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Pantera crypto blockchain fund lands Deutsche veteran William Healy

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As major financial institutions shake up their employee base, more veterans are trickling out of Wall Street and into crypto funds.

Cryptocurrency and blockchain hedge fund Pantera Capital announced Tuesday the hiring of former Deutsche Bank Managing Director William Healy. Healy joins the fund’s west coast headquarters as president, effective March 1.

The Wall Street veteran co-founded Deutsche Bank’s Hedge Fund Priority Client group and was a key player in establishing the Dutch bank’s U.S. hedge fund strategy, according to Pantera’s investor letter published Tuesday.

“This is a transformative time,” Healy said in a statement. “The blockchain and digital currency environment today remind me of the inflection points in emerging markets and the alternative asset management industry to a more institutional management approach.”

Healy’s former employer Deutsche Bank will cut up at least 250 investment bank jobs, and could be as many as 500, Reuters reported Monday, citing a person close to the situation. Key traders meanwhile are leaving Goldman Sachs Group, Reuters also reported in January, as the firm looks to overhaul a struggling commodities unit.

Healy said the industry broadly is trending smaller.

“The underlying trends in the financial services industry is I think going in one direction,” Healy said, noting music sharing service Spotify’s decision not to follow the traditional IPO route. “I think five years from now they’ll be smaller than they are today.”

Pantera Capital CEO Dan Morehead said the firm got 95 new limited partners in February alone, while it took his firm 10 years to get the first 95 investors. The number of hedge funds focused on crypto is up to 226, and has more than doubled in the past four months, according to the latest estimates from research firm Autonomous NEXT.

Pantera, which has roughly $724 million assets under management, also announced the launch of its third blockchain-focused venture fund Tuesday. The new fund also will focus on peer-to-peer transactions, fintech, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Pantera’s first fund launched in 2013, and was up 758.6 percent through the end of last year. That portfolio includes companies that help buy and store bitcoin including Ripple, Circle, Xapo and Bitstamp.

Pantera’s Healy is not the only new recruit in the crypto space announced Tuesday. Bitwise Asset Management, manager of the first cryptocurrency index fund, announced it would hire industry veteran Matt Hougan as vice president of research and development. Hougan was CEO of Inside ETFs and before that CEO of ETF.com.

Bitwise CEO Hunter Horsley said he’s seeing more of an appetite for folks like Hougan to jump into a new asset class.

“We’re seeing more top tier people come into the space,” he said. “Cryptocurrency’s bringing together software people, who tend to be those younger stereotypes, but also pulling in financial community who are really excited about the birth of a new asset class, or have been bored with low volatility or fee compression.”

Bitwise is still hiring, and Horsley said applicants are not the stereotypical Silicon Valley tech junkies. The company is getting applications from people on “both sides of the spectrum”, including Google and Blackrock.

“There are definitely industry veterans who are poking around,” Horsley said. “I don’t know how many will end up deciding to make the plunge but we definitely see a lot of senior people deciding to put out feelers.”

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Anduril turning U.S. troops into ‘invincible technomancers,’ Palmer Luckey says

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Anduril founder Palmer Luckey announced Thursday that his start-up has raised an additional $450 million in funding, which will be used to “turn allied warfighters into invincible technomancers.” The company is now valued at $4.6 billion.

Luckey is best known for selling Oculus to Facebook in 2014 for $2 billion before he was fired in 2017 amid controversy for his political donations and financial support of far-right groups. But his announcement of the new funding was unusual.

“We just raised $450M in Series D funding for Anduril,” Luckey said on Twitter. “It will be used to turn American and allied warfighters into invincible technomancers who wield the power of autonomous systems to safely accomplish their mission.  Our future roadmap is going to blow you away, stay tuned!

Technomancers sometimes appear in post-modern role-playing video games and in science fiction, often as sort of magical wizard-like people with technology enhancements.

Anduril Technologies is a defense company that, among other things, provides border control technology, including towers with cameras and infrared sensors that use artificial intelligence to track movement, in states such as Texas and California. 

The company said it’s capable of deploying its artificial intelligence platform, called Lattice, in other places, such as military bases in the U.S. to help detect and track instructions by other people and vehicles, including drones.

Elad Gil, who led the funding round, said Thursday that society isn’t prepared for the growing number of threats and that companies such as Anduril can help in a multitude of areas, from natural disasters to cyberattacks.

He said Anduril provides “sensor networks, towers, drones, and powerful software that ties it all together — whose potential uses include protecting our troops on base, defending our energy infrastructure, combating wildfires, stopping human traffickers, creating a “virtual border” (a rare bipartisan idea), and fighting drug cartels. Many of these potential uses can directly save lives.”

Other tech companies are working to make American troops more lethal. Microsoft, for example, won an Army contract in March worth up to $21.9 billion to provide special versions of its HoloLens augmented reality headsets to U.S. fighters.

Andreessen Horowitz, 8VC, Founders Fund, General Catalyst, Lux Capital, Valor Equity Partners and D1 Capital all participated in the round.

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Biden unable to reach agreement with Turkey’s Erdogan over Russian S-400

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Russian S-400 missile battalions participate in tactical training to counter attacks of potential sabotage and reconnaissance groups. 

Vitaly Nevar | TASS via Getty Images

WASHINGTON – The Biden administration was unable to work out a resolution with Turkey following Ankara’s defiant purchase of a Russian weapons system, which the NATO alliance views as a security risk.

National security advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters Thursday on a call that President Joe Biden and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed the 2017 multibillion-dollar weapons deal with Russia this week at NATO’s headquarters.

In December, the Trump administration slapped sanctions on Turkey, a NATO member, for buying the S-400 missile system in a confrontation not typically seen within the alliance.

“On the S-400, they discussed it. There was not a resolution of the issue. There was a commitment to continue the dialogue on the S-400,” Sullivan said, adding that the Biden administration would have more to say on the matter after Washington and Ankara hold additional talks.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) and US President Joe Biden (R) hold a meeting at the NATO summit at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) headquarters in Brussels, on June 14, 2021.

Murat Cetinmuhurdar | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

During a NATO press conference, Erdogan said he had not changed his position on the S-400 despite having a “sincere” meeting with President Joe Biden.

Biden also said the meeting with Erdogan was productive, adding that he was confident the U.S. will “make real progress with Turkey.”

Erdogan said on Tuesday that he told Biden to “not expect Turkey to take a different step on the F-35 and S-400 issues,” according to a report from Turkey’s state media.

“We must monitor developments closely. We will be following up on all our rights,” he said. “In the next period, our foreign ministers, defense ministers and defense industry chairs will be moving this process forward by meeting with their counterparts,” Erdogan added.

In multiple efforts to deter Turkey from buying Russia’s S-400 missile system, the State Department offered in 2013 and 2017 to sell the country Raytheon‘s Patriot missile system. Ankara passed on the Patriot both times because the U.S. declined to provide a transfer of the system’s sensitive missile technology.

A F-35 fighter jet is seen as Turkey takes delivery of its first F-35 fighter jet with a ceremony at the Lockheed Martin in Forth Worth, Texas, United States on June 21, 2018.

Atilgan Ozdil | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA, any foreign government working with the Russian defense sector finds itself in the crosshairs of U.S. economic sanctions.

Despite warnings from the United States and other NATO allies, Turkey accepted the first of four S-400 missile batteries from the Kremlin in July 2019.

A week later, the United States cut Turkey, a financial and manufacturing partner, from the F-35 program.

Due to Turkey’s removal from the F-35 program, U.S. defense giant Lockheed Martin offered the jets originally slated to join Ankara’s arsenal to other customers.

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Covid outbreak forces lockdown at U.S. Embassy in Kabul

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A US Marine stands guard in front of the US embassy December 21, 2001 in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Paula Bronstein | Getty Images

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Embassy in Kabul was placed on lockdown on Thursday as Covid cases surge in Afghanistan, pushing the nation’s fragile health care system to its limits.

At the embassy, 114 employees have tested positive for the coronavirus and are currently in isolation, one person has died and several people have been medically evacuated.

“Military hospital ICU resources are at full capacity, forcing our health units to create temporary, on-compound Covid-19 wards to care for oxygen-dependent patients. 95% of our cases are individuals who are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated,” the Embassy wrote in a statement.

Effective immediately, the Embassy said, personnel would be confined to their quarters except to get food from dining facilities or to exercise or relax alone outdoors.

“Individuals may walk, run, or relax outdoors without masks provided that they are ALONE, which means at least 20 feet from others. Any closer requires a mask,” the statement continued, adding that in-person indoor meetings are prohibited unless “absolutely mission-critical.”

People who don’t follow the policies could face removal from the post “on the next available flight,” the Embassy added.

“Restrictions will continue until the chain of transmission is broken,” the statement said.

Afghan hospitals are rapidly running out of medical equipment and other resources as infection cases see a rise of 2,400% over the past month, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said on Thursday.

Last week the U.S. Embassy in Kabul suspended all consular visa services in order to deal with an “intense third wave of Covid-19 cases,” potentially hampering the visa status for thousands of Afghans who assisted the U.S. military through the conflict.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill raised concerns Thursday on whether the backlog of more than 10,000 Afghan translators and their families would be cleared before the remaining U.S. troops withdraw from the war-weary country.

Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee during a hearing on the Pentagon’s budget request that “planning is ongoing” to safeguard Afghans who served alongside U.S. and NATO troops.

The nation’s highest military officer added that the U.S. military was capable of carrying out any request as the State Department works through the thorough visa process for eligible Afghans.

On Tuesday, the Pentagon said it surpassed the midpoint in its herculean task of withdrawing troops and equipment out of Afghanistan.

The U.S. military has removed the equivalent of approximately 611 loads of material flown out of the country by large cargo aircraft, according to an update from U.S. Central Command.

Aircrew assigned to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, carry their gear into a C-17 Globemaster III assigned to Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, April 27, 2021.

Staff Sgt. Kylee Gardner | U.S. Air Force photo

Approximately 14,000 pieces of equipment that will not be left to the Afghan military have also been handed over to the Defense Logistics Agency for destruction. The U.S. has officially handed over six facilities to the Afghan military.

In April, Biden announced a full withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, which would end America’s longest war.

Biden’s withdrawal timeline breaks with a proposed deadline brokered last year by the Trump administration with the Taliban. According to that deal, all foreign forces would have had to leave Afghanistan by May 1.

The removal of approximately 3,000 U.S. service members coincides with the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, which spurred America’s entry into lengthy wars in the Middle East and Central Asia.

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