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In the Blind Spot (The *Lite* summer holiday edition)

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Dear Subscribers,

Surprise! I know we said we would be off for two weeks but Dario Garcia Giner has kindly put together a light edition for this week just to make sure we keep the blind spots at bay. Here’s a short and sweet selection of the stories that need more attention this week. We’re also making it free. And we’ve also made the last two newsletters and all our respective analysis within them free, too. Last week’s is available here, and the week before that is here.

Best,

Izzy

Economics, business, finance and more:

  • The U.K. Treasury said it would force banks to properly clarify reasons for account closures after Nigel Farage accused Coutts of shuttering his account due to his political views. Rishi Sunak expressed his support for the Treasury’s measure on Twitter, claiming: “No one should be barred from using basic services for their political views.” The internal Coutts dossier on Farage is available here. Natwest’s chief executive Alison Rose also apologised to Farage.
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  • Goldman Sachs reported that its earnings in Q2 fell 58 percent due to an investment-banking slump, real estate markdowns, and a goodwill writedown in its consumer business.
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  • San Francisco’s Safeway installed security gates at self-checkout kiosks to head off ever-increasing crime rates in the city, which have forced several local retailers to shutter up shop.
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  • Energy expert Craig Pirrong, aka the Streetwise Professor, argued that the US administration’s plan to develop a hydrogen economy resembled the USSR’s Gosplan ambitions for industrialisation. “It attempts to pick technologies based on a pretense of knowledge it does not possess,” he noted.
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  • The Financial Times woke up to Dubai’s ambitions to become the “new Geneva” in the Russian oil trade due to Switzerland’s sanctioning of Moscow following its invasion of Ukraine. [Duh — IK]
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  • Saudi Aramco CEO Amin Nasser was appointed to the BlackRock Board of Directors. Nasser has previously criticised the ESG movement, and claimed these “metrics were undermining investment in oil and gas to the point of posing a threat to global energy security.” This comes after Larry Fink recently said ESG had been politicised.
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  • Losses in Bank of America’s bond portfolio increased to $106 bn in Q2 2023.
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  • Bank of International Settlements economists warned that financial markets were increasingly at risk of “destabilising dynamics” due to a “seismic shift” in how collateral is used. That is because collateral, especially government debt, has become “ubiquitous” in securing financial transactions, leading firms to assess collateral quality rather than borrower cash flows while lending.
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  • UK media regulator Ofcom launched an investigation into GB News’sDont Kill Cash” campaign. Ofcom said the GB News coverage which opposed the planned disappearance of cash from circulation in the UK was forbidden under the Communications Act 2003. This Act forbids broadcasters from expressing “views and opinions (…) on matters of political and industrial controversy or current public policy.”
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  • An excerpt from DeSantis’ recent interview with Tucker Carlson had the Florida Governor and candidate for President outline his strong opposition to CBDCs, which he called a “massive threat to American liberty.”
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  • Polish farmers initiated a ‘Raspberry War‘ with Ukraine on fears the war-torn country would soon flood Polish markets with frozen berries, rendering their own crops uneconomic. The poles now want to impose a ban on importing frozen raspberries and strawberries from Ukraine into the country.

Media matters:

  • It was revealed that the founder of NAFO, the North Atlantic Fellas Organisation — a self-described pro-NATO troll army — is a Polish Twitter user named Kamil Dyszewski. Dyszewski was found to have posted many memes that implied an affinity with Nazi ideology.
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  • The Democratic National Committee tried to prevent Robert Kennedy from speaking at a hearing on censorship.
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  • Emma-Jo Morris is the journalist who wrote the Hunter Biden laptop story for the New York Post, which achieved virality before being aggressively censored by social media networks on the eve of the 2020 elections. Morris, now the politics Editor at Breitbart, delivered a testimony about her experience to anti-censorship hearings in Congress.
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  • The media’s reporting of the summer heat wave was criticised by climate specialist website Watts Up With That for misrepresenting high ground surface temperatures in Europe as equivalent to air temperature. European weather channels incorrectly claim temperatures in southern Europe could reach 48 degrees Celsius. “In Sicily the temperature reached only 32°C over the weekend – a far cry from 48°C, which illustrates the great difference between ground surface temperature and readings taken 2 meters above the ground,” the website stated.
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  • The latest Twitter Files, authored by Paul Thacker, revealed internal Twitter documents showing company officials discussing actions to silence Robert Kennedy’s accounts based on a flawed report by the Center for Countering Digital Hate.
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  • Daily active users on Meta’s Twitter competitor, Threads, were down 20 per cent a week after its release. Time spent on the platform by users dropped from 20 minutes a day to 10, leading analysts to state that Threads “will need a more compelling value proposition than simply ‘Twitter, but without Elon Musk”.

Politics, politics, politics:

  • According to a letter obtained by the New York Post, FBI general counsel Jason Jones pressured the FBI special agent who investigated Hunter Biden to not testify to the House Oversight Committee regarding their questions about irregularities in the President’s son’s conduct.

Intelligence:

  • Politico’s Anne Mcelvoy sat down with MI6 chief Richard Moore to discuss Ukraine and the future of intelligence gathering.
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  • Healthcare futurist and former Clinton Administration Jamie Metzl put together a mega Twitter thread on the latest revelations emanating from the release of private Slack messages by the authors of the “proximal origins” of Covid paper, outlining media manipulation tactics.For more see this Intercept report. “The main issue is that accidental escape is in fact highly likely – it’s not some fringe theory,” virologist Kristian Andersen wrote on Slack, addressing a conversation with gain-of-function advocate Ron Fouchier. “I don’t think we should reply back on the current thread as he effectively shut down the discussion there and I think will just lead to a shouting match – Christian and Ron made it clear that they think this is a crackpot theory.”

Technological changes:

  • A pro-Ron DeSantis super PAC has used an AI-voice version of Donald Trump in its latest attack adverts against the former American President.
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  • You can convert a YouTube video to another language without installing any software. Twitter user @therealprady used this tech to showcase a video of Lex Friedman with Mark Zuckerberg speaking in Hindi, complete with modified mouth gestures to suit the spoken language.
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  • ChatGPT’s GPT 4.0 went from answering a simple math problem 98 percent of the time to just 2 percent in the period from March to June, a Stanford University study said. On the other hand, GPT 3.5’s March version only answered the question right 7.4 percent of the time, whereas its June version answered it 86.8 percent of the time. Not everyone agreed with the findings.
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  • Millions of military emails from the United States have been accidentally sent to Mali for years due to a minor typing error. Emails intended for the US military’s “.mil” domain were instead sent to the West African country’s “.ml” suffix. These emails contained sensitive information, including medical records and top officers’ itineraries.
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  • After the successful launch of the Indian Space Research Organisation’s rocket, the global competition for primacy in the space domain heats up. The Chandrayaan-3 rocket was launched with a total payload of 3,895 kgs and successfully accomplished its “precise satellite injection” mission, according to the ISRO.

Acts of God:

  • A Pfizer factory in North Carolina was demolished by a passing tornado, as 150mph winds left 50,000 pallets of medicines strewn across the pharmaceutical giant’s site.

UFOs in Congress:

  • Congressional members claimed UFO legislation to force transparency on this issue is necessary because records were classified as “foreign nuclear information” when they shouldn’t have been.
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  • Whistleblower Dave Grusch, who recently alleged the United States held “intact” vehicles from non-human intelligences, will testify at next week’s House hearing on UFOs.
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  • The usually military/PMC themed Shawn Ryan show dived deep into UFOs with a three-part whistleblower marathon.
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  • Peter McCormack’s What Bitcoin Did show also departed from its usual cryptocurrency base by inviting Matthew Pines, director of intelligence at the Krebs Stamos Group, to talk about UFOs.

This week’s POLITICO Morning Central Banker:

 

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