Tuesday, December 31, 2019

"Washington Post Denies Claim New Estrogen-Packed 'Impossible Whopper' Will Make Men Grow Breasts"

See, no man-boobs, no annus horribilis.
Lifted in toto from ZeroHedge:
The Washington Post published an entire article denying a claim by a veterinarian that Burger King’s new estrogen-packed vegan ‘Impossible Whopper’ could make men grow breasts if they eat too many.

According to James Stangle, a doctor of veterinary medicine in South Dakota, the soy-based Impossible Whopper contains 18 million times more estrogen than the original beef Whopper.
That works out at 44 milligrams of estrogen in the vegan burger compared to just 2.5 nanograms in the original beef Whopper.

“Just six glasses of soy milk per day has enough estrogen to grow boobs on a male,” wrote Stangle.

The Post tried to debunk his claims by pointing out that Tri-State Livestock News, where his article was published, is “a trade publication for the livestock industry” and represents cattle ranchers who have “declared war” on Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, two of the biggest companies behind plant-based meat substitutes.

The science on whether substantial soy consumption feminizes men is still disputed, although given what many soy enthusiasts look and sound like, there appears to be a strong correlation.

A Texas man who complained of sore, enlarged breasts and a decreased libido was later found to have estrogen levels eight times higher than normal, a result explained by his over-consumption of soy milk.

Another 2008 study found that “men who ate the most soy had lower sperm concentration.”

As Chris Menahan writes, “It’s worth noting that while the Washington Post is encouraging the pleb masses to chow down on estrogen burgers, the owner of the Post — the world’s [second]richest man, Jeff Bezos — is clearly taking large amounts of testosterone.”

And Here Is the 2019 Tornado Count:

The 2010's were remarkable for the decreased number of U.S. tornadoes, with record lows (since the current count system was instituted in the 1950's, with the years 2012, 2013 and 2014 being the three lowest totals in 70 years.
After an horrific start to the 2019 season the summer and fall counts reverted toward the mean and, although above the annual average came in far below the recent high counts.

From the National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center:

Such sheets of fire, such bursts of horrid thunder,
Such groans of roaring wind and rain, I never
Remember to have heard; man's nature cannot carry
The affliction nor the fear … 
—from Shakespeare's Tragedy of King Lear

Hard To Believe But This U.S. Wildfire Season Was Way Below Recent Trends

And if you go back, say 100 - 150 years the death toll and acres burned numbers are tiny (except for those who have lost a home, or a life)
Call it the "media center effect".
Every hurricane approaching New York City gets 24/7 coverage, every fire in the hills above Los Angeles is the hottest ever.

The classic example is Wisconsin's Great Peshtigo fire which started on the same day, October 8, 1871, as the Great Chicago Fire.

The Peshtigo fire, 250 miles north of the Chicago conflagration killed at least 1500, and more likely 2500, people while burning 1.2 million acres versus the Chicago toll of 2000 acres and 250 - 300 lives.

Here's the National Interagency Fire Center data through December 27, 2019:

Daily statistics 12/27/19
Number of new large fires or emergency response 2 States currently reporting large fires:
Number of active large fires
Total does not include individual fires within complexes.
1 Oklahoma (1)
Acres from active fires 550
Fires contained 2
Year-to-date statistics
2019 (1/1/19 - 12/27/19) Fires: 49,661 Acres: 4,628,275
2018 (1/1/18 - 12/27/18) Fires: 55,911 Acres: 8,582,609
2017 (1/1/17 - 12/27/17) Fires: 66,076 Acres: 9,642,322
2016 (1/1/16 - 12/27/16) Fires: 63,208 Acres: 5,438,753
2015 (1/1/15 - 12/27/15) Fires: 61,023 Acres: 9,954,123
2014 (1/1/14 - 12/27/14) Fires: 63,338 Acres: 3,587,554
2013 (1/1/13 - 12/27/13) Fires: 46,615 Acres: 4,307,176
2012 (1/1/12 - 12/27/12) Fires: 67,364 Acres: 9,208,387
2011 (1/1/11 - 12/27/11) Fires: 72,539 Acres: 8,642,306
2010 (1/1/10 - 12/27/10) Fires: 68,694 Acres: 3,382,167
2009 (1/1/09 - 12/27/09) Fires: 78,989 Acres: 6,379,245
10-year average Year-to-Date
2009-2018 Fires: 64,257 Acres: 6,905,577


The final figures will be available on Friday January 2, but I may not be.

Year In Review: 1914

One of the problems with schools no longer teaching history is that people have no frame of reference other than their own emotions and the manipulation of those emotions by so-called influencers and thought-leaders.
There are a lot of folks acting as though we have just been through an annus horribilis.
Yeah, right.
A repost from The Awl:
Over the holidays, while watching two children create Lego worlds at the foot of a glowing Christmas tree, it suddenly hit us that in only five years, it will be the twenties again. Feeling old, my cousin and I took swigs of white wine and shoved our faces with ham. So, instead of reflecting on 2014, let’s take a look at 1914:

On June 28th, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, were shot and killed, triggering a cascade of violence. The “Great War” was disease-ridden, fought in ungodly trenches, saw the deaths and injuries of millions and set the stage for World War II.

In August, president Woodrow Wilson’s wife, Ellen Axson Wilson, died of Bright’s disease. In reviewing 1914, I found that many stories conclude with Chekhovian despair over losses like Wilson’s. Death and disease permeated culture then in a way far beyond what most of us can comprehend today. The average death rate was 13.6 per 1,000, a record low at the time, but much worse than today’s 8.07, while life expectancy was 52 years for men and 56.8 years for women; Tom Cruise and Geena Davis would likely be dead, not still acting.

On Lexington Avenue near 103rd St., a bomb intended for John D. Rockefeller exploded in an anarchist’s apartment. The incident became Known as the “Lexington Avenue bombing;” four people died and dozens were injured. It was one of many politically charged acts of violence of the time, among them bombings and assassination attempts by anarchist Luigi Galleani and his followers. Meanwhile, at Frank Lloyd Wright’s home in Wisconsin, an angered servant killed seven people, including Wright’s mistress and her two children, and torched the place. The “Wright-mare” was a national news sensation at the time, and became the stuff of architecture student lore....MORE
Never Better, a collection of essays from writers we love, is The Awl’s goodbye to 2014.

First posted December 31, 2014
Good luck everyone.

"Japanese bank launches postmortem service for singles"

From The Mainichi:
Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank Ltd. has launched a postmortem service to singles amid the rise in the elderly population and those who live alone for life.

The new product, called "trust for solo customers," includes providing clerical work necessary for holding funeral and burial services, cleaning up household items and personal effects, notifying friends and others of the customers' passing, deleting data stored in personal computers and smartphones, looking for new owners of their pets and canceling utility services, etc.

The move comes as more people are taking an interest in activities to prepare for their deaths, commonly known as "shukatsu" in Japanese.

When a customer signs up with the new service, they place at least 3 million yen in a trust estate. The bank charges customers 33,000 yen at the time of the contract, 110,000 yen when the customer dies, as well as 6,600 yen multiplied by the number of contract years as trust fees.

For example, if a person signs up for the service at age 70 and dies at 100, it would cost the customer 341,000 yen. After deducting the fee from the entrusted asset, the remaining sum will be used for funeral services and other purposes. The balance after these necessary costs will then be distributed to people designated by the customer in advance....MORE
Opportunity is where you find it.

"World's richest family makes $70,000/minute, $100 million/day"

How you doin'?
From Salt lake City's KUTV, Dec. 27:
The richest family in the world makes more money in 60 seconds than most people -- and some families -- make in one year, according to a report in Bloomberg.

The Waltons -- the family that founded and owns Walmart -- have been making $100 million per day since Bloomberg's 2018 ranking of the world's richest families.

The family has made about $23,000 by the time you started reading this story....MORE

Tip to China: Don't Copy the Technology Until It's Perfected

From The National Interest's "China Cancelled Two Super Aircraft Carriers. Here's the Story Why", December 26:
China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy takes many of its cues from the U.S. Navy as it develops its carrier aviation branch. It is seeking similar flat-deck carriers to its U.S. counterpart, and has developed airborne early warning planes and electronic attack jets comparable to American E-2D Hawkeyes and EA-18 Growlers.
But that tendency may have backfired for once. That’s because the U.S. Navy has been beset by major cost overruns and delays in deploying its new generation Gerald Ford-class supercarriers due to persistent flaws in their catapults, arresting gear, radars and weapons elevators. You can read more about these many problems in an earlier article.

Similar problems apparently are affecting China’s carrier program. On November 28, Minnie Chan of the South China Morning Post reported that Beijing was scrapping plans for a fifth and sixth nuclear-powered carrier, once it finished construction of two new steam-powered vessels.

The reason? “Technical challenges and high costs,” including issues particularly linked to development of the latter two vessel’s electromagnetic launch systems—the same system bedeviling the U.S. Navy....

Bezos-Backed Fusion Startup Raises $100 Million for Demo System

As one of the redditors put it:
"Lex Luthor + Fusion power. This is fine."
From Bloomberg, Dec. 16:
A nuclear fusion start-up backed by billionaire Jeff Bezos raised more than $100 million to help design and build a demonstration power plant.

The company lined up $65 million in Series E financing led by Singapore’s Temasek Holdings Pte, and is getting another $38 million from Canada’s Strategic Innovation Fund, General Fusion Inc. said in a statement Monday. It’s now attracted more than $200 million in financing.

Canada-based General Fusion is one of about two dozen companies seeking to commercialize nuclear fusion technology. It relies on the same process that powers stars, generating huge amounts of energy by fusing small atoms into larger ones. While it holds out the promise of cheap, carbon-free energy, researchers have been working for decades to overcome significant technical hurdles.
“The world is pivoting toward fusion as the necessary complement to other technologies which, collectively, will enable the carbon-free energy future we all need,” Chief Executive Officer Christofer Mowry said in the statement.

Firms pursuing such designs are hoping they can start generating power sooner than the 35-nation, $25 billion Tokamak fusion reactor known as ITER. Collaborators on that facility -- the largest research project in history -- have been laboring on a gigantic demonstration reactor in France since 2010....MORE

"Futures Slide On Last Day Of Stellar Year, Dollar Tumble Accelerates"

Okay kids, let's see how this works out.
Following up on December 27's ""Everything Is Connected: What the Dollar Means For Emerging Market Gross Returns"".

From ZeroHedge:
Global markets and US index futures dipped on the last day of the year after retreating from record highs in the previous session, as a spectacular Wall Street rally which saw the S&P return almost 29% in 2019 fizzled out in the final days of the decade.
Indeed, with a handful of major markets already shuttered and trading volumes dismal, the dominant moves on Tuesday reflected common investor expectations for 2020: caution that the remarkable rally of 2019 is now over and dollar weakness.
The market slide came despite the capitulation of even the staunchest trade hawks in Trump's circle: on Monday, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said the Phase 1 China-U.S. trade deal will likely be signed in the next week, hours after South China Morning Post reported that Chinese Vice Premier Liu He would travel to Washington this week. However, for once trade deal optimism failed to boost spirits, and Emini futures completely ignored Navarro's comments to post their worst day in over four weeks. The benchmark S&P 500 closed Monday at its lowest level since Dec. 20, and the weakness continued on the last day of the year.
Still, despite Monday’s dip, the S&P 500 is still on track for its best year since 2013 and its best December in nine years, driven by a fresh burst of ultra loose monetary policy by the Federal Reserve and other central banks. The question for today is whether the S&P can rise 1.1% to post a 29.6% full year return: that would surpass the S&P's annual performance of 2013 making it the best year for stocks since 1997.
European stocks were down modestly after paring an early selloff, and the Stoxx 600 was down -0.1% as of 2pm local time with many of the top European markets such as Germany, Switzerland and UK closed.

Earlier in the session, Asian stocks fell on the last trading day of 2019. Shares dropped in Australia and Hong Kong but gained in China. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index closed 0.5% lower, led by technology and basic materials stocks. Markets in Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea and Thailand were closed for the year-end holiday. Australia, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Singapore closed early Tuesday.

As reported last night, the latest data from China showed manufacturing activity expanded for a second straight month in December, even as Services missed badly. The manufacturing PMI was flat at 50.2 (better than the expected 50.1) and non-manufacturing PMI lower at 53.5 (from 54.4) and below expectations of 54.2. New non-manufacturing orders slowed as prices (selling and buying fell), pushing employment further into contraction (48.3). The data aligns with other early signs of stabilization in the Asian economy, including last week’s figures that showed profits at China’s industrial firms grew at the fastest pace in eight months in November.
While trading in stocks remained subdued on the last day of the year, the same can not be said for currencies, where the dollar's recent hammering accelerated. The Bloomberg Dollar index dropped to its lowest level since March, taking its losing streak to four days. As a result, the euro, the pound and a handful of trade-sensitive currencies rallied as the dollar slid to a six-month low on Tuesday, with investors confident that global growth prospects are improving and U.S.-China trade relations significantly better. The pound led G-10 gains to head for its best quarter since 2009; the Canadian dollar is the best G-10 performer this year.

After staying strong for much of 2019 thanks to the relative outperformance of the U.S. economy and investors’ preference for a safe-haven currency amid the trade dispute between Washington and Beijing, the dollar’s gains for the year have shrivelled in December. The buoyant end-of-year sentiment enocouraged investors to buy up currencies linked to trade and global growth, sending many such as the Australian dollar, Chinese yuan and Scandinavian crowns to multi-month or multi-week highs against the greenback.
The Taiwan dollar strengthened past 30 versus the greenback for the first time in 18 months. Meanwhile, as the dollar slumped, China’s yuan jumped offshore after Peter Navarro said Monday that a preliminary trade deal with Beijing is completed.

Analysts did not attribute the moves to any specific new developments: “I can’t see much reason for the movement in the FX market except end-year position squaring, or just being careful and cutting positions ahead of the New Year’s holiday and the start of 2020. As a result I wouldn’t draw any big conclusions from it,” said Marshal Gittler, currency analyst at ACLS Global.

As Bloomberg writes this morning, investors are sifting through outlooks for 2020 as a weakening dollar, stabilizing global economy and easing of U.S.-China trade tensions all set a different scene from just a few months ago. The lull across markets on Tuesday draws a line under a year of spectacular returns for many asset classes....

"Finnish Prime Minister Marin calls for a 4-day-week and 6-hour-day for her country"

From Scoop:
Finland’s new prime minister caused enthusiasm in the country: Sanna Marin (34) is the youngest female head of government worldwide. She leads a centre-left coalition in which all 5 government parties have women at the top. Her aim: To introduce the 4-day-week and the 6-hour-working day in Finland.

Sanna Marin is the new Prime Minister of Finland. The 34-year-old social democrat was celebrated internationally because of strong women-led government: It is a coalition of five parties – and in all of them, women are the leaders.
For Sanna Marin, the fact that she is young and female doesn’t play a big role:
“I have never thought about my age or gender. I think more about the motivations that brought me into politics.”
 Marin wants “much shorter working hours”

More important for Marin is the question, how long the Finns should have to work. She demands much shorter working hours on the occasion of the 120th anniversary of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in Turku. In her position as Minister of Transport and Communications, she said:
A four-day work week, a six-hour workday. Why couldn’t it be the next step? Is eight hours really the ultimate truth? I believe people deserve to spend more time with their families, loved ones, hobbies and other aspects of life, such as culture. This could be the next step for us in working life.
[That link is to the Helsinki Times (en).]

Here's the Prime Minister and a few of her Ministers:

Prime minister Sanna Marin, 34, (second right) poses with the Minister of Education Li Andersson, 32, Minister of Finance Katri Kulmuni, 32, and Minister of Interior Maria Ohisalo, 34, (left to right) after the first government meeting in Helsinki today
Prime minister Sanna Marin, 34, (second right) poses with the Minister of Education Li Andersson, 32, Minister of Finance Katri Kulmuni, 32, and Minister of Interior Maria Ohisalo, 34, (left to right) after the first government meeting in Helsinki today
Daily Mail, December 10

Finland's median age is 42.6 years making it, I have to assume, one of the few places with a PM (and major portfolio cabinet ministers) a decade or so younger than said median

Monday, December 30, 2019

Crypto Initial Exchange Offerings: Poor Performance

From CoinTelegraph:
Initial exchange offerings (IEOs), which launched in 2019 have lost investors up to 98% of their money, damning new statistics show. 
In its latest report on the phenomenon published on Dec. 23, the analytics arm of exchange BitMEX, BitMEX Research, identified twelve major IEOs that launched this year. Of those, eleven are now almost worthless compared to the price at which they first traded on exchanges.

Almost all IEOs down 80% or more
“Relative to the first traded exchange price... the performance to date has been poor. Almost all the tokens are down over 80%,” the report summarized. 
IEO investment returns since the first exchange-traded price
IEO investment returns since the first exchange-traded price. Source: BitMEX Research
Against the price at which organizers first offered the IEO tokens, the numbers fare slightly better. Four IEOs have delivered returns to investors, with performance varying between 7.9% and 490%....

Russia Auctions Barents Sea King Crab Quotas for €600 Million

From the Barents Observer:
Russia’s new move, going from a quota distribution system based on historical catch to auctions, has generated big revenue to the federal government.

Historically, quotas for King Crab in both the Pacific waters and the Barents Sea has been distributed without much income for Moscow. 2019, though, is the first year when 50 per cent of the quotas have been auctioned, based on lots announced by Rosrybolovstvo, the Federal Agency for Fishery.

Valid for the coming 15 years, the agency announced 41 lots in October, of which 10 were in the Barents Sea, and 31 in the Far East. In total over the years, the catch will be 46.000 tons in the Pacific- and Barents Seas.

As a result of the auction of crab quotas, the federal budget receives 142 billion rubles (about €2 billions) the fishery agency informs....

In other crustacean news:
November 2019 
Arctic King Crabs Have Conquered The Barents Sea; May Head For the UK Next 
They may be big but the British crabs are sociopathic gangsta wannabes:

February 2019 
"Norway has full supremacy over Svalbard snow crabs, Supreme Court rules"
Long may it reign!

"The Book That Captured Mid-’70s Paris"

It sounds very urban.
From CityLab, December 20:

Georges Perec’s An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris documented the tumult, traffic, and street life of the French capital over three days in 1974.

Paris looms so large in the global cultural imagination—from Hugo to Hemingway, from Madeline to Moulin Rouge—that you don’t even need to be there to be looking at it.

At the Art Institute of Chicago, Gustave Caillebotte’s 1877 impressionist masterpiece “Paris Street; Rainy Day,” with its wet cobblestones, carriages, umbrellas, and one prominently featured electric lamp, functions as a kind of portal back to the City of Lights: That’s what Paris’s own mayor, Anne Hidalgo, found two years ago during the North American Climate Summit, when, thousands of miles from home, she almost inevitably found herself with a glass of wine and facing the Caillebotte’s Paris portrait. Wherever you go, there’s Paris, a shining metropolis full of romance and reverie.

Forty-five years ago this fall, the French writer Georges Perec spent three days on Place Saint-Sulpice, creating a portrait of a decidedly different Paris, one notable not for its monuments or cultural pedigree but for its simple, peopled everydayness. He sat in cafes and bars, noting the perambulations of his fellow Parisians, and catalogued their stuff: their cars, buses, dogs, kids, bags, newspapers, mail. Rather than celebrating Saint-Sulpice’s stately architecture or imposing church, his intent was to describe “that which is generally not taken note of, that which is not noticed, that which has no importance: what happens when nothing happens other than the weather, people, cars, and clouds.”

The result was An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris, first published in the French journal Cause Commune in 1975 and as a small book in 1982. (Marc Lowenthal’s English translation was released in 2010.) It’s a pamphlet-length memento of the capital at the end of “Les Trente Glorieuses”—the three optimistic decades of prosperity and growth immediately following World War II. Nearly half a century later, it’s a remarkable document of what’s since changed, and also of what hasn’t....MUCH MORE
The Caillebotte painting is Paris:


But oddly enough neither it nor the Perec photos appear in this story.
For the latter we go to Museumfatigue:

“Tens, hundreds of simultaneous actions, micro-events, each one of which
 necessitate postures, movement, specific expenditures of energy…”

Exhausting is right.
I think I'll stick with Jean Béraud, the most Parisian of all the painters of Paris, despite his being born in Russia:

The Absinthe Drinkers (1908)

"Old Paris is no more (the form of a city
Changes more quickly, alas! than the human heart)"
—Charles Baudelaire, Fleurs du Mal, 1857

Shipping: "Forced boil-off gas—The future of LNG as a fuel for LNG carriers"

It seems like a natural. As the folks at Wärtsilä tell us:
Boil-off gas (BOG)LNG tankers are designed to carry natural gas in liquid form at a temperature of – 163°C, close to the vaporization temperature. Despite tank insulation designed to limit the admission of external heat, even a small amount of it will cause slight evaporation of the cargo. This natural evaporation, known as boil-off is unavoidable and has to be removed from the tanks in order to maintain the cargo tank pressure.
So you're going to have LNG going through the phase change back to a gas, even on those arctic tankers Novatek is running in -20°C weather.
Regarding efficiency, from PetroSkills, November 1:

Can Boil-Off Gas Meet Engine Requirements for LNG Ships?

In 2017, approximately 31% of all the gas consumed worldwide was transported internationally. About 65% of this gas was transported via pipeline (21% of the total) and approximately 35% was transported as liquified natural gas (LNG) (10% of the total) [1].

Most of the gas transported internationally by pipeline was from Russia and Norway to Western Europe and from Canada to the US. The largest LNG importing region was in the Pacific Basin, mainly Japan and South Korea. Most of this LNG was supplied from the Middle East, Australia, Indonesia and Malaysia.

As shown in Figure 1, LNG is often the first choice for large volumes of natural gas transportation when the distances are large and when the supplier and buyer are separated by an ocean.
Figure 1. Natural gas transportation options
Figure 2 shows the overall transportation efficiency for natural gas [2]. Notice, LNG efficiency is roughly 90%. This is related to about 10 % fuel consumption for liquefaction and transportation. Notice the steep curve of the pipeline systems going from 100% efficiency at 0 distances to roughly 65% efficiency at 8000 km (4971 mile). This is essentially the fuel gas requirements for the compression along the length of the pipeline.
Figure 2. Nominal natural gas transportation efficiency [2]
The LNG is typically stored in insulated tanks to keep it in a liquid state for longer periods. As a result of heat transfer from surroundings to the storage tank, a portion of the LNG may evaporate which is known as boil-off gas (BOG). In addition to the heat transfer, reference [3] discusses other sources or mechanisms of BOG like:

►The sloshing of cargo: Liquid Motion

►The cooling of tanks

►LNG loading and unloading conditions

►Cargo tanks pressure decrease If the BOG is not removed from the storage tank, the tank pressure increases....
“In order to match BOG generation with engine consumption for a desired load, fuel sharing can be utilized. Dual-fuel engines are capable of running on both diesel and gas, which can be used to even-out variations in gas supply or quality. With normal gas operation, around 1—5% of the pilot fuel is needed to ignite the gas. With fuel sharing, the amount of gas can be varied between around 15% and 85%, with the rest being diesel [4].”

And finally, from McKinsey & Co., July 2019, the headline article:

Forced boil-off gas: The future of LNG as a fuel for LNG carriers
New limitations on sulphur emissions will require ship operators to consider alternative fuels. As a result, the use of forced boil-off liquefied natural gas is likely to increase.
On January 1, 2020, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) will introduce increased limitations on sulphur emissions by ships. Set forth by MARPOL (see sidebar, “The adoption of MARPOL”), 1 these global limitations will require operators to consider alternatives to the current widespread use of high-sulphur fuel oil (HSFO). Such alternatives include the installation of scrubber systems to remove sulphur from the gas stream or a switch to very-low sulphur fuel oil (VLSFO), marine gasoil (MGO), or liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Limited desulphurization-refining capacity, as well as other logistical considerations, constrain the supply of VLSFO and MGO. Therefore, vessel operators may experience fuel shortages and a sharp rise in prices on the back of an expected spike in demand. LNG’s widespread use as a marine transport fuel, however, is primarily constrained by limited LNG bunkering infrastructure. In fact, several countries, such as Belgium and Singapore, are currently investing in this area to increase the viability of LNG as an alternative fuel supply, though converting existing vessels to accommodate LNG is expensive. Therefore, nearly all growth in this area will come from newly built vessels or LNG-ready vessels.

In addition to the cost of conversion, shipowners and operators face three challenges. First, there are only a few months left before the new emissions limitations come to pass. Second, owners and operators will need to consider the potential LNG shortages and price increases, both likely results of the sudden increase in demand. And finally, they will be on the hook to provide commercial rationale to stakeholders for meeting these new regulations.

While the value proposition of LNG varies across segments of the shipping sector, it is (perhaps unsurprisingly) most attractive as a fuel for the approximately 550 LNG carriers currently operating worldwide. 2 We expect to see a rapid rise in adoption of LNG as a fuel in this segment, potentially increasing demand by nine million tons per annum (mtpa), or 3.0 percent of annual demand, over the next two years. Therefore, shipowners and operators in 2020 should consider switching to forced LNG boil-off gas (BOG).

A shift in the fuel mix of the global shipping industry
MARPOL bans the use of any bunker fuel in which sulphur content exceeds the 0.5 percent threshold—unless a vessel has the right equipment onboard, such as fuel scrubbers, to process high-sulphur fuels. These scrubbers spray alkaline water into a vessel’s gas exhaust to remove sulphur dioxide and other unwanted chemicals or pollutants. As 2020 draws near, some marine-solutions companies have seen a record number of orders for scrubbers. However, given the short time remaining before enforcement of the new limitations and the unsuitability of scrubbers for use on certain types of ships, it’s highly unlikely that they can be adopted by shipping fleets around the world.

In some cases, noncompliance is a distinct possibility, with doubts remaining over how effectively the regulation will be enforced and compliance monitored. To some extent, noncompliance will be addressed by the IMO’s recent announcement of a ban on vessels that lack scrubbers using ports to load HSFO. In addition, there will be increased pressure on authorities from leading shipping companies, which are expected to align with the new legislation, to ensure that enforcement is followed for the broader pool of shipowners, with the expectation being an even playing field.

The special role of LNG for LNG carriers
To comply with MARPOL, LNG carriers face most of the same options as the broader shipping industry. Even before the new regulations go into effect, forecasts show demand for LNG is likely to grow at 3.0 percent a year from 2019 to 2035, well above the growth of overall gas demand, which is projected at 1.0 percent a year. 3 Asia—especially China—and Europe will likely be the primary markets for increased LNG, while sector-specific growth will include electric power and industrials. Although demand in the transport sector is expected to remain relatively minimal, it will experience the fastest growth in the coming years. And within transport, the shipping industry is expected to play an outsized role.

Until now, the standard practice for LNG carriers has been to use BOG as fuel and to supplement with HSFO, which is currently more economical than LNG. After January 1, 2020, however, LNG carrier owners and operators will be required to meet the 0.5 percent threshold. The built-in ability of these ships to switch to LNG as an onboard fuel source means that the LNG option will likely be far more attractive. Installing scrubbers is not typically an option for LNG carriers because of space constraints on the ships themselves, high adaptation costs, limited yard space, and safety issues.
Most LNG carriers can force BOG and use it in place of HSFO (Exhibit 1). Therefore, they do not require conversion costs to stop using HSFO—though a reserve of MGO, other distillates, or VLSFO is expected to be kept for low-speed movements and emergencies. One exception is slow-speed-diesel-class (SSD) LNG vessels, which reliquefy BOG and use marine diesel as fuel. SSD ships are expected to stick with diesel, or other distillate fuels, because conversion to LNG would require dry docking and expensive adaptation.....

In Memoriam: Technology That Died in 2019

From PC Magazine, December 19:

Death comes for us all, even once-great Silicon Valley giants. Here are the apps, startups, devices, and sites that drifted off into the great beyond in 2019.
Every year, we see favorite apps, buzzworthy startups, and ideas that never quite got off the ground meet their demise and quietly exit stage left. We had advance warning of some of the 2019 shutdowns—pour one out for Google+, Inbox, and Flickr's hefty scoop of free storage—but a number of other companies and products said farewell in 2019. Let's take a look back

Chariot Shuttle Service: In 2016, Ford Smart Mobility acquired San Francisco crowdsourced shuttle app Chariot. But after 3 million rides in the US and UK, Chariot announced in January that it would cease all operations by March, blaming shifting "wants and needs of customers and cities"—like the rise of scooters.

Google Chromecast Audio: First released in September 2015, Chromecast Audio plugged into your speaker or sound system's aux input via a 3.5mm audio jack to make it wireless. But with the release of more and more wireless speakers, the need for Chromecast Audio diminished and Google discontinued it in January.

Norton Core: The Norton Core was a stylish router packed with security and parental control features to protect every device in your home, from PC to smart fridge. But good looks couldn't save this gadget; Symantec confirmed earlier this year that it was "discontinuing the hardware production of Norton Core."

Westworld Mobile Game: In 2018, Bethesda Softworks sued Warner Bros. Interactive and Behaviour Interactive, arguing that its Westworld mobile game ripped off Fallout Shelter. The two sides settled later that year in a deal that required the end of the Westworld game, which disappeared in March.

Wii Shop: With customers shifting to the Nintendo eShop on Switch and 3DS, the Nintendo Wii Shop, which dated back to 2006, said its farewell on Jan. 30.
Amazon Dash Buttons: Amazon first introduced the Dash Button in 2015, a day before the April Fool's holiday, but the product was no joke. The concept was designed to streamline the online-buying process by allowing you to restock favorite products from brands like Gatorade, Tide, or Gillette with one press of a Wi-Fi-connected button. But with the rise of Alexa and our phones and Amazon apps always in reach, separate buttons for single products became less useful and Amazon killed them. They live on as "virtual buttons," however.

Coinhive: The notorious cryptocurrency mining service popular among hackers shut down in February because it was no longer "economically viable," in part because the cryptocurrency market had tanked. The developers behind Monero also tweaked the virtual currency's protocol, making it harder to mine.
Facebook Moments: This standalone service grouped images on your phone based on when they were taken and, using facial-recognition software, which friends were in them. You could then tell the app to sync those pictures with specific friends, and hoped they did the same. Not enough people used Facebook Moments, however, and it was shut down.

Razer Game Store: Gaming hardware maker Razer tried its hand at software in 2018 with the Razer Game Store, which offered discounts on games that buyers then accessed on Steam, Uplay, and Origin. But as Slashgear points out, the store was redundant and deals not particularly noteworthy as time went on. Razer wised up and shut down the store.

Samsung Blu-ray Players: Samsung confirmed in Feburary that it would no longer release new Blu-ray or 4K Blu-ray player models in the US. No reason was provided, but as Mashable notes, Samsung devices did not support Dolby Vision, not to mention decreased consumer interest in purchasing physical DVDs....

Trying to Make a Buck Off Water Investments

Water is tough.
Here's our introduction to 2014's "A Look at the World's First Water-focused Hedge Fund"
Since the first Earth Day in April 1970 and more importantly since the establishment of the EPA in December of that year, folks have been trying to make money out of water in the U.S..
Put simply, the returns have not been market-beating.

Because so much of the opportunity was my-little-crony stuff, at the whim of politicians, there was no consistency of growth at a time when other portfolio investments offered very competitive comparisons.
The alternative was to own the cash flow, private equity style, but unless one felt a passion for grit chambers and sludge pans it was pretty pedestrian, utility type ROI.

In fact the most reliable water investment in the U.S. has probably been York Water Company of York PA.
They've been paying dividends for 199 consecutive years and just announced their 575th divi.
The announcement carries the boilerplate "This release contains forward-looking statements".
And today's story from Nanalyze:

11 Smart Water Technology Startups for Smart Cities
About one in three people on the planet currently lack access to safe drinking water, according to the World Health Organization. You might recall that Cape Town nearly ran out of fresh water last year, and cities from Tokyo to London could also face water shortages in the next few decades. You’re probably thinking that the United States is immune to these sorts of problems. Wrong: America doesn’t even crack the top 20 countries with the cleanest tap water, as about a fifth of the U.S. population has been exposed to unsafe H2O at some point. Remember Flint, Michigan? Plenty of other U.S. cities are at risk of running out of drinking water in the future. Ironically, the impending humanitarian crisis offers buckets of investment opportunities in water technology, including desalination and infrastructure.

Most recently, we covered a publicly traded smart water technology company called Xylem (XYL) that’s infusing machine learning into sensor technology for automating water management systems. In that article, we also introduced you to a couple of smart water tech startups similar to Xylem that had been featured in a market map created by the big brains at data research firm CB Insights:
Credit: CB Insights
As you can see, there are a ton of other water tech startups under the water management category. Out of that list, we’ve covered Wexus, an IoT agtech company whose utility savings solution is increasingly being used in the cannabis industry, and Rachio, which offers products in smart home water irrigation. That still leaves us 11 water tech startups that are developing IoT solutions to help smart cities be smarter about how they manage their H20 supplies, from reservoir to stormwater. (A twelfth company that was developing technology for rapidly detecting waterborne pathogens, Safe-H2O, appears to be defunct, as its website appears broken. Alert readers, let us know if there’s a different story.)
Let’s dive in.

AI and IoT for Smart Water Management
Click for company websiteSmart water technology has largely come to represent a merger between IoT and artificial intelligence, where connected sensors and other devices supply data for algorithms that perform near real-time analytics to manage H20 systems more efficiently, as well as detect leaks and perform other automated tasks. Founded in 2011, Austin-based Banyan Water has raised about $4.4 million over four rounds for its analytics engine that provides insight into water costs, use, trends, and anomalies for clients in industries ranging from Fortune 500 companies to school campuses. It offers four solutions:
Services offered by Banyan Water
Credit: Banyan Water
For instance, Hewlett Packard (HPE) employed Banyan’s Irrigation Insight solution to juggle irrigation water management from three different sources. The system prioritizes low-cost recycled water first before opting for the Perrier from the city of Palo Alto. Since 2017, HP has saved more than three million gallons of irrigation water on its Palo Alto campus, a 42% reduction compared to prior usage. Banyan’s system also detected more than 20 leaks, preventing millions of gallons of additional water waste.
Click for company websiteThere’s plenty of competition in this segment of the smart water tech industry. There’s Smart Energy Water, a Los Angeles area startup founded in 2012 that claims to use machine learning to optimize both water and energy operations for smart cities. It offers products for both consumers and employees. The latter, for instance, helps workers in the field to manage scheduling and reporting tasks on a mobile platform.
Click for company websiteFounded in 2017, Ontario-based Emagin is another company that has developed an AI platform for optimizing water management, specializing in utilities, food and beverage, pulp and paper, and chemical production plants, among others. However, it was just acquired this month by a Los Angeles area company called Innovyze that has a long list of products and services around smart water technology. Innovyze itself was absorbed in 2017 by a Swedish private equity firm for $270 million.
Seattle based FlowWorks, founded in 2010, goes beyond smart water management, essentially offering a full range of environmental monitoring capabilities, with machine learning gazing into the crystal ball of predictive analytics. FlowWorks isn’t picky with its data sources, slurping up insights from satellites, weather forecasts, and public datasets from agencies like USGS and NOAA.
Sources of data for FlowWorks platform.
Credit: FlowWorks
For example, a coastal city like Richmond in the San Francisco Bay area, is interested in tracking tidal movements to manage its water infrastructure more efficiently....

Previously in H2OhOh:
Aug. 2012
It's So Hard to Find a Decent Bet on Water (investment vehicles)
Update below.
Original post:
Water has confounded smarter people than me.

Enron's adventure in H2O is a cautionary tale, they bought Wessex Water in England, bought water concessions in Argentina and had a long term contract in Cancun.
Enron partially spun out the water sub, Azurix at $19.00. Within 18 months it was trading at $3.50 where Enron tendered for the 34% of the company that the public owned.

Not a very sweet deal for anyone involved. Water is tough business.
And, of course, Enron being Enron, they bid 100% more than any one else in the business to get the Argentina deal to have some big pre-IPO news. 
From FT Alphaville:
In search of liquid water (investment vehicles)
This guest post was submitted by Jason Abbruzzese of FT.com.
A little more than a year ago, Citi chief economist Willem Buiter said water was on its way to becoming “the single most important physical-commodity based asset class, dwarfing oil, copper, agricultural commodities and precious metals”.
While we’re not quite there yet...MORE
May 2013
Swiss Private Bank Pictet Making Money in the Water Biz (XYL; DHR)
July 2013
"Can Powdered Water Cure Droughts?"
October 2010
Muni's: "Water Scarcity a Bond Risk, Study Warns"
April 2015
A Look At A Second Water Focused Hedge Fund

From Barron's:

Water Asset Management: Hunting Liquid Assets
Water Asset Management managers Disque Deane Jr., Matt Diserio, and Marc Robert are betting that water prices will float higher still.
Water wasn’t an obvious investment theme when Matt Diserio and Disque Deane Jr. launched their hedge fund 10 years ago. Now, every day brings news of a water shortage or drought. So have the water stocks targeted by their Manhattan-based Water Asset Management enjoyed a panicky rerating?

Not yet. Drought-parched headlines still get upstaged by the latest dot-com initial public offering, so water remains mispriced by consumers and investors. That’s good for the half-billion dollars that Water Asset has in an equity hedge fund and a newer long-only fund focused on regulated water services, water resources, and the suppliers of pipes, meters, and treatment technologies. Upside remains.

“It is an old industry,” says Diserio, who manages the firm’s stock portfolio, “but it is just becoming a recognized asset class.”

Water investing’s upside is ensured by the urgency of our water needs and the fact that this resource remains very cheap in an absolute sense—compared with natural resources like timber or farmland, oil or gold. The average American family’s water bill is under $40 a month, notes Deane, giving the industry room to charge more to cover hundreds of billions of dollars in deferred maintenance and upgrading....MORE
There are many more, use the 'search blog' box if interested.

Negative Convexity in Action: Ouch

First up, Harvey Bassman, The Convexity Maven, on definitions:
...Wall Street loves to make convexity sound complex (I suppose it’s so they can charge higher fees?). We speak Greek (calling it “gamma”), employ physics as a metaphor (analogizing to it “acceleration”), and use mathematical definitions (since it is the second derivative of the asset’s price change).

Pish, posh. An investment is convex if the payoff is unbalanced for equally opposite outcomes. So if there’s the potential to earn a profit of two on a bet versus a maximum loss of one, the bet is positively convex. If you can lose three versus making two, it is negatively convex. That’s it. The rocket scientists are called upon to help (fairly) price the cost (value) of such possible outcomes. This is why the expansion of derivative trading in the 1990’s resulted in a hiring spree of physics PhD’s....
"Pish. Posh." is a technical term only used by market professionals.
And via Darren Rovell, sports betting maven:
Patriots    24
Dolphins   27

Oh dear.

Dallas Fed On Oil and Gas

From Wolf Street, December 27:

Dallas Fed Outlines Somber Oil & Gas Industry, “Flaring” of Natural Gas Comes into Focus  
“The capital markets for oil and gas remain extremely difficult.”
The Dallas Fed’s Forth Quarter Energy Survey, released today, portrays an industry that is turning increasingly somber. The data is based on responses of executives (names are not disclosed) of 170 energy companies – 111 exploration and production (E&P) companies; and 59 oil field services companies – located or headquartered in the Dallas Fed’s district, which covers Texas, northern Louisiana, and southern New Mexico and includes the most prolific shale oil-and-gas field in the US, the Permian Basin.

This time, there were additional questions, including on the reasons for “flaring” of natural gas in the Permian Basin. Natural gas is so abundant in the hydrocarbon mix produced at these wells (“associated” natural gas), and natural-gas pipeline takeaway capacity is so insufficient, that the surge in production led to the collapse of the price of natural gas in the area, reportedly dropping below zero on occasion. And it led to a record amount of natural gas getting flared in 2019.
Flaring large amounts of gas is a waste of natural resources, a source of air pollution, and a big financial drag for the already struggling oil-and-gas companies, investors, and banks.

To get a better handle on this, the Dallas Fed asked what the executives thought “the main reasons for the increase” in flaring in 2019 were (multiple choice, with the option to “check all that apply”):
  • 73%: insufficient pipeline take-away capacity for gas
  • 49%: lack of gathering and processing capacity for gas
  • 45%: processing and transportation fees for gas that exceed the value of the gas
  • 15%: temporary outages/issues with gas infrastructure
Among the comments on flaring, which ranged across the spectrum, there was one that I think is particularly interesting, in part because it was a suggestion on how to solve this issue:
“As a small independent producer, I would like to see the Texas Railroad Commission [the state regulator of the oil and gas industry] do its job and prevent waste of resources. Flaring should be allowed only for a short time to test and clean wells up after they have been hydraulically fracked. Once this has occurred, if the operator cannot find gathering/pipeline options for its natural gas production, the well should be shut-in until takeaway capacity is available....

"“Loonshots” and phase transitions are the key to innovation, physicist argues"

Always keeping in mind the less well known part of one of the most farsighted speeches ever delivered in the USA, President Eisenhower's Farewell Address to the American People, January 17, 1961.
Most folks know his warning on the military-industrial complex:
"...In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together..."
But they don't remember what followed immediately after:
"...Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.
In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.

Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present--and is gravely to be regarded.

Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite...."
And the headline story from Ars Technica:
Ars chats with physicist and biotech guru Safi Bahcall about his book Loonshots.

Few people these days are familiar with the name Vannevar Bush, an engineer who played a significant role in fostering the developing of key technologies that helped the Allied Forces win World War II.  He also spearheaded a highly influential federal report, Science: The Endless Frontier. Presented to President Franklin Roosevelt in 1945, the report famously argued for federal  funding of basic research in science, calling it "the pacemaker of technological progress." It shaped national science policy in the US for decades, and helped usher in an unprecedented explosion of economy-boosting scientific and technological innovation. (On the downside, Bush took a very dim view of the humanities—including science history—and social sciences.)

Physicist Safi Bahcall first learned about Vannevar Bush when he joined the President's Council of Advisers on Science Technology in 2011, charged with producing a version of that 1945 report for the 21st century. The experience dovetailed nicely with his longstanding interest in the arc of human thought over the course of history, and his background as both a physicist and a biotech entrepreneur. (Bahcall comes by his physics bona fides naturally: his father is the late John Bahcall, best known for helping to solve the solar neutrino problem.)  The result: an intriguing new theory about fostering innovation, based on the physics of phase transitions, that led to his first popular science book: Loonshots: How To Nurture the Crazy Ideas that Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries.

"I think business people are really tired of the thousands of more or less identical business books produced every year, saying more of less the same stuff," Bahcall told Ars about his fresh approach to the topic. "And most economists have never seen the inside of a real company, so their models have no connection to reality. I happen to be in the middle of a very weird Venn Diagram of someone with condensed matter physics experience, someone with business experience, someone who likes to tell stories, and likes to think about history."

According to Bahcall, the most significant breakthroughs comes from what he calls "loonshots," as opposed to "franchises": ideas that seem a bit crazy and are hence often dismissed outright, with anyone championing it labeled unhinged. There are two types. An S-type loonshot introduces a novel strategy or business model that no one believes can ever make money. When Sam Walton founded Walmart in 1962, for instance, he did so in a small town far away from major cities, bucking conventional thinking about the best locations for major retail. Walmart is now the largest corporation in the world by revenue, per the Fortune Global 500 list.

A P-type loonshot introduces a new product or technology that nobody believes will work. Business leaders once thought the telephone was little more than a toy, and foolishly passed on investing in what would become the Bell Telephone Company. Similarly, physicist Robert H. Goddard's design for a liquid-fuel rocket in the 1920s was dismissed by academic and military experts at the time. Decades later, his invention helped usher in the era of spaceflight.

Understanding the science of phase transitions can nurture loonshots faster and better, according to Bahcall, so groups can achieve a harmonious balance between radical innovation (loonshots) and "operational excellence" (stable franchises). Instead of trying to change corporate culture, he maintains that small changes in structure can help transform group behavior, much like making tiny structural changes in a material can change its phase (water freezes into ice, or boils away as vapor). That was the secret to Vannevar Bush's success: US military culture was resistant to taking risks on radical new ideas, so instead of trying to change the culture, he changed the structure, creating a separate research branch (eventually leading to the establishment of  DARPA), where those radical "high risk, high gain" ideas could find a home.

Bahcall's theory rests on three fundamental concepts familiar to any condensed matter physicist: phase separation, dynamic equilibrium, and critical mass. No two phases can co-exist in an organization—say, being good at loonshots (eg, original independent films) versus excelling at franchises (eg the Marvel Cinematic Universe)—unless they are poised right at the critical edge of a phase transition. "At the cusp of a phase transition, blocks of ice co-exist with pockets of liquid," he writes. The phases break apart but stay connected, cycling back and forth to maintain a state of dynamic equilibrium—teetering on the edge of chaos.  Ars sat down with Bahcall to learn a bit more about his intriguing new theory.

Ars Technica: Most people associate the critical threshold of a phase transition with Malcolm Gladwell's 2000 bestseller The Tipping Point. How does your book differ from Gladwell's take, almost 20 years later?
Bahcall: The Tipping Point is simply a qualitative discussion of the concept that the spread of ideas is governed by a phase transition. That's well known in the literature, and [Gladwell’s book] weaves popular stories around the concept that the spread of ideas is like the spread of a virus. Gladwell pioneered the idea of translating academic science through compelling personal stories for a popular audience. That field, which was N=1 when he did it, is now N=5,000 people imitating him.

But there's no underlying new theory there. Loonshots is written by a scientist, and it's based on an underlying original theory that hasn't existed in the world of economics. No one has ever suggested the concept of an organization having a phase transition based on underlying incentives. People have been working on this problem literally for 200 years, since Adam Smith first asked, "Well, how might incentives affect behavior in organizations?” There's a straightforward underlying academic paper I could write, which is essentially appendix B of the book. Here's the model. Here's why it's reasonable. Here's why I'm making these approximations, and here's how you analyze this model. And here's what you extract from it.

Ars: Let’s talk a moment about "disruptive innovation" versus "loonshots," because you draw a distinction between these two concepts.
Bahcall: So many people are sick of hearing about disruptive innovation. The flaw with that is that it's a hindsight problem. Disruptive innovation is all about the effects of something on a market. If you're talking about a new idea, the market might be two years, five years, ten years, or 20 years away. The even bigger flaw is that if it's a very early stage idea, any experienced entrepreneur knows you have no idea where it’s going to be not only a year from now, but even next week. It could morph into something totally different. So you talk about disruptive innovation to analyze history. Otherwise, we should rip that word out of the dictionary....

"This wearable vest grows a self-sustaining garden watered by your own urine"

From the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation:

Designer Aroussiak Gabrielian says each cloak can grow up to 22 crops

Aroussiak Gabrielian says she was inspired to create what is believed to be the world's first wearable farm after seeing what her body could provide for her newborn.

The project, Posthuman Habitats, is a vest or cloak that grows plants and crops using fertilizer from insects and human waste. The vests are currently on display in Beijing as part of an exhibition called Human (un)limited.

They are designed to provide sustenance for the wearer in a future world where climate change has degraded the soil and people are forced to flee floods and other climate impacts.
Gabrielian, an assistant professor of architecture at the University of Southern California and a landscape architect, spoke with As It Happens guest host Helen Mann about her project. Here is part of their conversation.

Can you describe for us what these wearable farms currently look like and how they're actually worn? 
The project uses technology that already exists in creating vertical gardens throughout the world, particularly the soilless system that was developed by the ... French botanist Patrick Blanc. 
It's a layer of moisture retention felt fabric onto which … the seeds are directly placed and watered until they germinate and then they're uncovered and it takes about two weeks for the base material, which is microgreens, to grow to a kind of full level before they're harvested.

So the garments themselves are kind of a lush green and bright purple depending on what's grown....


HT: Marginal Revolution

Capital Markets: "The Greenback Remains Soggy, while China and Turkey Move in Opposite Directions"

From Marc to Market:
Overview: In quiet turnover, Asia Pacific and European equities are trading lower, while US shares are enjoying a firmer bias. China and Hong Kong markets bucked the trend. The Dow Jones Stoxx 600 is off by about 0.40% in late morning turnover. The S&P 500 has a five-week rally in tow. Bond yields are mostly 2-4 basis points higher in Europe, though the 10-year Gilt yield is up 6 bp to 81 bp. The 10-year US Treasury is pushing above 1.90%. The dollar is on its back foot after slipping against nearly all the major currencies last week. The euro poked above $1.12 for the first time since August. The JP Morgan Emerging Markets Currency Index is extending its rally into a sixth session, the longest run in five months. The South African rand is a notable exception, falling about 0.25% against the greenback. After slipping ahead of the weekend, gold is pushing higher again. It is near $1515. It finished last month, below $1465. Oil is firm with February WTI hovering just below $62 a barrel.

Asia Pacific
Over the weekend, the PBOC announced that it was pushing ahead
with boosting the significance of the loan prime rate (LPR). Starting next month, new variable rate loans will no longer use the one-year lending rate but the LPR. In itself, this is not so important, as this has reportedly primarily been the case in recent months. More suggestive is that from March to August next year, the existing stock of loans will be converted to the LPR. However, the change may not result in lower rates for residential mortgages, for whom officials do not want to overly encouraging. Mortgage lending appears to account for about 25% of the CNY157 trillion of outstanding bank loans. The one-year LPR is set monthly based on one-year lending rates offered by 18 banks to their best customers, and in this respect, may be seen as a step toward liberalization, but we would not want to exaggerate this. It is at 4.15%, 20 bp below the one-year lending rate (which has been at 4.35% for four years) and is an ease on the margin, but it seems more about solidifying the role of the LPR.

South Korea reported disappointing November industrial output. It fell 0.5% on the month, compared with a flat report expected by the median forecast in the Bloomberg survey. It was the third monthly decline in the past four. The year-over-year decline moderated to -0.3% after a revised -2.1% contraction in October (initially was -2.5%).

Japanese markets will be closed for the rest of the week. The dollar had been meeting a wall of offers in the JPY109.70 area this month and as recently as Boxing Day. In the thin activity, it broke down to almost JPY109 in Asia and steadied in the quiet European morning. Initial resistance is now pegged in the JPY109.20-JPY109.30 area. More important support is seen in the JPY108.40-JPY108.70 area. The Australian dollar is testing the $0.7000-level for the first time in five months. The intraday technical readings are stretched, and the upper Bollinger Band is found near $0.6985. The Chinese yuan firmed on the back of the broadly weaker greenback. The dollar is new two-week lows near CNY6.9865.


Sunday, December 29, 2019

Huh: German Schoolgirls Singing "My Grandma Is An Old Environmental Scumbag!"

Of course it sounds better in the original German.
Probably better still in Swedish.
From Westdeutscher Rundfunk's WDR 2 radio:

Using a bit of passive-aggressive (oh you misunderstood me, blah blah): "WDR Kinderchor (Satire oder Real)?".
Meine Oma ist ne alte Umweltsau

My grandma rides a motorbike, a motorbike, a motorbike in the chicken coop.
That’s a thousand liters of super every month. My grandma is an old environmental scumbag.

My grandma says riding a motorcycle is cool…
She uses it as a wheelchair at the retirement home. My grandma is an old environmental scumbag.

My grandma drives to the doctor in an SUV.
She runs over two old ladies with a rollator, my grandma is an old environmental scumbag.

My grandma makes a cutlet, a cutlet, a cutlet every day.
Because discount meat costs next to nothing, my grandma is an old environmental scumbag.....
Listen to the end for a special guest appearance.

"Amazon is looking into tech that can identify you using the veins in your hand"

From USA Today:
What if you could pay for your groceries using your veins? 

Amazon filed a patent for technology that could identify you by scanning the wrinkles in the palm of your hand and by using a light to see beneath your skin to your blood vessels. The resulting images could be used to identify you as a shopper at Amazon Go stores.

It was previously reported that the Seattle-based tech giant might install these hi-tech scanners in Whole Foods grocery stores. However, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published an application on Thursday that suggests the e-commerce behemoth sets its sites on Amazon Go stores.
Many of the inventors named on the application include Amazon Go executives such as vice president Dili Kumar and senior manager Manoj Aggarwal. Engineer Nikolai Orlov, who previously lead Amazon Go projects, was also listed as an inventor. 

How does vein scanning work?
While fingerprint scanners have been around for years, Amazon hopes to innovate by developing a personal identification system that you don't have to touch.
Amazon is working on a system of cameras, lights and scanners that would take photos of your hand as you enter a space to verify your identity.
Imagine hovering your hand in front of an infrared light as a camera snaps two images  — one from the surface, and one that looks for "deeper characteristics such as veins." An internal computer system would then identify you based on that information....

Okay, so gloves in the summer it is.
And fortunately, rather than having to spend a half hour putting on makeup, just to descend to the lobby:

There are now glasses that use some of the principles developed by the Hong Kong protesters: