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rpannier's Journal
rpannier's Journal
November 15, 2021

This is rather disturbing

From the Japan Times

BB rated Agile did just that after crossing two of the red lines. Last June, Canford Mind Ltd., a shell company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, issued a $175 million one-year 6.75% dollar bond “unconditionally and irrevocably guaranteed by” Agile, according to the offering document seen by Bloomberg Opinion.

But that $175 million debt is unlikely to show up on Agile’s balance sheet, because the guarantee “shall be enforceable other than on June 30 and Dec. 31 of each year,” the semiannual dates on which the company is supposed to provide snapshots of its balance sheet positions.

This means that China’s regulators, as well as Agile’s bond and equity holders, don’t get to assess the full risks of the company. In November, Agile privately raised another $250 million offered by Better Hai Investment Ltd., a Cayman Island-incorporated firm. Like the first, it was underwritten by Haitong Securities Co., whose onshore unit is under regulatory probe over suspected market manipulation on bond sales. Agile did not and is not required to make any public disclosure on the deal. Phone calls to the company were not returned, nor were emails to its investor relations personnel.

Agile is by no means an exception. Undisclosed, backroom private bond deals are becoming common. Since October, Yuzhou Group Holdings Co. and Ronshine China Holdings Ltd. have closed such deals, while Fantasia Holdings Group Co. and Logan Group Co. were marketing them to investors, reported Debtwire last month.


I wonder how common a practice this is. Does this happen in the US?

November 12, 2021

U.S. diplomat flees after suspected hit-and-run accident in Seoul: police

SEOUL, Nov. 11 (Yonhap) -- A U.S. diplomat fled into the Yongsan Garrison after allegedly hitting a taxi from behind while driving in Seoul earlier this week and has since been refusing to cooperate with a police investigation, officials said Thursday.

The diplomat, whose identity is not known, was suspected of rear-ending the taxi's bumper while changing lanes near the Namsan No. 3 tunnel in central Seoul at 5:35 p.m. Wednesday but left the site without stopping to deal with the accident.


Police also arrived at the gate and tried to identify the diplomat, but the diplomat and three other passengers refused to cooperate with all police requests, including a breathalyzer test, without even opening a window of the car and entered the base, officials said.


November 6, 2021

Five Stories from Europe You May Have Missed

1. Russia's Kirov Region Culls Poultry After Avian-Flu Outbreak

Russian authorities have ordered the mass culling of poultry in the western Kirov region after an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza.

The region’s governor, Igor Vasiliyev, declared an emergency in 10 districts after H5N1 avian influenza was detected last week at a poultry farm.

All poultry in the contaminated zones is being culled, including that held by villagers.

The Kirov region's veterinary department said about 230 tons of poultry were seized and incinerated.


2. Deserters: Spanish police end escaped camels’ night on the town

Eight camels and a llama were loose on the streets of Madrid overnight after escaping from a nearby circus, Spanish police have said.

The animals were spotted at about 5am wandering around the southern district of Carabranchel close to the circus’s current location. Quiros Circus, which owns them, blamed sabotage by animal rights activists.

“Several camels and a llama escaped from a circus in Madrid overnight this evening,” Spain’s national police wrote on Twitter, sharing images of eight two-humped camels and a llama hanging around at a street corner.


3. Despite week-long 'holiday period', Russia reports record daily COVID-19 cases

Russia has recorded its record number of daily coronavirus cases, despite being in the midst of a week-long holiday period declared by the government to combat the spread of COVID-19.

According to figures published by the government on Saturday morning, 41,335 new cases of coronavirus have been recorded in the last 24 hours, a record since the beginning of the pandemic.

The country has also recorded 1,888 deaths during the same period, a figure slightly down on Friday’s stats.

Russia is Europe’s most heavily affected country, with more than 8.7 million cases since the start of the health crisis, and a death toll of nearly 450,000 by the end of September.


4. France Urged To Grant Asylum To Russian Prisons Whistle-Blower

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is urging France to grant asylum to a Belarus-born man responsible for last month's massive leak of videos exposing mistreatment, torture, and sexual abuse in Russian prisons.

In a statement on November 5, the Paris-based media-freedom watchdog also called on Russia to drop all charges against Syarhey Savelyeu, who fled to France last month after he released graphic video evidence of hundreds of cases of inmate torture by other inmates at the direction of prison officials.

After placing Savelyeu on a wanted list on October 23 and announcing his "arrest in absentia," Russian authorities are reportedly planning to submit an international wanted notice for the IT specialist to Interpol.

"While such accusations are not new, this is the first time that videos of torture and sexual abuse carried out at the request of the very Russian prison administration have been brought to the public's attention," said Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF's Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk.


5. Greek firefighters clash with police at climate ministry

Police clashed in Athens Friday with protesting firefighters demanding job contracts in the wake of massive wildfires. One firefighter was hurt by a stun grenade and five others were detained after police fired teargas and water cannon to disperse the demonstrators.

The protesters, wearing their firefighting uniforms, blocked traffic outside the newly-created Climate Crisis and Civil Protection Ministry north of the capital.


In the wake of the fires, the government created the new climate crisis ministry, headed by the Cypriot-born former European Union Commissioner Christos Stylianides.


“Contract firefighters put their heart and soul into the effort to battle the fires over the summer," Farandakis said. "They have repeatedly been promised proper jobs. But they have been deceived. I don’t know what kind of disaster has to happen — more fires? more floods? — for the message to get through.”

November 2, 2021

NBC News Poll: 50 percent of Republicans doubt their vote will be counted accurately

Solution: Don't waste your time voting. Just stay home

November 1, 2021

Tbilisi's Soviet Underworld (8 photos)


Beneath the streets of Tbilisi lies a network of tunnels, bomb shelters and Soviet-era chambers that many locals know nothing about. Over the past several months, photographer David Tabagari has been exploring this silent underworld with extraordinary results.

Decaying wagon tracks in a tunnel beneath Tbilisi.

Massive blast doors leading to a bomb shelter beneath Tbilisi.

bottle of vodka named after the infamous Georgian ruler of the Soviet Union in an underground bomb shelter.

Doors of an apparent underground prison discovered by Tabagari.

A barred window in the underground prison

Graffiti apparently dating to the Stalin era inside one of the cells in the underground prison.

A GP-5 gas mask. The masks were distributed in most nuclear fallout shelters in the Soviet Union.

November 1, 2021

Soviet-Era Television Presenter Igor Kirillov Dies

Russian television presenter Igor Kirillov, who was the chief news anchor for state television during the Soviet era, has died aged 89.

For decades, Kirillov was the presenter who informed U.S.S.R. audiences of major news events, including the launch of the Sputnik satellite, communiques issued by the Communist Party, military parades on Moscow's Red Square, and the burials of Soviet leaders at the Kremlin wall.


The cause of death was not given, but sources quoted by Izvestia and Ren-TV said Kirillov's health began to deteriorate in September. The reports indicated he had suffered a thrombosis -- a blood clot. Interfax reported that he had been hospitalized in October.

Kirillov hosted the daily news program Vremya (Time) for more than 20 years.


November 1, 2021

Five Stories from Europe You May Have Missed

1. Seaweed-eating sheep could hold the key to reducing methane emissions

Sheep on the remote Scottish island of North Ronaldsay have a unique diet consisting mainly of seaweed and it has climate scientists excited.


Farm animals belch and fart methane gas which is about 30 times more powerful than carbon dioxide when it comes to trapping heat in the atmosphere. With the world facing a deepening climate emergency, the issue has become a major focus for climate scientists.

The seaweed diet of the Orkney sheep may hold some answers. Scientists say it appears to have an effect on their digestive system resulting in reduced amounts of methane being produced.


Researchers at the University of California, Davis also published results in March showing that a "bit of seaweed in cattle feed could reduce methane emissions from beef cattle as much as 82 per cent".


2. North Macedonia's PM Zaev Announces Resignation Following Election Defeat

North Macedonia's prime minister, Zoran Zaev, announced his resignation after opposition wins in runoff elections on October 31.


"I have brought freedom and democracy, and democracy means taking responsibility," he said.

Zaev's governing coalition endorsed liberal-democratic principles as well as integration into the European Union and NATO. North Macedonia joined NATO in March 2020, but talks for its entry into the EU hit a dispute with Bulgaria that has stalled progress toward accession.

The main battleground in the elections on October 31 was the capital, Skopje, where incumbent Mayor Petre Shilegov, from the ruling Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) lost to Danela Arsovska of the opposition Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for Macedonian Unity (VMRO-DPMNE).


3. Man dies after being gored at bull-running festival in Spain

A man has died after he was gored at a bull-running festival in eastern Spain, the first such fatality in the country since events resumed after Covid-19 curbs were relaxed during the summer.

The 55-year-old, who has not been named, was repeatedly attacked by a bull at a festival in Onda, the town’s council said on Saturday. Other participants tried to entice the animal away but their efforts failed.

A wound to the man’s left thigh perforated an artery and he died in hospital in the nearby town of Villarreal. He also had a head wound.


4. 'He Had Plans, A Girlfriend': Family Doubts Official Claim Russian Soldier Committed Suicide

MURMANSK, Russia -- Two months after 20-year-old conscript Yegor Voronkin arrived at his post in the Murmansk region settlement of Pechenga, he was rushed to a hospital in the city of Severomorsk. For a month, he lay in a coma, fighting for his life. On October 5, he died, never having regained consciousness.

The military’s preliminary finding states that Voronkin died of ethylene glycol poisoning after drinking hydraulic fluid in a suicide attempt.

It is an explanation that Voronkin’s family flatly rejects. They say he had plans to complete his military service and then move to Moscow with his girlfriend.

“He called her almost every day,” the girlfriend’s mother, who asked to be identified only as Alina, told RFE/RL. “Lately they had been trying to persuade him to sign a military contract. He said he had no desire to do so – the salary was only 40,000 rubles ($570) and ‘everyone drinks.’”


5. Greece lets boat packed with Afghan refugees dock after four days at sea

After roaming the high seas for four days as Greece and Turkey haggled over its fate, a cargo ship packed with hundreds of Afghan refugees has been allowed to dock at an Aegean island, with passengers disembarking to apply for asylum.

In what Greece’s migration ministry called “an unusual and special case”, the Turkish-flagged vessel was towed into the port of Kos on Sunday. About 375 passengers, the biggest single influx of asylum seekers in years, were taken to a reception centre on the island. Six others were detained for questioning and one woman was admitted to hospital on the island of Karpathos.

Greek coastguard officials said those onboard were mostly young Afghan males. Many were reported to be hungry and dehydrated after an ordeal that began on Thursday when the freighter, initially bound for Italy, developed engine trouble and sent out a distress signal off the island of Crete, shortly after setting sail from Turkey.


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