PPE Medpro + more stuff

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PPE Medpro

While everyone from from organised criminals to Chinese government hackers were robbing governments blind during the COVID crisis, in the UK the scandal surrounding PPE Medpro seems particularly egregious. The tale of PPE Medpro goes back to the VIP programme that the UK government used to secure PPE through politically connected companies. PPE Medpro was one of the companies who benefited from £10 billion squandered on these PPE purchases.

Mel B and Michelle Mone
Michelle Mone with former Spice Girls singer Mel B

PPE Medpro got contracts through the VIP programme after a Michelle Mone, a member of the House of Lords lobbied on their behalf. Mone had previously set up a successful clothing brand with her first husband, then moved into diet pills, fake tanning products and even an aborted cryptocurrency launch.

In return PPE Medpro is alleged to have paid Mone £29 million, the subsequent investigation led HSBC to freeze her bank accounts.


China risks 1mn Covid deaths in ‘winter wave’, modelling shows | Financial Times – China is easing restrictions after the Chinese COVID protests. 1 million is on the low end of numbers I have heard quoted. However, it is also politically evocative. The Chinese people have been constantly reminded that 1 million people lost their lives to COVID in the United States and the communist party ensured that just 5,000 people have died in their country.

Beijing allows US export-control checks on Chinese tech companies | Financial Times 

Hackers linked to Chinese government stole millions in Covid benefits, Secret Service saysThe theft of state unemployment funds is the first pandemic fraud tied to foreign, state-sponsored cybercriminals that the U.S. government has acknowledged publicly.

Tesla Reduces China’s Shanghai Output in Latest Sign of Sluggish Demand (TSLA) – Bloomberg and Over 40% of China’s Auto Dealers Close Shop in November as Business Craters 

A combination of realpolitik, economics and supply chain resilience: Apple Makes Plans to Move Production Out of China – WSJ 

Exclusive: China’s top banks to issue offshore loans to help developers repay debt | Reuters – reduces foreign influence on the weakest sector in the Chinese economy, which should aid the government in assuring economic stability

The Cold Wind of Historical Nihilism – by Jon Sine – ideological purity a la George Orwell

Finnish leader warns democratic countries against being ‘naive’ on China | Financial Times 

Déjà vu to 2002? The U.S., China, and parallels to the Iraq War run-up – The China Project 

Patrol and Persuade – A follow up on 110 Overseas investigation | Safeguard Defenders and Pro-China disinfo campaign targets critical NGO on Twitter | Axios 


Manufacturing orders from China down 40% in demand collapse | CNBC 

Picking Winners? Government Subsidies and Firm Productivity in China | NBER  – picking champions in China doesn’t seem to have been as successful as it was in boom time Japan or Korea


Hyundai Rolls out Big Hydrogen Truck – The Chosun Ilbo 


Why lab-grown meat may never be on the menu | Financial Times – good news for soy and Quorn based products


Amazon Is Gutting Its Voice Assistant Alexa | Business Insider  and Amazon Kindle Scribe review: absolutely adequate – The Verge 


China says some parts of German government prescribing ‘wrong medicine’ by politicising trade issues | Reuters – Germany warned against trying to become less dependent on China and Axios World: How EU sees China | Axios – bad news for China

Germany confronts a broken business model | Financial TimesChief executive Martin Brudermüller announced that BASF would downsize in Europe “as quickly as possible, and also permanently”. Most of the cuts are expected to be made at the Ludwigshafen site. BASF is not alone. Since the summer, companies across Germany have been scrambling to adjust to the near disappearance of Russian gas. They have dimmed the lights, switched to oil — and, as a last resort cut production. Some are even thinking about moving operations to countries where energy is cheaper. That is triggering deep concern about the future of German industry and the sustainability of the country’s business model, which has long been predicated on the cheap energy guaranteed by a plentiful supply of Russian gas. Constanze Stelzenmüller, director of the Center on the US and Europe at the Brookings Institution, has said Germany is a case study of a western state that made a “strategic bet” on globalisation and interdependence – based on this experience why would you want to ‘bet’ on China or any other authoritarian country? Once the basic industries like BASF go, the higher end industries will follow

More on EU – China relations

Hong Kong

More than 1,300 people sent to correctional institutions so far over 2019 Hong Kong protests – Hong Kong Free Press HKFP 

Auction sales slide in Hong Kong | Financial TimesSix-monthly auction sales in Hong Kong have had their worst results since 2018, with this season marking the third consecutive drop, according to ArtTactic. Its analysis finds that the October-to-December evening sales made a total of HK$1.7bn ($220mn, before fees), a fall of 34 per cent since the equivalent sales last year and more than 50 per cent down from their peak in spring 2021 – this is interesting given how much has been invested in the past couple of years by the major auction houses into Hong Kong


Intel is on track to regain chip manufacturing lead, says executive | EE Times 

ASML undaunted by Dutch export controls? | DigiTimes 

The very different model of computing hardware required for AI

The dream of bringing back Bell Labs – by Noah Smith 

Interesting video on Lockheed Martin, I suspect that the similarities with Vought International was intentional


What the UK Census really says about the Irish in Britain | RTÉ – interesting analysis on what it means to be Irish in Britain


Sony has tech for humanoid robots, just looking for use 


How Do Korea’s 1% Get Rich? – The Chosun Ilbo (English Edition)The wealthy prefer deposit and savings accounts as the best short-term investments over the next year now that interest rates are high. But they pointed to real estate, both to let and for use as their own homes, as the best investment over the longer term. Their hopes for gold and jewelry or bonds also increased

David Rodolitz, Founder and CEO of VCR Group and Flyfish Club – more on how crypto ‘will’ disrupt hospitality


The ‘Storification’ of Technology: From Steve Jobs to Elon Musk, Pixar to FTX 

A new marketing phase is resulting in empty but effective advertising | Marketing Week 


Amazon’s Jeff Blackburn to Retire – Variety 


Being a creator and relying on YouTube ad revenue sounds like rather like being a musician and relying on Spotify. For reference £1 is worth about ₩1611 at the time of writing, which means they make less than £50/month. This anecdotal evidence fits right in with an analysis piece in the FT – The Lex Newsletter: the cratering creator economy | Financial Times 


Inside Amazon Air’s Quest to Seize the Skies | WIRED – vertical integration in logistics. Contrast with As Amazon shrinks, some workers’ last day comes 2 days before Christmas | The Seattle Times 


Oops! Indian Army Flaunts ‘Chinese Cameras’ To Spy On Chinese Military; You Can Buy It On Aliexpress For $80 


Slack CEO Butterfield to depart next month | Reuters – what’s next for Slack and Stewart Butterfield?

The Unfulfilled Promise of Serverless – Last Week in AWS Blog 

The promise and the peril of ChatGPT – by Casey Newton 


SpaceX unveils Starshield, a military variation of Starlink satellites | CNBC