Thursday 31 March 2022

Economic Insanity Arrives. Gold.

Baltic Dry Index. 2369 -48  Brent Crude 108.30

Spot Gold 1921

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

Deaths 53,100

Coronavirus Cases 31/03/22 World 487,146,079

Deaths 6,162,461

“It is difficult not to marvel at the imagination which was implicit in this gargantuan insanity. If there must be madness something may be said for having it on a heroic scale."

John Kenneth Galbraith.

Some temporary crude oil price relief came yesterday ahead of today’s end of month and end of quarter critical numbers in the stock casinos. 

But even if President Biden announces later today a release of 180 million barrels of oil from America’s strategic petroleum reserve, any price relief will just be temporary, until either OPEC+ raises their production or Russia’s oil and gas exports get normalised back into the global economy, preferably both.

In other economic war madness news, Russia is now threatening nuclear war on the fiat dollar reserve standard by threatening to price all its major exports in Roubles. 

Given that there are almost no Roubles in international circulation, that would result in a major disruption to the global economy similar to 1971 when Nixon abandoned the dollar-gold link without consulting anyone, or the Arab oli embargo of 1973-74.

But in 2022 the global economy of orders of magnitude bigger, more integrated and massively bogged down in mountains of unrepayable debt. 

International anarchy lies directly ahead unless the west’s politicians stop posturing over an already shattered Ukraine, come to their senses and fast come up with a way to end the unnecessary new European war.

I see no sign of any such thing happening rather the reverse. An economic global  tragedy looms. 

For the short term, have some fully paid up physical gold and silver at hand and in one’s personal control.

Oil prices dive as Biden weighs massive reserves release

SINGAPORE, March 31 (Reuters) - Oil prices dived more than $5 a barrel on Thursday as the United States is considering the release of up to 180 million barrels from its strategic petroleum reserve (SPR) over several months to calm soaring crude prices.

Brent futures for May fell $5.47, or 4.8%, to $107.98 a barrel at 0317 GMT. The May contract expires today and the most actively traded June future was down $5.22 to $106.22.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate futures for May delivery fell $6.06, or 5.6%, to $101.76 a barrel after earlier slipping to a low of $100.85.

U.S. President Biden will give remarks later on Thursday announcing the plan, three sources said, aimed at lowering gasoline prices that have risen to records following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. read more

"If it turns out to be as much as that, it would be significant and so would certainly help to a certain extent to fill the shortfall, but not all of it," said Warren Patterson, head of commodities strategy at ING, referring to the 180 million barrels figure.

"Another key question is whether this volume would be part of a wider coordinated release."

The International Energy Agency has called an emergency ministerial meeting for Friday to discuss oil supply, a spokesperson for Angus Taylor, the Australian energy Minister, said on Thursday. read more

News of the potential U.S. oil release overshadowed a meeting set for later on Thursday between the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and their allies including Russia. The group known as OPEC+ is expected to stick to its existing deal to gradually increase oil production. read more


All Russia's big exports could soon be in roubles, Kremlin signals 

LONDON, March 30 (Reuters) - The Kremlin indicated on Wednesday that all of Russia's energy and commodity exports could be priced in roubles, toughening President Vladimir Putin's attempt to make the West feel the pain of the sanctions it imposed for the invasion of Ukraine.

With Russia's economy facing its gravest crisis since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, Putin on March 23 hit back at the West, ordering that Russian gas exports should be paid for in roubles.

That move forced Germany, Europe's biggest economy, to declare on Wednesday an "early warning" that it could be heading for a supply emergency. Germany imported 55% of its gas from Russia last year.

In the strongest signal yet that Russia could be preparing an even tougher response to the West's sanctions, Russia's top lawmaker suggested on Wednesday that almost Russia's entire energy and commodity exports could soon be priced in roubles.

Asked about the comments by parliament speaker Vyacheslav Volodin, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: "This is an idea that should definitely be worked on."

"It may well be worked out," Peskov said of the proposal.

Peskov said that the U.S. dollar's role as a global reserve currency had already taken a hit, and that a move to pricing Russia's biggest exports in roubles would be "in our interests and the interests of our partners."

Europe, which imports about 40% of its gas from Russia and pays mostly in euros, says Russia's state-controlled gas giant Gazprom is not entitled to redraw contracts. read more

"If you want gas, find roubles," Volodin said in a post on Telegram. "Moreover, it would be right - where it is beneficial for our country - to widen the list of export products priced in roubles to include: fertiliser, grain, food oil, oil, coal, metals, timber etc."

Russia exports several hundred billion dollars worth of natural gas to Europe each year. Euros account for 58% of Gazprom exports, U.S. dollars 39% and sterling around 3%, according to the company.

Peskov said Russia will give buyers time to switch to roubles. read more

Still, the exact way in which payments could be made remained unclear as of Wednesday. Russia is trying to both bolster the rouble and, in the longer run, chip away at the dominance of the dollar in pricing global energy and commodities.


Germany raises prospect of power rationing with emergency gas plans

Wednesday 30 March 2022 11:32 am

Germany has triggered emergency plans to manage gas supplies following the Kremlin’s demand for contracts to be paid in roubles.

This has raised the prospect of power rationing in Europe’s largest economy if Russia further reduces gas flows into Germany.

Germany’s Economy Minister Robert Habeck has activated the ‘early warning phase’ of an existing emergency plan.

This means that a crisis team from the economics ministry, the regulator and the private sector will monitor domestic imports and storage.

If supplies fall short, Germany’s network regulator can ration gas supplies, with industry being first in line for cuts.

Preferential treatment would be given to private households and hospitals.

Habeck told a news conference the country’s gas supplies were safeguarded for the time being but he urged consumers and companies to reduce consumption, saying “every kilowatt hour counts”.

He said: “We must increase precautionary measures to be prepared for an escalation on the part of Russia. With the declaration of the early warning level, a crisis team has convened.”

European and UK gas prices have spiked over 10 per cent today after the announcement.

The ‘early warning’ phase is the first of three potential stages, with the government able to trigger the “alarm” and “emergency” phases if the situation worsens.

The latest measures from the government follow calls from BDEW – which represents nearly 2,000 supply operators – for the German government to set up an early warning system to tackle potential gas shortages.

Its president, Kerstin Andreae, said: “There are concrete and serious indications that the gas supply situation is about to deteriorate.”

The announcement suggests European Union (EU) member states are bracing for Russia to cut supplies into the region – with Russia not backing down from its request for rouble payments.

The trading bloc remains split over the prospect of imposing sanctions energy sanctions on Russia – with the EU relying on the country for around 40 per cent of its natural gas, and with Germany depending on the country for over half its supplies.

While it suspended the Nord Stream 2 approval process last month – cutting down gas supplies from the country would have serious ramifications for its economy and raise the possibility of blackouts.

Half of Germany’s 41.5m households heat with natural gas while the country’s industry accounted for a third of the 100bn cubic metres of national demand in 2021.

The EU is aiming to cut its dependency on Russian gas by two-thirds this year, and end Russian fossil fuel imports by 2027.

Russia to unveil rouble payment system

Wednesday 30 March 2022 11:32 am

Russia’s demand for rouble payments was rejected by G7 nations and EU leaders earlier this week.

The call is widely perceived as a retaliation for the West imposing heavy sanctions on following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Last Friday, the US revealed it will aim to supply 15 bcm of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to the EU this year in hopes of easing supply worries.

Russia has not said when the currency change will take effect but could reveal its plans for rouble payments on Thursday later this week.

The country’s central bank, the government and Gazprom are set to present their proposals for rouble gas payments to Russian President Vladimir Putin by March 31.

Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of the lower house of parliament, has warned that oil, grain, metals, fertiliser, coal and timber exports could also soon be priced the same way.

Markets are anxious to see how the dispute over Russia’s insistence on rouble payments play out as consumers in Europe grapple with exploding energy prices that have forced governments to announce fiscal relief measures.

Russian gas deliveries to Europe on three key pipeline routes showed a slight upward tick on Wednesday morning include the resumption of westward flows on the Yamal-Europe pipeline to Germany, operator data showed.

Flows along the Yamal-Europe pipeline via Poland returned to a westward flow at the German border point of Mallnow for the first time since March 15, rising to 101,453 kilowatt hours per hour (kWh/h) for the hours from 0700 GMT, data from operator Gascade showed.

Meanwhile, Gazprom has booked westbound transit capacity for Yamal-Europe pipeline for a second day.

The usually westbound pipeline reversed on March 15 as nominations to ship gas into Germany fell to zero, while Polish customers bought gas from Germany.

The Kremlin-backed gas giant has continued to supply gas into Europe via Ukraine in line with requests from European consumers and that flows remain high.

BlackRock President Says ‘Entitled Generation’ Now Learning About Shortages

Wed, March 30, 2022, 12:00 AM

(Bloomberg) -- BlackRock Inc. President Rob Kapito warned that inflation is having dramatic effects on the economy, with an entire generation now learning what it means to suffer from shortages.

“For the first time, this generation is going to go into a store and not be able to get what they want,” Kapito said at conference held in Austin by the Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners Association. “And we have a very entitled generation that has never had to sacrifice.”

The economy is reckoning with what he dubbed “scarcity inflation,” or the fallout from a shortage of workers, agricultural supplies and housing, and of oil in some regions.

“I would put on your seat belts because this is something that we haven’t seen,” Kapito said.

Kapito co-founded New York-based BlackRock, which is now the world’s largest asset manager with about $10 trillion in client assets and investments across the global economy.

Global Inflation/Stagflation Watch.

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

WFP warns Ukraine war threatens global food security

March 30, 2022 / 3:30 AM

March 30 (UPI) -- The war in Ukraine has created "a catastrophe on top of a catastrophe" unlike anything seen since the Second World War, the United Nations food chief said, warning the conflict could create a global food insecurity problem that would further harm the world's poorest nations.

David Beasley, head of the World Food Program, told the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday that prior to Russia's invasion of Ukraine his organization had already begun cutting rations for millions of children and families worldwide due to rising fuel, food and shipping costs.

In Yemen, he said, the WFP, which feeds about 125 million people, had recently cut rations for 8 million people in need by 50% and they are now looking at providing them with zero rations with countries such as Mali, Chad and others facing similar fates.

The war has exacerbated the situation because the two nations involved in the conflict produce 30% of the world's supply of wheat, which is now under threat as Ukrainian farmers put down their hoes for weapons to join the frontline.

Together, they also produce 20% of the world's maze and up to 80% of its sunflower seed oil.

Meanwhile, the WFP buys 50% of its grain from Ukraine with Lebanon dependent upon the country for 81% of its grain and Egypt 85%, he said.

"It's planting season for corn, maze right now for the next four weeks. Well, whose going to be tending the crops? Then you got harvest season for, let's say wheat, coming up in June, July. Well, if the farmers are on the frontlines you can see we're concerned not just about what happens inside Ukraine, but also about what's going to be happening outside," he said, adding that the issue is further compounded by the lack of fertilizer-based products to come from Belarus and Russia.

"So, we're looking at what could be a catastrophe, on top of a catastrophe on top of a catastrophe in the months ahead."

Beasley made his warning days after the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations issued an alert, stating it's "deeply concerned" about the food security situation in Ukraine.

The alert states that assessments of 19 of Ukraine's 24 oblasts indict that food shortages are expected immediately on in the next three months in more than 40% of the cases.

"It is uncertain whether Ukraine will be able to harvest existing crops, plant new ones or sustain livestock production as the conflict evolves," it said. "As insecurity persists, and both local and national supply chains are disrupted, people are likely to fall deeper into emergency levels of hunger and malnutrition."


Soaring Prices Are Changing the Way People Eat

Anuradha Raghu & Pratik Parija

Published 11:30 PM IST, 28 Mar 2022 Updated 06:58 AM IST, 30 Mar 2022

(Bloomberg) -- In India, roadside restaurateurs are halving their palm oil use and moving into steamed snacks. Bakers in Ivory Coast want to cut the size of their standard baguette. Sandwiches from U.S. fast-food stalls are headed for fewer slices of bacon, pizzas for a more parsimonious sprinkle of pepperoni.

With the world economy already shackled by Covid-related shortages and now reeling fewer slices of bacon, pizzas for a more parsimonious sprinkle of pepperoni. With the world economy already shackled by Covid-related shortages and now reeling from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, prices of such basics as bread, meat and cooking oils have jumped across the world, sending shock waves through the commodity markets and damaging the global food system.

For the most vulnerable societies—think Yemen, which imports 90% of its food in the midst of a grinding conflict and depreciating currency—this poses a genuine risk of hunger. Elsewhere, it triggers worries about what economists call demand destruction, a phenomenon when goods get too pricey to purchase.

“The cupboards are bare,” said Julian Conway McGill, head of South East Asia at consultancy LMC International, “and consumers will have to reduce their intake.”

In households as well as in the food-services industry, vegetable oils have become indispensable, used for deep-frying instant noodles, making cakes moist and giving pastries their flaky texture. Exporters were already grappling with labor shortages and bad weather. The attack on Ukraine further roiled global crop trading and sent prices of the two most common oils, palm and soybean, to records. Governments are starting to step in, curbing exports, controlling prices and coming down hard on hoarders. But as higher costs seep through to grocery bills and with festivals in Asia fast approaching, consumers are being forced to scale back.


Covid-19 Corner

This section will continue until it becomes unneeded.

Fourth COVID-19 mRNA vaccine dose approved for all older Americans

Rich Haridy  March 29, 2022

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized a fourth mRNA vaccine dose for all individuals aged 50 and over. The authorization includes both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and is recommended to be administered at least four months after a third dose.

As the United States continues to experience a downturn in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations following the sharp Omicron spike at the beginning of the year, epidemiologists are warning of a looming new wave. The Omicron variant BA.2 is rapidly becoming dominant in the US and, as demonstrated in several countries around the world, it has the potential to cause significant new surges in hospitalizations and deaths.

A third mRNA vaccine dose has been shown to be crucial in generating robust protection against the Omicron variant, but that protection has been seen to wane after three to four months. At the end of 2021 Israel began rolling out a fourth vaccine dose to some older or at-risk populations and early data has indicated the extra dose could be helpful for more ---------vulnerable individuals.

“Current evidence suggests some waning of protection over time against serious outcomes from COVID-19 in older and immunocompromised individuals,” said Peter Marks, head of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. “Based on an analysis of emerging data, a second booster dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine could help increase protection levels for these higher-risk individuals.”

The FDA authorization is calling the fourth dose a “second booster,” and is targeting all “individuals 50 years of age and older” who are at least 4 months past their previous vaccine shot. For those under the age of 50 the authorization is much more limited, focusing only on those aged 12 and older with particular medical conditions that leave them in highly immunocompromised states.

“These are people who have undergone solid organ transplantation, or who are living with conditions that are considered to have an equivalent level of immunocompromise,” the FDA authorization stated.


Omicron BA.2 subvariant now most dominant strain of COVID-19 in U.S.

March 29, 2022 / 3:03 PM

March 29 (UPI) -- The BA.2 subvariant of Omicron became the most dominant strain of COVID-19 in the United States this week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Tuesday.

Data from the public health agency said 54.9% of all positive COVID-19 tests in the United States from March 20 through Saturday were BA.2. The BA.1.1 subvariant was found in 40.4% of cases and B.1.1.529 was found in 4.7% of cases.

Until this past week, the BA.1.1. strain was the most prevalent in the United States this calendar year, edging out Delta and any other variants of the virus, according to CDC data. The BA.2 subvariant, though, is believed to be about 30% more transmissible than BA.1.1

Omicron is a highly transmissible variant of COVID-19 that became the dominant strain of the virus in fall 2021, causing cases to skyrocket in the new year. The variant, though, is less severe than its predecessor, Delta, so while there was a rise in deaths in December and January, it wasn't as high as earlier spikes.

The CDC reported some 9,600 new COVID-19 cases and 47 deaths Sunday, the most recent day for which data are available.

It's unclear to what extent BA.2 may effect the overall number of cases, which have been on a steady decline since the beginning of the year.

The new CDC data comes as the Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday approved a second booster shot of the COVID-19 vaccine for those over the age of 50 and some with compromised immune systems. The CDC has yet to approve the recommendation.

Next, some vaccine links kindly sent along from a LIR reader in Canada.

NY Times Coronavirus Vaccine Tracker

Regulatory Focus 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.

Scientists achieve record efficiency for ultra-thin solar panels

Date:  March 29, 2022

Source:  University of Surrey

Summary:  A team has successfully increased the levels of energy absorbed by wafer-thin photovoltaic panels by 25%. Their solar panels, just one micrometer thick, convert light into electricity more efficiently than others as thin and pave the way to make it easier to general more clean, green energy.

In a paper published in the American Chemical Society's Photonics journal, the team detail how they used characteristics of sunlight to design a disordered honeycomb layer which lies on top of a wafer of silicon. Their approach is echoed in nature in the design of butterfly wings and bird eyes. The innovative honeycomb design enables light absorption from any angle and traps light inside the solar cell, enabling more energy to be generated.

Dr Marian Florescu from the University of Surrey's Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) said, "One of the challenges of working with silicon is that nearly a third of light bounces straight off it without being absorbed and the energy harnessed. A textured layer across the silicon helps tackle this and our disordered, yet hyperuniform, honeycomb design is particularly successful."

The team of researchers from the University of Surrey and Imperial College London worked with experimental collaborators at AMOLF in Amsterdam to design, model and create the new ultra-thin photovoltaic.

n the laboratory, they achieved absorption rates of 26.3 mA/cm2, a 25% increase on the previous record of 19.72 mA/cm2 achieved in 2017. They secured an efficiency of 21% but anticipate that further improvements will push the figure higher, resulting in efficiencies that are significantly better than many commercially available photovoltaics.

Dr Florescu continued, "There's enormous potential for using ultra-thin photovoltaics. For example, given how light they are, they will be particularly useful in space and could make new extra-terrestrial projects viable. Since they use so much less silicon, we are hoping there will be cost savings here on Earth as well, plus there could be potential to bring more benefits from the Internet of Things and to create zero-energy buildings powered locally."

As well as benefiting solar power generation, the findings could also benefit other industries where light management and surface engineering are crucial, for example, photo-electrochemistry, solid-state light emission and photodetectors.

Next steps for the team will include investigating commercial partners and developing manufacturing techniques.

The inflated imitations of gold and silver, which after the rapture are thrown into the fire, all is exhausted and dissipated by the debt. All scrips and bonds are wiped out. At the fourth pillar dedicated to Saturn, split by earthquake and flood: vexing everyone, an urn of gold is found and then restored.


Wednesday 30 March 2022

The Non-Peace, Peace? A Wider War?

 Baltic Dry Index. 2417 -67  Brent Crude 111.12

Spot Gold 1925

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

Deaths 53,100

Coronavirus Cases 30/03/22 World 485,592,202

Deaths 6,157,201

Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland;
who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island;
who rules the World-Island commands the world.

Sir Halford J. Mackinder, Democratic Ideals and Reality, 1919

In the new European war that no one outside of Washington, London and NATO wanted, did Russia just blink or is it just a Russian battlefield ploy?

Washington and Kiev think it’s the latter. After saying for months they had no plans to invade Ukraine, no one trusts any words coming out of Moscow. But I give them the benefit of the doubt.

After watching Russia’s invasion troops inept invasion of Ukraine, it doesn’t look to me like there was any plan at all.

Below, the latest from the “peace talks” in Istanbul.

Ukraine isn't naive, Zelenskiy says after Russian pledge to scale down attack on Kyiv

·         U.S. says on lookout for major offensive elsewhere

·         Moscow's pledge comes at peace talks with Ukraine

·         Kyiv proposes neutral status with guarantees

·         Biden to hold talks with UK, European leaders

LVIV, Ukraine/KYIV OUTSKIRTS March 30 (Reuters) - Ukraine reacted with skepticism to Russia's promise in negotiations to scale down military operations around Kyiv and another city as some Western countries expected Moscow to intensify its offensive in other parts of the country.

Talks took place in an Istanbul palace more than a month into the largest attack on a European nation since World War Two that has killed or injured thousands, forced nearly 4 million to flee abroad and pummelled Russia's economy with sanctions.

The invasion has been halted on most fronts by stiff resistance from Ukrainian forces who have recaptured territory even as civilians are trapped in besieged cities.

"In order to increase mutual trust and create the necessary conditions for further negotiations and achieving the ultimate goal of agreeing and signing (an) agreement, a decision was made to radically, by a large margin, reduce military activity in the Kyiv and Chernihiv directions," Russian Deputy Defence Minister Alexander Fomin told reporters.

He made no mention of other areas that have seen heavy fighting, including around Mariupol in the southeast, Sumy and Kharkiv in the east and Kherson and Mykolaiv in the south.

"Ukrainians are not naive people," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said late on Tuesday.

"Ukrainians have already learned during these 34 days of invasion, and over the past eight years of the war in Donbass, that the only thing they can trust is a concrete result."

Russia has started moving very small numbers of troops away from positions around Kyiv in a move that is more of a repositioning than a retreat or a withdrawal from the war, the Pentagon said on Tuesday.

"We all should be prepared to watch for a major offensive against other areas of Ukraine," spokesman John Kirby told a news briefing. "It does not mean that the threat to Kyiv is over."


In the stock casinos, any news is good news to dress up the indexes for the month-end and critical quarter-end results. I suspect the “dress up” rally will turn out to be the year’s final exit rally.

Asia shares join global rally after Ukraine-Russia talks

HONG KONG, March 30 (Reuters) - Asia shares joined a global rally on Wednesday as hopes rose for a negotiated end to the Ukraine conflict, while bond markets signaled concern overnight that aggressive rate hikes could damage the U.S. economy after 10-year yields briefly dipped below two year rates.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan (.MIAPJ0000PUS) rose 1%, and touched its highest level since March 4, with most Asian stock markets in positive territory.

Japan's Nikkei (.N225) bucked the trend however, falling 1%, as observers pointed to profit taking heading into the end of the fiscal year. The benchmark hit a two-month closing high on Tuesday.

Ukraine, on Tuesday, proposed adopting a neutral status in a sign of progress at face-to-face negotiations, though on the ground, reports of attacks continued, and Ukraine reacted with skepticism to Russia's promise in negotiations to scale down military operations around Kyiv. read more

Nonetheless, the news helped the Dow Jones Industrial Average (.DJI) and S&P 500 (.SPX) notch their fourth straight session of gains overnight, after European shares had rallied sharply.

U.S. S&P 500 futures were little changed in Asia trade.

"On the one hand there has been more positive news regarding Ukraine, and the market is hopeful of a peace deal at some point, which is resulting in a bit of a 'risk-on' event, with shares up and bond yields trending higher," said Shane Oliver chief economist and head of investment strategy at AMP Capital.

"But then it's back to worrying about inflation and bond yields, and there's this debate about whether we're going to see a recession in the U.S. because of the inversion of part of the U.S. yield curve."

The widely tracked U.S. 2-year/10-year Treasury yield curve briefly inverted on Tuesday for the first time since September 2019, as bond investors bet that aggressive tightening by the Federal Reserve could hurt the U.S. economy over the longer term.


In other European war news, ever so slowly the new European war seems to be widening, as most European wars since 1870 tend to do. Regime change in Moscow next?

Ukraine appears to have begun shelling Russian territory

Wed, March 30, 2022, 1:57 AM

The Ukrainian military has begun to take the fight to Russian territory, a new development in what has been a primarily defensive war for the country.

Russian authorities were forced to place two villages under emergency orders and evacuate some citizens due to Ukrainian shelling in the area, according to reports from multiple Russian media outlets.

RIA Novosti, a Russian government-controlled publication, reported Tuesday that an explosion near the village of Zhuravlyovka injured four people. The outlet reported that the source of the explosion was an attack that originated from within Ukraine.

Interfax, another Kremlin-friendly publication, reported that Zhuravlyovka and the nearby town of Niekhoteyevka were placed under emergency orders, and roughly 180 people were evacuated to the city of Belgorod as the result of an explosion at an ammunition depot.

Interfax did not pin blame for the explosion on Ukraine, but it did note that authorities believe it was not an accident.

Fox News cannot independently verify the reported attack, though reports of the attack, an apparent setback for Russia, and Ukraine's involvement originated from Russian state-run outlets.


U.S. liaising with Ukrainian forces in Poland, Pentagon says

Tue, March 29, 2022, 9:45 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon on Tuesday clarified that U.S. troops in Poland were "liaising" with Ukrainian forces as they hand over weapons to them, but were not training "in the classic sense" following remarks from President Joe Biden on the matter.

On Monday, Biden told reporters that while in Poland last week, he had been talking to U.S. troops who were helping "train" Ukrainian forces in Poland.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters that U.S. troops in Poland were "liaising" with Ukrainian forces when weapons are handed over to the forces fighting back against Russia's invasion.

"It's not training in the classic sense that many people think of training. I would just say it's liaising," Kirby said.

He did not provide details on what exactly the interactions entail or how long they usually lasted. It was not immediately clear whether the distinction between liaising and training had greater significance, as the United States tries to limit any direct military involvement in the war.


Marines Deploy to Eastern Europe for the First Time in Response to Ukraine

Tue, March 29, 2022, 11:27 PM

Marines will now be among the thousands of U.S. troops who have been deployed to Europe and the eastern edge of the NATO alliance in response to Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

About 200 Marines from a command-and-control unit for Marine Air Control Group 28 based at Cherry Point, North Carolina, were sent to Lithuania, following a cold weather exercise in Norway, the Pentagon said Tuesday. A couple of Marine Corps C-130 Hercules transport aircraft and 10 Marine F-18 Hornet fighter jets from Beaufort, South Carolina will be repositioned to Eastern Europe.

The latest deployment comes as Russia appeared to be pulling back and repositioning its invasion forces following weeks of stiff resistance by Ukraine, and the Pentagon claimed Russian President Vladimir Putin had "failed" in his effort to seize the capital Kyiv.

The Pentagon has 14,000 troops already deployed to Europe, positioned with allies such as Poland, Germany and the Baltic states, or on high-alert for possible deployment. On Monday, it announced that six Navy EA-18G Growler aircraft based at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in Washington state were sent to Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany.

"It's not about a number goal, it's really about capabilities and it's based on constant conversations with our NATO allies on the eastern flank," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said during a briefing on Tuesday.


Finally, more on that European war almost no one wanted.  Blocking Russia and China’s “Mackinder” gambit.  Poor Ukraine.

Geo-Politics Is Metamorphosing at Every Moment

Alastair Crooke  March 28, 2022

Whilst Europe and the U.S. never have been more closely aligned, the ‘West’ paradoxically has also never been more alone.

Very occasionally, a single anecdote can almost completely summate a moment in history. And this one did: In 2005, Zbig Brzezinski, the architect of Afghanistan as quagmire to the Soviet Union, and the author of The Grand Chessboard (which embedded the Mackinder dictum of ‘he who controls the Asian heartland controls the world’ into U.S. foreign policy), sat down in Washington with Alexander Dugin, Russian political philosopher and advocate for a ‘heartland’ cultural and geo-political renaissance.

Brzezinski had already written in his book that, absent Ukraine, Russia would never become the heartland power; but with it, Russia can and would. The meeting had been set with a photo-prop of a chessboard placed between Brzezinski and Dugin (to promote Brzezinski’s book). This arrangement with a chessboard prompted Dugin to ask whether Brzezinski considered Chess to be a game meant for two: “No, Zbig shot back: It is a game for one. Once a chess piece is moved; you turn the board around, and you move the other side’s chess pieces. There is ‘no other’ in this game”, Brzezinski insisted.


The Geographical Pivot of History

"The Geographical Pivot of History" is an article submitted by Halford John Mackinder in 1904 to the Royal Geographical Society that advances his heartland theory.[1][2][3] In this article, Mackinder extended the scope of geopolitical analysis to encompass the entire globe.


Even during the years of the Cold War, the intense confrontation between the Soviet Union and the United States, we always avoided any direct clash between our civilians and, most certainly, between our military. 

Vladimir Putin.

Global Inflation/Stagflation Watch.

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

Hopefully, as the Spring planting season gets underway in the USA, we will get a pause in global grain price increases and perhaps even a modest drop in grain prices. Could we really get that lucky?

Still if I wasn’t retired from commodities trading, better known as gambling, I’d use any pullback on wheat to try to put on a few synthetic summer double options. With a war in the breadbasket of Europe and the possibility of continued drought in North America, anything can happen this year in wheat pricing.

Might try the same in beans too,

You have to trade/gamble when risk/reward opportunities are at their best.

The farmer has to be an optimist or he wouldn't still be a farmer.

Will Rogers. 

Mar. 29, 2022  Source: Rabo AgriFinance news release

Chesterfield, MO - High prices for U.S. corn, soybeans and wheat are not expected to be a short-term shock, according to a new RaboResearch report, "The Grain Drain After Ukraine." While the sudden shutdown of trade in the Black Sea region has sent corn and wheat prices to their highest in a decade, the 10-year outlook for all major crops has shifted up to a new price level. The report cites transformative geo-political changes, continued increases in demand and limited acreage availability as the shift's drivers.

The war in Ukraine has caused trade routes shipping agricultural products grown from the Black Sea region to other parts of the world to effectively shut down. The continuing conflict will cut supplies of corn and wheat available to the global market. RaboResearch expects the U.S. to increase its exports to help fill the gap. The additional global demand for U.S. products should also increase the prices paid to farmers for these crops. According to RaboResearch analysis, a 200 million bushel increase in exports for each commodity would increase the 2022/23 average on-farm price for corn by approximately 13% and wheat by approximately 50%.

"We projected U.S. farm prices to be strong this coming year," writes lead report author, Andrick Payen, grain and oilseed analyst with Rabo AgriFinance. "But the Ukrainian conflict is likely to push wheat prices to reach record highs."

For the 2022/23 crop marketing year, RaboResearch estimates the average on-farm price, which takes local basis into account, to be $5.77 for corn and $10.50 for wheat when their export sales increase by 200 million bushels.

This year's report is also the first annual outlook to incorporate the expected expansion of U.S. soybean crush capacity into the 10-year acre and price estimates. Fueled by the growing demand for soybean oil as an ingredient for renewable diesel, the crush capacity expansion is an important transformation driving long-term commodity prices to a higher level.

Higher prices, however, do not spell bigger profits. Costs for farm inputs such as seed, fertilizer and land will likely also rise, squeezing farmers' margins over the next decade. Grain companies will have to navigate great volatility in their trading activities. And livestock producers will likely face higher feed prices.

Planting has started, but progress is delayed by weather and parts

By XtremeAg  3/28/2022

Kelly Garrett, Matt Miles, and Kevin Matthews are eager to get planting, but weather delays and parts availability are slowing down the XtremeAg team’s progress.


A fifth-generation farmer, Kelly Garrett farms corn, soybeans, and winter wheat in western Iowa.

On March 21 we planted 60 acres of soybeans. It was earlier in the spring than usual for our farm. Winter weather is likely not over here in western Iowa, so in order to make sure the beans are protected from any cold snaps we have applied stress-mitigation products Accomplish Max in-furrow and a seed treatment from SprayTec. If we see a prediction for very cold weather coming, then we will do a quick application of a product called Shield that is designed to give the young plants another layer of protection during frost conditions by helping to mitigate abiotic stress. As with many things in farming, it is a risk to plant beans on the first day of spring, but we feel pretty good about the stress mitigation program we have in place and think we are setting the stage for a great crop.

We have not planted since then due to the .75 inches of rain we received on the night of March 21.  It was good to get some acres of beans in, but it was even better to get some much-needed rain to boost up the moisture levels of our soil.

We will wait until around April 20-25 before we plant any corn. We need to give the ground some more time to warm up.

The rye field that we’ll harvest is starting to green up as well as our winter wheat.


Shoppers turn to Aldi and Lidl as grocery price inflation exceeds 5 per cent

29 March 2022 8:03 am

Grocery price inflation has reached 5.2 per cent over the latest four weeks, as households brace for a cost of living crunch this spring.

The rate of price hikes has hit the highest level since April 2021, according to Kantar’s index published on Tuesday morning.

Shoppers are turning to discount retailers and own brand products in a bid to soften the blow of roaring inflation. 

Budget retailers Aldi and Lidl both grew sales 3.6 per cent in the past four weeks, with Aldi hitting a record share of 8.6 per cent and Lidl matching its own record at 6.4 per cent.

Own label products now account for 50.6 per cent of all spending, an increase on 49.9 per cent last year.

Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar, said: “More and more we’re going to see consumers and retailers take action to manage the growing cost of grocery baskets. Consumers are increasingly turning to own label products, which are usually cheaper than branded alternatives.”

Grocers have moved away from selling products at ’round pound’ prices, with the percentage of packs sold at either £1, £2 or £3 dropping significantly from 18.2 per cent last year to 15.9 per cent this March.

Russia launches Eurobond rouble buyback offer on looming $2 bln bond payment

LONDON, March 29 (Reuters) - Russia has offered to buy back dollar bonds maturing next week in roubles in a move seen by analysts as helping local holders of the $2 billion sovereign issue receive payment, while also easing the country's hard-currency repayment burden.

The finance ministry offer on Eurobonds maturing on April 4, Russia's biggest debt payment this year, follows Western moves to tighten sanctions against the country over its invasion of Ukraine and to freeze Moscow out of international finance

Moscow, which calls its actions in Ukraine a "special military operation", says Western measures amount to "economic war". In response, it has introduced countermeasures and has demanded foreign firms pay for Russian gas in roubles rather than dollars or euros. read more

The bonds - issued in 2012 - would be bought at a price equivalent to 100% of their nominal value, the ministry said its statement. Buying back bonds will reduce the overall size of the outstanding bond when it matures on April 4.

However, it was not immediately clear if the amount the government would buy back was limited or what would happen to holdings of creditors that would not tender their bonds.

The terms of the bond prescribe that repayment has to occur in dollars. Repaying at maturity in roubles might again raise the prospect of Russia's first external sovereign default in a century.

Analysts and investors said the move was likely designed to help Russian holders who now face restrictions in receiving dollar payments.

"This is a tender offer and not a final decision that these bonds will be paid in roubles. Perhaps, Russian authorities want to gauge investors’ willingness to accept payment in roubles?" said Seaport Global credit analyst Himanshu Porwal.

Tim Ash of BlueBay Asset Management, which is not a bondholder, said the move was part of a fight back by Russia's central bank and finance ministry "to fend off default and stabilise markets and the rouble"


Covid-19 Corner

This section will continue until it becomes unneeded.

So why was this deliberately ignored and not explored?  Money from rushed out vaccines? Vaccines of limited efficiency, limited protection, with no long term usage studies, and needing legal protection from potential lawsuits.

Published: 15 February 2017

Ivermectin: enigmatic multifaceted ‘wonder’ drug continues to surprise and exceed expectations 

Antiviral (e.g. HIV, dengue, encephalitis)

Recent research has confounded the belief, held for most of the past 40 years, that ivermectin was devoid of any antiviral characteristics. Ivermectin has been found to potently inhibit replication of the yellow fever virus, with EC50 values in the sub-nanomolar range. It also inhibits replication in several other flaviviruses, including dengue, Japanese encephalitis and tick-borne encephalitis, probably by targeting non-structural 3 helicase activity.97 Ivermectin inhibits dengue viruses and interrupts virus replication, bestowing protection against infection with all distinct virus serotypes, and has unexplored potential as a dengue antiviral.98

Ivermectin has also been demonstrated to be a potent broad-spectrum specific inhibitor of importin α/β-mediated nuclear transport and demonstrates antiviral activity against several RNA viruses by blocking the nuclear trafficking of viral proteins. It has been shown to have potent antiviral action against HIV-1 and dengue viruses, both of which are dependent on the importin protein superfamily for several key cellular processes. Ivermectin may be of import in disrupting HIV-1 integrase in HIV-1 as well as NS-5 (non-structural protein 5) polymerase in dengue viruses.99, 100


Shanghai tightens COVID lockdown on second day of curbs

SHANGHAI, March 29 (Reuters) - China's most populous city tightened the first phase of a two-stage COVID-19 lockdown on Tuesday, asking some residents to stay indoors unless they are getting tested as the number of new daily cases exceeded 4,400.

The financial hub of Shanghai, home to 26 million people, is in its second day of a lockdown authorities are imposing by dividing the city roughly along the Huangpu River, splitting the historic centre from the eastern financial and industrial district of Pudong to allow for staggered testing.

While Shanghai's caseload remains modest by global standards - a record 4,381 asymptomatic cases and 96 symptomatic cases for Monday - the city has become a testing ground for China's "zero-COVID" strategy as it tries to bring the highly infectious Omicron variant under control.

Residents east of the Huangpu were locked down in their housing compounds on Monday but were mostly allowed to roam within them. On Tuesday, however, three residents told Reuters neighbourhood committees had told them they were no longer allowed to step outside their homes.

"Children were still having picnics yesterday and having fun," said one of them, who declined to be identified, citing privacy concerns.

Wu Qianyu, an official with the municipal health commission, told a briefing that a "clear request" had been made to residents not to leave their apartments, even to take pets for a walk or throw out trash, during "a key stage in nucleic acid testing".

She said 8.26 million tests were performed by as many as 17,000 testing personnel in the city's locked-down districts on Monday.

----There were growing signs of frustration on China's social media and dozens of residents flocked to the Weibo platform to seek help for relatives, with some struggling to access medical services.

Though China is sticking to its plan for crushing the outbreak, experts overseas remain sceptical about the efficacy of lockdowns in the face of a highly infectious new variant.


Next, some vaccine links kindly sent along from a LIR reader in Canada.

NY Times Coronavirus Vaccine Tracker

Regulatory Focus 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.

HB11's hydrogen-boron laser fusion test yields groundbreaking results

Loz Blain  March 28, 2022

HB11 is approaching nuclear fusion from an entirely new angle, using high power, high precision lasers instead of hundred-million-degree temperatures to start the reaction. Its first demo has produced 10 times more fusion reactions than expected, and the company says it's now "the only commercial entity to achieve fusion so far," making it "the global frontrunner in the race to commercialize the holy grail of clean energy."

We've covered Australian company HB11's hydrogen-boron laser fusion innovations before in detail, but it's worth briefly summarizing what makes this company so different from the rest of the field. In order to smash atoms together hard enough to make them fuse together and form a new element, you need to overcome the incredibly strong repulsive forces that push two positively-charged nuclei apart. It's like throwing powerful magnets at each other in space, hoping to smash two north poles together instead of having them just dance out of each other's way.

The Sun accomplishes this by having a huge amount of hydrogen atoms packed into a plasma that's superheated to tens of millions of degrees at its core. Heat is a measure of kinetic energy – how fast a group of atoms or molecules are moving or vibrating. At these temperatures, the hydrogen atoms are moving so fast that they smack into each other and fuse, releasing the energy that warms our planet.

Most fusion reactor designs aim to replicate these conditions, by magnetically confining hydrogen atoms in a plasma, and then using gyrotrons and other specialized equipment to create small pockets of insane temperatures – over 100 million °C (180 million °F) – in which they hope they'll get enough random collisions between nuclei to create a chain reaction. This is the basic idea underpinning the multi-billion dollar stellarator and tokamak projects that have dominated fusion research for decades.

HB11 is using a different approach that's closer to a snooker shot. It doesn't require huge amounts of heat, or tricky, radioactive fuels like tritium. Instead, it takes advantage of recent advances in ultra-high powered "chirped pulse amplification" lasers that can produce monstrous, unprecedented power levels over 10 petawatts.

An HB11 reactor would be a mostly empty metal sphere, with a "modestly sized" boron fuel pellet held in the middle, and apertures in two spots on the sphere for a pair of lasers. One laser would be used to establish a magnetic containment field for the plasma, and the second is used to massively accelerate hydrogen atoms through the boron sample. So you're not heating things up in the hope that they'll smack together at speed, you're literally aiming the hydrogen right at the boron and using these bleeding-edge lasers to make it go so fast that it'll fuse if it hits a nucleus.

Hydrogen-boron fusion doesn't create heat, it merely creates "naked" helium atoms, or alpha particles, which are missing electrons and thus positively charged. HB11 plans to simply collect that charge to create energy, rather than needing to superheat steam and drive lossy turbines. No nuclear waste is created.

Initial experiments on laser-triggered chain reactions returned reaction rates a billion times higher than anticipated, leading HB11 to claim in 2020 that it "stands a high chance of reaching the goal of net energy gain well ahead of other groups."

"As we aren’t trying to heat fuels to impossibly high temperatures, we are sidestepping all of the scientific challenges that have held fusion energy back for more than half a century,” HB11 Managing Director Dr. Warren McKenzie told us at the time. “This means our development roadmap will be much faster and cheaper than any other fusion approach."


“Looking at the whole world as a whole, the drift for many decades has been not towards anarchy but towards the reimposition of slavery.”

George Orwell.