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Sackler Family Secrets: New Book Reveals OxyContin Heirs’ Self-Pitying Emails

Daily Beast (04/08/2021)
  • In “Empire of Pain”, the billionaire Sackler Family (Purdue Pharma OxyContin painkiller fortune) argue over wealth distributions and reject any responsibility for the opioid epidemic.
  • E-mail exchanges show Sacklers complaining about barriers to accessing the family fortune and being “forced” to sell artwork and jewelry.
  • Some heirs also claim that many opioid deaths were suicides motivated by life insurance windfalls.
  • Last Fall, Purdue reached an $8B settlement with the US Justice Department absolving the Sackler’s of any criminal or financial prosecution.

The price of lumber is up 193%—and about to spike even higher

Fortune (04/13/2021)
  • US lumber prices recently reached an all-time high of $1,048 per thousand board feet, up 193% from a year ago.
  • The spike is driven by sawmills reducing production early on during the pandemic coinciding with the do-it-yourself building boom among Americans stuck at home.
  • Also, the historically low for-sale housing inventory has increased demand for new construction housing.
  • Wood price economist Dustin Jalbert doesn’t foresee lower lumber prices until home buying and/or new construction slows down.

Racist Computer Engineering Words and the Fight Over Offensive Terms

The New York Times (NYT) (04/13/2021)
  • Recent attempts by some members of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) to eliminate programming terms with racist histories (eg “slave”, “master”, “blacklist”) have been rebuffed.
  • The IETF is a global 7,000 volunteer organization that helped create modern internet tools (eg e-mail, streaming) and set programming terminology.
  • Following last year’s Black Lives Matter protests, some members suggested that racially-sensitive terms with neutral words such as “primary” or “blocklist”.
  • However, these suggestions sparked heated debates and strong opposition, leading the organization to abandon changes.

Stimulus Cash Puts IRS on Alert for Scammers Preying on Unwary

Bloomberg (04/15/2021)
  • The IRS has issued several warnings about scammers attempting to secure personal information from potential stimulus check recipients.
  • Scammers posing as the IRS are contacting people and offering to assist in stimulus check distribution, asking for personal information that they then use to intercept stimulus payments.
  • Most of these victims are the elderly or poor who desperately need additional funds.
  • The IRS warned that it doesn’t contact people about stimulus checks via phone, e-mail or social media.

Masayoshi Son’s ‘Money Guy’ Greensill Went From Hero to Zero

Bloomberg (03/31/2021)
  • In 2019, Masayoshi Son’s Softbank swiftly invested $1.5B into London-based Greensill Capital.
  • Founded in 2011 by former Morgan Stanley banker Lex Greensill, GC focused on extending short-term loans to companies (primarily suppliers) under relatively loose terms.
  • Masa celebrated Greensill as a source of capital for Softbank’s other startup investments.
  • However, Greensill faced difficulty accessing capital when Covid-19 started, limiting its ability to extend loans and souring the relationship with Masa.
  • Despite a $400M Softbank capital infusion (December 2020), Greensill filed for insolvency last month.

U.S. Thirst for Russian Oil Hits Record High Despite Tough Talk

Bloomberg (03/24/2021)
  • Deprived of access to Venezuelan crude oil due to sanctions, US refineries have turned to Russian oil to fill the gap.
  • Many US refineries are outfitted to process Venezuela’s dense, sulfurous crude; Russia’s semi-refined Mazut 100 fuel oil is a close alternative.
  • Russia is also now America’s 3rd largest oil supplier as a result of Saudi Arabia-led OPEC production cuts.
  • Despite increasing hostilities (eg Biden calling Putin a “killer”), oil industry insiders haven’t detected any political concerns about America’s increasing reliance on Russia.

U.S. Unemployment System Plagued by Massive Fraud and Dysfunction

Bloomberg (03/23/2021)
  • While struggling Americans have received $650B in unemployment benefits during Covid-19, it’s estimated that at least $63B in payments have been improperly distributed to fraudsters including organized crime syndicates, jailed federal inmates and Nigerian scammers.
  • Criminals took advantage of outdated technology overwhelmed by the surge in unemployment claims.
  • The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, specially created to assist gig and self-employed workers, has been heavily targeted (95% of California’s fraud claims).
  • Since some states now require video identification, fraudsters are using 3-D masks.

Melt up? More money poured into stocks in past 5 months than last 12 years

Reuters (04/09/2021)
  • Equity funds have received $576B in net inflows since November (2020), more than the combined total inflows for $452B over the prior 12 years (Bank of America).
  • This massive influx has propelled stocks higher, with valuation multiples at their highest since the late 1990s dot-com bubble.
  • The S&P 500 is currently trading at 22x its forward earnings.
  • Technical indicators tracking the velocity of stock price movements signal stock indexes are overbought.
  • Deustche Bank forecasts a 6-10% correction over the next 3 months.

What Happens to Your Body on No Sleep?

Outside (04/02/2019)
  • Scientists have found that the effects of acute sleep deprivation, or all-nighters, kicks in after being awake for 16-18 hours straight.
  • The first sign is a sluggish mind, with reaction times lagging to the equivalent of being legally drunk by the 24th hour awake.
  • After 24 hours, your brain starts forcing you into 10-20 second periods of “micro-sleep”.
  • After 35 hours, the brain’s emotion-emitting amygdala becomes 60% more reactive and the ability to regulate emotions declines.
  • Hallucinations are common after 48 hours awake.