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Arkansas Intelligence Group provides reporting, intelligence products and intelligence support to the good people of Arkansas. We also provide limited repoting on national and international developments.
“According to Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee… the Chinese balloon was a ‘sophisticated spy balloon’ that ‘went across three nuclear sites’ as it floated over the United States from Jan. 28 to Feb. 4. McCaul specifically noted the balloon passed over nuclear bases in Montana, the U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), and a base that hosts nuclear bombers in Missouri.”
Bloomberg commodities analyst Javier Blas predicts oil price increases are coming based on the re-opening of China’s economy and increasing demand for jet fuel.
“Michigan State University police said a shooting in two locations around the school’s East Lansing campus on Monday night left three students dead and five other students hospitalized in critical condition…
Chris Rozman, an interim deputy chief of the campus police, said at a news conference early Tuesday that the 43-year-old suspect, who later died off campus of self-inflicted gunshot wounds, was not affiliated with the university. ‘We have no idea why he came to campus,’ he said.”
The State Department urges all American citizens and dual citizens to leave Russia immediately, citing the possibility of wrongful detentions.
“UPS Inc. has laid off an undetermined number of Teamsters union drivers who fall under the so-called 22.4 classification in the UPS-Teamster contract, according to people familiar with the matter.”
Container volume at the Port of Long Beach has dropped 28.4% year-over-year.
“Average daily bookings for container imports were half of what they were in January of 2022 and 25% lower than pre-pandemic 2020. And while the Lunar New Year has depressed bookings over the past few weeks, there was little pre-holiday shipping buildup before the dead period.”
Analyst Comment: The slowdown continues.
Over the last month, fights among Conservative media figures have broke out on several fronts:
Sex trafficking victim Advocate Eliza Bleu faced criticism after allegedly getting content removed from Twitter and YouTube that shared public videos she had made a few years prior. Tim Pool and Jeremy from the Quartering traded jabs over their interpretation of Eliza’s actions before ultimately apologizing to each other.
Steven Crowder has been on the attack against the Daily Wire, for offering him contract terms that he claims are playing into big tech’s hands.
Sydney Watson, former cohost of the popular podcast You Are Here, is suing the Blaze for creating a hostile work environment, for ignoring sexual harrasment from her former partner, Elijah Shaffer.
Authorities burned off evaporating vinyl chloride after a train with several cars carrying the substance, derailed in East Palestine, Ohio last week. Burning the vinyl chloride results in phosgene (a WWI chemical weapon) and hydrogen chloride. Residents were evacuated from the local area but residents are reporting sick and dead animals outside of the evacuated zone.
Pending legislation in Arkansas and Louisiana would require websites hosting “harmful content” to verify the age of users using ID.
Analyst Comment: This is a backdoor to digital ID requirements and many right-wing states are taking the bait.
A leaked internal document from the FBI’s Virginia field office suggests the agency intends to surveil Catholics who attend Latin mass, or that this could be used as an indicator of domestic terrorists.
Fox News: “Border Patrol apprehensions of Chinese nationals crossing into the U.S. illegally are currently up more than 800% when compared to the same time last year.”
Bubble wrap and packaging producer Sealed Air saw sales volume decline20% in Q4 of 2022.
The ATF is rolling out a new zero-tolerance policy for FFLs who sell and transfer firearms. Any violation will result in termination of an FFL license including failure to respond within 24 hours to an ATF trace request.
CNN: “More than 33,000 people have died across Turkey and Syria since a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck on Monday, as hopes of rescuing more survivors dwindle amid freezing conditions.”
“The U.S. military shot down three airborne objects over the weekend, one Friday evening off the Alaskan coast, the second Saturday in Canadian airspace, and a third Sunday afternoon in Michigan over Lake Huron. The Pentagon has yet to announce whether the objects were surveillance balloons like the Chinese one shot down off the coast of South Carolina last week; all three were reportedly smaller than the Chinese device. Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick S. Ryder said Friday the object shot down over Alaska was flying at an altitude that made it a risk to civilian aircraft, and it is being recovered by U.S. officials after reportedly breaking apart when it hit ocean ice. On Saturday, American jets shot down an object—described by the Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand as “cylindrical”—in concert with the Canadians as part of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), and the Canadian military is collecting the debris from the object in the Yukon Territory. Airspace was closed over Montana Saturday afternoon after NORAD spotted an object on radar. While jets scrambled to confirm its presence originally found nothing, the object reappeared Sunday over Michigan’s Lake Huron and an F-16 shot it down with the same Sidewinder air-to-air missiles that downed the previous three objects (including the Chinese balloon). Like the object over Alaska, this object was flying at altitudes that threatened civilian aircraft. The objects’ origins—and whether they carried any surveillance equipment—have yet to be determined.”
“The Chinese balloon that crossed the continental US last week had multiple antennas for intelligence gathering and was part of a broader surveillance fleet, a senior US state department official said on Thursday.”
“Russia will cut oil production by 500,000 barrels per day, or around 5% of output , in March, Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said on Friday, after the West imposed price caps on Russian oil and oil products.”
“Ubisoft, the gaming developer behind titles like Assassin’s Creed, says it’s tackling ‘toxicity’ in gaming by collaborating with the police.
At a Customer Relationship Center in Newcastle, England, Ubisoft is collaborating with the Northumbria Police. Experts in the force share their expertise and knowledge in ‘harmful’ interactions online with the team at the center, who then apply what they learn to their everyday work.”
Analyst Comment: Expansion of the public-private partnership… fascism.
“Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders unveiled a new Arkansas education plan Wednesday that she touted during her response to President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address Tuesday.
Among the specific proposals, Sanders announced Wednesday:
> Minimum $50,000 salary for Arkansas teachers
> Bonuses of up to $10,000 for best-performing Arkansas teachers
> Complete student loan forgiveness for teachers who teach in the areas of highest need
> New Educational Freedom Account, which will fund enrollment at private, parochial and home schools. The program will be available for all Arkansas students in three years.
> Will deploy more than 100 reading teachers to places that need it most
> $500 tutoring grants for students struggling > Launching a dual-degree diploma in all Arkansas high schools that focuses on sending students to work instead of higher education”
“Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy left the U.K. Wednesday with a firm British commitment to train fighter jet pilots on NATO-standard aircraft, along with an offer of longer-range missiles.
U.K. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace has now been tasked with investigating which jets the U.K. might be able to supply to Ukraine, Downing Street announced — but Prime Minister Rishi Sunak fell short of making actual promises on their supply, which his spokesman said would only ever be a ‘long-term’ option.”
Reuters: “Slumping energy revenues and soaring expenditure pushed Russia’s federal budget to a deficit of 1.76 trillion roubles ($24.78 billion) in January.”
Analyst Comment: I predict Russia will be successful in replacing a significant portion of its lost revenue from energy supplies by expanding sales to India, China and the Middle East. Western sanctions on energy will ultimately fail to cripple Russia’s economy.
“The U.S. trade deficit for all of 2022 rose 12.2% to $948.1 billion, the widest gap on record, as the U.S. continued to depend heavily on imports from other countries to meet domestic demand. Exports also rose last year as global demand for U.S.-made products picked up. A U.S. dollar rally last year drove up the cost of U.S. goods and helped widen the annual deficit.”
“New data from Urner Barry, a market research firm that tracks wholesale food prices, shows its Urner Barry Egg Index has plunged 57% since peaking at $4.65 per dozen on Dec. 19. Wholesale prices are now at $2.01.”
Analyst Comment: Two big drivers are bringing down egg prices. First egg production numbers have been trailing historical production, but are now recovering. Second, high prices led to a significant decrease in demand. Be warned, as the price drops demand will recover and egg prices will bounce a bit higher after hitting bottom.
“The end of 2022 saw a surge in cargo thefts that pushed the yearly total to above an estimated $223 million worth of goods stolen across Canada and the U.S., according to recent data from CargoNet.
The Verisk Analytics-owned data firm, which tracks voluntarily reported cargo thefts, recorded 1,778 ‘supply chain risk incidents’ in Canada and the U.S. in 2022, a 15% jump compared to 2021.
‘The No. 1 commodity [for cargo theft] was household goods for all of 2022, electronics was No. 2, and then food and beverage commodities were No. 3,’ Scott Cornell, transportation lead and crime and theft specialist at Travelers, told FreightWaves.”
Fox Business: “A growing copper deficit could impact the market for years to come as mining setbacks in South America mount…
Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA in New York, told FOX Business ‘Peru, which accounts for 10% of global copper supply, and Chile, have experienced too many setbacks with poor ore quality, strikes, and water restrictions.’
Now, ‘The copper market will likely be in a deficit for years to come,’ he added. ‘Copper demand was solid in 2022, and if we see a robust reopening from China, prices could rally significantly.'”
“Within the coming months, Ukraine will receive at least 100 of LEOPARD 1 A5 battle tanks, including the required logistic support and training.
Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands are providing refurbished LEOPARD 1 A5 from industrial stocks; the first ones being delivered within a few month. In doing so, we are guided by the needs of Ukraine. Our initiative includes training on the LEOPARD 1 A5 as well as a ‘spare parts and ammunition-package’.”
Death toll in Turkey / Syria earthquake passes 11,600.
The Freeport LNG terminal in Texas will soon be back operational. Europeans can expect a modest drop in natural gas prices as exports resume.
Seymour Hersh lays out how the United States carried out the demolition of the Nordsteam pipelines connecting Russia to Germany. Citing a source familiar with the operation, Hersh says the US used Navy Divers (not special forces qualified) to carry out the mission with the assistance of Norway. Explosives were emplaced during the BALTOPS 22 exercise in the region, then remotely detonated using a sonar buoy dropped from a plane. Congress was not briefed on the operation but Joe Biden allegedly approved it.
Planners remarked that if the US was exposed as the perpetrator it would be “an act of war.”
Analyst Comment: Not only would this be considered an act of war by Russia, but the Europeans have a new scapegoat for their energy issues, the United States. European nations have already been exploring strengthening their relationships with China, this revelation will provide fuel for Europe to pursue alternative partners, the result will be further isolation of the US on the world’s stage.
Credit card and other revolving debt at record high!
Major layoffs in tech for 2023:
“Former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in an interview posted to his YouTube channel on Saturday that the US and its Western allies ‘blocked’ his efforts of mediating between Russia and Ukraine to bring an end to the war in its early days.
On March 4, 2022, Bennett traveled to Russia to meet with President Vladimir Putin. In the interview, he detailed his mediation at the time between Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, which he said he coordinated with the US, France, Germany, and the UK.
Bennett said that both sides agreed to major concessions during his mediation effort. For the Russian side, he said they dropped ‘denazification’ as a requirement for a ceasefire. Bennett defined ‘denazification’ as the removal of Zelensky. During his meeting in Moscow with Putin, Bennett said the Russian leader guaranteed that he wouldn’t try to kill Zelensky.
The other concession Russia made, according to Bennett, is that it wouldn’t seek the disarmament of Ukraine. For the Ukrainian side, Zelensky ‘renounced’ that he would seek NATO membership, which Bennett said was the “reason” for Russia’s invasion.
But ultimately, the Western leaders opposed Bennet’s efforts. ‘I’ll say this in the broad sense. I think there was a legitimate decision by the West to keep striking Putin and not [negotiate],’ Bennett said.”
The Navy has launched a recovery operation to secure debris from a Chinese spy balloon that drifted over the US and Canada. The balloon was shot down over the ocean near South Carolina.
Analyst Comment: Balloons like this are capable of carrying hundreds to even a few thousand pounds of payload. The big danger of these types of devices over alternatives like satellites, is they allow for a wider variety of sensor information to be collected, most notably, radio waves. The ionosphere blocks most radio waves from leaving the atmosphere, and radio signals are an extremely valuable source of intelligence.
Additionally, these balloons could be used to conduct kinetic operations by carrying explosives or biological hazards that are released in the target country. The fact that the Biden admin and Pentagon allowed the balloon to drift across the US before disabling it is incredibly reckless, especially given that they could not have known for sure what the payload contained until it was recovered.
Massive earthquake resulted in over 3,000 deaths and 13,600 injured across Syria and Turkey. More deaths are expected as survivors are located.
“Fertilizer prices have declined by more than 40 percent since hitting record (nominal) highs last spring, especially due to recent drops in natural gas prices and fertilizer plants reopening in Europe… Though prices remain almost twice the level of two years ago”
“The FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office officials in Baltimore announced they had arrested two individuals, a man and a woman, with extremist views who were allegedly attempting to attack the power grid in Maryland.”
Annual interest on Government debt is $850 billion and rapidly increasing as the Fed continues to hike rates and debt rolls over.
A team of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University developed an algorithm that helped detect human presence through walls using WiFi signals from a $30 router.
“Using routers to ‘sense’ humans is proposed as an alternative to RGB cameras (that have sensors catching colored images of persons and objects). The researchers suggest that the advantage is the fact routers are almost omnipresent in closed spaces, while the new method solves the lighting, etc., problems when using cameras.”
“The New Orleans Police Department can now shutter businesses that are harboring ‘violent and serious crime,’ after the city council unanimously approved an ordinance aimed at cutting skyrocketing crime in the city.”
Fox: “CIA Director William Burns has revealed that Chinese President Xi Jinping has instructed his country’s army ‘to be ready by 2027 to conduct a successful invasion’ of Taiwan.”
UK: “A family bakery established in 1914 will shut its doors for the final time later due to huge energy costs and the price of ingredients.”
Analyst Comment: Europe escaped what could of been severe shortages of food and energy this Winter, largely due to one of the mildest Winters on record. However, the fallout from Europe cutting Russian energy imports continues as businesses large and small relocate or shut down. The European economy will look quite different over the next several years. Opportunity is shrinking across Europe.
“European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton told Twitter CEO Elon Musk that the platform has to meet its commitment to comply with EU rules in the next few months. There are concerns from the EU that changes made since the billionaire took over might derail the platform’s compliance with new social media censorship rules in the EU…
In a video call on January 31, Breton told Musk, ‘I take note of the path that Twitter is committed to take in Europe to comply with DSA rules. The next few months will be crucial to transform commitments into reality.’
In a tweet, Musk said the meeting with Breton was good and that the DSA’s transparency, accurate information, and accountability goals are aligned with Twitter’s. In the next few weeks, Twitter will conduct a stress test.”
Cryptocurrency exchange Binance is locking users accounts if they try to withdraw funds. Users are asked to provide additional documents without explanation, then those documents are declared inadequate.
Analyst Comment: The crypto liquidity crunch continues.
“Ukrainian authorities launched criminal cases against six former defense-ministry officials and raided the home of a former political backer of President Volodymyr Zelensky Wednesday, amid a flurry of attempts by Mr. Zelensky to show Western governments that he is serious about an anticorruption drive.”
Analyst Comment: The corporate press narrative has gone from ‘Ukraine is one of the most corrupt nations on Earth,’ to ‘what corruption?’ all the way to… ‘sure there’s corruption but all Western aid is being used appropriately and our pal Zelensky is on the case anyway.’
“In ‘The Economic Cost of Food Monopolies: Dirty Dairy Racket,’ Food & Water Watch explains how factors including the gutting of farm supply management policies and higher production costs have helped cause rapid consolidation in the dairy sector, with 70% of family-scale dairy farms shutting down between 1997 and 2007.”
“Chronic absenteeism in Chicago Public Schools is on the rise: nearly 45% in 2022, according to state data. That compares to a statewide rate of 30%.
The rate is even higher among Chicago’s low-income students, with 49% missing at least 10% of their schooling, according to Illinois State Board of Education data.
The pandemic and 17 months out of the classroom appear to have seriously aggravated the problem.
Absenteeism in CPS was 24% for all students and just over 25% for low-income students in 2019. That was the final full school year before the pandemic shut down in-person learning in CPS schools.”
Bloomberg: “A United Nations’ index of food-commodity costs fell 0.8% in January, a 10th straight drop and the longest run in data going back to 1990. Prices have slipped 18% from a record in March, when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine disrupted crop flows from the major supplier.
Still, the UN gauge remains historically high and it takes a while for changes to filter though to what people pay at the grocery store.”
Analyst Comment: Some relief looks to be in store over the next couple of months, however, it is not all positive: Cattle herd declines, avian flu, high energy costs, fertilizer disruptions and increasing regulatory pressure will keep food prices elevated above their pre-pandemic levels.