Sunday, April 30, 2023

Shipping: How Geopolitics Are Reshaping Trade - Implications For Tanker, Bulk And Container Lines

 From FreightWaves, April 7:

Taiwan tensions are latest flash point; geopolitics is reshaping trade 

Another meeting between a House speaker and Taiwan’s president, another spike in tensions in the Taiwan Strait.

Last summer’s meeting between Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and Nancy Pelosi prompted Chinese live-fire exercises. Wednesday’s meeting with Speaker Kevin McCarthy prompted another large-scale Chinese military exercise in the Taiwan Strait, with the situation becoming increasingly tense by Sunday.

Ever-worsening relations between China and the U.S. — which took yet another big step down after February’s spy balloon incident — are part of an evolving story for international trade. Shipping fleets and cargo flows are becoming increasingly bifurcated.

In 2022, the Word Trade Organization (WTO) warned about a worst-case scenario it called “long-run decoupling” that involved the “disintegration of the global economy into two separate blocs,” highlighting research by Carlos Goes and Eddy Bekkers.

A WTO working paper published this January analyzed an outcome called “geopolitical rivalry,” featuring a “bipolar trade war” with severe consequences for future GDP and trade volumes.

The authors (Jeanne Metivier, Marc Bacchetta, et. al.) looked at two sub-scenarios: “full rivalry,” in which all countries join either the Western or Eastern trade bloc, and “partial rivalry,” in which some countries remain neutral and trade with both.

The “partial rivalry” scenario should sound very familiar to those following current developments in ocean shipping, most visibly in tanker shipping, but also in container and dry bulk shipping.

Geopolitics is cleaving global shipping systems into two, with the U.S. and EU leading one side and China and Russia leading the other, and some countries trying to stay in the middle, play both sides and keep their options open.

Tankers: Near-term positive
The geopolitical schism is initially positive for tanker shipping rates but has the potential to turn negative in the future.

The Russia-Ukraine war rerouted Russian crude from the short-haul EU trade to long-haul runs to China and India, and Russian diesel from the EU to replacement buyers in North Africa, Asia and South America. The EU replaced lost Russian barrels with more-distant supplies from the U.S., the Middle East and Asia.

Shipping demand is measured in ton-miles: volume multiplied by distance. The post-invasion trading pattern is far less efficient than the pre-war pattern, significantly boosting tanker ton-miles, a plus for freight rates.

The same distance effect was seen previously after sanctions against Iran, which shifted Iranian crude exports that previously went to the EU and India onto longer routes to China; and with sanctions against Venezuela, which shifted that country’s crude exports from the U.S. to China.

Geopolitics has also caused a bifurcation in the tanker fleet, a physical manifestation of the decoupling scenario laid out by the WTO.....



"Are Financial Attacks the Modern Economic Wars?"

The author of this piece, Myret Zaki, has been looking at shadow banking skullduggery for a while. If interested see some of the links in March 26's "ECB warns that shadow banking could trigger next financial crisis".

From NZZ's, April 28:

The case of Credit Suisse shows how hedge funds have acquired oversized power on markets and on the fate of entire countries. In the era of speculative shadow banking, finance has become a war of narratives, and of central bank size.

Deutsche Version

A lot has been said about the Credit Suisse collapse, both on a regulatory and on a political level. But not much has been said about the way speculative attacks can destroy a company’s value in record time. Hedge funds made billions in a few days, betting against Credit Suisse and other banks’ shares, and buying credit default swaps (CDS) to signal an increased likelihood of the bank’s default. This is where the kill started. Targeting a company with these speculative instruments can be fatal, no matter how high its capital ratio is, or how high its probability of default is.

Incentive to harm
Owning CDS on a company or having short positions on it creates an incentive, for the speculator, to see the firm collapse in order to profit from the default payout. The speculators have every interest in seeing a chain reaction, extending to the ultimate client run, that causes the right outcome for their trade. What happened with Credit Suisse was very similar to the speculative raids that targeted Greek debt and, through a domino game, the European banks in 2010-2012.

It hasn’t as much to do with the actual financial situation of the target as with the potential to leverage a narrative to spark a massive price movement. As was the case of euro sovereign debt, the vulnerability of Credit Suisse comes from being listed: an unlisted company, even if managed in a worse way than Credit Suisse, could not have been put to death in this manner.

So one should not underestimate the oversized power of a few concentrated players in the CDS market to decide the fate of foreign entities with thousands of depositors. Or to decide the fate of the sovereign debt of foreign countries, whose deterioration will impose austerity on populations of millions.

Weapons of mass deception
The illiquid CDS market, which is easy to manipulate, is a «weapon of mass deception», as Warren Buffett called them. Three-quarters of the CDS trade is aimed at pure speculation and only a quarter is used for insuring against bond defaults. Therefore, CDS can easily be used by hedge funds to spread fear, because they can considerably exaggerate a default risk and certainly aren’t a reliable indicator.

The same was attempted with Deutsche Bank as with Credit Suisse. Exploiting existing fears about the solidity of the German bank, hedge funds spread rumors on Twitter that Deutsche Bank had some «counterparty hedging» issue, or commented that «banking doom was back in Europe». Those rumors were spread after hedge funds had sold ahead about 3% of Deutsche’s shares. The CDS spreads conveniently acted as a panic indicator as they rose 25%-30% in a few hours....


For additional commentary see also:
"Pope says credit default swaps are unethical"

....the Vatican press office with:

“‘Oeconomicae et pecuniariae quaestiones’. Considerations for an ethical discernment regarding some aspects of the present economic-financial system” of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, 17.05.2018

Regarding default swaps, if the purchaser doesn't own the underlying instrument they are, straight up, gambling.
And the problem Wall Street has is that gambling is usually regulated at the state level and state's usually say that unless they can get a cut of the action gambling is illegal.....


"Bananas, Kumquats, and Today’s Inflation Problem"

 From the always interesting Energy Musings, April 28:

Cornell University economist Alfred Kahn, President Jimmy Carter’s advisor on inflation and chair of the Council on Wage and Price Controls, was famous for talking about recessions and depressions as necessary to win the battle with the raging inflation of the 1970s.  He was chastised for using such scary language – remember we were not far removed from the Great Depression.  Kahn switched to calling them bananas until a banana company took offense and he changed to kumquats.  Who knew what a kumquat was?

Politicians in Washington hate talking about recessions, let alone depressions.  But if inflation does not retreat to the Federal Reserve’s 2% target rate, people will continue suffering.  The good news: the March Consumer Price Index (CPI) for all items posted an increase of 5.0%, the smallest monthly rise since May 2021.  Energy falling 6.4% helped, with gasoline falling 17.4%, although electricity rose 10.2%.  Fortunately, the latter counts less in the index than the former.

In the 1970s when the CPI was rising by 15%, Arthur Burns, chair of the Federal Reserve, asked his economists to develop an index that was less politically sensitive.  They came up with Core CPI which strips out the volatile food and energy components.  In March, however, Core CPI increased by 5.6%, largely attributed to an 8.2% increase in housing that represented over 60% of the total increase.  So much for getting rid of the volatile categories.  Compared to expectations, the March CPI was slightly better while Core CPI was slightly worse.  Good news or bad?

On the bad side, since March 2021, the CPI has increased by 14.0% driven by food prices climbing 18.0% and energy soaring 23.6%.  Without those categories, Core CPI was 12.4% higher – better but not by much.  For consumers, food and fuel claim significant shares of people’s budgets but so do housing, autos, and health care expenses.  Inflation hurts, no matter who you are.

Despite Main Street’s suffering, Wall Street cheered the CPI report.  Investment managers and CNBC talking heads rejoiced at the lower rate declaring the “end of inflation!”  They called the CPI’s steady decline since peaking at 9.1% last June a victory.  For them, the CPI is heading directly to the Federal Reserve’s 2% inflation target.  The stock market will soar.  Break out the champagne!

At What Cost?

Two days later, BlackRock’s CEO Larry Fink appeared on CNBC and threw cold water on the lower inflation enthusiasm.  Fink said the Russian invasion of Ukraine had accelerated the shift away from globalization.  Additionally, the United States has embarked on an industrial policy that has us “reshoring” or “nearshoring” our supply chains.  These moves will be inflationary.

An expanded U.S. manufacturing base will see more products made here.  The electric vehicle (EV) industry is Exhibit No. 1.  Its growth is driven by mandates, tax credits, and subsidies.  Government largess can only be earned if a major portion of an EV is built in the U.S. with American or North American manufactured components.

One outcome of “reshoring” is that global trade will shrink as fewer goods are imported and more are manufactured here.  Fink, who has been a long-time promoter of globalization, said he was not making a value judgment on the industrial policy, but asked, “At what cost?”  A clue was in Fink’s March letter to BlackRock shareholders....


As we saw yesterday reshoring hasn't really begun, meaning the higher costs of deglobalization haven't really been making their mark on prices.

Combined with the political and policy desire to force energy prices higher:

“Under my plan … electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.”
—Presidential candidate, Senator Barack Obama,
Q&A with the editorial board of the San Francisco Chronicle, January 21, 2008

And we get to the outro of an April 17 post:

"...only the dead have seen the end of war.”
And inflation.
Related this last week

Saturday, April 29, 2023

GMO's Jeremy Grantham warns eventually only the rich will procreate as chemicals leave the poor sterile

Although this piece is over three years old it's just been sitting in the link-vault, coming around on the carousel every eight or nine months but not getting posted.

From CNBC, February 10, 2020: 

  • "If we do not ban whole classes of chemicals in the next 10 years, we will face a crash in the number of new births," GMO co-founder Jeremy Grantham said in a letter.
  • Grantham gained influence as an investor after correctly calling the dotcom bubble in 2000 and the market's dramatic downturn in 2008.
  • Grantham ended his letter by warning that major chemical companies could soon be hit by widespread bans on some of their key products.
High-profile investor Jeremy Grantham warned in a letter that falling birth rates in the developed world could accelerate in coming years due to increasing chemical toxicity, allowing only wealthy people to have children.
In recent years, economists have raised concern about the impact on economic growth of slowing birth rates in the developed world. Grantham, who co-founded GMO in the 1970s and is famous for calling the last two major market bubbles, said that trend is poised to accelerate due to increased chemical toxicity in the environment and food products.

"This interference is growing at such a rapid rate that if left alone it is likely to leave us sterile in a few decades with only the rich able to easily afford the healthy lifestyles and the exotic medical help required to have babies," Grantham said.
While acknowledging that changes in lifestyle choices is responsible for at least some of the slowing birth rates, Graham said increased chemical toxicity is making it harder for women to conceive and lowering sperm counts in men.
"The net effect of choice and postponement combined with the recent decade of 'help' from toxicity has been an unexpected and accelerating decline in delivered fertility in developed countries, as well as the critically important China and India, with new annual cohorts of babies already declining in absolute numbers, not just growth rates," Grantham said.

He also pointed to dramatic population declines in some species of insects as an example of how increased chemicals in the environment can hurt reproduction rates.
He ended his letter by warning that major chemical companies could soon be hit by widespread bans on some of their key products.

"The bottom line is this: either endocrine disrupting chemicals will go out of business or we will!" Grantham wrote....
And though we didn't link to the CNBC article we did link to Grantham Mayo Van Otterloo under the headline:
which was not nearly as clickbaity a title as one might think.
So there I was, reading an AgFunder post: "One future of pest control: Grow and release swarms of sterile male insects" which got me thinking about soy boys and if there was anything to the hypothesized relationship between phytoestrogens and feminization—or at minimum decreasing potency/virility—of human males. Not just sperm counts, though that has been widely reported, but population-wide decreases in testosterone levels as well.

So pests and soy boys and sterility all mixing it up in the noggin when the following shows up in an email from a friend.
Surprisingly Mr. Grantham does not mention the population-wide (as opposed to individual, possibly age-related) decrease in serum testosterone levels observed in American males.

Here's a dandy little paper from way back in 2007, from the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism:
A Population-Level Decline in Serum Testosterone Levels in American Men

And some further discussion at Healio Endocrine Today:
Generational decline in testosterone levels observed

A similar study concluded:
Testosterone levels decreasing in Danish men

Somethings up.  

We've had a few posts on endocrine disruptors, this one's from 2022: 

"Weed-killing plant-based foam shown to be as effective as herbicides"

We should probably* do as much as we can to reduce the use of endocrine-disruptor chemicals and that include herbicides.

From New Atlas, October 13:

It's no secret that herbicides can be harmful to the environment, plus they're costly, and weeds may develop a resistance to them. New research now suggests that farmers could get the same weed-killing results from a hot biodegradable foam.

In the past, scientists have tried killing weeds by scalding them with steam and/or hot water. This approach has only met with limited success, however, due to the fact that the heat simply escaped into the atmosphere before much of it was transferred into the weeds. What was needed was a substance that retained heat for a longer period of time.

That's where the Foamstream system comes in.

Developed by British agricultural company Weedingtech, it incorporates a liquid foam made of plant oils and sugars, which is mixed with hot water and sprayed via a hand wand directly onto weeds. The foam then forms a layer of insulation, keeping the heat on the weeds long enough for it to penetrate their leaves' outer surface, then travel down their stems and into their roots – effectively killing them. Once its job is done, the foam dries up and biodegrades into the soil....

*I say probably because at the population level there are benefits from using the chemicals: increased food production being the main one. A statistician smarter than I could probably come up with the tradeoffs in an hours time and pinpoint where the breast cancer line cross with the malnutrition-induced diseases line.

At the individual level, avoid any and all synthetic chemicals that the species hasn't been dealing with for, say, five thousand years. Although even there, overindulgence in beer or too many yummy char-broiled fat molecules from your Wagyu can wreck the best laid plans. But if possible, leaving only the dozens of naturally occurring carcinogens the opportunity to have their way with you is the best course.

Also from 2022:
....Meanwhile, one of the biggest backers of faux meat has man boobs: 

I'm not saying it's phytoestrogens in the product but geez, he's our health and wellness guru.

Since I've somehow wandered onto the subject:
"Washington Post Denies Claim New Estrogen-Packed 'Impossible Whopper' Will Make Men Grow Breasts"
Yellow Pea Protein In The Financial Times: People Have Thoughts (but no mention of man boobs

Probably related:

The U.S. Army Info War Division Wants Social Media Surveillance to Protect “NATO Brand”

Despite having more than a passing interest in such things, I'm not sure I could give our readers a definition of NATO's brand. 

One famous statement of purpose can be found on NATO's website [emphasis in original]:

Lord Ismay

Lord Hastings Lionel Ismay was NATO’s first Secretary General, a position he was initially reluctant to accept. By the end of his tenure however, Ismay had become the biggest advocate of the organisation he had famously said earlier on in his political career, was created to “keep the Soviet Union out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.”....


From The Intercept, April 27:

The U.S. Army Cyber Command told defense contractors it planned to surveil global social media use to defend the “NATO brand,” according to a 2022 webinar recording reviewed by The Intercept.

The disclosure, made a month after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, follows years of international debate over online free expression and the influence of governmental security agencies over the web. The Army’s Cyber Command is tasked with both defending the country’s military networks as well as offensive operations, including propaganda campaigns.

The remarks came during a closed-door conference call hosted by the Cyber Fusion Innovation Center, a Pentagon-sponsored nonprofit that helps with military tech procurement, and provided an informal question-and-answer session for private-sector contractors interested in selling data to Army Cyber Command, commonly referred to as ARCYBER.

Though the office has many responsibilities, one of ARCYBER’s key roles is to detect and thwart foreign “influence operations,” a military euphemism for propaganda and deception campaigns, while engaging in the practice itself. The March 24, 2022, webinar was organized to bring together vendors that might be able to help ARCYBER “attack, defend, influence, and operate,” in the words of co-host Lt. Col. David Beskow of the ARCYBER Technical Warfare Center.

While the event was light on specifics — the ARCYBER hosts emphasized that they were keen to learn whatever the private sector thought was “in the realm of possible” — a recurring topic was how the Army can more quickly funnel vast volumes of social media posts from around the world for rapid analysis.

At one point in the recording, a contractor who did not identify themselves asked if ARCYBER could share specific topics they plan to track across the web. “NATO is one of our key brands that we are pushing, as far as our national security alliance,” Beskow explained. “That’s important to us. We should understand all conversations around NATO that has happened on social media.”

He added, “We would want to do that long term to understand how — what is the NATO, for lack of a better word, what’s the NATO brand, and how does the world view that brand across different places of the world?”

Beskow said that ARCYBER wanted to track social media on various platforms used in places where the U.S. had an interest.....


One of the oddities of NATO's early history is the story of German Generals Hans Speidel and Adolf Heusinger:,h_412,al_c,lg_1,q_80,enc_auto/94e197_a4a5f40fff1d44d99e393f74bd2f4de9~mv2.jpg

Just an oddity, not anything nefarious but not front and center on the branding front either.

"The Lager Legacy: German Researchers Discover How a 400-Year-Old Mistake Revolutionized Beer"

Beer has been made since ancient times. Recent archaeology shows evidence of brewing in the eastern Mediterranean some 13,000 years ago. Although from the origins of brewing until the early 20th century, ale was the typical beer produced, lager now accounts for approximately 90% of the beer consumed annually.

The beginnings of this shift from ale to yeast occurred when a new yeast species, Saccharomyces pastorianus or “lager yeast,” appeared in Germany around the end of the middle ages. This is a hybrid species that arose from mating the top-fermenting ale yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae and the cold-tolerant Saccharomyces eubayanus around the start of the 17th century. But until now no one has figured out how the combination lager yeast S. pastorianus came about.....


Untangling the Supply Webs

Not chains, webs.
Following on This Morning's "The Great Re-Shoring Charade".
From The Milken Review, April 21:
Breaking Up Is Hard to Do
The Biden administration is on a campaign to fundamentally alter the supply chains that feed America’s vast appetite for foreign-made goods. This effort is driven in part by the public’s demand for protection against the sorts of shortages that made everything from butter to SUVs scarce during the Covid-19 pandemic. Real enthusiasm for reordering supply chains, however, is stoked by perceived military and economic threats to the U.S. from a more assertive China.

On her first visit to India last November, Treasury Secretary Yellen called for “like-minded countries” to work together to reduce the world’s dependence on “risky countries,” taking clear aim at China. Such statements play well on Capitol Hill, where members of Congress outcompete each other to show who is most disgusted by China. But they pose problems for many of America’s trade partners who do not share America’s desires to decouple.

Tangled Webs
The Biden administration inherited Trumpera policies intended to force China to clean up its predatory treatment of American intellectual property — patents, trade secrets and the like. The tariffs, which remain on two thirds of U.S. imports from China, were justified by the Trump administration not only by claims that American companies were forced to share technology as a condition of doing business there, but also as a means of reducing U.S. dependence on China for natural resources and some industrial products, and as payback for past unfair trade practices.

America’s list of China’s economic threats is long, but concern that it will dominate future “chokepoints” — supply nodes that can be used to restrict access to critical materials — drives current policy. And recent Chinese actions have only reinforced fears of economic coercion. Over the past few years, China has used its economic leverage to retaliate against perceived slights from more than a dozen countries, slapping on tariffs and negating long-standing trade relations. Last October, the Biden administration deployed chokepoints of its own to forestall Chinese hightech development, banning exports of advanced semiconductors and the equipment needed to make them.

Although it features prominently in the press, America’s “tech war” with China is only part of the wider effort to reshape U.S.-Sino trade relations. The White House is determined to reduce future dependence on China through “reshoring” and “friend-shoring” of the activities that supply American markets. The goal of moving supply chains away from China now guides U.S. trade and investment policies, its economic relationships with allies, and its refusal to restore the World Trade Organization’s authority to act as an effective arbiter of trade disputes.

America’s efforts to restructure global supply chains reflect a fundamental rethinking of how the global trading system should work. No longer willing to abide by WTO treaty norms, especially non-discrimination against other members, the U.S. is leading the formation of exclusive trade and investment networks.

As the world’s most innovative economy and its largest importer — American merchandise imports exceeded $3 trillion in 2022 — the United States has many levers to move global supply chains. A review of these tools shows, however, that while some can be used effectively at least in the near term, none comes without substantial economic costs. There are also profound consequences of this campaign for U.S. global leadership.

America’s efforts to restructure global supply chains reflect a fundamental rethinking of how the global trading system should work. No longer willing to abide by WTO treaty norms, especially non-discrimination against other members, the U.S. is leading the formation of exclusive trade and investment networks. Other countries also seek to reduce dependence on China and are eager to capture market share it loses. But they still resist U.S. efforts to force them to decouple from China.

The Usefulness of Trump’s Trade-War Tariffs
The Biden administration has left untouched the Trump-era tariffs levied in 2018 and 2019. This failure to reform Trump’s tariff policies, which represented an about-face from decades of U.S. commitment to rules-based open global trade, surprised many who followed the Biden campaign’s cogent criticism of the former president’s approach. However, since rearranging supply chains and making them less vulnerable to geopolitical tides is a priority for the Biden White House, retaining the Section 301 tariffs gives the administration broad discretion in responding to perceived injuries and provides a ready-made tool for altering U.S. trade patterns. Tariffs on China, which still average 19 percent, have helped to reduce its share of U.S. goods imports from 22 percent at the start of the trade war to only 17 percent by the end of 2022.

This reduction in China’s share of the U.S. market has caused considerable economic harm to U.S. interests — costs that now seem to have been forgotten in the rush to remake U.S.-China economic relations. To date, U.S. Customs has collected $167 billion in duties on imports from China subject to Section 301 tariffs, which amounts to a hefty tax on U.S. businesses and consumers, as shown by several detailed studies of U.S. import prices. This sum, it’s worth noting, dwarfs revenue collected under Trump-era scattershot trade actions that also hit targets ranging from Canada to Turkey to the EU as well as China. And, incredibly, Americans continue to pay these import taxes while 2022 U.S. imports from China will exceed the value purchased in 2018, when the trade war began.

Because the largest share of U.S. imports from China are “intermediate goods” — goods, like engine parts, used to make other goods — these tariffs make U.S. businesses that rely on inputs from China less competitive against their foreign rivals at home and abroad. An analysis by Kyle Handley (Michigan), Fariha Kamal (U.S. Census) and Ryan Monarch (Federal Reserve), using detailed information on the activities of American manufacturers, found that Trump-era tariffs lowered export growth for those exposed to them, with an effect equivalent to a 2 percent to 4 percent tariff levied on their foreign sales. And there’s no reason to believe these tariffs are currently less damaging.

While hurting U.S. exports, tariffs do not often result in “reshoring” — that is, returning production (and jobs) to the United States. A recent study by the Peterson Institute for International Economics found that trade subject to the Trump tariffs was diverted away from China toward Mexico and other parts of East Asia, not to Detroit or Seattle or Dallas.

Mr. Biden has made the notion of “democracies versus autocracies” an organizing principle of his foreign policy. Unfortunately, in a world with low barriers to trade, blocking an autocracy from participation in one’s supply chains does not imply that democratically governed economies will take its place. Indeed, one of the ironies of the U.S.-China trade war is the bonus it has provided to Vietnam, an economy guided by the country’s communist party. Vietnam’s share of exports to the U.S. increased markedly after the levy of tariffs on Chinese goods including footwear and apparel. Adding to the irony, the shift was less than what it appears: these Vietnamese- labeled goods undoubtedly contain Chinese content, and some are made in Chinese- owned factories....


That was one of the points made in the earlier posts, that as American imports from Vietnam rose, so to did Vietnam's imports from China.

Very much like Europe buying Russian oil but routing it through India and paying a middleman's markup to do so..

Meanwhile In India....

 From The Sun, April 22:

Man killed by a flying COW that was hit by a train and flung 100ft in freak accident while urinating on tracks

This is not a surprise for those readers who have been with us for a while:

Vaclav Smil: Planet of the Cows
Tycoon and Oxford Professor Brian Bellhouse Killed By Cows
We have been warning against the homicidal beasts for years, links below.

The Cows Are Trying To Kill Us
Joe Weisenthal and Tracy Alloway: "What Mathematical Models of Herding Cows Can Teach Us About Markets"
"Robots Will Almost Certainly Not Train Cows To Kill Us All As Part Of Their Plan For Worldwide Domination"

No, it is NOT an obsession. We just want to keep the cows happy.
The Cows Are Trying To Kill Us
We're not just talking bovine flatus or yummy saturated fat....
From io9:
Cows Are Deadlier Than You Ever Knew
Every year, cows kill more people than sharks. And yet nobody ever makes a horror movie about them, and there's no Cow Week. These deadly beasts have managed to stay completely under the radar... until now. Find out just why cows are so deadly.

Deliberate Attacks on People
In the United States, the CDC estimates that about twenty-two people are killed by cows each year, and of those cow attacks, seventy-five percent were known to be deliberate attacks. One third of the killings were committed by cows that had previously displayed aggressive behavior.

People know that bulls are dangerous, and it's true. When animal behaviorists analyzed 21 cases that occurred across a four-state area, they found that bulls were responsible for ten of the deaths. Cows were responsible for six deaths. What's really chilling is that, in five cases, people were killed by multiple cows in group attacks.

Group attacks can be surprisingly well-coordinated. When they're feeling defensive, cows will gather in a circle, all facing outwards, lowering their heads and stamping the ground. When they're feeling offensive, certain cows lead the charge. One man, who was attacked while walking his dog along a path, reported, "I fell forwards and rolled into a ball and every time I tried to get up they jumped on me; they were rolling me along the hill with their legs trying to get me to open up. There were seven or eight cows. There were a couple leaders."

Even the people who survive cow attacks rarely brush them off. In 2014, a mountaineer and cyclist was leading a race through a pasture when a group of cows attacked him. He received fractures on eight ribs, a shoulder, and a part of his spine. A woman, attacked the same year, got six broken ribs and a punctured lung. Cows mostly trample and kick people, but if they get their head beneath their victim they can literally throw a person into the air and let them fall back down on the ground.

Humans may not be able to trust cattle, but non-humans have been known to employ cows as security. Sheep raised with cows will run into the center of the cow-herd when faced with a threat, knowing that if things get hairy, the cows will take care of business.

Battle Cows  
Because they move slowly and require a lot of grass and water, cows are impractical standard weapons of war. That hasn't stopped people from using them as improvised weapons, especially if the other side was dumb enough to bring them along. A herd of cows' potential to do damage is even more infamous. Anyone with even a passing familiarity with old Westerns knows what's going to happen when someone shouts, "Stampede!"

George Armstrong Custer wrote a memoir in which he described Native Americans inducing cattle to stampede as either a distraction tactic or an outright attack. No matter what the purpose, soldiers knew that they had to take the cattle in hand before doing anything else. Another book, tellingly entitled The Uncivilized Races of Men in All Countries of the World and written in 1878, recounts the conflict between the Boers and the Zulu. The author, Reverend John George Wood writes, "The Zulus have sometimes outwitted the Boers, by introducing inside of a camp at night, scouts, who speared the cattle frightening them into a stampede." Both books insist this is not the right way to fight a war, but admit the tactic is a good one. A stampede of cows is a scary thing.

Kamikaze Cows
Cows don't have to intend anyone's death in order to kill them. Any fifteen hundred pound animal can do a lot of damage, which is why some motorists, driving beside cliffs in rural country, have been amused by signs warning them about falling cows. It wasn't so much of a joke when, in Switzerland, over the course of a few weeks, twenty-eight cows either fell or jumped over a cliff. A man in Brazil was killed by a cow that fell on his car. And, in Indiana, drivers along a highway were startled when a trailer on an overpass tipped over and rained cows on them. A bull survived the fall and ran amok on the highway, attacking a tow-truck driver....MORE

"The Great Re-Shoring Charade"

From Asia Times via MENA FN, April 6:

Moving factories from China to Mexico is one of the few hot topics in an otherwise listless market, US investment bankers say.

As American hostility to China rises, US corporations scramble to assure the public as well as inquisitive congressional committees that they are moving operations out of the Middle Kingdom to friendlier venues.

It's all a pantomime for political consumption. US imports from Mexico, Vietnam, India and other“friend-shoring” venues depend on imports of Chinese components, according to an Asia Times study of international trade data. China's exports to non-Japan Asia and Latin America are booming, and Chinese companies are investing billions of dollars in Mexico.

The charade permits American politicians to flaunt success in decoupling from China, and gives corporate leaders a chance to display their patriotism – while America's indirect dependence on China's industrial power increases.

“Friend-shoring” venues including India, Vietnam and Mexico show a lockstep relationship between imports from China and exports to the United States. Econometric analysis confirms that this relationship isn't simply the result of a rising trend in both measures.

After correcting for the trend and for serial correlation, regression analysis shows a strong predictive relationship between these countries' imports from China and their exports to the United States.

China's share of international trade is rising steadily. Its export volume (as calculated by the netherlands central planning bureau ) rose 25% since 2018 while the industrial nations' export volume stagnated....


"The Rise of Jamie Dimon" (the power players and the Epstein gang) JPM

From Unlimited Hangout, March 27:

As JPMorgan’s ties to Jeffrey Epstein are being scrutinized in court, Whitney Webb reveals how the same powerful players who brought Epstein to prominence were largely responsible for the rise of JPMorgan CEO, Jamie Dimon.  

Earlier this month, a judge ruled that two different lawsuits against JPMorgan Chase over the bank’s ties to deceased “financier” and pedophile, Jeffrey Epstein, would be allowed to advance in U.S. Courts. One of these cases, brought against the bank by the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI), has been a particular focus of independent media since the new year began, in part because the Attorney General of the USVI, Denise George, was fired from her post just days after she filed that case.

In a hearing in the USVI case against JPMorgan earlier this month, a USVI lawyer argued that the CEO of JPMorgan – Jamie Dimon – “knew in 2008 that his billionaire client [Jeffrey Epstein] was a sex trafficker.” The lawyer, Mimi Liu, also stated that former JPMorgan Jes Staley also knew this about Epstein at the time, but noted: “This case was not just Jes Staley … there will be numerous documents that go far beyond his office to the executive suite.” Liu also asserted that “Staley knew, Dimon knew, JPMorgan Chase knew” about Epstein’s criminal activities against minors.

While the bank has disputed that Dimon knew anything about Epstein’s accounts at the bank or what he was really up to at the time, this Unlimited Hangout investigation – a multi-part series – will reveal that Dimon’s rise to the top post at JPMorgan was intimately linked to the very same group of people who enabled Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking activities as well as his extensive financial crimes.

In this article, we will examine how Dimon’s rise to become one of the most powerful men on Wall Street was largely reliant on top executives and directors of Bank One, which boasts incredibly close ties to The Limited’s Leslie Wexner and his right-hand man for many decades, Columbus-area real estate developer John W. Kessler. Kessler and other individuals tied to Wexner were the dominant forces that saw Dimon installed as Bank One’s CEO in 2000. Bank One was acquired by JPMorgan in 2003 and, shortly thereafter, Dimon became CEO of the combined entity. That acquisition, as well as the role of the Crown family in Chicago in Dimon’s selection as Bank One’s CEO, will be discussed in the second part of this series.

Yet, Dimon’s ties to the same networks as Wexner, particularly those characterized by their connections to organized crime and intelligence, preceded his time as Bank One’s CEO by many years. As this article will show, Dimon’s construction of what is now Citigroup, alongside his mentor Sandy Weill, began with their takeover of a company called Commercial Credit Corporation. That company, as well as its parent company, Control Data Corporation, had a troubling history of ties to intelligence networks that were extensively involved in criminal activity – including the so-called “private CIA” formed by CIA veteran Ted Shackley in the 1970s as well as individuals crucial to the Epstein story like Robert Maxwell.

Given these connections, JPMorgan’s claims that Dimon never knew what Jeffrey Epstein was up to during his time with the bank becomes much harder to believe. Furthermore, as future installments of this series will show, the players discussed here – Dimon and Epstein among them – were instrumental in the creation of what would manifest as the 2008 economic crisis. Not unlike some of the events that sparked today’s banking crisis, figures like Jeffrey Epstein, Dimon’s mentor Sandy Weill and the former Treasury Secretaries with close associations with both men, Robert Rubin and Larry Summers, appeared to have engaged in actions that would intentionally provoke the collapse of certain banks to further consolidate the banking sector for their benefit. The goal, both then and now, seems to have been a move towards the logical conclusion of the “too big to fail” banking model — the eventual creation of a centralized cartel of mega-banks that dominate, not only commercial banking, but also central banking.

A Brief History of Control Data Corporation

Created by a group of Naval engineers in 1956, at the dawn of the American military-industrial complex, Engineering Research Associates (ERA) was a military contractor with a focus on cryptography and code-breaking. Shortly after its creation, part of the core ERA team split off and formed Control Data Corporation (CDC) a year later in 1957.

CDC quickly became a defense contractor in its own right and became a major purveyor of super-computers to sensitive U.S. research facilities. These included Sandia National Laboratories and Oak Ridge Laboratories, both of which worked on the U.S. nuclear program. At the same time, CDC also had an odd relationship with the Soviet Union’s own sensitive nuclear facilities, which eventually led to congressional scrutiny. Congressional hearings from the mid-1970s revealed that:

In 1968, a second-generation Control Data Corporation 1604 system was installed at the Dubna Soviet Nuclear Facility near Moscow. In 1972 [CDC] sold the Soviet Union a third-generation CDC 6200 system computer. For these systems, [CDC’s] operating statement had improved by about $3 million dollars in the past three years. And the Soviet Union has gained 15 years in computer technology

The hearings also noted that CDC planned to sell Soviet-controlled Poland computer systems so sensitive that they were only used domestically at the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Atomic Energy Commission. CDC claimed that Poland planned to use the equipment at a Polish “high school.” At the time, no American high school or educational institution of any type possessed this particular system, and there were only 10 in the entire country. As reflected by these and other examples in the hearings’ transcripts, Congress’ concerns were based around the perception that CDC’s business in the USSR involved technology transfers that undermined U.S. national security during the height of the Cold War.  Those concerns would only grow with time.

After these hearings in 1974, CDC made an apparent move at increasing its role in technology transfers, despite political concerns. By the late 1970s, they had established a new subsidiary called Worldtech, described in the press as “a division of Control Data Corp that does research and consulting on, and brokering of, technology transfers.”

Once Worldtech was established by CDC, it entered into a joint venture in 1979 with Greek publisher George Bobolas that was called Worldtech Hellas Ltd. 70% was owned by Bobolas and 20% was owned by CDC. The owner of the remaining 10% was not disclosed in reports at the time.

A 1979 letter from one of Bobolas’ companies to A. Afonin, identified as a “representative of the State Committee for Foreign Economic Relations of the USSR Council of Ministers,” proposed the creation of a “joint development company using Worldtech for ‘world-wide technology transfer’” and stressed that “Worldtech Hellas Ltd. will give a lot of help’ to ‘technology transfer on an international base.’” After journalist Paul Anastasi published information about Bobolas and called him a “KGB agent of influence,” one of his companies, Bobtrade, asserted that “no improper transfer of high technology was involved.” CDC moved to dissolve their partnership, likely due to bad publicity.

Around the time that Worldtech was created, CDC’s then-executive vice president, Robert D. Schmidt, was part of the American Committee on U.S.-Soviet Relations (ACUSR, previously the American Committee on East-West Accord). Other members at the time, specifically in 1977, included Robert Maxwell’s lawyer and confidant, Samuel Pisar (stepfather to current U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken), as well as Thomas Watson Jr. of IBM, who would become the U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union in 1979. Another member was Paul Ziffren, a major figure in the organized crime networks that ran through Chicago and Hollywood described in Gus Russo’s acclaimed work Supermob. Another key figure in the “Supermob” network was Henry Crown. Crown, along with his son and grandson – Lester and James, will be discussed in greater detail later in this series due to their pivotal role in the rise of Jamie Dimon.

Notably, in the early 1970s, Samuel Pisar told Congress that the world was moving “toward a single, unified world economy, in disregard of national frontiers, and even ideological boundaries.” He stated that “all conventional tools of national policy, it seems to me, are rapidly becoming anachronistic [as] the State itself, even a strong one, [..] is no longer a defendable economic entity.” Pisar also claimed that the main drivers of this shift included “the multinational corporation” and “the dissemination of technology.” He later frames technology transfers by major multinational corporations as giving rise to the “trans-ideological corporation” where “capital private enterprises” and “Communist state enterprises” freely intermingled and formed joint ventures. When asked if these “trans-ideological corporations” were forces for good or for evil, Pisar responded that “I believe that on balance, they are a force for good,” but qualified that as depending on how governments and corporate management act “to make certain that they become forces for good.”....


Earlier today:

"Jamie Dimon’s Deeply Conflicted Role as “Rescuer” of First Republic Bank Requires a Credible Investigation" (FRC; JPM)

Two from Wall Street on Parade. First up the headliner, April 26:

The Board of Directors and shareholders at the largest bank in the U.S., JPMorgan Chase – which has more than 5,000 Chase Bank branches dotting the landscape from coast to coast – have ample reason to ask themselves where the loyalties of the bank’s Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon exactly lie.

Dimon, who has come under withering negative publicity for the bank’s many years of catering to the cash payoff needs of child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, had an urgent incentive to want to change the subject. So a media blitz ensued around his role as rescuer of the sinking carcass of a much smaller bank, First Republic Bank – which has its own dubious distinction of being the bank that wired the hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels by Trump attorney, Michael Cohen.

For just how broadly Dimon’s “rescue” of First Republic Bank has been reported, scroll down at this link. Only someone living off the grid or in a coma did not hear that Jamie Dimon was riding to the rescue of First Republic Bank.

But as early as Tuesday, March 28, during a Senate Banking hearing, it became clear that when First Republic finally got around to updating the public on the severity of its distressed situation (which it finally did on Monday in a 12-minute earnings call that took no questions from anyone), the news was going to be devastating to the bank.

At the Senate Banking hearing, the Vice Chairman for Supervision at the Fed, Michael Barr, explained just how fast deposits can evaporate from a bank in the new digital age, especially when tens of billions of dollars of those deposits exceed the FDIC insurance cap of $250,000 per depositor, per bank. Barr told the Senators that in the case of Silicon Valley Bank, $42 billion in deposits had left the bank on Thursday, March 9, and bank customers had queued up $100 billion more to exit the following day. Silicon Valley Bank did not have adequate collateral to post at the Fed to borrow funds to meet that $100 billion in withdrawals, thus the bank was put into FDIC receivership on March 10.

No depositor has ever lost a dime of deposits in an FDIC-insured bank if they have kept those deposits in FDIC-insured accounts and within that $250,000 FDIC cap.

Both Silicon Valley Bank and First Republic Bank are California-headquartered regional banks. The contagion from Silicon Valley Bank had directly impacted First Republic Bank. By the date of that Senate Banking hearing on March 28, First Republic’s common stock had lost 90 percent of its market value – just in the month of March.

It might be possible to come back from that if one is a start-up tech firm, or an acknowledged high-risk innovator. But Americans put their money in federally-insured banks because they want safety; because they want the peace of mind of knowing their deposits will be protected despite what happens in the Wall Street casino on any given day. In that vein, Jamie Dimon was the worst possible choice to head up a rescue of First Republic Bank as he is the personification of what happens when a trading casino is allowed to own the largest federally-insured bank in America. Under Dimon’s tenure at the helm of JPMorgan Chase, it has been charged with losing $6.2 billion of depositors’ money by gambling in derivatives in London; its precious metals traders have been charged under RICO – the statute used to prosecute the mob; it has received an unprecedented five felony counts from the U.S. Department of Justice, including aiding and abetting the largest Ponzi scheme in history by Bernie Madoff, and on and on.

But Jamie Dimon has a legion of public relations flacks shaping his image as a titan of Wall Street wisdom and he has clearly gotten high on his own p.r. supply. So Dimon cajoled three other mega banks on Wall Street to join his bank and dump $5 billion each of uninsured deposits into First Republic Bank on March 16. Those banks were Bank of America, Citigroup and Wells Fargo. In addition, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs deposited $2.5 billion each; while BNY Mellon, State Street, PNC Bank, Truist and US Bank each deposited $1 billion, bringing the total infusion to $30 billion.

In addition, according to First Republic, JPMorgan Chase had also provided a line of credit to the bank. Multiple media outlets also reported that JPMorgan Chase and Lazard were advisors to First Republic Bank on its options going forward. (See here and here.)....


And April 27:

Banks that Put Up $30 Billion to “Rescue” First Republic May Have Been Trying to Rescue their Own Exposure to $247 Trillion in Derivatives

Ever since 11 banks on March 16 donned the garb of heroic fire fighters, rushing to extinguish an inferno at a competitor bank before it spread further, we have been asking ourselves the question – why just this group of 11 banks.

We’re talking about the action on March 16 when 11 banks chipped in a total of $30 billion and bizarrely placed those funds as uninsured deposits into First Republic Bank – which was in full scale unraveling mode because of bond losses and – wait for it – too many uninsured deposits. Four banks contributed two-thirds of the total deposits with JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup and Wells Fargo ponying up $5 billion each. Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs deposited $2.5 billion each; while BNY Mellon, State Street, PNC Bank, Truist and U.S. Bank each deposited $1 billion, together making up the other one-third of the $30 billion.

According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, as of December 31, 2022 there were 4,706 federally-insured commercial banks and savings associations in the U.S. The 11 banks rushing to “rescue” First Republic Bank represent less than a fraction of one percent of the total banks.

Banking in the U.S. is not particularly regarded as an altruistic industry. In fact, it frequently resembles a blood sport. So why this uncanny display of generosity to a competitor and why were just these 11 banks involved?

Yesterday, we had an epiphany. We pulled up the most recent table from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency showing the 25 bank holding companies that have the largest exposure to derivatives. Sure enough, each of those 11 banks is on the list. (See page 19 at this link.) The data is as of December 31, 2022.

Equally noteworthy, the four banks that chipped in the giant sums of $5 billion each, control 58 percent of the total $247 trillion notional (face amount) in derivatives controlled by all 25 banks.

And if that wasn’t already plenty to raise one’s blood pressure, for many of these banks the dollar amount of derivatives is exponentially more than the total assets of the bank holding company. For example, SMBC Americas Holdings, Inc. has $34.6 billion in assets and $10.3 trillion in derivatives. (You can’t make this stuff up.)

It also caught our eye that three of the 25 banks on this list had their credit ratings impacted by the big action taken by Moody’s on April 21 when it downgraded the credit ratings of 11 banks on that date and put five more on negative watch. (See chart below.)

So let’s look back a little further at what was going on in terms of credit ratings during the two days just preceding that $30 billion display of goodwill toward First Republic Bank....


"JPMorgan, PNC To Buy First Republic After FDIC Seizure First Leaves Taxpayers Holding The Toxic Stuff" (FRC; JPM)

From ZeroHedge, April 28:

Update (2210ET):  As the weekend begins, the WSJ reports late on Friday that big banks including JPMorgan and PNC are set to buy First Republic Bank but not in a private, market-arranged deal but rather in a transaction that would follow a government seizure of the troubled lender. A seizure and sale of First Republic, which would wipe out the equity of FRC and potentially impose losses on creditors, could come as soon as this weekend, the WSJ sources said.

And so JPM, which is already the largest US bank is about to get even bigger, by scooping up all the good FRC assets while leaving US taxpayer holdings on to the toxic ones.

That said, it wasn't immediately clear whether the $30 billion in deposits funneled by JPM and other banks into FRC will be treated as insured funds (why should they should be insured?), nor was it clear how a wipeout of this capital, which would spark a systemic crisis simply because the Fed is now running policy of "monetary tightening through bank collapse", having failed to contain inflation and tighten policy using conventional means.

* * *

Update (1640ET): As many expected given the intraday collapse of FRC, Reuters reports after the bell that The FDIC will imminently the bank into receivership....


Next up:

Friday, April 28, 2023

Apple Medicine

From The Drift Magazine:

Electric Bodies | Medical Technology Takes Over

We begin in a forest. The camera pushes through a clutch of trees to a clearing that reveals a drop into a ravine. “The owner of this watch has taken a hard fall,” Siri says. We’re listening in, apparently, on an automated 911 call on behalf of Bob B., who crashed while mountain biking and went unconscious. She provides “an estimated search radius of 41 meters” in her familiar clipped dialect — presumably saving the day. Although this is an ad for the Apple Watch, neither customer nor product is seen even once; we’re meant to assume that both are lying somewhere below our field of vision, the latter more active and alert than the former. The implication, underlined by a moody score, is that in a moment of crisis, technology can come to the rescue. 

Through a growing focus on healthcare monitoring in recent years, Apple has positioned its wearables as essential accessories for the technophile and the casual hypochondriac alike. In another video called “Dear Apple,” users read letters addressed directly to Tim Cook, crediting their Apple Watches with saving their lives in various emergencies. Several are cardiac in nature, but others involve adventure-related injuries — falling through river ice, slipping on the job, confronting a bear. In some cases, the Watch’s specific health functions alert the user to medical issues, though the device also comes to the rescue simply by virtue of its function as an unlosable phone — a wrist-bound conduit to 911. By conflating crises looming inside the body with external menaces lying in wait, Apple pitches its Watch as the ultimate asset in a hazardous and uncertain world. 

As a marketing strategy, fear works. When it launched in 2015, the long-hyped Apple Watch seemed like a failure: sales dropped 90 percent in just over two months following release, Fitbit was winning the wearables space, and even celebs were taking their Apple Watches off. (A Fast Companyarticle — headlined “Why the Apple Watch Is Flopping” — winkingly called out early endorsers like Beyoncé and Karl Lagerfeld for appearing to have ditched the accessories in a matter of weeks.) The tide turned when Apple marketers lit on the idea of branding the Watch as a way to ward off mortality, rather than just another symbol of ambient luxury. Though the first model featured a heart-rate tracker and fitness rings gamifying basic activities like standing and walking, Apple slowly increased its focus on health and fitness over subsequent releases, eventually introducing manual period tracking, an electrocardiogram (ECG) feature, glucose logging, and a redesigned Health app that could better integrate with other devices and third-party fitness apps. By late 2017, Apple Watch sales had surpassed those of Fitbit, and today, Apple owns about a third of the wearables market. In the process of securing its market dominance, the company has helped to turn obsessive physical monitoring from a niche hobby of the rich and fit into a commonplace ritual, with tens of millions of customers opting in. 

But acclimating the public to the project of technological management of the body requires more than a few years of shrewd marketing. For decades, the American medical establishment has championed electronic medical devices as acceptable complements to, or even replacements for, more familiar treatment modalities, transforming yesterday’s harbingers of an impersonal cyborg future into today’s gold standard of “care.” And these devices have spawned a global industry with a market cap in the hundreds of billions. In the U.S. alone, millions — including me — live with electronic medical devices like retinal implants, insulin pumps, and pacemakers, relying on them for everything from improved sight to moment-to-moment survival. More than a million pacemakers are embedded worldwide each year, with some 200,000 in the U.S. Over 100,000 implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs), battery-powered devices that can shock a heart out of irregular rhythms and prevent cardiac arrest, are inserted stateside every year, around half of the estimated global total. And one calculation puts the number of U.S. users of continuous glucose monitors at over two million. 

It’s tempting to see constant self-monitoring as a way to avoid the worst pitfalls of the healthcare system. But as medical technology reaches beyond the very ill and into the realm of the ordinary consumer, companies like Apple and Google exploit both the logic and the deficiencies of professional healthcare in their efforts to bring everybody under their surveillance. Implantable devices embody the drawbacks of financialized healthcare, with medicine outsourced to private industry and placed in the hands of profit-motivated consumer-technology manufacturers. Meanwhile, manufacturers of these supposedly tightly regulated devices are allowed to behave like everyday tech companies — skirting accountability, dropping products without notice, leaving customers stranded — which should complicate our willingness to let existing tech companies move so seamlessly into the business of monitoring and treating our bodies. Rather than liberating us from the problems of the healthcare system, commercial wearables are furthering one of its central trends: the merging of patient and consumer into one compliant subject....


Ukraine: "To The Losers Go The Spoils?"

From naked capitalism, April 28:

While the tea leaves in the American press are signifying that the Biden administration is about to give up on Ukraine, the plans continue on how to profit off whatever scraps are left of Ukraine once the war does eventually come to an end.

The potential windfall for western companies could be enormous as estimates range from $500 billion to over $1 trillion in reconstruction costs.

Ukraine’s Naftogaz is holding talks with Exxon Mobil Corp, Halliburton and Chevron about projects in the country, according to the Financial Times. Italy’s private sector is gearing up to join the reconstruction game. Paris and Kiev are already signing deals.

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We’ve also known for months that BlackRock will be advising Ukraine “designing an investment framework with a goal of creating opportunities for both public and private investors to participate in the future reconstruction and recovery of the Ukrainian economy.”

Will Germany’s Blackrock connections help it get a slice of the pie? Friedrich Merz, currently the leader of the opposition Christian Democratic Union, previously headed the supervisory board of the German branch of BlackRock.

More importantly, the powerful chief economist in the Federal Ministry of Economics, Elga Bartsch, formerly headed economic and market research at the Blackrock Investment Institute.

Germany’s Economy Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) recently made a surprise visit to Kiev. And after the Greens Party’s central role in turning Germany into an enemy of Russia, Habeck returned to Berlin with gifts  – chief among them is Ukraine as a source of “green” energy for Germany.

Habeck signed a joint statement of intent with Ukraine that will “expand the German-Ukrainian energy partnership with a focus on green recovery.” That includes expanding the use of wind, solar, biomass, hydropower, green hydrogen – and apparently nuclear power.

While Germany just shuttered its last nuclear power plants – primarily due to opposition from the Greens – whatever is left of Ukraine is looking to get more up and running. On April 21, Ukraine’s nuclear energy generating company signed an agreement with Jupiter, Florida-based Holtec International concluded an agreement to build 20 SMR-160 reactors in Ukraine.

According to Holtec, the power output from SMR-160 is enough to light up about 100,000 homes in the US and more than 300,000 homes in the developing world and “can easily be expanded with additional units to meet current and future demand.”

Back to the German Greens and Habeck who is selling most of this as support for Ukraine, but really it’s more of a giveaway to German big business...


"The Myth of scarcity and its threats to human society" [it all began with the Quaternary Megafauna Extinction and explanatory journalism]

Did they have explanatory journalists back then? Hmmmm....the Quaternary overlapped with the end of the Stone not formalized explanatory journalism.

We live in a world of too much information and too little context. 
Too much noise and too little insight. 
That's where Vox's explainers come in.

Sort of what I imagine a newsroom to look like.

As Forbes put it back in 2014:

Vox is an explanatory journalism website started by former Washington Post columnist and blogger Ezra Klein. What's explanatory journalism?

Good question. It's journalism that tries to explain things readers don't understand. Some explanatory journalism consists mostly of words, organized into simple declarative sentences. Some explanatory journalism consists of photographs, or charts, or videos, or animated GIFs. Animated GIFs are halfway between videos and photographs.....

Nope, no GIF's, in the picture of the newsroom, though I do appreciate the explanation of what a GIF is. 
So it was probably down to old-fashioned reporting:

"Grok, dude, everything big is dying." 

"Ghur, why would that be, pray tell?"

"Here's what I think is going on...."

From Andrew Kemendo, January 15, 2023:

The Quaternary Megafauna Extinction caused humans to develop an existential scarcity myth that serves as a founding cultural assumption, biasing all Historical, Economic and Political thought. This myth, based on a temporary reality of pervasive scarcity from 10,000 BC - 2000 AD, became embedded in prehistoric storytelling so thoroughly that humanity favors recent social structures of hierarchy, competition & hoarding over traditional human social structures of community, cooperation & sharing. This claim is composed of five propositions:
1. Until the Quaternary Megafauna Extinction, humans had never faced pervasive resource pressure for necessity goods.

2. Competition and resource hoarding is a beneficial in-group adaptation over cooperation in populations experiencing resource pressures.

3. Economic, Social and Political thought since the Quaternary Megafauna Extinction, assumes inescapable scarcity as a fundamental truth, and assumes in-group resource hoarding behaviors are perpetually adaptive.

4. Humanity has been post-scarcity of necessity goods at a global production level since at least the year 2000.

5. In the current post-scarcity environment, competition and resource hoarding become existentially detrimental to all populations, accelerating the destruction of social and community trust

The First Proposition:
Groundbreaking Anthropological work since the 1950s has unambiguously demonstrated that Anatomically Modern humans have continuously inhabited earth as far back as 200,000 BC. By 50,000 BC, fewer than 2 million humans, living in small, close-knit, egalitarian communities, roamed the planet incautiously consuming the abundant fauna and flora. The Quaternary Megafauna Extinction (QME) was the well documented, extremely rapid crash in available calories, beginning around 50,000 BC, and accelerating into the Neolithic around 11,000 BC. This crash resulted in widespread resource pressures representing a net-loss in total available calories. Areas of genuine resource scarcity, once a transient phenomena, became frequent and pervasive, driving humans to hunt progressively smaller game, forage more intensively and increased the pervasiveness of hoarding behaviors. In practical terms this meant groups of humans were increasingly pressured to spend more energy or take more risk to earn the same amount of calories. By the year 10,000 BC, for the first time ever, humanity needed to learn how to survive in a persistently resource scarce environment. This pressure induced a Kuhnian paradigm shift in humanity’s behavior from one of nomadic resource sharing to sedentary hoarding.

The Second Proposition:
Through 90% of human history (200,000BC - 1,000BC), and within surviving hunter gatherer groups, resource hoarding behavior was extremely rare, as it was unnecessary and considered wasteful. Post QME, hoarding behavior became a beneficial in-group adaptation, as it allowed for the acquisition, retention and management of scarce resources by an in-group population for exclusive consumption within the in-group. Founded on the novel social technology of “rival and excludable real property”, the domestication of cattle, the invention of modern agriculture, and the resultant socio/political structures we call “modernity” proliferated in communities as humans spread across the earth. Through late prehistory into modernity, large regionally focused populations with common cultural practices, separated classes and hierarchical structures become more frequent in the written and archeological record. Varied cultural structures for competition and hoarding form based on regional ecological availability, and global trade develops in earnest. By 500 BC the Achaemenid Empire had established a robust and advanced multi-region system of trade, signaling a point of no return from humans being cooperative nomads, to competitive property holders....

....MUCH MORE  (8 page PDF)

As was discussed in "Storage: Very Important For Roman Emperors and Commodities Market Manipulators":

The only way to combat abundance is with artificial scarcity, i.e. manipulation.... 

"The Effect of Futures Markets and Corners on Storage and Spot Price Variability".
To Create A "1%" In A Social Hierarchy You Don't Need An Economic Surplus, Just A Storable Form Of Wealth 
The Golden Age of Commodities Market Manipulation: Corners, Storage and Squeezes

These days however, to purloin that wealth, you don't even need to be dealing with storables:
How to Manipulate Non-storable Commodities Markets

Remember, the spectrum runs from storage to hoarding to market corners.
And corners in commodities refers to physical, you can't corner a commod by simply buying futures or forwards, you also have to take up the physical supply.
Conversely, squeezes are accomplished in the futures..

A couple decent papers on this aspect of the abundance theory are:
"Large Investors, Price Manipulation, and Limits to Arbitrage: An Anatomy of Market Corners" and
"Market Manipulation, Bubbles, Corners and Short Squeezes"