Category Archives: News

Polar Vortex Costs US $1 Billion

The Polar Vortex . Courtesy
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center from Greenbelt, MD, USA

The last week in January 2019 sent the US Midwest into a deep freeze that cost lives and about $1 billion.


At least one dozen people were reported killed by below zero temperatures which in some place reached record lows from Minnesota, Illinois to the northeastern USA. Thousands of planes were grounded or delayed, other forms of transportation, such as trains, were disrupted, and schools sere shuttered in Wisconsin and Minnesota. There were also several power and water outages reported.


Supply chains were disrupted as rail and barge transportation was halted or slowed. Retail shops and restaurants also suffered losses as most people sheltered indoors.


The $1 billion estimated price tag is still considerably less than the damage caused by the polar vortex of 2014, which came to about $5 billion.


Not everyone lost during the freeze. Stores selling winter items did a brisk business along with online sales and drive-through restaurants.


Chicago reported a bone-chilling minus-30 degrees Celsius, and Minneapolis recorded minus-32. Wind-chills factors made some places feel like minus-70 degrees.

Diamond Giant Alrosa Names Female Head

Rare twinned diamond crystal. Photo courtesy Robert M. Lavinsky

The world’s leading producer by output of diamonds, Alrosa, appointed Rebecca Foerster to lead its USA division.

The move comes the reopening of its offices in New York last year, together with expanding sales in the US. The company chose an experienced female executive to lead its American operations; Foerster is former Vice President of Strategic planning and marketing at Leo Schachter Diamonds, a position she held for four years.

She has previous experience as Vice President at the US Representative office of Rio Tinto; executive roles at Frederick Goldman Inc, Revlon, Unilever, and Benckiser.

“The United States is the world’s largest market for diamond jewelry consumption. For this reason, special requirements are placed on the person who will represent Alrosa’s interests there. Foerster has a wealth of experience in companies that represent almost all parts of the diamond pipeline, from diamond mining to diamond jewelry sales. She knows the specifics of the diamond business and is well aware of American market needs,” said Deputy CEO of Alrosa, Yury Okoemov.

In 2016 Alrosa closed its New York office for “organizational reasons.” Since the office reopened in 2018 business has been expanding at a pace to the extent that from the two rough diamond auctions held last year in New York the company will have four such events in 2019. Alrosa, which mines diamonds, plans to also offer polished diamonds to the US market this coming year.

New and Unusual Ways to Show the World You’ve Made It


Some people like yachts, others like watches. Diamonds are a girl’s best friend, and a luxury sports car can compensate for a lot. But what if you’ve got the money, but you are also looking to assert your unique, individual, crazy rich self? Here are a few bizarre ways you can flaunt your success.

A 1960 Michigan, USA, license plate. Courtesy
Absecon 49


Out in Silicon Valley the high-techies have taken to adopting chickens, which they keep as pets in their backyards. There’s a rumor that some even come in the house, with diapers on, of course, and are fed gourmet chicken feed. Go figure.


We know it can get bone-chilling cold in Chicago, so we do expect the outerwear to be high-quality, warm, and water-proof, too. Lucky for those with a few extra thousand dollars laying around, it is possible to purchase a $1,000 Canada Goose parka and keep your buns warm while telling the world you are ready for a vacation at the North Pole.


In Washington DC it seems it is trendy to wait on lines, most notably to visit overpriced restaurants and bars that serve boutique cocktails.


Americans are quite fond of their vanity license plates, but in New England this fad has been taken to a whole new level. Massachusetts is the first state in the USA to issue license plates for cars, back in 1903, with, of all things, Number 1. As you might imagine, low numbered plates are quite the rarity, and if its dear, the filthy rich will pay for the privilege of driving around with a low numbered plate. It has been estimated that some people will pay upwards of $100,000 for a low-numbered plate, and the much-desired plates are being passed down to the generations to come.


In Texas the filthy rich are going for luxury pick-up trucks, while in New York City big families have become a trend. And what could be pricier than several tuitions for private school?

Canadian and US Businessmen Fretful of Trips to China


North American businessmen have long been aware that traveling to China had its risks: executives with cellphones and laptops feared the theft of intellectual property and cyber attacks when in the biggest of all Asian nations.


But now the level of fear has been notched up to the next level.


Ever since the arrest of Meng Wanzhou on December 1st, traveling to China for business people hailing from the West, and especially North America, has been a nail-biting experience. Wanzhou, the head of giant cellphone maker Huawei, was arrested in Canada and her extradition was requested by the USA. She is charged with fraud because her company has allegedly had business dealings with Iran, a violation of US sanctions against the middle eastern country. Then the atmosphere intensified when Chinese officials stopped two Canadians, saying the pair was suspected of national security violations.


It is supposed by observers that the self-destructive mutual suspicions will not spiral out of control since neither side has any interest in provoking the people they want to do business with, and therefore will not publicly change their travel policies.


Unfortunately, sometimes mistakes are made. Last week the US tech company Cisco sent an email to their employees telling them that all non-essential trips to China would be suspended. The company caught the mistake and issued an apology stating that their travel policy to China had not changed.


American diplomats and businessmen will say in private that the two Canadians being held in China now is in retaliation for Meng’s detention, according to Craig Allen, the president of the US-China Business Council.


“If we don’t recognize that as a possible signal to American interests and to American businesses, then we would be willfully blind,” he says.

US Demands Extradition of Huawei Exec for Violating Sanctions Against Iran


In an unusual and controversial move, the Canadian government detained Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer to electronics giant Huawei. The arrest took place as Meng was changing planes on December 1st, in Vancouver, at the request of the United States.

Washington is requesting the extradition of Meng so she can face charges of Huawei using a shell company to sell electronic equipment to Iran, against the terms set forth by the US sanctions against Iran. The US also alleges that Huawei, under Meng’s leadership, misled American banks about the business it conducts with Iran.

The Chinese government called the US ambassador to Beijing to register its anger over the detention, insisting that Canada release Weng and the US cancel the order for her arrest.
The official Chinese news agency Xinhua News Agency said that Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng “lodged solemn representations and strong protests” with Ambassador Terry Branstad. The Chinese government also summoned the Canadian Ambassador John McCallum, telling him that there would be “grave consequences” if Meng is not released.
One of Canada’s provinces, British Columbia, said it was cancelling a trade mission

scheduled to visit China due to the detention of Meng. There is a fear that the Chinese will retaliate against Canada and arrest Canadians in kind.