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The historic COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the modern world has continued to rage for a year now, after it first started in Wuhan in November and December of 2019. Today, 56 million cases have been confirmed globally (a guaranteed understimate of the true case numbers) with over 1.3 million people having lost their lives to COVID-19. Global economies have been battered, with widespread bankruptcies and record government stimulus seeking to stave off a global economic depression. As the pandemic has evolved the prospects for controlling the virus have looked increasingly grim, with record second waves across much of the northern hemisphere.

But on November 9th finally, a ray of hope. Of the over 160 vaccine candidates under development (see Trajectory #18), US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer was the first to announce the results from its phase 3 study with an incredible 90% efficacy. Stock markets and global sentiments immediately soared globally. Just one week later US biotech company Moderna announced preliminary phase 3 results for its vaccine candidate with 95% efficacy. …

The Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020, Beneficial Ownership and Panama Papers

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The FinCEN files has quickly swelled into a news story globally with new revelations coming thick and fast — with everyone from Michael Flynn to the Tokyo Olympics now caught up in the scandal. But the FinCEN files — while rich in information — pale in comparison with the 2016 Panama Papers leaks. The Panama Papers involved the leaking of 2.6 terabytes (that’s 2600 gigabytes) of files from the servers of Panamanian company Mossack Fonsenca, the world’s fourth largest offshore law firm (at the time).

An offshore law firm is a multi-jurisdictional law firm which typically specializes in the laws of offshore financial centers like the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands and Luxembourg, among others. Mossack Fonsenca, at the time of the leaks, had 600 people working across 42 countries and had acted on behalf of more than 300,000 companies across the world. …

How dirty money moves across the Global Financial System

The NY Times story shedding light on the mystery of US President Donald Trump’s tax returns has brought the issue of tax evasion and money laundering back into the limelight in recent weeks. According the NY Times, the President has avoided paying Federal income taxes in 10 of the 15 years preceding his election. Perhaps more politically damaging are the revelations that the President has paid as little as $750 (in the 2017 tax year) in years where he has paid income taxes. …

Silicon Valley Meets Mesopotamia

Archeology is a relatively obscure but deeply impactful discipline. Archaeology is critical to our understanding of human history. Moreover, the discoveries unearthed through archaeological work impact and help shape other intellectual disciplines such as politics, geography, demographics and more. In many ways archaeology is a foundational discipline that creates the base of data and historical context that many different fields rely on.

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Archaeology has three core functions: surveying, excavation and analysis. Archaeologists work diligently to identify archeological sites, excavate them to find artifacts and structures and then analyze them. Archaeology is a resource-intensive, slow and highly manual field. Archaeological teams can number in the hundreds and archeological digs can last for years. For example over 1000 archaeologists will be working across 60 sites in the United Kingdom’s biggest archaeological excavation ever. …

The magic of combinatorial optimization

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Image from here.

Efficiency has been a critical concept ever since the industrial revolution. Increasing productivity and efficiency have been core assumptions and goals of the field of economics since day one. Increasing efficiency is a complex challenge and there are numerous ways to do so.

Typically, efficiency can be approached at a unit-level or at a system-level. Most producers are part of a larger system which interacts to create additional value. For example, every beef farmer out there is part a larger system (the food supply chain) composed of slaughterhouses, meat packers, food suppliers, truckers, supermarkets and restaurants. …

Covid-19 Threatens to End University as We Know It

Universities have long been critical components of public life and deeply formative institutions in the lives of many. Unlike in most nations, US universities also play a very active role in economic activity nationally thanks to their high tuition fees, extensive real estate holdings and the base of consumers and renters they bring to many small towns and cities. According to the Amercian Council on Education there are nearly 4,000 degree granting, two-year and four-year, public and private colleges and universities in the United States. Annually these institutions educate roughly 20 million people and generate revenues of $650 billion and employ an incredible 4 million people across campuses nationwide. Universities have important economic impacts in the regions they inhabit. For example, in 2018, the University of Notre Dame had a regional economic impact of $2.46 …

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The Rise of the “Sovereign Internet”

The original dream that guided the early days of the internet, a dream of a free space for communication and commerce, is slowly coming apart globally. The internet has shifted from a free space owned by users to one monopolized by giant technology corporations across communication, commerce and search. But even more worryingly, the dream of a “world wide web” is increasingly a distant dream. Ever since China first launched its “Great Firewall” in 1998, the dream of a single internet shared by the world has been under threat. …

Mail-in Voting and a disputed 2020 US Presidential Election

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Graphic from Signal newsletter.

In November 2020 amid a raging global pandemic the United States will hold its 59th presidential election. The result will either see incumbent Donald J. Trump reelected or see challenger and former Vice President Joe Biden become the 46th President of the United States.

The 2020 election will bring many firsts but what will likely go down in history is the expected surge in mail-in voting as opposed to in-person voting. Mail-in voting in the United States is not a new phenomenon and one that has been gaining momentum in recent elections. In 2016, about 1/4 of all votes were cast via mail-in voting. …

Vaccines, antibodies and the race to immunity

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The Covid-19 pandemic continues to run rampant globally with over 22m confirmed cases and nearly 800,000 deaths globally. Many countries that successfully fought off a first wave — particularly in Europe — are seeing spikes that threaten to become a full-blown, uncontrolled second wave of infection. Social distancing, lockdowns and limits on public events have been deployed globally as tactics to control the pace of infection in the population. However, when it comes to an endgame for the pandemic most experts and political leaders have placed their hopes on a having a vaccine available within the next 12 months.

Developing a vaccine in 12 months is no small feat of scientific achievement. Typically, vaccines take a decade to develop and thoroughly test before they are approved for widespread use. The global scientific community has rallied and accepted the challenge. There are now over 160 different vaccine candidates in various stages of being tested. Some are expected to be available for use as early as the end of this year. …

Key Issue: The Autoimmunity Crisis

Across the world a health crisis is quietly brewing. Diseases of autoimmunity are soaring across the globe and particularly so in the developed world. An autoimmune disease is when otherwise healthy cells provoke an immune response and are attacked and destroyed by the immune system. Autoimmune diseases are particularly pernicious because they attack the body from the inside out and use its own defenses against itself.

For a long time, autoimmune diseases hid in plain sight. Diseases such as diabetes and inflammatory bowel syndrome were treated as completely independent and unrelated. It wasn’t till the scientific community noticed a common thread among a large category of diseases — the immune response. Today, over 100 diseases have been identified and classified as part of the autoimmune family of diseases. …


Mikal Khoso

Investor @ Wavemaker interested in the intersection of politics, economics and technology. Sign up for my newsletter @

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