and Torreon, in the Mexican state of Coahuila, March 13, 2010.
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Tomas Bravo/Reuters

By 2010, the Zetas controlled more than double the number of Mexican municipalities as their closest rivals, and expanded their operations as far afield as Guatemala.

During this time they were also embroiled in continuous conflict with the Gulf cartel, and, according to Insight Crime, they clashed with the Sinaloa cartel, Mexico’s dominant drug-trafficking organization.

The breakup of the Zetas began in 2012, with the arrest or death of several key leaders coming over the next three years.

Presently, Insight Crime notes, the Zetas are a group of factions, generally lacking the cohesion needed to move narcotics across borders and instead relying “more on profiting from crime in territories they hold than from international drug trafficking.”

According to the DEA, however, Los Zetas, or elements with the cartel, still have a presence in the US, and have partnered with gangs in American territory, as well as Colombian traffickers, to move cocaine and other drugs into the US.


Knights Templar (LCT)

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The leader of the Knights Templar, “La Tuta” is seen in this screen grab of a video message.
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Screen grab

The Knights Templar is a relatively new group, formed in 2010 by Servando “La Tuta” Gomez Martinez.

Martinez was previously a high-ranking member of the nearly extinct La Familia Michoacana, but he left the organization after its leader, Nazario Moreno Gonzalez, aka”El Chayo,” or “El Mas Loco,” was killed.

As a splinter group of La Familia, the Knights Templar employ similar strategies and trappings.

They model themselves as a “self-defense” movement, acting against other cartels on behalf of the indigenous population of Michoacana state, although the efforts have largely backfired as a popular vigilante revolt effectively pushed the Knights Templar from areas across the state.

The cartel suffered a blow in operations when Mexican authorities captured “La Tuta” in February 2015.


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The Knights Templar areas of influence are primarily in Portland, Oregon, and Birmingham, Alabama.
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DEA/Amanda Macias/Business Insider

The Knights Templar cartel still controls large amounts of the drug trade throughout the US, although it has failed to have any true regional dominance.

The organization does control drug trafficking in Portland, Oregon, and Birmingham, Alabama.


Juarez Cartel

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Soldiers stand at the site of a gun battle in the Valley of Juarez, on the outskirts of Ciudad Juarez, February 17, 2015.
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Reuters

As the name suggests, the Juarez cartel is based in the Juarez municipality of Mexico’s north-central Chihuahua state.

The location allows the cartel to exploit the border crossing in Ciudad Juarez, a crucial border city that gives the group easy access into El Paso, Texas.

This passageway allowed the Juarez cartel to be one of the predominant trafficking organizations in Mexico.


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Juarez cartel areas of influence are concentrated in New Mexico and parts of Texas.
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DEA/Amanda Macias/Business Insider

In 2004, the organization began fighting against the Sinaloa cartel, leading Ciudad Juarez to become the murder capital of the world for three years straight, before the city’s narcotics trade became under Sinaloan control.

Despite losing a large part of its market share to Sinaloa, the Juarez cartel is still among Mexico’s most dominant trafficking organizations.


Beltran-Leyva Organization (BLO)

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Edgar Valdez Villareal, aka “La Barbie,” a high-level operative for BLO, is presented by Mexican federal police during a press conference.
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REUTERS/Henry Romero

The Beltran-Leyva Organization’s founders, the Beltran-Leyva brothers, were core members of the Sinaloa cartel, helping run it after “El Chapo” Guzmán’s arrest in 1993 and eventually helping Guzmán escape prison in 2001.

In 2002, the brothers joined with Guzmán to form the “Alianza de Sangre,” or the “Blood Alliance,” and soon started acting as muscle for the Sinaloa cartel in its turf war with the vicious Los Zetas cartel.

The BLO also proved adept at corrupting public officials, according to Insight Crime.

In early 2008, suspicion that Guzmán had betrayed one of the Beltran-Leyva brothers led to a split, and clashes between the two former allies added to the intense bloodshed that swept Mexico in the late 2000s.


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BLO areas of operation in the US are limited to southeastern Missouri, central Tennessee, and central North Carolina.
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DEA/Amanda Macias/Business Insider

At its peak, the BLO operated in 10 states throughout Mexico, primarily in the southwest.

It is believed to have controlled illegal activities at airports in Mexico, Monterrey, Cancun, and Acapulco, as well as hotels, restaurants, and resorts in places like Acapulco, Cancun, and Cozumel, which were used to launder money.

After 2010, the organization began to come apart, with the Beltran-Leyva brothers and many other top cartel officials captured or killed.

Though significantly weakened, the BLO has maintained some alliances with Mexican cartels, and the DEA said that in 2014 that the BLO was both active in the US and working with Colombian traffickers to move cocaine into the US.

A spectacular ‘fireball’ was spotted burning up in the Northeast sky

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Alexander Salvador/YouTube screenshot

Hundreds of people spotted a fireball streaking through the sky at about 6:16 p.m. Saturday evening, ABC news reports.

The meteor was primarily visible in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, but there were also witnesses in Virginia, Washington, DC, Maryland, North Carolina, New York, Delaware, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Ontario, according to the American Meteor Society.

Several witnesses, including Alex Salvador in Falls Churs, Virginia, captured the meteor’s stunning descent on their car dashboard cameras:

“It seemed close, big, and definitely on fire with a tail,” Salvador told ABC.

A “fireball” is a very bright type of meteor that is even brighter than the planet Venus appears from earth. A few thousand fireballs burn up in Earth’s atmosphere every day, but most of them happen over oceans or uninhabited areas, or are invisible because they happen during the day when they are blocked out by sunlight.

Fireballs as bright as this one are rarely seen.

Many people reported the fireball on the AMS website, saying it had colorful fragments and looking like it “fell apart or exploded,” according to ABC.

If you spotted the fireball, you can report it here.

The McLaren 675LT is the supercar for high-tech speed worshippers

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Bryan Logan/Business Insider

McLaren builds supercars for people who love technology. Ferrari builds them for people who are into a sexy, screaming engine and breathtaking styling, and Lamborghini builds them for people who had Lamborghini posters on their bedroom walls as teenagers. Pagani builds them for artists. Porsche builds them people who … I guess like Porsches a whole lot and need Porsche to have a supercar. Ford builds them when it wants to remind everyone that it has beaten Ferrari at what Ferrari does best. And Corvette builds them because Corvette wants us to be happy and not have to spend $300,000 for the privilege.

But McLaren has the tech angle down. This provokes some criticism: McLarens aren’t visceral, they lack soul. They look as if they were spit out of 3D printers or sculpted from blocks of plastic. Maybe they take a little too seriously the notion that racing is a laboratory for the street, and they channel their namesake, New Zealander Bruce McLaren, to bond on-track performance with perhaps the finest engineering in the car world. McLaren – the supercar for technocrats. Elon Musk owned a F1 hypercar, don’t you know. Kind of says it all.

Of course it’s all just the obsessively fine, blathering distinction-making of folks who want to debate the thises and thats of supercars. The real test of what a McLaren is all about takes place when you swing up the doors and slip into the driver’s seat, as we did for a day in Los Angeles.

Here’s what we thought of the 675LT coupe – “LT” for “Longtail,” an extended version of McLaren 650S – a supercar that the mad scientists in Woking, England, created specifically for track days and sold (in the case of our vehicle) for $400,000. (Unfortunately, you can’t buy a new one any longer – McLaren sold them all!)

We didn’t have the pleasure of tracking the 675LT, but we did hit the canyon roads above Malibu.


The 675LT was bathed in glorious Southern California sunshine for the entire time we enjoyed it — a whopping day and a half. It was an aggressive study in carbon fiber and neon green or, as McLaren calls it, “Napier Green.”

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Bryan Logan/Business Insider

… with those exotic upswinging doors of course.

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Bryan Logan/Business Insider

The carbon fiber is literally everywhere.

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Bryan Logan/Business Insider

The 675LT is based on the 650S, McLaren’s core mid-engine sports car.

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Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

Let’s hit the road! After I dropped by my favorite LA taco truck, I swept down to pick up Business Insider’s Bryan Logan, who would be manning the camera, and we headed west toward the Pacific. This is one of my favorite LA runs, established by my having lived there for a decade. A right turn onto the Pacific Coast Highway, then north up the beach through Malibu and a right onto Malibu Canyon Road. When we crossed Mulholland, we swung left from some twisty motoring, and then we continued up to the 101 freeway for a long cruise back to downtown LA where …

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Business Insider/Google Maps

… we parked behind the Convention Center, home to the LA Auto Show.

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Bryan Logan/Business Insider

This is what makes the magic happen: McLaren’s purpose-built 3.8-liter V8, with twin turbochargers. This might be the finest high-performance engine ever built by human hands. Its 666 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque yield a zero-to-60 time that McLaren claims is 2.9 seconds. In practice, combined with the 675LT’s extensive aerodynamics, extremely light weight (just under 3,000 lbs.), and blisteringly quick dual-clutch transmission, this thing is a friggin’ guided missile.

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

That said, the 675 LT isn’t a visceral driving experience. The engine note is pleasing and robust, but never raw. The entire rig feels so absurdly planted, despite being rear-wheel-drive, and the V8 revs so freely, that you can leave ‘er in 2nd gear and point and shoot your way around serpentine canyon roads, tempting the redline and relishing the perfectly calibrated suspension. But let’s face it, this puppy was made for the track, and that’s where it wants to be. And in that context, I think it would be a scalpel. You don’t need to be feeling anything extraneous when you are going very, very fast. Well, actually, you do feel something: a sublime sense of absolute control.

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

And by the way, that engine note is piped through an innovative titanium exhaust system. It doesn’t bark, burp, and burble like, say, the V10 on a Lamborghini Huracán, but it does serve up a periodically violent whoosh and wail.

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

If a highly technical, race-car-for-the-road experience can plausibly be described as “religious,” the 675LT is a fine way to be taken to church. In a word, “Wow!”

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

As a result, this isn’t exactly a comfortable automobile. Its brethren, the 650S, has been called docile (for a supercar) in everyday driving. The 675LT sheds much of that. The instrument cluster is straightforward. And the steering wheel is all business. No F1-derived button and switches, a la Ferrari and Lamborghini.

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

Basically, it’s not luxurious. My throwback driving gloves were out of place.

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Bryan Logan/Business Insider

There’s a whiff of sass in the topstitched leather, whose neon flair echoes the exterior. But there are also swaths of carbon fiber. The transmission selector is a cluster of basic buttons.

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

The knobs and button that control the driver modes — normal, sport, track — are equally minimalist.

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

The track-mode drive setting is addictive, thanks to the sacred union between that dazzling V8 and McLaren’s miraculous 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox, easily the sharpest I’ve ever enjoyed. Flick the right paddle to upshift …

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

… and the left paddle to drop down. But did I say “flick”? That’s not really a fast enough word. This gearbox if the closest thing to engineering telekinesis I’ve ever enjoyed. When you change gears, the engine actually STOPS IGNITING FUEL for a nanosecond or something, to deliver shifts that almost feel like they’re been borrowed from the future. The next gear is just THERE. Zowie!

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

Holding it all together are four Pirelli P-ZERO Trofeo R’s, ultralight alloy wheels, and some big honkin’ carbon-ceramic brakes all the way around, which are exceptionally effective.

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Bryan Logan/Business Insider

The seats are all business, racing-derived, and snugly bolstering. You can sling yourself and a passenger around without fear that the smushy bits will go sloshing about the 675 LT’s cabin, which is actually a tub that situates you inches off the ground. Many folks complain about McLaren ingress and egress, and lanky Bryan Logan did struggle at times. Diminutive me slipped in and out without trouble, however.

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Bryan Logan/Business Insider

Vehicle functions are managed through this abstractly symbolic interface, which controls the modest infotainment system, squeezed between the seats.

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

It’s small but mighty. Everything you could need should you want to distract yourself from the various epiphanies of actually driving the car is present, from navigation …

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

.. to a radio …

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

… to climate controls (note that McLaren Man is wearing a RACING HELMET AND DON’T YOU FORGET IT!) …

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

… to a suite of apps.

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

Unlike some other very serious track machines, the 675LT has not zero and not one but two cupholders … positioned as awkwardly as possible beneath the center console.

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

McLarens are controversial in the world of automotive design. The 675LT is effectively a stretched 650S, with scads more aerodynamics added, including a rear wing that will deploy to enhance downforce. However, the sculptural elements of the car come off as more technical than artistic — as if they were created by a very precise artificial intelligence.

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Bryan Logan/Business Insider

The 675LT is attention-getting, however. And with only 500 being built, it’s sure to be rare sight in the wild.

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Bryan Logan/Business Insider

From just about every angle, it exudes cool aggression.

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Bryan Logan/Business Insider

Which makes sense, as you can draw line from the bold McLarens that have dominated on the racetrack, in the talented hands of drivers such as Ayrton Senna.


It all goes back to the source. Bruce McLaren was a supreme competitor, and his legacy both inspires and informs the 675LT.


No one is going to write songs or poems about the 675LT, but in the end that doesn’t matter. This is a car that speaks for itself with its utterly mesmerizing speed.

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

17 things you can stop wasting your money on

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REUTERS/Mark Blinch

We’ve all regretted a purchase at some point. Not only are we surrounded by enticing things to buy, but everything is remarkably easy to purchase with the swipe of a plastic card or the click of a button. To help you make smart spending decisions, here are 17 things you can stop wasting your money on today:


Late and ATM fees

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Justin Sullivan/Getty

Late fees and penalties on credit cards or other bills are a waste of money that have “no purpose to the spender,” writes Quora user Alex Schamenek.

Another pointless money suck: ATM fees. Consumers these days are paying an average of $4.35 each time they use an out-of-network ATM.

As Schamenek puts it: “Irresponsibility is expensive.”


Brand-name products

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Thomson Reuters

Go generic whenever possible if you want to save more money over time.

“You have to prioritize because you can’t have the best of everything,” Ramit Sethi writes in his book, “I Will Teach You to Be Rich.” “Buy brand-name for the stuff you care about, and cut costs mercilessly on commodities you don’t care about by buying generic.”

Areas you may be able to save money on include toiletries, food, certain clothes, and pet supplies. What is important to you, and what are you willing to sacrifice? Establish what you want to prioritize and what you can de-prioritize.


Excess groceries

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Matt MacGillivray/Flickr

“When food spoils, that’s money down the drain,” writes Quora user Faraha Khanam.

According to Dana Gunders, a Natural Resources Defense Council project scientist, about 60% of consumers throw food away prematurely. As a result, our households waste between 15% and 25% of the food that we’re buying.

Gunders said:

That’s expensive. Imagine walking out of a grocery store with four bags of groceries, dropping one in the parking lot, and not bothering to pick it up. That’s essentially what we’re doing in our homes today.


Coin-operated machines

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Megan Willett/Tech Insider

Pinball machines, jukeboxes, and video games are enticing – and seemingly harmless from a financial standpoint. “You don’t think of a quarter as a lot of money, so you don’t think twice about using it that way,” writes Quora user Michael Forrest Jones.

He continued:

But that stuff can be habit-forming. If you sit there and do it over and over again during the course of an evening, several evenings a week over several years, it adds up. I look back now and wish I’d had all the money I spent doing it, especially now that you can listen to any record ever made on YouTube, or play any number of games online.


Eating out

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Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

“I used to eat out every day, twice a day. Even if you don’t go to expensive restaurants, it really adds up,” writes Quora user Coleman Foley. “And it stops seeming special pretty fast.”

The occasional meal out is fine, but the more food you can make at home, the better off your food budget will be. Plus, making your own meals tends to be healthier than eating out.

Try cooking large quantities on the weekends so you’ll have leftovers to pack for lunch during the week. Also, consider investing in a slow cooker like a Crock-Pot. Crock-Pot meals cost around $2 per person, while the average takeout dinner or restaurant meal costs upward of $50 for a family of four.


Impulse buys

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soft_light / Shutterstock

From supermarkets to department stores, retailers are carefully engineered to get you to spend more. One such trick they employ is to load the checkout aisle with tempting products and get you to make impulse purchases while waiting in line.

Rather than spending $5 on candy or a magazine, put that money toward a vacation or other meaningful savings goal. For one Quora user, Igino Cafiero, the biggest waste of money is “buying objects to increase my happiness, when the same money spent towards an experience will trump it every time.”


Parking tickets

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Flickr/Charleston’s The Digitel

Traffic violations aren’t cheap, and a few here and there can really add up in the long run.

Writes Quora user Laura Parker:

Specifically, parking tickets, late paid parking tickets, unpaid parking tickets, and eventual towing. It has happened to me an embarrassing amount of times in New York City, which charges about $375 to get your car back, in addition to the parking tickets.


Cable

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Flickr / Keirsten Marie

The average American household pays $64 a month for cable, the International Business Times reports, which comes out to $768 a year. That’s a large sum to pay for a service that people often don’t take full advantage of.

Plus, writes an anonymous Quora user:

Most of the programs are pretty awful with few exceptions. For movies, go to Netflix. For sports, go to a friend’s house and bring beer. You just saved $40 to $80 a month on cable and $300 to $2,000 on the purchase of the actual television.

Check out more cable replacements if you’re tired of excessive channels and outrageous bills.


Online shipping

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REUTERS/Lance Murphey

Nearly all retailers offer some sort of option that gets your purchases to your doorstep without additional fees.

Zappos and L.L. Bean are among the rarest breed of businesses offering free shipping on every purchase, but most companies will demand a minimum purchase.

To help track down deals on shipping, use FreeShipping.org. The site stores information on expiration dates, tells you much to spend to qualify, and lets you search by store name or product. Otherwise, check out Coupon Sherpa or RetailMeNot, which collect discount codes for free shipping.


Unnecessary smartphone data

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Flickr/jseliger2

“Many of us (including me) pick a cell phone plan, then never check to see if it’s the right one for us based on our usage,” writes author Ramit Sethi. “Because the average cell phone bill is about $50, that’s $600 per year of money you can optimize.”

When buying a new cellphone, Sethi likes to pay a little bit more upfront by choosing the unlimited data and text-messaging plan. He then sets a three-month check-in on his calendar and analyzes his spending patterns after a few months to see where he can cut back.

You can use this method for any usage-based services, he says.


A morning latte

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Shutterstock

That daily latte adds up, one Quora user found. It’s “$5 after tip,” Shiela Appavoo writes. “Conservatively, $1,200 per year – not counting the muffins and scones.”

A few years ago she decided THAT enough was enough:

I got myself a moderately expensive, super-automatic beans-to-cup espresso machine and calculated that it paid for itself within a few months! And I experiment with the beans and I have found the coffee I make at home is nicer than what I can get at the cappuccino bar. Plus, I have a healthy breakfast at home instead of a muffin on the run!

If you redirect your latte money toward savings, over the course of a few decades that money could grow substantially, thanks to the power of compound interest.


Unnecessary add-ons

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Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Be wary of the features retailers push hard to sell you, such as extended warranties for electronics and protection services for your new car, writes Quora user Dan Pepper:

Only a small percentage of these features are ever used – especially features that require reading a manual or enduring an online tutorial. Luxury automobiles are the biggest offenders, with built-in features that are almost obsolete by the the time they reach the market.

Often, warranties can end up costing as much as buying a used or new replacement for your item, or repairing it. Before saying yes to the enticing add-ons, ask yourself if they’re truly necessary.


Lottery tickets

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REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

There’s no harm in buying a lottery ticket every once in a while just for fun, but don’t make a habit out of it or make the purchase expecting to win.

Despite the significantly unfavorable odds, many of us continue dishing out cash for lottery tickets, when that money could be better spent toward a retirement account or savings goal.


Subscriptions

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Wikimedia Commons

Subscriptions – to magazines, newspapers, and the gym – can add up, and often we don’t use them as much as we had originally planned.

Sethi recommends implementing what he calls the “à la carte” method, which takes advantage of psychology to cut out costs.

Sethi explains in “I Will Teach You To Be Rich“:

Cancel all the discretionary subscriptions you can: your magazines, TiVo, cable – even your gym. Then, buy what you need à la carte. Instead of paying for a ton of channels you never watch on cable, buy only the episodes you watch for $1.99 each off iTunes. Buy a day pass for the gym each time you go.

It works for three reasons, Sethi writes: You’re likely overpaying already, you’re forced to be conscious about your spending, and you value what you pay for.


Fast food

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Thomson Reuters

You’re only hurting yourself – and your wallet – if you’re feeding yourself out of the bodega around the corner from your home or office.

“I shudder to think how much money I’ve spent on Coke Zero over the years,” writes Quora user David Stewart. “If I could convert to water I’d have so much more ready cash.”

If you’re looking for an alternative to brown-bagging it, check out how to shop for the healthiest foods at the grocery store for the least amount of money, and start preparing your own food.


New cars

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Reuters

Says certified financial planner Michael Egan:

People get bored with cars quickly. They always want a new car and so they’re always dealing with a car payment. But it’s a hugely depreciating asset. You don’t want to be putting a lot of money into something that’s going to be worth nothing after a certain number of years.

Look for used car options, which could save you a substantial amount of money. Check out Kelley Blue Book to get an idea of how much you should pay for a used car.

Another option is leasing a car. You can determine whether or not this is a good option for you by following this flow chart.


Lousy gifts

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Flickr / Morgan

Think twice before rushing out to buy Dad another tie that will sit in his closet or Mom another pair of socks to add to the pile.

If you want to buy a great gift without completely breaking the bank, check out these Valentine’s Day gifts for under $50, Father’s Day ideas, Mother’s Day ideas, and holiday-gift ideas for under $50.

This is exactly how the FBI convinces hedge funders trading on inside information to spill the beans on everyone else

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“And what we did was approach them in places like Dunkin’ Donuts, where our team knew exactly how they took their coffee …”
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Getty Images/Joe Raedle

When the FBI wants to get a hedge fund portfolio manager to be a cooperating witness in an insider-trading case, they’ll literally follow that person everywhere, according to FBI Special Agent David Chaves.

Basically, the FBI learns how you take your coffee, what you do in the gym, and whom you’re sleeping with.

On Thursday evening, Chaves gave a presentation on insider trading at an event hosted by the New York Hedge Fund Round Table at the Penn Club of New York.

Since 2009, the government has been cracking down on insider trading in the hedge fund industry with dozens of arrests and convictions made.

Finding a cooperating witness has been essential to many of those cases.

A cooperating witness is someone who has also committed a crime. The FBI approaches this individual and says if they wear a wire, cooperate, and testify against others, they along with the US Attorney’s office will submit a letter to the court explaining how that person helped in the investigation when it’s time for their sentencing.

To find these people, the FBI has partnered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Together, they look for traders who seemingly guessed right over the last few years on mergers and acquisitions, earnings, or good or bad news affecting a company’s stock.

“Let’s take a look at those people – are they the best traders in the world or are they cheating?”

The FBI would then examine bank records, trading records, and phone records. They’d look for phone calls with a company insider and then see if it matched up with the timing of a trade in that company’s stock.

Once they know they have someone, they’d follow that person for months at a time. It’s important that they gather intelligence to make sure they have the leverage to get them to cooperate. They can’t afford to have them not cooperate and then go back to the hedge fund and sound the alarm that the FBI is onto them.

Here’s how Chaves said it works:

I could tell you that we would watch these people put their kids on the school bus every morning, watch them drive to work, follow them, get on the subway with them, get on the train with them, follow them to work, watch them at the office, watch them work out at gyms – gyms that we work out in so that we could hear, listen to what was going on, who they talked to. We would see them after work, meeting a drug dealer, meeting an escort, meeting a girlfriend. We knew more about them, certainly more than their wives knew about them.

And we waited for the right opportunity. And what we did was approach them in places like Dunkin’ Donuts where our team knew exactly how they took their coffee. So when they got in the line and it was their turn to order, we’d just get in front of them and say, “Oh we’re buying today. He takes three sugars and a cream.” Hand that coffee over to them and now they are really off guard.

We’d sit them down. We’d say, “That’s the door and you can walk out that door right now because you’re not under arrest, but let me tell you before you do that, that this is what you’ve been doing in your professional life, this is what you’ve been doing in your personal life. And again, you can walk out the door, but in a few weeks you’re going to hear a pounding at your door at 6 a.m., the anointed time the FBI arrests people, and your opportunity to cooperate will be no longer. However, pick up the phone right now and call this insider you’ve been talking to and just talk about that last deal you did and talk about what’s on the horizon and we’re going to record that call.”

Nine times out of 10 that’s exactly what they do, Chaves said.

Africa’s largest economy needs a $3.5 billion emergency loan after getting hammered by the oil crash

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A man shows a bucket of crude oil spilled on the banks of a river after a Shell pipeline leaked in the Oloma community in Nigeria’s delta region, November 27, 2014.
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Tife Owolabi/Reuters

Nigeria has asked the World Bank and African Development Bank for a $3.5 billion loan, according to The Financial Times.

The request comes as Africa’s largest economy grapples with a $15 billion budget deficit in the wake of the oil crash that has seen prices fall about 70% in the last year and a half.

The FT’s Shawn Donnan and Maggie Fick report that Nigeria’s finance minister, Kemi Adeosun, told the FT these loans aren’t an “emergency” measure, but merely the cheapest way for the country to shore up its finances.

Nigeria produces about 1.8 million barrels of oil per day and 35% of its GDP comes from the oil and gas sector; 90% of Nigeria’s export revenue comes from the sale of petroleum, according to OPEC.

The important takeaway, however, is that while the crash in oil prices seen during 2014 and 2015 was stunning, it isn’t until this year and beyond that we’ll start to see the real impacts on both private corporate and government budgets from the sustained decline in prices.

And so here we are.

According to Donnan and Fick, Nigeria’s package would be composed of $2.5 billion from the World Bank and $1 billion from the African Development Bank. The loans would likely be priced at below-market rates.

Earlier this week, Nigeria was in focus as Business Insider’s Elena Holodny looked at research out of RBC Capital Markets that said there is a rising risk of violence inside the country disrupting its oil production, a development that could boost international prices but would certainly further stress Nigeria’s financial position.

And so while the FT’s report notes that the proposed package of loans made to Nigeria wouldn’t come with the strings usually attached with a loan from the IMF – which often include extensive “structural reforms,” which is basically short-hand for coming up with additional revenue to ensure repayment – the IMF will be expected to endorse a loan from the World Bank.

Read the full story at the FT here »