|Friday 17th of February 2017
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All Hail and Behold the Narcissus
In Greek mythology, Narcissus (/nɑːrˈsɪsəs/; Greek: Νάρκισσος, Nárkissos)
was a hunter from Thespiae in Boeotia who was known for his beauty. He was
the son of the river god Cephissus and nymph Liriope. He was proud, in
that he disdained those who loved him. Nemesis noticed this behavior and
attracted Narcissus to a pool, where he saw his own reflection in the water
and fell in love with it, not realizing it was merely an image. Unable to
leave the beauty of his reflection, Narcissus lost his will to live. He
stared at his reflection until he died. Narcissus is the origin of the term
narcissism, a fixation with oneself and one's physical appearance.
According to reports, Trump walked into the Oval Office earlier that morning and said, "Let's do a press conference today."
Law & Politics
That time he batted back reports of chaos in the West Wing
"I turn on TV, open the newspapers and I see stories of chaos – chaos – yet
it is the exact opposite. This administration is running like a fine-tuned
That time he confirmed the veracity of the leaks that lead to Michael
"The leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake because so much of the
news is fake."
That time he couldn't say Flynn lied
"The thing is, he didn't tell our vice president properly, and then he said
he didn't remember ... that just wasn't acceptable to me."
That time he characterized the rollout of his travel ban as "smooth"
"We had a very smooth rollout of the travel ban; we had a bad court."
That time he called the country of Russia fake news
"Russia is fake news. Russia – this is fake news put out by the media. The
real news is the fact that people, probably from the Obama administration
because they’re there, because we have our new people going in place, right
That time he denied knowledge of whether anyone from his team colluded with
the Russian government during the campaign
"Nobody that I know of. How many times do I have to answer this question?
Russia is a ruse. I have nothing to do with Russia. Haven't made a phone
call to Russia in years."
"I'm not ranting and raving. I'm just telling you you're dishonest people."
This is not normal.
05-DEC-2016 :: "We have a deviate, Tomahawk."
Law & Politics
However, my starting point is the election of President Donald Trump
because hindsight will surely show that Russia ran a seriously
sophisticated programme of interference, mostly digital. Don DeLillo, who
is a prophetic 21st writer, writes as follows in one of his short stories:
The specialist is monitoring data on his mission console when a voice
breaks in, “a voice that carried with it a strange and unspecifiable
He checks in with his flight-dynamics and conceptual- paradigm officers at
“We have a deviate, Tomahawk.”
“We copy. There’s a voice.”
“We have gross oscillation here.”
“ There’s some interference. I have gone redundant but I’m not sure it’s
“We are clearing an outframe to locate source.”
“Thank you, Colorado.”
“It is probably just selective noise. You are negative red on the
“It was a voice,” I told them.
“We have just received an affirm on selective noise... We will correct,
Tomahawk. In the meantime, advise you to stay redundant.”
The voice, in contrast to Colorado’s metallic pidgin, is a melange of
repartee, laughter, and song, with a “quality of purest, sweetest sadness”.
“Somehow we are picking up signals from radio programmes of 40, 50, 60
I have no doubt that Putin ran a seriously 21st predominantly digital
programme of interference which amplified the Trump candidacy. POTUS Trump
was an ideal candidate for this kind of support.
Trump is a linguistic warfare specialist. Look at the names he gave his
opponents: Crooked Hillary, Lyin’ Ted, Little Marco, ‘Low-energy’ Jeb —
were devastating and terminal.
The first thing is plausible deniability
The second thing is non-linearity, you have to learn how to navigate a
linear system in a non-linear way
The Month of Trump Eliot Weinberger 16 February 2017 LRB
Law & Politics
Two things are certain about Trump: He sees the presidency primarily as a
way to expand the Trump brand (and make a little money on the side) and he
is in way over his head. An iconic moment of the first weeks was Trump’s
dinner for the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, not at the White House,
as is customary, but at his Palm Beach club, Mar-a-Lago (where the annual
membership fee has just doubled to $200,000). Interrupted by news of a
North Korean missile launch, Trump chose to display his presidential power
to the wowed and tweeting club regulars by holding an emergency security
meeting at the restaurant table. Aides used their cell phones as
flashlights to read classified documents while waiters served entrees over
the papers. One member even posted a selfie (‘Wow!’) with, he wrote,
‘Rick’, the guy who follows the president with the ‘football’ – the
briefcase carrying the nuclear codes. Luckily, the missile landed
harmlessly in the ocean before dessert. It would have been unfortunate to
lose Alaska with the Baked Alaska.
Radiation level in Fukushima No. 2 reactor measured higher:650 sieverts
Law & Politics
The road to decommissioning Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant’s No. 2
reactor could be rockier than expected, as radiation levels on Feb. 9 were
even deadlier than those recorded in late January.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. announced that day that radiation levels inside
the reactor were estimated at up to 650 sieverts per hour, much higher than
the record 530 sieverts per hour marked by the previous survey.
Prices have been stuck around a dollar a barrel above or below $55.50 since mid-December.
Unfortunately for the bulls, the oil market itself has fallen asleep after
an initial surge. As Standard Chartered analysts including Paul Horsnell
pointed out this week, prices have been stuck around a dollar a barrel
above or below $55.50 since mid-December. Meanwhile U.S. crude closed above
$54 a barrel only once since OPEC’s Nov. 30 meeting, despite crossing that
price level 14 times. “If crude prices are to break out of their recent
range in the next few weeks, the risk is to the downside," JBC Energy GmbH
in Vienna said Thursday.
The Democratic Republic of Congo says it can't afford to hold a presidential election
The government of Joseph Kabila is has a new excuse for delaying the vote
that would usher in a new president: Elections are expensive. Pierre
Kangudia, budget minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo, has said
that holding the previously agreed-on poll would cost $1.8 billion, money
that he doubted the government would be able to mobilize this year. “At
this stage, I prefer to keep a language of sincerity,” Kangudia said at a
press conference this week.
One Opponent @moise_katumbi was removed from the Scene entirely
Atlas Mara in share placement as chief executive steps down FT
The woes of Bob Diamond’s London-listed African investment vehicle Atlas
Mara have deepened after it announced the immediate departure of its chief
executive and raised extra funds from an overnight placing.
The company said it would appoint a replacement “in due course” for John
Vitalo, who worked for Mr Diamond when he ran Barclays and followed the
American investment banker after he left the British bank to help set up
his new African banking venture.
Mr Vitalo, who became the first chief executive of Atlas Mara after its
creation in 2013, stepped down on Wednesday. The company’s board is
understood to have decided that he was not moving fast enough to cut costs
and was not delivering the performance expected. Mr Vitalo did not respond
to requests for comment.
His departure is the latest blow for the company, which slid into a loss in
the third quarter of last year and recently announced the departure of
Arnold Ekpe, the veteran African banker, as its chairman.
Atlas Mara said it had raised $13.5m from a placement of more than 7m
shares at $1.9125 a share to a number of existing shareholders in the
company, including Mr Diamond, who has been interim chairman since Mr Ekpe
A belated savings pledge is welcome — but scepticism about the venture
The extra investment makes Mr Diamond, who created Atlas Mara after being
ousted from Barclays in 2012 over the Libor rate-rigging scandal, its
sixth-largest shareholder with more than 2.5m shares, valued at $5.4m.
The company also announced a reorganisation, splitting itself into three
units: commercial and retail banking, fintech, and markets and treasury. It
said the change would “enable faster expansion and responsiveness in the
The bank said it planned to cut $20m of operating and staff costs in its
central functions, which are mostly based in Dubai and Johannesburg. This
is on top of its earlier $8m cost-cutting target.
The bank’s overall operating costs, which reached $185m in 2015, are
considered high as a proportion of its revenues. For every dollar it earns,
more than 85 cents are spent on operating costs.
Aiming to create the first pan-African banking group based on new
technologies, Atlas Mara has acquired interests in seven sub-Saharan
countries, including Nigeria, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Rwanda,
Tanzania and Zambia.
Its shares, which have steadily fallen from more than $12, were up slightly
at $2.12 on Thursday afternoon. There has been growing speculation about a
potential bid to take the company private, but insiders have rejected this
Many of the company’s biggest investors in its initial public offering are
sitting on losses of more than 80 per cent, including Janus Capital,
Wellington Management and Guggenheim.
Kenya's opposition warns of protests if elections "rigged" Reuters
Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga said on Wednesday mass protests were
possible if August elections were rigged, comments likely to scare Kenyans
fearful of a repeat of the widespread violence that erupted after a
disputed poll in 2007.
Then, more than 1,200 people were killed in weeks of fighting after
political protests turned into ethnic clashes, but 2013 polls, when Odinga
accepted the result after a court ruling, passed relatively peacefully.
"This country is not ready for another rigged election. Kenyans will not
accept it," Odinga said, noting that multiple people had been registered
to vote with the same identity card in a registration period that has just
The national election commission accepts that some of his criticisms are
justified and has identified 78,000 duplicate registrations. Spokesman
Andrew Limo said the commission was resolving the issue.
"We are confident we will have a credible and convincing register by May
10 to start verification," he said.
The government said that Odinga was simply trying to discredit the voting
process early to lay the ground for challenging the results on the streets.
"The opposition is trying to create a narrative so eventually they have a
way of rejecting the elections," government spokesman Munyori Buku said.
"They never accept the result."
Kenya is a staunch Western ally and a stable anchor in a region roiled by
conflict. Its $63 billion economy is East Africa's biggest but growth is
not fast enough to absorb a mass of unemployed youth.
President Uhuru Kenyatta's government has also been hit by a string of
corruption scandals and a strike by doctors that has now entered its third
Kenyatta, Odinga's arch political rival, has spent the last two months on a
massive voter registration drive across the country and in his ethnic
Kikuyu heartland, a strategy that helped him prevail over Odinga in 2013.
Odinga, a leading candidate for the top job, also took part in this year's
registration drive, which officials say added 3 million people to nearly 16
million registered voters, but he said it was deeply flawed.
"This is a big mess," he said, "The executive office is trying to downplay
it. It is a major, major mess."
Odinga said he would first seek redress through the courts but that the
government was putting pressure on the judiciary, citing a
parliamentarian's recent public criticism of a judge.
"That was an attempt to try to intimidate or blackmail the judiciary so
they can be complicit," he told Reuters in an interview in the capital,
"We have not ruled out what we call mass action ... to ensure the rule of
law is respected," he said.
"Every option is open to us."
Both sides accuse each other of stoking tribal tensions, a dangerous game
in a country where politics often splits along ethnic lines. Analysts say
the 47 county governorships, which come with a big budget and perks, will
"They (voters) are being manipulated to believe that if so-and-so from
another tribe is in leadership then ... their lives are going to be
endangered and they can only be secure when their man occupies the top
position," Odinga said.
Last week, during a campaign to register voters, Kenyatta accused the
opposition of "lies, tribalism, hatred and divisive politics".
Some diplomats fear that the international community, which played a major
role in mediating and ending the 2007 violence, may be less engaged this
time as they grapple with Brexit, a European refugee crisis and a new
The threat of prosecution at the International Criminal Court, which hung
over the 2013 polls, has also receded after the case against Kenyatta
collapsed following allegations of political interference and
"You could see a whole lot more violence this time around before the
international community intervenes because there are so many fires burning
everywhere," said one diplomat.
Kenya's dirty war Suspected jihadists are being killed in droves on Kenya's coast Economist
BALBINA, a woman from Mombasa, Kenya’s main coastal city, remembers
fetching her neighbour Abdullah’s body from a police station. “It wasn’t so
terrible,” says Balbina (not her real name). Surprisingly, “there was not
even any blood.” The wound was hidden at the back of his head; his face was
serene. He was killed by police, in what they claimed (but she does not
believe) was a shoot-out. “Abdullah did wrong. He went to Somalia, maybe he
killed innocent people.” But he deserved justice, she says, not to be shot
in the back of the head without a trial.
Such stories are easy to find on the Kenyan coast, where young men are
often recruited to fight for al-Shabab (“the Youth”), a Somali jihadist
group. Some go to fight in Somalia; some carry out terrorist attacks at
home. In recent years the government has cracked down on anyone it suspects
might have joined al-Shabab. In December Haki Africa, a human-rights
group, published the names of 81 people, almost all young Muslim men, who
it says were killed or “disappeared” by police since 2012. The real number
is probably much higher, says Francis Auma, the group’s co-ordinator, since
many cases go unreported or leave few clues implicating the state.
The coast of Kenya has long felt different from the rest of the country.
Under British rule a ten-mile littoral strip was nominally part of a
protectorate administered by the Sultan of Zanzibar, rather than part of
the colony of Kenya. Unlike the rest of the mostly Christian country, the
coast is largely Muslim, with a large ethnic Somali population to the
north. And since independence from Britain in 1963, it has had a rebellious
streak, built on anger about the unequal distribution of land and jobs,
perceived persecution of Muslims, and dislike of rule by elites from
Nairobi, the capital.
It is these resentments that help al-Shabab to recruit. Abdullah, says
Balbina, “had no parents; he was lonely and jobless.” That made him easy
prey for recruiters, who stoked his anger while also flashing cash and
promising him a better life in Somalia. Money is a big lure, says a local
official. Some jihadists even pose as recruitment agents for jobs in the
Gulf, she says. “You see a man in a good car, he takes three or four guys,
Many recruits are disappointed—Somalia is not the Islamic paradise they
were told it was, and foreigners are used as cannon fodder. So they come
back to Kenya, where they face an awful choice. They can join an amnesty
programme and turn informer—thereby risking being killed by their erstwhile
chums. Or they can refuse, and risk being “disappeared” by the police. Any
young man who has been away from his village for a while, or who has been
seen with suspected al-Shabab sympathisers, is in danger. Some bodies have
been found dumped in a game park; others were presumably eaten by hyenas
before they could be found.
Some of the disappeared were doubtless guilty, but none had a chance to
defend himself in court. And in some cases the police apparently grabbed
the wrong man. Idris Mohamed, 26, was shot in Mombasa. The family told
reporters that police officers had stripped him naked, handcuffed him and
forced him to lie face down before shooting him. (The police deny this,
saying he was killed by an unknown assailant.) Officers who brought his
body to the mortuary filed paperwork saying he was Ismael Mohamed, a
terrorism suspect and the victim’s brother, who had not been seen for some
months. “The facts strongly suggest a case of mistaken identity,” concludes
Such criticism irks the government. Mr Auma says that Haki Africa has been
harassed by the authorities since it began publishing reports of
extrajudicial killings; at one point, the group’s bank accounts were
frozen. Hassan Abdille of Muslims for Human Rights, another lobby group,
says his staff have been spied on.
Apologists for the police note that the wave of jihadist attacks that hit
the coast between 2011 and 2014 appears to have ebbed. But even if brutal
tactics have curbed terrorism in the short term, they risk infuriating a
generation of young Muslim men and storing up trouble for the future. “It’s
counterproductive, as it is pushing some people towards radicalism when
they see their kin killed and no justice done,” says Mr Auma.
Moreover, by killing those who return the police may be silencing an
effective form of anti-jihadist propaganda. Left to their own devices,
those returning would surely tell other youngsters how awful it was going
to Somalia to fight. Many of those who come back are said to have
complained that they were never paid as promised. Others suffered abuse:
“They went there having been promised four wives each,” says a community
worker. “Instead they became wives.”
Police hit squads are operating in an already febrile political
atmosphere. In August Kenya will hold local and national elections, and
Mombasa will be among the most fiercely contested cities. A system of
devolution introduced in 2013 means that its governor controls a bigger
budget. The incumbent, Ali Hassan Joho, is popular among local Muslims,
whom he promises to defend from grasping ruling-party politicians in
Nairobi. He is close to Raila Odinga, Kenya’s main opposition leader, and
is said to be financing Mr Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement party.
Locals say that some six months before the vote, all the main parties are
already recruiting youngsters into political gangs, known as “pressure
groups” to intimidate opponents and their voters. They are paying voters to
register and there could be widespread vote-buying on the day. Many say
that Mr Joho’s supporters could turn violent if he looks likely to lose.
It would not be the first time that a Kenyan election turns bloody. After a
flawed ballot in 2007 politicians stoked fighting that claimed some 1,300
lives. The whiff of that conflict hung heavily over the next vote in 2013,
which nonetheless proceeded peacefully. But many in Kenya now fret that
there may be a return to mayhem, particularly in Mombasa, where politicians
are fighting for control of Kenya’s lucrative main port. With
well-practised hit-squads already on the prowl, the risks of conflagration
Both Nishet and I felt this vibe this week in Mombasa.