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First it was a heavenly body-a beacon, or a world, a place where no one could possibly go. Then, from 1969 to 1972, twelve people landed there in spaceships. @nybooks
I say leave it alone for a while. When we looked close up, we found
barren sand, inanimate rock of indeterminate color, and no urgent
reason to stay. The moon abides. It rules the firmament. Waning
crescent, waxing gibbous, it raises the oceans and tugs at our
thoughts. “It still holds the key to madness,” E.B. White wrote fifty
years ago, “still controls the tides that lap on shores everywhere,
still guards the lovers who kiss in every land under no banner but the
The lost gastronomic world of ancient Rome @FinancialTimes
The ancient Romans revelled in food and drink. Meal times were a
collective activity, a chance to share sensual pleasure and show off
their luxurious homes. Not to exploit this was to risk comparison with
As the Roman writer Seneca put it, “dinner without a friend is like
the life of the lion or a wolf.”
Now an exhibition at Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum, Last Supper in
Pompeii, illuminates that lost gastronomic world. And through it, a
wide window on to the social systems of that unique place.
Bringing together frescoes, mosaics, sculptures and cooking vessels
with a trove of oddities — from the humerus bone of a dormouse to
chamber pots and carbonised pomegranates — it achieves a triumphant
balance between scholarship and storytelling.
When Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD79, pouring ash down on the cities
that fringed the Bay of Naples, it wiped out their inhabitants but
preserved their lifestyles for future generations.
After Pompeii was discovered in the mid-18th century, it triggered a
surge in our knowledge of ancient lifestyles that is still growing
The exhibition opens with a homage to Bacchus, Roman god of wine and
fertility, in the form of a statue (AD50-15) found in Piacenza.
With his crown of grapes and vine leaves, his wine cup dangling from
one languid hand and his trusty panther at his side, the beneficence
of this seductive, decadent troublemaker was crucial to Roman plenty.
Bacchus’s image even appeared in the homes of slaves, as revealed by a
stunning fresco that originally adorned the slaves’ quarters in the
House of the Centenary in Pompeii (AD60-79).
Bacchus is wearing a robe of grapes as well as pouring wine into the
mouth of his panther. Next to him an image of Vesuvius shows its
slopes covered with vine trellises, their presence signalling that
wine was crucial to Pompeii’s economy as well as its wellbeing.
Vesuvius’s vines testify to the fertility of Campania’s volcanic soil.
With its mild climate and coastal geography, the region was a rich
source of produce, including fruit, vegetables, olives and grains.
Sheep, cattle and pigs were raised on farms.
The Bay of Naples proffered abundant fish. Remnants of this gourmet
Eden include a plaster cast of a pig (leaner and more boar-like than
today’s domestic species), whose imprint was found embedded in the ash
at Villa Regina in Boscoreale.
Food was imported as well as grown locally. The graffito on an amphora
found at Pompeii announces it once held corn transported in a ship
whose pilot came from Tunis. As such it testifies to the Roman custom
of buying their wheat from northern Africa.
All this bounty was destined for the tables of a Roman dining-room
(which was known as a triclinium, from the Greek for three couches).
Thanks to a skilful exhibition set design, a video of the Bay of
Naples and the loan of a stunning fresco from Naples’ Archeological
Museum, the Ashmolean has recreated the dining room of the House of
the Golden Bracelet at Pompeii.
The diners supped on couches set back in a niche, with a view of
glittering waters before them, and to one side the fresco — showing a
garden complete with oleander and strawberry trees, fountain, palm
tree and statues of sphinxes — intensified the sensation of being
immersed in paradise.
It has suddenly become one of the biggest questions in Hong Kong: What will the Chinese military do? @Business.
Law & Politics
After eight weeks of increasingly violent unrest -- and more
anti-government protests planned for this weekend -- anxiety is
growing that Beijing might call in the People’s Liberation Army. China
seems willing to at least feed the speculation with hints and signals,
including the release of a video Wednesday showing troops practicing
While a military intervention appears remote, the possibility has set
nerves on edge in the former British colony and prompted at least one
investment bank to flag it as a risk. Since Hong Kong returned to
Chinese rule 22 years ago, the PLA’s troops in the city have played a
minimal role. Should that change, the implications for both Hong Kong
and China would be enormous.
The biggest fear for some is a repeat of the deadly crackdown that
took place in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square three decades ago,
potentially prompting the U.S. to withdraw special trade privileges
for Hong Kong. But even smaller-scale intervention could spark a
knee-jerk exodus from the city’s financial markets, drag down property
prices and prompt international companies to reconsider their presence
in the territory, analysts say.
“Beijing is unlikely to use the PLA to quell the protests until it
feels it has exhausted all other levers at its disposal,” said Euan
Graham, a former Asia analyst at the U.K.’s foreign office who’s now
executive director of Asian research and outreach at Australia’s La
“However much Xi Jinping fears chaos within China’s borders and that
the use of the PLA is legitimate in his eyes, above all he does not
want to have the stain of another Tiananmen massacre.”
“The behavior of some radical demonstrators, challenging the authority
of the central government and touching the bottom line of the
principle of ‘one country, two systems,’ is absolutely intolerable,”
Wu said, just three days after protesters surrounded China’s liaison
office in Hong Kong and defaced the national emblem.
“The Pearl of the Orient is not to be defiled.”
The People's Liberation Army has an estimated 6,000 troops stationed in the city
Hu Xijin, the editor of China’s state-run Global Times, played down
the prospect of using the PLA as Hong Kong’s “fire brigade” in a
commentary last month. Troops would only be deployed in extreme cases,
such as in response to a takeover of the city’s main government
institutions by extremists, he said.
“Everyone knows the consequences” if China were to send in the troops,
Wan said. “If it does happen, Hong Kong as we know it will be over.”
Nasir al-Mulk Mosque, Iran @CNTraveler
Also known as "The Pink Mosque," Nasir al-Mulk Mosque in Shiraz, Iran,
is famous for its stunning array of colors—thanks to a unique
combination of stained glass windows and mosaics. (It's unusual for a
mosque to feature stained glass, according to the Huffington Post.)
But when Nasir al-Mulk was built in 1888, it was specially designed to
take advantage of morning light, and the sun filtering through the
windows creates a rainbow effect, highlighting the jewel-toned tiles
and rugs in the interior. If you're able to visit the mosque, make
sure you go early for prime viewing.
Death on the Nile Haunts Ethiopia's Rebirth @business
The day Simegnew Bekele was found dying at the wheel of his Toyota
Land Cruiser in central Addis Ababa—doors locked, engine running and a
bullet wound to his head—he had left home holding a plane ticket and a
The plan on that July afternoon a year ago was to return to the
construction site of the vast hydroelectric dam that Simegnew had been
overseeing since 2011, according to his mother-in-law, Membere
The project on the Nile had made its chief engineer a national hero.
His was the public face of plans for a new Ethiopia that would no
longer be known for famines and war, but as Africa’s
Membere, like many Ethiopians, still doesn’t believe the police
finding of suicide. “Why do you buy a ticket and pack your bag to go,
if you are going to shoot yourself?” the 72-year-old said in an
interview at her home in the capital, where she now cares for the
youngest two of the three children he left behind.
Whoever pulled the trigger, Simegnew found himself in the eye of
multiple political storms that are still today battering one of
Africa’s largest infrastructure projects: the Grand Ethiopian
Renaissance Dam (GERD). A year after his death, a symbol of Ethiopia’s
prosperous future risks becoming a reminder of the country’s struggles
to shake its turbulent past.
Egypt has vigorously opposed the dam’s construction, due to concerns
the project could reduce the supply of water downstream, at one point
even threatening war. More than 80% of Egypt’s Nile water supply
originates in the highlands of Ethiopia. But unprecedented access to
officials and engineers running the dam project suggest the greatest
risks to Ethiopia’s hydro-powered transformation come not from Egypt,
but from internal disputes surrounding a leadership change in Addis
Ababa just three months before Simegnew’s death.
The country’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, has ushered in new, more
market-based ideas on how to run the economy. The previous
government’s use of the dam as a training project for Ethiopia’s
state-owned military industrial champion caused delays, and its
removal over alleged quality failures and incompetence could cause
Just days before Simegnew’s death, Abiy warned that on current
progress it could take another decade to finish the dam, according to
Ethiopian media reports.
Heightened tensions between the country’s complex patchwork of ethnic
groups also threaten the project, pulling at the seams of a nation
stitched from the fertile highlands and arid lowlands of a former
Abiy is from the country’s largest (but historically subordinate)
Oromo ethnic group. His arrival displaced 27 years of ascendancy for
Tigrayans, who in turn ended centuries of preeminence for Amharas.
Almost three million Ethiopians were driven from their homes by
conflict last year, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring
Center, the highest number worldwide.
In June, an alleged coup attempt in the northern Amhara province left
its president and Ethiopia’s top general dead. Amhara nationalists lay
claim to the territory on which the Renaissance dam sits, in
neighboring Benishangul-Gumuz, and where Abiy told parliament another
coup had been planned to follow the one in Amhara.
Ethiopia’s “nationalities have been fighting against central
governments for over 80 years,” said Sebhat Nega, a founder of the
Tigray People’s Liberation Front that led a rebel takeover in 1991 and
has now been marginalized under Abiy. If constitutional order isn’t
restored, he added, “the Balkanization of Ethiopia is inevitable.”
The dam will be completed eventually, and there’s nothing inevitable
about Ethiopia’s fragmentation. Yet Simegnew’s death brought public
frustrations to a head. Thousands turned out to his funeral to demand
answers on how he died, clashing with police. Conspiracy theories
still swirl as to who might have killed the engineer.
Despite a decade of annual growth rates as high as 10%, and a pipeline
of major Chinese investments, Ethiopia remains a desperately poor
country with a GDP per capita below $1,000. Once the dam’s 16 turbines
are switched on, the 6,000-megawatt facility will increase the
country’s supply of electricity by as much as 150% at a stroke. That
will bring power to many among the two thirds of Ethiopia’s roughly
100 million population who have none, according to Minister for Water,
Irrigation and Electricity Seleshi Bekele.
Ebola crisis: Rwanda shuts border with DR Congo to stop spread of virus @BBCAfrica
A priest in Goma died last month from Ebola, and earlier this week an
artisanal miner became the second person in the city to be killed by
The miner came from the north-eastern province of Ituri and had been
admitted to a health centre in Kiziba, on the outskirts of Goma, on 13
He tested positive to Ebola on Tuesday and died on Wednesday morning.
According to a report by the AFP news agency, a third person -
believed to be the miner's daughter - is also infected.
People travel every day between Goma and Gisenyi, on the Rwandan side
of the border, leading to fears that the disease could spread.
Although the border has now been closed, it is likely that people will
continue to travel using unofficial crossings.
Rwanda has not yet had any confirmed cases, but it has set up an Ebola
treatment centre and is preparing 23 isolation centres in case of any
How bad is the situation in DR Congo?
More than 2,700 people have been infected, 1,700 of whom have died.
It took 224 days for the number of cases to reach 1,000, but just a
further 71 days to reach 2,000.
Once Famed for Hyperinflation, Zimbabwe Suspends Inflation Data @markets
Zimbabwe, suffering the world’s second-highest inflation rate, won’t
publish price data for the next six months as unrest mounts over
surging costs and shortages.
The Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency won’t report year-on-year
inflation figures until February 2020, Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube
told lawmakers Thursday in the capital, Harare.
That’s to allow the body to collect comparable data after the
introduction of a new currency earlier this year.
Annual inflation in the southern African nation surged to 175.7% in
June as shortages of food and fuel pushed up prices and the official
exchange rate weakened to 9.2 per dollar from 2.5 per dollar since
Of 120 countries tracked by Bloomberg, only Venezuela has a higher
The government started distributing food to people in cities this week
for the first time as a drought and an economic crisis caused
widespread food shortages that may affect as many as 5.5 million
people. Ncube said the economy will contract this year because of a
lack of foreign exchange and energy.
The statistics agency will continue to publish month-on-month
inflation data. That rate has also increased rapidly -- to 39.5% in
June from 1.7% in February.
Zimbabwe is no stranger to runaway inflation and abandoning certain
indicators. Price growth peaked at 500 billion percent in 2008,
prompting the government to abandon the Zimbabwe dollar.
Equity Group HY 2019 EPS +9.655% Earnings release and share price data
Par Value: 0.50/-
Closing Price: 40.00
Total Shares Issued: 3702777020.00
Market Capitalization: 148,111,080,800
Equity Group Holdings PLC HY 2019 results through 30th June 2019 vs.
30th June 2018
HY Investment securities 179.619474b vs. 158.940491b +13.011%
HY Kenyan government available for sale 159.431533b vs. 138.453752b +15.151%
HY Loans and advances to customers (net) 320.886253b vs. 275.036697b +16.670%
HY Total assets 638.662575b vs. 542.016243b +17.831%
HY Customer deposits 458.595144b vs. 393.685732b +16.488%
HY Total shareholders’ funds 102.739359b vs. 86.311472b +19.033%
HY Total interest income 27.680371b vs. 25.356195b +9.166%
HY Total interest expenses [6.601120b] vs. [5.773203b] +14.341%
HY Net interest income 21.079251b vs. 19.582992b +7.641%
HY Total non-interest income 16.543334b vs. 13.175875b +25.558%
HY Total operating income 37.622585b vs. 32.758867b +14.847%
HY Loan loss provision [918.498m] vs. [787.392m] +16.651%
HY Total operating expenses [20.633530b] vs. [17.288152b] +19.351%
HY Profit/ [Loss] before tax and exceptional items 16.989055b vs.
HY Profit/ [Loss] after tax and exceptional items 11.919475b vs.
Basic and diluted EPS 3.18 vs. 2.90 +9.655%
Total NPL and advances 25.663361b vs. 21.386307b +19.999%
Liquidity ratio 56.5% vs. 57.1% -0.600%
53.086% of total Assets is in GOK securities
Kenya Re reports HY 2019 EPS -12.5% Earnings and share price data
Par Value: 2.50/-
Closing Price: 3.94
Total Shares Issued: 699949068.00
Market Capitalization: 2,757,799,328
Kenya Reinsurance Corporation Limited H1 2019 results through 30th
June 2019 vs. 30th June 2018
H1 Gross premiums written premium 8.859809b vs. 6.332446b +39.911%
H1 Net earned premiums 7.429247b vs. 6.371661b +16.598%
H1 Investment income 1.945421b vs. 1.904552b +2.146%
H1 Total income 9.420658b vs. 8.311997b +13.338%
H1 Gross claims incurred and policyholder benefits [5.280607b] vs.
H1 Reinsurers’ share of claims 285.339m vs. 218.858m +30.376%
H1 Net claims and policyholder benefits [4.995268b] vs. [3.362157b] +48.573%
H1 Cedant acquisition costs [2.028322b] vs. [1.828188b] +10.947%
H1 Total claims, benefits and other expenses [8.040918b] vs.
H1 Profit before tax 1.379739b vs. 1.756786b -21.462%
H1 Profit for the period after tax 1.076197b vs. 1.229751b -12.487%
EPS 1.54 vs. 1.76 -12.500%