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Crypto countries: Nigeria and El Salvador’s opposing journeys into digital currencies – podcast

Plus, a philosopher explains the history of the idea that we might all be living in a simulation. Listen to The Conversation Weekly podcast.

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Banking on bitcoin: El Salvador announced plans to build a Bitcoin City in November 2021. Rodrigo Sura/EPA

We dive into the world of crypto and digital currencies and take a close look at two countries approaching them in very different ways in this episode of The Conversation Weekly. And if the latest Matrix film has left you wondering whether we are really living in a simulation, we talk to a philosopher on the long history of that idea.

Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy and its most populous country. El Salvador is a small republic in central America. But despite their many differences, they have two economic problems in common. First, a large proportion of their populations don’t have access to bank accounts. Second, their economies rely heavily on remittances, money sent back by people living abroad. But the money transfer companies that facilitate these cash flows can be slow and costly.

In 2021, both countries turned to the fast-moving world of digital currencies in an effort to tackle these, and other problems. But they’ve taken very different routes.

Nigeria banned bank trading of cryptocurrencies in February and then launched its own central bank digital currency, the eNaira, in October. Nigeria was only the second country in the world to launch a central bank digital currency, after The Bahamas. More may soon follow suit, including China, which in January expanded the pilot of its digital yuan to more areas, including the major cities Shanghai and Beijing.

Nigeria’s decision to launch its own digital currency came as a surprise to many, says Iwa Salami, reader and associate professor in law at the University of East London in the UK and an expert on digital currencies. Initially, eNaira wallets are only available for people with bank accounts, but the plan is to extend access to anyone with a phone number in the future.

One of the questions, Salami says, is whether Nigeria will be able to “fully achieve financial inclusion in the way that it’s been promoted.” There are a number of risks involved, she says, including to financial stability if those with eNaira wallets start using them as a deposit account. “Therefore, rather than using commercial banks, people actually use eNaira wallets to store their savings, which then means that the relevance of banks becomes redundant,” she says.


Read more: Nigeria's digital currency: what the eNaira is for and why it's not perfect


While Nigeria opted to create its own central bank digital currency, El Salvador became the first country in the world to adopt a cryptocurrency as legal tender. The US dollar has been El Salvador’s currency since 2001, when it abandoned its currency, the colón. But in September 2021, El Salvador added bitcoin to its list of official currencies.

Erica Pimentel, an assistant professor at the Smith school of business at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada, says there were geopolitical reasons for the decision, as well as an aim to increase financial inclusion and speed up remittances. “We see El Salvador standing up and saying we don’t want the dollar anymore, we want to be masters of our own domain,” she says.

In November, the government of El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele announced plans for a Bitcoin City. Pimentel says it’s “a city built from scratch, whose economy is centred on bitcoin mining and is powered by a volcano.” She talks us through the risks involved with El Salvador’s embrace of bitcoin, and says other countries will be closely watching what happens.

From virtual currency, we turn to virtual brains, and the question of whether or not we’re living in a simulation, a little like that in The Matrix. Benjamin Curtis, senior lecturer in philosophy and ethics at Nottingham Trent University in the UK, explains the long history of this idea. He tracks versions of this question posed by ancient Greek philosophers, to René Descartes in the 17th century and how it evolved with the modern computing era. Curtis says when The Matrix film first came out in 1999 it “certainly introduced these ideas to a much wider audience”. (At 30m20)

And finally, Rob Reddick, COVID-19 editor at The Conversation in the UK, picks out some recent coverage of the wave of omicron cases sweeping the world. (At 42m10)

This episode of The Conversation Weekly was produced by Mend Mariwany and Gemma Ware, with sound design by Eloise Stevens. Our theme music is by Neeta Sarl. You can find us on Twitter @TC_Audio, on Instagram at theconversationdotcom or via email. You can also sign up to The Conversation’s free daily email here.

Newsclips in this episode are from Channels Television, TVC News Nigeria, CBS News, DW News, CNBC Television, WION, CNA and France24 English.

You can listen to The Conversation Weekly via any of the apps listed above, download it directly via our RSS feed, or find out how else to listen here.

Iwa Salami and Erica Pimentel do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointments.

Benjamin Curtis does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Bitcoin Is The Best Distraction From This Financial Collapse, Says Franklin CEO

Bitcoin is the best distraction from this financial collapse according to Jenny Johnson, President and CEO of Franklin Templeton. She said that the current…

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Bitcoin is the best distraction from this financial collapse according to Jenny Johnson, President and CEO of Franklin Templeton.

She said that the current status of the economy is really dire, and bitcoin is “the finest diversion” from it. She also complimented blockchain technology as an excellent breakthrough that will soon have a good effect on a variety of businesses.

Franklin Templeton, a multinational investment company with approximately $1.5 trillion in assets under management, was founded in 1947. Along with conventional financial services, the organization also offers cryptocurrency choices.

Bitcoin Is The Best Distraction

The current economic crisis, according to Jenny Johnson, is the best disruption I see occurring to monetary providers at this time, she said in a recent interview. In her opinion, bitcoin, which many have referred to as a hedge against inflation and even as digital gold, could divert customers’ attention away from the problems.

Johnson, though, believes that governments won’t permit BTC to overtake other foreign currency options.

“It’s extra like faith, and individuals are going to debate it,” she argued.

The CEO contends that blockchain technology, however, will actually be a “game changer since she thinks it would have a pretty dramatic positive impact on virtually every industry.

Johnson then reassured consumers that Franklin Templeton continues to offer cryptocurrency services and has no plans to stop doing so.

The Disaster

Since the COVID-19 pandemic spread and caused a health catastrophe a few years ago, the entire world has been suffering. In addition to the millions of lives lost and the disruption of social life, the epidemic also had a negative impact on the world’s financial system.

To keep the economy afloat during the crisis, some central banks (most notably the US Federal Reserve) began creating enormous amounts of fiat money. But two years later, this procedure, together with a number of other factors, caused inflation rates to soar in practically every nation on the planet.

When Russian forces launched a purported “special military operation” in Ukraine in 2022, the situation only became worse. Nearly 25% of Ukrainians fled their war-torn country and settled abroad as a result of the conflict between the two countries.

The West, led by the USA, accused Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, for the assault and severed its financial ties with the largest landlocked nation on Earth. Dubious Russian oligarchs and billionaires were also sanctioned under the guise of being part of Putin’s inner circle.

Russia, on the other hand, stopped supplying gas to some European nations, many of which lack other sources of energy. A contributing element to higher electricity prices is the fact that, when energy prices rise, practically all other prices do as well.

In times like these we really need a lot of distractions.

Read the latest news in crypto.

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Visualizing All The Latest Major Layoffs At US Corporations

Visualizing All The Latest Major Layoffs At US Corporations

Hiring freezes and layoffs are becoming more common in 2022, as U.S. businesses…

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Visualizing All The Latest Major Layoffs At US Corporations

Hiring freezes and layoffs are becoming more common in 2022, as U.S. businesses look to slash costs ahead of a possible recession.

Understandably, this has a lot of people worried. In June 2022, Insight Global found that 78% of American workers fear they will lose their job in the next recession. Additionally, 56% said they aren’t financially prepared, and 54% said they would take a pay cut to avoid being laid off.

In this infographic, Visual Capitalist's Marcus Lu visualizes major layoffs announced in 2022 by publicly-traded U.S. corporations.

Note: Due to gaps in reporting, as well as the very large number of U.S. corporations, this list may not be comprehensive.

An Emerging Trend

Layoffs have surged considerably since April of this year. See the table below for high-profile instances of mass layoffs.

 

Here’s a brief rundown of these layoffs, sorted by industry.

 

Automotive

Ford has announced the biggest round of layoffs this year, totalling roughly 8,000 salaried employees. Many of these jobs are in Ford’s legacy combustion engine business. According to CEO Jim Farley, these cuts are necessary to fund the company’s transition to EVs.

We absolutely have too many people in some places, no doubt about it.

– JIM FARLEY, CEO, FORD

Speaking of EVs, Rivian laid off 840 employees in July, amounting to 6% of its total workforce. The EV startup pointed to inflation, rising interest rates, and increasing commodity prices as factors. The firm’s more established competitor, Tesla, cut 200 jobs from its autopilot division in the month prior.

Last but not least is online used car retailer, Carvana, which cut 2,500 jobs in May. The company experienced rapid growth during the pandemic, but has since fallen out of grace. Year-to-date, the company’s shares are down more than 80%.

Financial Services

Fearing an impending recession, Coinbase has shed 1,100 employees, or 18% of its total workforce. Interestingly, Coinbase does not have a physical headquarters, meaning the entire company operates remotely.

A recession could lead to another crypto winter, and could last for an extended period. In past crypto winters, trading revenue declined significantly.

- BRIAN ARMSTRONG, CEO, COINBASE

Around the same time, JPMorgan Chase & Co. announced it would fire hundreds of home-lending employees. While an exact number isn’t available, we’ve estimated this to be around 500 jobs, based on the original Bloomberg articleWells Fargo, another major U.S. bank, has also cut 197 jobs from its home mortgage division.

The primary reason for these cuts is rising mortgage rates, which are negatively impacting the demand for homes.

Technology

Within tech, Meta and Twitter are two of the most high profile companies to begin making layoffs. In Meta’s case, 350 custodial staff have been let go due to reduced usage of the company’s offices.

Many more cuts are expected, however, as Facebook recently reported its first revenue decline in 10 years. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has made it clear he expects the company to do more with fewer resources, and managers have been encouraged to report “low performers” for “failing the company”.

Realistically, there are probably a bunch of people at the company who shouldn’t be here.

– MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, META

Also in July, Twitter laid off 30% of its talent acquisition team. An exact number was not available, but the team was estimated to have less than 100 employees. The company has also enacted a hiring freeze as it stumbles through a botched acquisition by Elon Musk.

More Layoffs to Come…

Layoffs are expected to continue throughout the rest of this year, as metrics like consumer sentiment enter a decline. Rising interest rates, which make it more expensive for businesses to borrow money, are also having a negative impact on growth.

In fact just a few days ago, trading platform Robinhood announced it was letting go 23% of its staff. After accounting for its previous layoffs in April (9% of the workforce), it’s fair to estimate that this latest round will impact nearly 800 people.

Tyler Durden Wed, 08/10/2022 - 20:00

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Why Wokeness Is Doomed

Why Wokeness Is Doomed

Authored by Mark Jeftovic via BombThrower.com,

Four Megatrends of Reality Have Become Impossible To Ignore

What we…

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Why Wokeness Is Doomed

Authored by Mark Jeftovic via BombThrower.com,

Four Megatrends of Reality Have Become Impossible To Ignore

What we call “Wokeism” today has its roots in so-called “political correctness” which goes back decades.

It began to accelerate in the early years of the 21st century, and while it was always driven by left-wing, liberal, impulses, who seemed to have the upper hand in culture and media; they still always feigned powerlessness and victimhood. Even in 2012, at possibly the apogee of the Liberal World Order, Paul Krugman wrote, with no sense of irony,

“the big threat to our discourse is right-wing political correctness, which – unlike the liberal version – has lots of power and money behind it. And the goal is very much the kind of thing Orwell tried to convey with his notion of Newspeak: to make it impossible to talk, and possibly even think, about ideas that challenge the established order.

This victimhood-as-bedrock continues to this day, especially since 2016 when the unthinkable happened. Brexit and Trump (basically, a backlash of populism) precipitated a full fledged psychotic break in the progressive zeitgeist, which until that moment was consolidating its hegemony.

Political correctness metastasized into terminal Wokeness, where all aspects of discourse, popular culture and even public policy became delineated into whether it meshed well with left-wing sanctimony, or not.

“Wokeness” takes the otherwise noble aspirations of egalitarianism and stewardship and twists them into a dogma that provides a Trojan Horse for despotism. The high priests of this mindset assert total moral authority and claim an elevated consciousness over the infantile, sub-human masses. Especially if those masses live in fly-over country, hold blue-collar jobs or are otherwise un-credentialed and without pedigree.

This ideology (a word invented by rudderless Jacobins who went to work for Napoleon, helping him consolidate absolute power), translated well into modern times. The “science of ideas” provides the camouflage of choice for the totalitarian impulses of an elite class – increasingly destined for secular, sclerotic decline under the weight of its own corruption, internal contradictions and excess.

For years we (the contrarian, non-compliant “we”, the “racist”, “fringe” we) have been sounding the alarm that the pillars of “Wokethink”, such as “all or nothing”, emotional thinking, catastrophizing and seven other markers, were highly congruent with mental illness. Worsethey are detrimental and destructive to society on a fundamental level.

Where many fear a coming, Davos-inspired technocracy of owning nothing, eating bugs and living in the pod, I think the COVID pandemic created an irreversible phase-shift. Where before we were headed for a totalitarian dystopia that would ultimately fail, but probably last for large swaths of our lifetimes, COVID (more accurately, the overbearing policy response) created an inflection point in history. Several decades of creeping authoritarianism was compressed into eighteen months, and that was Too Much, Too Soon, for everyone.

Serious question.

My contention is that The Lockdown Era was the crescendo of Peak Wokeness. Under the guise of a not-so-cataclysmic pandemic, the moralizing and sermonizing reached fever pitch. Wokeness itself degenerated into Mass Formation Psychosis on a global scale.

Only recently, in this year, has The True Cost of Wokeness begun to make itself apparent:

  • Liberal run cities and states across the US are facing mass exoduses of citizens, capital and tax revenue as their socially motivated policies like “defund the police” cause them to descend into chaos and criminality.

  • Political leaders everywhere look more out-of-touch than ever as they try to run economies and respond to geo-political events with unhinged platitudes.

The list is endless, growing, and we are just into the early innings.

The Four Megatrends Exposing True Cost of Wokeness

Wokeness as an ideology will fail, it’s just a matter of how much damage will it do to the rest of us before it collapses under its own internal contradictions and failures.

#1 Wokeness is Inherently Unprofitable

The expression “Get Woke, go broke” is more than sardonic wit. It’s a powerful meme that captures the essence of wokenomics’ never-ending failures.

Whether it’s so-called “green energy” sources that have larger carbon footprints than their hydrocarbon or nuclear counter-parts, or Hollywood perpetually losing their shirt on “woke” reboots, politically correct sitcoms or short-lived streaming channels, Wokeness is economically unviable across the board.

Without government subsidies there wouldn’t be a profitable “woke” company anywhere and with governments increasingly teetering on the edge of insolvency, the money spigot for the platitude industry may be drying up fast.

#2 Conspicuous Hypocrisy of The High Priests of Wokeness

People are getting sick of being told they’re going to own nothing, eat bugs and live in a pod in order to save the climate by people who are flying around in private jets, lounging on super-yachts and dining on grass fed beef.

It goes beyond self-important celebrities or messianic politicians who flagrantly live a “my rules are for other people” lifestyle. The double-standard is so palpable and abrasive that to ignore it requires hyper-normal rationalizations.

#3 Negative Externalities Are Being Re-shored

If the well-meaning rank-and-file of the social justice warriors were right about anything, it’s that the global economic system has been rigged. Since at least the onset Bretton-Woods Era the developed, industrial nations in orbit around the USA have been able to externalize their negatives to the rest of the world (inflation, conquest, etc) while leaching everybody else’s wealth and natural resources.

This was “the exorbitant privilege” of running the world’s reserve currency. But once the anchor to gold was severed in ’71, it began an inexorable process of what people like Michael Greer call “catabolic collapse“.

The perimeter of the economic leaching began to contract. Once the 80’s or so hit, began to hollow out the homelands of the developed countries themselves.  We can see this dynamic when we look at how GDP diverged from median earnings. If the working class didn’t really participate in the GDP gains, who did?

This chart from a former Chief Economist at the World Bank Group isn’t fully current, but if anything, the trends accelerated after 2015.

The table showing the stratification of wage growth does capture 2022 and we see what’s happening quite starkly:

He’s using data from Thomas Pikkety, who often argues for redistribution schemes I oppose, but mainly for the reason that I don’t trust policy makers to distribute anything  effectively, let alone redistribute other people’s wealth.

But the point is clear, the globalist financial system is “structurally unjust”. However this is not, as the social justice warriors believe, because of systemic racism, or the patriarchy. It’s because of a deeply flawed (rigged) financial system that enables aristocratic elites to print value ex nihilo, and then distribute it to their Cantillionaire cronies. As everybody should know by now, the Cantillon Effect provides benefit from newly printed money for the insiders, before it turns into inflationary cost-of-living increases for everybody else.

The Cantillon Effect

Since The Lockdown Era (which is now being opportunistically pivoted into intensified climate hysteria), this dynamic has only intensified to blow-off top levels. We can see this in the trajectory of M2 money supply:

Before the fiat currency era started, this economic leaching could work when its effects were largely externalized to far off shores, where it could be dolled up under the rubrics of “spreading democracy” and “economic development”.

But now that the fiat currency system is eating itself (too much debt, not enough actual productivity, supply chain failures), that thin scab of elites that sits atop the global cap table now needs to somehow convince the rabble that the most important thing in the world right now is for everybody (else) to drastically ratchet down their standard of living.

Wokeness looked perfect for this, except for one last problem:

#4 Wokeness is Inherently Self-Destructive

Once catabolic collapse had already started in earnest, it hit a disorderly phase transition in COVID. The legacy of that chapter in recent history has been so defined by failure that a crisis in legitimacy has set in.

This has left policy-makers no choice but to double-down. Globalists had to resort to a more intense, emotionally charged zeitgeist that justifies running the rigged tables at much closer quarters: the ESG movement was elevated to primacy.

This is now resulting in self-induced energy crises, supply chains seizing up, and if this new obsession on demonizing fertilizer goes well (for policy makers), global famine.

Rationalizations about climate emergencies aside, the underlying reality is that we’re in a genuine Austrian-school style crack-up boom. The global elites are facing a crisis in credibility and desperate to ensure that they get to stay in charge after the whole system derails.

It bears repeating: globalism, as exemplified by the likes of the World Economic Forum is essentially a Malthusian and Marxist philosophy. The reality behind all forms of collectivism  is that collectivists create inclusive-sounding mythologies that are really intended to apply to everybody else, not themselves.

The consequences of Woke-ism manifest in absurd policies that lead to self-destruction. When everything is politicized, it becomes impossible to correct a bad trajectory.  If undoing previous policy errors means abandoning core tenets of the ideology, the policy makers will choose destruction instead. Anything is better than loss of credibility, especially it’s only the rabble that has to bear the consequences for the policy-makers’ failures.

Here we arrive at why Woke-ism is ultimately doomed, because one of its own internal contradictions is a glaring example of creating its own headwinds:

The COVID pandemic was politicized beyond any rationality, and the Woke are now fully committed to a course of action that could result in incalculable damage to themselves and the public. Where vaccine uptake is plummeting among the normies, (people who aren’t ideologically committed  to COVID),  the most devoted, brainwashed Covidians are continuing with rabid adherence to COVID as a religion: including a desire for lockdowns, the more masks the better, and a regimen of never-ending boosters.

For the longest time I thought the people who were talking in terms of “Nuremberg 2” and “tribunals” were, in word, unhinged.

But when you look at official, vetted data, there is no sugar coating it. The same way I became a lockdown skeptic by tracking the government supplied numbers, and I knew by June 2020 that COVID was not an existential threat. In this case the data coming out from official vacine injury databases is painting just as stark a contrast between reality and official narrative:

Via Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) with data sourced from CDC VAERS and FDA FAERS databases

Somewhere along the line, “safe and effective” turned into “sudden and unexpected”.

Even if the economic and reality-based failures we’ve mentioned so far were not enough to put an end to this, the Woke have gone too far with hard-line vaccine policies. Too much, too young in this case. Trying to jab children being the line in the sand for many adults.

I take no joy nor solace in pointing out that since the woke are truly committed to these vaccines, they may actually be thinning themselves out as the data and evidence continues to mount that the probability of an adverse affect from the “cure” may exceed the risk of dying from the disease itself, at least for adults under the age of 70 and especially in children.

The public is catching on: despite the best efforts of the mainstream media to demonize people asking questions about this as “anti-vaxxers” and Big Tech duly co-operating through concerted deplatforming, public compliance is rapidly dwindling (and the most boosted people among us keep catching COVID).

In Canada, where 81% of the population received two doses in order to be deemed “fully vaccinated”, we have the lowest uptake of boosters throughout the entire G7. This despite Health Canada’s declared intention to move the goalposts such that Canadians would be required to get boosted every nine months.

That won’t happen, and the only people who will comply going forward are the über-woke…

It’s a parody account, but it is hard to tell these days.

These four super-trends are converging to create a zeitgeist saturated with hyper-normality and failure. As The True Cost of Wokeness plays itself out with accelerating consequences, the logical conclusion is that it will be abandoned en masse by a disgruntled populace feeling increasingly betrayed.

*  *  *

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Tyler Durden Wed, 08/10/2022 - 16:20

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