David Fuller and Eoin Treacy's Comment of the Day
Category - General

    Food bars for astronauts' most important meal of the day

    Thanks to Mrs. Treacy for this article by David Szondy for Gizmag. Here is a section:

    The cramped crew capsule hasn't nearly as much room as the ISS, and because it's designed to operate in deep space, its payload weights are much tighter. Still, it needs to carry enough food for the crew as they spend weeks or even months in long-range missions but cannot be resupplied from Earth, nor can it dump its rubbish until it returns home.

    To cut down on space and weight, NASA wants astronauts to substitute breakfast for food bars. The bar has to provide enough calories as well as a carefully balanced diet, need no special storage or cooking facilities, and leave no waste beyond its minimal packaging. In addition, it needs to lightweight and have a shelf life of several years.

    Commercial breakfast bars are designed for relatively sedate people who have easy access to other foods. There aren't any food bars that meet NASA's requirements and no one wants to use lifeboat rations, so NASA had to take on the task of designing it in house.

    What it is working on is a breakfast bar that provides 700 to 900 calories and balanced nutrients to act as a meal substitute. The goal is to provide flavors like orange cranberry or barbecue nut to have enough taste and variety to keep morale high and the astronauts wanting to eat them even after weeks in space – though what the final bars will ultimately look and taste like has yet to be decided.


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    As Schultz Steps Down, Next Starbucks CEO Brings Tech Savvy

    This article by Leslie Patton for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

    Starbucks’ digital and technology prowess has put it ahead of its peers, allowing it to serve more customers faster. Same- store sales rose 5 percent in the Americas region in the most recent quarter. Mobile payments accounted for about 25 percent of U.S. transactions in that period.
    Starbucks built on its tech leadership with an order-ahead feature, which lets customers select and pay for drinks in advance. They then can pick up the beverages at a shop without waiting in line.

    Since Johnson became operating chief, Starbucks has rolled out mobile ordering across the U.S. and even tested delivery.

    The Seattle-based company also is boosting spending on digital ventures, including taking its app and rewards platform to countries such as China.

    Though shares of Starbucks tumbled immediately after the announcement, they recovered some of that ground during extended trading. As of 9:53 a.m. in New York on Friday, the stock was down 2.4 percent to $57.11

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    People Power Fails to Stem Lira Rout As Erdogan Calls Turks to Action

    This article by Isobel Finkel for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    The lira has weakened faster than that of any fellow emerging market's this year except Argentina, as a failed coup — and the crackdown that's followed — spooked foreign investors, exacerbating the effects of the stronger dollar that's greeted the election of Donald Trump. 

    After a 25 basis point rate hike to the central bank's overnight lending rate last month failed to prevent the rout, clamors for householders to risk their savings have grown. The odds are stacked against them. Turkish central bank data show that banks worldwide trade $17 billion liras every day; a volume which every adult in Turkey would have to change more than a daily $300 dollars to overpower.

    Still, the efforts of those fighting the fallout have taken varied forms. While some businesses are rewarding those dumping dollars, farmers in the central Anatolian province of Aksaray staged a symbolic protest at one of the country's largest livestock markets on Wednesday, burning bills "in retaliation at the U.S. and Europe," according to Ihlas news agency. 

    “Europe and America now want to realize economically the coup that they failed to carry out with tanks, rifles and F-16s on July 15,” Ihlas cited Hamit Ozkok, chairman of Aksaray Commerce Exchange, as saying. He was referring to the date of the failed putsch earlier this summer, in which hundreds lost their lives. While Erdogan blames a former political ally, Fethullah Gulen, for instigating the coup, the cleric resides in Pennsylvania, and Turkey has sparred with the U.S. about his extradition. Gulen has denied the allegations.

    "I think there's a failure to appreciate that some of the rhetoric smacks of desperation," said Paul McNamara, a fund manager at GAM Ltd in London who oversees around $5 billion in assets. He said only a strong increase to central bank borrowing costs can halt the currency's declines.


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    The Greatest Danger for Italy is the Looming Loss of the ECB Shield

    The painful saga of Italy is by now well-known. The country is stuck in a depressionary debt trap. Trend growth is below zero. GDP is still 9pc below its pre-Lehman peak. Industrial output is back to levels reached thirty-five years ago.

    The contours are worse than the 1930s. It is a lost decade turning into a second lost decade. No large developed country in modern times has ever suffered such a fate.

    Italy is the victim of a vicious cycle of labour hysteresis as economic stagnation and weak productivity reinforce each other. Its exchange rate is overvalued by 20-30pc against Germany.

    How easily we forget that Italy used to run a big trade surplus with Germany in the old days of the lira, and its real growth rate tracked German growth almost exactly with the help of devaluations. Each country was true to its political anthropology.

    Italy cannot now deflate its way back to viability since this shrinks the underlying base of nominal GDP and automatically steepens the debt trajectory. It is impossible task for a country with a public debt ratio of 133pc of GDP, and is self-defeating in mechanical terms.

    Reform is a beautiful word, but is almost meaningless at this juncture. There is no plausible way out for Italy within the current contractionary structure of monetary union. Only ECB bond purchases forever can keep the lid on this pressure cooker.

    Yet it is patently obvious that QE is nearing political, legal, and technical limits. The ECB already faces a lapidary attack by Otmar Issing, its founding chief economist and a figure of towering authority in Germany.

    He accused the bank of sliding down a "slippery slope", straying from genuine monetary policy and instead rescuing bankrupt states in violation of the treaties. "The no bailout clause is violated every day," he said.

    The ECB has so far bought €1.4 trillion of bonds. Its balance sheet will reach 35pc of eurozone GDP by the end of the year at the current torrid pace, much higher than it ever reached in the US. Mr Issing said QE is nearing the point where the ECB may not be able to extricate itself without disastrous losses.

    The inevitable taper battle is now raging within the ECB's governing council, with the two German members leading a swelling mutiny before the next meeting on December 8. Any suggestion that the programme will not be rolled over in full when it expires in March risks a financial storm. Italy will be the epicentre.

    The context is fundamentally more dangerous than the events leading up  to the US taper tantrum in May 2013, when the Federal Reserve first began to talk tough.

    It invites the perennial question whether Italy, Portugal, and perhaps others, can fund themselves at all in the capital markets, given that the eurozone has done almost nothing since the debt crisis of 2011-2012 to put monetary union on workable foundations.

    There is still no fiscal union, no shared debt issuance, no banking union worth the name, and no expansionary New Deal to lift the economy off the reefs once and for all.  All it has done is to tighten surveillance, hoping somehow that it can muddle through by riding on world demand.

    So Europe's taper tantrum - when it comes - ineluctably turns into a fresh stress test of monetary union itself. "The feeling once again is that the eurozone is not entirely safe," said David Owen from Jefferies.

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    Will the French Left Gift Le Pen the Presidency?

    So there you have it. Next year’s French presidential election will be contested between the hard Right and the far Right; between the no holds barred free-marketeer Francois Fillon, who has just won the republican nomination, and the Neo-Fascist Marine Le Pen. It is a catastrophe of democracy, an argument for the withdrawal of the franchise from the plebs, who have proved themselves utterly unworthy of the vote, stupid racists that they are.

    That is the narrative that is now being spun in some quarters in France, where a demoralised Socialist party – its leader ridiculed, its support in tatters – is looking for answers to its great collapse. But the story they are telling themselves could not be more wrong.

    For a start, it features traditional characters cast in a traditional plot – where politicians of Left to Right slug it out against each other until their champions from the centre ground vie for victory. Not this time.

    This time the fringes are flourishing. Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who has just been endorsed by the Communist Party, is predicted handsomely to beat François Hollande, France’s centre-Left president, in the first round of next year’s presidential polls – if Hollande even stands. Fillon himself will get less support than Le Pen before the two of them go head-to-head in the second, decisive round of voting.

    Mélenchon is often described as Marine Le Pen’s “rival”, as though the pair were locked in some Newtonian experiment, in which any political action by the one leads to an equal and opposite reaction by the other. This may be comforting for those on the “progressive” Left, for whom Le Pen is the very devil. But it is not true. Mélenchon is fiercely anti-free market, cherishing the rights and welfare of those in what he calls his “workers movement”. Marine le Pen too is a heartfelt protectionist promising to defend workers benefits. Both loathe the EU.

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    Email of the day 1

    On Clive Burstow’s bullish comments on Copper at Monday’s Markets Now:

    Clive mentioned that the Trump build program will hit in 2018 just as copper runs into a multi-year deficit (it is balanced in 2016-7) but, if anything, this pending shortfall is being "dragged forward". He also stated in the lithium conversation that the issue facing Govs in their EV infrastructural support build-out is that "the biggest bottleneck they face is not being able to get enough copper out of the ground for all this"............

     As you know, his favourite metal is zinc and when I asked how he would play that he mentioned Boliden, (approx 45% zinc / 55% copper). Boliden absorbed Outokumpu in 2003 to create, I believe, the 4th largest zinc company in the world (at a time when I was visiting both companies for our on-line bulk shipping logistics management system). 

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    Email of the day 2

    On last Monday’s Markets Now:

    Dear Sarah

    Could you please pass on my thanks to David for providing a thoroughly thought provoking evening? To confirm what the gentleman said from Cumbria it was well worth the effort of travelling down from the North.

    I wish you all well and look forward to attending again in the New Year.

    Good health

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    Trump Business Empire Is Not Just an Ethical Disaster

    President-elect Donald J. Trump said on Wednesday that he would separate himself from his businesses before he enters the White House. More details about the arrangement will be announced in mid-December, but it sounds as if he plans to step away from only the management of his business, which presumably will be turned over to his children, while retaining ownership.

    This is not enough. There has been much discussion of Mr. Trump’s business dealings’ putting him in violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which prohibits government officials from accepting gifts and payments from foreign governments or corporations controlled by foreign governments. But there are other conflict-of-interest issues that have gotten less attention and could cause Mr. Trump — and America — much trouble as well. To prevent this, he must sell or give away his ownership interest in his global business empire as soon as possible.

    One of Mr. Trump’s most lucrative initiatives has been the licensing of the Trump brand — and name. There are Trump-branded properties like towers and hotels in some 20 countries. .

    This first presents an ethical problem: No president should allow his name to be put on commercial properties in return for payment. The presidency is not a branding opportunity. President Trump can’t do this unless he wants to create the impression that he is being paid off.

    But it also presents a global security risk. A building branded with the name of an American president — any president, but perhaps especially Mr. Trump — would be a tempting target for terrorists and other enemies of the United States. Who is going to protect the buildings? Will the Trump organization hire a security firm to do the job, or will the American taxpayer be on the line for the bill? Will foreign governments offer to pay to secure the properties — a subsidy of the Trump organization that would probably violate the Emoluments Clause? If a terrorist attack, a botched security operation or some other tragedy happens on a Trump property, the United States could easily get drawn into a conflict abroad. And our adversaries know this. This is one of the most dangerous aspects of Mr. Trump’s conflict-of-interest problem.

    Then there is the litigation risk. In Clinton v. Jones, the Supreme Court ruled that the president can be sued in his personal capacity and required to testify in depositions and at trial. Sexual misconduct is a litigation magnet; extensive business operations are another. If Mr. Trump owns his businesses while he is president, it will be a lot easier for plaintiffs’ lawyers to sue him on behalf of customers, counterparties, investors and others, and to require his testimony under oath.

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    OPEC Meeting Review

    Thanks to a subscriber for this report from DNB which may be of interest. Here is a section: 

    OPEC has just decided a headline cut of 1.2 million b/d

    We calculate that compared with October secondary sources in the OPEC report, the net OPEC cut from the 11 participating countries in the deal is 0.982 million b/d

    Angola was allowed to use September output as the base instead of October

    The cartel will use secondary sources to monitor output reductions
    Indonesia, Libya and Nigeria is not part of the deal

    Since the cartel has distributed quotas to the different countries, have organized a monitoring committee and are using secondary sources, the deal is very bullish to the oil price


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