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Tokyo Olympics: what are the limits of human performance? Podcast

Plus, the troubled 1920 Antwerp Olympics and the parallels they have for Tokyo. Listen to The Conversation Weekly.



kolvenbach/Alamy Stock Photo

Are there limits to how much faster, higher or stronger an athlete can get? In this episode of The Conversation Weekly podcast, we talk to researchers in biomechanics, sports technology and psychology, to find out. And we hear about what happened at the troubled 1920 Antwerp Olympics, held in the wake of the first world war and the Spanish flu pandemic.

There’s something incredible about watching an athlete break a world record. They peak at exactly the right moment to go faster or further than anyone else ever has in their sport. But how long will records keep tumbling for? How will we know when we’ve reached the peak of what the human body can do?

We asked Anthony Blazevich, professor of biomechanics at Edith Cowan University in Perth, Australia. While he admits there are physical limits to how fast a cyclist or a sprinter can go, he says we’re not there yet: “I think we’re decades away from the very greatest athletes that we will ever see on Earth.” He explains why, as well as how a person’s genes influence their athletic performance.

Technological innovation is likely to play a role in breaking records too, particularly when it comes to running. The advent of super shoes, pioneered by Nike, has seen world records broken across long-distance running events since 2017. Jonathan Taylor, a former professional runner and now a lecturer in sport and exercise at Teesside University in the UK, says: “On the roads, half-marathon and marathon world records have all been broken since 2017.” Taylor explains the science behind the super shoes and the regulations surrounding them, and what other tech could help improve running times even further.

But someone could have the perfect sprinter’s body, the perfect training schedule, and the latest super shoe, but if their head isn’t in the right place on the big day, none of that other stuff matters.

Nicole Forrester, a former Canadian Olympic high jumper, and now an assistant professor in the school of media at Ryerson University in Toronto, explains her research into why psychology – and confidence in particular – is key for an athlete to go from being good, to being great. “At the elite level, it’s impossible for an athlete to be a gold medallist in whatever discipline, without having without confidence,” she tells us.

A little note, we are not focusing on drugs in this episode, but you can read more analysis about the role of doping in sports here.

In our second story (33 minutes), we revisit the 1920 Antwerp Olympics held just after a fourth wave of the deadly Spanish flu pandemic. The first world war caused the cancellation of the 1916 games, scheduled to take place in Berlin. But soon after the armistice, the aristocratic members of the International Olympic Committee, including its founder, the French baron Pierre de Coubertin, were determined to push ahead with the 1920 games.

They chose Belgium, a country hit hard by the war, as host. Keith Rathbone, a senior lecturer in modern European history and sports history at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, tells us what happened – and the parallels he sees with the Tokyo Olympics.

And Thabo Leshilo, politics editor at The Conversation in Johannesburg, recommends some analysis on the recent unrest in South Africa following the imprisonment of former president, Jacob Zuma (43m45).

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 on You can also sign up to The Conversation’s free daily email here.

News clips in this episode are from World Athletics, CBS News, INEOS 1:59 Challenge, BBC News and DW News.

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.

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US Home Heating Costs Set To Surge 17%, Says Energy Group

US Home Heating Costs Set To Surge 17%, Says Energy Group

Authored by Bryan Jung via The Epoch Times,

Winter is coming, and experts are predicting…



US Home Heating Costs Set To Surge 17%, Says Energy Group

Authored by Bryan Jung via The Epoch Times,

Winter is coming, and experts are predicting that it will be an expensive one for American households nationwide.

The average U.S. household heating bill is expected to increase by 17.2 percent this winter compared to last year, according to a forecast by the National Energy Assistance Directors Association (NEADA).

Families had already faced higher than average electric bills last winter due to inflation and this year provides no improvement.

NEADA assists state agencies under the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, (LIHEAP) in distributing federal assistance to help low-income families pay their utility bills.

The energy association expects that the average winter heating bill will increase from $1,025 to $1,202.

Heating prices have risen over the past two years to more than 35 percent, the highest rate increase in more than 10 years, according to NEADA data.

Lower-Income Households Will Struggle

The total cost of heating would increase from $127.9 billion to an estimated $149.9 billion, with lower-income households facing the brunt of the burden.

“The rise in home energy costs this winter will put millions of lower-income families [at] risk of falling behind on their energy bills and having no choice but to make difficult decisions between paying for food, medicine and rent,” said Mark Wolfe, executive director of NEADA.

“As a result, NEADA sent a letter last week to the Congressional Leadership asking for a supplemental increase in LIHEAP of $5 billion to cover the higher cost of home heating and cooling as a result of [an] increased number of summer heat waves,” Wolfe added.

A man walks by power lines in Mountain View, Calif., on Aug. 17, 2022. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Meanwhile, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) latest short-term energy outlook, American household electric bills are expected to increase 7.5 percent from last year.

Energy Prices Surge Worldwide

Global energy prices have been rising since the second half of 2021, as economies around the world recovered from the shock of the pandemic, leading to higher demand.

However, European and American green energy policies, combined with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, have caused oil and natural gas prices to spike worldwide.

The war in Ukraine had disrupted supplies of natural gas from Russia to Europe, which relies on natural gas to power industry and heat and cool civilian homes.

Meanwhile, hot summers in the United States and the European Union had driven up electricity demand, causing energy prices to surge.

Increases in Cost of Natural Gas

While the United States is less dependent on natural gas for its energy needs, it still fuels about 37 percent of domestic electricity production, according to the EIA’s 2022 figures.

Natural gas costs are projected to increase 24 percent to $709, according to the NEADA.

Heating oil costs will jump an estimated 54 percent to $1,876.

Propane bills are forecast to rise by 15.2 to $1,828 this winter.

Winter heating costs for households using electricity will face a 6.9 percent jump to $1,328.

Those who use natural gas for heating will face a 34.3 percent increase to $952.

Flared natural gas is burned off at Apache Corporation’s operations at the Deadwood natural gas plant in the Permian Basin, Garden City, Texas on Feb. 5, 2015. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

About 20 percent of American households reported missing or making a late payment on their utility bills in August, according to Bank of America (BofA).

Families with an income of $50,000 or less are the ones struggling the most with the higher energy costs.

BofA reported that Dallas and Houston had some of the highest utility bill hikes this summer, rising 23 percent from the same period last year.

The NEADA released similar findings last month that found that more than 20 million families were behind on their utility bills and owed a total of about $16 billion.

Regional utility companies like National Grid and Con Edison, have already signalled their intent to raise prices.

US Regional Utilities Plan to Raise Power Bills

Con Edison, one of the largest utility companies in the nation, provides energy for over 10 million people living in the New York City metropolitan area.

The power company said that utility bill increases are being driven mainly by “increases in the market cost of natural gas, which is volatile and also influences electric market costs,”  and that other local electric and gas companies across the North East “are facing similar circumstances.”

“Con Edison is urging customers to take actions now that can help them manage costs this winter as market prices for electricity and natural gas are expected to be substantially higher,” said the utility in a recent statement.

A Con Edison power plant stands in a Brooklyn neighborhood across from Manhattan in New York City in a file photo. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The company explained that it “buys natural gas and electricity on the wholesale markets and uses a variety of strategies to stabilize pricing for customers.”

The average monthly natural gas bill in the NYC area will grow 32 percent, from $348 a year ago to $460.

Electricity costs will jump between 22 and 27 percent for residents from November 2022 through March 2023.

Con Ed explained that supply costs account for the majority of the price increases, which rose about $90, while delivery charges hit $22.

“Natural gas prices are up 33% from just one year ago. As Americans prepare to reach home heating season, this could be disastrous for working families and seniors on fixed incomes,” said Rep. Claudia Tenney, (R-NY) in a statement.

“The U.S. needs an all-of-the-above energy strategy that will drive down costs for consumers,” said Tenney.

National Grid of Massachusetts, announced last week that it would increase electricity rates by 64 percent from November through May 2023.

The average monthly bill for residents in that state will increase from $179 to $293, while hiking home heating and natural gas rates by at least 22 percent during that period.

Tyler Durden Wed, 09/28/2022 - 21:00

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Druckenmiller: “We Are In Deep Trouble… I Don’t Rule Out Something Really Bad”

Druckenmiller: "We Are In Deep Trouble… I Don’t Rule Out Something Really Bad"

For once, billionaire investor Stanley Druckenmiller did…



Druckenmiller: "We Are In Deep Trouble... I Don't Rule Out Something Really Bad"

For once, billionaire investor Stanley Druckenmiller did not say anything even remotely controversial when he echoed what we (and Morgan Stanley) have been warning for a long time, and said the Fed's attempt to quickly unwind the excesses it itself built up over the past 13 years with its ultra easy monetary policy will end in tears for the U.S. economy.

“Our central case is a hard landing by the end of ’23,” Druckenmiller said at CNBC’s Delivering Alpha Investor Summit in New York City Wednesday. “I would be stunned if we don’t have recession in ’23. I don’t know the timing but certainly by the end of ’23. I will not be surprised if it’s not larger than the so called average garden variety.”

And the legendary investor, who has never had a down year in the markets, fears it could be something even worse. “I don’t rule out something really bad,” he said effectively repeating what we said in April that "Every Fed Hiking Cycle Ends With Default And Bankruptcy Of Governments, Banks And Investors" "

He pointed to massive global quantitative easing that reached $30 trillion as what’s driving the looming recession: “Our central case is a hard landing by the end of next year", he said, adding that we have also had a bunch of myopic policies such as the Treasury running down the savings account, and Biden's irresponsible oil SPR drain.

Repeating something else even the rather slow "transitory bros" and "team MMT" know by now, Druckenmiller said he believes the extraordinary quantitative easing and zero interest rates over the past decade created an asset bubble.

“All those factors that cause a bull market, they’re not only stopping, they’re reversing every one of them,” Druckenmiller said. “We are in deep trouble.”

The Fed is now in the middle of its most aggressive pace of tightening since the 1980s. The central bank last week raised rates by three-quarters of a percentage point for a third straight time and pledged more hikes to beat inflation, triggering a big sell-off in risk assets. The S&P 500 has taken out its June low and reached a new bear market low Tuesday following a six-day losing streak.

Druckenmiller said the Fed made a policy error - as did we... repeatedly... last summer - when it came up with a “ridiculous theory of transitory,” thinking inflation was driven by supply chain and demand factors largely associated with the pandemic.

“When you make a mistake, you got to admit you’re wrong and move on that nine or 10 months, that they just sat there and bought $120 billion in bonds,” Druckenmiller said. “I think the repercussions of that are going to be with us for a long, long time.”

“You don’t even need to talk about Black Swans to be worried here. To me, the risk reward of owning assets doesn’t make a lot of sense,” Druckenmiller said.

Commenting on recent events, Druck was more upbeat, saying “I like everything I’m hearing out of the Fed and I hope they finish the job,” he said. Now, the tightening has to go all the way. “You have to slay the dragon.” The problem is that, as the BOE demonstrated with its QT to QE pivot today, it's impossible to slay the dragon and sooner or later every central banks fails.

What happens then? According to Druck, once people lose trust in central banks - which at this rate could happen in a few weeks or tomorrow - he expects a cryptocurrency renaissance, something which may already be starting...

... and not just there, but in the original crypto - gold - as well...

Excerpts from his interview below:

Tyler Durden Wed, 09/28/2022 - 12:26

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Interest rates, the yield curve, and the Fed chasing a Phantom (lagging) Menace

  – by New Deal democratThere’s a lot going on with interest rates in the past few days.Mortgage rates have increased above 7%:This is the highest…




 - by New Deal democrat

There’s a lot going on with interest rates in the past few days.

Mortgage rates have increased above 7%:

This is the highest rate since 2008. Needless to say, if it lasts for any period of time it will further damage the housing market.

The yield curve has almost completely inverted from 3 years out (lower bar on left; upper bar shows a similar curve in April 2000, 11 months before the 2001 recession):

As of this morning, the curve is normally sloped from the 3.12% Fed funds rate up through the 3year Treasury, which is yielding 4.22% (which, as an aside, is a mighty tasty temptation to buy medium maturity bonds). Beyond that, with the exception of the 20 year Treasury, each maturity of longer duration is yielding progressively less. If this is like almost all recessions in the last half century, the short end of the yield curve will fully invert (i.e., Fed funds through 2 years as well) before the recession actually begins. Although I won’t show the graph, the yield curve *un*-inverted before the last two recessions even began, immediately or shortly after the Fed began to lower rates again.

On the issue of rents, house prices, and owners equivalent rent, Prof. Paul Krugman follows up on the fact that OER is a lagging measure. Today he touts the monthly decline in new rental lease prices as possibly signaling a downturn in inflation:

He’s referring to the “National Rent Index” from Apartment List, which Bill McBride has also been tracking. Because it tracks rents in only new or renewed leases, it picks up increases or decreases more quickly than those indexes that measure all rentals (including those that were renewed, e.g., 9 months ago).

I don’t think the index is quite the signal Paul Krugman does, because it is not seasonally adjusted, and rents typically decrease in the last 4 months of each year:

Here is the cumulative yearly index for each of the past 5 years:

The -0.1% non-seasonally adjusted decrease in September this year is on par with that of 2018, and less of a decline in September 2019 or 2020. For the first half of this year, rents were increasing at a faster, and accelerating, rate compared with 2018 and 2019. Since June have rent changes been comparable with (and not more negative than) those two years.

I thought I would take a look at Apartment List’s rental index and compare it with the Case Shiller house price index:

Note that house prices broke out to the upside YoY beginning in late spring 2020, while apartment rents did not do so until early 2021. There were rent increase moratoriums in place during the pandemic, which may have affected that comparison. Still, it is cautionary that for the limited 5 year comparison time we do have, house price indexes moved first.

Finally, what would the Fed have done if it had used the Case Shiller index instead of owners equivalent rent in its targeted “core inflation” metric?

Via Mike Sherlock, here’s what the “Case Shiller [total, not core] CPI” looks like through last month:

Here’s another way of looking at the data, comparing the monthly % changes in the Case Shiller national house price index (blue), owners equivalent rent (red, right scale), and core CPI (i.e., minus food and energy) (gold, right scale):

Rent + owner’s equivalent rent are 40% of core inflation. Unsurprisingly, core inflation tends to track similarly to OER. But between May 2021 and May 2022, OER only averaged +0.4% monthly, whereas the Case Shiller index increased 1.5% on average monthly. If 40% of core inflation increased at 1.5% monthly instead of 0.4% monthly, core inflation would have on average been +0.4% higher each month for that entire year.

In other words, the Fed would have had a much earlier warning that an upsurge in core inflation was not going to be “transitory.” 

By contrast, during the last 3 months of the period through July that we have house price index data, OER has averaged +0.4%, whereas house prices have increased on average +0.6%. This would have brought core inflation down by -0.1% each month. If we use the last two months, OER is +0.6% and house prices have been unchanged. Core inflation would have been -0.3% lower in June and July.

In fact, if the trend of the last several months continues, by year end OER is going to be higher than house price appreciation on a YoY as well as m/m basis. And while OER has been increasing, house price indexes have been decelerating. 

In other words, if the Fed keeps raising rates, it is most likely chasing a phantom menace, a lagging indicator which leading measures for which will have already peaked and come down sharply.

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