Tuesday 31 August 2021

Does Biden Equal Carter?

 Baltic Dry Index. 4235 Fri.  Brent Crude 73.08

Spot Gold 1815

Coronavirus Cases 02/04/20 World 1,000,000

Deaths 53,100

Coronavirus Cases 31/08/21 World 217,919,804

Deaths 4,523,998

“Political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.”

George Orwell.

It is the last day of the month, and ordinarily a day for the stock sharks professional money managers to dress up the stock indexes and stocks to boost bonuses.

But today is also the day of America and NATO’s defeat in Afghanistan, a day of reckoning of hurricane damage in the Gulf of Mexico and a televised speech by President Biden to explain just how he and his team bungled Afghanistan.

In other words, it’s no ordinary day, or at least I hope it’s not going to become an ordinary day like the bad old days of President Carter. Does President Biden equal President Carter?

Well no, for one thing he’s a lot older and unlike President Carter he’s never had a job outside of politics. 2021 looks a lot worse than that last US defeat, Vietnam 1975. 

Up first, Asian stocks ponder the news from China and Afghanistan.

Chinese stocks drop as data shows China’s factory activity growth slowed in August

SINGAPORE — Shares in Asia-Pacific mostly slipped in Tuesday trade, as data showed slowing Chinese factory activity growth in August.

In mainland China, the Shanghai composite fell 0.75% while the Shenzhen component shed 1.674%.

China’s factory activity grew at a slower pace in August as compared with the previous month, data released Tuesday showed. The official manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index for August came in at 50.1, against July’s reading of 50.4.

PMI readings above 50 represent expansion, while those below that level signal contraction. PMI readings are sequential and represent month-on-month expansion or contractions.

Hong Kong-listed shares of Tencent and Netease dropped as regulatory fears hit. They fell 3.18% and 3.46%, respectively, by Tuesday afternoon in the city. That came after new rules published Monday by China’s National Press and Publication Administration showed plans to limit the time that those under 18 years spend playing video games to just three hours a week.

Hong Kong’s broader Hang Seng index dropped 1.43%.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 rose 0.57% while the Topix index advanced 0.32%. South Korea’s Kospi gained 0.61%.

Elsewhere, the S&P/ASX 200 in Australia edged 0.38% higher.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan slipped 0.46%.

Overnight stateside, the S&P 500 edged 0.43% higher to 4,528.79 while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite gained 0.9% to 15,265.89. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lagged, dipping 55.96 points to 35,399.84.



U.S. ‘credibility is rock-bottom’ after final evacuation flights out of Afghanistan, says ex- Bush defense official

Former defense official Mary Beth Long warned about the precarious state of the U.S. credibility after Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed there were less than 200 Americans still seeking evacuation from Afghanistan following the final U.S. military withdrawal from the Taliban-controlled country. 

"Our credibility is rock-bottom, and it's one thing to leave, but we did worse than that, we left American citizens, green card holders, and people that risked their lives for us behind, that's nothing short of shameful," said Long, who served under President George W. Bush as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs. "I wouldn't trust us, if I were in their position." 

U.S. Central Command leader Marine Corps General Kenneth McKenzie told reporters during a briefing Monday afternoon in Washington that while all U.S. troops were successfully evacuated, the same could not be said for U.S. citizens.

"There's a lot of heartbreak associated with this departure," McKenzie said. "We did not get everybody out that we wanted to get out."

Blinken said later Monday that "a new diplomatic mission has begun," in Afghanistan.

Long told CNBC's "The News with Shepard Smith" that the assessment is "a fallacy" due to the burgeoning terror networks in the country. 

"We've already known and been told by ISIS-K, by the Haqqani network, we have Al Qaeda operators coming through, over the border just a couple of hours ago," said Long. "The idea that somehow the Taliban are magically going to run Afghanistan and we're going to have some kind of political agreement with them is just pure fantasy."



In hurricane aftermath news, the damage assessments will start to trickle in all week.

Ida causes widespread damage and power outages along Louisiana coast

Search and rescue operations are underway after Hurricane Ida slammed the Louisiana coast, leaving about one million homes and businesses without power, including the entire city of New Orleans. Federal officials said it could be weeks before power is restored.

The storm, now a tropical depression, crashed into the state as a Category 4 hurricane with 150 mph winds on Sunday, ripping the roofs off buildings and snapping power lines. The storm has been blamed for at least two deaths, but Louisiana's governor said the number will likely increase in the days to come.

"We know that individuals are out there waiting to be rescued because their homes are inhabitable," Governor John Bel Edwards said Monday. "Please know that we have thousands of people out right now with high water vehicles and boats who are doing search and rescues.

"We're going to do everything we can to get to all the individuals who need help."

In New Orleans, rising floodwaters trapped drivers in their cars, and debris was seen flying off Ochsner Medical Center in the city. Hospitals across the area continued treating patients even in hazardous conditions. Brick buildings in downtown New Orleans were completely reduced to rubble.

Despite weakening on Monday, the National Hurricane Center said the tropical depression still carried the threat of heavy rainfall and flash flooding as it moves over central and northeastern Mississippi on Monday afternoon.

7:19 PM / August 30, 2021

Gas prices expected to rise after Ida shuts down refineries

Hurricane Ida shut down a significant number of refineries in the Gulf Coast, which could lead to an increase in gas prices. 

About 95% of the Gulf Coast's crude oil and gas production were shut down as Ida ravaged Louisiana, according to energy research company S&P Global Platts. 

"I expect the national average to rise in the neighborhood of 5-15 cents per gallon in the next couple of weeks — far smaller than the impact from Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey, but with damage assessments still to come, it's possible we see slight deviation from that," said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy.

Hurricane Ida: Rescue efforts continue in Louisiana, over 1 million lose power

Issued on:

Rescuers in boats, helicopters and high-water trucks brought hundreds of people trapped by Hurricane Ida's floodwaters to safety Monday and utility repair crews rushed in, after the furious storm swamped the Louisiana coast and ravaged the electrical grid in the stifling, late-summer heat.

Residents living amid the maze of rivers and bayous along the state's Gulf Coast retreated desperately to their attics or roofs and posted their addresses on social media with instructions for search-and-rescue teams on where to find them.

More than 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi — including all of New Orleans — were left without power as Ida, one of the most powerful hurricanes ever to hit the U.S. mainland, pushed through on Sunday.

The damage was so extensive that officials warned it could be weeks before the power grid was repaired.

As the storm was downgraded to a tropical depression Monday afternoon and continued to make its way inland with torrential rain, it was blamed for at least two deaths — a motorist who drowned in New Orleans and a person hit by a falling tree outside Baton Rouge. 

But with many roads impassable and cellphone service out in places, the full extent of its fury was still coming into focus. Christina Stephens, a spokesperson for Gov. John Bel Edwards, said that given the level of destruction, “We’re going to have many more confirmed fatalities.”

The governor's office said damage to the power grid appeared “catastrophic” — dispiriting news for those without refrigeration or air conditioning during the dog days of summer, with highs forecast in the mid-80s to near 90 by midweek.

“There are certainly more questions than answers. I can't tell you when the power is going to be restored. I can’t tell you when all the debris is going to be cleaned up and repairs made," Edwards told a news conference. “But what I can tell you is we are going to work hard every day to deliver as much assistance as we can.”

Rescue efforts continue

Local, state and federal rescuers combined to save at least 671 people by Monday afternoon, Edwards said.

In hard-hit LaPlace, squeezed between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain, rescuers saved people from flooded homes in a near-constant operation.

Debbie Greco, her husband and son rode out the storm in LaPlace with Greco's parents. Water reached a foot up the first-floor windows, then filled the first floor to 4 feet (1.2 meters) deep once the back door was opened. They retreated to the second floor, but then screaming winds collapsed the roof as waves broke in the front yard.

They were finally rescued by boat after waiting in the only dry spot, five people sharing the landing on the stairs. 

“When I rebuild this I’m out of here. I’m done with Louisiana,” said Greco's father, 85-year-old Fred Carmouche, a lifelong resident.

Elsewhere in LaPlace, people pulled pieces of chimneys, gutters and other parts of their homes to the curb and residents of a mobile home park waded through floodwaters.

Comparisons to Hurricane Katrina

The hurricane blew ashore on the 16th anniversary of Katrina, the 2005 storm that breached New Orleans' levees, devastated the city and was blamed for 1,800 deaths. 

This time, New Orleans appeared to escape the catastrophic flooding city officials had feared.

----'This is a COVID nightmare'

Four Louisiana hospitals were damaged and 39 medical facilities were operating on generator power, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said. Officials said they were evacuating scores of patients to other cities.

The weather disaster hit a state where hospitals are crowded with COVID patients, cases of the Delta variant were surging and nurses were in short supply.

The governor's office said over 2,200 evacuees were staying in 41 shelters, a number expected to rise as people were rescued or escaped flooded homes. The governor's spokesperson said the state will work to move people to hotels as soon as possible so they can keep their distance from one another.

“This is a COVID nightmare,” Stephens said, adding: “We do anticipate that we could see some COVID spikes related to this.”

The hurricane twisted and collapsed a giant tower that carries key transmission lines over the Mississippi River to the New Orleans area, causing widespread outages, Entergy and local authorities said. The power company said more than 2,000 miles of transmission lines were out of service, along with 216 substations. The tower had survived Katrina.

Continuing efforts to restore electricity

The storm also flattened utility poles, toppled trees onto power lines and caused transformers to explode.

The governor said 25,000 utility workers were in the state to help restore electricity, with more on the way. “We’re going to push Entergy to restore power just as soon as they can,” Edwards said.

AT&T said its wireless network in Louisiana was reduced to 60% of normal but was coming back. Many people resorted to using walkie-talkies. The governor's office staff had no working phones. The company sent a mobile tower to the state's emergency preparedness office so it could get some service.




Global Inflation Watch.

Given our Magic Money Tree central banksters and our spendthrift politicians,  inflation now needs an entire section of its own.


US Debt Clock.

The interest on US official debt is now rising at $1,000 a second. In reality higher. 


Mobius Says Hold 10% in Gold as Currencies Set to Be Devalued

By Abhishek Vishnoi and Ranjeetha Pakiam

30 August 2021, 07:15 BST

Veteran investor Mark Mobius said investors should have 10% of a portfolio in gold as currencies will be devalued following the unprecedented stimulus rolled out to fight the coronavirus pandemic. 

At this stage, “10% should be put into physical gold,” said Mobius, who set up Mobius Capital Partners after more than three decades at Franklin Templeton Investments. “Currency devaluation globally is going to be quite significant next year given the incredible amount of money supply that has been printed.”




Covid-19 Corner                       

This section will continue until it becomes unneeded.

Israel doubles down on booster shots as daily Covid cases set new record

Published Mon, Aug 30 2021 4:18 AM EDT

Israeli lawmakers are keen to avoid another lockdown after overseeing one of the world’s fastest vaccination drives. New daily coronavirus infections, however, have just climbed to record levels.

While many nations were grappling with the rapid spread of the highly transmissible delta variant, Covid-19 transmission in Israel declined sharply as the country vaccinated more than half of its population in around two months.

The country had one of the fastest vaccination rollout programs in the world, and by early June many of its coronavirus restrictions were lifted as new cases fell dramatically. But just days later, masks were reimposed as new infection numbers began to creep upward.

Around 63% of the Israeli population has been fully vaccinated, according to data compiled by Our World in Data.

Covid-19 cases in Israel have been rising sharply since July despite the high vaccination rate. New daily cases in the country reached an all-time high of 12,113 on August 24, surpassing the January peak of 11,934.

Just months ago, new cases had fallen to double-digits, and there were some days in May and June where no new infections were recorded.

There were 992 new cases of Covid-19 per million people in Israel as of Monday. By comparison, the U.S. recorded 446 new cases per million people, Our World in Data’s statistics show.

Despite high levels of so-called “breakthrough cases,” morbidity in the country hasn’t overtaken the peak seen in January, which is widely attributed to the vaccination rollout. On Sunday, 25 deaths were recorded in Israel — a far cry from the record high of 101 on January 20 this year. Over the past month, 476 deaths from Covid-19 have been recorded in Israel, compared to 1,471 in January. But hospitalizations and deaths are rising.

Preliminary data published by the Israeli government in July showed the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was just 16% effective against symptomatic infection for people who had received two doses in January. For people who had been fully vaccinated by April, the vaccine was 79% effective against symptomatic infection, suggesting that immunity gained through immunization depletes over time.



New Zealand Reports First Death Linked to Pfizer Vaccine

By Matthew Brockett

30 August 2021, 01:54 BST Updated on 30 August 2021, 04:34 BST

New Zealand health authorities reported what they believe to be the country’s first death linked to the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine.

A woman died from myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle wall, following her Pfizer vaccination, New Zealand’s Covid-19 Vaccine Independent Safety Monitoring Board said in an emailed statement on Monday. It said myocarditis is known to be a rare side effect of the Pfizer vaccine.



Are cruises safe right now? Experts say they’re ‘a recipe for Covid transmission’

Published Sat, Aug 28 2021 9:30 AM EDT

Last month, a 77-year-old woman made a fatal decision: She boarded a Carnival cruise in Galveston, Texas, set for sunny Belize.

The cruise required vaccination, and approximately 96% of all 4,336 passengers and crew were reportedly vaccinated, but nobody was required to present a negative Covid test before boarding. After four days on the water, the ship reported a 27-person Covid outbreak spanning both passengers and crew. One of the passengers, the 77-year-old, died 10 days later ⁠— the first such reported death since cruises restarted in the United States in June.

The tragic incident begs the question: Is traveling on a cruise safe right now?

Predictably, Carnival says yes. In recent weeks, the company has mandated pre-boarding negative Covid tests for all passengers and released a statement to the Washington Post saying that the woman who died “almost certainly did not contract COVID on our ship.” Notably, when she boarded the ship on July 31, testing procedures were not in place.

Medical experts are unconvinced. Travel of any kind is currently a very high-risk activity, explains Dr. Luis Ostrosky, division chief for infectious diseases at UT Health, part of the University of Texas, Houston. Cases are “completely out of control,” he says. “And we don’t have the level of vaccination we need to assure that people are going to survive if they happen to get [Covid].”

And even with safety measures in place, cruises come with residual risks that can’t be ignored, like unavoidable close quarters and potential for breakthrough infections.

Here’s why those risks are particularly dangerous, especially compared to other forms of travel ⁠— and what can be done to make cruises safer:



Next, some vaccine links kindly sent along from a LIR reader in Canada. The links come from a most informative update from Stanford Hospital in California.

World Health Organization - Landscape of COVID-19 candidate vaccineshttps://www.who.int/publications/m/item/draft-landscape-of-covid-19-candidate-vaccines

NY Times Coronavirus Vaccine Trackerhttps://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/science/coronavirus-vaccine-tracker.html

Stanford Websitehttps://racetoacure.stanford.edu/clinical-trials/132

Regulatory Focus COVID-19 vaccine trackerhttps://www.raps.org/news-and-articles/news-articles/2020/3/covid-19-vaccine-tracker

Some other useful Covid links.

Johns Hopkins Coronavirus resource centre


Rt Covid-19


Centers for Disease Control Coronavirus


The Spectator Covid-19 data tracker (UK)



Technology Update.

With events happening fast in the development of solar power and graphene, I’ve added this section. Updates as they get reported.

Creation of the most perfect graphene

New discovery allows for scalable production of fold-free and ad-layer free single-crystal graphene

Date:  August 25, 2021

Source:  Institute for Basic Science

Summary:  Researchers have achieved growth and characterization of large area, single-crystal graphene that has no wrinkles, folds, or adlayers. It can be said to be the most perfect graphene that has been grown and characterized, to date.

A team of researchers led by Director Rod Ruoff at the Center for Multidimensional Carbon Materials (CMCM) within the Institute for Basic Science (IBS), including graduate students at the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), have achieved growth and characterization of large area, single-crystal graphene that has no wrinkles, folds, or adlayers. It can be said to be the most perfect graphene that has been grown and characterized, to date.

Director Ruoff notes, "This pioneering breakthrough was due to many contributing factors, including human ingenuity and the ability of the CMCM researchers to reproducibly make large-area single-crystal Cu-Ni(111) foils, on which the graphene was grown by chemical vapor deposition (CVD) using a mixture of ethylene with hydrogen in a stream of argon gas." Student Meihui Wang, Dr. Ming Huang, and Dr. Da Luo along with Ruoff undertook a series of experiments of growing single-crystal and single-layer graphene on such 'home-made' Cu-Ni(111) foils under different temperatures.

The team had previously reported single-crystal and adlayer-free films of graphene which were grown using methane at temperatures of ~1320 Kelvin (K) degrees on Cu(111) foils. Adlayers refer to small "islands" of regions that have another layer of graphene present. However, these films always contained long "folds" that are the consequence of tall wrinkles that form as the graphene is cooled from the growth temperature down to room temperature. This results in an undesirable reduction in the performance of graphene field effect transistor (GFET) if the "fold" is in the active region of the GFET. The folds also contain "cracks" that lower the mechanical strength of the graphene.

The next exciting challenge was thus eliminating these folds.

---- Such large-area fold-free single-crystal graphene film allows for the straightforward fabrication of integrated high-performance devices oriented in any direction over the entire graphene film. These single-crystal graphene films will be important for further advances in basic science, which will lead to new applications in electronic, photonic, mechanical, thermal, and other areas. The near-perfect graphene is also useful for stacking, either with itself and/or with other 2D materials, to further expand the range of likely applications. Given that the Cu-Ni(111) foils can be used repeatedly and that the graphene can be transferred to other substrates in less than one minute, the scalable manufacturing using this process is also highly promising.


“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”

George Orwell.

Monday 30 August 2021

An Interesting Week.


Baltic Dry Index. 4235 +40  Brent Crude 72.73

Spot Gold 1816

Coronavirus Cases 02/04/20 World 1,000,000

Deaths 53,100

Coronavirus Cases 30/08/21 World 217,214,884

Deaths 4,515,053

History is written by the winners.


The big story this week will be how much damage did hurricane Ida do to US oil and gas platforms in the Gulf of Mexico and to related oil and gas infrastructure along the Gulf coast, together with tomorrow’s final US troops pullout of Kabul Airport.

Baring a shooting pullout from Kabul Airport, the bigger immediate concern will be the oil and gas damage, if any, from Hurricane Ida.

But it should be an interesting week. 

The damage to USA prestige and international leadership following from America’s “B” team’s defeat in Afghanistan will be argued over for months and years. My take, it will likely be years, if ever, before the USA elect another 78 year old, non-entity, “buggin’s turn,” professional politician as President. 

In the 21st complicated century, the job now requires a younger man or woman with some real-world experience at hiring “A” teams.

Though events in Afghanistan will eventually come to have a major impact on the stock gambling houses, barring an ending shooting retreat from Kabul today and tomorrow, that doesn’t seem likely this week in the run up to the coming US Labor Day long weekend holiday.

Asia-Pacific stocks rise; Australia shares recover from earlier slip as Covid infections spike

SINGAPORE — Shares in Asia-Pacific rose in Monday trade as investors look ahead to the release of Chinese food delivery giant Meituan’s earnings.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 advanced 0.41% while the Topix index gained 0.89%. South Korea’s Kospi traded 0.35% higher.

Mainland Chinese stocks nudged higher as the Shanghai composite rose 0.34%, while the Shenzhen component gained 0.237%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index traded 0.35% higher.

The S&P/ASX 200 in Australia recovered from an earlier slip, last trading about 0.2% higher. The country’s most populous state New South Wales had reported on Monday a record one-day rise in new Covid-19 infections, according to Reuters.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.59%.

Investors in the region looked ahead to the release of earnings from Chinese food delivery giant Meituan on Monday.

In other Chinese tech developments, Beijing is reportedly looking at new rules that would restrict domestic internet firms from going public in the U.S., according to the Wall Street Journal.

Shares of Meituan in Hong Kong were up 0.36% by Monday afternoon in the city. Other Chinese tech shares in Hong Kong were mixed: Tencent slipped 1.29% while Alibaba gained 1.28%. The Hang Seng Tech index climbed 0.76%.

Elsewhere, U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell indicated Friday that the central bank is likely to begin tapering before the end of the year, though there is still “much ground to cover” before rate hikes.

Oil prices were mixed in the afternoon of Asia trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures up 0.33% to $72.94 per barrel. U.S. crude futures slipped 0.17% to $68.62 per barrel. Those moves came as investors assessed the impact of a hurricane in the U.S. Gulf Coast.



New Orleans Facing Weeks of Darkness on Hurricane Damage

Mon, August 30, 2021, 1:30 AM

(Bloomberg) -- New Orleans may be without power and air conditioning for more than three weeks in the wake of Hurricane Ida, which roared ashore with more powerful winds than Hurricane Katrina, according to utility owner Entergy Corp.

Almost 750,000 homes and businesses were without power across Louisiana as of 7:26 p.m. local time on Sunday, according to Poweroutage.us, which tracks utility outages. The blackouts were concentrated in the southeastern tip of the state that includes New Orleans and where Ida made its U.S. landfall.

Hours earlier, Entergy shut its 1,152-megawatt Waterford nuclear plant about 25 miles (40 kilometers) west of the city and will keep it offline until local grid issues are assessed after the storm.

“Customers in the hardest-hit areas should plan for the possibility of experiencing extended power outages,” the company warned in a tweet.


Rockets hit neighborhood near Kabul airport amid US pullout

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Rockets struck a neighborhood near Kabul’s international airport on Monday amid the ongoing U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. It wasn’t immediately clear who launched them.

The rockets struck Monday morning in Kabul’s Salim Karwan neighborhood, witnesses said. Gunfire immediately followed the explosions but it wasn’t immediately clear who was firing.

The witnesses, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said they heard the sound of three explosions and then saw a flash in the sky. People fled after the blasts, they said.

U.S. officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment. U.S. military cargo planes continued their evacuations at the airport after the rocket fire.

In Washington, the White House issued a statement saying officials briefed President Joe Biden on “the rocket attack at Hamid Karzai International Airport” in Kabul.

“The president was informed that operations continue uninterrupted at HKIA, and has reconfirmed his order that commanders redouble their efforts to prioritize doing whatever is necessary to protect our forces on the ground,” the statement said, using an acronym for Kabul’s airport.

----The U.S. is to withdraw from Afghanistan by Tuesday. By then, the U.S. is set to conclude a massive two-week-long airlift of more than 114,000 Afghans and foreigners and withdraw the last of its troops, ending America’s longest war with the Taliban back in power.

The U.S. State Department released a statement Sunday signed by around 100 countries, as well as NATO and the European Union, saying they had received “assurances” from the Taliban that people with travel documents would still be able to leave the country. The Taliban have said they will allow normal travel after the U.S. withdrawal is completed on Tuesday and they assume control of the airport.



Finally, why was so much US modern weaponry left behind to fall into Taliban hands? Where will it eventually end up?  Will President Biden be forced to buy most of it back from the Taliban?

Saudi Arabia’s former intel chief calls weapons proliferation risk in Afghanistan very worrying as terror threat grows

Published Sun, Aug 29 2021 7:19 PM EDT

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Saudi Arabia’s former intelligence chief says he is very worried that American weapons could fall into the hands of militant groups such as Al Qaeda, bolstering a sworn enemy of the United States in the wake of an exit from Afghanistan that he says was mismanaged.  

“I don’t know which word to use, whether incompetence, carelessness, bad management — it was all a combination of those things,” Prince Turki Al-Faisal told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble in Paris on Saturday.

Prince Turki Al-Faisal served as head of the Saudi intelligence services between 1979 and 2001, helping to coordinate anti-Communist activity in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion. He later tried — and failed — to negotiate the return of Osama bin Laden to Saudi Arabia in the years before 9/11. 

“You know Al Qaeda targeted the kingdom first before anyone else,” Al-Faisal said, referring to Saudi Arabia. “It is very worrisome, that aspect of it, and now with this weaponry the ally of the Taliban, Al Qaeda, may get their hands on, it’s going to be even more worrisome,” he added.

Taliban forces have been pictured with a range of U.S.-made weaponry and vehicles seized from the Afghan military, sparking fear in Saudi Arabia about the enduring threat of ISIS and Al Qaeda and where and with whom the equipment might end up.

“When Mr. Trump made the deal with the Taliban before he left office, it was inevitable that the government would lose its legitimacy,” Al-Faisal said. “It’s difficult to know what led the United States to negotiate with them,” he added.   

The comments are the first openly critical response from America’s Gulf Arab allies since the fall of Kabul on August 15.

----The increasingly complex threat from ISIS-K and others is a major challenge for the U.S. and western forces racing to evacuate the remaining military personnel and Afghan allies escaping Afghanistan before the August 31 withdrawal deadline.

NATO has been clear that it expected the Taliban to keep its “commitment” that it will not allow Afghanistan to become a haven for terrorists, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told CNBC in a recent interview, but it’s still unclear if the Taliban is capable of managing the possible contagion, or if the most recent attack in Kabul could embolden individuals or terror groups around the wider region.

Prince Turki said it would be Saudi Arabia’s regional rival Iran, Pakistan, and foreign powers in strategic competition with the U.S. like China and Russia that will wield significant influence in Afghanistan and among the terrorist groups that interconnect there after the American withdrawal. 

“We’ve seen the Russian ambassador, Chinese ambassador, Iranian ambassador and Pakistani ambassador not only remaining in Kabul, but making statements about future relations with the Taliban,” he said.

“There is something going on between the Taliban and these countries about where they’re going to go in the future,” he said. 



Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan.

Galeazzo Ciano, 1903-1944, Italian politician.


Global Inflation Watch.

Given our Magic Money Tree central banksters and our spendthrift politicians,  inflation now needs an entire section of its own. 

US Debt Clock.

The interest on US official debt is now rising at $1,000 a second. In reality higher. 


U.S. Port Problems Reach Worst of Pandemic Amid Crush of Imports

August 28, 2021

The number of ships waiting to enter the biggest U.S. gateway for trade with Asia reached the highest since the pandemic began, exacerbating delays for companies trying to replenish inventories during one of the busiest times of the year for seaborne freight.

Forty-four container carriers were anchored and awaiting a berth space outside the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, California, as of late Friday, topping the record of 40 initially set in early February, according to officials who monitor marine traffic in San Pedro Bay. The average wait rose to 7.6 days, from 6.2 in mid-August, according to L.A. port data.

Vessels are lining up because imports are pouring into the world’s largest economy just as inland transportation -- like trucking and railroads -- contends with its own bottlenecks of shipping containers that aren’t being moved fast enough into distribution centers and warehouses.

Labor shortages are part of the problem, but companies are also trying to stock up ahead of the year-end holidays. August and September are key months for shipping goods out of China before that country’s Golden Week holiday in early October.

On top of those issues, importers that rely on goods from Asia in particular have experienced virus-related shipping disruptions like the one Mike Witynski, the chief executive officer of Virginia-based discount retailer Dollar Tree Inc., shared on a conference call this week. 

“One of our dedicated charters was recently denied entry into China, because a crew member tested positive for Covid, forcing the vessel to return to Indonesia to change the entire crew before continuing,” he said. “Overall, the voyage was delayed by two months.”

With ships thrown off schedule and most of them fully laden with boxes of goods, container ports on both U.S. coasts are experiencing record volumes that they’re having difficulty handling over a sustained period. Just off the coast of Georgia, for instance, Bloomberg mapping data showed at least a dozen cargo ships anchored in a cluster with the Port of Savannah listed as their destination. 


Dow CEO Warns of Price Tag on Clean-Energy Plans

Jim Fitterling says the chemical company supports net zero carbon targets, but warns against restrictions on natural-gas use

Updated Aug. 27, 2021 9:25 am ET

Dow Inc. Chief Executive Jim Fitterling wants to know how Congress plans to pay for a proposed move to zero-carbon emission electricity that he says could dramatically increase energy costs, especially if it restricts natural-gas use.

Mr. Fitterling expressed his concerns in an interview this week as the White House and Democrats seek to implement a clean-electricity standard in their proposed budget. He warned about the potential consequences of any policy that would exclude natural gas from the energy mix.

Dow supports efforts to reduce carbon emissions to address the threat of climate change, he said, but called the current debate in Washington over how to get there polarizing and not rooted in economic realities.

“It’s not incrementally more expensive than what we do today, it’s much more expensive than what we do today, and the challenge…is the government has to figure out how to pay for it,” Mr. Fitterling said. “What we have to do is create a clear rationale for this move to zero carbon, and start to get some economics behind it.”



Covid: Report finds big rises in garden furniture prices

29 August, 2021

Retailers have blamed rising shipping, freight and raw material costs for big increases in the prices of garden furniture over the past two years.

Consumer group Which? found some items were about twice as expensive as they were in 2019.

In one case it found the price of a shed sold by a leading DIY retailer was 155% dearer in 2021.

Retailers pointed to availability issues and said they were working with suppliers to keep prices down.

The "eye-watering" rises tended to occur at times when delays at UK ports were particularly severe, Which? said.

Customers were also facing items being out of stock and delivery days for multiple months.

Which? analysed 2,000 items across six major retailers - Homebase, Toolstation, B&Q, Amazon, Wickes and Screwfix - finding that on average prices had risen by 2% from July 2019 to June 2020 and by 9% from July 2020 to June 2021.



Covid-19 Corner                       

This section will continue until it becomes unneeded.

Western Hemisphere accounts for 46.9% of COVID-19 deaths

By Allen Cone  Aug. 29, 2021 / 2:45 PM

Aug. 29 (UPI) -- The Western Hemisphere, despite holding only 18% of the world's 7.9 billion population, has nearly a majority of coronavirus-related deaths and nearly 40% of the infections with five nations in the top 10 for most fatalities.

The global death toll from COVID-19 was 4,514,346 and infections were 217,177,661Sunday, according to tracking by Worldometers.info. In one week, fatalities decreased 0.5% and infection were down 2%.

The Western Hemisphere accounts for 47% of he deaths and 39% of the cases.

Specifically, North America's death toll was 990,529 and cases were 47,608,017, or 22% for both categories despite only 8% of the population. The United States remains the world leader in deaths at 654,689 with a 6% rise in one week and cases at 39,665,515 with a 2% drop from seven days ago. Its 7,214 deaths in the past week were the most in the world, according to Worldometers.info.

Mexico ranks fourth with the most deaths at 257,906, rising 9% in one week, and 15th in cases, going down 11% to 3,328,863.

In South America, there have been 1,128,501 deaths, decreasing 12% and 36,862,549 cases, going down 16%.

Brazil has the most deaths in South America at 579,308 in second place overall with cases 20,741,815 in third. Over one week Brazil's fatalities have dropped 11% and infections 17%.

RELATED Study: Long-used cholesterol drug may help fight severe COVID-19

Also in the top 10 in South America for deaths: Peru fifth at 198,167 and Colombia 10th at 124,811. Argentina is 12th with 111,383 deaths and Chile 20th with 36,885.

Elsewhere in the world, India is second in cases at 32,695,030 and third in deaths at 437,830.

In North America, the United States' non-essential travel ban with Canada and Mexico has been extended one month to Sept. 21. It began one year ago in March. Earlier, Canada announced it was reopening to vaccinated Americans.

The United States has administered at least one dose to 61.4% of its total population with Brazil at 63.2%. India's one-shot rate is 34.8%. China doesn't list the one-dose rate but for the fully vaccinated it is 63.5% in a nation of a world-high 1.5 billion people.

More. Much, much, more.


Comparing SARS-CoV-2 natural immunity to vaccine-induced immunity:
reinfections versus breakthrough infections


Reports of waning vaccine-induced immunity against COVID-19 have begun to
surface. With that, the comparable long-term protection conferred by previous
infection with SARS-CoV-2 remains unclear.

This study demonstrated that natural immunity confers longer lasting and stronger  protection against infection, symptomatic disease and hospitalization caused by the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, compared to the BNT162b2 two-dose vaccine-induced immunity. Individuals who were both previously infected with SARS-CoV-2 and given a single dose of the vaccine gained additional protection against the Delta variant.


Covid: Delta doubles hospital risk vs Alpha variant

Issued on: 28/08/2021 - 01:20

The Delta variant of the virus that causes Covid-19 doubles the risk of hospitalisation compared to the Alpha variant it has supplanted as the dominant strain worldwide, researchers reported Saturday in The Lancet.

Only 1.8 percent of the more than 43,000 Covid cases assessed in comparing the two variants were in patients who had been fully vaccinated.

Three-quarters were completely unvaccinated, and 24 percent had only received one jab of a two-dose vaccine.

"The results from this study therefore primarily tell us about the risk of hospital admission for those who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated," said co-lead author Anne Presanis, a Senior Statistician at the University of Cambridge's MRC Biostatistics Unit.

Researchers analysed healthcare data from 43,338 COVID-19 cases in England from March 29 to May 23 of this year, including vaccination status, emergency care, hospital admission and other patient information.

All virus samples underwent whole genome sequencing, the surest way to confirm which variant had caused the infection.

Just under 80 percent of the cases were identified as the Alpha variant, and the rest were Delta.

Around one in 50 patients were admitted to hospital within 14 days of their first positive COVID-19 test.

After accounting for factors that are known to affect susceptibility to severe illness -- including age, ethnicity, and vaccination status -- the researchers found the risk of being admitted to hospital was more than doubled with the Delta variant.

Since these samples were taken, Delta has surged and now accounts for over 98 percent of new Covid-19 cases in Britain, the authors said.

Multiple studies have shown that full vaccination prevents infection with symptoms and hospitalisation, for both Alpha and Delta variants.

"We already know that vaccination offers excellent protection against Delta," said Gavin Dabrera, another lead author and a consultant epidemiologist at the National Infection Service, Public Health England.

"It is vital that those who have not received two doses of vaccine do so as soon as possible."

An earlier study from Scotland also reported a doubling in hospitalisation risk with Delta over Alpha, suggesting that Delta causes more severe disease.



Two dead from Moderna's contaminated COVID vaccines in Japan

REUTERS   AUGUST 28, 2021 09:30

Two people died after receiving Moderna COVID-19 vaccine shots that were among lots later suspended following the discovery of contaminants, Japan's health ministry said on Saturday.

The men in their 30s died this month within days of receiving their second Moderna doses, the ministry said in a release. Each had a shot from one of three manufacturing lots suspended on Thursday. The cause of the deaths is still being investigated.

Japan halted the use of 1.63 million Moderna doses shipped to 863 vaccination centers nationwide, more than a week after the domestic distributor, Takeda Pharmaceutical, received reports of contaminants in some vials.

The government and Moderna had said no safety or efficacy issues had been identified and the suspension was just a precaution.

The contaminant is believed to be metallic particles, Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported, citing health ministry sources.


Modeling estimates over 100 million Americans had COVID-19 in 2020

Rich Haridy  August 26, 2021

According to a new model produced by Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health researchers, around one in three Americans had been infected with SARS-CoV-2 by the end of 2020. Simulating viral transmission across the whole country, the research suggests the number of officially confirmed cases can only account for a small volume of total infections.

“The vast majority of infectious were not accounted for by the number of confirmed cases,” explains Jeffrey Shaman, one of the researchers working on the study. “It is these undocumented cases, which are often mild or asymptomatic infectious, that allow the virus to spread quickly through the broader population.”

The research collected confirmed COVID-19 case data from 3,142 counties in the US and simulated transmission of the coronavirus across the country in 2020. The model estimated 103 million Americans had been infected with SARS-CoV-2 by December 31, 2020. This accounts for about 31 percent of the total US population.

Overall, confirmed cases only accounted for 22 percent of the total number of infections. This number is almost exactly the same as ongoing estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC’s surveillance estimates less than a quarter of all SARS-CoV-2 infections in the United States are reported.

Infection rates across the US varied wildly depending on the time of year. Los Angeles County, for example, was estimated to harbor stunningly high infection rates at the very end of 2020, with 2.42 percent of its total population potentially contagious with SARS-CoV-2 on December 31st, whereas Miami experienced its infection rate peak in July when it was estimated 1.25 percent of the total population were infected.

Tracking fatality rates across 2020 the new research calculated a significant drop in COVID-19 mortality from spring to winter. During the pandemic’s initial wave the model estimated 0.8 percent of people died from COVID-19. However, by the end of the year this rate had fallen to just 0.3 percent. The drop in fatality rate is thought to be due to improvements in public health measures, such as mask mandates and better testing, and growing knowledge of how best to treat this new disease.



Next, some vaccine links kindly sent along from a LIR reader in Canada. The links come from a most informative update from Stanford Hospital in California.

World Health Organization - Landscape of COVID-19 candidate vaccineshttps://www.who.int/publications/m/item/draft-landscape-of-covid-19-candidate-vaccines

NY Times Coronavirus Vaccine Trackerhttps://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/science/coronavirus-vaccine-tracker.html

Stanford Websitehttps://racetoacure.stanford.edu/clinical-trials/132

Regulatory Focus COVID-19 vaccine trackerhttps://www.raps.org/news-and-articles/news-articles/2020/3/covid-19-vaccine-tracker

Some other useful Covid links.

Johns Hopkins Coronavirus resource centre


Rt Covid-19


Centers for Disease Control Coronavirus


The Spectator Covid-19 data tracker (UK)



Technology Update.

With events happening fast in the development of solar power and graphene, I’ve added this section. Updates as they get reported.

Insulation additive drastically boosts performance of power lines

Ben Coxworth  August 26, 2021

As we increasingly move toward renewable energy sources such as wind turbines, we're going to require the best means possible of relaying electricity from them to our cities. A new cable-insulating material may allow us to do so much more efficiently.

One of the problems with sending electricity through power lines is the fact that the farther the current has to travel, the greater the amount of energy it loses through those lines.

Increasing the voltage helps address this issue, but doing so requires the use of high voltage direct current (HVDC) cables. These have a limiting factor of their own, in that if the voltage is too high, the layer of insulating material within them may rupture.

In an effort to address this issue, scientists at Sweden's Chalmers University looked to a conjugated polymer known as poly(3-hexylthiophene) – or P3HT, for short. The material has previously been utilized in applications ranging from replacement retinas to cheaper and more efficient solar cells.

For the Chalmers study, P3HT was added to the polyethylene that's already used for insulation in HVDC cables, at a ratio of just five parts per million. When the resulting composite material was tested, it was found to have just one third the electrical conductivity of pure polyethylene insulation. And while other additives have previously been explored as a means of reducing conductivity, significantly larger amounts of them have been required.

Although more research is required, the results of the study suggest that HVDC cables incorporating P3HT in their insulation could withstand much higher voltages than is currently possible, further minimizing energy losses in the current they're carrying.

"Our hope is that this study can really open up a new field of research, inspiring other researchers to look into designing and optimizing plastics with advanced electrical properties for energy transport and storage applications," says the lead scientist, Prof. Christian Müller.

The research is described in a paper that was recently published in the journal Advanced Materials.

Source: Chalmers University


History shows that there are no invincible armies and that there never have been.

Joseph Stalin.