Monday, March 7th, 2022


Follow the Ruble

It's not just the yachts. Russian Oligarchs also sail their money around the world, like pirates looking for a place to stash their ill-begotten booty, and they often find businesses and organizations all-too happy to be left holding the money bag. These uber-wealthy dirtbags who have ripped off the Russian people and benefit from the key tenet of Putinism (Vlad gets to lead how he wants, they get to stay rich beyond belief) need to find places to sink their dough because they've always known that the Russian economy was being directed into a bottomless ditch. So they invest in other countries. And they grease the skids by donating big bucks to top institutions. "Among the many beneficiaries are such storied institutions as New York's Museum of Modern Art, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Mayo Clinic and the Guggenheim Museum, the research shows - a reflection of how deeply money from Russian oligarchs has penetrated American society." Russian oligarchs have donated millions to U.S. charities, museums and universities.

+ "While real estate might seem like the world's most local industry, these luxury condos weren't exclusively built for locals. They were also made for foreigners with tens of millions of dollars to spare. Developers bet huge on foreign plutocrats—Russian oligarchs, Chinese moguls, Saudi royalty—looking to buy second (or seventh) homes." Last year, we learned why so many NYC high rises were empty even though the city had a housing shortage. Off We Go Into the Wild Blue Launder.

+ The latest complexity added to the world of money laundering and sanctions avoidance: Crypto. Nick Bilton in Vanity Fair: Russia's Invasion of Ukraine Puts Cryptocurrencies at the Heart of War.


Wedding Band of Brothers

"Despite the surreal nature of Lesya Filimonova and Valeriy Filimonov's marriage in the Ukrainian capital on Sunday, the moment in some ways offered a glimpse of normality amid the conflict. It showed, the mayor said, that 'life continues and the people live and their love helps the war.' Just over a week ago, the couple were 'normal people' with no plans to carry weapons, he noted. Now, 'they want to defend our city together.'" WaPo Gift Article: The groom wore a helmet. The bride wore fatigues.

+ The honeymoon period was short as Putin predictably doubled down on the violence, attacked civilians, and shut off evacuation routes. Here's the latest from CNN and BBC.

+ Russia has started recruiting Syrians mercenaries. (Two takeaways: Russian soldiers don't like killing their cousins, aunts, and grandparents. And Putin is not going to stop until he has Ukraine or he gets stopped.)

+ "Griner, who plays for both the Phoenix Mercury and Russian basketball club UMMC Ekaterinburg, was arrested at a Moscow-area airport and accused of transporting drugs." (What a horrifying moment to be an American in a Russian jail.)

+ "Whatever happens to Zelensky now—whether he wins or extends or loses this war, or is finally taken out by an enraged Putin, who unlike him wouldn't dream of visiting his troops in their tents or sharing in their danger—he will be remembered as a hero of liberty and democracy in the West, perhaps the most consequential since the end of the Cold War." Vladislav Davidzon in Tablet: Jewish Ukraine Fights Nazi Russia. "Ukrainians voted for a mixture of Benny Hill and Boris Johnson, and somehow wound up with Churchill."

+ Some people have found a novel way to get money to Ukrainians as their country is under attack from Russia: booking immediate Airbnb stays they don't intend to use.

+ A guy in Ireland drove his truck through the gates of the Russian embassy in Dublin. "I just done this to create a safe corridor for the Russian ambassador to leave Ireland."


On the Down Lowell

"Parents cried out. Alumni threatened and launched lawsuits, and a few current students protested. Lowell, once a meritocratic beacon, had become something else: a bellwether for the uncertain future of selective public education." Nathan Heller covers a very interesting educational battle in The New Yorker: What Happens When an Elite Public School Becomes Open to All?

+ And a very different school story. Last of its kind: Vermont town weighs future of one-room schoolhouse.


Realty Check

"Todd Savage, whose Black Rifle Real Estate firm is part of Flee The City, said in a brief email exchange that his business is booming, thanks to 'insane' left wing politics. One of the bigger players among right-leaning real estate companies is Conservative Move, based in a suburb of Dallas. Founder and chief executive Paul Chabot said blue states have only themselves to blame for driving out conservatives. 'People are tired of out-of-control crime and forced masking.'" Realtors to conservatives living in liberal areas: Try Idaho. Politics have polluted everything. And our reaction to our current divide is to divide further.


Extra, Extra

Game, Asset, Match: "The world's three largest asset managers (BlackRock, Vanguard, and UBS) alone control $21 trillion, roughly equivalent to the entire U.S. economy in 2017 and nearly twice as much as the entire world's hedge fund, private equity, and venture capital industries combined." How BlackRock, Vanguard, and UBS Are Screwing the World.

+ Brain Drain "Analysis of the 'before' and 'after' images from the UK Biobank showed that people infected with COVID-19 had a greater reduction in their brain volumes overall and performed worse on cognitive tests than those who had not been infected." Even a mild case of COVID-19 can cause brain changes. It's too soon to know if the damage lasts. This is a small study. But there's no doubt that long covid symtoms will be a big issue in a world where we just passed 6 million deaths.

+ Meadow Lark: This is a really weird story. The New Yorker: Why Did Mark Meadows Register to Vote at an Address Where He Did Not Reside?


Bottom of the News

"Kristie Wolfe has built off-grid hobbit holes, treehouses, and potato-shaped abodes — often on a shoestring budget." Meet the woman who builds the world's most unique Airbnbs.

+ What Are The Most Common Dreams? It Depends Where You Live. (People seem pretty concerned about their teeth.)

+ Oh nothing. Just a 341 pound dude running the 40 in 4.8 seconds.