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Humanity and genius in the sketches of Leonardo da Vinci @FT
In his The Lives of the Artists the 16th-century artist and writer
Giorgio Vasari gives special place to Leonardo, “marvellous and divine
. . . variable and unstable”, who left so many paintings and
sculptures incomplete because “he was convinced that his hands, for
all their skill, could never perfectly express the subtle and
wonderful ideas of his imagination”.
But his drawings did. Rearing horses, twisting violently, kicking,
biting, and a raging rider, cloak billowing in the wind, leap out from
the bright sketches for the 18-metre war mural “The Battle of
Anghiari”, never finished, now lost. Human and animal power and fury,
muscular force and grace, rise and fall in a few swirling red chalk
marks on paper.
Leonardo’s most ambitious completed painting, “The Last Supper”,
already deteriorated in his lifetime; its energy and psychological
originality live potently in the rapidly sketched head of St James,
eyes cast down in horror; in the ethereal black chalk “St Philip”; in
the guilty coils of “Judas”. For “The Arm of St Peter”, curving back
as the apostle leans over Judas’ shoulder, the chalk is expressive,
tonal. By contrast Leonardo uses pen and ink in “Sketches for the Last
Supper”, delineating structure: integrating 13 men in a harmonious
composition while differentiating facial type, pose and gesture.
27-MAY-2019 :: China vs. US War Ballistic @TheStarKenya
Law & Politics
Trade War turns ballistic
For quite a while, the consensus view has been that the US and China
would after all the theatrics reach some kind of Deal. President Trump
is highly tuned to the markets and in fact something of a c21st
Artiste. His Positive ''Trade War'' Tweets are timed around the US
Market hours and designed to soothe, massage and finesse US asset
''Trump predicts 'fast' trade deal with China''
and he turns more negative in Chinese Trading hours.
This is next-level Gaming of a very sophisticated nature and there are
few Leaders if any that I can recall that have appreciated the Purity
of the Market Signal and played the game at this Yehudi Menuhin
virtuouso level. Of course, Carl Icahn has stayed real close. Trump's
head spinning and high velocity tweets lulled the markets and as Joerg
Wuttke pronounced ''Xi got Trump wrong [and the Chinese economy is ill
prepared for what comes next]'' Xi misread the signals. The Point
being in the Trade War Trump is no longer the Decider. In the US,
There is clearly a consensus baseline for a Full-On Toe to Toe
Slugfest as it were.
In China, however, There is only one Decider that Decider was
pronounced as much by Xinhua in a historical announcement in March
The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China “proposed to
remove the expression that ‘the president and vice-president of the
People’s Republic of China shall serve no more than two consecutive
terms’ from the country’s constitution.” In one fell swoop, President
Xi Jinping was President for Life. President Xi is on a Pedestal and
is faced with the Strong Man Conundrum. The Political Brand will not
permit a retreat let alone a Surrender.
Friedrich Wu, a professor at Nanyang Technological University in
Singapore sums up the feelings of many when he describes them as “a
list of surrender demands for China to acquiesce to”. [FT]
“If there is a decoupling between the two economies, so be it. The
Chinese people can endure more pain than the spoiled and hubristic
The FT said
''Xi Jinping, the Chinese Communist president, is preparing to lead
his country into an all-out trade conflict with the world’s leading
economic and technological power, But just as Chinese forces
ultimately fought the US to a stalemate in Korea by pitting sheer
troop numbers and a far greater tolerance for mass casualties against
superior American firepower, Mr Xi reckons he can direct a successful,
society-wide struggle in the trade dispute''
Notwithstanding all the hyperbole and very partisan commentary, the
following are the plain Truths. The US exported $120bn of goods to
China last year, China shipped $540bn of goods to the US. This
disequilibrium is the essential and overarching point. Furthermore, I
estimate that 80% of the Tariff Increase is actually going to have to
be absorbed by the Chinese Manufacturer and only 20% by the US
Consumer. If you study the basket of Chinese Goods, they are
commoditised and replaceable. Furthermore, its now a racing certainty
that Trump will place 25% tariffs on around $300 billion of additional
Chinese imports, setting a 25% Tariff on all $540b of Chinese imports.
The US Economy is in fact more of an Island [autarkic] Economy than
Huawei is a Proxy and that has gone ballistic.
19 May - 01:34:34 PM [RTRS] (GOOGL.O) - GOOGLE SUSPENDS BUSINESS
ACTIVITY WITH HUAWEI THAT REQUIRES TRANSFER OF SOFTWARE, HARDWARE,
TECHNICAL INFO: SOURCE
Driving Huawei out of the United States and Europe is “10 times more
important” than a trade deal with China, according to former White
House chief strategist Steve Bannon. He also said he would dedicate
all his time to shutting Chinese companies out of US capital markets.
Essentially, My Base-Line is that the Trade War is headed off the
charts into Territory the market still continues to price as a
''Tail'' Risk. [Tail risk is the additional risk of an asset moving
more than 3 standard deviations from its current price, above the risk
of a normal distribution]
The following commodities falling by > 3 standard deviation PTA,
Rubber, Zinc, copper, Coking Coal in 3 std deviations. The margin
calls on retail China oil futures meant they fell much more than Brent
or WTI It will be an interesting few weeks ahead of us.
The Markets across the World shivered in May, some caught a Fever and
some on the Periphery have become as delirious as victims of cerebral
malaria. The Markets are still pricing in a benign [but much less
benign than a month ago] Outcome. We need to consider what a non
benign or even maximum non benign outcome looks like. The Chinese
Currency which is -8.8% on a Year on Year basis is surely a very
visible proxy. And if this all turns ballistic as is my baseline
scenario then this is going to fly through 7.00 like a hot knife
through butter and the Chinese will surely use the value as currency
as Push-Back. If they do they will be pushing at an open door. Its
clear that directionally money wants to leave China and a great deal
of the 2019 surge in Bitcoin is surely correlated to Chinese Flight
Capital. Therefore, my prediction is when the currency slides its
going to slide real quick and Dollar Call Options are an interesting
risk adjusted trade.
I wrote last week about the China Emerging and Frontier markets loop
Phenomenon which has been super positive for more than 2 decades and
is now in a Major Trend Change and has turned negative. I would be
adding to short positions in the Australia Dollar [a Global Trade
Proxy and Global Trade is slowing] and the South African Rand. The
Periphery will get smashed as we are seeing it unfold in Lusaka.
My Guest at Mindspeak today is the preeminent China Scholar Professor
Howard French Author of most recently ''Everything Under the Heavens:
How the Past Helps Shape China's Push for Global Power'' and I look
forward to gaining further insights on this.
10-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.
India's Ambassador to the United States announced on Thursday night - as @narendramodi clinched a second five-year term in office - that his country would no longer import Iranian oil. @asiatimesonline
Law & Politics
India is the latest country to fall into line with far-reaching US
sanctions on the Islamic Republic. In April, Indian imports of Iranian
oil had already dropped off by 42% to 1.41 million tonnes, the
Economic Times of India reported citing oil ministry figures.
The upset for Iran comes after its top diplomat, Javad Zarif, flew in
for a visit with his Indian counterpart earlier this month – an
extraordinary move in the midst of a campaign. External Affairs
Minister Sushma Swaraj informed him that a decision would be made on
Iranian crude imports following the election.
The decision appeared to have already been made, however, as the
announcement came immediately after Modi’s victory was assured.
“That’s it,” Indian Ambassador Harsh Vardhan Shringla told reporters
in Washington on Thursday night, referring to the final shipments in
April. “After that, we haven’t imported any,” he said, in comments
published by AFP.
India indicated earlier that it had made alternative arrangements to
prevent an interruption in oil supplies. What was left unstated, Asia
Times reported earlier this month, was the extra cost of replacing
Iranian oil. Until May 2 this year, nearly 11% of India’s oil imports
were coming from Iran.
And last year, Iran was India’s third largest provider of crude,
following Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
In 2019, Venezuela had taken that third place, but India has also
weaned itself off petroleum from Caracas to stay in step with its
ally, the US.
The Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign aims to drive
Iran’s oil exports to zero so that the petroleum-dominated economy
runs out of cash and is forced to accept American terms.
מזל טוב ידידי נרנדרה מודי! @narendramodi @netanyahu
Malawi election results delayed after injunction over alleged irregularities
BLANTYRE/LILONGWE, Malawi (Reuters) - Final results of Malawi’s
presidential elections will be delayed, the electoral commission (MEC)
said on Saturday after the high court ordered a review of the polls
following opposition allegations of tampering.
Voters cast ballots for a president, parliament and ward councillors
on May 21, with President Peter Mutharika’s ruling Democratic
Progressive Party (DPP) facing stiff competition from the Malawi
Congress Party (MCP), which filed the complaints alleging intimidation
and tampering by the DPP. [nL5N22X1VN]
The Malawian High Court ordered the MEC not to release results of the
presidential vote until a judicial review of the complaints had been
heard and results from 10 districts were verified.
Malawian law says complaints must be resolved within the maximum eight
days between polling and the announcement of results. But chairwoman
of the MEC Justice Jane Ansah said the results would be delayed until
matters cited by the court were resolved.
“Presidential results have been withheld until we resolve the issue of
the court injunction which we have received. We are dealing with all
complaints,” Ansah told a press briefing.
Ethiopian ethnic violence has forced almost 3m to flee homes @FinancialTimes
On a drenched field in southern Ethiopia, hundreds of members of the
ethnic Gedeo community are huddled together with nothing to do but
wait. It had rained all night and the ragged shelters they had strung
together were sinking in the mud.
“We can’t go back,” said Haptemu Mariam, 28, a father of six who fled
his home in the Guji area of the neighbouring Oromia region last year.
“The Guji people are dangerous,” he said, referring to a group with
which his people had lived peacefully until a recent flare-up of
violence between the two groups.
About 700,000 people have been displaced by the Gedeo-Guji dispute,
according to the UN. Yet it is just one of many inter-ethnic conflicts
raging in Ethiopia that have given the country an unenviable
distinction: last year more people fled their homes there than in any
other nation on earth.
In total, 2.9m people were displaced by December 2018, more than those
dislodged in Syria, Yemen, Somalia and Afghanistan combined, according
to estimates published this month.
The upsurge in communal violence has coincided with the early days of
Abiy Ahmed’s tenure as prime minister and is arguably the greatest
threat to his lofty ambitions.
“There’s a concern that the country is on a negative trajectory due to
entrenched elite disagreement over what sort of federation Ethiopia
should be and how to share power,” said Mr Davison of the
International Crisis Group.
“Unless there’s some sort of agreement on a common vision for
Ethiopia, there’s a danger that the turmoil continues, and possibly
gets much worse.”
Azeteng was on the run Secret spectacles The story of a migrant spy @BBCAfrica
It was close to midnight when the young man crawled into the desert.
All around him was darkness. A hundred metres away, a handful of
Tuareg rebels and people smugglers, who worked together ferrying
migrants through this unforgiving stretch of the Sahara, were gathered
around three trucks, drumming and dancing and letting off long bursts
of gunfire that rattled the night sky. He could just make out the
faint light from their phones, and every fifth bullet they fired was a
tracer that lit a bright arc towards the stars.
Different languages and dialects rang out over the din - French, Bambara, Mandingo, Twi. As the convoy hit the open desert, excitement rippled through the truck.
When it was finished, the women were brought back and put in the front
of the truck and the migrants were put in the back of the truck, and a
heavy silence settled on them. The jubilation of earlier that day had
given way to fear.
It was the crack of a rifle bullet brought them to a stop a second
time — a warning shot that fizzed over their heads. Azeteng picked
himself up from the bed of the truck and looked out and a chill ran
through him. For the first time in his life, he saw a severed human
head. Two severed human heads, mounted on wooden stakes — young men
like him, he thought, probably migrants who made some small mistake.
Horseflies buzzed around the heads, and blood had run down the wooden
stakes and dried.
The migrants were ordered to get down from the trucks and line up, and
the grim events of the first checkpoint began to repeat themselves —
the cash bowl, the beatings, the Nigerian women. Azeteng watched as
the women walked again into the desert with half a dozen men. While
the migrants waited, the driver of the truck, who looked to be in his
late 30s and wore traditional Muslim dress, and had shared the front
cabin with the women, removed a handful of sticks from a stash under
the truck and slowly made a fire. He filled a metal pot with water and
poured in tea leaves and brought it to the boil. Darkness began to
settle. The driver stirred the mixture for a while, and when he saw
that the women were being brought back he poured the tea, and the
three sat silently together by the small fire.
Read @TheSentry_Org's latest report #CovertCapital @EnoughProject
It would have been hard to understand the significance of Kwanza
Capital just by looking at the company’s headquarters in a commercial
garage in Kinshasa’s business district. No sign marked its presence.
There was nothing to indicate the company was shuffling over one
hundred million dollars through accounts held at a bank linked to the
family of Joseph Kabila, who served as president of the Democratic
Republic of Congo (Congo) from 2001 to January 2019. Nor would
onlookers have had reason to suspect that the company was controlled
by members of Congo’s former first family and its close allies.
Individuals with knowledge of the company’s activities told The Sentry
it maintained a low profile by design and the individuals behind
Kwanza Capital apparently sought to minimize their public association
with the company. Kwanza Capital, which is now reportedly under
liquidation, gained only fleeting public notice as it made unusual
maneuvers in the country’s banking sector, but its story is more
expansive than the public record would suggest.
Kwanza Capital participated in multiple acquisition attempts in the
Congolese banking sector. These attempts also involved a host of
additional individuals and companies, including a Swiss- Angolan
financier, a Chinese conglomerate, and a lawyer formerly affiliated
with the French office of a U.S.-based law firm. While each attempt to
take over a bank ultimately failed, a review of Kwanza Capital’s
financial records and those of its minority
shareholder reveals several indicators of money laundering as well as
signs these companies may have received millions of dollars in
misappropriated funds from the Congolese government. In total, the
records reviewed by The Sentry indicate that as much as $140 million
may have circulated through these accounts and that they appear to
have functioned as a ready source of cash for family members and
friends of former President Kabila.
Congo already struggles to ensure its citizens have access to bank
services. In fact, a 2017 study found that only six percent of the
population had access to these services, which is less than
one-quarter the average across sub-Saharan Africa
Sud Oil’s articles of incorporation indicate that the company’s
headquarters were in the same garage where Kwanza Capital’s offices
would also be based.
Since Kwanza Capital’s founding in June 2014, Kinduelo’s role was
critical for projecting credibility even if it did not require much of
him other than lending his name to official documentation and
attending board meetings, according to individuals with knowledge of
the company’s operations. According to these individuals, Kinduelo was
little more than a figurehead acting on behalf of Kwanza Capital’s
ultimate beneficiaries, the Kabila family. The company’s actual head,
though, was someone with much deeper ties to the Kabila family than
Kinduelo’s. Multiple sources with knowledge of the company’s
operations identified Selemani as Kwanza Capital’s boss and undisputed
decision-maker, with close associate Moustapha Massudi serving as his
de facto deputy. Sources claimed that Selemani even maintained an
office in Kwanza Capital’s spaces within the garage. Massudi, who was
BGFIBank DRC’s commercial and marketing director until August 2018,
appeared to have a level of oversight of Kwanza Capital’s accounts at
the bank in his capacity as a director there, according to records
reviewed by The Sentry. Massudi denied having any involvement with
Kwanza Capital or any responsibility for Kwanza Capital accounts on
behalf of the bank. BGFIBank DRC, a subsidiary of Gabon-headquartered
BGFIBank Group, has operated in Congo since 2010 and has been closely
linked to Kwanza Capital’s operations since the latter’s inception in
Between 2013 and 2017, members of the Kabila family and its allies
made two attempts to acquire a majority stake in BCDC, one of Congo’s
largest commercial banks. Although neither attempt reached fruition,
documents reviewed and interviews conducted by The Sentry shed light
on how members of then-President Kabila’s family and their close
associates relied on corporate proxies and well-connected
international parties to advance the deal.
BCDC is majority-owned by the Belgian-origin Forrest family, which has
held a large stake in the bank for over a decade and owned roughly 67
percent of its shares at the end of 2017. The patriarch of the family,
George Forrest, whose wealth Forbes estimated at $800 million in 2016,
oversees a vast commercial empire operating in mining and other
sectors.38 The Congolese government has also held a stake in BCDC
since the mid-1960s, which was around 26 percent in 2017. BCDC has an
expansive network of correspondent relationships with banks in the
United States and Europe and is listed on the Brussels stock exchange.
Sources with knowledge of the first attempted acquisition told The
Sentry that the Kabila family and its allies, operating through an
intermediary, first made Forrest an offer for $50 million in 2013 for
his family’s shares. Forrest reportedly declined because he found the
offer insufficient and, significantly, could not verify that the
source of the funds was legitimate. Some of the funds for the purchase
had been misappropriated from government coffers, according to a
source with knowledge of the deal. Faced with this failure, the Kabila
family and its allies reportedly established Kwanza Capital as a front
company to make acquisitions in the banking sector. In addition,
sources told The Sentry that BCDC was the main target. Between 2014
and 2017, Kwanza Capital would return with a higher offer and attempt
to address concerns around the origin of funds by seeking an outside
In 2015, close associates of then-President Kabila—including people
affiliated with Kwanza Capital and, at the time, BGFIBank DRC—assumed
key positions at BCDC. Sources with knowledge of the negotiations over
the share acquisition told The Sentry that this was more than a mere
personnel change, it was the first stage in a coordinated campaign to
pressure Forrest to sell. Pascal Kinduelo, majority owner and CEO of
Kwanza Capital and then-chairman of BGFIBank DRC’s board, was named
BCDC’s board chairman.40 The annual report states that Kinduelo was
elevated to this position “at the proposal of the Congolese state” in
its capacity as a shareholder.41 Kinduelo’s special advisor was to be
Albert Yuma, the head of Congolese state-owned mining company
Gécamines since 2010, a director on the Central Bank of Congo’s board
and member of its audit committee since at least 2007, and―in
Kinduelo’s mold―the president of Congo’s powerful business lobbying
group since 2005.
According to sources familiar with the second attempt,
Switzerland-headquartered investment firm Quantum Global offered
Kwanza Capital a loan of between $70 million and $80 million to
finance the acquisition of the Forrest family’s shares in BCDC.44
Quantum Global’s CEO, Swiss-Angolan national Jean-Claude Bastos,
apparently was himself directly involved in aspects of the deal along
with as many as two other senior Quantum Global staff members. One
source with knowledge of the negotiations indicated that a Quantum
Global representative said the money for the loan would come from an
unspecified African sovereign wealth fund.
it is an easy leap of belief to see @CyrilRamaphosa's presidential inauguration as a made-for-television force multiplier for his national (and international) audiences. @dailymaverick
And, of course, so too, most of South Africa’s governmental “royalty”
were in attendance as well. In fact, taken as a whole, the day’s
events had a distinctly semiotic texture, what with all the potent
signs, allegories, metaphors, and some serious symbolism going on all
around the stadium.
In his speech, the president put a velvet glove over that airborne
fist, saying his goal is “to build the Africa that all Africans want.
To forge a free trade area that stretches from Cape Town to Cairo,
bringing growth and opportunity to all African countries. To silence
the guns and let peace and harmony reign. Today, we declare that our
progress as South Africa depends on – and cannot be separated from –
the onward march of our beloved continent [of] Africa.”
There it was, virtually the only spoken references to a Ramaphosa
doctrine towards the continent, save for a later reach back to ANC
founding father Pixley ka Seme’s own early 20th-century vision for
Africa, where Seme had written:
“The brighter day is rising upon Africa. Already I seem to see her
chains dissolved, her desert plains red with harvest, her Abyssinia
and her Zululand the seats of science and religion, reflecting the
glory of the rising sun from the spires of their churches and
universities. Her Congo and her Gambia whitened with commerce, her
crowded cities sending forth the hum of business, and all her sons
[and daughters] employed in advancing the victories of peace – greater
and more abiding than the spoils of war.”
That vision had a positively Walt Whitmanesque ring to it (as in his
poem I Hear America Singing) in some of Seme’s cadences, now made use
of by President Ramaphosa.
Yes, his words could be stirring; but for any specifics of the “how”
or the “what”, Ramaphosa’s nation will still need to wait until later
on for all the vital, corroborative detail. It was almost as if this
address was intended to be his final campaign speech (against the
Zuptas?) in which all the hopeful, visionary poetry was recited, while
the more boring (but still vital) prose comprising tax code and
budgetary changes will come later.
S&P keeps South Africa in 'junk' status, sees post-election reforms @ReutersAfrica
S&P Global Ratings kept South Africa’s foreign- and local-currency
credit ratings in “junk” territory with a stable outlook late on
Friday, saying the new government was expected to focus on reforms to
revive the economy.
Newly elected President Cyril Ramaphosa has pledged to rekindle growth
by fixing state firms, easing policy uncertainty and luring back
foreign investment that dried up in the last decade under his
predecessor Jacob Zuma.
S&P kept the country’s long-term foreign-currency rating at ‘BB’,
while the long-term local-currency rating was held at ‘BB+’. Both
carry a stable outlook. The ratings agency made the same assessment in
November 2018 after slashing the rating in 2017.
Fitch Ratings also rates Pretoria’s debt as junk. Of the top three
ratings firms only Moody’s classifies the sovereign as
A low-ball proposal by parent @BarrickGold Corp. to buy out @AcaciaMining Plc is an "appropriate" and "elegant" solution to a two-year dispute @business
Acacia has been at odds with Tanzania’s government since July 2017,
when the state handed the London-listed gold producer a $190 billion
tax bill, saying it falsely declared bullion exports.
Barrick has led discussions with the government. In an effort to solve
the impasse, Bristow surprised the market earlier in the week with an
informal plan to buy out Acacia’s minority shareholders for $285
million, a discount of about 8.5% based on closing prices of both
companies on Tuesday.
“To come in as aggressively as he did, with a really low value -- I
don’t know what his strategy is,” Hunter Hillcoat, an analyst with
Investec Securities, said by phone from London. “They didn’t even
offer par. It was almost like a slap in the face.”
The fact that Toronto-based Barrick is putting a value on Acacia,
while also leading discussions with the government -- talks from which
Acacia has been locked out -- raises questions, Hillcoat said. “It’s a
peculiar situation. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
Bristow disputes the idea it has kept its 64%-owned subsidiary in the
dark. “We have been engaged with Acacia, certainly while I’ve been
around,” said Bristow, who took over as Barrick’s CEO at the beginning
of the year.
Although the risk of arbitration is higher than accepting a buyout,
the reward could be greater, according to Barclays Plc. A favorable
ruling might be worth $1.3 billion, more than the companies current
market capitalization, Amos Fletcher said in a research note this
week. A third option would be for minority shareholders to push for a
higher offer from Barrick, he wrote.
Barrick’s three largest shareholders -- Vanguard Group, Van Eck
Associates and BlackRock Inc. -- are also among Acacia’s largest
investors. Vanguard said it doesn’t comment on holdings, while VanEck
and BlackRock declined to comment.
Investec is among Acacia’s largest investors, according to Bloomberg
data, and also holds shares in Barrick. Powerful minorities are
unlikely to “take kindly” to the tone of the current offer, Hillcoat
“It appears to be a veiled threat from Barrick that we’re the ones who
hold all the cards and you’re just going to have to agree to what
we’re doing,” Hillcoat said.