Home Blog

Fisher Capital Group, IRAs and Diversification: Rediscovering Gold’s Timeless Value

iStock-889286538 (1)

Gold seems to be everywhere these days. Point your TV remote, and a liquid crystal screen lights up with an infomercial pitching gold coins. Check the business channels, and you’ll find myriad panels discussing the pace of gold’s price acceleration, and its benefits as an inflation hedge in perilous times.

Surf the Web and you’ll see charts chronicling gold’s incredible rise from around $300 an ounce in the 1990s to over $2,000 today. Tune in to talk radio, and you’ll quickly notice that many of the most prominent sponsors are companies selling gold as a sound diversification option.

It’s truly a golden age, with retail investors, central banks and governments around the world swelling demand and bidding up prices.

In this 21st-century gold rush, everyone is looking for an anchor: something solid and tangible that will moor their money to a bedrock of timeless value.

Across the ages, gold has always been that anchor. Alchemists have tried to create it. Imperial powers have set out to plunder it. Royal families have hoarded and squandered it. The world’s oldest surviving currency, gold will always be synonymous with value.

Currencies may come and go, but gold survives — and adapts. An example of its adaptability is the way some cryptocurrencies have attempted to link their digital value to gold.

Many investors in this cyber-investment sector have wondered: What is the basis of value for a cryptocurrency that is not backed by hard assets? At times it seems there’s only a handful of people in the financial industry — and perhaps in the world — who truly understand how value is conjured from the kaleidoscope of equations that create a single bitcoin. To skeptics, it seems like a high-tech magic trick, in which the coin that you thought was in your pocket finds its way into the palm of an illusionist. A Dogecoin or Ethereum token backed by gold seems less ephemeral, and certainly more reassuring.

Similarly, retirement accounts have increasingly sought to offer the stability and security inherent in gold. Companies such as Los-Angeles-based Fisher Capital Group specialize in establishing self directed IRAs that allow customers to add precious metals to a retirement account, and to periodically adjust the amount of gold or silver held within that IRA. This has been particularly attractive to seniors on fixed incomes, many of whom spent a lifetime saving for retirement, only to see inflation erode their portfolios at the very moment when they need to make regular withdrawals. 

Fisher Capital Group is a company that subscribes to traditional family values and supports conservative political views. This value set resonates with a large segment of the prime consumer demographic interested in owning gold within their investment portfolio. 

Celebrities are often spokespeople for investing in gold. Radio personalities Glenn Beck, Mark Levin and dozens of small- and medium-market broadcasters discuss the benefits of gold on their programs and endorse particular companies. Rising cable network Newsmax sometimes displays a split screen when covering political rallies, with a graphic advertising gold prominently posted on the right.

In the case of Fisher Capital Group, Roger Stone is a visible supporter, and the company is also an active participant in events hosted by Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk.

Politics has come a long way from the days of William Jennings Bryan, who as a presidential candidate in 1896 famously declared:

“If they dare to come out in the open field and defend the gold standard as a good thing, we shall fight them to the uttermost, having behind us the producing masses of the nation and the world. Having behind us the commercial interests and the laboring interests and all the toiling masses, we shall answer their demands for a gold standard by saying to them, you shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns. You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.”

The precious metal wasn’t even slightly dented by the white-hot rhetoric. History records that William Jennings Bryan lost — three times — and that gold triumphantly endured as a cornerstone of stable money, prudent business decisions and sound policymaking.  

Faith, Environment, and Finance: The Overlooked Nexus?

Open Bible on a wooden board near the river.

By Anisa Indah Pratiwi and Greget Kalla Buana

Can religion make us better custodians of the environment? Can we dial back on environmental degradation by encouraging faith-based institutions to take action? How does finance come into the mix? Follow along to
discover the answers to these and many more.

During the election period, an issue that is so close to home, yet many thought was underwhelmingly discussed, rose again: the intricate matter of climate crisis. Indonesia is one among more than 60 nations to hold national elections this year, engaging 4 billion people and marking a global colossal exercise. It will be crucial for voters to voice the same concern regarding the planet that people collectively share. 

Over the past decades, climate change has posed an alarming threat to around 270 million people in Indonesia’s coastal-rural-urban population, as well as its landscape and ecosystems. The impact has been intense, with unpredictable seasonal shifts leading to prolonged droughts and devastating forest fires, exacerbated by rising sea levels and temperatures. The adverse impact is worse for those marginalised due to economic insecurity, while ironically, they did not either harm or have the capacity to abuse the biosphere.  

Almost as a self-prophecy, the expansion of urbanisation and unconstrained exploitation of natural resources, including unethical practices related to agriculture, have made Indonesia’s carbon-rich peatlands and mangroves more susceptible to human-caused disasters. As a result, it intensifies carbon released into the atmosphere or causes heavy rainfall, like in January 2013, when it inundated Jakarta, causing approximately US$490 million in loss and damage (World Bank, 2016). The phenomenon also has deprived many farmers of reaping their harvests and, even further, hinders generations from enjoying the wealth of our natural resources. 

Thus, it is unsurprising that the current practices beg for an evaluation: does rapid capitalisation do justice to humans and nature? What options do we have to reverse the current trajectory, or so to say, to cleanse our environmental sin?  

Religious Dimension Point of View

The use of the word ‘‘sin’’ carries a different meaning. Agree or not, it brings about religion or faith into the climate battleground. The faith communities are no strangers to environmental preservation. Over 14 centuries ago, the Quran says, “Corruption has spread on land and sea as a result of what peopleʼs hands have done so that Allah may cause them to taste the consequences of some of their deeds and perhaps, they might return to the Right Path.” (QS Ar-Rum: 41)

The verse mirrors the role of humans as vicegerents, supposedly safeguarding the mother earth. Such tremendous wisdom is embedded in the religiosity dimension, which ideally aspires religious and secular actors to advocate for stronger political will and lead by example. This value-based perspective on environmental sustainability is far-reaching yet needs to be explored. In 2022, Indonesiaʼs G20 Presidency held the first religious summit to ensure that religion functions as a genuine source of solutions, including climate change. 

Religious traditions are known to have a moral obligation that supports environmental stewardship and social justice, rooted in their holy book.

The importance of faith communities in tackling the climate crisis has been named since COP 26 and further amplified in the last COP 28, where the first-ever Faith Pavilion emerged as a symbol and catalyst for transformational change, integrating spirituality and religion into the heart of climate action. Religious traditions are known to have a moral obligation that supports environmental stewardship and social justice, rooted in their holy book. Consequently, this can mobilise their followers and resources to be aligned with positive causes.

Faith-related institutions constitute the world’s third largest category of financial investors, control 10 percent of the total financial institutions, own almost 8 percent of the total habitable land surface, and 5 percent of all commercial forests worldwide (ARC, 2017). In light of this, Indonesia coined progressive motion. The country’s Ulema Council (Majelis Ulama Indonesia/MUI) has also established an Agency for Honouring Environment and Natural Resources. In the same fashion, Muhammadiyah—one of the world’s largest modern Islamic organisations based in Indonesia—launched the Muhammadiyah Climate Centre in 2023.  

In the Muslim community, Islamic values profoundly shape daily practices. A hadith narrated by Muslim says “… and eat of the dish what is nearer to you…” Such eating etiquette can be contextualised into principles of environmental stewardship by minimising carbon emissions through shortened distribution and supply chains. However, a significant amount of food is wasted during Ramadan in the Arab world, reaching up to 25-50%, as reported by UNEP in 2021. Indonesia, too, faces challenges, being labelled the worldʼs second-largest food waste producer in 2017. 

To address this issue, the MUIʼs Agency advocates a behavioural approach, promoting the consumption of locally sourced food through initiatives like the locavore movement. Additionally, efforts extend beyond food to energy conservation, with initiatives like the EcoMasjid programme teaching worshippers to use water and manage waste mindfully. This aligns with the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), who emphasised the importance of conserving resources, even water, as demonstrated by an Australian water companyʼs reference to Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) saying with each bottle of water, “Do not waste water even if you were at a running stream.”

The Nexus

In the global fight against climate change, one resource remains vastly untapped: the immense potential of faith-based communities. As we confront the urgent need for sustainable solutions, policymakers must recognise the pivotal role these communities can play in shaping a more just and resilient future.

With approximately 84 percent of the global population identifying with a religious affiliation according to Pew Research Center, the influence of faith-based teachings cannot be understated. Across traditions, from the Zen philosophy of Thich Nhat Hanh to Pope Francisʼs encyclical “Laudato Si,” a rich tapestry of wisdom speaks to the imperative of environmental stewardship. These teachings inspire individual action and offer a moral framework for collective responsibility in tackling the climate crisis.

Moreover, the impact of faith-based communities extends beyond rhetoric to tangible outcomes. In Indonesia, for example, religious leaders have successfully increased measles vaccination coverage among Muslim communities, demonstrating the potential of faith-based advocacy to address pressing social issues. By leveraging their moral authority and organisational networks, these communities can serve as powerful allies in the fight against climate change.

In September 2022, Indonesia updated its 2015 Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Agreement, committing to reduce GHG emissions by 32 percent (or 43 percent, with international assistance) by 2030. Indonesia committed to reaching net-zero emissions by 2060 or sooner in its long-term strategy on Low Carbon and Climate Resilience. This commitment is also showcased within The National Medium Term Development Plan for 2015–2019, which identifies a green economy as the foundation for the country’s development programme, focusing on increasing climate resilience. However, it requires US$322.86 billion to achieve the climate target by 2030.

Financially, faith-based institutions wield significant influence, with assets totalling billions of dollars. Organisations like FaithInvest are already working to align faith-based investments with sustainable practices, channelling funds towards projects that promote climate resilience and adaptation. UNEP’s Faith for Earth Initiative report recorded a contribution from sixteen congregations of Dominican Sisters across the US, who provided US$46 million in seed capital for an investment fund focusing on providing access to clean energy in India and Sub-Saharan Africa. Similarly, Sikh groups worldwide have united to fight climate change by donating 1 million trees in 1,820 locations globally in 2019—a campaigned initiated by EcoSikh.

Within Islamic finance, initiatives such as global zakat or almsgiving, US$550-600 billion according to World Bank and Islamic Development Bank, present a unique opportunity to mobilise resources for climate action. From the commercial sector, US$7.2 billion was raised through the Green Sukuk, a Sharia-compliant bond (2018-2023) issued by the Government of Indonesia, reducing 10.5 million tonnes of CO2e.

Despite no longer holding the world’s most prominent Muslim population attribute — Pakistan has taken it over in 2024 — Indonesian Muslims remain significant contributing workforce for the country’s economy, and so does every country with their respective faith followers. The nexus is ontologically clear between faith and environment, as well as people as the subject and finance as the tools. A new paradigm shift on responsible economic activity inspired by religious values would be very impactful to drive a new narrative toward a more sustainable livelihood.

About the Authors

Anisa Indah PratiwiAnisa Indah Pratiwi is an aspiring policy analyst focusing on development finance. She holds a Master in Public Policy from University College London, as a Chevening Scholar. She has been immersed in the development sector since her early professional years, working with UNICEF, UNDP, the ASEAN Secretariat, and a public affairs consulting firm.

Greget Kalla BuanaGreget Kalla Buana is an Islamic finance specialist who graduated with a Master of Islamic Finance and Management at Durham University, United Kingdom. His work experience has always been in the Islamic finance and development sector, such as Dompet Dhuafa, the Islamic Banking Department of the Indonesia Financial Services Authority, and UNDP.

UAE and India Are Now the Best Places to Start a Business, but Western Countries Still Beat Them in One Key Respect

By Sreevas Sahasranamam and Aileen Ionescu-Somers

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is the best place in the world to start a new business, according to the latest annual Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) survey. The Arab nation is number one for the third year in a row thanks to a big push by the government into cutting-edge technology in its efforts to diversify away from oil.

Four out of the top five countries in the GEM rankings are in the Middle East or Asia, with India second, Saudi Arabia third and Qatar fifth – the only exception being Lithuania in fourth place. This is characteristic of a clear eastward shift in the quality of entrepreneurship ecosystems in the past five years, closely mirroring a similar shift in the world’s economic centre of gravity.

The UAE has made particularly steady progress, progressing from fifth on the list in 2019 to the lead ranking. Saudi Arabia has risen from 17th to third, while India is up from sixth to second, having shaken off a pandemic dip in between.

Western economies have slipped during the same period. So why has this been happening and what will matter most in future?

How the survey works

Entrepreneurship is a major driver of global economic growth. It is greatly affected by a country’s regulations, education system, financial institutions and overall culture. By evaluating these variables, you can get a good understanding of the entrepreneurial climate.

GEM captures this each year through a national expert survey that goes out to a range of entrepreneurship ecosystem stakeholders, including business leaders, government officials and academics. This year, 49 countries participated in the survey including most countries in the G20 (with exceptions like Australia that didn’t participate in the most recent survey). From this, GEM produces a rating of 13 different entrepreneurial conditions to create the annual index.

GEM rankings 2019-2023

The shift to the east

The explanations for the rise of eastern countries include greater government promotion of business creation, more emphasis on entrepreneurship education and changes in how business activity is viewed culturally.

In the UAE, for instance, there have been initiatives such as Projects of the 50, which includes priority visas for entrepreneurs and top students, particularly in areas like artificial intelligence, digital currencies and coding. It also includes pushing national adoption of leading technologies.

The government used Expo 2020 as a campaign to promote the Emirates as an attractive destination for business, as well as changing certain rules to make it easier for foreign investors. Notably, this included allowing for 100% foreign ownership of companies in 2021. The Ghadan 21 business accelerator programme has also been spending AED50 billion (£11 billion) in Abu Dhabi since 2019.

The Saudis are also focused on diversifying away from oil, and entrepreneurship is one of the top priorities in Saudi Arabia Vision 2030. This has seen the national enterprise development agency, Monsha’at, doing things like promoting university startups and fast-growing ventures.

The country has been trying to make it easier for entrepreneurs to access finance through initiatives such as the Saudi Public Investment Fund and Saudi Venture Capital Company, while there has been targeted support for female entrepreneurs.

To attract foreign talent, the Saudi government also approved a new residency scheme in 2019 and an instant labour visa in 2023.

In India, there has been a lot of emphasis on innovation in the country’s New Education Policy, which was introduced in 2020 to raise educational standards across the board. Many school students have also been inspired by a nationwide initiative called the Atal Tinkering Lab, which inculcates curiosity and design mindset through science projects, while the popular TV show Shark Tank (called Dragons’ Den in some countries) has fired up dinner-table discussions about things like “equity” and “product-market fit”.

East v west

The weaker performance of western economies has been very noticeable over the past five years. In 2019, four out of the top ten countries were Switzerland, the Netherlands, Norway and the US. All had lost ground by 2023, with Norway and the US no longer even in the top 15, while Switzerland and Netherlands dropped from being the top two countries to ninth and seventh place respectively.

The weakening of business conditions in these economies is potentially explained by the surge in inflation and higher interest rates that they have endured since the pandemic. Incidentally, the UK was ranked 21st overall five years ago and is currently 22nd.

Western economies are still ahead in one important respect, however. When you look at countries like Switzerland, France, Norway and Germany, over 30% of their entrepreneurs are in business services.

The situation is quite different among the leading eastern nations in the GEM rankings, where most entrepreneurial activity focuses on consumer services like retail, hotels, restaurants and personal services. These represent 80% of businesses in Saudi and over 70% in India, while in the UAE the most recent figure is over 60% in 2022.

In Saudi and India, business services such as IT and professional services are less than 10% of entrepreneurial activity overall, while in UAE the 2022 figure was less than 20%.

These low numbers matter because companies providing business services tend to have higher margins, greater potential for scaling and greater barriers to entry. So both in the global east and also in low-income countries, there needs to be more impetus and support for encouraging business services.

It’s also worth pointing out that entrepreneurship education needs more attention in most countries. In 31 out of 49 economies, it was rated as the weakest of the conditions assessed in the survey. Without addressing this, many potential new businesses may never come to fruition simply because a generation of schoolchildren grew up unaware that starting a business was an important option for their futures.

Skills imparted through entrepreneurship education such as creativity, innovation, experimentation, a growth mindset, and overcoming the fear of failure will be fundamental requirements in a world where disruptive technologies are evolving at a breakneck pace.

This article was originally published in The Conversation on 13 February 2024. It can be accessed here: https://theconversation.com/uae-and-india-are-now-the-best-places-to-start-a-business-but-western-countries-still-beat-them-in-one-key-respect-223363

About the Authors

Sreevas SahasranamamSreevas Sahasranamam is a a Professor at the Adam Smith Business School, University of Glasgow. His research focuses on understanding the strategic and ecosystem enablers of innovations/start-ups tackling UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).

Aileen Ionescu-SomersAileen Ionescu-Somers is currently a Lecturer (Chargée de Cours) at University of Lausanne, Faculté de Hautes Etudes Commerciales. Her academic interests are around entrepreneurship, innovation and business sustainability, and she teaches on topics such as strategic sustainability and strategic innovation. 

How Does Truck Factoring Work?

electric invoice

By Andy Brown

Managing cash flow is crucial for trucking companies to stay in business and grow. When invoices are due 30, 60, or even 90 days later, truckers often don’t have enough cash to pay all their expenses, which may hurt the operations. 

Truck factoring is a financial solution for truckers that helps with these cash flow challenges. In this guide, we’ll explore the ins and outs of truck factoring, providing a comprehensive understanding of its mechanisms and advantages for trucking companies of all sizes. 

What is Truck Factoring?

Truck factoring provides trucking companies early access to capital through the sale of their unpaid customer invoices to a Factoring Company for Trucking or a third-party financial company, known as a factor. This provides them with fast access to working capital.

After making deliveries, trucking companies issue invoices to their customers for payment, typically due in 30-90 days. But few truckers can’t afford to wait that long for cash to come in. This is where factoring helps bridge the gap. 

Factoring allows them to get large portions of invoice amounts upfront. The factoring company advances money against the invoices and then collects the total balances from the customers later.

How the Truck Factoring Process Works

Here are the step-by-step logistics of how invoice financing works:

Step 1: A trucking company first completes an agreed-upon delivery of goods for one of its regular customers.

Step 2: The trucking company then issues an invoice to the customer seeking payment for the transportation services rendered. The invoice will contain a due date, usually 30, 60, or 90 days.

Step 3: The trucking company sends a copy of this unpaid invoice directly to the factoring company they have partnered with.

Step 4: The factoring company purchases the receivable by advancing the trucker approximately 80-90% of the total invoice amount as a lump-sum upfront payment. This is the major inflow of cash the trucker needs to operate daily.

Step 5: When the due date arrives, the trucking company’s customer remits payment for the full invoice amount directly to the factoring company, which it now owes.

Step 6: Finally, the factoring company forwards the remaining 10-20% invoice balance to the trucker, minus an agreed-upon factoring fee, usually around 1-5%.

The truckers can continue running routes without financial disruption through this process, while the factor earns income from the fees. It is a mutually beneficial arrangement.

Key Benefits of Factoring for Truckers

There are several advantages that truck factoring offers trucking companies:

  • Provides immediate cash flow to pay drivers, overhead, maintenance, fuel, and other operating expenses instead of waiting 30-90 days for customer payments.
  • Supports growth by funding fleet expansion. Cash from factored invoices can be used to add new trucks, take on more business, and avoid reliance on restrictive bank loans.
  • A revolving line of credit allows a business to repeatedly draw down funds up to a set limit, similar to using a credit card. As money is repaid, it can be borrowed again. There’s flexibility in only taking what is currently needed.
  • Prevents reliance on debt financing. Funding doesn’t accumulate interest like bank loans or credit cards.
  • Keep business running smoothly during seasonal slowdowns or unforeseen circumstances.

With these advantages, truck factoring provides trucking companies with the working capital they require in an easy, fast, and flexible way. Factoring lets truckers focus on operations and growth rather than cash crises.

Man counting moneyHow To Qualify For Factoring?

Factoring companies have a vetting process to ensure trucking businesses meet specific standards before approving them. Truckers should evaluate if they check the essential boxes.

  • At a minimum, trucking companies must be registered legal business entities with the proper licensing, permits, authority to transport goods, and other regulatory credentials. This legitimizes operations and invoices.
  • Having creditworthy customers with solid payment histories also makes trucker invoices attractive to factors. This minimizes default risks on money advanced. Factors will evaluate accounts. Risky customers may disqualify a trucker or reduce advance potential.
  • Operating geographies also matter. Factors specialize in regions with invoice-purchasing and collection infrastructure. So, truckers must operate routes in countries that cover.
  • Legal and tax compliance checks may include no current liens, bankruptcies, or unmanaged overdue tax balances.

Conclusion

With factoring, truckers gain flexibility and avoid reliance on debt financing. The process is easy, and repeated drawdowns allow for flexibility in scale. This supports daily operations, as well as growth opportunities.

Ultimately, truck factoring facilitates smooth business functioning for truckers by overcoming cash flow timing issues. The arrangement is mutually beneficial for the trucking company and factoring company. Truck factoring is a critical and advantageous financial tool that enables trucking companies to thrive.

About the Author

Andy Brown has 6 years of experience consulting with trucking companies to optimize cash flow systems. He specializes in accounts receivable solutions that accelerate working capital for continued growth.

How Casino Sites Continue to Grow

Casino Sites Continue to Grow

The digital casino gaming industry is one that all others should study for lessons in how to maintain and build upon success. Since it first started to capture a significant share of the gambling market in the early 2000s, it has enjoyed an unstoppable rise.

Online casinos are now more popular than their rivals in the real world and they have engaged demographics that never previously showed much interest in playing casino games. The largest of those is women, who have discovered the attractions of roulette, blackjack and slot games in the internet age.

In the following article, we will be taking an in-depth look at what has made casino sites so successful and why they continue to grow more so.

The Games

There is no one single reason for the ongoing success of the sites, but the range and quality of the games must be the most important of them. Casino sites could get everything else right, but they would still fail if they did not offer games that people want to play.

Games such as roulette, slots and blackjack are all extremely popular, but rather than rest on their laurels, casino sites have continued to develop new games. One example of that is lightning roulette, which is a version of that game that adds visual lightning strikes that can produce massive one-off wins.

Another would be slingo, which merges two hit casino games: slots and bingo. The new games that casino sites are providing take formats with an existing audience and make them more attractive through fresh twists to the play or the chance to win even bigger money.

The Security

Online security is something that most users of the internet have become more conscious of as time has gone by. The amount of cyber-crime has risen exponentially in the past few years and industries that are based online have had to respond to that if they want to stay afloat.

The casino industry is one that has done just that and its reward has been high levels of customer retention and the addition of new players. Reputable online casinos can now be identified through their public display of licensing from bodies like the Malta Gaming Authority.

They have also invested sizeable sums of money in cutting-edge security measures, such as SSL data encryption software. It is easy for people to find the legitimate and secure casinos now and that has helped them to stay successful.

The Convenience

There is no point in pretending otherwise: technology has left us all lazier and more concerned with convenience than previous generations. That has made the current climate an ideal one for casino sites to thrive in, because they provide entertainment and excitement that is ultra-convenient.

Anyone who is connected to the internet can quickly find a licensed online casino and the process of registration takes a matter of minutes to complete. Transferring some money into an account at the site is an equally fast and simple process and then it is just a matter of selecting a game.

These can be played while sitting on the sofa in pyjamas. The sites offer high rewards for low effort and that appeals to human nature.

The Technology

The modern casino industry is driven by technology and its advances are making the experience better for casino users. This technology has enabled casino sites to incorporate more payment options, including cryptocurrencies, which in turn has made those interested in tech more aware of casino gaming.

Improvements in technology have also helped casino sites to overcome obstacles. In the past, some considered the experience to be too cold and impersonal, but video streaming tech means that the sites can now provide live games featuring real dealers and opponents. That gives online casino gaming greater atmosphere and sociability.

The sites have utilised artificial intelligence to tailor the experience more closely to each user profile too. Upcoming years bring the promise of casino games powered by virtual reality and augmented reality.

The Promotions

Any industry that is able to offer people something for nothing and mean it is onto a winner. That is just what a promotional offer like the no-deposit bonus at a casino site amounts to. It means new players can start enjoying the games – and possibly winning – before they have to use their own money.

Highly attractive offers of that sort are another big reason why casino sites keep getting more popular rather than hitting a peak and then starting to slip backwards. They are combined with loyalty rewards schemes that are designed to keep existing customers returning to the sites, thereby covering all of the bases.

These are all ideas that other industries can look at if they want to mirror the success of casinos.

Legal and Ethical Considerations in Prop Trading

Trading
Photo by Tech Daily on Unsplash

Proprietary trading, often referred to as prop trading, involves firms operating for their direct gain rather than on behalf of clients. This activity brings about a plethora of legal and ethical considerations that must be carefully navigated to ensure compliance and integrity within the financial markets.

Risk Management

Effective risk management is essential in prop trading to mitigate potential losses and protect capital. Proprietary trading firms utilize various risk management techniques, including diversification, position limits, and stop-loss orders, to manage their exposure to market volatility. Additionally, software, such as Prop Pulse by Brokeree Solutions, provides monitoring and analysis of traders’ performance, enabling firms to receive convenient infographics of the client’s progress in the challenge.

Compliance with Regulatory Requirements for Prop Firms

Because they don’t handle client funds directly, proprietary trading firms don’t have to follow as many of the strict rules that apply to regular exchange services. Because of this exemption, these companies can focus more on improving their trading tactics and operational success, without having to worry about how to handle their clients’ money.

There is a lot of discussion going on in the business right now about how governing bodies should respond to the growing use of proprietary trade solutions. Many experts agree that regulatory standards will have to be put on private trading firms, even though they have different ideas about the details of possible improvements.

Market Manipulation Risks

Prop trading firms must be vigilant against engaging in activities that could potentially manipulate the market. This involves artificially inflating or deflating prices to profit from the resultant price movements. Such practices are not only unethical but also illegal. Traders must operate with transparency and probity to maintain the integrity of the financial markets.

Confidentiality and Insider Trading

Maintaining confidentiality and avoiding insider trading are essential in this niche. Traders must not use non-public information to gain an unfair advantage in the market. Violating insider trading laws can lead to severe legal consequences, including criminal prosecution. The firms must implement robust policies and procedures to prevent the misuse of confidential information and ensure compliance with the current regulations.

These policies should include:

  • Clear Guidelines: Establish clear guidelines outlining acceptable behaviors and prohibited activities related to confidential information.
  • Employee Training: Provide comprehensive training to employees on the importance of confidentiality and the legal implications of insider trading.
  • Access Controls: Limit access to sensitive information only to authorized personnel and implement stringent controls to prevent unauthorized disclosure.
  • Monitoring and Surveillance: Utilize advanced monitoring and surveillance technologies to detect suspicious trading activities and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements.
  • Whistleblower Protection: Implement mechanisms for employees to report potential violations anonymously and without fear of retaliation.
trading
Photo by Joshua Mayo on Unsplash

Ethical Considerations

Beyond legal compliance, prop trading firms must also consider ethical implications in their operations. Upholding principles of fairness, honesty, and integrity fosters trust and credibility within the industry. Ethical lapses can tarnish a firm’s reputation and erode client and investor confidence. Therefore, maintaining ethical standards is not only a moral imperative but also a strategic necessity for companies operating in this niche.

Final Words

Proprietary trading poses distinct legal and ethical issues that need to be carefully considered and regulated. Prop trading firms can successfully overcome these obstacles and maintain the confidence and trust necessary for long-term performance in the financial markets by placing a high priority on regulatory compliance, market integrity, risk management, and ethical behavior.

How To Win Money At The Casino: Strategies For Winning At The Casino In 2024

How To Win Money At The Casino

Winning big at casinos is something everyone dreams of, but it’s important to understand that luck plays a major role in it. If it was easy to win big, we would all be rich, and casinos would not exist. 

On the surface, all casino games may seem the same, but that’s not the case. To win big at casinos, you need to understand that not all games offer the same chances of winning.

Thankfully, we have compiled a list of ways to win lots of money at online casinos without having to spend hours inside a casino. Check them out below.

7 Ways To Improve Your Chances Of Winning In The Casino

For a long time, casinos have been a center of thrill and amusement for those who want to test their luck and earn some cash. Although gambling always carries a certain level of risk, some tactics and methods could improve your odds of winning in a casino. 

This section will discuss some useful tips and techniques for online casinos that might increase your chances of success when gambling in 2024.

1. Understand The Games

Before diving into any casino game, take the time to understand the rules and mechanics thoroughly. Whether it’s blackjack, poker, roulette, or slots, knowing the ins and outs of the game will give you a better grasp of the odds and potential outcomes.

2. Manage Your Bankroll

One of the most crucial aspects of successful gambling is effective bankroll management. Set a budget for your gambling session and stick to it. Avoid chasing losses by betting more than you can afford to lose. Responsible bankroll management is key to prolonging your gaming experience and increasing your chances of walking away with some winnings.

3. Choose Games Wisely

Not all casino games offer the same odds of winning. Some games have a higher house edge than others, meaning the casino has a greater advantage. Generally, games like blackjack, baccarat, and certain types of poker offer better odds for players compared to games like slots or keno. Focus your attention on games where your skills and strategy can make a difference.

4. Practice Makes Perfect

Many US-based online casino sites offer free play or demo modes where you can practice and familiarize yourself with the games without risking any real money. Take advantage of these opportunities to hone your skills and develop winning strategies before playing with real cash.

5. Take Advantage of Bonuses and Promotions

In 2024, casinos continue to offer various bonuses and promotions to attract and retain players. These may include welcome bonuses, free spins, cashback offers, and loyalty programs. Take the time to explore different casinos and their promotions to maximize your potential winnings.

6. Know When to Walk Away

It’s essential to know when to call it quits, whether you’re winning or losing. Set win and loss limits for yourself before you start playing, and stick to them. If you’ve reached your predetermined win limit, consider cashing out and enjoying your winnings. Likewise, if you’ve hit your loss limit, it’s time to walk away and live to play another day.

7. Avoid Chasing Losses

One of the biggest mistakes that gamblers make is chasing losses in hopes of recouping their money. This often leads to even greater losses and can spiral out of control. Instead of chasing losses, stick to your predetermined budget and accept that losses are part of the gambling experience.

5 Game Strategy Tips

Given below are the best strategies and tips to win casino:

1. Find The Best Rules

It’s possible to have different rules for identical games such as blackjack. For example, one game might use 2 decks while another uses 6. Some games may allow you to split aces, while others don’t. Similarly, some casinos allow you to double down on any two cards, while others don’t. 

It’s important to note that each rule can have an impact on the casino’s edge on the game. Therefore, we recommend you become strategic in the games you choose to play. This means learning the different rules that casinos use and how they affect the game’s odds.

2. Learn The Optimal Time To Play Video Poker

Video poker is a game where it’s possible to make a small profit per hand if you play at the right time. This usually means when the progressive jackpot is large enough. Huck Seed, a professional poker player, is an example of someone who did this successfully. He was able to earn over $3 per hand and eventually won a jackpot of $670,000. However, learning how to do this requires a lot of math and is beyond the scope of this article. If you are able to learn this skill, you can give yourself an advantage over the casino.

3. Learn Basic Game Strategy

It’s important to note that the following information applies to certain games such as blackjack, video poker, baccarat, 3-card poker, casino hold’em poker, and others.

Simply by learning the best plays to make and when to make them, you can often reduce the house edge by more than 50%.

Basic strategy can be easily found online, and some casinos even sell strategy cards for games like blackjack, although the casino still maintains a small edge even when you use them.

By utilizing these strategies, you can take pride in knowing that you won’t simply be giving your money to the casino. Instead, they will have to work for it.

4. Learn Advanced Strategy

Some games have advanced strategies that players can learn to gain an advantage. For instance, counting cards is an advanced strategy for blackjack. When you learn how to count cards correctly, you can alter the house edge in your favor, giving you a 1-2% advantage over the casino. Although not illegal, casinos frown upon this practice and may ask you to leave if caught. Therefore, it is recommended that you use this strategy at your own risk.

5. Avoid House Games

One way to increase your chances of winning in a casino is to avoid playing their most popular games such as slots, keno, video poker, blackjack, and more. Instead, consider playing poker. Although there are fees you need to pay to play, there’s no house edge. The only edge is the one you have against other players, which means anyone can learn how to play and get better at it. Another option is to learn how to bet on sports profitably. Although the sportsbook has an edge, you can still overcome it by doing some research online and in forums to find advanced betting strategies.

Final Thoughts: Smartest Strategies to Maximize Your Winning

In conclusion, winning money at the casino in 2024 requires a combination of skill, strategy, and discipline. 

By understanding the games, managing your bankroll effectively, and making informed decisions, you can increase your chances of success while gambling responsibly. Remember to stay sober, set limits for yourself, and seek help if gambling becomes a problem. 

With the right approach, you can enjoy the excitement of the casino while maximizing your potential winnings.

What Makes a Genocide? How should we best understand the confounding connections between self-defence, genocide, and collateral damage?

pexels-nishant-vyas-735010

By Joseph Mazur 

A word best-describing intent to destroy a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group now swerves its definition to attack the victim. The Genocide Convention has an explicit legal definition for that word with means to issue arrest warrants for initiators of acts depicted by that definition. When the word genocide spins through partisanship, it erodes warrants of humanitarian law.

Genocide is a word that emerged from true horror far too shocking for even a sane mind to handle. Are we forgetting Kristallnacht and its aftermath of Nazi gassing, burning, and starving millions of Jews, Blacks, Gays, people with disabilities, and non-Aryans? We must have, for we use a word meant to tell a story that never should be voiced lightly, and yet now we do. What happened in Armenia in 1915, Europe for seven years after 1938, or Cambodia for four years after 1975? Those atrocities are too painful to imagine from mere words written or spoken in any language. World memories soften with time. Let us never forget.

All wars have costs; they are always ugly, complex, and unpredictably dangerous. Unlike wars in the eras of muskets and swords, we don’t walk away and sleep off the biased emotions behind internecine wars of modern artillery that cause massive destruction to life and infrastructure. These days, wars are not fought as in the past by infantry with bayonets or by duelling soldiers on what was long ago called battlefields, but rather by satellite information and AI assistance that can pinpoint enemy positions hundreds of miles away. Distance battles have been an “ambition of war tacticians ever since the second century BC when (myth or not) Archimedes used bronze reflecting mirrors to concentrate the sun’s rays to set ablaze Roman warships in the battle of Syracuse.”1

In the past century, more than 50 percent of war-related deaths were of civilians. Indiscriminate casualties expanded in WWI due to new incendiary technologies on the battlefield. By WWII, battles were fought by air with bombs released high above their targets. The blanket bombings of Dresden, Darmstadt, and Hamburg left 77,000 civilians dead. Warfare changes dramatically when an assailant can attack a victim from such a distance that faces cannot be distinguished as belonging to humans.

When targets become dots either seen from afar or not seen at all, moral qualms enter the picture. Of course, the warning model remains the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Nine years later, Roger Robb, Council for the Atomic Energy Commission, interviewed J. Robert Oppenheimer.2 This excerpt is about those dot targets:

Robb: You knew, did you not, that the dropping of that atomic bomb on the target you had selected will kill or injure thousands of civilians, is that correct?

Oppenheimer: Not as many as turned out.

Robb:  How many were killed or injured?

Oppenheimer: 70,000.

Robb:  Did you have moral scruples about that?

Oppenheimer: Terrible ones.

One problem is that we now accept murky sociopolitical influence over moral prudence that supports the factual record of history when rational people excuse brutality in warfare. These days, too many of us follow wars in real time with wholly accepted misinformation wrapped in outrageous rhetoric shared through social media or amplified ideological partisanships. Some reasonable people follow the boosted outrage from self-interest group propaganda when they have lost their grip on sifting facts from heaps of information and disinformation drivel. They follow their minions who, as Carol Christ, Chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, put it, “feel that they have an ownership stake, and should be able to have a major voice.”3 The difference now is that anyone listening to the megaphone shrieks of those touting self-serving interests hopes to join an interest group without a strong understanding of why. A long time ago, I was one of them. As a graduate student, I would follow student bandwagons protesting the Vietnam War, being influenced more by the enthusiasms of better-informed placarding friends than by my reasoning. Along the long path of my life, I participated in many protests, some with a genuine conviction of taking a stand favouring humanitarian righteousness. But how much information did I truly have? And so, now we see intelligent people worldwide railing against retaliatory military strikes as if they are attempts at genocide when even the evidence, according to UN Genocide Convention definitions, evidently is misunderstood.

When we use terms such as genocide, holocaust, Nazi, or Fascist without the backup of definitions, we tend to inflate morally repulsive political policy endeavours and erode the warrants of humanitarian law.

News stories suggesting that Israel is committing genocide — even those coming from respected news organisations — are now muddling the Genocide Convention’s definition of the word. When we use terms such as genocide, holocaust, Nazi, or Fascist without the backup of definitions, we tend to inflate morally repulsive political policy endeavours and erode the warrants of humanitarian law. My December/January The World Financial Review article, “Why Are Wars Legal? shows a generic view of war and laws that are supposed to guide military morals. I emphasise war itself is not legal but also that the laws against genocide, unfortunately by convention, do not incontestably protect civilian casualties, even when losses run into astonishingly large numbers.4

Besides charters and treaties, many other codes, conventions, pacts, and acts contribute to international law prohibiting torture, inhuman treatment of prisoners, and the use of chemical and biological weapons, yet with all that, war crimes persist. They come in feverish skirmishes with every war. Acknowledging my self-recognised naïveté, I feel that there are ways for treaties to be expressed well enough to outlaw the use of force on one country by another so tightly — yet not totally — that it would be in the aggressor’s best domestic interest to settle its dispute peacefully. The Kellogg-Briand Treaty was an attempt. It was the first pact to ban all wars, signed by all the warring countries of WWI in 1928, and yet it did not stop WWII.

For centuries before the Second World War, there were no enforceable laws involving crimes against humanity. As brutal as wars were, there were no international agreements and no criminal courts that could prosecute crimes of mass carnage. It’s not as if there were no laws against brutal attacks. There were and still are moral codes. One is the code of distinction that prohibits targeting civilians and permitting attacks on combatants, one that goes back to the rules suggested at the founding of the International Red Cross and set by the initial Geneva Convention. In the middle year of the American Civil War and the year when the International Red Cross was founded, Abraham Lincoln, US President and Commander-in-chief of the Union Army issued an order on how Union soldiers should — not must — conduct themselves in times of war.5 The Lieber Code military manual, titled Instructions for the Government of Armies of the United States in the Field6 was the first printed list of rules regulating the conduct of war and still is the principal humanitarian backbone of the Geneva Convention treaties between signatory states. It was the first modern broad set of the laws and customs of war since the meager attempts at war law morals of medieval and Renaissance Europe, a submission of reason in warfare. But even those official instructions were ignored by General William Sherman when he let Atlanta burn to demolish hospitals, schools, and civilian homes and buildings. That was an indirect violation of the Lieber Code.

shutterstock_1897549039

A ghastly, repulsive, and horrid political policy without a name

Before World War II, we had the League of Nations, but it was just a 58-member treaty (with no US backing) that could hardly have intervened without a criminal prosecutorial court. Unlike today’s UN, with 97,000 military personnel coming from 120 countries, it had no armed peacekeeping force available to protect civilians and no criminal courts with laws of war crimes committed “with intent to destroy a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group.”7 Without criminal accountability, wars could be not only legal but also openly publicising intent to destroy an ethnical, racial, or religious group.

So, on January 30, 1939, Adolph Hitler, Chancellor of Germany with a plan of territorial expansion in Europe, addressed the Reichstag by announcing: “If the international Jewish financiers within and without Europe Succeded [sic] in plunging the nations once more into a world war, then the result will not be the Bolshevisation of the world and thereby the victory of Jewry but the obliteration of the Jewish race in Europe…”8 Now, what could he have meant by saying that? There is no other way to interpret his speech other than by admitting it was an intentional plan of what we now define as genocide.

Excerpt from a speech by Hitler predicting the extermination of the Jewish race in Europe. Courtesy: The Wiener Holocaust Library Reference Number: 1655/104 Doc. Number PS2360

Then came Germany’s surprise attack on Soviet Russia on June 22, 1941, when Winston Churchill delivered a live broadcast from London saying:

“As the armies advance, whole districts are being exterminated. Scores of thousands – literally scores of thousands – of executions in cold blood are being perpetrated by the German police troops upon the Russian patriots who defend their native soil,” he said. “We are in the presence of a crime without a name.”

And so, military extermination policy was in search of a name. The word genocide didn’t exist before 1944 when Raphael Lemkin, a Polish-Jewish lawyer, invented the term to include heinous policies in support of killing ethnic, racial, or religious groups. He used the term genocide in raising international outrage about atrocities committed by Nazis and wrote that Germany had schemed “to destroy or to cripple the subjugated peoples in their development so that, even in the case of Germany’s military defeat, it will be positioned to deal with other European nations from the vantage point of numerical, physical, and economic superiority.”9

The Allied forces did not go to war with Germany because of worries of genocide. Though genocide was part of Hitler’s plan, the word to define such horror had not yet been coined and had little connection to that war. The plan was carried out by massive public belief in propaganda against Jews, Blacks, Gays, and other non-Aryan citizens. But Germany, during Nazi control, was not the first genocidal government. The epic wars brought to life by the Homeric poets told of humanitarian carnage, and in the Middle Ages, crusading Teutonic Knights attempted to Christianise the Holy Land. More recently, Tsarist Russia and its pogroms against Jews were carried out by Cossacks along with anyone else drawn into government-condoned hatred of Jews. The Ottomans exterminated the Armenians. At the end of the 19th century, German Colonial rule waged ethnic extermination of the Herero and Nama tribes in Southwest Africa. All were certainly genocidal battles.10

The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG) defined the word to make atrocities that in any way resemble the Holocaust or Armenian and Rwanda mass murders a crime to be punishable by international law.11 CPPCG is a human rights treaty reflecting customary law that all states and private armies must abide by. Sometimes it works; the International Criminal Court (ICC) has indicted 53 people of war crimes against humanity, 9 of whom are currently serving time. Although the word “genocide” has been explicitly defined as a legal term, the public impression of the word has no universally agreed-upon definition. With more than 285 distinct battles inciting more than 50 mass murders of almost 12 million combatants and 22 million civilians since the Genocide treaty was signed, there has been a growing and welcoming public sentiment that something should be done about malicious cruelty in war. However, given the weight of the word “genocide” as a legal tool used to sentence offenders, its prominence in public and academic use is being distorted.12

Genocide and collateral damage are two words that must fit together in the language of conflict to make sense of the humanitarian laws of war. And since war almost always brings collateral damage to muddle the distinction between intent and accidents, evidence gets fogged and lost.

Private citizens and political leaders who think they have sovereign immunity are not exempt from the Genocide Convention’s declaration of genocide as a crime.13, 14  The difficulty with bringing genocide cases to court is that international law requires proof of intention.15 Proof, though, has a problem: war almost always brings collateral damage to blur the line between intent and accidents. Genocide and collateral damage are two words that must fit together in the language of conflict to make sense of the humanitarian laws of war. And since war almost always brings collateral damage to muddle the distinction between intent and accidents, evidence gets fogged and lost. But even with proof from evidence, the Convention had no means of criminal enforcement until half a century later when the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague became established under the Rome Statute, a treaty-based statute of humanitarian laws under which offenders of war crimes, including public and private individuals, could be tried, sentenced, and imprisoned.

War law language accepts informality with ambiguity

pexels-michael-mücke-11785747

We learn the meaning of most words by usage; the ones we know have come from repeated use, but the more we hear or read a word in context with others, the more precisely we understand what that word is supposed to mean. Some words, however, become understood as what we wish them to mean, not as defined by common usage. Some are used with partial accuracy to convey generic meanings because we speak a natural language that informally employs words and phrases with generosity.

“Genocide” is a slippery word. We wish that it could cover more ground than it does. Influential activists with big storylines declare certain military operations to be genocidal. Some are.16 Surely, there is no argument that what Nazi Germany did to Jews and other perceived enemies of Germany during WW II was genocidal. The word itself rose from that world in horror. There is no argument that the Ottoman Turk attacks on the Armenians and the Burmese attacks on the Rohingya were genocidal.17 Include the Rwandan civil war that killed between 200,000 and 500,000 Tutsi (likely an undercount).18,19,20,21,22  Many other conflicts are on the list of genocidal military operations, including the US 19th-century treatment of Native Americans.

But let us leave that list to concentrate on more modern wars between states that should do and know better. One state that is easy to pick is Russia. By all accounts, Russia has put itself on the genocide list by abducting children, separating them from their parents, and bringing them to Eastern Russia. That crime undoubtedly breaks laws backed by the Genocide Convention. One could also argue that the purposeful direct bombing of apartment buildings in Kyiv should not be considered collateral damage rather than intentional terrorism and, therefore, a plan to, perhaps not eliminate, but rather instill fear in the civilian population. You see, using genocide under its colloquial ambiguity allows its use to play as a double standard.23

Tourists visiting the National Memorial to the victims of Genocide in Kigali, Rwanda. Editorial credit: Oscar Espinosa / Shutterstock.com
Tourists visiting the National Memorial to the victims of Genocide in Kigali, Rwanda.
Editorial credit: Oscar Espinosa / Shutterstock.com

Where is the line that divides genocide and collateral damage? 

An alternative, perhaps an easy allied question is: Do the genocide accusations we hear about fall within the scope of the genocide treaty?24 It is a question that divides the common notion of what genocide means according to the UN Genocide Convention’s understanding. Etymologically deconstructing genocide as genos (Greek for γένος: race, stock, kin) and cide (Latin: the act of killing) depreciates its original intended significance, but so does the Convention’s legal definition, which seems to be on a measured spectrum between a mission of savagery and actions of retaliatory defence. But to know genocide is to understand how it happens — why the Cossacks carried out their pogroms, why ordinary Germans welcomed Kristallnacht, why members of the SS-Totenkopfverbände gassed and burned Jews in concentration camps, and why Ottomans massacred a million Armenians. Like those of the past, barbarisms still happen because narcissistic leaders, troubled by their failures in governance, heavily propagandise their subjects into believing that some national, ethnic, racial, or religious groups are threatening. Elimination of such groups then becomes legitimised. That is how genocides start. How they end also has a painful answer —REVOLTINGLY! — although with fated early deaths or exiles of perpetrating leaders and fortunately with survivors more committed to reestablishing and strengthening their heritage.

When writing about war, I typically avoid individual war examples and concentrate on the nonspecific overview of all wars and why we must find ways to limit them or at least diminish the resulting humanitarian horrors. However, from my conversations with experts, I am advised to bring in examples of specific war cases that could question the notion of genocide and tighten the definition to clarify when brutality, collateral damage, and military murders can be classified as genocidal. Therefore, as a timely example among many, let us examine the 2023 Israeli-Hamas war, the fifth and largest one between Israel and Hamas in just the last fifteen years. The irrational justification from the Israeli side is revenge for Hama’s brutal attack, but there is also a rational justification. Revenge is uncontrollable when one side starts a war through terrorism policy.

No reasonable being and no forward-looking country can deny that Hamas had committed terrorism after intentionally raping young adults, murdering children, and taking hostages in anticipation of a counterattack.

There are no rational arguments justifying what Hamas did on October 7th; none, other than the attempted tripe of justified liberation or resistance to Israeli alleged “apartheid,” another word that never should be used lightly. The attack on Israel left more than 1200 Israelis dead and another 253 being kidnapped, including innocent women and children. As a per capita comparison with the US population, that’s 40,000 dead. No reasonable being and no forward-looking country can deny that Hamas had committed terrorism after intentionally raping young adults, murdering children, and taking hostages in anticipation of a counterattack. Hamas opposes Israel’s right to exist and has proudly documented its goal of “the complete destruction of Israel and creation in its place of an Islamist state in all of historic Palestine.”25 Agreeing with that and justifying Hamas’s attack puts one in the camp of rejecting the core principle of international humanitarian law. As for the Israeli invasion of Gaza that killed many civilians and combatants, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) never planned to exterminate Palestinians.

Destruction is another word in need of clarification. At pro-Palestinian demonstrations, marchers chant the historical battle cry “From the river to the sea,” lifted from a 25th anniversary Hamas address given by Khaled Mashal, former head of Hamas in 2012 who said, “Palestine from the river to the sea, from the north to the south, is our land and we will never give up one inch.” Does the clipped trope mean obliterating all of Israel, starting from the west bank of the Jordan River and ending in the Mediterranean Sea, where all Jews are to drown? If you ask those demonstrators what that rallying cry means, some will say yes, exterminate the Jews, and replace the land of Israel with an Islamic State. Many say, no, all we chant for is a Palestinian homeland. Others say it is a call for peace. A minority, in opposing protests, believe that all the land from the river to the sea was given to them by God, and some — with viewpoints as dangerous as any — will not be able to voice a sincere opinion. On that infamous October 7th, Jews were not driven to the sea. Hamas and Jihad militants obliterated the kibbutz Kfar Aza, raped and mutilated teenagers at a music festival, slaughtered babies, burned alive young people, and executed “parents in front of their children, children in front of their parents.”26 That was an act of terrorism to provoke an Israeli retaliatory war. Ron Hassner, Chancellor Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley, who surveyed 250 sstudents from various backgrounds, learned that 47% of the students who embrace the slogan at rallies don’t even know what it means.[i]

In the aftermath, the Israeli government felt the need to retaliate. Some analysts say Israel fell for Hamas’s trap. Israel did what so many other countries have done in the past when populations were victimised and instinctively called for revenge. From anger comes revenge, a human emotional entanglement that enables approvals of waging wars that go unpunished. So, the expected happened; Israel attacked the perpetrators of those unspeakable inhumane acts. But what did they not do? They did not rape. They did not pull children from their mothers. Unfortunately, they felt the only way to answer Hamas was to bomb Gaza and accept a mountain of collateral damage. I am not condoning revenge wars. They start from age-old psychosocial behaviour under the creed: my side is the morally justified one. Pearl Harbor was one, and my father took that revenge to its limits. As Noah Feldman, Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School put it in a recent luminous Atlantic article: “If you make the legality—or morality, for that matter—of whom you can target depend on whether you are right, that will be the end of humanitarian law: Everyone will say they are in the right and can kill whomever they choose.”27

Anyone has the right to use the word genocide as one wishes. But using that word heedlessly does not necessarily bear legal truth. With history now repeating itself as it always has each century, conspiracy propaganda from both left and right spins acceptance of truth and politically reflexive partisanship to harm policies favouring world stability. Using words as universal moral concepts is not necessarily condoning military attacks. War plans come through tactical considerations that generally involve collateral damage, civilian casualties, and strategies of self-defence that seem to cross the vernacular conceptions of the word genocide without crossing the legal line.

Many well-informed and confused activists are labelling Israel’s campaign as genocidal, a small, propagandised part of their ongoing strategy of demonising Israel, a country where Palestinian Israelis vote and the only vibrant democracy in the Middle East. So, one must ask, are the genocide accusations ones that fall within the scope of the genocide treaty? That treaty has no accord with the common calls of genocidal crime so often used with an inflated aspirant meaning. South Africa brought Israel to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) claiming that Israel is committing genocide by failing to prevent genocide. South Africa’s Justice Minister Ronald Lamola “condemned the targeting of civilians by Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups and the taking of hostages” without any recognition of Israel’s traumatic suffering. Deceivingly absent from his argument was the verity that Hamas’s policy of embedding combatants within Gaza’s human shield civilian population along with schools, hospitals, and public buildings. That was Lamola’s legal strategy, but when the media runs with that disingenuous summary, the world cognisance takes it from there, so the story spins to demonise the victim. The placards are drawn and brought to massive peace rallies of spontaneous followers who are determined and sincere, though with little or no factual understanding of why they are gathering.

On January 26, 2024, the ICJ’s 17-judge panel ruled that Israel must do all it can to prevent genocide, and to get basic aid to people in Gaza. The Israeli Judge voted in favour of an order for humanitarian aid and the prevention of inflammatory speech in the hope that the court’s order would “help to decrease tensions and discourage damaging rhetoric.”28 Of course, Israel denies South Africa’s genocide claims.

Dilemmas over the Gaza metro, from Hamas’s subterraneous launching of military attacks

Israel, a country of people who know too well the meaning of genocide, had no “Intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group…” nor did it forcibly “transfer children of the group to another group.” Its devastation of Gaza was retaliatorily against terrorist crimes, and the resulting wreckage caused hunger and death to innocent old and young civilians in high numbers. But the word retaliatory also gets thorny. Does retaliation mean a military action against combatants with a minimum of incidental damage to civilians, or does it mean action without care of collateral destruction and disproportionate suffering of noncombatants? That question brings with it a question of whether Israel cares about the noncombatants. Its war with Hamas may appear to be a war with Gaza, partly because civilian casualties seem excessive for the objective of defeating Hamas. But what may seem excessive might not be when combatants (many out of uniform) purposely mingle with noncombatants.

Many of the known Gaza tunnels were destroyed by Israel when Hamas started firing rockets at Israel, bombing buses, cafes, and bars. I have no tactical military wisdom, but Israel, given all its past impressive intelligence, should have been able to counterattack and accomplish its goal of freeing hostages with less haste, more control, understandable revenge, and careful, intelligent planning to minimise innocent civilian harm more measuredly. It is hard to imagine that IDF intelligence had not exhaustively surveilled the Gaza metro web with relatively available seismic sound wave imaging during the past two years.29, 30 A sweep of Hamas hideouts should have given Israel the advantage of being better able to take out Hamas from its roots below the surface than from the ground above to avoid civilian casualties. But such a sweep could also take out some of the remaining hostages who are likely being held in the subterraneous network. The Hamas attack gives Israel its right to attack enemy hideouts by permission of self-defence. Blame Hamas for cowardly embedding Hamas military in residential areas, hospitals, and schools, but Israel’s battle — far from what defines a genocide — must do more to protect innocent people caught in their missions.

What does self-defence mean?

Israel, for its entire existence from birth, has been a country in a battle of self-defence. One day after the announcement of its independence from the British Mandate of Palestine, it had to defend itself from overwhelming, unprovoked attacks from five Arab nations. There is no compact meaning of the word self-defence, not even a UN treaty definition. Russia used it as an excuse for the invasion of Ukraine. A recent UN report on the war in Ukraine claims “civilians account for nearly 90 percent of war-time casualties.”31 Where does Russia’s argument fit on the self-defence scale? When Russia invades an independent country, arguing that a few (or even a large number) of Russian separatists claim to be in danger, is that self-defence?

Many war crimes continue today, but a genocidal one is one that we tend to misperceive as a crime under humanitarian law.

Many war crimes continue today, but a genocidal one is one that we tend to misperceive as a crime under humanitarian law. We are confused because we think that the destruction of a nation comes under the bearing of genocidal war crimes. It does not. By the 1946 Resolution 96(1) of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG) we have a legal definition of genocide that locks in the meaning of the word:32 

Intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group; killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; and forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.33

It is not a statement knotted in legal jargon. Follow the slightly cumbersome string of punctuations to unravel the intended meaning of genocide as defined in the Resolution. From that, genocide does not mean destruction, nor does it mean indiscriminate destruction; rather, it necessitates a coordinated plan for annihilating members of a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group.

Major modern wars are not declared wars.

Another intractable problem is not so much the word “self-defence”; a more challenging problem is the loopholes of the UN Charter that I brought up in my article, Why Are Wars Legal? The answer that I take from that piece is that wars are not legal except when one state claims self-defence. Israel’s case is self-defence, no matter how we define the compound noun. All states have the right to defend their territory. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine used a ruse that claimed pro-Russian separatists feared “Ukraine Nazis and fascists.” It’s a game Russia played in its 2008 invasion of Georgia, an old cheat to avoid incrimination by the ICC that relies on ambiguities in the UN Charter, in particular Articles 4 and 51 that, on the one hand, constrain states from engaging in armed conflict and, on the other, permit a country to start a war if it can claim preemptive self-defence.

Force, therefore, is not entirely outlawed since states maintain the right to defend a territory in response to attacks portraying international conflicts as internal matters. Declare your invasion as an internal armed conflict, give it a name to avoid calling it a war, and you might avoid all the ICC incriminations for any horrors you might do — Desert Storm, Infinite Justice, Enduring Freedom, Special Military Operation, or Iron Swords will do. Think about it: America has not declared war for the last 78 years; it never formally declared the Korean, Vietnam, Iraq, and Gulf wars as wars. It’s always safer to claim self-defence and give it a name to avoid all UN Charter legal obligations.

Heads of state may agree to war plans drawn up by military intelligence officers who, rightly or wrongly, believe their plan justifies jus ad bellum, which translates as the right to wage war because, as my father, who received a bronze star and a purple heart in WWII, said, “Some wars just have to be fought.” When diplomacy fails, and leaders intelligently believe that the nation’s security could be endangered, the smart move is to follow the advice of the Powell Doctrine — to pursue a clearly defined objective and risk-cost analysis that considers a thorough understanding of the possible consequences. Colin Powell, then chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, posed six questions in his 1992 Foreign Affairs article “U.S. Forces: Challenges Ahead” that had to be answered affirmatively before engaging the US in war.34,35,36 Once a state is in a war, the overarching question is how it should be fought. The best answer is to obey a reasonable moral code. Regrettably, moral codes break when wars lose control and cross into what might seem like genocides but aren’t.

The biggest persistent, intractable world conflict problem often is that wars go wrong with flawed leadership decisions. Unfortunately, General David Petraeus rightly wrote in his book Conflict, “The witness of history demonstrates that exceptional strategic leadership is the one absolute prerequisite for success, but also that it is as rare as the black swan.”37 I wish that to be true. Alas, exceptional leadership is considerably scarcer than black swan. 

About the Author

Author (1)Joseph Mazur is an Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at Emerson College’s Marlboro Institute for Liberal Arts & Interdisciplinary Studies. He is a recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim, Bogliasco, and Rockefeller Foundations, and the author of eight acclaimed popular science books. His latest book is The Clock Mirage: Our Myth of Measured Time (Yale). More information about him is at http://www.josephmazur.com/.

References

1. https://worldfinancialreview.com/why-are-wars-legal-by-international-law-waging-war-itself-is-a-war-crime-why-do-we-think-it-is-not/

2. Transcript excerpt of hearing before Personnel Security Board, Washington D.C., April 12, 1954, through May 6, 1954. US Government Printing Office. https://www.osti.gov/includes/opennet/includes/Oppenheimer%20hearings/Vol%20V%20Oppenheimer.pdf

3. https://www.newyorker.com/news/the-new-yorker-interview/the-chancellor-of-berkeley-weighs-in

4. https://worldfinancialreview.com/why-are-wars-legal-by-international-law-waging-war-itself-is-a-war-crime-why-do-we-think-it-is-not/

5. John Fabian Witt, Lincoln’s Code: The Laws of War in American History (New York: Free Press, 2012).

6. https://archive.org/details/governarmies00unitrich/page/n5/mode/2up

7. https://www.un.org/ar/preventgenocide/adviser/pdf/osapg_analysis_framework.pdf

8. https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/hitler-s-threats-against-the-jews-1941-1945

9. Raphael Lemkin, Axis Rule in Occupied Europe: Laws of Occupation, Analysis of Government, Proposals for Redress (Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1944), xi.

10. Raphael Lemkin, ‘War against Genocide’, Christian Science Monitor, 31 January 1948, 2. On the relationship between genocide and warfare, see Shaw, What is Genocide

11. Samantha Power, A Problem from Hell (New York: Basic Books, 2013) 7-12.

12. SamBarbara Harff, “No Lessons Learned from the Holocaust? Assessing Risks of Genocide and Political Mass Murder since 1955,” American Political Science Review, Vol. 97, No. 1 (February 2003): 57.

13. https://ucdp.uu.se/

14. https://www.un.org/en/genocideprevention/genocide.shtml

15. ibid.

16. https://giwps.georgetown.edu/resource/beyond-killing-2/

17. https://www.globaljusticecenter.net/discrimination-to-destruction-a-legal-analysis-of-gender-crimes-against-the-rohingya/

18. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14623528.2019.1709611

19. Wood, S. K. (2004). A Woman Scorned for the Least Condemned War Crime: Precedent and Problems with Prosecuting Rape as a Serious War Crime in the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, 13(2). https://doi.org/10.7916/cjgl.v13i2.2497

20. https://www.hrw.org/reports/pdfs/r/rwanda/rwanda993.pdf

21. https://www.hrw.org/reports/2004/sudan0404/sudan0404.pdf

22. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14623528.2019.1703329

23. https://books.google.gp/books?id=nHIABAAAQBAJ&printsec=copyright#v=onepage&q&f=false

24. William D. Rubinstein, Genocide (New York: Routledge, 2014) DOI:10.4324/9781315836133-1

25. https://ctc.westpoint.edu/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/CTC-SENTINEL-102023.pdf

26. Anthony Blinken, “Secretary Antony J. Blinken and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after Their Meeting,” U.S. Department of State, October 12, 2023.

27. https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2023/11/israel-gaza-war-humanitarian-law-concepts/675996/

28. https://apnews.com/article/israel-gaza-genocide-court-south-africa-27cf84e16082cde798395a95e9143c06

29. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/dab6/060aab89c3fcdb8975e7dc6643624f9ca9cf.pdf

30. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.petsci.2022.01.015

31. https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N22/321/73/PDF/N2232173.pdf?OpenElement

32. https://www.un.org/ar/preventgenocide/adviser/pdf/osapg_analysis_framework.pdf

33. https://web.archive.org/web/20160130033138/http://www.un.org/ar/preventgenocide/adviser/pdf/osapg_analysis_framework.pdf

34. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/1992-12-01/us-forces-challenges-ahead

35. The Powell Doctrine asks:

    1. Is the political objective we seek to achieve important, clearly defined and understood
    2. Have all other nonviolent policy means failed?
    3. Will military force achieve the objective?
    4. At what cost?
    5. Have the gains and risks been analysed?
    6. How might the situation that we seek to alter, once it is altered by force, develop further and what might be the consequences?

36. Preceding the Powell Doctrine is the Weinberger Doctrine, disclosed by US Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger. It also lists 6 points that come from learning about the quagmires of the Vietnam War:

    1. The United States should not commit forces to combat unless the vital national interests of the United States or its allies are involved.
    2. US troops should only be committed wholeheartedly and with the clear intention of winning. Otherwise, troops should not be committed.
    3. US combat troops should be committed only with clearly defined political and military objectives and with the capacity to accomplish those objectives.
    4. The relationship between the objectives and the size and composition of the forces committed should be continually reassessed and adjusted if necessary.
    5. US troops should not be committed to battle without a “reasonable assurance” of the support of US public opinion and Congress.
    6. The commitment of US troops should be considered only as a last resort.

37. David Petraeus and Andrew Roberts, Conflict: The Evolution of Warfare from 1945 to Ukraine (New York: HarperCollins, 2023) 4.

[1] https://www.wsj.com/articles/from-which-river-to-which-sea-anti-israel-protests-college-student-ignorance-a682463b

Web Application Testing Tools – Comprehensive Guide

Web applications

The development of web applications encompasses various phases, including planning, design, development, and deployment. However, one of the most critical stages that significantly impacts the quality, performance, and security of web applications is testing. Testing web applications is a comprehensive process that involves evaluating the application’s functionality, usability, security, compatibility, and performance. Given the complexity and diversity of web technologies, selecting the right testing tools is paramount for ensuring the application meets its requirements and provides a seamless user experience. This article delves into the realm of testing tools for web application, highlighting their importance, types, and some of the most effective tools available for developers and QA professionals.

Importance of Testing Tools

Testing tools play a pivotal role in the development lifecycle of web applications. They help identify bugs and issues before the application becomes available to the end-user, ensuring that any potential problems are addressed early in the development process. This not only enhances the quality of the web application but also saves time and resources that would otherwise be spent on fixing issues post-deployment. Additionally, testing tools like BugBug facilitate the automation of repetitive tasks, making the testing process more efficient and allowing testers to focus on more critical aspects of the application.

Types of Testing Tools

Testing tools for web applications can be broadly categorized into several types, each serving a distinct purpose in the testing lifecycle:

  • Functional Testing Tools: These tools are designed to test the functions of a web application by simulating user actions and verifying the outcomes against expected results. They help ensure that the application behaves as intended.
  • Performance Testing Tools: Performance testing tools evaluate the speed, responsiveness, and stability of a web application under a specific workload. They are crucial for ensuring that the application can handle high traffic and perform optimally.
  • Security Testing Tools: With cyber threats on the rise, security testing tools are essential for identifying vulnerabilities within web applications. They help protect sensitive data and prevent unauthorized access.
  • Usability Testing Tools: Usability testing focuses on the user’s experience with the web application. These tools help identify navigational issues and any obstacles that might hinder the user experience.
  • Compatibility Testing Tools: These tools test the web application’s compatibility with different browsers, operating systems, and devices, ensuring consistent behavior across various platforms.

If you want to know more, check out A comparative study of automation testing tools for web applications.

Top Testing Tools for Web Applications

Functional Testing Tools

  • Selenium: Selenium is a powerful and widely used open-source tool for automating web browsers. It supports multiple programming languages, browsers, and operating systems, making it a versatile choice for functional testing.
  • TestComplete: TestComplete is a comprehensive testing platform that enables testers to create automated tests for web, mobile, and desktop applications. Its visual programming interface and script extensions make it accessible to testers of all skill levels.

Performance Testing Tools

  • LoadRunner: LoadRunner by Micro Focus is a leading performance testing tool that simulates thousands of users to test the performance of web applications under heavy loads. It provides detailed analytics and insights to identify bottlenecks and performance issues.
  • JMeter: Apache JMeter is an open-source software designed to load test functional behavior and measure performance. Originally designed for testing web applications, JMeter can also be used for other test functions.

Security Testing Tools

  • OWASP ZAP: The OWASP Zed Attack Proxy (ZAP) is an open-source web application security scanner. It helps find security vulnerabilities in web applications during development and testing phases.
  • Netsparker: Netsparker is a web application security scanner that automates the process of identifying vulnerabilities and security flaws. It’s known for its accuracy and the ability to detect SQL Injection, Cross-site Scripting (XSS), and other vulnerabilities.

Usability Testing Tools

  • UserTesting: UserTesting provides real-time feedback and insights from users across the globe. This tool allows you to observe how actual users interact with your web application, helping to improve its usability.
  • Optimizely: Optimizely is a platform for experimentation and personalization. It allows developers and marketers to test different versions of their web pages and applications to optimize the user experience.

Compatibility Testing Tools

  • BrowserStack: BrowserStack offers a cloud platform for testing web applications across various browsers and devices, ensuring compatibility and a seamless user experience.
  • CrossBrowserTesting: CrossBrowserTesting provides a cloud-based service to test web applications on over 2,000 browsers and real devices, making it easier to ensure consistent behavior across different platforms.

Conclusion

The landscape of testing tools for web applications is vast and diverse, with each tool serving a specific purpose in the testing lifecycle. Choosing the right set of tools is crucial for ensuring the quality, performance, security, and usability of web applications. By leveraging the strengths of these tools, developers and QA professionals can significantly improve the development process, reduce time to market, and deliver a superior product that meets the expectations of their users. As technology evolves, so do the tools for testing, making it essential for professionals to stay updated with the latest advancements in testing methodologies and tools.

Understanding Real Estate Investment Strategies

real estate
Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

Real estate has long been considered a relatively safe investment and one that can yield significant returns in the long term. Whether it’s rental income or capital appreciation, the wealth-building attributes of real estate make it a popular investment choice for many investors.

According to recent statistics, the global real estate investment market, valued at $11,444.7 billion in 2021, is set to reach $30,575.5 billion by 2031, representing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.7% from 2022 to 2031.

For those seeking to capitalize on this growth, an awareness of the different ways to enter the market can be beneficial. It allows investors to build their wealth based on their appetite for risk, financing ability, and other factors which are important to them. In this article, we have outlined a few real estate investment strategies that can help you invest in this sector based on your unique goals and objectives.

Buy-to-Let

A buy-to-let investment involves investing in real estate with the purpose of renting it out to tenants. This medium to long-term strategy aims to generate a cash flow by covering any borrowing costs and other property-related expenses through the rents charged. In addition to the rental income, this strategy aims to build capital through the property’s appreciation in value over time.

This type of investment is common in the residential real estate sector with single-family rentals (SFRs), student housing, and condominiums being popular types of buy-to-let properties.

House Flipping

While the concept of generating a rental yield and capital appreciation are also present with this real estate investment strategy, the potential for capital gains is much greater than other strategies like buy-to-let.

House flipping is a relatively high-risk investment strategy that involves the purchase of a distressed property and renovating it to the point that it is suitable for occupancy. It is then sold relatively quickly for a profit. These properties are typically run-down and in need of significant repair work.

Foreclosed properties or short sales are also commonly purchased for house flipping purposes. Investors seek these undervalued properties and sell them at a price that is substantially higher than their initial investment. While the risk involved and the investment of time and resources is higher here, so too is the potential for large profits.

Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) 

REITs allow investors to invest in real estate without directly owning any property. Instead, investors give their money to a corporation that owns or invests in income-producing real estate in return for a share of the REIT. Investors receive dividends from the REIT which are made from the income generated by the properties it owns.

This income primarily comes from the rents paid by tenants of the properties within the REIT’s portfolio. This is considered a relatively safe investment that offers investors exposure to the real estate sector without many of the risks that come with direct ownership of the asset.

The real estate investment sector is a varied one that offers a range of investments to suit a variety of risk profiles and investment appetites. By understanding your own investment goals and objectives you can make an informed decision as to which type of real estate investment best aligns with your financial strategy and tolerance for risk.

Wise Decision Maker Guide

Power Influencers

Top Investment Destinations

Emerging Trends

Houston Maritime Attorney