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Briefly Noted: Gas For Rubles, The Funeral Business Is Great
A big story that probably won’t receive the attention it deserves broke on Friday. Turkiye, as Erdogan now wants us to call the country, entered into an agreement with Russia: Gas for rubles. Obviously, Russia is providing the gas and Turkey—a NATO member that has a major military and even more major strategic location—will be paying in rubles. If you want a bit more detail:
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This is simply part of a trend. The trend is closer ties between Turkey and Russia, including NATO member Turkey buying Russian air defense missile systems. And even the US doesn’t have the clout to do anything about this trend.
Further, that trend also includes closer ties between Russia and other Middle East countries that include cooperation on a whole range of issues: arms deals, trade and transport deals, energy policy coordination, monetary matters—the list goes on. The countries involved include—but are not limited to—Turkey, Syria, Iran, Azerbaijan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. But Turkey’s shift is a very big deal. It means that not only is the EU fragmenting but so, too, is NATO.
Another article that is worth reading is by Alex Berenson:
It seems that the funeral business was initially uneasy when Covid came knocking. They were concerned that there would be a short lived boom in business—most of the Covid deaths were easily predictable as people who were already at death’s door, and that’s how it panned out. The concern was that the boomlet would result in a drop in deaths after the die off of over 80s people in nursing homes. It turns out there was no need to worry because, as we keep hearing, excess mortality continues, well, to be excessive.
Interestingly, a major player in the funeral business took the time to speculate on what’s driving excess mortality, but none of their speculation really makes sense:
I think that COVID cases on a national basis… it's just not material to our numbers. So like we tried to point out at investor day, I think we're experiencing -- we're servicing elevated numbers of consumers. [Or, in English, having more funerals and cremations.]
Ryan went on to offer several potential explanations for the growth in death:
And you'd say, OK, what is that, Tom? Well, we've mentioned a little bit, we think there's still excess deaths. We think we can correlate it with lack of healthcare, people probably drinking too much, smoking too much, driving too fast, depression and access to mental health.
The problem with these explanations… is that none of them make sense. Smoking and obesity take decades to kill, and drinking usually takes a decade or more. Overdoses are way up and traffic accidents are higher too, but not nearly enough to account for the overall rise in deaths.
So, what’s going on? Berenson sees a clue in the numbers, because the current trend only came into play after the Covid mortality wave was over. Moreover, the same dynamic appears to be playing out in other countries in addition to the US:
One telling piece of evidence on this front comes from Australia and New Zealand, which both locked down extremely hard and saw below normal death rates in 2020 and largely normal rates for most of 2021. Yes, locking down nursing homes is terrible for the people inside them and probably contributed to the deaths of residents. But those lockdowns have basically ended now.
Gee, I wonder what could be leading to all the excess non-Covid deaths we’ve suddenly seen in the last 12 months, not just in the United States but all over Western Europe and Australia too? Something definitely changed near the end of 2020, I just wish I could remember what…
On a related note, I’ve mentioned regularly that my wife likes to check the “breakthrough” Covid deaths in IL. Those stats used to come out once a week, and consistently showed that breakthroughs were a disproportionate factor in total Covid deaths. As of last week the state of IL has stopped publishing those numbers. Somethin’s happenin’ here.