Serena Williams announces baby’s birth

first_imgWilliams wrote Wednesday that their … Go ahead and add another title to Serena Williams’ collection: Mom.The tennis star announced via social media on Wednesday that she gave birth to a girl named Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr.Williams posted about her baby on Instagram and Twitter accounts and is heard saying in a video, “We had a lot of complications, but look what we’ve got.”The 35-year-old Williams said in late December that she was engaged to Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian.last_img

Hawks end 8-game skid, beat struggling Cavaliers

first_imgLATEST STORIES Japan ex-PM Nakasone who boosted ties with US dies at 101 APCLEVELAND — Coming off LeBron James’ 57-point performance, it appeared the Cavaliers had finally gained some momentum.A team that hadn’t won since its season opener proved otherwise.ADVERTISEMENT Celtics extend win streak to 8 with win over Magic Dennis Schroeder scored 28 points and the injury-riddled Atlanta Hawks ended an eight-game losing streak, beating skidding Cleveland 117-115 on Sunday.The Hawks hadn’t won since beating Dallas on Oct. 18 and were missing five players, but the Cavaliers went down to yet another puzzling loss.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSWATCH: Drones light up sky in final leg of SEA Games torch runSPORTSSEA Games: Philippines picks up 1st win in men’s water poloSPORTSMalditas save PH from shutoutJames, who had 26 points and 13 rebounds, was soaking his feet in a tub of ice water and had ice wraps on both knees and his right elbow following the game. He didn’t have an explanation for why there was no carry-over from Friday’s 130-122 win over Washington.“That’s a question I cannot answer,” James said. “I was ready to go. A lot of the guys were ready to go. I cannot answer that question.” CPP denies ‘Ka Diego’ arrest caused ‘mass panic’ among S. Tagalog NPA John Lloyd Cruz a dashing guest at Vhong Navarro’s wedding Brace for potentially devastating typhoon approaching PH – NDRRMC “No energy. The effort was pretty bad,” James said of the early deficit. “You turn the corner but you can’t fix it in one game. We just have to try and figure it out.”Schroeder scored 11 straight points in the third quarter to kept Atlanta ahead.Cleveland steadily cut into the lead behind Kyle Korver’s 19 points in the fourth.“It’s a special place to play and everyone was excited to compete against these guys,” Schroder said.Atlanta put seven players in double figures, including the five starters. Luke Babbitt, making his first start of the season in place of Mike Muscala (sprained ankle), and Taurean Prince each scored 17 points.TIP-INSCavaliers: G Iman Shumpert (sore right knee) will practice Monday for the first time since being injured Nov. 29. He could play Tuesday against Milwaukee. … F Tristan Thompson (strained left calf) is expected to miss three to four weeks.Hawks: Rookie F Tyler Cavanaugh was in uniform after signing a two-way contract Saturday. … G Malcolm Delaney (sprained right ankle), F Ersan Ilyasova (bruised left knee), C Miles Plumlee (strained right quadriceps) and F DeAndre’ Bembry (fractured right wrist) also were unavailable.RIGHT TO THE POINTFrye said he should have made the 3-pointer in the closing seconds. The veteran forward also put his finger on the Cavaliers’ problems.“Honestly, we’ve got to play harder, be more attentive to detail and have a better sense of urgency,” he said.ON THE WAY BACKCleveland point guard Isaiah Thomas, acquired as part of the trade that sent Kyrie Irving to Boston, has been doing on-court workouts. The team announced before the season that it hoped he would return by January.“The staff’s doing a great job trying to get him ready,” Lue said. “We don’t want to rush him back if he’s not 100 percent. They’ve been doing a good job taking it slow and make sure they rehabilitate him the right way.”Thomas averaged a career-high 28.9 points, third in the league, last season. Derrick Rose has been starting at point guard while James has also run the offense.UP NEXTHawks: Host Boston on Monday. Atlanta is the only Eastern Conference team without a home victory with an 0-3 record.Cavaliers: Host Milwaukee on Tuesday. Cleveland earned a 116-97 road win over the Bucks on Oct. 20. Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. Read Next Trending Articles PLAY LIST 00:50Trending Articles00:50Trending Articles00:50Trending Articles01:37Protesters burn down Iran consulate in Najaf01:47Panelo casts doubts on Robredo’s drug war ‘discoveries’01:29Police teams find crossbows, bows in HK university01:35Panelo suggests discounted SEA Games tickets for students02:49Robredo: True leaders perform well despite having ‘uninspiring’ boss02:42PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games QC cops nab robbery gang leader, cohort Typhoon Kammuri accelerates, gains strength en route to PH Kammuri turning to super typhoon less likely but possible — Pagasa Stronger peso trims PH debt value to P7.9 trillion MOST READ Cavaliers forward Kevin Love was taken to the hospital after leaving in the third quarter with an illness. The team announced that Love, who had four points and four rebounds in 19 minutes, was treated and released.The Cavaliers cut a 16-point deficit in the second half to two on James’ basket with 21 seconds left. Atlanta’s Isaiah Taylor missed two free throws with 12.1 seconds to go, but Channing Frye missed a 3-pointer and Dwyane Wade’s tip-in fell off the rim.“To get a win in Cleveland is not easy to do,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “They had a chance down the stretch where they got back in it, but I’m happy for our guys. It’s a good win.”The Cavaliers have also lost to Orlando, New York, Indiana and Brooklyn during their rocky stretch, which has included three straight defeats at home. Wade kept Cleveland in the game with 19 points in the first half and finished with a season-high 25.Cleveland’s first-quarter problems continued. Coach Tyronn Lue used two timeouts in the first seven minutes as the Hawks raced ahead 27-11.ADVERTISEMENT View commentslast_img read more

APTN Investigates North of Hope

first_imgAPTN InvestigatesMelissa Pasqua-Matte died by suicide after returning to the tiny northern community of Fort Simpson, NWT from Carleton University one Christmas break. Her family was left behind looking for answers.Charlotte Morritt-Jacobs explores how the lack of mental health resources impacts remote communities and puts Indigenous youth at risk in North of Hope.last_img

Mitch Garver Wasnt Catching Strikes So He Changed His Catching Stance

“A lot of times with those big-depth breaking balls, those sliders that sweep across the front of the zone, they go in and out of the zone,” Garver said. “They are very hard to catch. You have to learn how to catch them properly. I wanted to get underneath the ball when I’m receiving it.”The most conspicuous change Swanson suggested Garver make was employing a variety of one-knee, Tony Peña-style stances, which had gone out of fashion in the professional game. Going lower, Swanson reasoned, would help a catcher get more favorable calls on lower pitches. “We didn’t invent the one-knee setup,” he said. “But those were traditionally done with nobody on base and less than two strikes.”When runners are on base, catchers are taught to go to what Swanson calls a “secondary” stance, sitting higher to position themselves better for throwing out a runner or blocking a ball in the dirt. What Swanson proposed was going to a knee on all counts, even if it adversely affected the ability to throw or block balls.“Only a fraction of the time does the ball actually land in the dirt. Only a fraction of the time does a runner actually try to steal,” Swanson said. “Catchers across the league perform worse … with runners on base. We’ve tried to flip it upside-down.”Since the value of framing is tied to compelling borderline pitches to be called as strikes, FiveThirtyEight examined available Statcast data on called strikes and balls on the edge of the strike zone and the zones just off the plate. The data shows that catchers do receive less favorable calls when runners are on base. That was true of the Twins, too, until this year, when the one-knee stance came to Minnesota.The Twins rank 12th in the majors in pitch framing this season, and Garver is up to 23rd out of 110 catchers. He has used his new stance to better “absorb” borderline pitches, and his frequency of called strikes caught has become more concentrated in the lower zone. As he returned home to New Mexico last winter, Mitch Garver knew he had to be better. In 2018, Garver ranked 110th out of 117 qualifying catchers in fielding runs above average. As a catcher, that meant he struggled mightily with pitch framing18.6 runs saved below average. As measured by Baseball Prospectus, framing is a component of fielding runs above average for catchers. — the skill of a catcher to receive borderline pitches in a way that allows them to get favorable called strikes.Garver turned 28 in January. He had been only a league-average hitter at the plate and a liability behind it. He knew that if he couldn’t receive the ball better, his career would be in jeopardy. He had heard that a coach hired the previous season was working miracles with the Twins’ minor league catchers. So Garver called Tanner Swanson and invited him to Albuquerque.“It’s the only reason I’m still catching,” Garver told FiveThirtyEight. “Really.”The Twins have surprised MLB with their offense this year, with a record five batters — including Garver — hitting 30 home runs as the team broke the single-season home run record in August.2Though the Yankees have overtaken the home run lead. Minnesota is the only major league team with four position players among the top 35 qualifiers in year-to-year gains of wins above replacement. Among those Twins, Garver is the most improved, and he’s the seventh-most-improved player in all of baseball.But Garver’s improvement with his glove has been just as dramatic as his work with his bat. This season, Garver has been worth 4.4 fielding runs above average, achieving the fifth-greatest improvement in the metric.3Among catchers with at least 200 plate appearances in both 2018 and 2019. Per plate appearance, his performance in wins above replacement, which includes framing value, ranks as the eighth-best mark in baseball.The growth with his glove is where Swanson comes in. Swanson never played catcher in college, nor had he coached professionally when he joined the Twins organization in late 2017. But he spent six years working with college catchers at the University of Washington and Santa Clara University, and he attracted the attention of Jeremy Zoll, the Twins’ director of minor league operations, after a presentation Swanson gave at a catching coaching clinic.“I kind of had a clean slate to look at it objectively. I didn’t carry all these biases — ‘Well, this is how I used to do it. This is how I was taught,’” Swanson said. “I think a lot of times as coaches, we have these drill packages that we’ve compiled and we don’t truly understand the ‘why’ or question whether a particular drill leads to improvement.”Since the late 2000s, when analysts first quantified the value of pitch framing, more teams have started to prize catchers who can get more favorable calls for their pitchers. After all, every pitch matters: The difference in batting average on a 2-1 count and a 1-2 count is 178 points this season. Teams began paying for the skill. In 2016, the Twins were graded as the fifth-worst framing team in baseball. One of Derek Falvey’s first acquisitions after being hired as GM late in 2016 was signing pitch-framer extraordinaire Jason Castro. But Swanson believed that framing was not only an innate gift — it could be taught.Swanson employed drills using weighted balls, implements typically reserved for pitchers, to help Twins catchers improve their hand speed and movement patterns. “You’re dealing with timing and getting the ball from point A to B. The faster we can do that the more deceptive we are,” Swanson said. “I don’t want to say fool umpires but [rather] to influence them to call borderline pitches as strikes. That’s their primary job.”Going into this season, Garver graded as a poor receiver on balls in the lower part of the strike zone and below. Swanson said that’s a problem in today’s game, with record rates of breaking balls and changeups — pitches that typically either cross low in the zone or below it. “[Garver] deserves the credit. His desire to improve didn’t stop once he got to the big leagues,” Swanson said. After all, Swanson notes, “He called me.”Check out our latest MLB predictions. read more

Opinion NFLs punishments for Patriots Brady are fair

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady speaks to the media at a press conference at Gillette Stadium on Thursday. Jan. 22, 2015. The press conference centered around the fact that 11 of 12 Patriot game balls were under-inflated according to NFL rules during the first half of Sunday’s AFC Championship victory over the Colts. Credit: Courtesy of TNSThe NFL announced its punishment for the New England Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady on Monday for the underinflation of footballs used in the 2015 AFC Championship Game, five days after league-appointed attorney Ted Wells released the findings of his lengthy investigation.Wells concluded that it is “more probable than not” that members of Patriots personnel — specifically, Jim McNally, who is the officials’ locker room attendant for New England, and John Jastremski, an equipment assistant for the Pats — deliberately released air from game footballs after they were inspected by the referee.The report also found that Brady, who would go on to be named this year’s Super Bowl MVP, “was at least generally aware” of McNally and Jastremski’s illegal actions “involving the release of air from Patriots game balls.”New England was fined $1 million and was stripped of two future draft picks — a 2016 first-round selection and a fourth-rounder in 2017. Brady received a four-game suspension, without pay, for the start of the 2015-16 NFL season. Additionally, McNally and Jastremski were suspended by the league indefinitely.The Wells report has garnered plenty of criticism. Brady’s agent, Don Yee, said in a statement that there was “no fairness” in the investigation and that it had a “pre-determined” outcome. The use of the language “more probable than not” in the report has drawn flak for not being definitive enough.As for the punishment, Yee called it “ridiculous.” He said they will appeal the suspension.Patriots owner Robert Kraft released a statement Monday night after he was informed of the discipline.“Today’s punishment, however, far exceeded any reasonable expectation,” he said. “It was based completely on circumstantial rather than hard or conclusive evidence.”He added that they still believe there was “no tampering with footballs” but that their “intention was to accept any discipline levied by the league.”I believe this discipline is fair — for the most part.First off, the comments from Yee and Kraft are expected. Of course they would not flat out say they agree.I looked through the report and read the text messages between McNally and Jastremski. I took note of the other evidence Wells brought forth, and my personal conclusion was that a calculated and purposeful effort was made to deflate the footballs and that Brady knew about it. I do not think that such actions to deflate the balls would happen without the man who would be throwing them during the game — Brady — knowing about it.And because of my personal conclusion drawn from the Wells report, I feel a four-game suspension for Brady is spot on. The argument is that an underinflated football becomes softer, which make it easier to grip, throw and catch. The extent of this competitive advantage is unknown to me but regardless, it is inconsequential.If a cyclist uses banned performance-enhancing drugs but still loses in the Tour De France, he still broke a rule. Or if a wide receiver uses Stickum but still drops a pass, he still broke a rule. The fact of the matter is that a violation occurred. There are rules for a reason. A rule was broken and punishment rightfully should follow.Do I think that if Brady played the AFC Championship Game with properly inflated footballs that they would have lost the game against the Indianapolis Colts? Obviously I can’t say for sure, but I do believe New England still would have won and advanced to Super Bowl XLIX.The fact that they still might have won the game without committing the violation does not make the fact that Brady was “at least generally aware” of the violation any better. He needed to be punished, and I believe he received the proper discipline. It is a matter of protecting the integrity of the game.To me, anything more than a four-game suspension would have been excessive. Cleveland Browns general manager Ray Farmer recently was suspended for four games in 2015 for sending text messages to the sidelines during games. Considering this, I think four games for Brady being “at least generally aware” that the game balls for a crucial AFC Championship Game were being tampered with is totally reasonable and fair.As for the rest of the punishment, there is no question McNally and Jastremski should be suspended indefinitely. The $1 million fine — tied for the largest in league history — given to the organization is also adequate, in my opinion. Bear in mind that this occurred in a game that determined who would play in the Super Bowl. Violating a rule in such a pivotal game should have harsh consequences.The league also took two future draft picks away from the Patriots. This is a relatively common disciplinary action. Since 1980, 14 teams have lost draft choices because of infractions.New England forfeits next year’s first-round selection and a fourth-round pick in 2017. It is only the second time since 1980 that a first-round pick was lost. The first time was in 2008, when the NFL took took away New England’s as a result of illegally videotaping an opposing team’s sideline.The one in 2017 makes sense. However, I feel taking away a first-rounder is steep. The New Orleans Saints did not even lose a first-round pick because of their illegal paying of players to purposely injure the opposition. They lost second-round choices in 2012 and 2013.Losing multiple draft picks is certainly reasonable, but taking away such a high selection seems to be slightly excessive. Vacating a third-round selection next year, instead of the first-rounder, would have satisfied me.With that said though, I believe the NFL handed down mostly appropriate punishments. The “deliberate effort to circumvent the rules” deserved severe discipline, and the league issued just that.The impact this has on Brady’s legacy and the Patriots franchise in the future remains to be seen.But one thing is for sure: Brady’s first game back from his looming suspension is scheduled to be on Oct. 18 at 8:30 p.m. in Indianapolis against the Colts — the same team the Patriots faced during the AFC Championship Game with the deflated balls.Interesting timing, to say the least. Mark your calendars for that one. read more

Want to launch an app startup in Costa Rica Read this first

first_imgRelated posts:4 things you need to know before investing in a local startup New ways to find the talent you need The different flavors of starting a business Social Entrepreneurship: how you can do good and make money at the same time Fail early and often: Don’t assume that if you build it, they will come. Test it as early as you can and make a habit of correcting continuously, especially in the early stages.Read more “Doing Business columns” here. Randall Trejos works as a business developer, helping startups and medium-sized companies grow. He’s the co-director of the Founder Institute in Costa Rica and a strategy consultant at Grupo Impulso. You can follow his blog La Catapulta or contact him through LinkedIn. Stay tuned for the next edition of “Doing Business,” published twice-monthly. Facebook Comments How many apps do you use regularly? As smart phones become accessible to everyone, app usage increases exponentially. Just consider the following:Mobile apps account for 52% of all time spent on digital media.The average time spent using apps rose by 21% from 2014 to 2015.The estimated worldwide revenue produced by mobile apps increased from $35 billion last year to $45 billion in 2015, and is projected to reach $77 billion by 2017. (For more cool statistics, check this infographic).No wonder so many people in the startup world are going app-crazy. Currently, 40% of the entrepreneurs enrolled in the chapter of the Founder Institute that we run here in San José are planning to start a business around a mobile app. From the stats we saw above and the success cases we hear about, what’s not to like about apps? They’re a few months of development away, there’s good technical talent in the country, and you can scale them (theoretically) outside of Costa Rica.So where’s the catch? Why do so many fail to gain traction and become runaway successes like, say, Evernote?It all comes back to the question at the beginning. How many apps do you really use on a regular basis? It turns out real estate on your little screen is more expensive than most hopeful entrepreneurs care to consider. Adding another app is not the problem (most of them are free anyway), but using another one is not something we do easily. This has nothing to do with technology, or even the “problem” that apps aim to solve.Habits and decisionsThe first reason has to do with habits, decision-making and how we solve problems. In entrepreneurs’ quest to be the next big thing, we take the mental shortcut that leads us to believe that because there’s a problem, people will use the app we build to solve it. Sounds rational, right? But when it comes to our decision-making and our habits, we are rarely rational. If you don’t trust me, take a look at how you make your own choices regarding saving and spending, exercising or eating healthy. It’s not that you don’t know or understand the rationale behind doing these things: it’s just that we are full of biases, mental shortcuts, assumptions and routines that keep us from making perfectly rational decisions.Behavior hackingTechnology is not the barrier anymore. Finding a good developer, especially in Costa Rica, is not particularly difficult (assuming you can pay him or her, but that’s another matter). The next frontier is behavior hacking: understanding what makes people tick and using those insights to design products – in this case, apps – that not only cause people to download the thing, but also to engage people on a regular basis. The ultimate question is, how can you gain access to people’s daily routine and carve out a place for your product there? Facebook is not what it is today because we downloaded the app. It is what it is because we open it every damn day (sometimes more than we care to admit). Costa Rica has one of the highest active users per capita of Waze in the world, because we use it every day to deal with the fact that the streets have no name and traffic is a nightmare.Demographics and importsBut not all is behavior and habits. There are also demographics, and this is something we often overlook, especially when “importing” ideas or business models from abroad. The process goes a little something like this:We see a brilliant app or website that seems to be a hit in another country, usually the United States.We notice that there’s nothing like that here in our country.We decide we are going to do “something similar” for the local market, which usually means making a few adaptations or to use the prevalent lingo: “tropicalize” it.The problem with this logic is that it might overlook the demographic conditions in which the solution was conceived.The “how many”Let’s say you have an app that connects people who are too busy to run errands, or just don’t want to, with people willing to make a few bucks by doing them, a little like Task Rabbit does in the States. Now imagine that in a densely populated city like New York, Chicago, or Miami. Even if adoption rate is low, there are lots of people who could potentially use the app if you push it hard enough. Then you could expand to other adjacent cities with similar characteristics. That’s the volume argument: even a small market share of a large population could be enough to keep the app alive, which is not always the case in a small country with lower smartphone penetration such as Costa Rica.The “how concentrated”But there’s also the density argument. Say that in Costa Rica we might have 2 million potential users (according to our 40% smart phone penetration) that could rival the estimated highly populated cities in other markets. The problem is that our 2 million are probably spread out through a much wider territory. For two-sided market apps like Task Rabbit, Uber, and others of the sharing economy, this is vital, because with less population density, the chance of connecting a person in need with a person willing to provide the service in an acceptable geographic radius diminishes considerably. If I want a chore done in Alajuela but the guy willing to do it it’s in Cartago, then chances are, there won’t be a match.What to do?By focusing on behavior hacking alone you can increase your app’s chance of success considerably. If you also take into account the demographics of your market, you might find you need to do more tweaking to your import than you had initially thought, which might lead you to a truly innovative business model. Usually the best solutions are those that begin with the local problem, the local guy and a solution designed from scratch, as opposed to an adaptation.There are three things you can do to overcome these challenges:Check for best practices: Although another company’s way of solving the problem might not be the right answer for the local market, it can get you thinking. If you think your concept is unique, trust me, chances are somebody else has done it, or at least a close variation of it some place in the world.center_img See how people are currently solving that locally (albeit inefficiently): That gives you the insights into the thought process and habits of your future customers. Some solutions, even poor ones, are sometimes good enough. If people are not motivated to pay more in order to solve their problem more efficiently, your solution might not fly.last_img read more

A life offering us scope

first_img A life offering us scope. What We Have, What Is Taken From Us Of the three items listed above, two are innate to us: We are born with vital powers. Unless we’ve been seriously damaged, these are already ours. We may develop them or allow them to atrophy, but they are inside of us and not directly assailable by anyone else. One of the great errors of freedom people (myself included) is that we’ve sometimes based our arguments on less-than-optimal grounds. What I mean is that we argued for freedom on political or legal grounds. And while those arguments were generally accurate and valid, it was a relatively poor line of argument. Our arguments on economic grounds were somewhat better, but they still missed the largest and clearest areas of human experience. A stronger strain of argument, in my opinion, involves happiness. Defining Happiness Happiness, of course, is a subjective thing. A new car might make one person very happy but be a burden to another (or to that same person at a different stage of life). Furthermore, happiness is very often temporary. People think they’ll be happy if they win the lottery, but that rush of happiness lasts only a short time, then fades away. Lottery winners are happier than other people for a few weeks, then they return to normal – or worse. The same goes for similar cases. Long-term happiness is what we would be wisest to pursue. But this type of happiness – which we generally think of as satisfaction – requires things of us. In particular, it requires good choices, the courage to make them, and good information to base them upon. The best definition of the long-term happiness I know is a paraphrase of Aristotle. It goes like this: What makes us happy is the exercise of vital powers along lines of excellence in a life affording us scope. Let’s break that down. Three things are required for us to be happy for the long haul, all of which must be present together: Vital powers.center_img Exercise along lines of excellence. Exercise along lines of excellence is something that we can do and should do. This depends upon us and our choices. We control this ourselves. A life offering them scope is where the problem lies. Our lives have been massively restricted, and that directly restricts our happiness. That’s such an important thought that I’d like to restate it: Restrictions of human action are direct restrictions of human happiness. And please forget knee-jerk reactions like, “We have to restrict criminals!” That’s a non-issue, and, more importantly, it’s a brain hack. Go ahead and restrict your criminals, but don’t restrict me with them. There is no sane reason restraints upon criminals have to be applied to everyone else at the same time.  No one has any moral right to restrain you, unless and until you harm others. Other Restraints There are plenty of natural obstacles in our world that limit a man or woman’s scope. We require food, shelter, sleep, clothing, mates, and so on. And that’s precisely why we must be unrestrained in all other ways. We need to employ our talents to overcome these problems… then, hopefully, to expand our horizons. The more restrained we remain, the more impoverished and unhappy we remain. To restrict peaceful humans is to directly restrain their happiness. It also directly restrains their talent, and that impoverishes the future, including billions of humans yet unborn. It is among the worst crimes imaginable, yet it is presented to us as an essential. Our happiness is being stolen from us daily, and the justifications for this crime – if ever we examine them – are quickly seen as mere fear and inertia. It’s time that we started playing a different game. Paul Rosenberg FreemansPerspective.comlast_img read more

There are a lot of folks who get pretty angry when

first_img There are a lot of folks who get pretty angry when you suggest that a near-50% drop in the price of oil might be a negative in the short term. They look at you like you’re dumb. They talk about the massive benefit to consumers, the synthetic “tax cut” that everyone’s getting, what it’s going to do to consumption, etc. All of this is true. But if you take a major commodity and slice it in half in the span of a month or two, there are going to be major consequences. When I say that the commodities markets haven’t seen anything like this since 1980 when gold went haywire, I mean it. And you don’t put gold in your gas tank. Sure, there have been some minor calamities, like when cotton went parabolic a few years ago, but crude oil is perhaps the world’s most important commodity when you take into account both its economic and geopolitical significance. People go to war over the stuff. Routinely. And with oil falling from $105 to $57 in just six months, it might happen again. We’ll get to that in a second. But for perspective, when people look at this move in oil 10 years from now, they’re going to call it the “Crash of ‘14.” That’s my prediction. A move of this magnitude in a short amount of time is a crash. When stocks went down 19% in a week in 2008, that was also a crash. What’s the definition of a crash? I say any move over six standard deviations. For comparison, the Crash of ‘87 was 25 standard deviations—a move so uncommon, so statistically rare, that it wasn’t supposed to happen in a length of time greater than the age of the universe. I haven’t done the math on oil yet, but if it’s not six standard deviations, it’s close. *   *   *   * As you probably know by now, the move in oil has been more of a supply story than a demand story. We were drilling holes all over the planet in search of it. My wife works in the Turkana Basin, on the border of northwest Kenya and Ethiopia, which is one of the most remote spots in the world. They were drilling for it there, too. That’s what happens when oil gets to $140 a barrel. People are incentivized to look for it. It takes time to explore and produce the stuff. It takes years for wells to finally come online and for supply to hit the market. There are still projects that may never be completed, like Vaca Muerta in Argentina, that Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales (YPF) is developing in conjunction with Chevron. The poor Argentinians—screwed again. And like we’ve been seeing in the mining industry, once a company has brought production online, it’s difficult to take it offline. It’s hard to start it back up again, to get all the permits, to hire everyone back. So people will continue to produce at uneconomic levels for a long time, hoping that the price will come back, while simultaneously ensuring that it won’t for a long time. So back to my earlier point—is it bullish or bearish for the US? It’s not a hard question to answer. People are making it hard. 20 years ago, it would have been unequivocally bullish. Now, maybe not. We produce slightly more oil than we consume. There will be winners and losers, which is being reflected in the stock market. For some countries, it’s unequivocally bearish, especially for adversaries like Venezuela, Iran, and Russia. But also for allies, like Canada, which is probably in the most precarious economic position of any country in the world. The takeaway is: an oil crash makes the world less stable. *   *   *   * I am a decent economic historian, but kind of a crappy political historian. People keep telling me scary stories about Russia—how Russia today closely resembles Germany in the 1930s. How Putin is in the midst of a full-blown currency crisis. How the West is (perhaps foolishly) applying sanctions. How the threat of annexation of Russia’s smaller neighbors could be higher than we think. How the willingness of the West to challenge it would be very low. All because the price of a commodity crashed. Russia is very much a petrostate. There are others. Norway has been enjoying a phenomenally high standard of living for years, with some of the highest incomes and the strongest currency in the world on a purchasing-power parity basis. A lot of that had to do with a very successful and well-managed state-owned oil industry, and one of the largest sovereign wealth funds to boot. If you’ve seen a chart of Norwegian krone (NOK) vs. the Swedish krona (SEK) recently, you know that oil’s plummet has been a game-changer. I was in Memphis last week visiting some folks. I found myself in a conference room with some very seasoned commodity traders… veterans of the floor, some going back to the ‘70s. Let me tell you something: if you ever find yourself talking to a 40-year veteran of the commodities markets, you should listen to what he has to say. Anyone who can last that long trading futures is pretty smart. Funny thing is, I’ve been around long enough that now I am one of the old traders! But I’m not a commodities guy by training. I’m one of those slicked-back-hair moneychanger guys who is never going to get to heaven. But I always learn a lot when I go to Memphis—which, by the way, is the third-biggest futures trading city after Chicago and New York. There are quite a few large trading firms that specialize in grains, meats, and cotton. Memphis is a big deal, and probably the best-kept secret in the financial world. So I asked about what it was like to trade live cattle during the BSE (mad cow) outbreak about 10 years ago.  “How about limit down for an entire week?” they said. Small traders went under. Cattle ranchers went under, guys who lifted their hedges at exactly the wrong time. It was downright ugly. That was bad. But what’s happening to oil is a million times worse. I fear oil. But I don’t fear oil because oil will make the stock market go down—which it will. I fear oil because there are going to be second- and third-order political effects that we cannot even conceive of right now. Take Venezuela—my prediction is that Venezuela will descend into anarchy and hyperinflation—a failed state. This has consequences for the entire region, but especially Colombia. Take Venezuela and multiply it by 100, and you get a sense of the magnitude of the problem that we’re facing. *   *   *   * Old traders know: price moves like this do not happen in a vacuum. There’s a chain reaction that extends out for years. So in situations like this, I do what an old trader does: I reduce risk. I cut back my exposure to things that gain from stability, and I increase my exposure to things that gain from volatility. Nobody has a playbook for this, because nobody saw it coming. But a leveraged long position with no cash is probably a bad idea right now.last_img read more