1—Covid and obesity
Lots more people than usual, including the non-elderly, died during the pandemic years. That was especially true in United States, fuelling antivax sentiment as people looked for answers. But Ron Unz dug into the data for several countries and found that:
"All of these national mortality results seem very consistent with the hypothesis that the combination of Covid and obesity produces a large number of non-elderly deaths, but they show no sign of any significant number of deaths from the Covid vaccines. Furthermore, the obesity rate itself may actually be a proxy for a larger constellation of negative personal health characteristics.
Those arguing that the Covid vaccines are highly dangerous regularly make the point that large vaccination drives have often been followed by substantial rises in the death rate. But although this is certainly true in some cases, the above mortality charts demonstrate that it is not true in many others.
As a further example, a recent article in the Daily Sceptic discussed a sharp rise in British deaths, analyzing the possible connection to Covid booster campaigns. According to the data presented, surges in deaths were sometimes correlated with boosting, they were sometimes uncorrelated, and they were sometimes anti-correlated, so the overall relationship was hardly clear.
Moreover, I think that even if there were usually a tight association, this sort of statistical relationship might perfectly illustrate the phrase 'correlation does not imply causality'."
You can read Unz' full essay here (~17 minute read).
2—The Adani crisis
The short sellers at Hindenburg Research – named after the infamous German hydrogen blimp that descended in flames – put out a lengthy note on Friday taking aim at India's Adani Group, helmed by its namesake Gautam Adani, one of the world's richest men:
"By early Friday morning New York time, Adani's group had lost $51bn in value. This is a shocking blow to a business that is synonymous with the success story trumpeted by Delhi and the BJP leadership."
Adani's post-pandemic rise has put what one might consider frothy US companies to shame, accounting for a large part of India's recent equity outperformance:
According to Adam Tooze, the looming crisis puts Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "house of cards at risk":
"[T]he rise of Gautam Adani is deeply connected not just with rise of Indian equity market but more specifically with Modi's vision & the Gujarat connection. As the FT reported back in 2020, Adani's firms own everything from ports to coal mines.
Adani's reach extends beyond India to highly controversial mega coal projects in Australia. More recently, the Adani group has positioned itself at the forefront of India's dramatic Green energy projects.
At the same time as driving national infrastructure development, Adani personifies the oligarchic linkages and rentier profits generated by licensing system for infrastructure on which Modi's growth model has heavily relied."
If Adani were in fact one giant fraud, then "the financial stability of the Indian economy" is at risk:.
"Adani's growth has been driven by a cycle between rising equity values and corporate debt. Already In 2014 Gautam Adani boasted that his deals were 'immensely bankable'. And Wall Street has really begun to take a major interest since his turn to green energy.
Against this backdrop, the data in the Hindenburg report are both ominous and damning.
The report alleges that the stock values of the Adani Group and thus its ability to raise debt and leverage has been wildly inflated. A valuation of the group at levels more typical of the market and the sectors that it is in, would imply a spectacular devaluation."
Do read Tooze's full summary here (~9 minute read).
3—All in on the current thing™
4—Don't make air travel worse
Let's be honest, travelling the post-pandemic world hasn't been great. High prices, fewer options, delays, cancellations, and in the US, a complete failure of air traffic control. That has led some pundits to suggest "that the chickens have finally come home to roost from America’s grand experiment with airline deregulation and urging a return to kinder, gentler air travel under the guiding hand of Washington".
But following their advice would only make air travel suck even more:
"Suppose regulators appeased those who claim that flying costs too much by putting a cap on air fares. The airline industry has periods of fat profits, but those profits are notoriously fickle. And if they’re expected to stay in business in down times, airlines can’t be expected to sacrifice revenue generated when demand is high without trying to make it up elsewhere.
Note, too, that their options to make up for lost revenue would create other problems. Paying employees less would mean more of that much-evident grumpiness, not to mention employee turnover and less competence. Raising the price of checked luggage would turn cabins into hand-to-hand combat zones for overhead space. Jamming more passengers into cabins would require narrower seats with (even) less legroom and longer boarding times.
What about service reliability? Suppose policymakers force an airline that cancels a flight to immediately provide a cash reimbursement to all affected passengers – as the European Union requires in many circumstances. All airlines, not just Southwest, scratch thousands of flights every year, sometimes due to human or equipment error — but mostly because of bad weather. If airlines are forced to incur all the financial risks of delayed flights, something else must give — back to amenities and/or fares."
That's from Clifford Winston, who argues (~5 minute read) that economists are still right about airline deregulation, and that to improve air travel a better place for regulators to start would be to remove their limits on competition: imagine having Singapore Airlines flying between Perth and Sydney, rather than just the duopoly of Qantas and Virgin?
🙌 "The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has granted an injunction allowing PredictIt to continue operating while the Court considers granting longer term relief."
👨🔬 "A new video from Project Veritas surfaced online and quickly gained traction, garnering over 7 million views on Twitter in the first 10 hours of its upload. The video shows a Pfizer executive, Jordon Trishton Walker, claiming that his company is exploring a way to “mutate” the virus causing COVID-19 through 'Directed Evolution'."
📉 "By the end of next year, the average British family will be less well off than the average Slovenian one... by the end of this decade, the average British family will have a lower standard of living than the average Polish one."