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I used to represent NY-3 in Congress. Here’s what today’s special election means.

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I used to represent NY-3 in Congress. Here’s what today’s special election means.

I represented the area for 16 years in Congress. Until recently, it was a sleepy, purple suburb, withdrawn from the frenzy of American politics. Most of my town meetings required the incentive of free bagels and coffee to attract a crowd. Ideological passions existed, but most voters were concerned about taxes and traffic on the Long Island Expressway. 

If you want a model of a suburban congressional district that both parties must win in November, look no further than New York’s 3rd Congressional District, on Long Island, where a special election today will replace the expelled George Santos.

In recent years, the district has been thrust into the political limelight. In 2022, it elected Santos, who lied, connived and contrived his way into Congress. If my former district should be rewarded for anything, it’s that we managed to elect a congressman who brought Republicans and Democrats together in a rare bipartisan act to kick him out. Now the special election to replace him occurs when the Speaker of the House has a razor-thin seven-vote majority. The national stakes couldn’t be higher for an electorate that yawns at national politics.

Having served as chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for four years, I know firsthand that a six-week special election presents a herculean challenge for a candidate to raise money, build name recognition and develop the ground game required to win. And the two parties took radically different approaches to selecting their candidates.

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The Democrats chose former Rep. Tom Suozzi, my successor in Congress, who decided to challenge Gov. Kathy Hochul in the primary in 2022 rather than running for reelection to the House. Normally, the rules of politics dictate that when you take on the leader of your party and lose, you’re finished. You can’t even run for precinct captain. But in a remarkable display of urgency by national Democrats to produce a well-funded, well-known candidate; an act of magnanimity by Gov. Hochul; and no deficit of brashness by Suozzi, he overcame this perceived disloyalty to get the nod.

Suozzi is, on paper at least, the perfect candidate for a condensed special election. He’s been in the public eye since the early 1990s. He was mayor of the city of Glen Cove, Nassau County Executive and a member of Congress. He jumpstarted the special election with high name recognition, proven fundraising and a political organization. 

Meanwhile, the GOP has selected Mazi Melesa Pilip, a virtual newcomer to politics with only two years of experience in the Nassau County Legislature. Pilip has an interesting story to tell voters, as a mother of seven originally born in Ethiopia and a veteran of the Israel Defense Forces. But unlike Suozzi, she’s unknown, untested and has made repeated comments that draw her knowledge of government into question. A recent Newsday editorial found that Pilip lacked awareness of basic government institutions in Nassau County and has been “accompanied at campaign events by a GOP party validator” who helps “to answer questions for her.”

As a result of Pilip’s inexperience, the GOP has strategically put her under wraps with minimal campaign appearances and few debates. Where Santos was a fabulist, Pilip seems to be a phantom. But the strategy may work. 

While the district historically favors Democrats, Republicans have consistently overperformed in recent cycles. Democrats have been winning handily in the suburbs in special elections lately, propelled by abortion and unease with the MAGA movement, but something is wrong on Long Island. President Biden won Nassau County by 10 points in 2020, but Gov. Hochul lost it by 10 points just two years later. 

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What changed? The narrative propelling voter unease on Long Island is crime and immigration. The progressive Democratic message of several years ago to defund the police and institute cashless bail has roiled an electorate that values the orderliness of the suburbs and is home to many residents that commute to New York City for work. And recent headlines have been dominated by busloads of immigrants arriving in NYC. Republicans have pilloried Democrats on these issues, and now they’re hammering Suozzi with the same playbook.

In a debate in the 2022 gubernatorial primary, Suozzi mentioned that he “kicked ICE out of Nassau” when he was county executive. Republicans have pounced on the comment and tried to define Suozzi as an open-borders, sanctuary-city supporting liberal. He’s not, but as the political saying goes, “once you have to explain, don’t bother.” 

Suozzi’s response has been a combination of offense and defense. His campaign and the DCCC remind us that Pilip is running on a national party platform that will ban abortion. (Pilip says she is pro-life but not in favor of a national ban.) At the same time, my mailbox has been stuffed with reminders by the Suozzi campaign that he worked with Republicans to fix the border. One remarkable ad features a photograph of him with former Rep. Peter King, whose centrist politics veered further to the right on immigration and police issues, raising some Democrats’ eyebrows but likely reassuring many moderate voters.

In the end, this election will come down to turnout. It’s a challenge to get voters to the polls in a special election, especially one in the middle of February. The Democrats have an advantage in the air war (money, commercial time, resources and name recognition), but the Republicans are counting on a legendary turnout operation to win it on the ground.

When I speak to Republican leaders, they exude a Churchillian confidence about their turnout operation. Democrats, meanwhile, predict that Trump’s unpopularity, the shadow of George Santos and Republican extremism on abortion will propel moderate voters to reject the GOP.

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No matter the result, Democrats and Republicans will race to parse the electoral tea leaves.

The problem with special elections is that they tend to produce more punditry than voters. Having seen my share of these elections while chair of the DCCC, I know that they detect overtures, not finales. While there is considerable scholarship to indicate some ability of special elections to serve as harbingers for upcoming elections, particularly if the district flips parties, the picture is not entirely clear.

Ultimately, the special election won’t reflect the overall national mood, but it will reveal the pulse in must-win suburban districts in November. And judging by recent polling showing Suozzi’s lead over Pilip being within the margin of error, it’s going to be close.

Steve Israel represented New York in the U.S. House of Representatives over eight terms and was chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from 2011 to 2015. Follow him @RepSteveIsrael

Copyright 2024 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Nvidia shares jump 13% after sales surge on AI ‘tipping point’

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Nvidia shares jump 13% after sales surge on AI ‘tipping point’

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Nvidia shares jumped after the world’s most valuable chip company reported a 265 per cent increase in quarterly revenues and projected even stronger sales thanks to a spending frenzy on artificial intelligence.

Revenues were $22.1bn in the fourth quarter, far exceeding Wall Street expectations of $20.4bn, Nvidia said on Wednesday evening, adding that it expected revenues for the current quarter to be $24bn.

“Accelerated computing and generative AI have hit the tipping point,” said Nvidia founder and chief executive Jensen Huang. “Demand is surging worldwide across companies, industries and nations.”

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Nvidia’s shares gained more than 13 per cent in pre-market trading on Thursday to $764.50. The move puts the chip company on course to leapfrog Amazon and Google parent Alphabet and become the third most valuable US-listed company behind Microsoft and Apple.

Nvidia has been the biggest single driver of a rally in the S&P 500 this year, powering about a quarter of the gains on the index. Its importance has become so great that some investors and analysts were anticipating Wednesday’s financial report as holding a marketwide risk akin to the release of inflation data.

Nvidia said earnings per share had reached $4.93 in the fourth quarter, beating analysts’ expectations of $4.59, according to LSEG estimates.

Net income rose 770 per cent to $12.3bn compared with the same period in the previous year. The figure exceeded analysts’ expectations of $10.4bn.

Nvidia, founded in 1993 as a provider of graphics cards for computer games, has become a proxy for AI demand as Big Tech companies such as Alphabet, Microsoft, Amazon and Meta have all increased their investment in AI computing. Its leading chips, such as the H100, have become the industry standard for AI developers to crunch data for large language models. This has heralded a new industry known as generative AI, spawning chatbots and other software that can learn, understand and generate information in the form of text, images and video.

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The rapid success of OpenAI’s ChatGPT helped turn the H100 chips into the hottest commodity in Silicon Valley last year. Meta plans to bring its total stock of H100 chips to 350,000 in 2024, chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said in January. Supply rather than demand has become the main constraint on Nvidia’s growth in the short term.

“Nvidia has enabled a whole new computing paradigm called generative AI,” Huang said on a call with investors on Wednesday. He said its highly-prized chips were “essentially AI-generation factories” of a new industrial revolution.

“Every company is built on their proprietary business intelligence and, in the future, their proprietary generative AI,” he added. “Now every industry is on board.”

Big Tech companies account for nearly 40 per cent of Nvidia revenues, but its customers have diversified as more industries rush to invest in hardware for AI computing. Huang said industries including automotive, financial services and healthcare were now spending on its chips “at a multibillion-dollar level”. He added sovereign nations including Japan, Canada and France were becoming larger Nvidia customers as they harness citizen data to create their own AI models.

Nvidia’s data centre division is its largest driver of sales, generating $18.4bn of revenue in the fourth quarter, up 409 per cent from the same period last year. Gaming chips produced $2.9bn of sales.

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Investors are paying close attention to whether Huang can maintain Nvidia’s stratospheric growth rates as its focus shifts to new products, such as its top-end AI chip, the B100, which is expected to start shipping later this year.

The company is also facing mounting competition, including a move by some customers to develop their own AI chips, as well as in China, which in the past accounted for a quarter of revenue. New US export rules for the semiconductor industry meant Nvidia was forced to limit the capabilities of its products in order to continue to sell to the region.

Even with sales to China dropping to a “mid-single digit percentage” of overall revenue, according to the company, its latest results were welcomed by analysts. Saxo Bank head of equity strategy Peter Garnry said it was an “insane” result. “I have never seen anything like this in my career. However, it will be increasingly difficult for Nvidia to exceed expectations, and this could be the last insane quarter.”

Video: The race for semiconductor supremacy | FT Film

This article has been updated to correct the relative size of Nvidia compared with other listed companies

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Moreau Lake State Park: Man who abducted girl from New York camping trip pleads guilty to kidnapping and sexual assault | CNN

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Moreau Lake State Park: Man who abducted girl from New York camping trip pleads guilty to kidnapping and sexual assault | CNN



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 — 

A man pleaded guilty in court Wednesday to kidnapping and sexually assaulting a girl who was on a weekend camping trip with her family in upstate New York, officials announced.

The girl, who authorities said was under 13, vanished on a bike ride with friends in Moreau Lake State Park some 45 miles north of Albany around dinner time on September 30. And her kidnapper, Craig Nelson Ross Jr., wrote a ransom note to try to get money, court documents state.

Following a search for the child involving hundreds of personnel from multiple agencies, investigators found her alive October 2 at a property in Ballston Spa, some 20 miles from the park, authorities said. Fingerprints on the ransom note left in the family’s mailbox helped investigators identify Ross as a suspect and then track him to the Ballston Spa property, state officials said.

Under a plea agreement in New York’s Saratoga County, the prosecution has recommended that a judge sentence Ross to 47 years to life in prison, including 25 years to life for a first-degree kidnapping charge and 22 years to life for a charge of predatory sexual assault against a child. Sentencing is scheduled for April 17.

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“With the guilty plea today of Craig N. Ross, Jr., the victim and their family were able to hear the defendant admit his guilt to these heinous and despicable acts,” Saratoga County District Attorney Karen Heggen said in a release Wednesday.

“I think there’s a collective sigh and a pause of a release of a breath” now that Ross has admitted to the felonies, Heggen told reporters outside court.

Ross had pleaded not guilty in November to a nine-count indictment that included predatory sexual assault, kidnapping and sexual abuse charges.

The child will receive a 100-year order of protection against Ross, according to the district attorney’s release. Ross owns a property just over a quarter-mile from the child’s home, authorities had said.

CNN has sought comment from the girl’s family and Ross’ attorney.

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Because of the guilty plea, there will be no need for the girl or anyone else involved to testify, Heggen said, adding “how hard it might be to have to repeat about that or talk about it.”

“His admission of guilt ends the question of who was responsible for the kidnapping that rallied our entire community together to assist in locating her,” Heggen said in the release. “He will serve decades in prison before any parole consideration is available to him.”

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Japan’s stock market passes record closing level after 34 years

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Japan’s stock market passes record closing level after 34 years

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Japan’s stock market has climbed past its all-time closing high, exceeding the record level struck during the country’s late-1980s asset bubble after a 34-year wait.

The Nikkei 225 index of the biggest Japanese companies briefly passed its 38,915-point record close during intraday trading on Thursday, capping a powerful rally during 2024, driven by rises in chip-related stocks such as Screen, Tokyo Electron and Advantest.

Takeo Kamai, head of execution services at CLSA in Tokyo, described a mood of “euphoria and surprise” on the trading floor as the number appeared on screens, adding that the final spurt over the line had followed strong earnings results from the chipmaker Nvidia in the US overnight.

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“Nvidia’s results definitely cleared the way for this, because it had been a big market overhang from last week. Expectations were high, and it beat those, and that left Tokyo clear to resume its rally,” said Kamai.

The latest gains carried the benchmark index above its closing level on the final trading day of 1989, when 15 Japanese companies ranked among the world’s 20 biggest by market capitalisation.

That peak has sometimes been referred to by Tokyo traders as the “iron coffin lid”, with its apparent unattainability becoming a symbol of the three and a half decades of economic stagnation that followed the bursting of Japan’s stock and property bubble.

“It’s an incredibly important barrier for Japan to have finally broken through,” said Bruce Kirk, chief Japan equity strategist at Goldman Sachs.

Traders said Japan’s stock market has benefited from a shift away from China © Issei Kato/Reuters

“For the last 30-plus years, Japan has been persistently framed in relation to that December 1989 bubble era Nikkei all-time high,” Kirk added. “No matter how well it has done since the market finally bottomed, the narrative has always been tempered with an element of scepticism that references the high-water mark.”

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A trader on the floor of one of the largest banks in Tokyo said that the rally had been driven by three factors: an influx of investment by Japanese households taking advantage of a new government subsidised savings scheme, a series of share buyback announcements from across corporate Japan and foreign investors gripped with a “fear of missing out” on such a big rise in valuations.

The Nikkei has risen 16.6 per cent since the start of the year, making it the world’s best-performing major index, as a falling yen lures foreign investors. A weak currency boosts the profits of the export-focused companies that have a heavy weighting among Tokyo stocks.

“Among Japanese investors, there is a feeling of big uncertainty and a sense that the rise has been too much, but we also can’t be left behind so we have to go along,” said Koji Toda, a fund manager at Resona Asset Management.

“Today’s record was driven by a tailwind from US tech stocks but this rally will become genuine when investors feel that they need to buy Japanese stocks for their own reasons.”

Japan’s broader Topix index, which is more closely followed by professional fund managers, is also closing in on its 1989 peak after a strong rally this year but has yet to strike a new high. On Thursday, the Topix rose just under 1 per cent during morning trading, and is now about 8.7 per cent from its all-time peak.

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Traders at three Japanese brokerage firms said Japan’s stock market has benefited from a shift away from China, as global investors grow increasingly wary of a faltering economy and simmering tensions with the west.

Corporate earnings — which have nearly tripled since the bubble era — have provided a further boost as governance reforms over the decade and a half since the Nikkei bottomed in 2009 start to bear fruit.

“The things that [companies] started to do right — improve balance sheets, operating margins — they’ve continued to do right,” said Pelham Smithers, a veteran analyst of Japanese stocks. “And other areas that they needed to get right — such as improve asset efficiency — they’ve started to get right.”

The Nikkei has long been the favourite market benchmark for Japanese retail investors, many of whom bet heavily on its movements through leveraged day trading. However, its weightings are calculated according to stock prices rather than market values, meaning some companies have an outsize presence.

Fast Retailing, the parent company of Uniqlo, commands by far the largest weighting of 10.5 per cent in the Nikkei, despite being half the size of Toyota in terms of market capitalisation. The stock briefly rose more than 2 per cent on Thursday.

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