She remains me of the young Catherine Deneuve, and I have a week spot for blondes with character.
Her name is Gulnara Karimova, and she is (or was) take your pick: a politician, a Harvard graduate, a singer, a clothing and perfume line creator, a business woman worth over a billion dollars, a celebrity and a fallen angel.
She is 47 now, held under house arrest in her native Uzbekistan, most likely on the orders of her late father. The last news is that she is not well, messed up on drugs, not taking the new reality very good. The Americans seized her assets of about $850M and the Swiss want to talk to her eagerly about some money laundering issues, which stops me cold in my tracks.
And I though life was fast in the old times but its painfully slow today, so she proves me wrong and I like it.
I give you another example of a life in the fast line and it’s a doozy.
In just 19 years Napoleon Bonaparte accomplished this: defeated Austria, Italy and scored a victory against Egypt in July 1798. The next year he invaded the Ottoman Empire. In October 1805, the British wiped him out at the Battle of Trafalgar. In December Napoleon achieved his greatest victory at the Battle of Austerlitz. In 1807, Napoleon defeated the Russians at Friedland, in 1809, he defeated the Austrians at Wagram. Then Napoleon led a massive army into Russia in the summer of 1812. This was followed in 1813 by the Battle of Leipzig (The Battle of Nations). Napoleon then retreated to France, and in his mid-40s, was forced to abdicate the throne. After less than a year in exile, Napoleon escaped Elba and sailed to France with a group of about 1,000 supporters and returned to Paris. King Louis XVIII fled, and Napoleon began his Hundred Days campaign. On June 16 he defeated the Prussians, then he was crushed at Waterloo near Brussels.
Now compare this performance to the Americans being bagged down in Afghanistan for about the same amount of time not having much to show for it.
Some people are just different.
Most of the German Nazi elite were born around the turn of the century. Hitler was a bit older, 44, when he took over the reign of Germany; Goering was 40 at that time. But most of the Nazi top leaders were in the early 30s when they were voted into power (a low for democracy) and then in their mid 40s they were tried at Nurnberg. The point is that the Nazi regime and war that followed was engineered by a group of young men drunk on power.
Now, I am spending the evening in Calvi, Corsica, and will ride to the Maison Bonaparte in Ajaccio in the morning, to visit the ancestral home of the Bonaparte family (it was in their possession until 1967).
Staying in a hotel with a view of the citadel of Calvi, I am reminded that it is the base of the 2nd Parachute Regiment of the French Foreign Legion. It’s part of the spearhead of the French rapid reaction force having been engaged in covert operations in most of the world's flash points in modern history. The French commandos also operate in the sub-Saharan regions where even the Yanks are hesitant to engage.
I listened to a talk by an ex-commando and teacher now, about what they look for when they recruit. “The shooting, fighting or swimming are all teachable skills”, he said. “The thing we look for is mental toughness. We look for guys who will keep going, never give up.”
Maybe this is how accelerated life happens, good and bad.
The Po Valley is a major geographical feature of Northern Italy, it runs from the Western Alps to the Adriatic Sea. This is Italian core territory and it is unlike anything else in the world.
The Po Valley is a rich land with a perfect climate nearly encapsulated by some of the world’s most rugged mountains, making the Po more secure than the United Kingdom.
In fact, that’s how we should think of the Po -- as an island. Separate from Europe, separate even from the rest of Italy, it is the center of Italian industrial heft.
In the world before World War II the Po Valley was the economic powerhouse of both: Europe and the Greater Mediterranean.
On the west side of the valley, located on the banks of the Po River is the city of Torino (Turin).
Its known, among other things, as the home of the Shroud of Turin, an important, if controversial, religious artifact of the Catholic faith. Many are convinced that the Shroud is the sepulchral cloth of Jesus Christ resurrected there after thirty-forty hours from the wrapping.
From a scientific point of view the shroud is important because it shows a double image of a man so far not reproducible nor explainable. It is an ancient linen cloth, which enveloped the corpse of a 5’10” crucified man, and the pattern of bloodstains is compatible with the torturous wounds inflicted upon Jesus as recorded in all four New Testament Bible Gospel accounts.
The blood stains are still red, which indicates thepresence of biliverdin, caused by the degradation of hemoglobin in the blood, typical of a traumatized person.
Unlike the image, the blood stains on the shroud fully penetrate the cloth front to back.
The most significant conclusion from extended studies and examination of the shroud is that there are no visible traces of any artistic substances on the cloth to account for the image.It is a discoloration of the cloth as a result of something having caused the accelerated dehydration and oxidation of the cellulose linen fibers but only in those areas immediately surrounding a body.
The image is uniform in intensity throughout the entire cloth with no variation in density or color—an impossible feat for any artist of the Middle Ages or earlier.
It is much clearer in black-and-white negative than in its natural sepia color, and this negative image was first observed in 1898 on the reverse photographic plate. A good question is: How could a medieval “artist” make or take a photo negative when photography was not introduced to the world until 500 years later?
The shroud was last displayed for public viewing in 2005 and millions of faithful show up to see it.
It is kept in the Chapel of the Holy Shroud, located within a complex of buildings, which includes the Turin Cathedral and the Royal Palace.
It was a cloudy and rainy Sunday afternoon and I was sitting in a Café at Piazza Castello, looking at the Palazzo Reale di Torinoand the long line of people waiting to see the “Leonardo da Vinci – Hidden Treasures” exposition inside.
In the corner of the Piazza was a large Huawei billboard, prominently displayed.
It snapped me back to reality and I was wondering how much longer it is going to stay there, given recent developments.
Just a few days earlier the U.S. government put the Chinese telecoms giant on an export black list, which prohibits American firms from selling them high-tech components.
Huawei’s corporate strategy – which is to say, the strategy of China’s intelligence services – was to grant massive discounts on the installation of a network’s less critical bits on the condition that Huawei can also install and maintain the cores. The problem all along was that Huawei is not technologically self-sufficient - it remains heavily dependent upon tech imports from the United States.
The Chinese not only wanted the world to pay them to spy on global communications, they expected the Americans to enable the scheme.
In which universe did they think this silly idea would fly?
In the world of high stake espionage if you go in to stop the other guys, you go in hard, hence the full stop of business with Huawei.
As Robert DeNiro’s character in the classic movie “Ronin” says:
“If there is a doubt, then there are no doubts anymore.
That’s the first thing they teach you.”
“I forgot, that’s the second thing they teach you.”
The trade war between US and China, the biggest in modern American history,seems to have some aspects not picked up by the media.
As the pressure on China increased, a strange accident occurred last Sunday morning - Saudi Arabia said two of its oil tankers were attacked while sailing toward the Persian Gulfand as many as four ships were damaged. The details are murky, but the reaction laud:Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih said the incident aims “to undermine (…) the security of oil supplies to consumers all over the world”. He urged “to mitigate against the adverse consequences (…) on energy markets, and the danger they pose to the global economy.”The US Navy’s 5thfleet which patrols the Persian Gulf from its base in Bahrain declined to comment on the incident.
It should be noted, that the Chinese economic model depends on the security of long maritime supply lines (both into and out of the country) which China is not able to guarantee on their own, they need the US navy to do that.
It could be that president Trump wants US to be paid for this protection, and the incident in the Gulf served as reminder of who’s got the upper hand.
He is a businessman after all.
As a side note, given the level of tension it is amazing that the stock markets are still priced for perfection.
Trade with the US has one aspect many don’t realize – it lubricates the international financial system by doubling the money that is called US “trade deficit”.
In essence, limiting the trade will have a double negative effect on the suppliers.
The trade works like this: let’s say a firm from Japan sells $1M worth of products to a customer in the US. Their invoice gets paid in US$ for which the Japanese have little use – most of their costs are in Yen, they pay taxes and dividends in Yen.
So, they deposit the $1M in a bank and the money eventually lands at the BOJ, the central bank of Japan.
BOJ creates out of thin air the equivalent of $1M in Yen which then goes to the firm’s account. Now, BOJ also has little use for the dollars, but they have options: they can deposit them at the Federal Reserve or buy American government bonds, in both cases earning an interest.
At the end of this transaction the dollars end up back in the US and there is a fresh equivalent in new Yen on deposit in Japan.
The amount of money involved doubled, and consider that US trade deficit in 2018 was $621 billion, where typically the purchase of goods was offset by the sale of government bonds.
The bottom line is, the size of US trade deficit totally depends on the accounting scheme applied.
To be sure, the bonds are never re-paid, just “rolled over” at maturity.
The real issue is this: by trading financial instruments for real goods the domestic manufacturing base is being destroyed. Trump wants to stop that, as this impacts the lives of people who got him elected and he made promises.
If you have the feeling that there is no free lunch in real life, you’re right. While the bonds sold represent just an accounting entry, the interest payments are real – the compounded interests the US pays out is almost the size of Pentagon budget.
A kid with a calculator will realize quickly that this can’t go on forever.
Hence the governments all over the world have a history of defaulting on their sovereign debt. Some are serial defaulters, like Argentina, some have a history of extending maturities at will, suspending coupon payments and the like.
The Italians practically wrote a book on that.
I have little doubt that the US will be the last to default and it will be the least painful process, perhaps converting debt to equity.
The demand for US bonds and equities remains strong – the money needs to be parked somewhere, and US has the deepest and most liquid markets.
It’s a waiting game – and nobody wants to blink first.
Reading this title gives the feeling immediately that something is wrong with it.
We all know that life is not linear, we just live it as if it were. Some of the experiences occupy bigger space than others in our minds. It’s like Kramer on the Seinfeld comedy show saying – “New Orleans! I spent there a month one night!”
Life is never linear, it is organic, and so is intelligence too.
But in life we accept this myth a lot, settling down, reducing expectations.
Starting with education, which is painfully linear – put all the six year olds together and apply the same teaching scheme. Why we do it is beyond me – they are not the same and never will be. Well, they may be if we apply enough pressure and force them to complete the process successfully. Which means they just quit being curious about the world.
We move them through the schooling system, then as adults they go to work, get promoted or not, then they retire.
It’s like the great song says:
“What I've felt
What I've known
Never shined through in what I've shown
Won't see what might have been”
If the educational system remains you of something, you’re not alone – it’s an industrial assembly line, which is obvious, as the mass education is the product of industrial revolution.
Some people get out of this because of their imagination and creativity.
The difference between these two terms is this – creativity is putting imagination to work.
It’s not really where you start, it’s what inside of you. And if you don’t succeed you do it again, because you create your life, and so you can also re-crate it.
Sadly, we make poor use of our talents. Many people go through their lives without knowing what their talents are, or if they even have any.
These are people who don’t enjoy what they do – they simply wait for the weekend. Then they are people who love what they do and can’t imagine doing anything else. Because it isn’t what they do – it’s who they are.
I am of the opinion that there is less and less space available in our lives to communicate, and I see this as a problem. We have no time to absorb, process and integrate what’s going on. In a society where people are less and less connected to their gut feelings, there is less understanding of the outside world.
How many of us had a strong gut feeling about something, ignored it and then were sorry afterwards? Or the other way around, and this is the real kicker: how many of you had a strong gut feeling, ignored it and were glad afterwards?
I can’t ask for a show of hands, but I know the answer, because its one of the things that go deep with people.
I will quit my rambling now and leave you with a few bits of news on EU integration progress, that are stranger than fiction. I think they’re hilarious really. The Dutch KLM airline wanted to acquire a stake in Air France and the French government called it this “outrageous”.
Some days later president Macron announced that the Italian language will no longer be thought in French schools. You can't make this stuff up.
How the mind moves a person through the world is interesting and I take keen interest in how it works and how much I can possibly get out of it.
The mind has two parts – the subconscious mind is the original brain and can process up to 40 million bits of data from the environment every second, and then there is the conscious part. The first is very powerful and very fast but it’s totally habitual. It’s not creative and only plays back what it learns.
In evolution, the frontal part of the brain gave rise to consciousness. Consequently, creativity is an add-on option, and many people don’t exercise it that much.
And it can process only about 40 bits of data per second, which makes the subconscious mind million times more powerful.
That’s why in emergency or stress people operate from the first one - it can handle a lot of data simultaneously.
They say that we’re conscious for about five percent of our cognitive activity. Therein lies the problem for some – if you’re more than that, you may struggle a little. Of course, there is a flip side to that statement – if you’re creative, then you will figure out how to make best of it, even if there is no manual how to do it.
A great example of human creativity is Las Vegas – a city that has no reason to be where it is. It’s not located in a natural harbor, at a river or in the arable land – it’s in the desert, the heat gets unbearable and there is no water nowhere close to it. And yet it is one of the fastest growing cities in North America – the level of creativity and collaboration there is impressive.
It could be that we spend too much time talking about the genes, but there is something more important shaping human interaction. Each of us is made out of some 50 trillion cells and they all are living entities. Every cell in your body has a minus voltage on the inside and positive voltage of the outside. Every live cell is a battery – each one about 1.4 volts. Multiply it by the number of cells – it’s about 700 trillion volts of electricity in your body right now. So, while you see yourself as a physical entity, you’re an energy wave that interacts with others. Ever wondered why you turned to a person in the next car because you felt like she just looked at you? Your thoughts are not contained in your head – they’re out there.
All plants and animals communicate with vibration – the gazelle doesn’t have to go to the lion to find out if he is a friend. She feels the bad vibes from the distance.
If we, when we were young, were thought to be sensitive to these vibrations we wouldn’t find ourselves in bad relationships and bad places. But we are usually told to go with what people say and language was designed in some part to hide feelings.
It is vital to recognize that your thoughts and your judgments are not just connected to you – they’re connected to other people. The person that will respond to your thoughts is the one that is harmonically resonant. All you need to do is find her.
Tom Kubiak is the author of The Traveler