Vanity Fair: Inflation Tarnation! Inside the Supply-Chain Snafu That Could Wreck Your Holiday Plans

As headline-grabbing catastrophes go, it was a delight. A quarter-mile-long ship, decks piled with 18,300 containers full of capitalism’s miscellaneous desiderata, skidded out of control and jammed itself sideways in the Suez Canal. Nothing tragic—no deaths, no injuries—just a fender bender that brought the estimated 15 percent of international trade to a halt. Confusion reigned as hundreds of tankers and freighters hung fire at each end of the canal, wondering what to do next.

As content, it felt extremely relatable. By the day it happened, March 23, the world had been under lockdown for a year, and we were all slowly going stir-crazy. The end was in sight—those vaccine doses were finally starting to flow—but we were still stuck. We all felt a bit like that lonely digger, scraping at the sand under the ship’s looming bow, helplessly outmatched but doing the best it could.

At the same time the mishap had kind of a snow day feel to it, the sense that the tedious obligatory course of things had been suspended for a while. For once the rich—the ship owners, the insurers, the global supply chain guys—were taking it on the chin while the rest of us ate popcorn. For seven days salvage experts flailed while economists fretted about the approximately $10 billion a day in lost trade. And then, before the episode turned boring, it was over. Working with the tides, tugboats hauled the Ever Given out of the sand and sent it on its way. Classic sitcom arc: Boat gets in a jam; boat gets out of jam; everybody learns a valuable lesson.

But as the world changed the channel, the Ever Given’s saga was just beginning. Continue reading Vanity Fair: Inflation Tarnation! Inside the Supply-Chain Snafu That Could Wreck Your Holiday Plans

Businessweek: When Shipping Containers Are Abandoned, the Cargo Becomes a Mystery Prize

A mobile crane, its massive gripping arm raised like a scorpion’s tail, rolls up to a multicolored stack of shipping containers at the Pentalver storage yard near Felixstowe, the largest container port in Britain. The machine grabs the top box, backs up with a beep-beep-beep, and sets it down onto the asphalt with a clang. A worker in an orange safety vest kneels and, with a screeching spray of sparks, saws through the numbered steel bolt that seals the latch. The door swings open, and Jake Slinn, a lanky 22-year-old with a buzz cut and thick-rimmed black eyeglasses, steps forward to peer inside.

Slinn is a cargo salvage buyer. His two-man operation, JS Cargo & Freight Disposal, acquires containers filled with abandoned goods shipping lines want to get rid of. And business is booming in his line of work. Snarls in the global supply chain have left an estimated 3 million containers idling on ships queued up at ports around the world, according to Niels Larsen, president of Air & Sea North America at DSV, a global transport and logistics firm.

“When a product doesn’t reach its destination for a period of time, it often loses the value that it originally had,” says Tom Enders, owner of Michigan-based The Salvage Groups Inc. When that happens, customers sometimes refuse to accept the goods; other times, they simply abandon them. In either case, “shipping lines can contact a company like ours to recover as much value from it as they can,” he says. Continue reading Businessweek: When Shipping Containers Are Abandoned, the Cargo Becomes a Mystery Prize

New York: ‘It Was Weird and Culty’: Carlos Watson’s Mismanagement of Ozy

In the end, Ozy got the attention it always craved. The digital media site was founded in 2013 with the intention of breaking the mold of conventional media. But few of its stories ever got traction, and the site itself was rarely talked about. That all changed this past Sunday, when the Times’s Ben Smith revealed that its two top executives had attempted to deceive potential investors on a conference call by pretending that one of them was a YouTube executive — an act that prompted an FBI investigation. The story exploded in media circles. Wave after wave of follow-up stories uncovered new layers of deception. Everyone was talking about Ozy but in the worst possible way: as a fraud, a media Potemkin village, as former Ozy editor-at-large Eugene Robinson described it to Smith. On Friday evening, the company announced that it was shutting down.

If the company had merely been an empty shell propped up to lure positive publicity and venture-capital dollars, it likely would have been less alarming than the apparent reality. According to the five former Ozy staffers Intelligencer spoke with, what’s remarkable isn’t how little there was behind the façade but how much. These staffers say that founder and CEO Carlos Watson’s demands, expectations, and plans were often detached from reality, yet were enforced with an intensity that some felt bordered on cruelty. They describe throwing themselves into the challenge, often at the expense of their mental health, even as the company failed over and over to gain popularity with the public.

“It’s an incredible dereliction that speaks to a great tragedy,” says Ozy’s former editor-at-large Eugene Robinson. Continue reading New York: ‘It Was Weird and Culty’: Carlos Watson’s Mismanagement of Ozy

Men’s Journal: Tether Is a Trail of Shady Deals and Shattered Promises. Too Bad Cryptocurrency Now Depends on It

CAS PIANCEY could feel his heart pounding as the elevator doors slid open onto a tiled corridor of the eighth floor of the K Wah Centre. He was sweat-grimed and wrung out after a day of scouring Hong Kong for traces of a mysterious corporate entity. This was his final stop. Ahead lay a door marked “Proxy CPA Co. Ltd.” Piancey reached for the buzzer, then paused. What if the people he was chasing were really here—and understood what he was after?

It was September 2018, and Piancey, a cryptocurrency journalist, had flown from Los Angeles on a hunch. (“Piancey” is a pseudonym; doxxing is an occupational hazard best conducted anonymously.) He suspected that a handful of very clever and not particularly scrupulous people had come up with a way to create money in any quantity at the stroke of a keyboard—artificial electronic dollar bills that could be swapped for the real stuff. If he was right, these people were pulling off the swindle of a lifetime, a scam that would dwarf Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. If he was wrong, he owed some serious apologies.

Piancey pressed the buzzer. A Chinese woman in her 40s appeared. “Hello, can I help you?”

“I’m looking for Tether. This is the listed address. Is this Tether?”

“No, no,” she shook her head. “I have never heard of Tether. Sorry.” She disappeared.

And there it was. A company that supposedly held $3 billion in assets didn’t have a real office. Continue reading Men’s Journal: Tether Is a Trail of Shady Deals and Shattered Promises. Too Bad Cryptocurrency Now Depends on It

New York: There’s a Vaccine for Lyme Disease. So Why Can’t We Get It?

Thanks to vaccines, the number of COVID-19 cases has plummeted in the U.S. and restrictions are being lifted across the country. But as we return to our normal activities, we face a more familiar summertime scourge. We’re in the thick of Lyme disease season – the two-month run from early June to the end of July when 85 percent of infections take place. Surprisingly, vaccines may have allowed us to avoid this epidemic, too. As I learned during my own recent bout with Lyme disease, a vaccine has existed for decades, but it’s no longer available.

It’s yet another frustrating aspect of this mysterious disease. One bite from a tiny, hard-to-detect tick can lead to a host of odd symptoms, including arthritis, serious cardiac issues, and neurological damage in the most severe cases. The disease is easy to treat once you get a diagnosis, but that can be elusive. And while work is underway to develop a new and better vaccine, it may take years to come to market. Here’s what we know about how the disease works, and what you can do to stay safe. Continue reading New York: There’s a Vaccine for Lyme Disease. So Why Can’t We Get It?

New York: How to Decipher the Pentagon’s UFO Report

In the early 1960s, Cuban radar operators witnessed a strange phenomenon: Peering at their screens, they could see targets screaming toward their airspace at tremendous velocity. But when fighter planes were launched to intercept them, the targets simply vanished. The elusive craft showing up on their screens appeared to be the product of hyperadvanced technology — perhaps, even, an advanced civilization from another planet.

But what the Cubans were seeing was not alien technology. It was the result of human, and specifically American, technology — something called electromagnetic warfare, or EW. Knowing what EW is all about is crucial for putting into context the report released last week by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Entitled “Preliminary Assessment: Unidentified Aerial Phenomena,” the document had been eagerly anticipated by those who hoped it would finally provide definitive official evidence that UFOs are real. While those hopes didn’t pan out, the report was nevertheless revealing, if given a close reading. Continue reading New York: How to Decipher the Pentagon’s UFO Report

New York: Why Belarus Grounding of Ryanair Flight Broke International Law

Belarus’s use of deception and military threat to waylay a Ryanair flight Sunday and detain a prominent journalist critical of the country’s dictator was a clear-cut violation of international aviation law, legal experts say. “This was a case of state-sponsored hijacking … state-sponsored piracy,” said Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary.

Ryanair flight 4978 was transiting Belarus airspace en route from Athens to Vilnius, Lithuania, when, according to the airline, air-traffic controllers told the flight crew that there was a bomb aboard and asked them to land in the capital, Minsk. A MiG-29 fighter jet dispatched to intercept the flight added weight to the request. Upon landing, 26-year-old Roman Protasevich, was removed from the plane and taken into custody.

“International law obviously prohibits the use of armed force against commercial aircraft,” says aviation attorney Arthur Rosenberg. The International Civil Aviation Organization “has standards governing the interception of commercial aircraft by the military.”

ICAO, an agency of the U.N., was established by an international agreement called the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation in 1944. The Chicago Convention is the foundational document of international aviation law and has been ratified by virtually every country on Earth, including Belarus. It specifically prohibits the use of military force against passenger flights, stating: “The contracting States recognize that every State must refrain from resorting to the use of weapons against civil aircraft in flight.” There are situations in which a state can use force against a civil aircraft, such as self-defense, or if a plane violates its airspace without permission, but neither applies in this case. Continue reading New York: Why Belarus Grounding of Ryanair Flight Broke International Law

New York: How to Make Carbon-Neutral Gasoline Out of Thin Air

In a clearing on the edge of the Black Forest in southern Germany, a modified shipping container painted an immaculate white sits near a field of solar panels. Inside, ducts wrapped in insulating foil elbow between racks filled with cabinet tanks. Everything is motionless and silent, except for a soft whirring and humming. Michael Klumpp, a postdoc at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, turns a spigot and a clear liquid flows into a glass flask. The substance smells faintly of warm wax. Though it resembles oils derived from plants or petroleum, it does not come from any familiar source, but has literally been pulled from the thin air, transubstantiated from gas to liquid with the help of renewably generated electricity. On a mass scale, it could be used to fly airplanes or power heavy machinery, replacing petroleum in some situations. It even has a catchy name: eFuel.

The idea of turning air into liquid fuel may sound fantastical, but the underlying principle is as mundane as a head of lettuce. “It’s the same thing that plants do with photosynthesis,” says Roland Dittmeyer, leader of the project and director of the Institute for Micro Process Engineering at KIT.

While the machine that I watched produce that energy-dense liquid in the forest clearing is just the first stage of a pilot program, the underlying technology could help reshape the battle against climate change. Continue reading New York: How to Make Carbon-Neutral Gasoline Out of Thin Air

New York: The Pandemic’s Lethal Twilight

While everyone’s excited for “hot vaxx summer,” a reminder: Americans are still dying of COVID. Not in the same numbers as during last winter’s horrific peak, but still at an agonizing clip, with more than 700 fatalities a day on average. In other words, tens of thousands of otherwise healthy people walking around today will die of it in the months ahead.

Sure, there are plenty of reasons to feel optimistic. We now have highly effective vaccines, and close to half the adult U.S. population has gotten at least one dose, conferring a high degree of protection from the virus. Given that a third or more of the country may have built up immunity through already getting infected, that means we’re in striking distance of herd immunity, which will gradually drive new infections to sufficient rarity that the pandemic will effectively be over nationally. “We have reason to believe we’ll be in a good place by July,” says Justin Lessler, an infectious-disease epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins.

But it’s not at all clear how we’ll get there. After an unexpectedly successful rollout of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, uptake is now slowing, with many locations now having more doses than people taking them. Meanwhile, new variants of concern are emerging and spreading. One of them, B.1.1.7, first appeared around the New Year and now constitutes the majority of new infections in the United States.

“We’re in a footrace between the vaccine and the variants,” says Columbia University disease modeler Jeffrey Shaman. How that race plays out will make the difference between a gradually weakening pandemic that yields relatively few additional fatalities and one that drives the death toll to another spike. The experience of Michigan, where cases spiked eightfold between February and April even as overall caseloads in the U.S. were broadly declining, could be played out again and again in pockets of vulnerability. Continue reading New York: The Pandemic’s Lethal Twilight

New York: Why the Second COVID Shot Makes You Miserable

When the actress Sarah Wynter got her first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, she didn’t experience any side effects apart from a little soreness in her arm. Dose two was a different story. About 12 hours after she received it, as she was about to go to bed, “it hit me like a freight train,” she says. “I just started feeling very achy, very tired and heavy.”

She woke up the next morning experiencing what felt like the worst hangover of her life. After some Tylenol and coffee, she felt almost better by late morning and was well enough to host a small birthday party for her 10-year-old twins. Then, at bedtime, it was round two, this time including violent chills. A night’s rest helped, but the following day she still felt under the weather.

Wynter’s experiences may not have been exactly typical, but they weren’t unusual, either: The second dose of Moderna and Pfizer vaccines really do pack a wallop. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that while 30 percent of recipients experienced fatigue and a quarter suffered headaches after the first dose, those figures climbed to 54 percent and 46 percent, respectively, after the second dose. The number experiencing chills or fever climbed from 9 percent to 30 percent.

These unpleasant effects are a result of the way the immune system works. Continue reading New York: Why the Second COVID Shot Makes You Miserable