Friday, October 23, 2020

The Algo As Manipulator: "More Than a Feeling"

 Professor Frank Pasquale at Real Life Magazine:

Emotion detection doesn’t work, but it will try to change your behavior anyway

So many authorities want to use computational power to uncover how you feel. School superintendents have deputized “aggression detectors” to record and analyze voices of children. Human resources departments are using AI to search workers’ and job applicants’ expressions and gestures for “nervousness, mood, and behavior patterns.” Corporations are investing in profiling to “decode” customers, separating the wheat from the chaff, the wooed from the waste. Richard Yonck’s 2017 book Heart of the Machine predicts that the “ability of a car to read and learn preferences via emotional monitoring of the driver will be a game changer.”

Affective computing — the computer-science field’s term for such attempts to read, simulate, predict, and stimulate human emotion with software — was pioneered at the MIT Media Lab by Rosalind Picard in the 1990s and has since become wildly popular as a computational and psychological research program. Volumes like The Oxford Handbook of Affective Computing describe teams that are programming robots, chatbots, and animations to appear to express sadness, empathy, curiosity, and much more. “Automated face analysis” is translating countless images of human expressions into standardized code that elicits certain responses from machines. As affective computing is slowly adopted in health care, education, and policing, it will increasingly judge us and try to manipulate us.

Troubling aspects of human-decoding software are already emerging. Over 1,000 experts recently signed a letter condemning “crime-predictive” facial analysis. Their concern is well-founded. Psychology researchers have demonstrated that faces and expressions do not necessarily map neatly onto particular traits and emotions, let alone to the broader mental states evoked in “aggression detection.” Since “instances of the same emotion category are neither reliably expressed through nor perceived from a common set of facial movements,” the researchers write, communicative capacities of the face are limited. The dangers of misinterpretation are clear and present in all these scenarios.

Bias is endemic in U.S. law enforcement. Affective computing may exacerbate it. For example, as researcher Lauren Rhue has found, “Black men’s facial expressions are scored with emotions associated with threatening behaviors more often than white men, even when they are smiling.” Sampling problems are also likely to be rife. If a database of aggression is developed from observation of a particular subset of the population, the resulting AI may be far better at finding “suspect behavior” in that subset rather than others. Those who were most exposed to surveillance systems in the past may then be far more likely to suffer computational judgments of their behavior as “threatening” or worse. The Robocops of the future are “machine learning” from data distorted by a discrimination-ridden past.


To many of the problems detailed above, affective computing’s enthusiasts have a simple response: Help us fix it. Some of these appeals are classic Tom Sawyering, where researchers ask critics to work for free to de-bias their systems. Others appear more sincere, properly compensating experts in the ethical, legal, and social implications of AI to help better design sociotechnical systems (rather than just clean up after technologists). As minoritized groups are invited to participate in developing more fair and transparent emotion analyzers, some of the worst abuses of crime-predicting and hiring software may be preempted.

But should we really aim to “fix” affective computing? What does such a mechanical metaphor entail? One of Picard’s former MIT colleagues, the late Marvin Minsky, complained in his book The Emotion Machine that we “know very little about how our brains manage” common experiences: ...

....MUCH MORE

Although Pasquale teaches Law at the University of Maryland his interests range far beyond the legal.

Two of his pieces have ended up among the 100 most popular links in the history of the blog: 

Frank Pasquale: "Tech Platforms and the Knowledge Problem" 

The Spectrum of Control: A Social Theory of The Smart City

"Artificial Intelligence Reveals Hundreds of Millions of Trees in the Sahara"

 From Heritage Daily:

If you think that the Sahara is covered only by golden dunes and scorched rocks, you aren’t alone. Perhaps it’s time to shelve that notion.

In an area of West Africa 30 times larger than Denmark, an international team, led by University of Copenhagen and NASA researchers, has counted over 1.8 billion trees and shrubs. The 1.3 million km2 area covers the western-most portion of the Sahara Desert, the Sahel and what are known as sub-humid zones of West Africa.

“We were very surprised to see that quite a few trees actually grow in the Sahara Desert, because up until now, most people thought that virtually none existed. We counted hundreds of millions of trees in the desert alone. Doing so wouldn’t have been possible without this technology. Indeed, I think it marks the beginning of a new scientific era,” asserts Assistant Professor Martin Brandt of the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, lead author of the study’s scientific article, now published in Nature.

The work was achieved through a combination of detailed satellite imagery provided by NASA, and deep learning — an advanced artificial intelligence method. Normal satellite imagery is unable to identify individual trees, they remain literally invisible. Moreover, a limited interest in counting trees outside of forested areas led to the prevailing view that there were almost no trees in this particular region. This is the first time that trees across a large dryland region have been counted....

....MORE

Related: 

"Africa's Great Green Wall Is a Conservation — and World — Wonder"

Tech and Capitalism: "From Manchester to Barcelona"

From Logic Magazine:

Building a better story about the internet.

For a long time, a certain set of assumptions dominated our digital imagination. These assumptions should be familiar enough. Information wants to be free. Anything that connects people is good. The government is bad. The internet is another world, where the old rules don’t apply. The internet is a place of individual freedom, which is above all the freedom to express oneself. 

Such ideas were never 100 percent hegemonic, of course. They were always contested, with varying degrees of success. Governments, for one, found several ways to assert their sovereignty over online spaces. Scholars sounded the alarm on the rise of the white supremacist web — the notorious neo-Nazi site Stormfront launched in 1996 — and presciently observed that the internet’s connectivity could also make the world worse.

Even so, these assumptions and the intellectual traditions they emanated from — techno-utopianism, cyberlibertarianism, the Californian Ideology — largely kept their grip on the common sense. The long 1990s is said to have begun with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and ended with the attacks of September 11, 2001. But, when it came to our popular discourse about the internet, the long 1990s lasted a lot longer. 

Then came Snowden. In 2013, the former NSA contractor revealed that the internet was a vast spy machine for the American security state. A tremor of tech pessimism crept into public consciousness. Then came Trump. The media’s failure to anticipate the possibility of his victory in 2016 led it to amplify the significance of Russian influence operations via social media — operations that clearly existed, but which, at a moment of supreme disorientation, metastasized into the deus ex machina that could explain an inexplicable result. Yet this coping mechanism had a silver lining: it provided the initial spark for what has come to be known as the “techlash.”

Journalists and politicians began to pay closer, less credulous attention to the internet and the companies that control it. Disinformation remained a key concern, but far from the only one: a long series of tech scandals have fed the fire, too many to keep count. The right has also joined the fray: the (laughable) notion that the big platforms silence conservative voices has taken root in the reactionary mind, turning a range of right-wing figures into harsh critics of Silicon Valley.

The resulting shift is stark. A sharper tone prevails in the New York Times and on Fox News, in statehouses and on Capitol Hill. Criticisms once confined to scholarly circles, or to more oppositional outlets like The Baffler and Valleywag, have become conventional, even banal. One could be uncharitable about the heavy Kool-Aid drinkers who abruptly sobered up — there is no shortage of annoying figures among the late converts to tech critique — but the techlash has been a very good thing. We are at last having a more honest conversation about the internet. The long 1990s are over. The old gods are finally dead. 

Who are the new gods? This is what makes our moment so interesting: the conventional wisdom is cracking up but its replacement hasn’t quite consolidated. As James Bridle says, something is wrong on the internet — and something is wrong with the way we have thought about the internet — but there is not yet a widely accepted set of answers to the all-important questions of why these things are wrong, or how to make them right. 

Different camps are now competing to provide those answers. They are competing to tell a new story about the internet, one that can explain the origins of our present crisis and offer a roadmap for moving past it. Some talk about monopoly and antitrust. Others emphasize privacy and consent. Shoshana Zuboff proposes the term “surveillance capitalism” to describe the new kinds of for-profit monitoring and manipulation that the internet and associated technologies have made possible. 

These analyses have important differences. But they tend to share a liberal understanding of capitalism as a basically beneficent system, if one that occasionally needs state intervention to mitigate its excesses. They also tend to equate capitalism with markets. Sometimes these markets become too consolidated and need to be made more competitive (the antitrust view); sometimes market actors violate the terms of fair exchange and need to be restrained (Zuboff’s view). But two articles of faith always remain. The first is that capitalism is more or less compatible with people’s desire for dignity and self-determination (or can be made so with proper regulation). The second is that capitalism is more or less the same thing as markets.

What if neither belief is true? This is the starting point for building a better story about the internet.

The Archipelago and the Network

If capitalism isn’t (only) markets, then what is it?

There have always been markets. Capitalism, by contrast, is relatively new. Its laws of motion first emerged in Europe in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and reached escape velocity with industrialization in the eighteenth and nineteenth.

If capitalism didn’t invent markets, however, it did make markets much more important. The historian Robert Brenner observes that capitalism is defined above all by market dependence. Pre-capitalist peasants can trade and barter, but they don’t depend on the market for life’s necessities: they grow their own food. In capitalist societies, on the other hand, the market mediates your access to the means of subsistence. You must buy what you need to survive, and to have the money to do so, you must sell your labor power for a wage. 

Market dependence doesn’t exist for its own sake. It serves an important function: to facilitate accumulation. Accumulation is the aim of any capitalist arrangement: to take a sum of value and make more value out of it. While markets are certainly central to capitalism, they aren’t what makes it tick. Accumulation is. To put it in a more Marxist idiom, capital is value in motion. As it moves, it expands. Capitalism, then, is a way to organize human societies for the purpose of making capital move. 

There are a few different methods for making capital move. The principal one is for capitalists to purchase people’s labor power, use it to create new value in the form of commodities, and then realize that value as profit by selling those commodities. A portion of the proceeds are reinvested into expanding production, so even more commodities can be made at lower cost, thus enabling our capitalist to compete effectively with the other capitalists selling the same commodities. 

This may seem entirely obvious, but it’s actually a very distinctive way of doing things. In other modes of social organization, the point of production is to directly fulfill people’s needs: think of subsistence farmers, growing food for their families to eat. Or the point is to make the rulers rich: think of the slaves of ancient Rome, doing the dirty work so that imperial elites could lead lives of luxury. 

What makes capitalism so unusual is that production (and accumulation) isn’t for anything exactly, aside from making it possible to produce (and accumulate) more. This obsession gives capitalism its extraordinary dynamism, and its revolutionary force. It utterly transforms how humans live and, above all, how they produce. Capitalism forces people to produce together, in increasingly complex combinations of labor. Production is no longer solitary, but social. ...

....MUCH MORE

"al-Qaeda's 22 Tips for Avoiding a Drone Attack"

 In an October 18 post on breaking up Google I said we'd have an upcoming post on how to hide from drones. And then I promptly forgot.

So, better late than never, from the sued-out-of-existence (by what right did they out Peter Thiel with that story headlined "Peter Thiel is totally gay, people."?) by way of the Internet Archive:

According to a document found by the Associated Press in Timbuktu, members of al-Qaeda in North Africa were in possession of a fairly detailed instruction manual for avoiding drone attacks. The document, which includes an easy-to-use list, is a copy of a paper reportedly penned by Abdallah bin Muhammad, a senior commander of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. It was apparently left behind by the North African group as they fled French troops last month.

The list features some basic, common sense tips ("Hide from being directly or indirectly spotted, especially at night."), some more complex ones ("Form anti-spy groups to look for spies and agents.") and a few that don't make much sense ("Jamming of and confusing of electronic communication using the ordinary water-lifting dynamo fitted with a 30-metre copper pole"). Altogether, though, the list probably comes in handy when being hunted by killer robot planes.

The full list [sic throughout]:

  • 1 – It is possible to know the intention and the mission of the drone by using the Russianmade "sky grabber" device to infiltrate the drone's waves and the frequencies. The device is available in the market for $2,595 and the one who operates it should be a computerknow-how.
  • 2 – Using devices that broadcast frequencies or pack of frequencies to disconnect the contacts and confuse the frequencies used to control the drone. The Mujahideen have had successful experiments using the Russian-made "Racal."
  • 3 – Spreading the reflective pieces of glass on a car or on the roof of the building.
  • 4 – Placing a group of skilled snipers to hunt the drone, especially the reconnaissance ones because they fly low, about six kilometers or less.
  • 5 – Jamming of and confusing of electronic communication using the ordinary water-lifting dynamo fitted with a 30-meter copper pole.
  • 6 – Jamming of and confusing of electronic communication using old equipment and keeping them 24 hour running because of their strong frequencies and it is possible using simple ideas of deception of equipment to attract the electronic waves devices similar to that used by the Yugoslav army when they used the microwave (oven) in attracting and confusing the NATO missiles fitted with electromagnetic searching devices.
  • 7 – Using general confusion methods and not to use permanent headquarters.
  • 8 – Discovering the presence of a drone through well-placed reconnaissance networks and to warn all the formations to halt any movement in the area.
  • 9 – To hide from being directly or indirectly spotted, especially at night.
  • 10 – To hide under thick trees because they are the best cover against the planes.
  • 11 – To stay in places unlit by the sun such as the shadows of the buildings or the trees.
  • 12 – Maintain complete silence of all wireless contacts.
  • 13 – Disembark of vehicles and keep away from them especially when being chased or
    during combat.
  • 14 – To deceive the drone by entering places of multiple entrances and exits.
  • 15 – Using underground shelters because the missiles fired by these planes are usually of
    the fragmented anti-personnel and not anti-buildings type.
  • 16 – To avoid gathering in open areas and in urgent cases, use building of multiple doors or exits.
  • 17 – Forming anti-spies groups to look for spies and agents.
  • 18 – Formation of fake gatherings such as using dolls and statutes to be placed outside
    false ditches to mislead the enemy.
  • 19 – When discovering that a drone is after a car, leave the car immediately and everyone should go in different direction because the planes are unable to get after everyone.
  • 20 – Using natural barricades like forests and caves when there is an urgent need for training or gathering.
  • 21 – In frequently targeted areas, use smoke as cover by burning tires.
  • 22 – As for the leaders or those sought after, they should not use communications equipment because the enemy usually keeps a voice tag through which they can identify the speaking person and then locate him.
  • Al Qaida Papers Drones

Jimmy Lai: “Hong Kong Will Eventually Be Like China, Plagued by Corruption”

From the University of Chicago's ProMarket:

In an interview with ProMarket, Hong Kong media tycoon and pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai discussed his legal troubles, the roots of his political activism, and the negative impact that he believes Hong Kong’s new national security law has already had on the life of Hong Kongers. 


Editor’s note: This article is part of our ongoing debate on the impact of China’s new national security law on the freedom of expression in Hong Kong and everywhere in the world. Read previous articles in this series here.

Earlier this month, Hong Kong police raided the private offices of Jimmy Lai, a media tycoon and one of Hong Kong’s most prominent pro-democracy activists. The raid took place two months after Lai himself was arrested in August, along with his two sons and several other activists and executives from his media company, Next Digital, for allegedly violating Hong Kong’s new national security law.

Lai’s arrest caused a global uproar, with images of him arrested in his home and led away in handcuffs by police officers plastered across news outlets worldwide. The arrest was seen as “an extraordinary show of force,” with 200 officers raiding the newsroom of Apple Daily, the pro-democracy newspaper Lai founded in 1995. (Lai was released on bail two days later).

Lai, who was born in the Chinese city of Guangzhou and was smuggled into Hong Kong on a fishing boat when he was 12, was a clothing mogul before venturing into the media business. Inspired by the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, he has become one of the leading figures in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement over the last three decades and a fierce critic of Beijing. He regularly meets with senior American officials and his political activism has made him a frequent target of Beijing (The CCP’s English-language newspaper, Global Times, called him a “force of evil”), subject to arrests, threats, and other sanctions

Earlier this year, the Stigler Center and ProMarket launched an article and webinar series to facilitate conversations among leading scholars and experts about the implications of Hong Kong’s national security law for US-China relations and for the freedom of expression, both in Hong Kong and worldwide. Ahead of his Stigler Center webinar, we recently interviewed Lai about the recent developments in Hong Kong and his views on the new national security law. In his ProMarket interview (which took place before the most recent raid on his offices), Lai discussed his legal troubles, the roots of his political activism, and the negative impact that he believes the new law has already had on Hong Kongers’ lives. 

[The following conversation has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.]

Q: Let’s begin with your current legal situation. You were recently cleared of a criminal intimidation charge related to an incident in 2017 with a photographer, and that’s under appeal. You were arrested in August in relation to the new national security law and are now out on bail. Correct me if I’m wrong here, but you may face several charges related to last year’s protests as well, right?

Right. I got three charges and one recent allegation—it’s not a charge yet—of deception, where I used my media premises as the correspondence address for other companies. The second is sedition, which is under the common law. The third is collusion with a foreign power, which is under the national security law, but they haven’t charged me yet.

I extended my bail two weeks ago, and I will have to go to the police station again on December 1st. I don’t know what’s going to happen.

Q: So you are currently awaiting charges?

Yes.

Q: You called your arrest last month a “symbolic exercise.” Can you explain what you meant by that?

When I was arrested, our media building was also raided by about 200 police. The whole exercise is to intimidate the media companies in Hong Kong to make sure that nobody dares to deviate from what the government wants.

My arrest is also, in a way, an intimidation of the people of the resistance movement. That’s my speculation, but that’s how the city and the people reacted to my arrest and to the raid of my media company.

Q: The national security law went into effect almost four months ago. How would you say daily life in Hong Kong has been affected by it?

The national security law has been very effective [in] intimidating the whole city. Many of the people involved with the movement have left or are trying to leave. Many of them side-step it. Those who are still staying and resisting are almost the backbone of the movement.

People are panicked. If you checked the big data, the [top] topic on Google search and social media is immigration. The national security law’s clampdown on us has been very successful....

....MUCH MORE

"Libya rivals sign 'permanent' ceasefire" (National Oil Corp. Lifts Force Majeure on two ports exports)

 First up, from AFP via Yahoo:

Libya's two warring factions signed a "permanent" ceasefire agreement on Friday after five days of talks at the United Nations, which hailed the deal as a historic moment following years of turmoil and bloodshed.

"Today is a good day for the Libyan people," said Stephanie Williams, the UN's acting envoy to the troubled North African country, where a UN-recognised government in Tripoli has been battling a rival administration based in the east and dominated by military commander Khalifa Haftar.

"The two Libyan delegations... signed a complete, country-wide and permanent ceasefire agreement with immediate effect," she told journalists afterwards.

Williams said the parties agreed that "all military units and armed groups on the front lines shall return to their camps", while "all mercenaries and foreign fighters" must leave within three months.

Analysts have warned that further measures are needed to prevent spoilers undermining the deal in a country wracked by conflict for nearly a decade, since the overthrow and killing of dictator Moamer Kadhafi in a NATO-backed uprising in 2011....MUCH MORE

And from Reuters:

Libya’s National Oil Corp (NOC) has lifted force majeure on exports from the ports of Es Sider and Ras Lanuf, it said on Friday, adding that output would reach 800,000 barrels per day (bpd) within two weeks and 1 million bpd in four weeks.

Al Waha Oil Co, the NOC company that runs Es Sider, said the port would start operating again on Saturday with the first tanker expected within 48 hours....MORE

"Drought monitor and long range forecast"

 From the University of Nebraska-Lincoln:

https://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/data/png/20201020/20201020_usdm.png

This Week's Drought Summary

Over the past week, beneficial precipitation fell over the higher elevations of Washington and Oregon, in much of Montana (particularly the mountainous western half), in the Lower Missouri River and Ohio River valleys, and in New England, leading to improving conditions in parts of these regions. Meanwhile, the southeast United States (with the exception of the Florida Peninsula) was mostly dry. Dry weather also continued across much of the central and southern Great Plains this week, as well as most of the southwestern United States. With background dry conditions in many areas that did not receive rain, combined with high evaporative demand over much of the High Plains and western United States, widespread worsening of drought conditions occurred from the Great Plains to the Southwest....

....MUCH MORE, including forecast

Another measurement of drought, and one that seems to work better for gauging agricultural effects is the Palmer Drought Index via Drought.gov:

https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/monitoring-content/temp-and-precip/drought/weekly-palmers/2020/phd20201017-pg.png

And here is how bad it can get:

During May, 1934 more than two thirds of the US was in drought.

note: this is not the forecast! that is at the Drought Monitor link

"Goldman Board Wants Execs to Pay Up Over 1MDB Scandal" (GS)

 From Institutional Investor, October 22:

The board is seeking $174 million in clawbacks and salary forfeitures.

The board of directors at Goldman Sachs is clawing back executive pay from former and current employees in relation to the 1MDB scandal.  

The board announced Thursday that it aims to recover $174 million in full, including clawbacks, forfeitures, and compensation reductions. The announcement came after the Securities and Exchange Commission charged the bank with violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.  

In connection with the charges and “coordinated resolutions,” Goldman has agreed to pay more than $2.9 billion, the SEC said on Thursday.

“While it is abundantly clear that certain former employees broke the law, lied to our colleagues, and circumvented firm controls, this fact does not relieve me or anyone else at the firm of our responsibility,” Solomon said in a letter to Goldman employees published on the firm’s site. Solomon called the board’s decision “entirely appropriate.”...

....MORE

Hey! Sort of like the old partnership days where the money you were responsible for was your own and not some public investor's.

With The 10-Year Yield Up To 0.8650% It's Time For The Banks To Start Outperforming (BKX)

 Using the KBW Bank Index as our proxy here's a picture of how badly the banks have underperformed vs the S&P  over the last twelve months:

https://api.wsj.net/api/kaavio/charts/big.chart?nosettings=1&symb=BKX&uf=0&type=2&size=2&sid=8910&style=320&freq=1&entitlementtoken=0c33378313484ba9b46b8e24ded87dd6&time=8&rand=2042049418&compidx=SP500&ma=0&maval=9&lf=1&lf2=0&lf3=0&height=335&width=579&mocktick=1

BigCharts

At three months they are almost neck and neck:

https://api.wsj.net/api/kaavio/charts/big.chart?nosettings=1&symb=BKX&uf=0&type=2&size=2&sid=8910&style=320&freq=1&entitlementtoken=0c33378313484ba9b46b8e24ded87dd6&time=6&rand=1792179915&compidx=SP500&ma=0&maval=9&lf=1&lf2=0&lf3=0&height=335&width=579&mocktick=1

BigCharts

ICYMI: "Israeli firm signs deal to pipe UAE oil to Europe"

From the Times of Israel, October 21:

Agreement slammed by environmental group

State-owned Europe-Asia Pipeline Co. says agreement, reached as part of normalization pact, will see much more oil pumped through major link between East Asia and Europe

An oil pipeline running from the Red Sea resort of Eilat to the Mediterranean port city of Ashkelon will be extended to the United Arab Emirates, providing the UAE with a bridge to get fossil fuel directly to Europe, an Israeli company said Tuesday. It is seen as one of the most significant collaborations to have emerged since the countries established diplomatic ties.

The memorandum of understanding is between the state-owned Europe-Asia Pipeline Co., formerly the Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline Co., and a company called MED-RED Land Bridge, which is a joint venture between Israelis and Emiratis, according to an announcement. 

It was signed in Abu Dhabi with US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and other US and UAE officials present, meaning the signing would have taken place shortly before they flew to Israel Tuesday for a landmark visit.  

EAPC said in a statement that the collaboration is significant news for the global energy market, since it will offer oil producers and refiners the shortest, most efficient and most cost-effective route to transport oil and related products from the Arabian Gulf to the consumption centers in the West, and provides access for consumers in the Far East to oil produced in the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions. 

An Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline Company oil terminal in Eilat. (CC BY 2.5/Pikiwikisrael)

An oil pipeline running from the Red Sea resort of Eilat to the Mediterranean port city of Ashkelon will be extended to the United Arab Emirates, providing the UAE with a bridge to get fossil fuel directly to Europe, an Israeli company said Tuesday. It is seen as one of the most significant collaborations to have emerged since the countries established diplomatic ties.

The memorandum of understanding is between the state-owned Europe-Asia Pipeline Co., formerly the Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline Co., and a company called MED-RED Land Bridge, which is a joint venture between Israelis and Emiratis, according to an announcement.

It was signed in Abu Dhabi with US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and other US and UAE officials present, meaning the signing would have taken place shortly before they flew to Israel Tuesday for a landmark visit.

EAPC said in a statement that the collaboration is significant news for the global energy market, since it will offer oil producers and refiners the shortest, most efficient and most cost-effective route to transport oil and related products from the Arabian Gulf to the consumption centers in the West, and provides access for consumers in the Far East to oil produced in the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions.

“MED-RED is in advanced negotiations with major players in the West and in the East for long-term service agreements,” the company said.

The agreement “is likely to increase the transferred quantities by tens of millions of tons per year,” it added....

....MUCH MORE

Natural Gas Weekly Update: "...higher-than-average residential natural gas consumption this winter"

It is looking as if our target of $3.50 for a front month this heating season, first mentioned in April and then repeated approximately every two weeks until I got sick of typing "$3.50" is going to happen. Here's a July 30 post, a storage report Thursday, when the front month dropped 5% in a couple hours:

That is an overreaction and we are still looking for prices to move: first, through the triple (or multiple) top just below the $2.00 line and secondly, to a front month price of $3.50 later into the heating season.

Soon to roll-off November futures: 2.919 down 0.088 (almost 3%)

December's: 3.195 down 0.077

 From the Energy Information Administration:

In the News: 
EIA forecasts higher-than-average residential natural gas consumption this winter

According to October’s Short-Term Energy Outlook, EIA forecasts residential natural gas consumption for the 2020–21 winter season (October–March) to average 21.1 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d), an increase of 1.1 Bcf/d (5.3%) from the 2019–20 winter average. The higher expected residential consumption of natural gas this winter is primarily related to forecasts for colder temperatures this winter than last winter.

Last winter was notably warm, averaging 572 heating degree days (HDDs), compared with the 10-year average of 603 HDDs. The warmer-than-normal winter temperatures contributed to residential natural gas consumption averaging 20.0 Bcf/d last winter, the lowest since the 2016–17 winter. Based on weather forecasts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), EIA expects the 2020–21 winter to have 602 HDDs, which is only slightly higher than the 10-year average and about 5% higher than last winter. NOAA forecasts cooler-than-normal temperatures this winter in the North and warmer-than-normal temperatures in the South, which is, in part, due to the La Niña weather pattern.

Changes in consumer behavior due to COVID-19 mitigation efforts will also contribute to higher residential consumption of natural gas this winter. EIA expects work-from-home and virtual schooling policies to affect winter residential consumption because with more people home during the day, residential space heating demand will increase compared with last winter, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nearly half of all homes are primarily heated with natural gas. According to EIA’s Winter Fuels Outlook released on October 6, the average price of residential natural gas this winter for homes that primarily use natural gas for heating is expected to average $9.55 per thousand cubic feet (Mcf), down from $9.73/Mcf last winter. The lower average residential price of natural gas reflects generally lower natural gas spot prices in 2020. However, changes in natural gas spot prices generally pass through to residential consumers with considerable lag because some state utility commissions set the rates that utilities can charge for natural gas deliveries a year or more in advance. In addition, residential natural gas prices include charges not linked directly to spot natural gas prices, such as customer and distribution charges, which help utilities cover operational costs.

Despite lower prices, EIA forecasts higher residential natural gas consumption will lead to an increase in household expenditures for homes that primarily heat with natural gas. EIA forecasts average household expenditures for these homes will rise to $572 this winter, an increase of $32 (5.9%) compared with last winter....MUCH MORE

And from Severe Weather Europe, October 23:

Latest on US Arctic Outbreak: A record-breaking cold for many! Snow possible far south in Texas with a damaging ice storm across the Plains

... The weather will feel like it is January, not October. Temperatures are expected to be very low, nearly 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit below average!...MORE

https://www.severe-weather.eu/wp-content/gallery/andrej-news/arctic-outbreak-record-united-states-sunday-morning.jpg

Depending on where that blob of cold goes—right now it is forecast for sparsely populated Montana and Wyoming, but should it slide across to Minneapolis and then Chicago the residential burn would go through the roof.

Yesterday:
EIA Natural Gas Storage Report: A little bit of cold weather and up goes the burn 

If interested here's the post that marked the bottom: 

EIA Natural Gas Storage Report, June 25: Yikes
That low print was at $1.463 which is something like a thirty year low. 

Thursday, October 22, 2020

"Quantum engines with entanglement as fuel?"

They're starting to lose me.
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic"
—#3 of Arthur C. Clark's Three Laws

From ScienceDirect:

Date:October 19, 2020

Source:University of Rochester

In order to make a car run, a car's engine burns gasoline and converts the energy from the heat of the combusting gasoline into mechanical work. In the process, however, energy is wasted; a typical car only converts around 25 percent of the energy in gasoline into useful energy to make it run.

Engines that run with 100 percent efficiency are still more science fiction than science fact, but new research from the University of Rochester may bring scientists one step closer to demonstrating an ideal transfer of energy within a system.

Andrew Jordan, a professor of physics at Rochester, was recently awarded a three-year, $1 million grant from the Templeton Foundation to research quantum measurement engines -- engines that use the principles of quantum mechanics to run with 100 percent efficiency. The research, to be carried out with co-principal investigators in France and at Washington University St. Louis, could answer important questions about the laws of thermodynamics in quantum systems and contribute to technologies such as more efficient engines and quantum computers.

"The grant deals with several Big Questions about our natural world," Jordan says.

PHYSICS AT A SMALL LEVEL
The researchers have previously described the concept of quantum measurement engines, but the theory has never been demonstrated experimentally.

In the microscopic quantum world, particles exhibit unique properties that do not align with the classical laws of physics as we know them. Jordan and his colleagues will use superconducting circuits to design experiments that can be carried out within a realistic quantum system. Through these experiments, the researchers will study how the laws of energy, work, power, efficiency, heat, and entropy function at the quantum level. These concepts are currently poorly understood in quantum mechanics.

MICROSCOPIC POWER TASKS
Quantum measurement engines may work in microscopic environments for very small power tasks such as moving around an atom or charging a miniaturized circuit. In these capacities, they may be important components for quantum computers....

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I think I'll just hang out with my fellow easily amused primates and not think about entanglement as fuel:

"Mozambique seeks prosecution of ex-Credit Suisse bankers implicated in debt scandal"

From Financial Crime Compliance Education (FCCED), October 21:

Mozambique’s Attorney General’s Office said on Wednesday it will seek the extradition of three former Credit Suisse CSGN.S bankers implicated in a $2 billion debt scandal that sent the country’s economy into crisis.

Andrew Pearse, Detelina Subeva and Surjan Singh, who helped arrange the loans to Mozambique, all pleaded guilty in the United States last year to charges including conspiracy to violate U.S. anti-bribery laws and to commit money laundering and securities fraud in relation to their role in the affair.

Lawyers for the three bankers did not immediately respond to requests for comment or could not immediately be reached.

Mozambique would now seek their extradition after the country’s Supreme Court granted approval for the Attorney General’s Office to do so, a representative of the AGO told Reuters via WhatsApp....

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Also at FCCED:

October 22, 2020
Goldman Sachs agrees $3 billion settlement with US DoJ over 1MDB corruption scandal
October 22, 2020
UK regulators fine Goldman Sachs £97 million over 1MDB scandal
October 22, 2020
Hong Kong fines Goldman Sachs $350 million over 1MDB scandal
October 22, 2020
Australian court approves $920 million Westpac money laundering fine
October 21, 2020
UAE suspends licences of 200 law firms over anti-money laundering compliance 
October 20, 2020
Germany issues international arrest warrant for founders of law firm at the centre of Panama Papers