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Bubbles Everywhere: All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Hide

Bubbles Everywhere: All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Hide

Economist Robert Shiller says there is no alternative to riding out bubbles.

Please consider Stock Market Crash Near? Nobel Laureate Sees ‘Bubbles Everywhere’

When Nobel Laureate and “Irrational Exuberance” author Robert Shiller says he sees bubbles in the financial markets — you’d better listen up. He literally wrote the book on stock market crashes and bubbles after all.

“I see bubbles everywhere,” Shiller, economics professor at Yale University and author of just-published “Narrative Economics” told investors gathered in Los Angeles Wednesday. “There’s no place to go. You just have to ride it out. You invest even though you expect the price to decline.” Shiller famously predicted the 2000 stock market crash and the 2007 crash of the housing market.

Shiller says the housing market is in a bubble phase, not unlike 2005. That was the point the housing bubble was inflated, but yet to go parabolic. “It’s like 2005 again,” Shiller said. “San Francisco and L.A. are already slowing down.” That’s a “bad indicator,” he said, as those markets have been going up for years.

No Place to Go?!

I do not care about books or past predictions.

I care about logic of the moment.

For starters, if housing was like “2005 again“, San Francisco and LA would not be “already slowing down.” But that is nitpicking.

Here’s the important issue: On an individual basis, It is absurd to say there is “no place to go“.

Places to Hide

  1. Gold
  2. US Dollar
  3. Foreign Currencies
  4. US treasuries 5-year or less

 It is impossible for all of those to decline at the same time. Heck it is impossible for 2 and 3 to decline at the same time except compared to gold or some other asset, which of course implies somewhere else to hide.

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

What the Hell is the ECB Doing?

What the Hell is the ECB Doing?

Danielle DiMartino poses an interesting question regarding the ECB. I have a set of answers.

What is the ECB Doing?

I started thinking about that question weeks ago.

I have a set of answers and even started writing this post before DiMartino brought it to the forefront.

There are only two answers. One of them is very unsettling.

  1. Ignorance
  2. On Purpose

Occam’s Razor

Occam’s razor is a principle from philosophy. Suppose there exists two explanations for an occurrence. In this case the one that requires the least amount of assumptions is usually correct. Another way of saying it is that the more assumptions you have to make, the more unlikely an explanation.

Occam’s Razor typically eliminates most conspiracy theories. It’s not that conspiracies don’t happen, but that simpler solutions are far more likely.

My corollary to the theory is very easy to understand: If stupidity is one of the possible answers, it is the most likely answer.

I am a normally a big fan of Occam’s Razor.

But this is so bizarre that I have my doubts.

Importantly, this may not be a conspiracy at all. Mario Draghi can easily be acting alone.

My Lead Question

How stupid can things get before one starts believing something else is in play?

I had already been thinking about that question when not only did ECB president Mario Draghi further push interest rates into negative territory but he also said it was a good idea for the ECB to think about MMT.

Shocking ECB Dissent

Dissent at the Fed happens all the time. It is rare at the ECB. The ECB builds a consensus and it is typically unanimous.

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

Lagarde Praises Negative Rates, Study Shows They Reduce Lending

Lagarde Praises Negative Rates, Study Shows They Reduce Lending

Incoming IMF chief Christine Lagarde says negative rates have helped Europe more than they’ve hurt. I disagree.

The nearly always wrong Christine Lagarde is wrong once again.

Today she claims Negative Rates Have Helped Europe More Than They’ve Hurt.

The next head of the European Central Bank, Christine Lagarde, appears to be as much of a fan of negative interest rates as the current chief, Mario Draghi.

European banks have complained about the impact on profitability, but even there the current managing director of the International Monetary Fund defended the move.

“On the one hand, banks may decide to pass the negative deposit rate on to depositors, lowering the interest rates the latter get on their savings,” she wrote. “On the other hand, the same depositors are also consumers, workers, and borrowers. As such they benefit from stronger economic momentum, lower unemployment and lower borrowing costs. All things considered, in the absence of the unconventional monetary policy adopted by the ECB – including the introduction of negative interest rates – euro area citizens would be, overall, worse off.”

Negative Rates Actually Cut Lending

Research shows Negative Rates Actually Cut Lending.

Central banks’ negative interest rates were supposed to increase spending, stop deflation and stimulate the economy. They may have done the exact opposite.

According to research from the University of Bath, central banks charging commercial banks to hold excess cash reserves have actually decreased lending. That’s because the additional costs reduce banks’ profit margins, leading to a drop in loan growth.

“This is a good example of unintended consequences,” said Dr. Ru Xie of the university’s School of Management, one of the study’s authors. “Negative interest rate policy has backfired, particularly in an environment where banks are already struggling with profitability.”

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

Barron’s Nonsensical Idea: Cut Rates Like Mad to Avoid Recession

Barron’s Nonsensical Idea: Cut Rates Like Mad to Avoid Recession

Barron’s writer Matthew Klein proposes to stop the recession by cutting interest rates like it’s 1995.

Klein says How to Avoid a Recession? Cut Interest Rates Like It’s 1995.

One of the most reliable harbingers of U.S. recession—short-term interest rates on U.S. Treasury debt higher than longer-term yields—has been flashing warning signs for months. That doesn’t mean the economy is doomed to a downturn.

So-called yield-curve inversions have preceded every U.S. downturn since the 1950s, with only one false positive in 1966. This past week, the yield on two-year Treasuries briefly surpassed the yield on 10-year notes for this first time since 2007. The most straightforward explanation is that traders…

Absurd Notion

The rest of the article is behind a paywall, but I can tell you with 100% certainly Klein’s notion is absurd.

Inverted yield curves do not cause recessions. They are symptoms of a buildup of excess debt or other fundamental problems.

Those problems will not not go away if the Fed “cuts rates like 1995” or even like 2008.

If a zero percent interest rate stopped recessions, Japan would not have had a half-dozen recessions in the past decades that it did have, many without inversions.

Not even negative rates can stop recessions.

The Eurozone, especially Germany, has negative rates. Yet, it’s highly likely the Eurozone is in recession now and even more likely Germany is (with the rest of the Eurozone to follow).

Monetary Madness

As a prime example of global monetary madness, witness Inverted Negative Yields in Germany and Negative Rate Mortgages.

Even if the Fed made a 100 basis point cut (four quarter point cuts at once), what the heck would that do?

Stop recession for how long? Zero months? Six months? And at what expense?

What Then?

Yes, what then? Negative mortgages? A 10-year yield of -1.0% like Switzerland.

And if that doesn’t work?

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

Recession Looms: Cass Freight Index Negative for 7th Month

Recession Looms: Cass Freight Index Negative for 7th Month

According to Cass, “Freight shipments signal economic contraction”.

The Economic Outlook from Freight’s Perspective is not promising.

  • With the -5.3% drop in June following the -6.0% drop in May, we repeat our message from last month: the shipments index has gone from “warning of a potential slowdown” to “signaling an economic contraction.”
  • May and June’s drops are significant enough to pose the question, “Will the Q2 ’19 GDP be negative?”
  • We acknowledge that all of these negative percentages are against extremely tough comparisons; and the Cass Shipments Index has gone negative before without being followed by a negative GDP.
  • The weakness in spot market pricing for many transportation services, especially trucking, is consistent with the negative Cass Shipments Index and, along with airfreight and railroad volume data, strengthens our concerns about the economy and the risk of ongoing trade policy disputes. Weakness in commodity prices and the decline in interest rates have joined the chorus of signals calling for an economic contraction.
  • We are concerned about the severe declines in international airfreight volumes (especially in Asia) and the ongoing swoon in railroad volumes, especially in auto and building materials.
  • We see the weakness in spot market pricing for transportation services, especially in trucking, as consistent with and a confirmation of the negative trend in the Cass Shipments Index.
  • As volumes of chemical shipments have lost momentum, our concerns of the global slowdown spreading to the U.S., and the trade dispute reaching a ‘point of no return’ from an economic perspective, grow.

European Airfreight

European airfreight volumes have been negative since March 2018, but only by a small single-digit margins (-1% to -3%), until November 2018. Unfortunately, since then, volumes have started to further deteriorate. Our European Airfreight Index was down a concerning -7.2% in April, only down -2.6% in May, before dropping -7.9% in June. Although by itself distressing, it’s the Asian data that has become the most alarming.

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

Not Winning: Collapse in Global Trade Escalates, Imports -2.7%, Exports -4.0%

Not Winning: Collapse in Global Trade Escalates, Imports -2.7%, Exports -4.0%

Those who claim that Trump has already won or is sure to win the trade war need to ponder actual trade results.

Exports rose 1.0% in March with imports up a reported 0.9%. That progress was taken away and then some in April.

The Census Bureau Advance Trade report shows the balance of trade widened by 0.3%. The details, as noted by Econoday are downright ugly.

Sharp declines in exports are unwelcome headlines in April’s advance data on goods trade. The monthly deficit remains very deep, at $72.1 billion with exports falling 4.2 percent year-on-year and with imports also down, 2.7 percent lower. The deficit compares unfavorably with a $71.3 billion monthly average in the first quarter that marks a weak opening for net exports in the second quarter.

Capital goods are the US’s largest exports and these fell 6.5 percent in the month to $44.3 billion. Compared with April last year, capital goods exports are down 3.7 percent. Auto exports are also down, 7.2 percent lower to $12.9 billion and 6.7 percent below last year. The only export component showing a gain is food & feeds which rose 0.5 percent to $11.2 billion but which is nevertheless 6.2 percent below April last year.

The decline on the import side is also led by a 3.5 percent decline for capital goods ($55.4 billion) but also includes 3.1 percent and 2.3 percent monthly declines in autos ($30.9 billion) and consumer goods ($54.2 billion) as well as a 1.1 percent drop in foods ($12.8 billion).

Global trade figures have been contracting and the latest US numbers are part of that picture. Today’s report gets second-quarter GDP, already held down by contractions for April retail sales and industrial production, off to a slow start.

Note that country balances aren’t posted with the advance report but will follow with the subsequent international trade report that will also include data on services.

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

Lacy Hunt Blasts MMT and Speaks of Hyperinflation If Implemented

Lacy Hunt Blasts MMT and Speaks of Hyperinflation If Implemented

In the Hoisington First Quarter Review, Lacy Hunt blasts MMT as “self-perpetuating” inflation.

Please consider the Hoisington Investment Quarterly Outlook for the first quarter of 2019.

MMT Leads to Hyperinflation

Under existing statutes, Fed liabilities, which they can create without limits, are not permitted to be used to pay U.S. government expenditures. As such, the Fed’s liabilities are not legal tender. They can only purchase a limited class of assets, such as U.S. Treasury and federal agency securities, from the banks, who in turn hold the proceeds from this sale in a reserve account at one of the Federal Reserve banks. There is currently, however, a real live proposal to make the Fed’s liabilities legal tender so that the Fed can directly fund the expenditures of the federal government – this is MMT – and it would require a change in law, i.e. a rewrite of the Federal Reserve Act.

This is not a theoretical exercise. Harvard Professor Kenneth Rogoff, writing in ProjectSyndicate.org (March 4, 2019), states “A number of leading U.S. progressives, who may well be in power after the 2020 elections, advocate using the Fed’s balance sheet as a cash cow to fund expansive new social programs, especially in view of current low inflation and interest rates.” How would MMT be implemented and what would be the economic implications? The process would be something like this: The Treasury would issue zero maturity and zero interest rate liabilities to the Fed, who in turn, would increase the Treasury’s balances at the Federal Reserve Banks. The Treasury, in turn, could spend these deposits directly to pay for programs, personnel, etc. Thus, the Fed, which is part of the government, would be funding its parent with a worthless IOU.

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

Zombified Economy: What Will the Next Recession Look Like?

Zombified Economy: What Will the Next Recession Look Like?

The short answer is nothing like the last.

If you search for “next recession” numerous ideas pop up. Many believe there will not be a recession soon.

Condition Comparison

Conditions are radically different than in 2007 and 2000.

The Fed re-blew a housing price bubble but the number of jobs tied to construction, sales, CDOs, agents and even the impact on banks is a shell of what happened then.

Technology is bubbly, but not like 2000. This is how I see things.

  1. We will not have bank failures in the US.
  2. There will be major bank failures or bail-ins in Europe.
  3. Housing will not have a major role but will strengthen the recession.
  4. Millennials simply cannot afford houses so housing will not lead a Fed attempt at a recovery even if interest rates plunge.
  5. Low interest rates will keep zombie companies alive for a while longer .
  6. Proliferation of retail stores, Walmart, Target, everything requires minimum staffing levels no matter how poor sales become.
  7. Unemployment will not rise much like last time. Instead, expect to see hours cut.Also expect for many of those currently working two jobs to lose one of them.
  8. Retail sales will plunge with the reduction in work.
  9. The impact of the above is very weak profits but not massive labor disruption
  10. Stocks will get clobbered as earnings take a huge hit.
  11. Junk bonds also get clobbered on fears of rolling over debt.
  12. This malaise can potentially last for years.

Zombified Economy

Japan is in a state of zombification and Europe is on the verge.

The US may not and likely will not go through Japanese-like extremes just yet. However, the demography setup is poor, the student debt problem is a huge overhang, boomers unprepared for retirement is a huge overhang, and pensions are a huge overhang.

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

Real Reason Trump Wants to Ban Huawei: US Wants to Spy and China Won’t Cooperate

Real Reason Trump Wants to Ban Huawei: US Wants to Spy and China Won’t Cooperate

The UK, Germany, India, and the United Arab Emirates are among the countries resisting US pressure to Ban Huawei.

The New York Times reports U.S. Campaign to Ban Huawei Overseas Stumbles as Allies Resist.

Over the past several months, American officials have tried to pressure, scold and, increasingly, threaten other nations that are considering using Huawei in building fifth-generation, or 5G, wireless networks. Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, has pledged to withhold intelligence from nations that continue to use Chinese telecom equipment. The American ambassador to Germany cautioned Berlin this month that the United States would curtail intelligence sharing if that country used Huawei.

But the campaign has run aground. Britain, Germany, India and the United Arab Emirates are among the countries signaling they are unlikely to back the American effort to entirely ban Huawei from building their 5G networks. While some countries like Britain share the United States’ concerns, they argue that the security risks can be managed by closely scrutinizing the company and its software.

The United States is not ready to admit defeat, but its campaign has suffered from what foreign officials say is a scolding approach and a lack of concrete evidence that Huawei poses a real risk. It has also been hampered by a perception among European and Asian officials that President Trump may not be fully committed to the fight.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly undercut his own Justice Department, which unveiled sweeping criminal indictments against Huawei and its chief financial officer with accusations of fraud, sanctions evasion and obstruction of justice. Mr. Trump has suggested that the charges could be dropped as part of a trade deal with China. The president previously eased penalties on another Chinese telecom firm accused of violating American sanctions, ZTE, after a personal appeal by President Xi Jinping of China.

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

ECB Warns Slowdown Isn’t Temporary: Draghi Announces Bold Stimulus Plan

ECB Warns Slowdown Isn’t Temporary: Draghi Announces Bold Stimulus Plan

Mario Draghi surprised even the doves with his bold new stimulus plan. It won’t help one iota.

The Wall Street Journal reports ECB Reverses Course With New Stimulus Measures.

The European Central Bank made a major policy reversal Thursday, unveiling plans for fresh measures to stimulate the eurozone’s faltering economy less than three months after phasing out a €2.6 trillion ($2.9 trillion) bond-buying program, making it the first rich-country central bank to ease policy in response to the global slowdown.

The ECB said it would hold interest rates at their current levels at least through the end of this year—months longer than previously signaled—and announced plans for a fresh batch of cheap long-term loans for banks. The first loans will be launched in September, each with a maturity of two years.

Despite the new stimulus, ECB President Mario Draghi said that the risks to the economy remain prevalent, though the likelihood of a recession is very low. Thursday’s decision was unanimous, he said at a press conference. “Given the complexity of the package, I think this is a very positive sign,” he added. The ECB also slashed is forecast for gross domestic product growth this year to 1.1% from 1.7% in December. It lowered its inflation projection to 1.2% from 1.6%, further below the ECB’s target of just under 2%.

Still, the ECB refrained from more extreme measures such as restarting its bond-buying program or cutting its deposit rate further from minus 0.4%. These options weren’t discussed, Mr. Draghi said. “In a dark room, you move with tiny steps,” he said.

Bold New Plans

Please consider ECB’s Draghi Surprised Colleagues with Bold Stimulus Plans.

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi caught even dovish rate-setters off guard by pushing on Thursday for unexpectedly generous stimulus after forecasts showed a large drop in economic growth, four sources familiar with the discussion said.

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

Stupidity Well Anchored: Absurdity of Inflation Expectations in Graphic Form

Stupidity Well Anchored: Absurdity of Inflation Expectations in Graphic Form

The amount of sheer nonsense written about inflation expectations is staggering.

Let’s take a look at some recent articles before making a mockery of them with a single picture.

by Mish

Expectations Problem

On July 17, 2017, Rich Miller writing for Bloomberg proclaimed The Fed Has an Inflation Expectations Problem.

Expectations matter because they shape how households and companies act and thus can go a long way in determining where inflation actually ends up. Consumers accustomed to meager inflation will resist paying up for goods and services.
“Lower inflation expectations make it all the more difficult for the central bank to achieve its inflation objective,” Charles Evans, president of the Chicago Fed, said in remarks posted on the bank’s website on July 14.

Key Element

The Business Insider says The Fed is missing a key sign of economic weakness coming from American consumers.

Andrew Levin, a career Fed economist who was a special adviser to Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, told Business Insider he was worried by a noticeable decline in inflation expectations, both as reflected in consumer surveys and bond-market rates.
“The reality is that the longer-term inflation expectations of consumers and investors have shifted downward by about a half percentage point. Thus, even with the economy moving towards full employment, it’s not surprising that core PCE inflation remains about a half percentage point below the Fed’s inflation target,” he said, referring to a closely watched reading indicator that excludes food and energy costs.
“If the FOMC continues to ignore the downward drift in inflation expectations and simply proceeds with its intended path of policy tightening, actual inflation is likely to keep falling short of the Fed’s target and might well decline even further,” he said.

Janet Yellen Yesterday

In a brief speech following yesterday’s FOMC announcement Janet Yellen made these statements.

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

China Trade Data is Nail in the Coffin of Global Economy

Chinese exports and imports even though China’s trade balance with the US rose.

Eamonn Sheridan at Forex Live has some interesting comments on China’s December Trade Balance.

The export figures are a focus and they are poor indeed. But save some space in the barf bag for the import results, they are terrible – huge miss on these.

Demand in China has been showing evidence of slowing. This is a nail in the coffin.

December 2018 Data – Yuan Terms

  • China trade balance comes in at CNY 395bn, expected CNY 345bn, prior was CNY 306bn
  • Exports 0.2% y/y, expected 6.6%, prior was 10.2%… BIG MISS
  • Imports -3.1% y/y, expected 12.0%, prior was 7.8% … even bigger miss

December 2018 Data – US Dollar Terms

  • China trade balance USD 57.06bn, expected $51.6bn, prior was $44.7bn
  • Exports -4.4% y/y, expected 2.0%, prior 5.4%
  • Imports -7.6% y/y, expected 4.5%, prior was 3.0%

Tariff Man

Brad Setser on Twitter
Brad Setser on Twitter

Chinese Investment in the US Slumps to 7-Yr Low

Including $13bn in US asset divestitures by Chinese investors, China’s net US investment actually shrank by $8bn in 2018.

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

World Seriously Needs to Tell Trump “Go to Hell”

The US threatens German companies with sanctions if they continue with Nord Stream 2. This is not our place.

Neither the US nor President Trump should not be the sole decider of global sanctions. If the EU wants to do business with Russia to secure natural gas, that is EU business.

U.S. President Donald Trump has accused Germany of being a “captive” of Moscow because of its reliance on Russian energy and urged it to halt work on the $11 billion gas pipeline. U.S. Ambassador Richard Grenell addressed the issue in a letter sent to several companies, the U.S. Embassy said on Sunday.

Juergen Hardt, foreign policy spokesman for Merkel’s conservatives in parliament, was scathing in his criticism of the U.S. move.

“That the U.S. ambassador is now turning to German companies with direct threats is a new and unacceptable one-sided tightening of the tone in the transatlantic relationship,” Hardt said. “If the U.S. president thinks he has to publicly show he is getting tough on Russia in view of the many question marks regarding his relationship with Moscow, he should not thereby impair the relationship with his most important ally.”

“The letter reminds that any company operating in the Russian energy export pipeline sector is in danger under CAATSA of U.S. sanctions,” the embassy spokesman said, adding that other European states also opposed the planned pipeline.

CAATSA

CAATSA stands for Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.

Imagine Europe passing a CEATSA and directly threatening US businesses. That’s how arrogant and wrong this policy is.

A Bloomberg Nord Stream 2 Editorial gets it correct.

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

Europe Likely in Recession Now: Germany, France, Italy Production Collapsed

German, French, and Italian industrial production collapsed in November. Italy GDP is negative for 3rd Quarter.

Italy GDP

Italy’s GDP was negative for the third quarter. Gross domestic product (GDP) in the euro zone’s third largest economy fell by 0.1 percent in July-September due to weaker domestic demand, statistics bureau ISTAT said, the first decline since the second quarter of 2014.

Based on industrial production, Germany and France will soon follow.

Germany Industrial Production

Analysts actually expected German IP to rise. Go figure.

German industrial output fell unexpectedly by 1.9 percent month-on-month in November 2018, missing market expectations of a 0.3 percent rise and following an upwardly revised 0.8 percent drop in October.

France Industrial Production

France’s industrial production fell 1.3 percent from a month earlier in November 2018, reversing an upwardly revised 1.3 percent growth in October and missing market expectations of a 0.2 percent gain.

Italy Industrial Production

Italy’s industrial production slumped 1.6 percent from a month earlier in November 2018, much worse than market expectations of a 0.3 percent decline and following a meager 0.1 percent gain in October.

Brink of Recession or Already In Recession?

The water levels of the Rhine are low and Germany may be flirting with recession. The two are connected, many argue. The Rhine is a key artery for the transport of many goods into and through the country, particularly for the chemicals and energy industries.

But praying that the water rises and all will come good might not be enough. Just as the idea that negative growth in the third quarter was due to the temporary hit of emissions testing rules on an already troubled car industry, the one-off excuses are starting to wear a bit thin. There is a grander slowdown facing Berlin, and, as the eurozone’s economic powerhouse, potentially the rest of its members too.

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

US Electric Grid Hacked: Perpetrators Could Have Shut Down the System

Hackers broke into the US electric grid with spearphishing techniques targeting contractors with system access.

The Wall Street Journal has a detailed report out today regarding a sophisticated, and successful attack by hackers into the US electric grid. The hackers could have temporarily shut off power.

The Journal claims Russia is responsible. I hate such assumptions. In the absence of hard proof, the hack could have come from China, North Korea, Israel, or even the US. Even if Russian hackers did this, there is a difference between “Russian” and “Russia”.

Early victims

In the summer of 2016, U.S. intelligence officials saw signs of a campaign to hack American utilities, says Jeanette Manfra, assistant secretary of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity and communications program. The tools and tactics suggested the perpetrators were Russian. Intelligence agencies notified Homeland Security, Ms. Manfra says.

Mr. Vitello of All-Ways Excavating has no idea how the hackers got into his email account. He doesn’t recall reading CFE’s websites or clicking on tainted email attachments. Nonetheless, the intrusion was part of the Russian campaign, according to the security companies that studied the hack.

On March 2, 2017, the attackers used Mr. Vitello’s account to send the mass email to customers, which was intended to herd recipients to a website secretly taken over by the hackers.

Once Mr. Vitello realized his email had been hijacked, he tried to warn his contacts not to open any email attachments from him. The hackers blocked the message.

Sneak Attack

Hackers sent bogus emails from the account of Oregon construction contractor Mike Vitello to herd recipients to a website they had secretly taken over, called imageliners.com. Hackers then used the site to seek access to contractors that do business with U.S. power utilities.

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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