Where finance and media intersect with reality

In the Blind Spot (TikTok, Syria, Ukrainian biolabs)

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This edition of the Blind Spot Wrap was compiled by Dario Garcia Giner.

Money and market matters:

  • Reuters reports that the European Union will amend sanctions on Moscow to stop bottlenecks in global supplies of foods and fertilisers.
  • Nord Stream 1 pipeline is set to continue flows of gas into Europe on time after the completion of scheduled maintenance though at levels lower than full capacity.
  • Netflix earnings report shows a narrower loss than expected, reportedly losing 970,000 users versus an expected loss of 2mn.
  • A federal jury in Florida awards $10.5mn to the families of two teenagers who died in a fiery 2018 crash involving a Tesla, the batteries of which caught fire – causing the car to crash while travelling at 116 mph.
  • The Co-director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, Gal Luft, labelled Western attempts to impose a price cap on Russian oil as ‘ridiculous’, following Janet Yellen’s comments that an oil cap is ‘the most potent way’ to control high oil prices.
  • Reports surfacing on July 18 suggest the Department of Defence is nearing an agreement with Lockheed Martin to procure roughly 375 F-35 fighter jets over a three-year period.
  • Walmart ordered 4,500 electric vans from Californian electric car start-up Canoo on July 12. Deliveries will begin in Q4 2022 and Walmart is planning to use the electric fleet to deliver online orders sustainably. Walmart’s stated goal is to become emission-free by 2040.

Climate changes:

  • Europe’s largest river, the Rhine, is in danger of drying up this summer amidst record-breaking heatwaves. According to Bloomberg the Rhine’s water level is at its lowest in 15 years.

Social media geopolitics:

  • Tucker Carlson highlights the TikTok equivalent in China promotes more educational videos than the typical booty-shaking videos so popular in the Western version.

Though I see Tucker’s point, and concede that it certainly is smart geopolitics to popularise an app that promotes mind-numbing content in your enemies’ territory, it’s important to remain nuanced.

TikTok is mostly reviled by those who have never tried it. Yes, the videos you’re made to watch when you initially install the app can be banal and prone to booty-shaking themes.

But, should you desire deeper content, merely searching appropriate hashtags can gift you with thousands of high-quality and informative videos. History, politics, business – anything you’re interested in, you can watch on TikTok.

If you don’t believe me, try installing TikTok (preferably on a phone you don’t mind having the CCP snoop on) and searching for interesting hashtags. You won’t regret experiencing arguably the most refined app of the 21st century yet. Full disclosure: I have no official or unofficial connections to the CCP. [But I would say that, wouldn’t I.]

Buy or sell the dys-topia?

Space and that:

Let’s get geopolitical:

  • Henry Kissinger tells Der Spiegel there is no adequate historical comparison for the Ukraine conflict. Very much worth your time.
  • Activity following the Turkey-Iran-Russia summit in Tehran leaves the situation on the ground in Syria unclear, but suggestive of pre-offensive moves by Turkey.

Some actions have begun occuring in Syria that suggest a decision was reached at the Turkey-Iran-Russia summit.

Twitter reports on July 19 claimed that Erdogan had stated that “Tel Rifat and Manbij have become a hotbed of terror. The time has come to clear these ports where the terrorist organisation (PKK) took refuge.”

Other Twitter accounts claim that Russian warplanes are conducting heavy patrols over the airspaces of Turkey’s operational areas in northern Syria.

Similarly, videos have emerged showing Turkish-aligned militias in northern Syria allegedly knocking out a fortified vehicle belonging to Iranian-backed militias.

As is always the case when a military operation is seemingly taking foot, reports must be taken with a grain of salt owing to the fog of war.

Nevertheless, whether Turkey’s offensive will truly go ahead should become clear within the next few days.

O-Cult-y matters

From the “fake news-o-sphere”:

  • A mysterious incident in an occupied nuclear plant in Ukraine leaves Russian soldiers killed and ‘so scared they ran around the station in panic’. The details of the incident are still unknown.
  • Russian media outlets have indicated that members of Russia’s Federation Council’s commission into alleged American biological laboratory activities in Ukraine have been concluded.

The committee members claimed that Ukrainian servicement were “subject to secret experiments”, which turned them into “cruel monsters”, capable of committing “monstruous crimes.”  These findings were allegedly based on examinations of blood samples drawn from Ukrainian soldiers, which found traces of drugs and hepatitis A.

Interestingly, an expert interviewed by the Russian paper states the diseases detected in prisoners were not “atypical for Ukraine”, and that these parlamentarians are exaggerating.

The commission also dealt with other incidents, such as banknotes infected with tuberculosis in Luhansk and a gas gangrene study in a veterinary lab in Mariupol.

Despite the outlandish, factually-distanced nature of such claims, attempts to create super-soldiers through mind-numbing drugs have a long history in both the United States and the former Soviet Union.

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