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Election Distraction Has Taken Eyes Off Our Economic Ills

Election Distraction Has Taken Eyes Off Our Economic Ills

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Lately it has been difficult to write about the economy because of all the noise flowing from the election and covid-19 hype. There is a growing reluctance to opine by many economic skeptics because it appears we have been wrong on recent predictions. Only time will tell if this is true due to the huge distortions now evident in the markets. Still, all this tends to diminish confidence in the ability to see what is ahead. This has forced not only me, but other economic watchers to go back and question all we hold true.

Unfortunately, other than moving a few pieces around the board, the recent actions by the Fed only continues to move back the day of reckoning. The “extend and pretend illusion” our economy remains on a sound footing is alive and well. One place this is evident is in the area corporate bond market where many bonds now hold an investment-grade BBB rating. If a company or bond is rated BB or lower it is known as junk grade, this means the probability the company will be able to repay its issued debt is seen as speculative.

In this troubling time of covid-19 where companies are being stressed and tested, we have watched the high yield option-adjusted spreads fall back towards pre-covid levels. The fact we have not seen yields rise as lending standers have tightened indicates the Fed has removed the liquidity problem. This has temporarily masked but has not solved the solvency problem. As the “lag time effect” kicks into gear expect a growing number of defaults and bankruptcies to take place.

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Extend-and-Pretend Caused Bankruptcies to Plunge in Germany, France, Spain. Now Central Banks Tell Banks to Prepare for Bankruptcy Surge

Extend-and-Pretend Caused Bankruptcies to Plunge in Germany, France, Spain. Now Central Banks Tell Banks to Prepare for Bankruptcy Surge

The “second wave,” if prolonged, could cause bad loans to almost triple, to €1.4 trillion, says the ECB.

German banks need to prepare themselves for a sharp spike in corporate bankruptcies early next year, the Bundesbank warned this week in its 2020 Financial Stability Review. It anticipates around 6,000 insolvencies in the first quarter of 2021. While this would be a little lower than at the peak quarter of the Global Financial Crisis, the Bundesbank cautioned that it “cannot rule out that … a lot more companies will go bankrupt than is currently expected.”

Although Germany is in the grip of its worst economic contraction since World War 2, fewer insolvencies have been filed this year compared to 2019. This is the result of the weird bailout-and-stimulus economy, and includes these factors:

  • Banks’ broad application of forbearance measures, which has given businesses extra financial leeway;
  • The roll out of state-backed emergency loans and grants for struggling businesses, large and small, which forms the backbone of the country’s €1.3 trillion (so far) stimulus program;
  • Germany’s “Kurzarbeit” social insurance program, which enables employers to reduce their employees’ working hours instead of laying them off, picking up government subsidies in the process.
  • And most importantly, the temporary suspension of bankruptcy-declaration requirements.

Helped along by these measures, the number of firms declaring insolvency in Germany fell 6.2% to 9,006 in the first half of this year from the same period last year, trending at their lowest level in 25 years, even as the economy shrinks at its fastest rate in over 70 years.

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The Great American Oil & Gas Massacre: Bankruptcies Hit New Milestone as Bigger Companies Let Go

The Great American Oil & Gas Massacre: Bankruptcies Hit New Milestone as Bigger Companies Let Go

The American Oil Boom Was Where Money Went to Die.

The amount of secured and unsecured debts, such as loans and bonds, listed in bankruptcy filings in the third quarter by US oil and gas companies, at $34 billion, pushed the total oil-and-gas bankruptcy debt for 2020 to $89 billion, according to data compiled by law firm Haynes and Boone. And this nine-month total already surpassed the full-year total of oil-bust year 2016.

These are predominately exploration and production companies (E&P) and oilfield services companies (OFS) but also include some “midstream” companies (they gather, transport, process, and store oil and natural gas).

In mid-2014, the price of crude-oil benchmark WTI, which had been over $100 a barrel, started plunging. The companies involved in fracking couldn’t even generate positive cash flows at $100 a barrel. And as prices plunged, all heck broke loose. Creditors and equity investors, after drinking the Kool-Aid for years, suddenly got scared, and new money dried up to service the old money. A slew of bankruptcies ensued among the smaller players, reaching a high in 2016. And people thought that was it, the oil bust was over, and new money started pouring back into the sector.

But then came Phase 2 of the Great American Oil-and-Gas Bust in late-2018, with the price of WTI in the futures market eventually collapsing briefly to minus $37 a barrel in April 2020. In recent weeks, WTI has been hovering around $40 a barrel, at which the US oil industry is still burning millions of barrels of cash per day, so to speak:

The total number of oil-and-gas bankruptcies so far this year, at 88 filings, remains a lot lower than the 141 filings in 2016. Back then, scores of small companies were shaken out. Now the bigger ones with multi-billion-dollar debts are letting go as the crisis is working up the ladder.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

A Surge in Small Business Bankruptcies is Underway

A Surge in Small Business Bankruptcies is Underway

The new rules make it easier for small businesses to file for chapter 11. And they are.

Small Businesses Walking Away

In 2008, homeowners walked away from mortgages. 

Thanks to the Small Business Reorganization Act of 2019 (SBRA), in effect as of February 19, 2020, small businesses have an easier shot at doing the same.

For example, the Twisted Root Burger grew quickly, but co-founder now says ‘I’m gonna walk away’ from some locations.

Twisted Root Burger was a Texas success story, expanding from one casual restaurant in 2006 to 24 sites including restaurants, bars, a brewery and a theater. Now, the company is moving fast in another direction—into bankruptcy.

“I’m not gonna open that restaurant at half the revenue,” said co-founder Jason Boso. “I’m gonna walk away from those restaurants. I’m not gonna set myself up for failure.”

More than 500 companies filed for bankruptcy under the small-business bankruptcy rules since February, according to the American Bankruptcy Institute. June was the top month for filings with 131 cases; many were filed in states hit hard by the pandemic like Florida, Texas, California, New York and Illinois.

“It was somewhat prescient,” said Ryan Wagner, a restructuring and bankruptcy attorney with international law firm Greenberg Traurig LLP. “It was passed without the foresight of the pandemic.” The law is the most significant change to the bankruptcy code since 2005.

SBRA Highlights

  • Applies to businesses with $2.7 million in liabilities, raised to $7.5 million under coronavirus stimulus
  • Owners continue operating their business while in court
  • Owners can retain equity after exiting bankruptcy
  • Owners can modify residential mortgages if home was collateral for a business loan
  • Faster turnaround to save time and minimize legal fees
  • Owners generally have three to five years to repay creditors
  • Creditors can be paid based on a business’s projected income

Walking away gets a new lease on life, this time for small businesses.

The Great American Shale Oil & Gas Massacre: Bankruptcies, Defaulted Debts, Worthless Shares, Collapsed Prices of Oil & Gas

The Great American Shale Oil & Gas Massacre: Bankruptcies, Defaulted Debts, Worthless Shares, Collapsed Prices of Oil & Gas

The bankruptcy epicenter is in Texas.

The Great American Oil Bust started in mid-2014, when the price of crude-oil benchmark WTI began its long decline from over $100 a barrel to, briefly, minus -$37 a barrel in April 2020. Bankruptcies of US companies in the oil and gas sector started piling up in 2015. In 2016, the total amount of debt listed in these filings hit $82 billion. Bankruptcy filings continued, with smaller dollar amounts of debt involved. In 2019, the shakeout got rougher.

And this year promises to be a banner year, as larger oil-and-gas companies with billions of dollars in debt collapsed, after having wobbled through the prior years of the oil bust.

The 44 bankruptcy filings in the first half of 2020 among US exploration and production companies (E&P), oilfield services companies (OFS), and “midstream” companies (gather, transport, process, and store oil and natural gas) involved $55 billion in debts, according to data compiled by law firm Haynes and Boone. This first-half total beat all prior full-year totals of the Great American Oil Bust except the full-year total of 2016:

The cumulative amount of secured and unsecured debts that the 446 US oil and gas companies disclosed in their bankruptcy filings from January 2015 through June 2020 jumped to $262 billion:

The three biggies: In the first half of 2020, nine of the 44 US oil and gas companies that filed for bankruptcy listed over $1 billion in debts, including the three biggies with debts ranging from $9 billion to nearly $12 billion, according to data by Haynes and Boone.

These three companies – oil-field services companies Diamond Offshore and McDermott and natural-gas fracking pioneer Chesapeake – are the biggest in terms of debts that have toppled in the Great American Oil Bust so far. Those three companies combined listed $31 billion in debts, accounting for 56% of the $55 billion in total debts listed by all 44 companies to file so far this year:

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Chesapeake Files For Bankruptcy, Wiping Out $7 Billion In Debt And Any Existing Equity Value

Chesapeake Files For Bankruptcy, Wiping Out $7 Billion In Debt And Any Existing Equity Value

After years of melting, the Chesapeake icecube is finally history: at exactly 350pm on Sunday afternoon, the company that launched the US shale boom, finally gave up and filed for a pre-packaged bankruptcy in the Southern District of Texas. In so doing, the company with roughly $9.5 billion in debt has become one of the biggest victims of a spectacular collapse in energy demand from the virus-induced global recession, and follows the collapse of another high-flyer in the US oil patch, Whiting Petroleum, which filed for Chapter 11 at the start of April after championing what was once the premiere U.S. shale field, the Bakken of North Dakota.

As part of its prepack agreement, Chesapeake announced that it had entered into a Restructuring Support Agreement (“RSA”) with 100% of the lenders under its revolving credit facility, holders of approximately 87% of the obligations under its Term Loan Agreement, approximately 60% of its senior secured second lien notes due 2025, and approximately 27% of its senior unsecured notes, pursuant to which Chesapeake will implement a Chapter 11 plan of reorganization to eliminate approximately $7 billion of debt.

Of course, since 73% of unsecured bondholders refused to sign off on the deal, expect a very vicious bankruptcy fight over the recoveries, as hedge funds that accumulated positions in the bonds unleash hell in their fight with the secureds (even as the equity committee claims that all classes above it should be unimpaired).

Also, we have some bad news for Jefferies, which won’t be able to repeat its hilarious attempt to fund the company in bankruptcy by selling stock to Robnhood daytraders: as part of the RSA, the Company has secured $925 million in debtor-in-possession financing lenders under Chesapeake’s revolving credit facility.  The DIP will provide Chesapeake the capital necessary to fund its operations during the Court-supervised Chapter 11 reorganization proceedings.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

30% Of U.S. Shale Drillers Could Go Under

30% Of U.S. Shale Drillers Could Go Under

U.S. shale was one of the big losers of the Saudi-Russian price war that many saw as a war on U.S. shale. Producers scrambled to stay afloat as prices sank back to lows not seen since 2016, and they are still scrambling. Banks are giving them the cold shoulder, worried that many will not be able to pay their debts. Is there a way out? According to various forecasting agencies, there is, but it will take a while. A Bloomberg analysis of forecasts for the shale industry made by outlets such as the International Energy Agency, energy consultancy Rystad, IHS Markit, Genscape, and Enervus suggests shale will be back on its feet by 2023, with production back to over 12 million bpd.

This is not a long time for a full recovery, really, especially given the current circumstances, including shut-in wells, abandoned drilling plans, tight cash, and, for many, looming bankruptcies.

As much as 30 percent of shale drillers could go under if oil prices fail to move substantially higher, Deloitte said in a recent study, as quoted by CNN. These 30 percent, the firm said, are technically insolvent at oil prices of $35 a barrel. Right now, West Texas Intermediate is higher than $35 but not by much. Oil is now trading closer to $35 than to $50—the level at which most shale drillers will be making money.

And they need to make money: banks have started cutting credit lines for industry players as they reassess their assets and the production that they promised would be realized from these assets. According to calculations by Moody’s and JP Morgan, cited by the Wall Street Journal, banks could reduce asset-backed loan availability for the industry by as much as 30 percent, which translates into tens of billions of dollars.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Unique Ways Oil Companies Are Looking To Avoid Bankruptcy

The Unique Ways Oil Companies Are Looking To Avoid Bankruptcy

Many U.S. shale firms have cruised through the past couple of years by borrowing money and drilling new wells, making the United States the world’s top crude oil producer. The strategy worked for a while, especially when oil prices were around $60 a barrel.  

But this year’s oil price crash exposed the financial vulnerability of many U.S. shale companies who are now fighting for survival. All producers across the U.S. patch pulled back production volumes in April and May in response to the collapse in prices.    

For some oil and gas firms, reduced capital budgets will not be enough to save them from defaulting on debt or seeking restructuring as cash flows are shrinking, while the window of access to capital markets and new debt remains, for the most part, closed.

Those firms who choose not to seek (or are not forced to seek) protection from creditors via Chapter 11 restructuring could look at other options to avoid bankruptcy, some of which may be a little unconventional.

Today, unconventional may be an understatement when it comes to describing the oil industry’s state of affairs. All options – regardless of how (un)common they are – are on the table for struggling oil producers.

Industry consolidation, private equity firms acquiring assets or distressed companies, banks ending up holding oil and gas assets, or power utilities buying their providers of energy could be some of the options that oil firms might consider, Suzy Taherian, who worked with Exxon and Chevron at the start of her career, writes in Forbes

Mergers & Acquisitions Hit By Uncertainty 

U.S. shale firms have fewer financing options now than they did in the 2015-2016 downturn. Thus could drive consolidation in the industry with some attractive M&A opportunities emerging, according to Robert Polk, principal analyst with Wood Mackenzie’s U.S. Corporate Research team, covering Lower 48 independents.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Coronavirus Bankruptcy Pandemic Continues

Coronavirus Bankruptcy Pandemic Continues

Hertz has now joined the ranks of filing for bankruptcy as this lockdown has caused car rentals to crash to virtually zero. Of course, Climate Change activists led by Bill Gates are celebrating. They cheer every bankruptcy they have managed to create with the absurd lockdowns were the first time in history you quarantine the entire population rather than just those who are sick.

The total economic destruction we have said is about $30 trillion in businesses. If we add real estate which cannot be sold, that is most likely $35-$45 trillion. Then add on top of that the coming wave of sovereign bond defaults which will include emerging markets that have witnessed their exports collapse. Global GDP is about $90 trillion. The global bond market is about $100 trillion.

Commercial Real Estate is worth about $32 trillion and Agricultural Real Estate about $27 trillion. Total residential Real Estate is about $170 trillion at the end of 2019. If we have to put a number of that we reach about $230 trillion.

The total world equity market at the end of 2019 was nearly $90 trillion.

Therefore, if we add up what I call Capital Formation, this is the combination of real estate, equities, and bonds. This number works out to be about $420 trillion.

Consequently, the economic contraction in just the current GDP of $90 trillion is about $30 trillion, and Capital Formation is probably about  $120 trillion illiquid out of $420 trillion if they even tried to sell.  Anyone who thinks that governments can possibly stimulate their way out of this or create hyperinflation by spending even $10 trillion are not taking into consideration the full scope of this economic collapse.

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California Just Put Washington in this Economic “Catch-22”

California Just Put Washington in this Economic “Catch-22”

California catch
Photo by Flickr.com CC BY | Photoshopped

Government bailouts are being revived, and this time, unlike during the 2008 recession, it appears large financial companies won’t be the only ones asking for help.

The problem is, the government may not be able to help this time.

In response to a bloated state budget and a massive debt of over $550 billion, Newsmax reports that California Governor Gavin Newsom is looking for a bailout from the federal government:

Without an infusion of at least $14 billion from Congress, Newsom said the state would have to cut billions to public schools, not to mention hundreds of millions for preschool, child care and higher education programs. It’ll also need to eat into health benefits for the poor, among other things.

“The enormity of the task at hand cannot just be borne by a state,” Newsom said. “The federal government has a moral and ethical and economic obligation to help support the states.”

Obviously, Newsom’s decision to impose lockdowns in response to the coronavirus pandemic, resulting in more than 746,000 unemployed, partly explains the sudden need for cash.

Economist Robert Wenzel thinks the “lockdown is projected to lead to a state budget shortfall this year of $54 billion,” which is bound to make things more complicated.

Wenzel added another sharp critique of Newsom’s request for a bailout, and a comparison to Greece’s economic bust in 2007:

[Newsom] is now in begging mode just like Greece was, but, whereas a lot of Greece’s financial trouble was about paying off old debt, California’s problem is about running the current state government (and also local governments).

It sure seems like California has been playing a dangerous debt game, first ignoring economic realities prior to the pandemic, and then asking the federal government to send bags of cash so things can keep running smoothly.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

What is Really the Game with the Bailouts?

What is Really the Game with the Bailouts?

There is a major crisis economically unfolding and the markets are not yet taking into account the seriousness of the economic damage. I have explained that this is a Coronavirus Bankruptcy Pandemic which has put about 30% of the retail service industry in the crosshairs of insolvency. But there are smaller municipal governments that are also bankrupt as we see with some of the first filings starting to unfold here in May.

With nearly 80% of the civil workforce employed in the service sector, these schemes of keeping the economy locked down are profoundly dangerous. They fail to realize that this is undermining society in a major way that it is not going to return to normal even with Bill Gates’ certificates to prove you have been vaccinated by him personally.

The Democratic states are refusing to open up when there is no real justification to keep their economies closed. What is really going on behind the curtain is a clever trick. The $1 trillion that Pelosi was stuffing in the Democratic Bill is money to bail out state and municipal governments which have been going broke because of their unfunded pensions.

The scheme is to crash their economies and then blame everything on the virus and then blame Trump for not bailing them out for the 2020 election. This is a very clever scheme being relayed in whispers from behind the curtain. They are using this virus as cover to bail out 70 years of fiscal mismanagement.

Bankrupt Cities And States Get The National Disaster They’ve Been Hoping For

Bankrupt Cities And States Get The National Disaster They’ve Been Hoping For

The people running states like New Jersey and cities like Chicago know they’re broke. Ridiculously generous public employee pensions – concocted by elected officials and union leaders who had to have understood that they were writing checks their taxpayers couldn’t cover – are bleeding them dry, with no political solution in sight.

They also know that they have only two possible outs: bankruptcy, or some form of federal bailout. Since the former means a disgraceful end to local political careers while the latter requires some kind of massive crisis to push Washington into a place where a multi-trillion dollar state/city bailout is the least bad option, it’s safe to assume that mayors and governors – along with public sector union leaders – have been hoping for such a crisis to save their bacon.

And this year they got their wish. The country is on lockdown, unemployment is skyrocketing and mayors and governors now have a plausible way to rebrand their criminal mismanagement as a “natural disaster” deserving of outside help.

Here, for instance, is an estimate of how high unemployment will spike for various states. Note that overall it’s brutal, but the distribution isn’t what you might expect:

And here’s a table of state rainy day funds (i.e., cash on hand). To their credit, oil-producing states had the discipline to save against that commodity’s inevitable price fluctuations. Other states apparently didn’t see the need:

Illinois, which has the most underfunded pensions but, interestingly, a relatively healthy labor market, apparently had its natural disaster bailout plan prepped and printed before COVID-19 was invented and released. Because governor Gov. J.B. Pritzker almost instantly had his hand out for – get this – $41 billion, a sum equal to three times the state’s estimated pandemic-related revenue loss in the coming year. Overall, governors have asked for about $500 billion in aid.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

FIRST SHALE OIL DOMINO TO FALL: More to Follow

FIRST SHALE OIL DOMINO TO FALL: More to Follow

In a stunning news release, Continental Resources, the largest shale producer in the Bakken, is shutting in most of its production in the region.  That is one hell of a lot of output to shut-in as Continental Resources was producing over 200,000 barrels per day in the Bakken at the end of 2019.

From the data on Shaleprofile.com, Continental Resources had over 2,200 wells in the North Dakota and Montana Bakken producing oil and gas during February this year.  How many wells will Continental’s Harold Hamm shut in the Bakken??  And how many will be brought back online, at to what cost, when the market recovers??

According to Reuters, Continental Resources halts shale output, seeks to cancel sales:

April 23 (Reuters) – The largest oil producer in North Dakota has halted most of its production in the state, notifying some customers it would not supply crude at current pricing, according to people familiar with the matter.

Continental Resources Inc, the company controlled by billionaire Harold Hamm, stopped all drilling and shut in most of its wells in the state’s Bakken shale field, said three people familiar with production in the state. North Dakota is the second-largest oil-producing state in the United States after Texas.

This is terrible news for the U.S. Shale Oil Industry because $200 billion in debt is due over the next four years.  How are they going to repay this debt if shale companies stop drilling and shutting in production??

If we look at the top five shale oil producers in the Bakken, Continental Resources was clearly ahead of the pack:

This chart from Shaleprofile.com shows that Continental Resources produced more than 200,000 barrels per day in the Bakken at the end of 2019.  Hess, which is the second-ranked company, followed by a wide margin at 145,000 barrels per day.  Interestingly, the third-largest producer in the Bakken is Whiting Petroleum that just filed for Bankruptcy on April 1st.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Bankrupting America

Bankrupting America

Bankrupting America

Source: AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Two weeks ago, President Donald Trump signed the largest stimulus bill in U.S. history: more than $2 trillion.

For once, both Republicans and Democrats agreed. The Senate voted 96-0. The House didn’t even bother with a formal vote.

At the White House, a reporter asked the president, pointing out that the bill includes $25 million for the Kennedy Center, “Shouldn’t that money be going to masks?”

“The Kennedy Center has suffered greatly because nobody can go there,” Trump responded. “They do need some funding. And look — that was a Democrat request. That was not my request. But you got to give them something.”

“Something” they got. The bill includes $25 million for Congressional salaries, $50 million for an Institute of Museum and Library Services and lots of other wasteful things.

Only a few politicians were wary. Rep. Thomas Massie complained that he wasn’t even allowed to speak against the bill.

Rep. Alex Mooney asked: “How do you pay for it? Borrow it from China, borrow it from Russia? Are we going to print the money?”

Those are good questions.

Our national debt is already $24 trillion. Now it will jump, percentage-wise, to where Greece’s debt was shortly before unemployment there hit 27%.

Greece was bailed out by the European Union. But the United States can’t be bailed out by others.

How will we pay off our debt? That’s the topic of my new video.

There are really three options:

1. Raise taxes.

2. Print money.

3. Default.

Let’s consider each:

1. Raising taxes on rich people is popular. Even Michael Bloomberg wants “higher taxes on billionaires” like him.

But raising taxes on the rich often kills the wealth and jobs some rich people create. And it won’t solve our debt problem. Even if we took all the billionaires’ wealth — reducing their net worth to zero — it would cover only an eighth of our debt.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Whiting Petroleum Files For Prepackaged Bankruptcy

Whiting Petroleum Files For Prepackaged Bankruptcy

Talk about a coincidence: just as we were discussing why April would be “apocalyptic” for the oil industry, as Saudi Arabia just unleashed an unprecedented record amount of oil to buyers in a scramble to put its high-priced competitors out of business, warning that “countless oil producers would file for bankruptcy”, former shale darling Whiting Petroleum did just that, filing a pre-packaged Chapter 11 deal in the Southern District of Texas Bankruptcy Court after reaching an agreement with certain note holders to pursue a “comprehensive” and “consensual” financial restructuring.

Whiting, which in Q4 pumped 123,000 bpd of which 80,000 bpd was nat gas, said it concluded that given a “severe downturn” in oil and gas prices resulting from the Saudi Arabia-Russia oil price war and COVID-19-related impact on demand a financial restructuring was the “best path forward.” Creditors may disagree: the company’s bonds due March 2021 were trading at par as recently as mid-January, even though we warned as far back as 2015 that it would be the first company to go under: truly a testament to how idiotic the junk bond market has been for the past 4 years.

The company said that the plan provides for de-leveraging of capital structure by more than $2.2 billion, and listed $1-$10 billion in debt and more than $585 million of cash on its balance sheet, noting that it expects to have sufficient liquidity to meet its financial obligations during the restructuring without the need for additional financing.

More importantly, it will continue to operate its business and pump oil for the duration of the Chapter 11 proceedings, meaning that oil production won’t decline by even one drop.

The bankruptcy press release is below:

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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