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Ukraine / Gazprom / Amazon

Inflation in Ukraine

The entire world has seen food, energy, and commodity prices surge since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Millions are suffering as a direct result, and global inflation is making it seem like millions more will suffer if the situation does not improve soon. But no country has suffered more than Ukraine itself. The attrition-based Russian invasion is adding economic fuel to the humanitarian fire. The war has driven up the cost of just about everything in the country, and consumers are buying significantly less than before. Despite international humanitarian aid, Ukrainians have been forced to tighten their belts, and vendors have been forced to raise their prices to keep up with surging fuel and fertilizer costs.

Blame it on the Siemens

Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned gas giant, announced that it would be reducing the amount of natural gas it sends to Germany via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline. The pipeline had been built to be part of Germany’s complete transition away from fossil fuels. Burning Russian natural gas is significantly better for the environment than burning coal, after all. And with Germany’s ambitious move towards carbon neutrality based on improved renewables infrastructure, Nordstream 1 was supposed to be a crutch the country could use to get there. The pipeline had recently been shut off completely for its pre-planned annual maintenance, but based on statements made by Russian officials, very few of them expected Russia to ever switch the pipeline back on to its full capacity. Before the maintenance shutdown, flows had already been reduced to 40 per cent of its capacity, but now that number will be halved to 20 per cent almost immediately. Oddly, Russia has blamed Siemens, a German company, for the reduction. The country says that the turbines that push the gas long distances are malfunctioning and not working as they should, hence the reduction. But as the German economic ministry stated, “Based on our information, there is no technical reason for a reduction in deliveries”. Instead, most experts believe that this reduction is punitive, a response to western sanctions on Russia. Many more politically minded experts also believe that Russia is attempting to divide Europe by crippling its gas supply, and a fractured Europe may make for a friendlier neighbour than a resolute EU.

Amazon Medical

Last week, Amazon announced a 3.9 billion USD acquisition of One Medical, an American chain of primary care clinics. Amazon joins a growing list of US giants such as Google and Walmart that are trying to make more headway into the healthcare space. But this acquisition is not Amazon’s first medical rodeo, but none of their forays into this space have been that successful so far.

The company’s first attempt was by investing in in 1999 (Bezos even served on the company’s board). Then, in 2018, the Amazon bought the start-up PillPack, an online pharmacy that focuses on recurring monthly medications, for 753 million USD. It later began Amazon Pharmacy, which offered very similar services to PillPack and included benefits to Amazon Prime members. The company even began running its own primary and urgent care centres for its employees called Amazon Care in 2019, but they have yet to have success getting other companies to sign up for the service.

The One Medical deal gives Amazon access to troves of data. One Medical built its own electronic medical records system, and it well more than a decade’s worth of medical and health-system data that Amazon could farm. And Amazon certainly knows how to monetise such data.