…as staff work all night to move the stones forward by an hour. Happy Daylight Saving Time to those who must endure it!
As the solar minimum continued, subfreezing temperatures and snowfalls were still breaking records in February. Canada and the US experienced another arctic blast from the now split ‘polar vortex’, pushing temperatures in Canada to -62°C and covering much of the northern, central and eastern U.S. with heavy snow. The cold blast also descended to Europe and parts of Asia. This ‘Beast from the East’ brought heavy snow to much of Europe with some parts colder than the Arctic!
China was hit by heavy snow, disrupting transportation and flights, while Japan had one of its worst winters in decades. Snow also blanketed unusual places like the UAE and Morocco.
Heavy rain caused destructive floods in Indonesia, New Zealand, Cyprus and deadly mudslides in South America, while seventy rivers overflowed from the Great Lakes to Texas. Record-breaking size hail pounded Argentina, while California and Saudi Arabia were pounded by hailstorms that caused damage and disrupted traffic for hours.
The Ring of Fire continued with increased activity, volcanoes and mud volcanoes that had been dormant for decades awoke with a vengeance, triggering evacuations and disrupting the flights of thousands of travelers. Taiwan, Papua New Guinea and Mexico were also shaken this past month by significant earthquakes as the the cosmic ray grand maximum approaches.
Dry tides are becoming more common all around the world, while mass fish deaths and strandings continue to baffle scientists.
Meteor fireballs put on quite a show again this month, while the reports of unexplained loud “booms” increased all over the world.
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The signs are everywhere. If you’re a middle aged man, you probably know a peer who has killed himself in recent years. At least one. If you’re a parent, you may have noticed that your daughter’s friends seem a little more on the ball than your son’s. They get better grades. They smoke less weed. They go to more prestigious colleges. If you’re an employer, you may have noticed that your female employees show up on time, whereas the young men often don’t. And of course if you live in this country, you’ve just seen a horrifying series of mass shootings, far more than we’ve ever had. Women didn’t do that. In every case, the shooter was a man.
Something ominous is happening to men in America. Everyone who pays attention knows that. What’s odd is how rarely you hear it publicly acknowledged. Our leaders pledge to create more opportunities for women and girls, whom they imply are failing. Men don’t need help. They’re the patriarchy. They’re fine. More than fine.
But are they fine? Here are the numbers:
Start with the most basic, life and death. The average American man will die five years before the average American woman. One of the reasons for this is addiction. Men are more than twice as likely as women to become alcoholics. They’re also twice as likely to die of a drug OD. In New Hampshire, one of the states hit hardest by the opioid crisis, 73 percent of overdose deaths were men.
But the saddest reason for shortened life spans is suicide. Seventy-seven percent of all suicides are committed by men. The overall rate is increasing at a dramatic pace. Between 1997 and 2014, there was a 43 percent rise in suicide deaths among middle aged American men. The rates are highest among American Indian and white men, who kill themselves at about ten times the rate of Hispanic and black women.
You often hear of America’s incarceration crisis. That’s almost exclusively a male problem too. Over 90 percent of inmates are male.
These problems are complex, and they start young. Relative to girls, boys are failing in school. More girls than boys graduate high school. Considerably more go to and graduate from college. Boys account for the overwhelming majority of school discipline cases. One study found that fully one in five high school boys had been diagnosed with hyperactivity disorder, compared with just one in 11 girls. Many were medicated for it. The long term health effects of those medications aren’t fully understood, but they appear to include depression in later life.
Women decisively outnumber men in graduate school. They earn the majority of doctoral degrees. They are now the majority of new enrollees in both law and medical schools.
For men, the consequences of failing in school are profound. Between 1979-2010, working age men with only high school degrees saw their real hourly wages drop about 20 percent. Over the same period, high school educated women saw their wages rise. The decline of the industrial economy disproportionately hurt men.
There are now seven million working age American men who are no longer in the labor force. They’ve dropped out. Nearly half of them take pain medication on any given day. That’s the highest rate in the world.
Far fewer young men get married than did just a few decades ago, and fewer stay married. About one in five American children live with only their mothers. That’s double the rate in 1970. Millions more boys are growing up without fathers. Young adult men are now more likely to live with a parent than with a spouse or partner. That is not the case for young women. Single women buy their own homes at more than twice the rate of single men. More women than men now have drivers licenses.
Whenever gender differences come up in public debate, the so-called wage gap dominates the conversation. A woman makes 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That’s the statistic you’ll hear. It’s repeated everywhere. But that number compares all American men to all American women across all professions. No legitimate social scientist would consider that a valid measure. The number is both meaningless and intentionally misleading. It’s a talking point.
Once you compare men and women with similar experience working the same hours in similar jobs for the same period of time – and that’s the only way you can measure it – the gap all but disappears. In fact it may invert. One study using census data found that single women in their 20s living in metropolitan areas now earn eight percent more on average than their male counterparts. By the way, the majority of managers are now women. Women on average are scoring higher on IQ tests than men are.
Men are even falling behind physically. A recent study found that almost half of young men failed the Army’s entry-level physical fitness test during basic training. Fully seventy percent of American men are overweight or obese, as compared to 59 percent of American women.
Perhaps most terrifyingly, men seem to be becoming less male. Sperm counts across the west have plummeted, down almost 60 percent since the early 1970s. Scientists don’t know why. Testosterone levels in men have also fallen precipitously. One study found that the average levels of male testosterone dropped by one percent every year after 1987. This is unrelated to age. The average 40-year-old-man in 2017 would have testosterone levels 30 percent lower than the average 40-year-old man in 1987.
There is no upside to this. Lower testosterone levels in men are associated with depression, lethargy, weight gain and decreased cognitive ability. Nothing like this has ever happened. You’d think we’d want to know what exactly is going on and how to fix it. But the media ignore the story. It’s considered a fringe topic.
Nor is it a priority in the scientific research establishment. We checked and couldn’t find a single NIH-funded study on why testosterone levels are falling. We did find a study on, quote, “Pubic Hair Grooming Prevalence and Motivation Among Women in the United States.”
Those are the numbers. They paint a very clear picture: American men are failing, in body, mind and spirit. This is a crisis. Yet our leaders pretend it’s not happening. They tell us the opposite is true: Women are victims, men are oppressors. To question that assumption is to risk punishment. Even as women far outpace men in higher education, virtually every college campus supports a women’s studies department, whose core goal is to attack male power. Our politicians and business leaders internalize and amplify that message. Men are privileged. Women are oppressed. Hire and promote and reward accordingly.
That would be fine if it were true. But it’s not true. At best, it’s an outdated view of an America that no longer exists. At worst, it’s a pernicious lie.
Either way, ignoring the decline of men doesn’t help anyone. Men and women need each other. One cannot exist without the other. That’s elemental biology, but it’s also the reality each of us has lived, with our parents and siblings and friends. When men fail, all of us suffer.
12 Nov 2015
The scale of corruption involved in this case is beyond belief, in the billions of dollars.
Operation Car Wash began in March 2014 at a petrol and car wash complex in Brasilia, Brazil’s capital, and it was initially thought to be routine.
The Federal Police team had the location under surveillance believing that it was the centre of a money -laundering operation run by Alberto Youseff, a former convicted criminal known as the “doleiro de doleiros” – the money launderer of money launderers.
When it was discovered in one of Youssef’s intercepted emails that he was paying for a Land Rover for an executive of Petrobras, Brazil’s national oil company, it immediately raised suspicions.
The executive turned out to be Paulo Roberto Costa, the man in charge of refining and supply. Costa became the main target in the first phase of the Car Wash investigation and was arrested.
Deltan Dallagnol, the lead Federal Prosecutor for the case, says that investigators uncovered “evidence of money laundering” totalling some 26 million Brazilian reals ($8m). Criminal charges were brought against Costa, who negotiated a plea bargain with authorities.
“That allowed for an exponential expansion of the investigation,” Dallagnol says. “It was the big bang of the Car Wash Operation.”
Never before did Brazil export corruption like it did in the Car Wash case.
Bruno Brandao, head of Transparency International
Costa admitted that the Land Rover was just one of many bribes he received to issue contracts to construction companies, and told law enforcement officials participating in a task force set up to pursue the case that the bribing scheme was much larger than anything they imagined.
Corruption in the supply division he oversaw, Costa said, “was the tip of the iceberg”.
Bruno Brandao, the head of Transparency International in Brazil, says, “Never before did Brazil export corruption like it did in the Car Wash case.”
He adds that the problem of corruption in Brazil is systemic, and that in the Car Wash scandal, “the mechanism of corruption was traditional – overcharging of contracts and the setup of company cartels. What is new is the scale, the amounts of money and number of people involved – officials and companies. The dimensions of this case are what makes it extraordinary.”
Federal police inspector Felipe Hayashi, who heads the Financial Crimes Unit of the Car Wash taskforce, says the investigation “reached people of the highest rank and level of responsibility. That’s something that has never happened before.”
Investigators learned that there was a cartel of companies that dealt with Petrobras. According to a secret agreement that existed for more than 10 years, the cartel would nominate one of its members to be awarded each Petrobras contract – for refineries, oil rigs, and other multimillion-dollar projects.
“We secured documents that laid out the operation of the cartel in terms of championship rules for different sports,” says Dallagnol. “There were 16 championship players and their objective was to ‘maximise’ prizes in national and international markets alike. Obviously, these companies would never openly admit cartel arrangements in a clear way, so they tried to disguise them as championship rules for different sports.”
The cartel rules resulted in steep overpayments for the work done. Petrobras executives were bribed to go along, and the cost of the bribe built into the contract. In fact, the scheme stretched far beyond Petrobras to contracts for stadiums for the 2014 World Cup, the 2016 Rio Olympics and other major infrastructure projects throughout the country.
|Brazil’s Car Wash scandal turned into the largest corruption case in Latin America’s history, involving some of the region’s most prominent public figures. [Getty Images]|
On June 19, 2015, the taskforce moved against the cartel players.
“It was time to take a step which had never been taken before in history; when big businessmen were finally reached, people who had been considered princes of enterprises in Brazil,” says Dallagnol.
Twelve top-level executives were arrested, among them Marcelo Odebrecht, CEO of the company that bears his name. Odebrecht is the largest construction company in Latin America. Its bribing operation typified that of cartel members and was the most extensive in the region.
Marcel Odebrecht was held without bail, and less than a year after his detention he was sentenced to 19 years in prison for corruption, money laundering and criminal association.
For decades and decades, in Brazil, you had to apply grease for everything. If a citizen wanted to obtain an ID, he certainly would have to pay something to a public agent to expedite the process.
Sergio Foguel, member of the Odebrecht Board of Directors
We headed to Salvador in northeast Brazil to get the Odebrecht Company’s response to the scandal.
The business was founded in 1944 by Marcelo Odebrecht’s grandfather, and the city is still its headquarters. Sergio Foguel, a long-time member of the Odebrecht Board of Directors, agreed to talk to us.
Despite the conviction of its CEO, the company still operates in more than 20 countries around the world and had revenues of about $26bn last year.
“There is no excuse to justify those acts of misconduct,” Foguel says. “But for decades and decades, in Brazil, you had to apply grease for everything. If a citizen wanted to obtain an ID, he certainly would have to pay something to a public agent to expedite the process”.
Our reporter, Gustavo Gorriti, wanted to know why the company had consistently denied any wrongdoing for months and months during the investigation.
“Despite all our strength as a company, we carried out acts within our organisation that today would be completely inadmissible,” Foguel says. “There was a collective blindness. Initially, corruption was tolerated and later, it expanded in an incredible way.”
|A plea bargain by Odebrecht employees in the Lava Jato (Car Wash) corruption scandal led to testimony ensnaring nine ministers in President Michel Temer’s cabinet under investigation [Mario Tama/Getty]|
According to authorities, Odebrecht had a division of “Structured Operations” that ran an intricate off-the-books accounting system and a bank to bribe not only company executives, but also politicians.
This started to become clear when Marcelo Odebrecht began talking in hopes of reducing his 19-year sentence.
In testimony to prosecutors captured on audiotape, Odebrecht admitted that his company bribed politicians from all the major Brazilian parties in exchange for appointing Petrobras executives at the public company. Dozens of congressmen, senators and ministers have so far been implicated in the scandal.
Odebrecht’s testimony dealt a body blow to the Workers’ Party of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and his successor Dilma Rousseff.
Amid a deep political crisis, Dilma Rousseff was impeached in August 2016. Two weeks later, Lula was formally charged with corruption in connection with the Car Wash scandal.
While Brazil’s elites were being held to account, investigators were also making steady progress on the international front with the help of the US Department of Justice. The country is one of the world’s main destinies for financial transactions.
“This provides the United States jurisdiction over a good deal of money laundering crimes that happen around the world,” Dallagnol says. “The US acted in a very efficient way, identifying accounts kept in their country to launder money and delivering documents very quickly.
In December 2016, Odebrecht pleaded guilty to American charges that it provided almost $800m in bribes for more than 100 projects in 12 countries. It agreed to pay a $3.5bn fine and disclose details of its corrupt activities in Latin America and Africa.
According to Brandao, “Odebrecht, at least in the 12 countries it operated, had the same system, the same mechanism – plug and play. It was serial corruption.”
Odebrecht’s guilty plea in the US set off investigations throughout Latin America. Key to those efforts was deciphering how the money flowed from the company to corrupt officials through countries like Panama that specialise in offshore banking.
Rolando Rodriguez, who heads the investigative unit of the Panamanian newspaper La Prensa, says that “From Panama, money went out to officials from Brazil, officials from Peru and other parts of the world.”
Panama’s police investigators uncovered a Panamanian company tied to Odebrecht called Contructora Internacional del Sur.
“It was a fake company that received money from Odebrecht and sent it out to accounts in different countries, especially Switzerland,” Rodriquez says. “So, the laundering structure was set up using companies, most of them from Panama, as well as bank accounts, most of them from abroad.”
Many of the shell companies used by members of the Brazilian construction cartel to dispense bribes were set up by Mossack Fonseca, the law firm at the centre of the Panama Papers leak, which exposed the financial dealings of some of the most powerful and wealthy people in the world.
“Mossack Fonseca is one of the oldest firms that work on setting up shell corporations,” Rodriguez says. “So, by arriving here in Panama you resolve the problem of having to travel to 10 different countries to get 100 corporations.”
Panama was not only a good transit point for corrupt payments. It was also a place to land large construction projects at inflated prices. With projects of some $9bn, Odebrecht is the most important construction company in Panama. Between 2010 and 2014, according to the US Department of Justice, Odebrecht paid tens of millions of dollars in bribes to secure public works contracts. One of the most profitable was building the Coast Highway.
I do harm to a country for $2 or $3bn. I agree to pay $300m, $500m or a billion and, after some time, I walk away free. What a business.
Jose Antonio Dominguez, legislator
“Panama ended up paying a great deal for a project that should have cost much less,” says Jose Antonio Dominguez, a legislator with the country’s governing Panamenista party who has been questioning the pricing of the project for years. “That project, without any change, suddenly was awarded for $189.5m instead of $133.5m. Why that $60m difference? For what?”
In July 2017, Odebrecht reached an agreement with the Panama authorities to pay $220m in fines and provide information about public corruption to settle bribery charges in the country.
“I do harm to a country for $2 or $3bn. I agree to pay $300m, $500m or a billion and, after some time, I walk away free. What a business,” says Dominguez.
Tensions over the way Odebrecht conducted its business are growing throughout Latin America. The latest flashpoint is Peru, where the country’s ruling establishment is reeling from its connections to the company.
Attorney Walter Alban served as the public ombudsman in Peru from 2000 to 2005 during the presidency of Alejandro Toledo, now accused of receiving bribes from Odebrecht.
“It’s been demonstrated that there were transfers through offshore companies and close friends of the former president,” he says.
Odebrecht wanted the lion’s share of a multibillion-dollar highway project connecting the Peruvian coast to Brazil and they got it. Toledo has been charged with accepting a $20m bribe to steer them the business.
Jorge Barata, the head of Odebrecht in Peru, confessed in 2016 that he struck the deal in a meeting at a Copa Cabana hotel in Brazil that Toledo attended. Peruvian prosecutors are trying to extradite Toledo from the US to face bribery charges, which he denies.
Alban says Odebrecht didn’t just pay off individual politicians. The company promoted its interests by gaining influence over the political system itself.
“The scheme Odebrecht had was not only related to bribes to get contracts,” Alban says. “There was also this practice of promoting candidates and financing political parties, and not just one but all that might have a chance of winning.”
In a videotaped confession to prosecutors obtained by Peruvian investigative journalism organisation IDL-Reporteros, Barata admitted to giving $3m to the Nationalist Party to help finance the 2011 presidential campaign of Ollanta Humala. Humala won and served as president from 2011 to 2016.
Corruption is not an issue of right or left, or ideology. But of a confluence of interests.
Walter Alban, lawyer
Barata also claimed his company supported the left-wing Humala not only to promote Odebrecht´s interests in Peru, but to curry favour with Lula’s Workers’ Party in Brazil. “The Workers Party had an interest that all South American presidents share the same political and economic line as the Workers Party. Humala had those characteristics,” Barata says.
According to Alban, Odebrecht had strong links with ex-president Lula’s party in Brazil. It is described as a “geopolitical strategy” he says, indicating that “corruption is not an issue of right or left, or ideology. But of a confluence of interests.”
Both Humala and his wife, Nadine Heredia who was general secretary of the Nationalist Party, are now in prison awaiting trial.
Keiko Fujimori and her Popular Force party are also under investigation for taking money from Odebrecht to fund her 2011 presidential bid. Fujimori says the accusation is false but Marcelo Odebrecht has testified that his company helped finance her campaign.
On February 28, Barata met Peruvian prosecutors and confirmed that the company gave money to support Fujimori in the presidential race – $1.2m.
“There aren’t political parties any more” says Alban, “There are groups that define themselves as political, but strictly speaking, they are supported in all cases by illegal funds”.
|Demonstrators protest for the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff and also against corruption being investigated involving resource diversion and money laundering in Petrobras scandal of corruption on March 16, 2016, in Sao Paulo, Brazil [Victor Moriyama/Getty]|
Last December, the Car Wash scandal arrived at the doorstep of Peru’s current president, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. Peru’s congress launched impeachment proceedings against him, alleging his companies received almost $800,000 from Odebrecht while he was serving as a public official.
Kuzcinsky vehemently denies all wrongdoing and narrowly avoided impeachment but prosecutors continue their investigations. In his February meeting with prosecutors, Barata said Odebrecht also contributed to Kuzcinsky’s 2011 presidential campaign.
Peru’s Attorney General Pablo Sanchez is overseeing the investigation of Peru’s high-level officials for dealings with Odebrecht. “We are talking about corruption and a series of very complex crimes that involve several different governments, not just one but at least three,” he says.
When asked why the corruption connected to the Car Wash case went so far in Peru, he says: “Our country is not prepared to face cases of this nature or prevent crime,” Sanchez says. “Our country has trusted too much in the behaviour of state officials and the politicians in our country. So in that way, we haven’t advanced at all, or just very little. What we do now, proper investigations, proper convictions, will help prevent this from happening again in the future.”
Car Wash in Brazil today is no longer just an investigation, nor a process. Lavo Jato today in Brazil is an attitude, an expectation that impunity will start to fade away.
Bruno Brandao, head of Transparency International
Every week seems to bring new developments around the world in connection with the Car Wash scandal.
Governments from Ecuador to Angola are dealing with the repercussions of the case. Meanwhile, back in Brazil, the Supreme Court is considering former President Lula’s appeal of a 12-year sentence he received for corruption. His plans to run for president this October are in danger of being derailed.
“Car Wash in Brazil today is no longer just an investigation, nor a process. Lava Jato today in Brazil is an attitude, an expectation that impunity will start to fade away,” Brandao says.
Alban agrees that a new attitude towards corruption is arising in Latin America. “Democratic societies in which we can say that the problem of corruption is at least controlled,” are those in which the public watches over how public resources are spent and demands “that public authorities be held to account. Because of the Car Wash case that is something that I believe is beginning to happen.”
Yet it’s Canada that’s led the way as the premier cannabis market. Having already legalized medical marijuana back in 2001, the country appears to be on the verge of green-lighting the sale of recreational pot to adults by this coming summer. Its Senate is slated to vote on the measure on June 7, with passage and the expected signing of the bill paving the way for adult-use sales to commence in August or September. This could, in all likelihood, add $5 billion a year or more in sales to the industry.
As you might imagine, Canadian cannabis growers have been angling to get as much of the medicinal cannabis and recreational market as they possibly can, though recreational sales will account for a significantly larger share of total sales. Organic expansion, strategic partnerships, and acquisitions have been occurring at a blistering pace. In fact, four of the five largest marijuana acquisitions of all-time have occurred within a four-month span.
Unfortunately, this rush to grow capacity as quickly as balance sheets will allow could be setting Canada up for an overabundance of cannabis of epic proportions. Even though no one has any real idea how much marijuana Canadians will demand, there’s no shortage of guesstimates.
A recent online report from Grizzle figured countrywide demand at around 800,000 kilograms per year. Meanwhile, uOttawa estimates the annual Canadian consumption at 770,000 kilograms, while a 2017 report from the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer projected 655,000 kilograms in purely recreational demand. This was at a time when medical cannabis producers were delivering around 80,000 kilograms a year. Everything is a guess at this point, and most folks probably have their preferred source, but the relative consensus is that 730,000 kilograms to 800,000 kilograms is where the annual demand floor lies.
How does that stack up against annual production estimates for growers? Let’s take a look.
Canopy Growth Corp. (NASDAQOTH:TWMJF) will likely be the largest producer in Canada. It already has seven facilities operating on 665,000 square feet of growing space, and it’s constructing or developing 3.4 million square feet of growing capacity in British Columbia. Though it hasn’t offered any production estimates, it could conservatively be generating north of 300,000 kilograms per year, if not 350,000 kilograms by 2020.
Aurora Cannabis’ (NASDAQOTH:ACBFF) latest operating results guided toward 240,000 to 270,000 kilograms of annual production. Most will come from Aurora Sky and its Danish Aurora Nordic project, which are expected to yield more than 100,000 kilograms and 120,000 kilograms, respectively. Aurora Cannabis’ acquisition of CanniMed Therapeutics, the costliest pot buyout in history, should also add 19,000 kilograms in annual cannabis capacity.
Not far behind Aurora is Aphria (NASDAQOTH:APHQF), which should yield around 230,000 kilograms of dried cannabis a year. Its four-phase organic project should yield 100,000 kilograms, while a strategic partnership with Double Diamond Farms will add another 120,000 kilograms. Aphria’s acquisition of Broken Coast Cannabis tacks on another 10,500 kilograms a year.
After going public last year, MedReleaf’s (NASDAQOTH:MEDFF) expansion at Bradford, Ontario, plus its existing Markham facility, will combine for 35,000 kilograms a year. More recently, its acquisition of 164 acres of property, 69 of which had an existing facility (the Exeter Facility) that’ll be retrofitted to grow cannabis, should add another 105,000 kilograms. In total, MedReleaf can produce 140,000 kilograms a year.
Tony Robinson explores the major uprising across large parts of England in 1381, its origins, motives and aftermath.