Strategic Elements' The Weekender

The Weekender: Fireworks Prices Skyrocket


  • 2%: Growth of the U.S. economy at annualized pace in the first quarter of 2023.
  • 11%: The number of open jobs on LinkedIn which offer remote work in the U.S.
  • 95%: The projected percentage of peach loss in Georgia due to unprecedented heat.
  • 7,500: The number of flights canceled since last Saturday.
  • 26,000: The drop in U.S. unemployment benefits applications from last week.
  • $1 Billion: The projected spending of Republican Presidential campaigns during primary season.

The Most Dangerous Threat Since WW2?

Nikki Haley, GOP Presidential hopeful and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, presented her foreign policy platform in a recent speech where she deemed China as “the most dangerous foreign threat we’ve faced since the Second World War.” She says that as President Biden is wrought with ambivalence over China, Chinese President Xi Jinping is putting his war axe to grind. Her strategy: to strengthen military relations with Japan, South Korea, and Australia while forging bonds with India and the Philippines. She would rally European nations to understand the threat posed by China.

Haley proposes providing Taiwan with military resources to defend itself from Chinese influence. China claims Taiwan as its own, although the island country has governed itself independently since 1949. Last week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated that the United States does not support Taiwanese independence after a meeting with President Xi Jinping as confirmation to not rile aggression from China. According to the Pew Research Center, 83% of U.S. adults have negative views of China and roughly 40% of Americans describe China as an enemy of the United States, rather than a competitor or partner.

Read More at FOX News



ChatGPT: In college, it’s cheating. In Congress, it’s . . . being ‘evaluated’

Congressional staffers, known for their aptitude in generating talking points and memos at lightning speed, are unsurprisingly fans of ChatGPT. While AI enables them to create more persuasive language at record-breaking speeds, the House of Representatives is reeling back access to the system. The Chief Administrative Officer this week released a memo saying House staffers are only authorized to use the $20-per-month ChatGPT Plus, which has more advanced privacy features.

The Committee on House Administration also said the system may only be used with all privacy settings enabled for research and evaluation purposes with non-sensitive data. Congress is not the first entity to restrict its employees from using ChatGPT. Apple, Goldman Sachs, and Samsung banned their employees from using it during work. Italy took unprecedented action to outright ban the entire tool earlier this year. While ChatGPT remains one of the quickest ways to generate long-form content, many are starting to realize that it may also be one of the quickest ways to leak confidential information to the internet.

Read More at Axios

The Lab Grown Chicken or the Egg

The U.S. Department of Agriculture last week greenlit two California companies to sell “lab-grown meat” to restaurants nationwide. The authorization signals continued research and development of meat-substances that do not involve animals; rather, the cells are grown in a laboratory. Proponents claim the innovation will eliminate animal harm while drastically reducing the environmental impacts of raising livestock, including water usage and carbon emissions. Opponents point to the economic benefits of the agricultural industry, which creates 186,000 jobs and billions of dollars in revenue in SE’s home state of Iowa alone.

The closest comparison of the economic outlook for lab-grown meat is the rise in popularity of alternative milks, including oat, soy, and almond. McKinsey & Company found that in this battle, dairy milk wins. Its study found that 71% of Americans exclusively drink dairy products, 24% drink both dairy and alternative products, and only 5% exclusively drink plant-based alternatives.

Read More at The Associated Press

Time to Deploy the SWAT Teams

Mosquitos are the fourth most-hated insect in the United States, but recent news may increase their chances of ranking higher. Four people in Sarasota County, Florida, and one in Cameron County, Texas, contracted malaria within the borders of the U.S. from a mosquito bite this year. This marks the first time in two decades someone in the U.S. contracted the disease without traveling abroad. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) responded to the diagnoses by saying that a person’s risk of contracting malaria remains “extremely low,” and that people should not panic.

While there are more than 240 million yearly infections, 95% of cases occur in African countries. Malaria has not been a concern in the U.S. for decades since the National Malaria Eradication Program was initiated in the 1940s and 1950s.

Generally, malaria has three phases: a cold stage of chills, a hot stage of fever and potentially seizures in children, and a sweating phase where patients return to normal temperature. If left untreated, it can cause kidney failure, comas, and death. Symptoms typically begin 10 to 15 days after infection, although they can be delayed for up to a year after infection. Today, there are several anti-malarial drugs to combat the disease once a patient is infected since there is not yet a malaria vaccine. The CDC recommends that people are aware of malaria and its impact, but underscores that malaria is highly unlikely to make a domestic resurgence. They also offer advice on how to prevent getting bitten.

Read More at The Washington Post

Shop Small: Private Equities Edition

The buyout titans are settling for morsels over mountains. Amid economic uncertainty and soaring borrowing costs, the most prolific private equity firms like Blackstone and KKR are now choosing to buy smaller companies rather than the large ones they used to prize. Volatile markets, more expensive debt, bank financing, and other factors are causing private equity (PE) to tone down their takeovers. Today’s average PE-backed deal is 50% of what it was last year at $65.93 million; in the heart of 2008’s financial crisis, the average was $66.84 million.

Firms see safety in the smaller acquisitions because they often do not require as much debt to finance and smaller companies can potentially be integrated into other companies in their portfolios. Debt reduction is one of the main drivers of the small deal preference. Historically, buyout firms finance roughly half of a large purchase with 50% debt acquisition; smaller firms are bought with a fraction of that debt level. Although smaller firms slow down the investing process, can be hotly contested, bring fewer financial data, and have less-experienced management, the private equity giants can satiate their hunger by chasing many lambs rather than limited lions.

Read More at The Wall Street Journal

The Cost of Independence

In the land of the free, the celebration of freedom certainly is not, with prices on many Fourth of July favorites skyrocketing like fireworks. According to the American Farm Bureau, the cost of beef has increased by 4%, hamburger buns by 17%, and even the price of your mom’s homemade potato salad increased by 5%. The star of many cookouts – fireworks – has blown up in price by over 25%. Lingering high inflation rates and widespread drought are said to be the most significant contributors to these price increases.

Fortunately, many prices have fallen this Independence Day, with chicken down 9% and lemonade down 16%. Take heart: in many industries, inflation is starting to slow, so next year’s celebration may be more budget-friendly. This Fourth of July, have fun celebrating, but don’t forget to watch the price tags!

Read More at Ag Web


Russian Mercenary Leader Exiled to Belarus

Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of the Russian mercenary force Wagner Group, has fled in exile to Belarus under an agreement that ended his organization’s brief mutiny against Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Wagner Group is a team of mercenaries who have fought in the deadliest battles in the Ukraine War that led to severe casualties. Prigozhin launched the Wagner Group’s mutiny in a bid to save his group from being absorbed into the Russian military, which would have placed it under the command of the defense ministry.

Although the protest was short-lived, it lasted long enough for Wagner forces to shoot down five Russian helicopters and the prized Ilyushin Il-22M Coot aerial command plane invaluable to Russian air force coordination. The Il-22M planes, of which only 30 exist, serve as the spearhead of the Russian air force, and Ukrainian forces have gone to extreme lengths to target them with no success. The mutiny ended in an agreement between President Putin and Prigozhin. President Putin praised his armed forces for averting a civil war that would have been detrimental to his offensive in Ukraine. Putin claims that the resolution underscores the vigilance of his army and the strength of his negotiating power.

Russian authorities dropped all charges against Prigozhin, a former Putin ally, as part of the deal which led to his exile. Ukraine sees the Russian in-fighting as an opportunity to retake its territory from Russian aggression.

Read More at Axios




See you next week!

Be sure to follow us on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn for more news and industry updates. To receive a copy of The Weekender in your inbox, sign up here.