breaking news from the world of ideas

by Izabella Kaminska
Thursday, 19
January 2023
Debate
10:32

Hear me out: Klaus Schwab used to be cool

The WEF chairman once gave new and interesting voices a platform

Major news is coming out of Davos this week. The ritual January circus that is the World Economic Forum appears, for the first time in its 52-year history, to be in serious trouble.

For years the world’s foremost power players have delighted in gathering at the Swiss ski resort to chat business, politics and culture in a face-to-face setting. But no more. Most G7 leaders have opted out of the forum this year, fearful perhaps of the optics of being associated with a high-flying event during a year in which tens of millions are suffering through a cost-of-living crisis.

Those who have shown up, such as Germany’s Olaf Scholz, have done so in the context of a defeatist mood and a conscious retreat from the globalist messages that have defined the conference over past years. ...  Continue reading

by Izabella Kaminska
Thursday, 22
December 2022
Idea
10:00

Does Changpeng Zhao know Binance will implode?

The CEO targeted FTX for defensive, not offensive, reasons

With Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder and CEO of collapsed crypto exchange FTX, now in custody and facing charges of wire fraud, securities fraud, money laundering and a campaign finance violation, attention is turning to the health of his major rival, Binance.

The competitor exchange has been suffering billions of dollars of outflows over the last few days, amid growing concerns that the entire industry may be deeply undercapitalised and gripped by a deep contagion effect. There are also fears that Binance could be hit with a £2.1bn clawback if FTX bankruptcy proceedings conclude that Bankman-Fried used illicit gains to buy the shareholdings of Binance’s founder Changpeng Zhao, who is known as “CZ”. ...  Continue reading

by Izabella Kaminska
Wednesday, 7
December 2022
Reaction
10:03

Why is the Biological Weapons Convention not getting attention?

A significant global development has received barely any coverage

Given ongoing uncertainty about Covid’s origins and the emergence of Russian disinformation about Ukrainian biolabs, one would think that the ninth-ever review conference (RevCon) of the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention might generate a smidgen of media interest.

Taking place all of last week in Geneva, Switzerland under the auspices of the UN, not one mainstream outlet has covered the conference in any detail. This is strange, since this year’s RevCon follows a special consultative committee of the BWC that was called by Russia in September. Such a provision has only been invoked once before in the history of the convention — when Cuba accused the US of a biological attack in 1997. ...  Continue reading

by Izabella Kaminska
Tuesday, 29
November 2022
Analysis
14:11

Central bankers are to blame for the crypto collapse

Cheap money is the key to understanding Sam Bankman-Fried's downfall

The unravelling of Sam Bankman-Fried’s trading empire FTX this past month has exposed the shortfalls of crypto as the supposed solution to the excesses, conflicts and trust issues of core finance. With the impending collapse of crypto lender Blockfi it appears crypto may even be equally prone to the sort of contagion the financial sector experienced in 2008. 

What has prevented the crisis from spiralling into a fully systemic episode for the global economy — at least so far — is crypto’s still largely contained nature and much smaller size, relative to that of the traditional financial system. ...  Continue reading

by Izabella Kaminska
Friday, 11
November 2022
Analysis
10:13

The trouble with Rishi Sunak’s LNG deal

The pact with the US on supply of natural gas isn't all it seems

Following the UN’s COP27 climate summit, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is set to announce a deal for the UK to purchase 10bcm [billion cubic metres] of liquefied natural gas, or LNG, from the United States. This would represent roughly half of the UK’s LNG import requirements. It’s been pitched as an ingenious political trade move, but whether the deal will actually improve Britain’s energy security is another matter.

Cutting a supply deal is all very well, but guaranteed supply volumes are meaningless without guaranteed prices. To date, we’ve heard barely anything about how much this supply guarantee will cost us or on what terms the contracts have been struck. ...  Continue reading

by Izabella Kaminska
Monday, 24
October 2022
Analysis
07:00

Ignore the media hysterics — Britain is not a basket case

The UK has sovereignty, and with that comes options most countries don't have

In the inverted world of mainstream media, the verdict is in. Liz Truss and her merry men of “morons” (as the FT has nicely termed them) have destroyed Britain. They did the deed by killing off the pound and the gilt market with a tax cut. And, of course: Brexit.

Even Michel Barnier confirms it. “Not all of these difficulties are due to Brexit, I am simply convinced that Brexit makes everything more difficult,” he tweeted.

Unfortunately for Mr Barnier and co., the idea that Brexit, Liz Truss and the mini-budget had anything concrete to do with the bond crash and related economic shambles is laughable. Of course, they got things wrong: the comms strategy and reluctance to consult the OBR ahead of the mini-budget release was dim-witted. But their communications failures were no worse than those of the Governor of the Bank of England Andrew Bailey, who told the public they were facing Armageddon and should not ask for pay rises.  ...  Continue reading

by Izabella Kaminska
Wednesday, 13
July 2022
Idea
16:00

Brace for winter lockdowns

Covid may not be the only justification for more restrictions

Many of those who opposed lockdowns for the pandemic, predicted that the policy — if normalised — could one day be taken advantage of by opportunistic political forces to deal with almost any crisis. It was, as Lord Sumption once suggested, a potential pathway to authoritarianism. “If we confer despotic powers on government to deal with perils, which are an ordinary feature of human existence, we will end up doing it most or all of the time,” he wrote in November 2021.

Well, we are now facing just such a crisis. And there is a not insignificant chance that lockdowns might be revived, not just as a knee-jerk reaction to cope with a prevailing health crisis, but also, troublingly, an economic one.  ...  Continue reading

by Izabella Kaminska
Friday, 27
May 2022
Reaction
11:30

Elon Musk isn’t Tony Stark — he’s Han Solo

These two loveable rogues share a fondness for money-making stunts

If Elon Musk’s $44bn offer to buy Twitter was a new hope for free speech, then news on Thursday that investors have filed a suit alleging potential stock price manipulation by the eccentric billionaire is clear evidence that the Empire is striking back.

This is apt.

While Elon Musk is often compared to Tony Stark, the billionaire industrialist and genius behind Marvel superhero Iron Man, a better comparison may be with Han Solo, the wily galactic opportunist — and captain of the Millenium Falcon rather than the Falcon 9 rocket — who specialises in the art of faking it until he makes it, but also perpetually having to sweet-talk his way out of trouble. ...  Continue reading