The big chill.
This winter is cold in the Midwest. Last week’s report said that Chicago was colder then Antarctica. They had to put the rail track switches on fire in the windy city so the ice melts and the trains can go in the right direction.
The energy output of the sun peaked in 2015 and has been crashing faster that anyone thought possible, and this is according to NASA charts.
Toronto had temperatures so low that a new BMW X5 that serves us as a winter car gave up and now needs a new engine. The crankshaft and bearings broke in one messy spectacle just down the street from the house, in a big example of sloppy engineering. They should test the cars where they sell them, I would think.
The enthusiasts of electric cars had a wake up call of sorts: that the battery range is temperature dependent - it shrinks dramatically when it gets cold.
On the subject of cars, electric and otherwise - one morning last November en route to Tokyo was a Gulfstream G650 with Carlos Ghosn, the charismatic executive who’d engineered the Renault-Nissan alliance and now served as chairman of both companies.
This corporate alliance struck when Renault rescued Nissan from the edge of bankruptcy in 1991 by paying $5.3 billion for about a third of its shares.
Nissan was a financial mess at that time, but the relationship evolved in a direction that might charitably be described as awkward.
Ghosn was arrested by prosecutors upon arrival at Haneda airport in a situation that looks like more than the comeuppance of an executive who flew his Gulfstream too close to the sun. It looked like a palace coup.
Nissan has said that Ghosn engaged in a wide pattern of unethical behavior, but the criminal charges against him pertain only to some foreign exchange transaction and to allegations that he concealed the true scale of his retirement compensation—money he has yet to receive. One could say that he was arrested in anticipation of things.
French government’s response is remarkably missing, specially given the fact that it owns a majority stake in Renault and president Macron was touring an assembly plant with Ghosn not so long before the big guy’s arrest.
Wide smiles and all that.
The Ghosn’s case will turn on a simple question: how could a sophisticated global automaker, with battalions of lawyers and auditors and abundant bureaucratic infrastructure, not know what it was paying its chairman?
In the Tokyo prison Ghosn is interrogated daily without the possibility to take notes to prepare defense with his lawyers. He also asked for blankets because it is cold in the cell and he has lost a lot of weight.
And he is not charged with anything yet.
Try to pull this nonsense on a North American executive and see what happens to you.
It seems the big chill is also elsewhere - the Chinese government is cracking down on capital flows from China to other countries, particularly to fund real estate projects, after a reckless binge of buying up everything in sight.
This leaves the construction of some trophy properties in LA and San Francisco on hold for now as the Chinese developers are being forced to unload these toys.
Obviously the work stoppage due to lack funding is rattling some nerves in California.
The Chinese government is also now a net seller of US treasuries, a small thing but significant.
A new world order is taking shape.
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Tom Kubiak is the author of The Traveler