Volkswagen’s “Voltswagen” April Fool’s Stunt Creates SEC Inquiry

Volkswagen admits that the rebranding comments and statements made in 2021 were only an April Fool’s joke. Some marketers are wondering if the gimmick did more harm than good to the brand.

Media and auto industry experts were buzzing at the news that the German automaker was changing its American division to “Voltswagen.” It was even seen as a nod to the company’s commitment to developing electric vehicles.

It was even thought of as a fun way to promote the Volkswagen ID4, which is an EV SUV.

The problem is that the company claimed it was real when journalists started asking if this name change was an April Fool’s joke. It wasn’t until later in the day that the company decided to come clean.

The SEC Has Stock Price Manipulation Concerns

Although it is unlikely that Volkswagen will have anything remotely close to the diesel cheating scandal fines to manage with the Voltswagen stunt, the SEC isn’t laughing. An investigation was launched at the end of the month to determine if the “joke” was a ploy to influence the brand’s stock price.

This investigation isn’t without precedence. The SEC did something similar when Elon Musk tweeted “Funding Secured” a few years ago with Tesla.

It might be a silly joke, but there is still the fact that the company lied to the press when asked if the concept was a joke. They pretended that it was real, which is what drove lots of excitement for the company. That’s why an investigation is merited.

This ploy, although creative, also brings into question the intelligence of approaching something risky. Volkswagen has spent years trying to restore its reputation after dealing with the diesel engine issues. Why risk it over a joke?

The SEC investigation is still in its early stages. Findings should be released by the late summer or early fall if penalties are considered justified.

How Coronavirus Spiraled Out of Control in India

It seemed like India had COVID-19 controls in place that limited the spread of the coronavirus. While the United States, Brazil, Italy, and other nations faced staggering infection and death numbers in 2020, the country of more than one billion people was barely a blip on the radar.

That changed in 2021. While other developed countries were distributing vaccines, India started begging for basic health supplies.

At the peak of the pandemic in the fall of 2020, India topped out at nearly 100,000 daily cases. On April 27, 2021, over 360,00 cases were reported. The crisis was past the scale of anything the world had ever seen.

During that fateful last week in April, over 1.8 million new COVID-19 cases were registered. Health experts believe that the actual numbers were probably twice that amount.

What Caused the COVID-19 Spike in India?

Although the scale of the April outbreak in India could be driven by a more transmissible version of the coronavirus, several other factors create a perfect storm for infections to rise.

About 40% of the households in India have a multigenerational structure. That fact alone increases the risk of COVID-19 spreading.

India also has chronic underfunding of its healthcare system, which is only 3.5% of its GDP. France spends about 11% in comparison, while the United States reaches close to 20% in some years.

There was also a recent religious holiday where people came out by the thousands to celebrate. Many of them didn’t take personal precautions to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

It would be fair to say that there are equal parts of incompetence and complacency when looking at how India ran into this crisis. People ignored the warning signs, and the government didn’t take steps to mitigate the issue. Leaders even said on April 17, just ten days before the massive infections, that they were pleased to see large crowds.

As of May 31, the number of new cases was down to a 7-day rolling average of 175,000.

Biden Declares Mass Killing of Armenian People a Genocide

When Turkey was still the ruling seat for the Ottoman Empire, the 1915 massacre of Armenians was seen by officials at the time as a necessity to prevent future problems during the first World War.

President Joe Biden became the first US president to describe this act as genocide in a formal state issued in 2021.

Turkey rejected the term immediately. Although they acknowledge that the atrocities took place, the current government disagrees with the damaging label. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu retorted that his government “entirely rejects” Biden’s words.

“We will not take lessons from anyone on our history,” Cavusoglu stated on his social media account.

Previous Presidents Have Not Used the Term

Turks accused the Christian Armenians of treachery. The Ottoman Empire suffered a massive defeat to the Russians, so they started deporting the Armenians to the Syrian desert.

When that option wasn’t handling the situation as well as they hoped, the outright massacres began in some communities. Diplomats, missionaries, and journalists all witnesses the killings.

Between getting stranded in the desert or murdered directly, hundreds of thousands of Armenians lost their lives because of the government’s actions.

Biden’s words in 2021 followed a bill passed by the US House of Representatives in 2019 that recognized the mass killings as genocide.

The only other president that took a similar step was Ronald Reagan. He referred to the Armenian genocide during a Holocaust proclamation in 1981. As for the Trump administration’s view on these actions, they chose to call it one of the “worst mass atrocities” of the 20th century.

The reactions from other places in the world have been largely positive. Nikol Pashinyan, who serves as the Armenian Prime Minister, said that Biden’s words honored the memory of those who died.

Turkey continues to say that America’s actions are opening a “deep wound” that might not get healed. Stay connected with top news sites for updates.

Putin Signs Law Allowing Him to Stay in Power Until 2036

With a new law that allows Vladimir Putin to remain in power until 2036, the stage is now set for the leader to run for two more terms. That move, which was made possible from a constitutional amendments referendum in 2020, enables Putin to become the longest leader in the country since Peter the Great.

Critics and opponents of the new legislation say that it allows him to become president for life.

Although Putin puts on an outward appearance of being a democratically elected leader, it would be fair to call him more of an authoritarian president. He’s already been in power for 20 years, and now he could be in office until the age of 83. He assumed to the role of the presidency in 1999 after serving as a KGB operative.

Putin Has Becoming Increasingly Aggressive on Multiple Fronts

Although Putin has made headlines in 2021 because of the country’s treatment of Alexei Navalny, Russia’s government has been more aggressive on multiple domestic and international fronts.

They have been waging interference campaigns in American elections, actively involved in conflict with Kremlin-backed separatists in Ukraine, and even built-up military assets along the border.

There’s an active effort to reinforce the Arctic region as global warming brings the potential for opening new sea lanes.

Biden called Putin a “killer” during a March interview, to which Putin said that when someone calls you a name, that’s really who they are.”

The 1999 Russian bombings of an apartment complex were what brought Putin to power initially. Although his role has changed over the years, he has remained in power throughout the entire time.

With this new law, there is nothing that stands in the way of Putin staying in charge for at least two more six-year terms.

North Korea Will Skip the 2021 Olympics

According to a state-run website from North Korea, the government is deciding to skip the 2021 Olympics that Tokyo is hosting in 2021. The official reason for dropping out for the first time in over thirty years is the coronavirus, but it might be an issue that runs deeper than the virus.

In the past, North Korea used global sporting events like the Olympics to create diplomatic opportunities. The goal was to create sanctions relief in exchange for nuclear disarmament, which now cannot happen since they’re choosing not to participate.

That’s why some analysts think that the decision is more of a message to the Biden administration than an issue with COVID-19.

It’s Not the First Time North Korea Has Taken This Action

In previous years, North Korea boycotted the Olympics and other international sports events for political reasons. It has sometimes decided not to attend or support the global athletics community when no one qualified to participate.

It is the first time that the North Korean government has cited an infectious disease for deciding not to participate.

The government has the reputation for withdrawing from talks or political discourse, only to return at the last second to enhance its bargaining power. Since the nation has been on high alert to prevent COVID-19, this step might be a permanent one.

Without any healthcare infrastructure to support the general population, North Korea has had to take draconian steps to prevent the spread of the disease. That includes preventing foreign nationals from leaving while having a 15-month closure of its international borders.

With little movement on nuclear talks, Biden has already said that North Korea won’t get the same attention as it did with the Trump administration. That meant they’d leave Tokyo empty-handed, so there is no purpose for their attendance.

Continued domestic challenges might change that perspective in the future.

What Is the Point of a Global Minimum Corporate Tax Rate?

One of the first acts that Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen called for was a global minimum corporate tax. It’s part of the pitch from the Biden administration to create a $1.9 trillion infrastructure and jobs proposal package.

Although countries can set tax rates for companies at their discretion, it has become a race to the bottom for most governments in recent years. By having the G20 nations band together to create a starting point that everyone must follow, the goal is to create a more level international playing field.

As part of the proposal, the United States would increase the minimum tax to 21% and calculate it based on each country to deter profit sheltering. It also raises the corporate tax rate to 28%, which is still lower than the 35% it was at before the Trump administration and Congress cut taxes.

It’s Not the First Time Yellen Called for This Action

Yellen had called for a global minimum corporate tax rate during her confirmation process. It’s an issue that has been discussed in recent years, including in 2019 when finance ministers discussed how to have multinational companies pay a minimum tax instead of shifting profits to nations with lower rates.

Although that idea never came to fruition, there is a recognized need to ensure companies cannot manipulate their numbers to avoid their responsibilities.

It isn’t about how American companies can stay competitive with the rest of the world through mergers and acquisitions. A global minimum corporate tax rate ensures that every country has stable taxation systems that raise sufficient funds for public services.

Without appropriate funding, crises don’t receive the necessary response to save lives and help others. When everyone can fairly share the burdens of government financing, including corporations, it makes things easier on everyone.

Chinese Investments Drop By 61% in Australia

After the events of COVID-19 affected China’s economy at the start of 2020, the economic giant decided to keep things local for the year.

That fact, along with a growing diplomatic rift between them and Australia, showed an investment drop of 61% between the two countries. It’s the lowest level of monetary transfer since 2015.

The Australian Database CHIIA found that about $1 billion in Australian dollars was received, equivalent to about $780 million in US funds.

Only 20 investments were recorded for the year, which is significantly lower than the 111 that occurred in 2016. This drop is on top of another 47% reduction that happened from 2019.

Why Did Australia Lose So Much Money?

The issue of foreign direct investment (FDI) goes beyond whatever rifts China and Australia have with each other. Data from the United Nations shows that total FDI levels dropped by 42% globally in 2020.

Although Australia’s outcomes were above average because of their relationship with China, the issue is more profound because their FDI receipts are in only three sections: mining, real estate, and manufacturing.

Australia is also partially to blame for this outcome. The government announced in March that every proposed investment would receive additional scrutiny from a review board. In the past, only non-sensitive transactions applied for assets worth $930 million or more.

That switch stopped a $600 million sale of Lion Dairy, a wholly-owned subsidiary of a Japanese company, to the China Mengniu Dairy.

If that one transaction were allowed, the figures would have been similar despite the fewer total numbers.

China continues to treat the countries that are calling for COVID-19 investigations with restrictions or tariffs. Some products have totaled more than 200%, causing a lot of alarm since about 40% of exports head there from Australia.

Oil States Could Lose $13 Trillion by 2040

When Joe Biden was debating Donald Trump in the run-up to the 2020 Presidential election, one of the issues he brought up was a shift to a greener economy.

By using more renewable energy resources, it could be possible to cut down on the quantity of greenhouse gases getting produced each day.

Although that shift to eco-friendly power might help the environment, it could cause some countries to lose an average of 40% of their revenues. The collective losses from such an event could total $13 trillion by 2040.

That’s why nations like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are looking for ways to diversify their economies instead of looking at oil alone.

How Dependent Are Come Countries on Oil?

Although the median losses might total 40% by switching to environmentally friendly power resources, the problem is far greater in some parts of the world.

The financial dependence on oil for Iraq could cause it to lose up to 80% of its annual revenues. That’s about the same amount that Equatorial Guinea would have start disappearing.

Another seven countries, including Saudi Arabia, would lose more than 60% of their incoming resources.

The countries with the lowest production costs would be the only ones spared as they’d be the primary suppliers of the petroleum hydrocarbons that get used for numerous products.

How Fast Can These Countries Diversify?

When looking at the revenues of the oil-producing nations in 2021, the countries that stand to lose the most during a switch to green energy are also among the poorest ones out there. That’s why income diversification is a crucial task to complete.

Each country will need to take individualized steps to offset this issue. There must be improvements to government quality, more investment in education, and business climate changes to encourage development.

The rest of the world should support this transition. Even if we excuse the moral argument, a stronger global economy helps everyone find ways to chase their dreams.

Iceberg the Size of NYC Breaks Off Ice Shelf

Whether you believe that climate change is a natural event or a human-made phenomenon doesn’t matter because temperatures are warming. That evidence was made even more apparent in February 2021 when an iceberg the size of New York City broke off of Antarctica’s ice shelf.

The Brunt Ice Shelf sees some seasonal changes each year, but it has never lost a 490-square-mile chunk of itself in the past.

Although the size of the break is shocking, scientists and glaciologists have expected this calving event for about a decade. Several chasms had formed along the ice, which meant it was only a matter of time until something happened.

What Happens Next with the Giant Iceberg?

The iceberg’s calving impact will remain unknown for the next few months. Scientists say that the new massive chunk could stay close to its ice shelf, essentially maintaining the structure while being casually separate from it.

It could also start floating away instead of running aground, impacting the ocean’s health in several ways.

The Brunt Ice Shelf is the home of the British Antarctic Survey’s Halley Research Station. Authorities moved the facility further inland in 2016 to avoid the different chams that were forming.

Researchers continue to keep a close eye on the issue to assess its potential impact on the rest of the ice shelf.

Facts About Global Warming to Consider

With the Industrial Revolution events that helped us to create modern society, we started generating more carbon dioxide than at any other point in history. Some researchers estimate that we have more CO2 in the atmosphere than at any other point in the last 800,000 years.

The United States produces 25% of this pollution while comprising only 4% of the world’s population.

Since the late 19th century, global sea levels have risen by at least eight inches. Continued heat waves may cause additional concerns, create stronger storms, and trigger more heat-related illnesses.

It is up to us to do something. Although an iceberg the size of NYC is a notable event, it doesn’t need to be the end of the story.

Why Is China Cracking Down on Tech Firms?

China recently changed its rules regarding digital payment and Internet services. The global community sees this regulatory shift as a problem for tech firms, although the government calls it a “tightening” of the local anti-monopoly guidelines.

The news rules essentially block a company from forcing sellers to choose between the leading online providers for specific needs. Before the regulatory change, this process was considered a common practice in the country.

Experts see the guidelines aimed at Alipay, WeChat Pay, Taobao, and Alibaba.

Isn’t It a Good Thing to Stop Monopolies?

When we think about monopolies, we’re looking at the business structure from a capitalist viewpoint. If one organization can set the prices, market conditions, and access for goods or services because they’re the only provider, it limits competition and innovation.

The socialist, communist government in China uses the opposite end of a mixed economy. Although there are capitalist elements to the business world, the government holds a stake in virtually all significant businesses

China sees itself in the same battle against tech companies that some conservative and liberal groups feel is happening in the United States. The only difference is that the Chinese government has the authority for immediate intervention, like when it ordered Jack Ma to scale back his expansion plans for an Alibaba subsidiary.

What set off this issue in the first place? For many outside observers, it was the criticism that Ma leveled against the Chinese government.

What Does This Effort Mean to Everyone Else?

At the moment, the rules and regulatory changes are designed to create pressure on Chinese tech firms to comply with government wishes.

The issue could come to a head in the next few months as business leaders come into conflict with political desires.

With as much control as the tech giants have in China, their information assets could trigger the government’s mood changes. Political leaders recognize this, and they are moving to stop it.

These firms aren’t backing down. With more hiring happening in legal and compliance areas, expect battlelines to be drawn soon.