Intelsense Capital Blog: Weekend Reading

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1. The biggest digital bank heist

Since late 2013, this band of cybercriminals has penetrated the digital inner sanctums of more than 100 banks in 40 nations, including Germany, Russia, Ukraine, and the U.S., and stolen about $1.2 billion, according to Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency. The string of thefts, collectively dubbed Carbanak—a mashup of a hacking program and the word “bank”—is believed to be the biggest digital bank heist ever. 

Besides forcing ATMs to cough up money, the thieves inflated account balances and shuttled millions of dollars around the globe. Deploying the same espionage methods used by intelligence agencies, they appropriated the identities of network administrators and executives and plumbed files for sensitive information about security and account management practices. The gang operated through remotely accessed computers and hid their tracks in a sea of internet addresses.

2. Cobalt is the new Gold in Congo

Among other things, cobalt keeps the batteries, which power everything from cell phones to electric cars, from catching fire. As global demand for lithium-ion batteries has grown, so has the price of cobalt. 

Southern Congo sits atop an estimated 3.4 million metric tons of cobalt, almost half the world’s known supply. In recent decades, hundreds of thousands of Congolese have moved to the formerly remote area. Kolwezi now has more than half a million residents. Many Congolese have taken jobs at industrial mines in the region; others have become “artisanal diggers”. Some secure permits to work freelance at officially licensed pits, but many more sneak onto the sites at night or dig their own holes and tunnels, risking cave-ins and other dangers in pursuit of buried treasure.

This year, cobalt prices have jumped some forty per cent, to more than twenty dollars a pound. The lure of mineral riches in a country as poor as Congo provides irresistible temptation for politicians and officials to steal and cheat. Soldiers who have been posted to Kolwezi during periods of unrest have been known to lay down their Kalashnikovs at night and enter the mines. At a meeting of investors in 2019, Simon Tuma Waku, then the president of the Chamber of Mines in Congo, used the language of a gold rush: “Cobalt—it makes you dream.”

3. The Secret Psychology of Sneaker Colors

Aqua blue, acid lime and grape purple. Electric orange interspersed with neon pink. Gray suede and cheetah print mixed with white and gold. These are not descriptions of a minimalist’s worst nightmare, but rather new color combinations from Adidas, Reebok and New Balance. And they are jarring by design.

The links between color and emotion have been studied for centuries, from Carl Jung’s color coding of personality traits to focus groups evaluating the ways in which candy colors can affect perceptions of flavor.

“Between 70 percent to 90 percent of subconscious judgment on a product is made in a few seconds on color alone,” said Jenny Ross, the head of concept design and strategy for lifestyle footwear at New Balance. “It can excite or calm us, it can raise our blood pressure. It’s really powerful.”

4. Can Giraffes help us solve our high blood pressure problem for good?

Giraffes, it turns out, have solved a problem that kills millions of people every year: high blood pressure. Their solutions, only partly understood by scientists so far, involve pressurized organs, altered heart rhythms, blood storage — and the biological equivalent of support stockings.

Giraffes have sky-high blood pressure because of their sky-high heads that, in adults, rise about six meters above the ground — a long, long way for a heart to pump blood against gravity. To have a blood pressure of 110/70 at the brain — about normal for a large mammal — giraffes need a blood pressure at the heart of about 220/180. It doesn’t faze the giraffes, but a pressure like that would cause all sorts of problems for people, from heart failure to kidney failure to swollen ankles and legs.

5. Busyness is an excuse for lack of direction

Sometimes we say, “I just don’t have time! I’m so busy!” But that’s not true. We can always make time for important things. The problem isn’t time, it’s something else. “Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.”

If you want to change your life and make progress, you have to embrace uncertainty. You can’t know everything about tomorrow. And that makes a lot of people uncomfortable. But here’s the thing. You have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. 

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to recognize when you’re making excuses. The only way to have a good life is to stay active. Work out. Enjoy your job. Find pleasure in small things. Make yourself useful. That’s how we function as human beings, and that’s what gives us joy.

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Abhishek Basumallick

Abhishek Basumallick

Abhishek Basumallick is the Head of the equity advisory www.intelsense.in for long term wealth creation.
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