Saturday, May 15, 2021

"CDC guidance now authorizes fully vaccinated people to resume giving each other mouth to mouth shotgun bong hits"

Many people have been waitiing for and working toward this day.

From Sweet Meteor Of Death:

"A new ‘director’s cut’ of Prince playing While My Guitar Gently Weeps has been released" (at George Harrison's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction)

The mention of "obscure bluegrass-electro-punk band" in the post immediately below reminded me: "Wait, we've got something REALLY good" in the queue.
Although the focus is on Prince (he enters about half-way in) I had forgotten just how pure the vocals by Tom Petty and the fellow from ELO (Jeff Lynne) were that night.
The rest of the band included Steve Winwood (organ); Billy Preston (piano); Jim Capaldi (percussion)....MORE (Quora)

George's son, Dhani Harrison seems pretty happy with his dad's induction.

From Guitar.com:

The performance took place in 2004 at The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

A newly edited version of Prince’s performance of While My Guitar Gently Weeps has been released, offering more details and close-ups than the previous version that had been circulated online. The performance took place at the 2004 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction ceremony, and also featured Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, Steve Winwood and Dhani Harrison, George Harrison’s son.

The edit arrives thanks to Joel Gallen, the director and producer of the original broadcast from the 2004 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame ceremony. Writing underneath the video, Gallen explained: “17 years after this stunning performance by Prince, I finally had the chance to go in and re-edit it slightly – since there were several shots that were bothering me. I got rid of all the dissolves and made them all cuts, and added lots more close-ups of Prince during his solo. I think it’s better now. Let me know what you think. Joel.”...MORE

 From Mr. Gallen's YouTube channel:

 

Climate Envoy John Kerry On Chinese Solar Panels: "...are being in some cases produced in forced labor by Uyghurs"

I know some people have said "Twitter dēlenda est," in my own case phrased as "Shut 'em all down", but without the tweet machine I probably would not have been aware that FT's Alphaville's editor had been thinking about Chinese solar:

THREAD

And I would not have experienced the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon* when I saw this at the New York Post, May 13:

John Kerry says Xinjiang solar panel production presents ‘problem’ for US climate strategy

US Special Envoy on Climate John Kerry acknowledged on Wednesday that obtaining solar panels from Xinjiang, China is a problem given the forced labor reported in the area and China’s strength in the market. 

During a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, asked Kerry about ensuring that the US’ climate strategy wouldn’t involve solar panels produced from forced labor.

“When you look at the supply chain, when you look at China, they dominate the critical mineral supply and solar supply chains all coming out of Xinjiang Province,” McCaul said.

Kerry told McCaul he was “absolutely correct” in his concerns. “It is a problem,” he added.

“Xinjiang Province not only produces some of the solar panels that we believe are being in some cases produced in forced labor by Uighur[s], but also there are significant amounts of a certain rare earth mineral that’s used in the solar panels themselves.”

Although Kerry didn’t commit to precluding those panels, he indicated that the Biden administration was moving toward doing so with sanctions....MORE

Envoy Kerry's testimony via C-SPAN.

Partial transcript:

Representative Michael McCaul:

“How can you ensure that….slave labor coming out of China–where genocide is taking place as we speak–[is] never part of the climate solution in the United States?”

Climate Envoy Kerry:

“You’re absolutely correct. Ranking Member McCaul you’re — it is a problem. Xinjiang province not only produces some of the solar panels that we believe are being in some cases produced in forced labor by Uyghurs but also there are significant amount of rare mineral that’s used in the solar panels themselves. It is my understanding that the Biden Administration is right now in the process of assessing whether or not that will be the target of sanctions.”

*And Bader-Meinhof? Via Pacific Standard:

There's a Name for That: The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon
When a thing you just found out about suddenly seems to crop up everywhere.

Your friend told you about that obscure bluegrass-electro-punk band yesterday morning. That afternoon, you ran across one of their albums at a garage sale. Wait a minute—that’s them in that Doritos commercial, too! Coincidence ... or conspiracy? More likely, you’re experiencing “frequency illusion,” somewhat better known as the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon....

It doesn't even have to be something you just found out. Simply having a prior point of recognition can clear the way for repetitions to enter the consciousness.  

Over the years we've had a few mentions of the B-M phenomena. One that made it to the headline: 

Tying Today's Posts Together: Synchronicity, Serendipity and the Baader-Meinhof Phenomena

Friday, May 14, 2021

"China's 1st Mars rover 'Zhurong' lands on the Red Planet"

 From Space.com:

China just successfully landed its first rover on Mars, becoming only the second nation to do so. 

The Tianwen-1 mission, China's first interplanetary endeavor, reached the surface of the Red Planet Friday (May 14) at approximately 7:11 p.m. EDT (2311 GMT), though Chinese space officials have not yet confirmed the exact time and location of touchdown. Tianwen-1 (which translates to "Heavenly Questions") arrived in Mars' orbit in February after launching to the Red Planet on a Long March 5 rocket in July 2020. 

After circling the Red Planet for more than three months, the Tianwen-1 lander, with the rover attached, separated from the orbiter to begin its plunge toward the planet's surface. Once the lander and rover entered Mars' atmosphere, the spacecraft endured a similar procedure to the "seven minutes of terror" that NASA's Mars rovers have experienced when attempting soft landings on Mars....

....MUCH MORE

It appears to be drawing a nine-dash-line in ever-widening circles around the landing area. 

Sorry, that's a lie. I was thinking about China's rather ridiculous South China Sea claim and wires got crossed:

https://i.insider.com/5784b23088e4a74e018b7549

At least The Philippines, Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam think it's ridiculous. 
China is dead serious.

"Revisionist Glaciology: Better Iceberg Illustrations Show Undersea Surprises"

 Ah hell. I saw "Revisionist Glaciology..." and thought I was in for another romp akin to 2016's:

Glaciers, gender, and science
A feminist glaciology framework for global environmental change research

Abstract

Glaciers are key icons of climate change and global environmental change. However, the relationships among gender, science, and glaciers – particularly related to epistemological questions about the production of glaciological knowledge – remain understudied. This paper thus proposes a feminist glaciology framework with four key components: 1) knowledge producers; (2) gendered science and knowledge; (3) systems of scientific domination; and (4) alternative representations of glaciers. Merging feminist postcolonial science studies and feminist political ecology, the feminist glaciology framework generates robust analysis of gender, power, and epistemologies in dynamic social-ecological systems, thereby leading to more just and equitable science and human-ice interactions.....

But no.

From 99% Invisible:

Everyone has seen renderings of icebergs with small hills on top and vast spikes protruding into the depths, appearing to embody common knowledge that 90% of an iceberg sits underwater. But as interested scientists are quick to point out: these iconic configurations don’t reflect the way huge chunks of ice actually float in the world’s oceans.

Typical but misleading illustration of an iceberg above and below the surface

When glaciologist and PhD student Megan Thompson-Munson posted a more realistic watercolor illustration of an iceberg, it stirred up a lot of attention, but that was just the tip of the proverbial…well, you know.....

....MUCH MORE, including catberg

While I am thinking of things intersectional here is a photo of one of the icebergs claimed to be the one whose path intersected that of the Titanic, taken by a 17 year old passenger on the rescue ship Carpathia:


U-140434.

First authentic photograph taken by Miss Bernice Palmer, who was on board the “Carpathia”, showing iceberg and icefield run into by the Titanic, which caused the greatest marine disaster.
First images of the icebergs and ice field on the morning of April 15th, 1912. Bernice saw debris and deck chairs floating in the ice field. She then realized the magnitude of the tragedy. (Bernice Palmer | Smithsonian)

On the back of this photograph, Bernice wrote:
“[The] Titanic struck a North Atlantic iceberg at 11:40 PM in the evening of 14 April 1912 at a speed of 20.5 knots (23.6 MPH). The berg scraped along the starboard or right side of the hull below the waterline, slicing op the hull between five of the adjacent watertight compartments. If only one or two of the compartments had been opened, Titanic might have stayed afloat, but when so many wer sliced open, the water-tight integrity of the entire forward section of the hull was fatally breached. Titanic slipped below the waves at 2:20 AM on 15 April. The Cunard Liner RMS Carpathia arrived at the scene around two hours after Titanic sank, finding only a few lifeboats and no survivors in the 28F degree water. Bernice Palmer took this picture of the iceberg identified as the one which sank Titanic, almost certainly identified by the survivors who climbed aboard Titanic. The large iceberg is surrounded by smaller ice floes, indicated how far north in the Atlantic Ocean the tragedy struck.”

There are a few other candidates that were photographed before and after the disaster.

"Expert: Italian Mafia has Mastered Complex Economic Schemes"

Credit default swaps? Maturity transformations? Let's see what these fellows are up to.

From the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project:

The Italian mafia is no longer just a violent gang running local rackets and smuggling drugs, but has mastered complex financial operations that can impact the country’s economy, experts said following a massive bust of money laundering operations run by several Italian mafia groups. 

In a massive sweep up earlier this month, authorities arrested more than 70 members of Italy’s ‘Ndrangheta and Camorra mafia groups, the Guardia Di Finanza announced in a statement.

The operation intended to uncover Italian organized crime’s infiltration into the mineral and gas sector, particularly the country’s so called ‘white pumps’ - unbranded stations that are common around the country.

“We saw how competent they really are, and the power they have to move the whole economy,” Sergio Nazzaro, an Italian writer and expert on the mafia told the OCCRP on Monday. “It’s not the usual few guys trying to scam some money, it’s something far more deep.”

The days when the mafia was more involved in street crimes and operating on local levels is long gone, Nazzaro said. “We know that when they need violence they will use it, but now they just need to control the economy.”

Almost every significant Italian mafia group was involved in some scheme involving the sector, together laundering more than US$200 million, according to the Guardia Di Finanza. 

One group the Italian authorities focused on was the Camorra’s Moccia clan, which operates in and around Naples and Rome.

The clan “is one of the most powerful and dangerous Camorra organizations on the national scene,” the Guardia Di Finanza said. The group is well known for its ability to infiltrate the legal economy, they said, and has embedded itself in the oil sector.

The group would largely use the oil business as a way to launder their funds gained from other illicit enterprises.

“For the collection of large cash sums deriving from fraud, the Moccia clan made use of a real parallel organization, autonomous, structured, and suitable for the recycling of their financial resources,” Guardia di Finanza said.

As for ‘Ndrangheta, Italy’s most powerful mafia group from the country’s Calabria region, authorities focused on the Mancuso clan which is at the center of the so-called maxi-trial currently underway in Italy. 

With more than 400 defendants, the trial is the largest since the historic maxi-trials of the 1980s and 90s which targeted the Sicilian Cosa Nostra.

Authorities uncovered two major fraud schemes run by the ‘Ndrangheta.

“Two fraud systems have been ascertained, concerning the oil & gas trade, which involved 12 companies, five fuel depots and 37 road distributors,” the statement said. “The fraud system consisted in the import, mostly from Eastern Europe, of artificial petroleum products (mixtures) and lubricating oils, subsequently marketed as diesel for transport, resulting in substantial gains due to the different level of taxation.”

In another scheme, the mafiosi mislabeled fuel for transport as agricultural fuel which has a subsidised tax rate....

....MORE

So no SPACs or PIPES yet. 

Their American brethren were doing blind pools and death-spiral convertibles back in the '90's while the Russian mafiya was all over the gasoline tax racket in the '80's, to the tune of billions, cash.

"The Technology Used To Protect Nord Stream 2 From Sabotage"

Be wary about this information. 

1) The source, as can be seen by recent posts, is very pro-Russian.

2) Some of the details of the pipeline's defenses are very difficult to verify.

On the other hand some of the things they highlight are in fairly widespread use though not spoken of all that much.

From StalkerZone, February 13, 2021:

Advanced monitoring systems, minesweepers, and unmanned mini-submarines

The hysteria surrounding the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline does not subside. While the Danish authorities name the final terms of construction, the US continues to put pressure on Europe, threatening heavy sanctions. Kiev adds fuel to the fire, which puts the frighteners on by citing the terrible economic consequences of stopping gas transit through Ukraine. Berlin has its own arguments. While the standoff is going on in the political plane, and no one can rule out a military option – for example, sabotage, we found out how Nord Stream 2 is protected.

“I believe that, in fact, there is little that can threaten Nord Stream 2,” says military expert Aleksey Leonkov. “Firstly, it is technically extremely difficult to commit sabotage, and even at the bottom of the sea. There is a need for special deep-sea underwater vehicles. And not all states have them.”

Therefore, even if a section of Nord Stream 2 is blown up, it will be clear that the sabotage is the work of state intelligence agencies. This can no longer be attributed to extremist terrorists. In addition, the statistics speak for themselves: So far, there has not been a single terrorist attack or deliberate bombing on underwater oil pipelines, gas pipelines or on the same communication cables in the Atlantic. The condition of such objects is constantly carefully monitored with the help of various technical means. As for the gas pipeline, this is a constant check of the pressure and the amount of gas flow in the pipe, at the exit from Russia and at the entrance to Europe.

“So no one will walk along the Nord Stream 2 pipe with automatic weapons and it is also not necessary to entangle it with a ‘thorn’,” the expert believes.

He was skeptical about the idea of using the situation around Nord Stream 2 as a pretext for increasing the military presence in the Baltic.

“What for? We have enough strength there. More potential of the Baltic Fleet will increase, if necessary, without any flows,” says Leonkov. “These are things in different planes, and they do not affect each other in any way.”

Nevertheless, the expert is convinced that the monitoring system should be fine-tuned to the smallest detail.

“Russia is responsible as a supplier. The contract clearly states how much we pump and with what pressure. If something happens, the gas line is instantly blocked, a repair team is formed, the accident site is determined, and with the help of, for example, special underwater welding or robotic manipulators, the malfunction is eliminated.”

At the same time, it is known that Russia also has special unmanned underwater vehicles that can be used as a monitoring tool. One of them is the “Galtel” robotic complex. A few years ago, this deep reconnaissance sapper had already been tested off the coast of Syria. It was busy searching for unexploded ordnance and guarding the waters off the port of Tartus. In parallel with this, “Galtel” helped to create the most detailed map of the depths.

“Galtel” navigates under water using special sonar navigation systems. The fact is that neither the Russian GLONASS nor the overseas GPS reaches the depths, so reference beacons are used, which set the coordinates of the movement of the underwater vehicle. But the sight of Galtel is much more important – it can make out even small camouflaged objects on the seabed – from a saboteur swimmer to a matchbox stuck in the silt....

....MORE

 

Farmland: "Bullish Land Price Outlook"

As goes the farmgate commodity basis, so goes the entire rural economy edifice, banking and finance, retail provisioners, land prices, the whole thing built upon the price of wheat. And corn. And soybeans. and cotton. And marijuana.

From DTN Progressive Farmer:

Ag Land Prices Remain Strong on High Demand, Rising Farm Income

There are many good reasons Chad Ratermann says he'll buy farmland, but the one that's always in the back of his mind has nothing to do with soil quality or field location. He's thinking about how to best give the family's next generation a leg up.

"I started thinking about that before I even had kids," says the dad of two. "I always wanted to make sure they had an opportunity to farm if they wanted it. Every morning I wake up planning on passing it down."

Ratermann, in his mid-40s, has a son and a daughter. His dad died when he was just 24, leaving him and his brothers, Darin and Craig, to grow up fast, taking what their dad left them as a start. From there, the brothers put a lot of hard work and determination into building Ratermann Brothers' Grain and Livestock, based at Bartelso, Illinois.

The diversified operation includes corn, soybean and wheat production, as well as hog finishing and cattle feeding businesses.

The three brothers are always looking for a chance to add good acreage to the mix, and in March 2021, they bought two tracts, totaling about 156 acres. The parcels were offered as part of a near-900-acre auction of farmland across Montgomery and St. Clair counties, through Indiana-based Schrader Real Estate and Auction Company. The average price for those tracts was $8,256 per acre, reflective of current prices in the area.

Ratermann liked the tracts because of their location and that they included good road frontage on two sides. The area is about an hour's drive from the base operation, but Ratermann says they are willing to look outside their immediate area when adding ground because heavy livestock use at their home base of operation drives land prices to the higher side.

"Overall, I'm looking for the right location, good soil types and I'm considering the way the land lays. Every area is different in terms of productivity, and I base price off of that," he says. Ratermann notes he looks for cropland that will give him corn yields of 185 to 200 bushels per acre (bpa), soybean yields of 60 to 75 bpa and wheat yields of 75 to 90 bpa.

Does Ratermann think land prices are too high? He says it's hard to put a number on where the land market should be or what makes sense. Even with higher commodity prices today, he doesn't believe most cropland actually cash-flows. But Ratermann says this isn't the only consideration when it comes to owning land.

"It's true that when we started buying land for the operation it was considerably cheaper, but so were commodity prices and yields," he points out. "I believe land is always a good investment, even with the ups and downs, especially if you're looking to hold it long term. That's the kind of buyer I am, long term. I'm looking not just to my future, but the future of the family for generations to come."

FARMER-BUYERS COMPETITIVE

Ratermann's story is not a new one to R.D. Schrader, head of Schrader Real Estate and Auction. He says even as land prices went north of the $10,000-per-acre mark, a majority of the buyers he saw, and continues to see, planned to farm the land and pass it on to future generations. Farmland is not as much of an investment sometimes as a means of building on a chosen way of life.....

....MUCH MORE

Also at DTN Progressive Farmer:

Landwatch

And more next week. In the meantime remember our oft-stated premise:

Farmland is worth it's discounted cashflow. Period.
It may sell for more but at some point it returns to trend. It can correct either in price or in time.

Trouble In Repo Land—The QE Endgame: A Big Problem Is Emerging For The Fed

There is barely enough collateral in the repo market right now to cover all of the cash being invested. 

From ZeroHedge:

For the second time in three weeks, the US Treasury sold $40BN in 4-week bills at a price of 100.000% representing a rate of 0.00%.

To be sure, Bills had printed at 0.000% at auction previously, but that was largely during the reserve glut days of 2015.

So why now? The same reason usage of the Fed's Reverse Repo facility has soared in recent weeks from zero to over $100 billion at the end of April, hitting a whopping $235 billion today...

...as investors choose to directly transact with the Fed - where only positive rates are allowed - rather than the open market where collateral rates have frequently been negative in recent weeks as Curvature's Scott Skyrm explained in this note from April 26:

Overnight rates are low. Too low by all normal standards. The fed funds rate is well below the mid-point of the fed funds target range and the Repo GC rate is at zero; often trading negative. Zero percent interest rates are forcing billions of dollars of cash into the Fed's RRP facility.

While this This is a delightful case of deja vu irony - the Fed is taking Treasurys out of the market through QE purchases and putting them right back in via the RRP - it is also distorting the Repo market, and although the Fed can fix this aberration by hiking the IOER or RRP rates, it has so far refused to do so. 

But the ongoing surge in reverse repo usage masks a far bigger problem in store for the Fed, and it's why Curvature's Skyrm writes that "now is a pretty good time to start talking about the size of the SOMA portfolio, even if some people don’t want to talk about it."

Why is the surge in reverse repo linked to tapering? Skyrm explains, by posting a rhetorical question:

"What are the next steps for tapering purchases and what will the SOMA portfolio look like when we're done? What will the market look like?"

The repo strategist then reminds us that even when the Fed starts tapering, the Fed balance sheet will continue to grow indefinitely, if at a slower pace, flooding the system with the same reserves that are now desperate to buy Bills at 0.000% or be parked at the Fed (for 0.000%).

Talk of tapering feels like when you're getting ready for a dinner out. You're ready and it's time to go. You check on your spouse and they haven't even started getting ready yet! As of last week, the SOMA portfolio stood at $7.185 trillion and the Fed continues purchases at $120 billion a month. If and when tapering starts, the purchases won't go from $120 billion to zero in one announcement. The purchases will gradually slow - going from $120 billion, to maybe $100 billion, to maybe $80 billion, to $50 billion, to $20 billion....

....MORE

"Mind the (rate expectation) gap"

Unless the Fed engages in some form of financial repression long rates will continue to rise, followed by short rates as the Fed sloooowly steps on the brakes.

From Blackrock, May 10:

A disconnect
Markets are still grappling with the Federal Reserve’s new framework, leading to a disconnect between market pricing and the Fed’s projections for rates.
https://www.blackrock.com/blk-one-assets/cache-1620640569000/images/media-bin/web/global/insights/weekly-commentary/chart-of-the-week-expectations-for-US-policy-interest-rates.webp
Forward looking estimates may not come to pass. Sources: BlackRock Investment Institute, Federal Reserve and Federal Reserve Bank of New York, with data from Refinitiv Datastream, May 2021. Notes: The chart shows expectations for the federal funds rate, the Fed’s policy target. Market pricing is based on futures on the U.S. dollar Secured Overnight Financing Rate. We use the median forecast in the March 2021 Survey of Market Participants by the New York Fed. The BII assumption is part of our economic projections in our capital market assumptions. The Fed median dot plot comes from the January 2021 Summary of Economic Projections.
Markets are pricing in a liftoff from near-zero policy rates as early as next year, even though the Fed through its new framework has committed to stay behind the curve on inflation. We caution against extrapolating too much from strong near-term activity data amid a powerful restart. We see a high bar for the Fed to change its policy stance and believe this may be underappreciated by markets.

The Fed has reiterated its intention to stay behind the curve on inflation under its new framework that implies inflation overshoots to make up for past misses. Yet this has been met with some skepticism in markets, against the backdrop of a powerful economic restart. Current market pricing and consensus expectations suggest the federal funds rate, the Fed’s policy rate, would start rising much sooner than Fed officials’ own projections would indicate. See the chart above. We see two reasons for this disconnect. First, investors may be over-extrapolating from near-term growth data amid the powerful economic restart. We view the Covid shock as more akin to a natural disaster followed by a rapid “restart” – instead of a traditional business cycle recession followed by a “recovery.” That implies the huge near-term growth spurt will be transitory. And second, we believe many are still wedded to the central bank’s old policy framework, and may underestimate the central bank’s commitment to push inflation above target.

Market chatter about a potential tapering of the Fed’s asset purchases has gotten louder, yet we don’t see the Fed discussing this imminently. Tapering is the first step towards normalization of Fed policy, but even a discussion later this year does not mean the liftoff is close. There is a risk the discussion could trigger market volatility or be miscommunicated by the Fed. We believe investors should look through any such bouts of volatility, as our new nominal theme implies that the Fed will likely be much slower than in the past to raise rates in the face of rising inflation.

Inflation – not the near-term growth outlook – is key to the Fed’s rate outlook under the new framework, in our view. We believe two important developments would need to take place before the Fed considers a liftoff. First, the realized core personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index, the Fed’s preferred inflation gauge, should stay at or around the Fed’s 2% target for a sustained period of time. The current inflation overshoot doesn’t meet the bar as the Fed views it as driven by transient factors. We also see uncertainties around the near-term persistence of the overshoot as the restart has led to unusual supply and demand dynamics. This is why we have recently closed our overweight in inflation-linked bonds over the tactical horizon. Second, the Fed’s inflation forecast would need to rise from current levels and point to a prolonged period of moderately above-target inflation. What could potentially pull forward the Fed’s timetable for a liftoff? An upward spiral in prices and wages set in motion by behavior of individuals and firms could be one driver, in our view....

International Energy Agency: "Clean energy demand for critical minerals set to soar as the world pursues net zero goals"

I am getting the same vibe I get when talking with a very clever rhetorician or playing chess with someone much better than I, that somehow my options are being circumscribed, in ways and for purposes that I don't quite understand.

From the IEA, May 5:

PRESS RELEASE

In the most comprehensive global study yet, IEA shows need for government action to ensure reliable, sustainable supplies of elements vital for EVs, power grids, wind turbines and other key technologies

Supplies of critical minerals essential for key clean energy technologies like electric vehicles and wind turbines need to pick up sharply over the coming decades to meet the world’s climate goals, creating potential energy security hazards that governments must act now to address, according to a new report by the International Energy Agency. 

The special report, The Role of Critical Minerals in Clean Energy Transitions, is the most comprehensive global study to date on the central importance of minerals such as copper, lithium, nickel, cobalt and rare earth elements in a secure and rapid transformation of the global energy sector. Building on the IEA’s longstanding leadership role in energy security, the report recommends six key areas of action for policy makers to ensure that critical minerals enable an accelerated transition to clean energy rather than becoming a bottleneck.

“Today, the data shows a looming mismatch between the world’s strengthened climate ambitions and the availability of critical minerals that are essential to realising those ambitions,” said Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the IEA. “The challenges are not insurmountable, but governments must give clear signals about how they plan to turn their climate pledges into action. By acting now and acting together, they can significantly reduce the risks of price volatility and supply disruptions.”

“Left unaddressed, these potential vulnerabilities could make global progress towards a clean energy future slower and more costly – and therefore hamper international efforts to tackle climate change,” Dr Birol said. “This is what energy security looks like in the 21st century, and the IEA is fully committed to helping governments ensure that these hazards don’t derail the global drive to accelerate energy transitions.”

The special report, part of the IEA’s flagship World Energy Outlook series, underscores that the mineral requirements of an energy system powered by clean energy technologies differ profoundly from one that runs on fossil fuels. A typical electric car requires six times the mineral inputs of a conventional car, and an onshore wind plant requires nine times more mineral resources than a similarly sized gas-fired power plant.

Demand outlooks and supply vulnerabilities vary widely by mineral, but the energy sector’s overall needs for critical minerals could increase by as much as six times by 2040, depending on how rapidly governments act to reduce emissions. Not only is this a massive increase in absolute terms, but as the costs of technologies fall, mineral inputs will account for an increasingly important part of the value of key components, making their overall costs more vulnerable to potential mineral price swings.

The commercial importance of these minerals also grow rapidly: today’s revenue from coal production is ten times larger than from energy transition minerals. However, in climate-driven scenarios, these positions are reversed well before 2040.

To produce the report, the IEA built on its detailed, technology-rich energy modelling tools to establish a unique database showing future mineral requirements under varying scenarios that span a range of levels of climate action and 11 different technology evolution pathways. In climate-driven scenarios, mineral demand for use in batteries for electric vehicles and grid storage is a major force, growing at least thirty times to 2040. The rise of low-carbon power generation to meet climate goals also means a tripling of mineral demand from this sector by 2040. Wind takes the lead, bolstered by material-intensive offshore wind. Solar PV follows closely, due to the sheer volume of capacity that is added. The expansion of electricity networks also requires a huge amount of copper and aluminium.

Unlike oil – a commodity produced around the world and traded in liquid markets – production and processing of many minerals such as lithium, cobalt and some rare earth elements are highly concentrated in a handful of countries, with the top three producers accounting for more than 75% of supplies. Complex and sometimes opaque supply chains also increase the risks that could arise from physical disruptions, trade restrictions or other developments in major producing countries. In addition, while there is no shortage of resources, the quality of available deposits is declining as the most immediately accessible resources are exploited. Producers also face the necessity of stricter environmental and social standards.

The IEA report provides six key recommendations for policy makers to foster stable supplies of critical minerals to support accelerated clean energy transitions. These include the need for governments to lay out their long-term commitments for emission reductions, which would provide the confidence needed for suppliers to invest in and expand mineral production. Governments should also promote technological advances, scale up recycling to relieve pressure on primary supplies, maintain high environmental and social standards, and strengthen international collaboration between producers and consumers....

....MORE (video)

Report extract
Executive summary 

The report (287 page PDF):

The Role of CriticalWorld Energy Outlook Special Report
Minerals in Clean Energy Transitions

Capital Markets: "Softer Yields = Softer Dollar "

 From Marc to Market:

Overview: The surge in consumer prices reported on Wednesday saw rates jump and the dollar push higher. Stronger than expected producer prices yesterday, and news of wage increases (average 10%) at Mcdonalds and for 75,000 people Amazon wants to hire, saw rates ease and the dollar's upside momentum stall. Before the week draws to a close, the US reports April retail sales and industrial production figures. US stocks recovered smartly from the stomach-clenching sell-off on Wednesday, which helped lift sentiment in Asia and Europe. The largest markets in the Asia Pacific advanced mostly 1%-2.3%. New social restrictions in Singapore as the contagion reached a 10-month high saw the Strait Times Index drop 2.5%. Europe's Dow Jones Stoxx 600 recovered yesterday, though finished off less than 0.2%, and helped by stronger gains in consumer staples and financials, is posting modest gains today. US future indices are trading broadly higher. The US 10-year yield briefly poked above 1.70% yesterday for the first time in a month but pulled back to around 1.64% now, shrugging off a lukewarm 30-year bond auction (despite higher rate, low bid coverage). The softer US yields were are doing little to European benchmark 10-year yields, which are extending yesterday's push to the year's highs. As go US interest rates, so goes the dollar. After rallying on Wednesday, its gains were pared against most of the major currencies and remains under modest pressure today, with the Norwegian krone leading the way (~+0.85%), while sterling, yen, and the Australian dollar lagging (~+0.1%). On the week, only sterling is higher (~+0.50%), while the Antipodeans and Scandis led the decline (~-0.8% to -1.3%). Emerging market currencies are also trading higher today, led by eastern and central European currencies. After falling in the first half of the week, the JP Morgan Emerging Market Currency Index is extending yesterday's minor gains and for the week is off about 0.65%, after gaining nearly 1.8% last week. Gold is extending its recovery after dipping below $1810 yesterday and is near $1833 near midday in Europe. Crude oil prices are stabilizing in yesterday's trough after June WTI slid 4.3% yesterday. Near $64.50 a barrel, it is off a little less than $0.50 this week.

Asia Pacific
China's Premier Li Keqiang called for measures to address the surge in commodity prices yesterday, and the market took it to heart.
The materials sector underperformed in the Chinese equity rally today. Iron ore prices, for example, had risen by nearly 18% in the five sessions through Wednesday. Prices for the September futures contract fell by nearly 3.6% yesterday and another 6.4% today. Copper prices are off for the third consecutive session today. It is off 2% this week after a five-week, 19.5% rally. Steel rebar futures had rallied nearly 12% in the five sessions through the middle of the week, and the cumulative decline between yesterday and today is around 5.5%. The resumption of US pipelines that was hacked and indications that some 700 barges on the Mississippi held up by cracks in a highway bridge may able to continue their journey over the weekend also contributed to the 2.4% decline in the CRB index, its largest fall in nearly two months, and will likely snap a five-week advance of nearly 11%....

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Jeff Bezos buys $500M superyacht amid luxury industry boom

He also sold $6.7 billion worth of AMZN, That is so much money that it would take 335 demi-billionaires, each buying $20 million worth, to balance.

Liquidity is good.

From the New York Post:

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos will reportedly soon take delivery of a $500 million mega-yacht — proof that the niche industry for billionaires is in its prime.

The world’s richest man — currently worth $191 billion — is expected to soon get his project Y721 yacht, which is due to be finished next month, years after he ordered it, according to Bloomberg Wealth.

While details are mostly being kept under wraps, the vessel will be 417 feet long, span several decks and have three huge masts — and even have its own support yacht with a helipad, according to the outlet....

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The yacht has a yacht.

NN Taleb: "If You Can Afford An Excellent Lawyer You Will Do Well In Life"

Well that was weird.

But as someone smarter than me points out (at 1:45):

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Ummm, Hi, I Regret To Inform You That Mr. Climateer Will Not Be Posting For A While

After an outburst railing against the "three letter agencies" his offices and home and "bunker" were raided, tonnes of electronic communications equipment impounded and some very troubling website visits were documented, despite futile evasive techniques being employed, VPN's, encryption algos with 4096 bit keys, etc., possession of which is in itself evidence of guilt of some sort.

Among the websites visited was the innocuously named "Centre for Applied Eschatology", or the CAE.

It is only on further investigation that one discovers:

The Centre for Applied Eschatology is a transdisciplinary research center dedicated to ending the world. We connect professionals from the public sector, private industry, and academia to develop new knowledge and apply existing research to curtail the world’s long-term future.

They continue:
Facing big picture challenges with pragmatic solutions
CAE pursues applied and transdisciplinary research into several areas of catastrophic and existential risk, focusing on those most likely to produce rapid and broad-based impact.

Until Climateer's role in this nefarious enterprise is clarified he will be in, ah, protective detention. 

As a side-note, Parents, don't let your babies grow up to be risk managers.

"Thyssenkrupp considers IPO or SPAC for hydrogen business - CEO"

 From Reuters via Nasdaq, May 11:

Thyssenkrupp TKAG.DE is considering an initial public offering (IPO) or a deal with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) for its hydrogen business, Chief Executive Martina Merz said on Tuesday.

A 66-34 joint venture of Thyssenkrupp and Italy's De Nora IPO-DENR.MI, Thyssenkrupp Uhde Chlorine Engineers (TKUCE) is the world's largest supplier of chlor-alkali membrane technologies used to produce hydrogen.

In a call with analysts, Merz said Thyssenkrupp has hired an investment bank to explore strategic options for the business and to come up with proposals by the summer.

Two people familiar with the matter said the bank was Citi C.N. Citi declined to comment.

"The main objective behind it is to fund further growth in this business. So we would want to dedicate the potential funds into growth. And that can, of course, mean also to find partners in order to grow," Merz said....

....MUCH MORE

"Chemical distributor pays $4.4 million to DarkSide ransomware"

 From Bleeping Computer:

Chemical distribution company Brenntag paid a $4.4 million ransom in Bitcoin to the DarkSide ransomware gang to receive a decryptor for encrypted files and prevent the threat actors from publicly leaking stolen data.

Brenntag is a world-leading chemical distribution company headquartered in Germany but with over 17,000 employees worldwide at over 670 sites.

According to the ICS Top 100 Chemical Distributors report, Brenntag is the second largest in sales for North America.

Brenntag confirms cyberattack

At the beginning of May, Brenntag suffered a ransomware attack that targeted their North America division. As part of this attack, the threat actors encrypted devices on the network and stole unencrypted files.

From the information shared with BleepingComputer by an anonymous source, the DarkSide ransomware group claimed to have stolen 150GB of data during their attack.

To prove their claims, the ransomware gang created a private data leak page containing a description of the types of data that were stolen and screenshots of some of the files....

....MUCH MORE

I have a partial answer to the query posed in the intro to yesterday's "Meanwhile, At Colonial Pipeline: Job Opening, Manager Cyber Security":

I would like to know where the FBI, the NSA and the Department of Homeland Security were as this hack was happening.

It is their job to protect critical infrastructure. Throw in DOE's security peeps and the Department of Transportation while we are at it.

Seriously, what do these people do all day?

From VICE, May 13:
Pentagon Surveilling Americans Without a Warrant, Senator Reveals
A letter obtained by Motherboard discusses internet browsing, location, and other forms of data.

The Pentagon is carrying out warrantless surveillance of Americans, according to a new letter written by Senator Ron Wyden and obtained by Motherboard.

Senator Wyden's office asked the Department of Defense (DoD), which includes various military and intelligence agencies such as the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), for detailed information about its data purchasing practices after Motherboard revealed special forces were buying location data. The responses also touched on military or intelligence use of internet browsing and other types of data, and prompted Wyden to demand more answers specifically about warrantless spying on American citizens....

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Got it. Can't protect critical infrastructure but can do warrentless spying. 

Robotics Roundup: Where The Action Is

A TechCrunch Feature article, May 13:

The fulfilling world of warehouse robotics
Robotics Roundup: A year and a half into the pandemic, warehouses and factories have made the biggest automation gains

With the pandemic finish line in sight — at least for some — now is a good time to start assessing which segments have been most impacted by the events of the past year and a half. In terms of robotics, investments have been all over the place — and for good reasons. COVID-19 seems destined to have a profound and lasting impact on work, and more than ever, robots and automation are going to play a part in that.

Food has been a big target. Manufacturing and health, as well — all for pretty clear reasons. When we come out of this, however, we may end up seeing that the most immediate and profound impact was on warehouse and fulfillment. Not that it needed much help, but online retail had a huge moment — led, naturally, by Amazon.

As the company butted heads with workers and union organizers at one fulfillment center in Alabama, the company has been readying additional fulfillment centers. Shreveport, Louisiana is the latest, with Governor John Bel Edwards referring to the new warehouse as a “robotics fulfillment center.”

As with all of these, that means a combination of humans and robots. There are, of course, questions with regard to what the balance will be, going forward. And, of course, it’s no surprise that pro-union Amazon workers frequently cited being treated like a robot among their biggest workplace concerns.

Attempting to stay afloat in the world of Amazon is a big part of why so many warehouses are particularly interested in robotics at the moment. After all, the tech has not only given the retailer a competitive advantage, it’s helped keep them running amid a global pandemic.

Berkshire Grey has been one of the bigger players in the category, thanks in no small part to some massive raises. To date, the Boston-area company has raised $263 million, before announcing a SPAC last year. Today, it announced that it’s using some of that money to further expand into markets including Canada and Japan....

....MUCH MORE

Very related:

May 9
Big Expansion In Productivity Means Fewer Jobs For Workers To Come Back To

Consumer Price Index: "I’m Trying To Understand Hedonic Adjustments"

 Commended to our attention by Jemima Kelly via FT Alphaville's Further Reading post.

From Epsilon Theory, May 10 (i.e. pre-CPI reporr):

Brent Donnelly is a senior risk-taker and FX market maker at HSBC New York and has been trading foreign exchange since 1995. He is the author of The Art of Currency Trading (Wiley, 2019) and his latest book, Alpha Trader, hits the shelves in Q2 2021.

You can contact Brent at brent.x.donnelly@us.hsbc.com and on Twitter at @donnelly_brent.

As with all of our guest contributors, Brent’s post may not represent the views of Epsilon Theory or Second Foundation Partners, and should not be construed as advice to purchase or sell any security.


With the intense sturm und drang around inflation right now, expect the next six months to yield intense hand-wringing and chin scratching over CPI, PCE and … hedonic quality adjustment. Quite often when people go to Twitter to rail about CPI, they say something like “Man, my cost of living doesn’t look like that! My tuition and health care costs are skyrocketing!” Savvy statisticians then respond with a flurry of charts that look like the one at right and say “the plural of anecdote is not data” or something similar.

So all those rising prices are being offset by all those falling prices and people are just noticing the prices that go up, right? Nope. The source of the data on that chart is the BLS, the U.S. organization charged with preparing the CPI data. The data has been sliced and diced like crazy.

The CPI index is not a cost of living measure! It is a hedonically-adjusted basket of assumptions that attempts to track some sort of cost vs. quality / total-utility metric over time. So what exactly is hedonic quality adjustment? Let’s ask the BLS:

Hedonic quality adjustment is one of the techniques the CPI uses to account for changing product quality within some CPI item samples. Hedonic quality adjustment refers to a method of adjusting prices whenever the characteristics of the products included in the CPI change due to innovation or the introduction of completely new products.

The use of the word “hedonic” to describe this technique stems from the word’s Greek origin meaning “of or related to pleasure.” Economists approximate pleasure to the idea of utility – a measure of relative satisfaction from consumption of goods. In price index methodology, hedonic quality adjustment has come to mean the practice of decomposing an item into its constituent characteristics, obtaining estimates of the value of the utility derived from each characteristic, and using those value estimates to adjust prices when the quality of a good changes.

The CPI obtains the value estimates used to adjust prices through the statistical technique known as regression analysis. Hedonic regression models are estimated to determine the value of the utility derived from each of the characteristics that jointly constitute an item.

There is a significant degree of modelling and massaging going on. The BLS dances around the CPI as cost of living measure question here (see question #9) and the media often inaccurately describe CPI data as changes in cost of living. This leads to a situation where people see prices ripping higher and CPI at 2.0% and it makes them want to yell at CPI.

Since I always think of TVs and cars as goods that have seen flat or falling prices over the years, I decided to have a quick peek at the real life vs. BLS-imagined price movements in the world of new vehicles. I made the arbitrary and grossly simplifying decision to use the Honda Accord and the Ford Mustang as my cars because they have been popular for more than 30 years, there is plenty of historical pricing data, and their target demographics and brand image haven’t changed much over time....

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Meanwhile In Chicago: Release The Feral Cats!!

Via the Twitter feed of Chicago Party Aunt:

Drought Monitor: "USDA approves drought counties for emergency loans"

We'll be back with the drought maps from the University of Nebraska - Lincoln but first from Successful Farming:

In a two-day burst, the USDA designated 372 counties, roughly one of every seven counties in the country, from Texas and Kansas to California and Hawaii, as natural disaster areas due to persistent drought. At the same time, Gov. Gavin Newsom expanded California’s drought emergency to 41 counties, including parts of the agricultural Central Valley.

More than 46% of the country, mostly in the West, is in drought – an unusually large portion, according to USDA meteorologist Brad Rippey. “There have been only four times in the history of the Drought Monitor that we have seen more than 40% U.S. drought coverage as we come into early May,” Rippey told Iowa radio station KMA.

The natural disaster designations make farmers and ranchers eligible for USDA emergency loans, for needs such as replacement of equipment and livestock or financial reorganization. Almost every county in Arizona, Colorado, California, New Mexico, Nevada, and Wyoming was declared a primary disaster area by USDA. Counties in six other states also were declared primary disaster areas. Producers in adjoining counties also are eligible.

To qualify for an emergency loan, producers generally must suffer crop losses of at least 30% or a loss of livestock or other property, according to a USDA fact sheet. Borrowers usually are required to buy crop insurance. The maximum loan is $500,000....

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What Might Temper Rising Prices? "China's cabinet says it will cope effectively with fast rise in commodity prices"

 That's not as easy as it sounds, see second story.

Via Channel News Asia, May 12:

China will monitor changes in overseas and domestic markets, and effectively cope with fast increase in commodity prices and its related impact, the state council said on Wednesday.

BEIJING: China will monitor changes in overseas and domestic markets and effectively cope with a fast increase in commodity prices, the state council said on Wednesday.

China will step up coordination between monetary policy and other policies to maintain stable economic operations, the cabinet also said, as reported by state television.

Prices for commodities such as copper, coal and steelmaking raw material iron ore extended recent rallies to hit all-time highs this week on concerns a post-coronavirus pandemic demand rebound in China is outpacing supply.

China is the world's biggest market for copper, coal and iron ore and consumers face much higher costs as some analysts expect a commodities "super-cycle".

The cabinet did not say how it would cope with the rise in commodity prices.

China will support the issuance of 300 billion yuan (US$46.6 billion) special bonds for smaller firms, the cabinet said....

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And from Bloomberg the day before:

It Might Be Harder Than China Thinks to Control Commodity Surge

A scorching rally in industrial commodities has spurred China to try and temper prices, though the impact may prove fleeting as the global boom in demand for raw materials is set to drive markets to new highs.

Iron ore futures kicked the week off with a surge by the daily limit to a record, though prices eased Tuesday after the Dalian Commodity Exchange raised trading limits and margin requirements and pledged to strengthen market supervision. Steel in Shanghai and coal in Zhengzhou rose after the bourses said they will increase trading fees.

Core to the commodities boom -- and debate about whether it’s a new supercycle -- is its global scope, as prices climb almost everywhere on a broad economic recovery and vast stimulus programs. With consumption being driven by a swath of markets beyond its borders, it also means Chinese authorities are likely to be tested in how effectively they can rein in surging costs that sparked the fastest rise in producer prices since October 2017.

Iron ore in Dalian dropped 1.5% to 1,306.5 yuan a ton on Tuesday, while benchmark futures in Singapore fell 0.8% to $220.60 a ton. Chinese hot-rolled coil climbed 3.2%, rebar added 1.2% and thermal coal rose 0.9%.

“Dalian’s announcement is probably effective in the very short term to curb the swings in prices and immediate inflation worries, as the market tries to keep its discipline amid a runaway market,” said Howie Lee, an economist at Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. “Until we get a proper balancing of global iron ore demand-supply mechanics, it looks like the path of least resistance for the ferrous market is still upward.”

China has spent massively to generate a recovery that has led the world. At the same time, it has imposed supply constraints on metals like steel and aluminum to curb emissions as part of President Xi Jinping’s commitment to deliver a carbon neutral economy by 2060. And it has cut supplies of coal and other commodities like copper from major supplier Australia as relations between the two nations have deteriorated.

Iron ore has been one of the standout beneficiaries of China’s moves reduce pollution. Concerns that the country may expand steel production curbs is fueling a boom in output, increasing demand for iron ore, while robust alloy prices has enabled mills to better accommodate higher input costs.

The government now faces a policy dilemma because it is the author of many of the concerns around inflation, with commodities price gains driven to a large degree by Beijing’s economic growth, carbon and import policies.

Curbing Speculation

If restrictions by exchanges fail to have a lasting effect, other tools to control prices are available to Beijing. Those include the bluntest of instruments that would have far reaching consequences on other markets, like withdrawing liquidity from the financial system or rolling back fiscal stimulus. More precise measures for individual commodities, such as inducing additional supply or releasing strategic stockpiles, are also likely to be weighed by policy makers.

For iron ore in particular, the escalating row with Australia is driving sentiment after China announced last week that it was suspending a forum for economic dialog, putting relations with Canberra further into deep-freeze.....

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What Might Temper Rising Prices: Yesterday's World Agricultural Supply Demand Estimate (WASDE)

From DTN Progressive Farmer:

5/12/2021 | 3:32 PM CDT
USDA Reports Review
New-Crop December Corn Falters on Bearish WASDE; Soybeans Maintain Strong Gains

While the May USDA World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report featured little earth-shattering news for soybeans, it was new-crop December corn futures that reacted in a dramatically bearish fashion after new-crop stocks and demand estimates were more bearish than traders had anticipated. Overall, the crop report was fairly neutral for soybeans and bearish for both wheat and corn.

CORN

Corn ending stocks for the current 2020-21 crop year were dropped by 95 million bushels (mb) to 1.257 billion bushels (bb), about as expected. Old-crop corn exports were increased by 100 mb to 2.775 bb. The surprise came in the new-crop slot. Using the same acreage as in March planting intentions and a yield of 179.5 bushels per acre (bpa), corn production is estimated at 14.990 bb. That was just slightly below the average trade estimate of 15.07 bb and up 808 mb from last year. Inexplicably, USDA chose to drop U.S. corn exports by 325 mb from the revised old-crop number to just 2.450 bb. That comes despite the rapid decline of the Brazilian safrinha corn crop due to expanding drought. Ethanol usage was raised by 225 mb as the country recovers from COVID-19, but the fall in demand resulted in a new-crop carryout of 1.507 bb, or 153 mb higher than what was expected. The average farm price is projected to be $5.70 versus $4.35 this past year.

Globally, as mentioned, the Brazilian corn crop is wilting under current hot and dry conditions, and USDA chose to drop Brazilian corn production by 7 million metric tons (mmt) to 102 mmt (4.02 bb). That is still higher than most private analysts, leading traders to scratch their heads about dropping U.S. corn export demand in light of Brazil's reduced supplies and China's voracious appetite. Argentine corn production was left untouched at 47 mmt (1.85 bb). China corn imports were raised to 26 mmt for the 2020-21 year and kept at that same 26 mmt for 2021-22, further solidifying the demand base. World corn ending stocks rose by 8.8 mmt to a higher-than-expected 292.3 mmt (11.5 bb), with Argentine corn forecast 4 mmt higher at 51 mmt and Brazilian corn production forecast to be 16 mmt higher at 118 mmt (4.65 bb) -- all speculation at this point. 

The WASDE report was considered bearish for corn, but it is new-crop December that's absorbing much of the selling. No doubt part of the reason is that, following the meteoric rise in corn prices, it is expected that ultimate corn acreage could be well above the March seeding intentions....

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Here's the USDA WASDE page but the DTN Progressive Farmer commentary is some of the best out there.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Remember Facebook's Zuck Buck (AKA Libra)? It Appears To Be Moving Toward Launch

 From PYMNTS.com:

Silvergate Bank To Issue Facebook-Backed Diem’s Stablecoin

The Diem Association, a nonprofit with strong ties to Facebook, has moved its main operations to the United States from Switzerland, according to a press release.

Diem, which grew from Facebook’s controversial Libra digital currency effort and is run by 26 members, also said in the release that a wholly owned subsidiary, Diem Networks U.S., and Silvergate Capital Corp., have entered into an arrangement through which Silvergate Bank will exclusively issue the Diem U.S. dollar-denominated stablecoin.

Stablecoins are cryptocoins whose value is pegged to an asset other than the coin itself, often a fiat currency such as the U.S. dollar whose value remains relatively constant, or an asset such as gold.

Diem Networks U.S. will run the Diem Payment Network, according to the release. The network handles the transfer of Diem stablecoins....

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The Financial Times were keeping tabs on progress.

It's That Kaminska Woman (+J. Kelly) "Facebook Disputes FT’s Claim that Libra is ‘Not a Proper Blockchain’" (FB)

While I was looking for memes:  

"Report: Facebook will launch “GlobalCoin” cryptocurrency in 2020" (FB)

https://thefinanser.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Mark_Zuckerberg_spying_not_your_dad.png 

 Libra Cryptocurrency: "And That's Why I Trust Facebook With My Money"

"China census reveals the true scale of the Northeast’s decline"

From Andrew Batson's blog:

China’s northeastern rust belt, dominated by state industry and comparatively isolated from global trade, has been in relative economic decline for decades. Hardly any younger friends who had grown up in the Northeast still lived there. But a few years ago, after the industrial recession of 2014-15, a lot of anecdotal information suggested that decline had entered a new and more aggressive phase.

Stories about empty neighborhoods and abandoned schools were more widespread. Local journalists documented shrinking cities throughout the Northeast. Some cities indeed reported declining population numbers, but others just stopped publishing population figures altogether. I wrote a blog post entitled “China’s Northeastern Rust Belt is headed for demographic crisis” in 2016. Yet the official population figures from those years did not really show a crisis: the population of the three Northeastern provinces–Liaoning, Jilin, Heilongjiang–declined by only 1.1 million people from 2010 to 2019. That’s still a pretty poor showing for a period when the population of the nation as a whole was still growing, but not a massive change in the trend.

The 2020 population census has revealed, however, that those numbers were completely wrong. According to the results, the three northeastern provinces have actually seen their combined population decline by 11 million people, or roughly 10%, since the 2010 census. The chart below shows the difference between the population numbers that have been published annually for the previous decade, and the trend implied by the 2020 census. The dotted lines are a simple linear extrapolations between the 2010 and 2020 census data points, so they assume the population decline began in 2010. If instead more of the population decline happened after 2014-15, which seems plausible, then the downward slope of the lines would be even steeper. In either case, population trends have clearly changed dramatically over the past decade.


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Previously:

"China’s ailing rust belt struggles to shake off reliance on state support"
I admit it, I have a weird fascination with the city of Harbin.
Partly, it's because Harbin is the largest cold city in the world.
Note—Moscow is more populous and has been colder but Harbin on average is the place to go if you want to freeze with 10 million other folks in January.....MUCH MORE

https://cdn1.i-scmp.com/sites/default/files/images/methode/2018/08/30/0d558b8c-ac3f-11e8-8796-d12ba807e6e9_image_hires_231316.jpg


Don't say I never gave you anything.
 
And from Mr. Batson a few years ago:
 
Additionally from Andrew Batson's blog: 
 

Meanwhile, At Colonial Pipeline: Job Opening, Manager Cyber Security

I would like to know where the FBI, the NSA and the Department of Homeland Security were as this hack was happening.

It is their job to protect critical infrastructure. Throw in DOE's security peeps and the Department of Transportation while we are at it.

Seriously, what do these people do all day?

From the New York Times' Eric Lipton:

No word on whether that is a suddenly opened position or if it's been vacant for a while.

"Chick-fil-A Plans to Limit Sauces to Customers Due to Shortage"

Via NBC Chicago:

The company said they are working to "solve this issue quickly" 

New limits are being placed on the number of free sauces Chick-fil-A customers can get with each order due to supply chain issues.

According to an email obtained by WTRF, the new restrictions limit customers to one sauce per entrée, two sauces per meal and three sauces per 30-count nuggets.

A Chick-fil-A spokesperson told TODAY Food that the change is due to supply chain disruptions, which have led to shortages of goods, ranging from refrigerators to pepperoni, during the coronavirus pandemic. A similar statement was also posted on the Chick-fil-A website.

"Due to industry wide supply chain disruptions, some Chick-fil-A restaurants are experiencing a shortage of select items, like sauces," said the spokesperson via email. "We are actively working to make adjustments to solve this issue quickly and apologize to our Guests for any inconvenience."

On Reddit, one user shared an image that appears to be instructions for Chick-fil-A staff about how to handle the shortages, emphasizing that the limit on sauces is per meal, not per customer. Staff members are instructed to specifically ask customers how many sauces they would like to have, and if a customer wants more sauces than allowed under the new limits, staff are to offer to sell them an 8-ounce bottle of their sauce of choice....

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Completely unrelated:
Frances Fox-Piven: “We Should Be Prepared for Incredible Waves of Mass Protest”

And In More Cheerful News: "Deaths Of 550,000 Confirm Which Mushrooms Are Okay To Eat"

https://i.kinja-img.com/gawker-media/image/upload/c_fit,f_auto,g_center,pg_1,q_60,w_965/xmnduq1nujwiixrnxufi.jpg

 The story is at AFNS.

As the philosopher said "We're all just passing through"