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"I am really three thousand years old and have dined with Socrates." - Isak Dinesen @ParisReview
It was, in a sense, type-casting when a few years ago a film was
planned that would have shown us Garbo playing the role of Isak
Dinesen in a screen version of Out of Africa, for the writer is, like
the actress, a Mysterious Creature of the North. Isak Dinesen is
really the Danish Baroness Karen Blixen, and she is the daughter of
Wilhelm Dinesen, author of a classic 19th century work, Boganis’
Jagtbreve (A Hunter’s—or Sportman’s—Letters). Baroness Blixen has
published under another name as well: a delightful novel (T_A___A___)
she prefers not to acknowledge, though any reader with half an eye
could guess the Baroness hiding behind the second, French, pseudonym
The air was filled with clarity,-and over our heads, to the West, a single star which was to grow big and radiant in the course of the night
“How beautiful were the evenings of the Masai Reserve when after
sunset we arrived at the river or the water-hole where we were to
outspan, travelling in a long file. The plains with the thorn trees on
them were already quite dark, but the air was filled with clarity,—and
over our heads, to the West, a single star which was to grow big and
radiant in the course of the night was now just visible, like a silver
point in the sky of citrine topaz. The air was cold to the lungs, the
long grass dripping wet, and the herbs on it gave out their spiced
astringent scent. In a little while on all sides the Cicada would
begin to sing. The grass was me, and the air, the distant invisible
mountains were me, the tired oxen were me. I breathed with the slight
night-wind in the thorn trees.” ― Isak Dinesen
"To see the Earth as it truly is, small and blue and beautiful in that eternal silence," the poet Archibald MacLeish wrote The Atlantic
“To see the Earth as it truly is, small and blue and beautiful in that
eternal silence,” the poet Archibald MacLeish wrote in the Christmas
1968 edition of The New York Times, “is to see ourselves as riders on
the Earth together, brothers on that bright loveliness in the eternal
cold, brothers who now know they are truly brothers.”
Many literary interpretations of this new motif—the astronaut gazing
back at Earth—would follow. But perhaps none has surpassed a
two-paragraph passage in Don DeLillo’s 1983 short story, “Human
Moments in World War III,” about two men aboard an orbiting military
space station, one of whom becomes entranced by his view of Earth
through the station’s window. The planet “fills his consciousness,”
DeLillo writes, “the answer to a lifetime of questions and vague
With special permission from Mr. DeLillo, the passage will appear here
at The Atlantic through next July’s anniversary of the first moon
Vollmer has entered a strange phase. He spends all his time at the
window now, looking down at the earth. He says little or nothing. He
simply wants to look, do nothing but look. The oceans, the continents,
the archipelagoes. We are configured in what is called a cross-orbit
series and there is no repetition from one swing around the earth to
the next. He sits there looking. He takes meals at the window, does
checklists at the window, barely glancing at the instruction sheets as
we pass over tropical storms, over grass fires and major ranges. I
keep waiting for him to return to his pre-war habit of using quaint
phrases to describe the earth: it’s a beach ball, a sun-ripened fruit.
But he simply looks out of the window, eating almond crunches, the
wrappers floating away. The view clearly fills his consciousness. It
is powerful enough to silence him, to still the voice that rolls off
the roof of his mouth, to leave him turned in the seat, twisted
uncomfortably for hours at a time.
The view is endlessly fulfilling. It is like the answer to a lifetime
of questions and vague cravings. It satisfies every childlike
curiosity, every muted desire, whatever there is in him of the
scientist, the poet, the primitive seer, the watcher of fire and
shooting stars, whatever obsessions eat at the night side of his mind,
whatever sweet and dreamy yearning he has ever felt for nameless
places far away, whatever earth sense he possesses, the neural pulse
of some wilder awareness, a sympathy for beasts, whatever belief in an
immanent vital force, the Lord of Creation, whatever secret harbouring
of the idea of human oneness, whatever wishfulness and simple-hearted
hope, whatever of too much and not enough, all at once and little by
little, whatever burning urge to escape responsibility and routine,
escape his own over-specialization, the circumscribed and
inward-spiralling self, whatever remnants of his boyish longing to
fly, his dreams of strange spaces and eerie heights, his fantasies of
happy death, whatever indolent and sybaritic leanings, lotus-eater,
smoker of grasses and herbs, blue-eyed gazer into space—all these are
satisfied, all collected and massed in that living body, the sight he
sees from the window.
Mr Trump is triggering a "reverse Nixon" FT
Law & Politics
This year’s most startling meeting of minds has been the rise of an
anti-China consensus in the US. It spans Donald Trump’s White House
and Congress, Republicans and Democrats, business and unions,
globalists and populists. America may be at war with itself on almost
everything else. But it is uniting on fear of China.
Standing up to Beijing is the sole issue on which Democrats are often
to the right of Mr Trump. “They need us more than we need them,” said
Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Senate leader, last summer in praise of
the president’s punitive China tariffs.
The coming year will put Mr Schumer’s claim to the test. Even if Mr
Trump strikes a truce with Xi Jinping, China’s leader, when they meet
next month, cross-border businesses are planning as though the larger
trade war will continue. Former US cheerleaders of US-China
integration, such as Hank Paulson, foresee an “economic iron curtain”.
Others talk of a “ new cold war”.
It is hard to disagree.
Mr Trump, backed by a new Washington consensus, wants Mr Xi to
dismantle his “Made in China 2025”. It is one of Mr Xi’s signature
drives. A climbdown would undo his domestic authority and upend
China’s national security goals. It would be a shock were he to agree
As a result, 40 years of US-China convergence is starting to unravel.
It is hard to overstate the strategic importance of this reversal.
Since they normalised ties in 1979, the US has underwritten China’s
emergence on the world stage. With one or two pauses, notably after
the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre and tension over the Taiwan Strait
in 1996, the US kept its faith in China’s destiny as an increasingly
open — and decreasingly authoritarian — partner.
America put its faith in a “win-win” relationship. Barack Obama even
tried an informal “G2” world in which they would settle big problems
together. He was spurned. China today is less open and much less free
than when Mr Obama came to office.
The prism has now changed to “win-lose”. It is easy to be distracted
by Mr Trump’s bluster. One moment he accuses China of raping America.
The next he speaks enviously of Mr Xi being “president for life”.
Beneath the mood swings lies a consistent hawkishness. When Mr Trump
wavers, his critics pounce.
Last week he hinted he could release Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief
financial officer, who faces extradition from Canada, in exchange for
Chinese concessions. He was also criticised for waiving sanctions
earlier this year on ZTE, China’s other telecoms giant. Both Huawei
and ZTE are accused of being arms of China’s national security state.
Either way, the normal rules of globalisation are breaking down.
Businesses dislike few things more than uncertainty.
This is creating two effects. The first is economic disengagement.
After years of rapid growth, China’s investment in the US is dropping
rapidly. From $56bn in 2016, it has fallen to less than a quarter of
that in 2018. US barriers to Chinese entry are getting higher by the
China’s technology strategy is thus shifting from foreign acquisition
to import substitution. Global supply chains are starting to fragment.
China is accelerating the “indigenisation” of microchips, aviation
technology and robotics.
trade hawks in Washington believe China is like Japan — efficient at
making things that America invented. If they are wrong, they are only
advancing the day China will emulate US innovation. If they are right,
it will take years before it becomes apparent.
The second is that other countries are being forced into an unwelcome
choice. In a win-lose world, you are either with America or you are
Most countries would prefer never to face this dilemma. Some, such as
Japan and Singapore, are hedging their bets by trying to move closer
to both. Others, notably Russia, have chosen China.
Therein lies the other strategic unravelling. Richard Nixon broke
China from the Soviet orbit in 1972. That dramatic manoeuvre helped
America win the cold war. Mr Trump is triggering a “reverse Nixon”.
This year, Mr Xi said that China-Russia was the “most important
bilateral relationship in the world”. He was exaggerating for effect.
The most critical by far is between the US and China. Decades of
convergence is going into reverse. It is happening at a speed that is
taking even Americans by surprise.
DEC-2018 :: Truce dinner @Huawei
Law & Politics
Sirloin steaks, Catena Zapata Nicolas Malbec  Huawei
Technologies Co. and Wanzhou Meng
You will recall that Presidents Trump and Xi Jinping enjoyed a much
anticipated ''Truce'' Dinner at the G20 in Buenos Aires and quaffed a
Catena Zapata Nicolas Malbec  wine with their sirloin steaks and
finished it all off with caramel rolled pancakes, crispy chocolate and
fresh cream, a dinner that ran over by 60 minutes and one where the
dinner Guests broke out into spontaneous applause thereafter.
WHY SHOULD ANYONE BELIEVE FACEBOOK ANYMORE? @WIRED
Zuckerberg and his executives are such masters of this kind of sincere
apology, it should have a special name like "apolozuck" (or perhaps
just "zucked"). It's truly rhetoric as art. "We're sorry. We're as
upset as you are. But that thing you are angry at us about happened a
few years ago, and we've fixed the problems. They happened because we
were trying to make Facebook better for you. But we now see how it
left your data vulnerable to bad things too. We care more about your
data and your privacy than anyone. It won't happen again. We promise."
"We've never sold anyone's data," Zuckerberg wrote in his post, and
has insisted at various other times this year. But Zuckerberg saying
that Facebook has never sold user data is an answer only an engineer
could love. It is technically correct, but practically false
Sure, Facebook has never given other companies user data in exchange
for cash. But it's quite obvious to the world now that Facebook for a
long time has been giving user data to other companies, in exchange
for other equally or more valuable things.
There's a simple takeaway from all this, and it’s not a pretty one:
Facebook is either a mendacious, arrogant corporation in the mold of a
1980s-style Wall Street firm, or it is a company in much more disarray
than it has been letting on. Think about almost everything bad that’s
happened to Facebook since the 2016 election: Russian interference,
Cambridge Analytica, data sharing, astroturfing. Facebook could have
kept all of them from becoming scandals—or at least becoming as big of
a scandal—had it just leveled with the world when it had the chance.
The fact that it hasn’t suggests that it didn’t want to, or it is just
not well managed enough to pull it off.
Africa for pessimists and optimists: 2018 in review @mailandguardian
The forever wars
Civil wars rage in Africa. In South Sudan since 2011. In the Central
African Republic since 2013. In Libya since 2011. In northern Mali
since 2012. In northern Nigeria since 2009. In northeastern Democratic
Republic of Congo since at least 2012.
Is it time to try something new? In South Sudan and the Central
African Republic, there have been whispers of establishing an
international trusteeship — in effect handing the country over to the
United Nations. This seems like a solution that may cause more trouble
than it is worth. Nonetheless, that is the kind of radical thinking
needed to turn things around — and besides, can it really be worse
than the status quo?
When civil society activists in Tanzania speak to journalists about
John Magufuli’s crackdown on basic civil liberties such as freedom of
speech, freedom of association and freedom of the press, they will
only speak off the record: they are afraid, and with reason.
Tanzania’s illiberal tilt
This year, critics of the president — nicknamed “the Bulldozer” for
his ability to get things done — have been arrested and threatened,
and his administration is doing everything in its power to shut down
civil society space: bloggers must pay a staggering $930 registration
fee for the privilege of posting online, for example, and
prohibitively expensive accreditation fees for journalists are being
enforced for the first time in years.
Tanzania suffers peril of populism
At the same time, the president is eagerly pursuing populist policies,
such as the increasingly nasty campaign targeting the country’s
lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community, and an
aggressively antagonistic attitude towards foreign mining companies.
(The mining companies might deserve it, but analysts fear that this
attitude may deter foreign investment from anyone).
As Mail & Guardian columnist Nic Cheeseman observed: “Bulldozers can
smash through powerful barriers, but they tend to leave a mess in
their wake. Magufuli, and his particular brand of Tanzanian populism,
is no different.”
There is not a lot going right in Cameroon. In the capital, Yaoundé,
Paul Biya has just entered his 37th year in power, after disputed
elections in October. Despite his dedication to the trappings of the
presidency, Biya seems uninterested in actually governing — he spends
most of his time outside the country, living instead in a luxury hotel
suite in Switzerland.
When Robert Mugabe was forced to resign at the end of last year,
Zimbabwe was filled with a palpable sense of hope: hope that things
would be different now, that things would be better, that the country
could finally achieve its true potential.
This new Zimbabwe is not so different, after all
Hope is a powerful emotion. Fuelled by hope, many Zimbabweans were
prepared to overlook the fact that Zanu-PF was still in power, and
that the new president was Mugabe’s right-hand man. They were prepared
to gloss over the fact that change in Zimbabwe came not through a
popular revolution, but by a military coup, and that the generals who
promised to rescue the economy were from the same cabal that had
Now the economy is in free fall and civil unrest is on the rise:
doctors went on strike in November and teachers and nurses have
threatened to join them if their salaries are not paid in American
When veteran Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama died last year,
Mozambique’s government breathed a sigh of relief. They thought his
death would signal the beginning of the end of the on-again, off-again
conflict that prevailed for decades in central Mozambique. And they
may have been right: since the death of the iconic rebel leader, the
Renamo conflict has lessened in intensity.
Unfortunately, a new conflict has sprung up to take its place. This
one is centred in northern Mozambique. Coincidentally — or not — it is
in the same area where huge deposits of natural gas have been
discovered. Since October last year, an armed group has been
responsible for 49 deadly attacks in the area.
Mozambique’s mysterious insurgency
The group is shrouded in mystery. No one is quite sure what its aims
are or even what it is called: the names “al-Shabab”, “Ansar
al-Sunnah” and “Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jamo” are used almost interchangeably.
The group has been linked to extremist Islam, but also to organised
If Mozambique wants to avoid another decades-long insurgency, it will
have to act carefully.
“The militants are still militarily weak and the violence could still
be contained. But if it is handled clumsily, the situation could
develop in a direction that sees northern Mozambique become a zone for
launching assaults and furthering the aims of criminal networks across
the region,” said researcher Simone Haysom in a report for the Global
Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime.
Even though the world is a pretty depressing place right now, there
are plenty of good news stories from Africa that suggest that not all
On October 10, several hundred disgruntled soldiers marched on the
presidential compound in Addis Ababa. They were armed. The protest was
ostensibly over pay, but may have had more sinister intentions.
Ethiopia is no stranger to military coups, after all.
Ethiopia’s 100-day revolution
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed invited the soldiers into the compound and
then addressed their concerns. He then challenged the soldiers to a
push-up competition in which he participated. By the time he had
finished, the soldiers were smiling and laughing, and returned
peacefully to their barracks.
If any one moment can encapsulate just how much Ethiopia has changed
over the past year, this is it.
South Africa’s uncapturing
Few appreciated just how bad the Jacob Zuma years were in South Africa
— until he was gone. Yes, we knew that corruption allegations swirled
around his administration. Yes, we knew that the Gupta family had
somehow got its tentacles deep into the state. Yes, we knew that
state-owned enterprises were rotting from the inside and that
government departments were stagnating.
But the full extent of the rot is becoming clear now that a new
administration is in place. The commission of inquiry led by Deputy
Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, in particular, is delivering revelation
after revelation that detail how the state was captured and to what
extent it was fleeced.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has outwitted more than his fair
share of political opponents since assuming power in 1986.
Nonetheless, he is running scared of Bobi Wine.
Bobi Wine, Uganda’s ‘ghetto president’, upstages the real head of state
Wine is part of a new generation of young, charismatic, social
media-savvy African leaders who are taking on the old guard. Others
include Evan Mawarire in Zimbabwe and Boniface Mwangi in Kenya. They
work outside the established political system — rejecting both ruling
and opposition parties alike — and are running on platforms that
centre on good governance and human rights. Because African
populations are projected to get even younger, it is no wonder that
dinosaurs like Museveni are getting nervous.
Bobi Wine: ‘The writing is on the wall in Uganda’
Eight demonstrators were killed in eastern Sudan on Thursday during clashes with riot police on the second day of protests over the rising price of bread. @AFP
A government decision to raise the price of bread this week from one
Sudanese pound to three (from about two to six US cents) sparked
protests across the country on Wednesday.
The protests spread on Thursday to the Sudanese capital Khartoum,
where riot police fired tear gas to disperse demonstrators near the
presidential palace, witnesses said.
"Six were killed and a number of people were wounded" in the eastern
city of Al-Qadarif, Al-Tayeb al-Amine Tah told local broadcaster
Sudania 24, without providing further details.
The toll included a university student whose death during
demonstrations in Al-Qadarif had been reported earlier in the day.
"The situation in Al-Qadarif is out of control and the student Moayed
Ahmad Mahmoud was killed," said Mubarak al-Nur, a lawmaker in the city
550 kilometres (340 miles) from Khartoum.
State of emergency declared in Sudanese city after party HQ torched @ReutersAfrica
A state of emergency was declared in the Sudanese city of Atbara after
hundreds of people protested against price increases and set fire to
the local headquarters of the ruling party, officials from Nile River
A curfew was declared from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. in Atbara — Sudan’s
railway hub, with a large railworker population manning various lines,
interchanges and maintenance workshops — the state security committee
While small rallies have broken out in other cities, the
demonstrations were larger in Atbara, which is historically a hotbed
for anti-government protest.
“Today, the headquarters of the ruling party in the city of Atbara and
the headquarters of the local government and a fuel station were
burned,” Hatem al-Wassilah, governor of the Nile River state, said on
Sudania 24 TV.
“The protests began peacefully and then turned to violence and
vandalism ... We declared a state of emergency and a curfew and the
closure of schools in the city.”
A decision to reduce bread subsidies this year sparked rare nationwide
protests in Sudan after bread prices doubled. But Sudan increased
flour subsidies by 40 percent in November. [nL8N1XE0M6]
Port Sudan, the capital of Red Sea state, also saw limited protests on
Wednesday, witnesses told Reuters.
Sudan’s annual inflation edged up to 68.93 percent in November from
68.44 percent in October.
Prime Minister Motazz Moussa said inflation for the full year 2018 was
expected to be 63 percent.
Severe shortages of fuel and bread, both subsidised by the government,
have forced people in the capital and other cities to queue at
bakeries and petrol stations.
Congo set to postpone Sunday's presidential vote - candidates @ReutersAfrica
Candidate Theodore Ngoy, who was at the meeting, told Reuters that
CENI president Corneille Nangaa announced the commission was
“technically unable” to carry through the election on Sunday.
He said the commission had cited a fire last week that destroyed
ballot papers, an ongoing Ebola outbreak in eastern regions and ethnic
violence this week in the northwest as the main reasons for the delay.
It was not immediately clear when the election might take place.
Another candidate, Noel Tshiani, told Reuters Nangaa had spoken of a
delay of between seven and 14 days, while candidate Seth Kikuni
tweeted that the CENI had proposed delaying the vote “by a few days.”
Shadary has a big advantage due to sizeable campaign funds and ruling
party control of many media outlets.
However, a rare national opinion poll in October had Tshisekedi
leading the race with 36 percent, well ahead of Shadary’s 16 percent.
Fayulu had 8 percent.
A state-funded campaign war chest, fraud and intimidation make the President's dauphin the heavy favourite on 23 December @Africa_Conf
Expectations of electoral chaos, fraud and intimidation lead many to
conclude that Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, one of President Joseph
Kabila's ultra-loyalists, will be declared the winner after the voters
of Congo-Kinshasa go to the polls two days before Christmas. On 19
December, the governor of Kinshasa, André Kimbuta, suspended
campaigning in the capital, ostensibly for security reasons. A rally
for opposition candidate Martin Fayulu scheduled for that afternoon
was cancelled as armed police blocked his return to Kinshasa and fired
tear gas at hundreds of his supporters. These events are fuelling
rumours that the electoral commission may postpone polling day at the
very last moment.
Shadary, a former interior minister and head of Kabila's Parti du
Peuple pour la Reconstruction et la Démocratie (PPRD), was handpicked
by the President after he finally bowed to domestic and continental
pressure not to seek a constitution-defying third term (AC Vol 59 No
16, Kabila names his dauphin). The candidate of the ruling coalition,
the Front commun pour le Congo (FCC), was quickly out of the traps
when campaigning began on 22 November and will have visited each of
the country's 26 provinces by election day.
Shadary can count on provincial governors, senior ministers, local
oligarchs and regime moneymen such as Albert Yuma, the boss of state
mining company Gécamines, and Moïse Ekanga, who oversees
multibillion-dollar credit lines from China. Two Congolese tycoons
told Africa Confidential that they were named as members of the FCC
campaign finance team without being asked. They did not protest so as
to avoid undue attention. The machinery of state has brazenly been put
at the service of Kabila's dauphin while accusations are rife of
public resources being funnelled to the campaign and government
employees being forced to attend their meetings.
Introducing Shadary at a rally in Kisangani, the president's wife
Marie Olive Lembe placed a hand on his head and blessed him as he
dutifully awaited the end of her prayer. The symbolism of the
benediction, which was circulated widely on social media, demonstrates
who will be calling the shots in Congo-K next year.
Yet Kabila may also choose to consider the experience of his
long-ruling neighbour José Eduardo dos Santos, who carefully picked
Joao Lourenço to succeed him after extensive and meticulous
deliberation, only to find his legacy and network torn to shreds