A relatively quiet week in financial markets with economic releases being few and far between, the political scene being less of a circus (relatively speaking), geopolitical tensions becoming a little more subdued and central bankers very much sticking to the agreed lines. While I doubt this will become the new norm, the week ahead may […]
Six soldiers were killed in a militant attack on a security checkpoint in the northern Sinai Peninsula, the Egyptian army announced today. “Unidentified gunmen attacked a security installation in the city of Al-Arish with grenades and small arms,” army spokesman Tamer al-Rifai said in a press statement. “Security personnel engaged the attackers and eventually forced them to retreat carrying several of their dead and injured,” he added, without providing the number of militants killed in the melee. According to al-Rifai, six soldiers were killed in the attack, for which no group has yet claimed responsibility. Friday’s attack comes only one day after Egypt announced the extension of a countrywide state of emergency by another three months. Read: 23 Egyptian soldiers killed […]
If you’ve got a core energy stock portfolio like me, you’re mostly deployed right now, waiting for the continued re-balancing of the oil market that even the IEA now says will complete in 2018. But, I never tire of trying to find further investments that come up opportunistically. This last week, I thought I perhaps saw one in Apache energy (APA). Now, a few thoughts – first on the state of U.S. E+P’s in general and then on Apache specifically: U.S. exploration and production companies have been following what I termed a…
Traders have a tendency to become obsessed with news and data. When you sit in a room all day trying to predict the next movement in something that is inherently unpredictable it is only natural to look for solid things that could give you clues. Thus, for stock traders, any economic data, no matter how obscure, is pored over and analyzed. Currency traders do the same with anything said by central bankers. For oil traders it is the historically unreliable weekly inventory figures or, even more bizarrely, an estimate of oil stocks from the API that…
Friday October 13, 2016 In the latest edition of the Numbers Report, we’ll take a look at some of the most interesting figures put out this week in the energy sector. Each week we’ll dig into some data and provide a bit of explanation on what drives the numbers. Let’s take a look.1. Energy stocks underperforming (Click to enlarge) – Investors are losing patience with the shale industry, which has posted enormous production growth rates for years, but has come up short on profits.- The growth-at-all-costs business model is suddenly…
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October 13 is D-Day for the major European companies that have forged new geo-economic territory by cutting deals with Iran. On the 13th October, Trump will decide whether he’s going to certify Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal. If he doesn’t, we’re looking at two months before Congress slaps new sanctions on Iran. For European giants (including French oil giant Total SA), this is a nightmare that threatens multiple billions of dollars in deals. Right now, Europe has no real plan to work around this. And trouble is…
U.S. West Texas Intermediate and internationally-favored crude oil futures are trading higher for the week as investors prepared for the release of weekly inventories data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) on Thursday. Oil prices rose for a third day on Wednesday as OPEC forecast higher demand for 2018 and on heightened tensions in Kurdistan supported prices. December WTI Crude Oil settled at $51.60 on Wednesday, up $1.95 for the week or 3.93% and January Brent Crude Oil closed on Wednesday at $56.73, up $1.37 for the week or…
Multiple neurologists and experts have told The Guardian that the mysterious ‘sonic attacks’ upon US diplomats in Cuba are likely just a case of mass hysteria. The extensive Guardian report is based on research and interviews with top neurologists and medical experts explaining that the likeliest explanation for the strange and inexplicable symptoms reported by US embassy staff in Cuba which have led to a breakdown in relations between the two countries has nothing to do with some kind of Cuban sonic device or high tech conspiracy.
The neurologists say that the most plausible explanation is that the diplomats’ high stress environment is leading to neurological abnormalities and disorders which are causing psychosomatic (or self-induced) symptoms. If true it would be a shocking revelation that such a “natural cause” phenomenon could result in the US removing most of its embassy staff from Havana. The Guardian report was issued on the very day that the Associated Press published what it purports to be an audio recording of high pitched undulating sounds which some embassy workers in Havana claim made them sick. Reports indicate that 22 US victims have suffered mysterious ailments after working at the embassy, including hearing, visual, cognitive, balance, sleep and other problems.
US Embassy in Havana, Cube. Image source: RNZ via AFP
Though it took over a year for the complaints to surface in the media, it all started in the fall of 2016. Several of the affected diplomats were recent arrivals at the embassy, which reopened in 2015 as part of Barack Obama’s reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba. The various accounts were strange yet similar: one diplomat, for example, described being jolted awake in a Havana hotel room by a grinding, blaring cacophony. When he moved a few feet across the room, the noise stopped. When he got back into bed, the agonizing sound hit him again; as if, he told doctors, he had walked through some invisible wall cutting straight down the middle of his room. Multiple personnel also reported persisted nausea, nosebleeds, headaches, and dizziness while stationed in Cuba.
The US State Department has deemed the occurrence to be deliberate attacks, though US officials have stopped short of pointing the finger directly at the Cuban government. But The Guardian is now casting significant doubts on the US allegations even while its report acknowledged the new audio recording obtained by the AP.
It sounds sort of like a mass of crickets. A high-pitched whine, but from what? It seems to undulate, even writhe. Listen closely: There are hear multiple, distinct tones that sound to some like they’re colliding in a nails-on-the-chalkboard effect.
The Guardian begins by citing Alan Carson, a consultant neuropsychiatrist and former president of the British Neuropsychiatry Association, who explained, “Typically what one gets in a functional disorder is some trigger. It is often relatively mild and non-specific, it can be a minor physical injury. But then a combination of a degree of anxiety and also belief and expectation distort that feeling.” Carson suggested that initial reports of US staff hearing strange sounds and experiencing unusual sensations could have triggered similar sensations in others: “If there is a strong enough expectation that something is going to happen, that will distort in an entirely real way the incoming information,” Carson said. “In certain circumstances that can be transmitted from person to person… If one person has that experience strongly enough and sets off that train of thought in somebody’s else’s mind, that can happen too.”
The report futher cites Mark Hallett, head of the human motor control section of the US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, to introduce the likely possibility of a “mass hysteria” phenomenon. Hallet said, “From an objective point of view it’s more like mass hysteria than anything else.” This involves possible “functional disorders” taking root among small groups of people based on the power of suggestion in high stress close working environments. The Guardian explains further:
“Mass hysteria” is the popular term for outbreaks among groups of people which are partly or wholly psychosomatic, but Hallett stressed there should be no blame attached to them.
“Psychosomatic disease is a disease like anything else. It shouldn’t be stigmatized,” said Hallett, who is also president of the International Federation of Clinical Neurophysiology. “It’s important to point out that symptoms like this are not voluntary. They are not a sign of weakness in an individual’s personality.”
Hallet also noted the vagueness of the complains among the nearly two dozen embassy staff: “There are a very large number of individuals that have relatively vague complaints as far as I can see.” He said. “There has been an exploration of possible causes for this and nothing has been found and the notion of some sonic beam is relatively nonsensical.”
“If it is mass hysteria that would clarify all the mystery – and presumably normalize US-Cuban relations again,” Hallett suggested. “These people are all clustered together in a somewhat anxious environment and that is exactly the situation that precipitates something like this. Anxiety may be one of the critical factors.”
Audio released by the AP on Thursday purports to capture what American embassy staff heard in Cuba.
Jon Stone, a University of Edinburgh neurologist and leading author in the field also told The Guardan that such disorders were so frequent in society that it constitutes the second commonest reason people seek out neurologists. “There is a misconception that only people who are weak-willed, people who are neurotic, get these symptoms. It isn’t true,” Stone explained. “We are talking about genuine symptoms that people have of dizziness, of headaches, of hearing problems, which they are not faking.” Stone seconded Hallett’s analysis of the mass hysteria phenomenon as “the outbreak could have started with one or two people falling ill with headaches or hearing problems, and those spread in a high-stress atmosphere and then amid talk of a ‘sonic attack’.”
One of the interviewed medical professionals went so far as to say it’s likely that experts within American intelligence understand the “mass hysteria” possibility quite well. According to Dr. Robert Bartholomew, author and widely regarded expert on outbreaks of mass hysteria:
None of this makes sense until you consider the psychogenic explanation… American intelligence agencies are the most sophisticated in the world, and they reportedly don’t have a clue as to what’s causing the symptoms. I will bet my house that there are agents in the intelligence community who have also concluded that this is a psychogenic event – but their analysis is either being repressed or ignored by the Trump administration because it doesn’t fit their narrative. Mass psychogenic illness is by far the most plausible explanation.
Meanwhile The Guardian questioned the US State Department about the possibility of functional disorders, to which a spokesperson responded: “We have no definitive answers on the cause or the source of the attacks on US diplomats in Cuba, and an aggressive investigation continues. We do not want to get ahead of that investigation.”
We will be to the first to confess that the idea that this could all be much ado about nothing based on some kind of psychosomatic self-induced mass hysteria and panic event would be an explanation perhaps just as wildly unexpected and “out there” as the high tech sonic device attack scenario. Either one sounds like it could be the plot line for some sci-fi movie or X-Files type series.
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Well, it seems fake news or just ‘fake’ in general is not limited to Wall Street. No, I’m not talking about the Dow Jones headline of Google planning to buy Apple for $9 billion. I’m talking about Morgan…
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Economists and social scientists have gathered multitudes of data about Millennials’ tendency to delay the traditional milestones of maturity (starting a career, getting married, buying a home, having kids) in favor of a prolonged adolescence.
But in a new study examining household formation patterns in the US, Pew Research Center has isolated the biggest factor behind the rise in those households without a partner or spouse: “The declining ability of men to earn a salary large enough to sustain a family.”
That’s right. As wages for female workers have risen in recent years, wages for their male peers have stagnated. This in turn has weighed on the household formation rate, because men are more reluctant to marry and start families unless they’re earning above a threshold, which Pew identified as $40,000, the Hill reported.
Instead, analysts said, the decline in both marriage and partnerships “All signs point to the growing fragility of the male wage earner,” said Cheryl Russell, a demographer and editorial director at the New Strategist Press. “The demographic segments most likely to be living without a partner are the ones in which men are struggling the most — young adults, the less educated, Hispanics, and blacks.”
“The point at which the average young man becomes ‘marriageable’ appears to be earnings of $40,000 a year or more,” Russell said.
Furthermore, in a sign that divorces haven’t been responsible for the surge in single Americans, Pew says the divorce rate has been stable, or even declining, since the 1980s
Russell pointed to data that shows marriage rates increase for younger Americans in connection with salaries. Fewer than half of men between the ages of 30 and 34 who earn less than $40,000 a year are married. More than half of those who make more than $40,000 a year are married, including two-thirds of those who make between $75,000 and $100,000 a year.
The number of Americas living alone has risen since the financial crisis as the global economy has struggled to return to pre-crisis growth rates. All told, the number of Americans living without a spouse or partner has climbed to 42%, up from 39% in 2007, according to the Pew’s analysis of US Census Bureau figures. For those under the age of 35 years old, 61% live without a spouse or partner, up 5 percentage points from a decade ago.
The higher number of spouseless households comes as the marriage rate declines precipitously. Just half of American adults are married, down from 72% in 1960.
The average American woman gets married just after her 27th birthday, while the average man waits until he is 29.5 years old to marry — significantly higher than the median ages half a century ago.
Lower household formation can ultimately drag on population growth as couples delay having children, and more couples forgo parenting altogether. Given Japan’s decades long struggle with stagflation, and its looming demographic crunch, maybe the Federal Reserve could kill two birds with one stone and start handing out helicopter money to men.
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