|Friday 29th of November 2019
Through the First Antarctic Night: A Pioneering Polar Explorer on the Resilience of the Human Spirit @brainpicker
“There was a naked fierceness in the scenes, a boisterous wildness in
the storms, a sublimity and silence in the still, cold dayless nights,
which were too impressive to be entirely overshadowed by the
Frederick Cook (June 10, 1865–August 5, 1940) composed a stunning
study of contrasts through a winter of a different order in Through
the First Antarctic Night, subtitled A Narrative of the Voyage of the
“Belgica” Among Newly Discovered Lands and Over an Unknown Sea about
the South Pole
American by birth, Cook joined the Belgian Antarctic Expedition of
1897 as official surgeon and anthropologist. When the ship was trapped
in pack ice just before the descent of the endless polar night, he
toiled with the other men to free it — a Sisyphean ambition for these
tiny human ants against the frozen colossus. They failed. Seeing that
they would have to winter in polar captivity, Cook took it upon
himself to save the crew’s lives from scurvy, venturing onto the
otherworldly icescape to hunt for fresh meat. He was only
thirty-three. (A decade later, in April of 1908, he would become the
first explorer to believe he has reached the North Pole — a year
before Robert Peary. Both explorers’ claims of discovery would be
disputed for years.) The Belgian expedition became the first to winter
in the Antarctic — a feat previously thought unsurvivable. All the
while, Cook recorded the experience — soul-straining, superhuman — in
his journal. With a naturalist’s curiosity and a poet’s sensitivity to
the changing appearances of light and darkness, external and internal,
he chronicles the eternal tug of war between our capacity for despair
and our capacity for transcendence, between absolute desolation and
almost unbearable beauty, as the crew surrender their survival and
their sanity to the unfeeling icy grip of nature.
In one spot we sawed eight hours and cut less than five feet.
All they manage to do is drift a little between the icebergs before
becoming trapped again. As they toil, they watch helplessly the
approach of the long polar winter-night:
Now the sun is low on the horizon. The darkness, which is soon to
throw the icy splendours into a hopeless, sooty gloom, is gathering
its hellish fabric to cover the laughing glory of day. The sunless
winter of storm, of unimaginable cold, of heart-destroying depression,
is rapidly advancing. We are hoping to continue our voyage of
exploration as long as possible, and when the darkness and cold become
too great we expect to steal away and winter in more congenial
By March, it becomes crushingly clear that they might not escape their
“icy imprisonment” for months. Upon coming to terms with their fate —
“how utterly we failed to gain freedom from the icy fetters of this
heartless Frost King” — the crew enter a sort of forced meditation
state. All they can do is observe the changing flow of sensation, the
undulating currents of hope and despair. In a journal entry that would
later become part of a chapter he titles “Helpless in a Hopeless Sea
of Ice,” Cook writes:
We are now doomed to remain, and become the football of an unpromising
fate. Henceforth we are to be kicked, pushed, squeezed, and ushered
helplessly at the mercy of the pack. Our first duty is to prepare for
the coming of the night, with its unknowable cold and its
soul-depressing effects… Outside there has been a rapid
transformation. The summer days of midnight suns are past, and the
premonitory darkness of the long night is falling upon us with
marvellous rapidity, for in this latitude the sun dips below the
southern skies at midnight late in January. This dip increases, and
sweeps more and more of the horizon every day until early in May, when
the sun sets and remains below the horizon for seventy-one days.
We are at this moment as tired of each other’s company as we are of
the cold monotony of the black night and of the unpalatable sameness
of our food. Now and then we experience affectionate moody spells and
then we try to inspire each other with a sort of superficial
effervescence of good cheer, but such moods are short-lived.
Physically, mentally, and perhaps morally, then, we are depressed, and
from my past experience in the arctic I know that this depression will
increase with the advance of the night, and far into the increasing
dawn of next summer.
Days melt into weeks melt into months as the ship remains frozen and
their spirits plummet deeper and deeper into despair. One man — the
ship’s magnetician, Lieutenant Emile Danco — dies of heart failure.
One of the sailors goes “to the verge of insanity.” But somehow, amid
the icy blackness, they begin to do what the human spirit is made to
do — find glimmers of hope, footholds of transcendence.
In June, on the Southern winter solstice, Cook writes:
It is midnight and midwinter. Thirty-five long, dayless nights have
passed. An equal number of dreary, cheerless days must elapse before
we again see the glowing orb, the star of day, the sun has reached its
greatest northern declination. We have thus passed the antarctic
midnight. The winter solstice is to us the meridian day, the zenith of
the night as much so as twelve o’clock is the meridian hour to those
who dwell in the more favoured lands, in the temperate and tropical
zones, where there is a regular day and night three hundred and
sixty-five times in the yearly cycle. Yesterday was the darkest day of
the night ; a more dismal sky and a more depressing scene could not be
imagined, but to-day the outlook is a little brighter. The sky is
lined with a few touches of orange, the frozen sea of black snow is
made more cheerful by the high lights, with a sort of dull
phosphorescent glimmer of the projecting peaks of ice. The temperature
has suddenly fallen to -27.5 C. at noon, and the wind is coming out of
the south with an easy force which has sent all the floating humidity
of the past few days down, leaving an air clear and sharp.
And all the while, adrift in this cosmos of ice, they have no sense of
where they are. So a wave of cheer sweeps over the men when the
industrious captain sets out to observe a predicted eclipse Jupiter’s
moons, by which he would set the ship’s chronometers and thus
determine its position in this disorienting unexplored world.
By July, as the sun’s return approaches, the fringes of elation begin
to tickle the mariners’ despairing souls. A subtle undertone of humor
returns to Cook’s journal as he chronicles the renaissance of light
and color to the world — those immeasurable glories we daily take for
granted, but which shape our entire perceptual experience and much of
our emotional reality:
After so much physical, mental, and moral depression, and after having
our anticipations raised to a fever heat by the tempting increase of
dawn at noon, it is needless to say that we are elated at the
expectation of actual daylight once more. In these dreadful wastes of
perennial ice and snow, man feels the force of the superstitions of
past ages, and becomes willingly a worshipper of the eternal luminary.
I am certain that if our preparations for greeting the returning sun
were seen by other people, either civilised or savage, we would be
thought disciples of heliolatry.
At eleven o’clock, every single man aboard the ship stakes out a
position from which he is to greet the long-awaited light — some climb
to the top of the masts, others perch on the ropes and spars, and the
most adventurous set up hammocks on the surrounding icebergs. Cook
describes the otherworldly spectacle of returning color, saturated by
their months-long anticipation:
The northern sky at this time was nearly clear and clothed with the
usual haze. A bright lemon glow was just changing into an eve glimmer
of rose. At about half-past eleven a few stratus clouds spread over
the rose, and under these there was a play in colours, too complex for
my powers of description. The clouds were at first violet, but they
quickly caught the train of colours which was spread over the sky
beyond. There were spaces of gold, orange, blue, green, and a hundred
harmonious blends, with an occasional strip like a band of polished
silver to set the colours in bold relief. Precisely at twelve o’clock
a fiery cloud separated, disclosing a bit of the upper rim of the sun.
All this time I had been absorbed by the pyrotechnic-like display, but
now I turned about to see my companions and the glory of the new sea
of ice, under the first light of the new day. Looking towards the sun
the fields of snow had a velvety aspect in pink. In the opposite
direction the pack was noticeably flushed with a soft lavender light.
The whole scene changed in colour with every direction taken by the
eye, and everywhere the ice seemed veiled by a gauzy atmosphere in
which the colour appeared to rest. For several minutes my companions
did not speak. Indeed, we could not at that time have found words with
which to express the buoyant feeling of relief, and the emotion of the
new life which was sent coursing through our arteries by the
hammer-like beats of our enfeebled hearts.
On July 25, as the kaleidoscopic halo of the approaching sun finally
crests into full sunrise, a kind of euphoric gladness washes over
For three days we have had a glimpse of the sun, but it has appeared a
thing of unreality. To-day we have seen the normal face. The sun at
noon sailed along the northern sky above the horizon, a distance
nearly equal to its own diameter. We thus have the actual sunrise,
since heretofore we have only been able to see it when aided by the
high polar refraction by which the sun is apparently lifted above its
actual position, a distance equal to about three quarters its
What a peculiar effusion of sentiments the welcome face of the sun
draws from our frozen fountains of life! How that great golden ball of
cold fire incites the spirit to expressions of joy and gratitude! How
it sets the tongue to pleasurable utterances, and the vocal chords to
music! The sun is, indeed, the father of everything terrestrial. We
have suddenly found a tonic in the air, an inspiration in the scenic
splendours of the sea of ice, and a cheerfulness in each other’s
companionship which make the death-dealing depression of the night a
thing of the past.
THE WHITE DARKNESS A solitary journey across Antarctica. @NewYorker
The man felt like a speck in the frozen nothingness. Every direction
he turned, he could see ice stretching to the edge of the Earth: white
ice and blue ice, glacial-ice tongues and ice wedges. There were no
living creatures in sight. Not a bear or even a bird. Nothing but him.
It was hard to breathe, and each time he exhaled the moisture froze on
his face: a chandelier of crystals hung from his beard; his eyebrows
were encased like preserved specimens; his eyelashes cracked when he
blinked. Get wet and you die, he often reminded himself.
The temperature was nearly minus forty degrees Fahrenheit, and it felt
far colder because of the wind, which sometimes whipped icy particles
into a blinding cloud, making him so disoriented that he toppled over,
his bones rattling against the ground.
The man, whose name was Henry Worsley, consulted a G.P.S. device to
determine precisely where he was. According to his coördinates, he was
on the Titan Dome, an ice formation near the South Pole that rises
more than ten thousand feet above sea level.
Sixty-two days earlier, on November 13, 2015, he’d set out from the
coast of Antarctica, hoping to achieve what his hero, Ernest
Shackleton, had failed to do a century earlier: to trek on foot from
one side of the continent to the other.
The journey, which would pass through the South Pole, was more than a
thousand miles, and would traverse what is arguably the most brutal
environment in the world. And, whereas Shackleton had been part of a
large expedition, Worsley, who was fifty-five, was crossing alone and
unsupported: no food caches had been deposited along the route to help
him forestall starvation, and he had to haul all his provisions on a
sled, without the assistance of dogs or a sail. Nobody had attempted
this feat before.
Worsley’s sled—which, at the outset, weighed three hundred and
twenty-five pounds, nearly double his own weight—was attached to a
harness around his waist, and to drag it across the ice he wore
cross-country skis and pushed forward with poles in each hand.
The trek had begun at nearly sea level, and he’d been ascending with a
merciless steadiness, the air thinning and his nose sometimes bleeding
from the pressure; a crimson mist colored the snow along his path.
When the terrain became too steep, he removed his skis and trudged on
foot, his boots fitted with crampons to grip the ice. His eyes scanned
the surface for crevasses. One misstep and he’d vanish into a hidden
Worsley was a retired British Army officer who had served in the
Special Air Service, a renowned commando unit. He was also a sculptor,
a fierce boxer, a photographer who meticulously documented his
travels, a horticulturalist, a collector of rare books and maps and
fossils, and an amateur historian who had become a leading authority
On the ice, though, he resembled a beast, hauling and sleeping,
hauling and sleeping, as if he were keeping time to some primal
In February, 1902, the group set up a base camp on the frozen rim of
Antarctica. The continent has two seasons: summer, which lasts from
November to February, and winter. For much of the summer, because of
the tilt of the Earth, sunlight lingers through the night. In winter,
the darkness is enveloping and the conditions are even more anathema
to human life; the temperature one July was recorded at minus a
hundred and twenty-eight degrees. And so Scott waited until November
2nd, when the summer light began to grace the sky, before he embarked,
with Shackleton and a third man, Edward Wilson, on the
eight-hundred-mile journey to the Pole—what another member of the
expedition called “the long trail, the lone trail, the outward trail,
the darkward trail.”
Encounters At The End Of The World Werner Herzog travels to Antarctica (2007)
Herzog and cinematographer Peter Zeitlinger go to Antarctica to meet
people who live and work there and to capture footage of the
continent's unique locations. Herzog's voiceover narration explains
that his film will not be a typical Antarctica film about "fluffy
penguins" but will explore the dreams of the people and the landscape.
They begin at McMurdo Station and interview some maintenance and
support workers as well as iceberg geologist Douglas MacAyeal. They
travel next to a nearby seal camp supervised by zoologist Olav
Oftedal. Next they join the film's composer/producer, research diver
Henry Kaiser, at his diving camp and interview cell biologist Samuel
Bowser and zoologist Jan Pawlowski. Kaiser and Bowser stage a rooftop
guitar concert. Herzog and Zeitlinger return to McMurdo for some more
interviews and visit the preserved original base of Ernest Shackleton.
After some brief footage at the South Pole, Herzog interviews penguin
scientist David Ainley. This footage includes a shot of a penguin
marching in the wrong direction, walking to a certain death in the
barren interior of the continent. Herzog and Zeitlinger next visit
Mount Erebus and interview volcanologists. A unique sequence follows
which was shot in tunnels deep below South Pole station carved from
snow and ice. Various trinkets and mementos, including a can of
Russian caviar and a whole frozen sturgeon, are placed in carved-out
shelves in the ice walls and preserved by the extremely cold and dry
air. On the slope of the volcano, Herzog and Zeitlinger explore ice
caves formed by fumaroles.
If You Forget Me Pablo Neruda
I want you to know
You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.
If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.
if each day,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.
The Tories will win a majority of 68 seats in the Dec. 12 election, according to a @YouGov poll which used a technique that more closely predicted the 2017 election than standard surveys @bpolitics
Law & Politics
The poll put the Conservatives on course to win 359 of the 650 seats
in Parliament, a gain of 42 on the last election, while Jeremy
Corbyn’s Labour Party is set to win 211 seats, a loss of 51.
Of the smaller parties, the Liberal Democrats are set to win 13 seats,
while the Scottish National Party are on track to win 43 seats. This
would be the best Conservative result since Margaret Thatcher won her
third term in 1987.
Through a process called Multilevel Regression and
Post-stratification, or MRP for short, YouGov aims to identify
different types of voters, and predict their behavior.
Then the company works out how many of each of these voter types there
are in each electoral district to produce a forecast.
In the 2017 election, YouGov’s MRP poll predicted that Theresa May
would lose her majority, at a time other polls were suggesting her
Conservatives would secure a big win.
The pound rose to 1.2951 against the dollar in early Asia trading -- a
one-week high -- before paring gains. Sterling traded up 0.2% at
$1.2945 at 7:38 a.m. in London.
The poll was bleak for Corbyn, showing Labour on course for its worst
election result since 1983. It had the party winning no new seats and
watching the crumbling of its so-called “red wall” of districts in the
north of England that have voted Labour for decades.
Seats such as Bishop Auckland and Newcastle-Under-Lyme that are
traditionally Labour but also strongly in favor of Brexit were
forecast to fall to the Tories.
The Conservatives were also on course to make gains in North Wales, in
seats like Clwyd South and Wrexham, where they have previously
struggled to shake off the legacy of closing down coal mines in the
Are We on the Path to War? - Middle East Heats Up While Viewers Watch the Impeachment @GRTVnews
Law & Politics
Americans and also much of the rest of the world have been watching or
otherwise following the impeachment proceedings in Washington and not
paying much attention to developments in the Middle East that could be
setting the stage for a new war.
It should surprise no one to learn that Washington has no actual
policy to finish what it is doing and get out so it is allowing itself
to be led by its so-called allies in the region. There has been what
amounts to a nearly complete reversal of the early October decision by
President Donald Trump to deescalate in the region by pulling U.S.
troops out of northern Syria.
After occupying the Syrian oil fields in the immediate wake of that
decision and declaring that American soldiers would shoot-to-kill
Russian and Syrian soldiers who tried to retake that bit of sovereign
Syrian territory, one now learns that U.S. troops are again operating
hand-in-hand with Kurdish militias to attack what have been claimed to
be ISIS remnants.
Defenders of Donald Trump continue to insist that he does not want a
war and is serious about disengaging from “senseless” conflicts, but
it would be hard to come to that judgement based on what the president
and his staff of pathological miscreants actually do. In fact, one
might reasonably argue that the administration is planning for war on
Russia has long been a target of an ignorant Trump’s neoconnish
foreign policy, to include the refusal to renew several admirable
treaties that have limited the spread of certain types of weapons.
Also, lethal military aid to gallant little Ukraine, much in the news
of late, is actually a dangerous misstep on the part of Washington as
Russia regards its border with that country as a vital interest while
defending Kiev is in reality no national security interest for the
United States at all.
And there is more in the pipeline. Discussions are underway with new
NATO ally Bulgaria to create a Black Sea Coordination Center in Varna.
The United States is considering a ten-year roadmap for defense
cooperation with Bulgaria and is eager to provide Sofia broader access
to its high-end military technologies.
The advanced technologies would include surveillance capabilities
specifically targeting Russia.
There is also a fundamental second level of stupidity in basing such
an effort in Bulgaria as the Turks, also frequently at odds with
Washington, control the door to the Black Sea through the Bosporus and
If relations really do go sour and if demands to kick Turkey out of
NATO ever do bear fruit, Ankara can make it very difficult for NATO
warships transiting into the Black Sea.
As ever, however, the most troubled and most
interfered-in-by-Washington foreign region continues to be the Middle
East and more specifically the Persian Gulf where there have been a
number of relatively minor developments that, when assembled, comprise
a serious threat that war could break out either deliberately or by
The basic line-up for what is going on in the Persian Gulf region runs
something like this: Israel, the Saudis and most of the Gulf States
are keen on attacking Iran, which, on its side, has lined up as
friends and allies Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
Those seeking war with Iran, would like to see the United States do
the heavy lifting as it alone can use its strategic bombers to take
out military targets deep underground or otherwise heavily protected.
The Trump administration has so far stopped short of war with the
Iranians, though it has done everything it can otherwise to punish
them, including the shortsighted withdrawal from the Joint
Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) which limited Tehran’s nuclear
The White House has also initiated a heavy dose of sanctions that are
explicitly intended to cause suffering among the ordinary people and
are clearly creating considerable disruption in the country.
The U.S. intention is to starve the Iranian people into rebelling
against their government, but the unrest is also reportedly being
fueled by Saudi paid agents provocateurs as well as a flood of media
and social network propaganda that is as well being supported and
organized by Riyadh.
One recent incident that has attracted remarkably little media
coverage is an Israeli attack on Syria that took place on November
It reportedly destroyed two Iranian Revolutionary Guard headquarters,
one of which was at Damascus International Airport, possibly killing
twenty-three, sixteen of whom were likely Iranians.
The attack was in response to an unsubstantiated Israeli claim that
four rockets were fired its way from a site controlled by Iran inside
Syria, though they were intercepted by Iron Dome and caused no damage.
The overwhelming and disproportionate response by Israel suggests that
Tel Aviv would like to have produced a commensurate response from the
Iranians which could then escalate, but in this case, Tehran opted not
to strike back, possibly because it understood that it was likely
being set up.
There have also been a number of key meetings in the region that
suggest that something big is coming. In an odd move, the U.S. and
France have agreed to take steps to increase security in the Gulf
region by enhancing defensive systems in the Gulf States and Saudi
The move is ostensibly a response to the devastating drone attack on
the Saudi oil refinery in September, which has been blamed on the
Iranians, though without any evidence being provided. In the past,
increasing security has often been a prelude to attacks by western
powers in the Gulf region.
Other recent visitors have included CIA Director Gina Haspel meeting
with the Saudi King Salman on November 7th to discuss “topics of
interest,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visiting the United Arab
Emirates to talk about Iran and other regional issues, and Vice
President Mike Pence staging a surprise visit to the Kurds in Syria.
Pence assured the Kurds that they were not forgotten and would be
protected by the U.S.
General Kenneth A. McKenzie, who heads America’s Central Command,
which has responsibility for the Middle East, also warned last week
that even with the 14,000 additional military personnel that Trump
sent to the region earlier this year, the forces available would not
be enough to deter an Iranian attack on Saudi Arabia or one of the
McKenzie was speaking at a conference in Bahrain, home of the U.S.
Fifth Fleet. Comic relief at the conference was provided by American
under secretary of defense John C. Rood who said that “Iran has made
clear its intent to pursue a pattern of aggressive behavior that is
destabilizing,” conveniently forgetting that it is Washington that has
completely destabilized the entire region since it invaded Iraq in
Iran for its part has been stung by the recent violent protests and
has declared itself prepared to deal with both the Saudis and the
presumed CIA and Israeli Mossad assets that have been stirring things
The rioting has been serious with numerous deaths reported and Iran is
fully capable of using its missile arsenal to hit targets both in
Saudi Arabia and in Israel.
So, the conventional wisdom that a serious war is too dangerous to
contemplate in the confined spaces of the Middle East might be naïve
in the extreme as representatives of a number of nations consider just
how to fight each other and how to win.
One misstep, or even a false flag provocation, is all it would take to
engulf the region in flames. It would be a conflict in which many
would die and no one could really come out a winner, and the real
tragedy is that it is avoidable as no one has a genuine vital interest
at stake that could actually be resolved by war with its neighbors.
25-NOV-2019 :: However, what is also clear is that team Pompeo is seeking to accelerate the Iranian situation towards a denouement.
Law & Politics
Of course, the origins of the protests are spontaneous. However,
Pompeo has some very curious bedfellows.
Marc Owen-Jones tweeted [Thread] 1/ Mike Pompeo tweeted on the 21st
November a request in Farsi for Iranian protesters to send in videos
of the regime’s crackdown in order to ‘expose’ and ‘sanction’ the
abuses both tweets, including the translation, got a lot of retweets,
but by whom? I download the retweets of each tweet.
For the translated tweet, I analysed around 3,600 individual accounts
that retweeted itInteres- tingly, the most cohesive community, and
most commonly biographical detail was once again “MAGA”.
Indeed, 825 of the accounts re- tweeting it as we’ve come to expect,
many of these MAGA accounts were created in January 2017 and January
2018. This is the same type of profile we’ve seen accounts on accounts
tweeting for a Hard Brexit (among other things - especially related to
Pompeo has allied himself with the People’s Mojahedin Organization of
Iran (PMOI/MEK) and its Cult-Like Leader @Maryam_Rajavi who tweeted
‘’The whole issue is that the Velayat-e Faqih regime is on its last
leg this alliance of Pompeo, the ‘’MAGA’’ Tweet Army, Maryam Rajavi
and the MEK is just not credible its incredible.
Of course, ‘’ARAB’’ NATO which includes the Kingdom of Saudi Ara- bia,
the GCC and Israel is a lot more credible and they are surely guiding
the Inferno. However, if a civil war is ignited in the Shia crescent
and the nature of the hybrid warfare indica- tes this is the direction
of travel, the implosion will engender catastrophic consequences which
will be impos- sible to manage and which surely will imperil ‘’ARAB
Oil is the Purest Proxy and is at an eight week high.
From Dictatorship to Democracy, A Conceptual Framework for Liberation written in 1993 by Gene Sharp
Law & Politics
FDTD had "spread like a virus," calling it a "viral pamphlet."
What is new... is the wildfire spread of systematically non-violent
insurgency. This owes a great deal to the strategic thinking of Gene
Sharp, an American academic whose how-to-topple-your-tyrant manual,
From Dictatorship to Democracy, is the bible of activists from
Belgrade to Rangoon.
“Liberation from dictatorships ultimately depends on the people's
ability to liberate themselves.”
Dictatorships are never as strong as they think they are, and people
are never as weak as they think they are. Gene Sharp
Contrary to popular opinion, even totalitarian dictatorships are
dependent on the population and the societies they rule. Gene Sharp
When we discuss Russia these days we should not forget that it has attacked a peaceful neighbor without any legitimate reason, has annexed a part of its territory and occupies another. More than 13.000 have been killed in this war of aggression. @ulrichsp
Law & Politics
Western unity has helped the victim of the aggression, Ukraine, to
stop Russian-led troops. Europe and the US agreed to use largely
non-military means, mainly sanctions, to communicate its disagreement
to Putin and to make him pay a price.
Russian aggression against Ukraine and its aggressive rhetoric also
led to a different assessment of the country’s intentions. It became
more widely seen a threat to Nato countries as well. That’s why Nato
decided to focus on defense and deterrence against Russia.
With two goals in mind: to prevent Russia from following the instincts
of some of its leaders to turn against Nato (deterrence). And to
reassure the countries in the region that the security order vital to
them is solid — to prevent them from seeking alternative arrangements.
Nato has achieved both goals. Under US leadership, with an engaged
Germany and an engaged UK, and with support from France. The brain and
the body of Nato both demonstrated that they are fully up to the task.
Nato continued to play the role it ever played since 70 years: with
the help of the US the organization provides a security framework that
ends intra- European competition over leadership or hegemony, gives
every member a deep sense of security and deters other great powers.
With the US largely in charge for defense and strategy, Europe was
finally free to focus on cooperation, on economic and social issues,
on building a joint European space of prosperity and liberty.
Enters Trump with his disruptive rhetoric. Under him, the US abandons
strategic leadership in Europe but keeps its military engagement
strong. Yet the push for more burden-sharing becomes stronger.
The new insecurity and the empty throne of strategic leadership in
Europe brings hyper-ambitious yet inexperienced Macron to make his
bid. He comes up with a very traditional French geopolitical vision: A
French-led Europe in partnership with US and Russia focusing on the
Yet this is a vision that conflicts with most of Europe. There is no
majority in Europe in favor of cutting down the US/Nato-relationship,
of letting the guards down towards Russia and to focus on France’s
version of war on terror in Africa.
Macron fails to understand that leading is not the same as going
forward with your own agenda and dismiss other views and interests as
irrelevant or wrong. International leadership must be inclusive:
integrate different interests and viewpoints in a broader strategy.
The problem is that learning by doing is dangerous in the current
fragile geopolitical situation: too much porcelain gets broken. Nato
is as fragile as European unity. Russia and China actively try to
build influence in a fragmented Europe. America struggles with its
Oil Set for Fourth Weekly Advance Ahead of Key OPEC+ Meeting @markets
West Texas Intermediate for January delivery lost 11 cents to $58 a
barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange as of 11:26 a.m. in
Singapore. There was no settlement Thursday due to the U.S. holiday
and all transactions will be booked Friday. Prices are up 0.4% this
week and are around 7% higher in November.
Brent for January settlement dropped 21 cents to $63.66 a barrel on
the London-based ICE Futures Europe Exchange, easing for a third day.
The contract is up 0.4% this week, also heading for a fourth weekly
advance. The global benchmark crude traded at a $5.61 premium to WTI.
Lebanon urged to restructure debt as crisis deepens @FT
Lebanon has vowed to repay $1.5bn to holders of its government debt as
planned this week despite a stalled economy and drained dollar
reserves, but economists say the time has come to consider letting
With total borrowing of $88.4bn, Lebanon has one of the world’s
biggest debt burdens, projected to be 155 per cent of gross domestic
product by the end of 2019.
But it has always met payments to creditors — a crucial step in
maintaining investors’ trust and ensuring long-term access to
Now, as the protests over corruption and joblessness enter their
second month, some analysts and economists are warning that imports
should take precedence over bond obligations, urging the government to
delay repayments or devise another way to spread the pain.
“They can reschedule this debt with a cheaper Eurobond issuance . . .
not actually paying it but rescheduling it,” said Jad Chaaban, a
professor of economy at the American University of Beirut.
Lebanon’s debt has piled up as the government has continued to spend
more than it brings in, and remittances from the country’s diaspora
have slowed. Last year the deficit was about 11 per cent of GDP.
With the economic situation worsening, the country could ask its
creditors to accept delayed or smaller repayments, rather than
continuing to pay punishingly high interest rates, according to
Camille Abousleiman, a lawyer who has worked on Lebanon’s foreign debt
issuances and is the caretaker minister of labour.
“Lebanon is in reasonably good shape to negotiate a restructuring,” he said.
The extraordinary measures taken by the BdL [Banque du Liban] and
banks are buying time at the cost of a contraction in economic
Nasser Saidi, a former central bank vice governor, said he expected
the central bank would be able to provide the foreign currency needed
to cover Thursday’s repayment, pointing out that not all the funds
would automatically flow overseas.
He estimated that over two-thirds of the $1.5bn owed would remain in
the country as the debt is already held by local lenders and the
central bank. “The balance to foreign investors can be covered from
existing [foreign exchange] reserves,” he said.
For years the central bank, headed by Riad Salameh, has functioned as
the government’s financier, helping the administration to access
foreign currency to meet its repayment obligations when necessary.
Mr Salameh has run the Banque du Liban for over 25 years and his
self-described “financial engineering”, often involving complicated
asset swap operations with the country’s commercial banks, has often
helped to steer Lebanon’s government and banking sector through
But economists are increasingly concerned that such strategies will no
longer be sufficient. In October, amid the worsening economic climate,
the central bank introduced a facility to guarantee access to dollars
for critical imports, accelerating the depletion of the state’s
foreign exchange reserves, which fell by $900m in the first week of
At that rate, Lebanon’s foreign exchange reserves would run out by the
middle of 2020, according to a stark analysis published by Bank of
America on Monday.
The central bank says its gross international reserves are around
$30bn but analysts say it would be hard immediately to access that
Ratings agency Moody’s puts the central bank’s “usable foreign
exchange buffer” at $5bn to $10bn and calculates that external debt
service payments this year and next year will cost a combined $6.5bn.
In addition to facilitating government borrowing, the central bank is
currently providing dollar liquidity to commercial banks through
high-interest dollar loans.
“[The BdL] is now lending to the government and the commercial banks,
so it has to make decisions about how it uses its remaining reserves,”
said Mr Chaaban at the American University of Beirut
Ultimately, the BdL may have to decide whether it continues to help
the government to service its external debt or focuses on easing the
plight of the country’s cash-strapped importers.
Mr Salameh, one of the world’s longest serving central bank chiefs,
has so far insisted he can do both. In more than two decades when he
has served as the BdL’s governor, Lebanon has never defaulted and the
official exchange rate remained fixed at 1,507 Lebanese pounds to the
dollar until this summer’s drop.
But the current dollar shortage has caused the unofficial exchange
rate to fall by 20 per cent since August, while the loss of normal
banking services has left many companies unable to renew stocks or pay
employees full salaries.
“The extraordinary measures taken by the BdL and banks are buying time
at the cost of a contraction in economic activity,” the Bank of
America research note said, pointing to efforts by various banks to
limit customer withdrawals.
The country’s predicament is complicated by the absence of an elected
government to lead negotiations on a comprehensive restructuring of
Prime minister Saad Hariri resigned early this month in response to
the protests and so far there has been little progress in forming a
new government that would meet demonstrators demands.
But former labour minister Mr Abousleiman argued that the interim
administration has the authority to lead such discussions and has an
obligation to act.
“The caretaker government can constitutionally, and should, deal with
the crisis,” he said. “They cannot abandon ship.”
Lebanon @jpmorgan via @themarketear
1. 5Y credit default spreads have almost doubled since the start of
unrest to 2161bp, second in the world only to Argentina
2. 10Y Eurobond prices have fallen to less than half their face value.
3. access to external funding has become even more constrained, with
foreign financial institutions cutting their exposure, impacting trade
finance, and raising concerns of shortages of goods, medicine and
4. A parallel exchange rate has emerged, with the pound trading at
more than 30% above the official LBP1,507 against the dollar.
Lebanon's Chances of Avoiding Default Dim as Reserves Sink @economics
The central bank’s reserves dropped by nearly $800 million in the
first two weeks of November alone. At the current pace of depletion,
they could run out as soon as next June, according to Bank of America
“In the absence of inflows, we expect further declines in FX reserves,
pressuring the government’s capacity to service debt,” Fitch Ratings
analysts, including Jan Friederich, said in a report. They estimate
Lebanon’s sovereign debt will stand at 154% of gross domestic product
at the end of 2019, one of the world’s largest burdens.
Making matters worse, the country is without a functioning government
after more than a month of nationwide protests.
Demonstrators are clamoring for a government of experts to get a grip
on the crisis, a demand opposed by some political parties, including
The president’s talks with lawmakers to name a new prime minister will
probably be delayed until next week.
In the meantime, Lebanon’s currency is under pressure. The pound has
weakened almost 30% on the black market since the start of August,
according to local website lebaneselira.net.
It trades at 2100 per dollar on the streets of Beirut, as businesses
struggle to buy foreign exchange at the official rate of 1507.5 from
“The emergence of a parallel market rate is likely to undermine the
credibility of the dollar peg anchor, should it persist,” Bank of
America analysts Jean-Michel Saliba and Andrew MacFarlane, both based
in London, said in a Nov. 25 report.
Lebanese lenders have restricted dollar withdrawals and banned some
transfers abroad to avoid a run from depositors. Importers have warned
of imminent shortages of goods.
Lebanon has never defaulted on its sovereign debt. But some investors,
including California-based Franklin Templeton, have said restructuring
now would be less painful for the country than later on when its
finances could be in an even worse state.
While Lebanon, through its central bank, repaid the maturing Eurobond
on Thursday, the outlook for the rest of the government’s roughly $30
billion of dollar securities is less clear.
Yields on $1.2 billion of bonds maturing next March climbed to over
100% this month, from around 13% before the unrest began.
The yield closed at 100.47% on Thursday. Government dollar debt
maturing beyond 2021 mostly trades below 50 cents on the dollar,
suggesting traders see haircuts of more than 50% should there be a
The U.S. lender forecasts that face-value losses could be as high as
80% if there’s a “disorderly adjustment.” Given the rate at which
Lebanon has blown through its reserves, 2020 “could be a crunch year,”
its analysts said.
“Principal payments beginning in March 2020 may prove too large for
Lebanon, although political willingness remains a key uncertainty,”
they said. “If deposit-withdrawal pressure is continuing, there is a
risk authorities could halt payments.”
Latin American Currencies Hit Record Lows as Drop Turns to Rout @markets
Latin American currencies turned a decline into a rout this week, with
three of the region’s most-traded bills hitting record lows.
The Colombian and Chilean pesos both fell to all-time lows Wednesday
as a wave of anti-government demonstrations threaten to damp economic
Brazil, which has avoided such the political turbulence, also saw its
currency headed for a record low, forcing the central bank to
intervene for the third time in two days.
Chile’s currency is down 11% in the past month after the worst social
unrest since the restoration of democracy in 1990 saw shops looted and
public buildings burnt.
Now Colombia is following suit, with protests convulsing the nation
for the past week. On Wednesday, demonstrators blocked bus lanes in
Bogota and some schools canceled classes, even after Duque pledged tax
breaks for the poor.
“There’s a reason this has been dubbed the Latin American equivalent
to the Arab Spring,” said Omotunde Lawal, a London-based money manager
at Barings. “Currencies are adjusting for idiosyncratic events in each
While it’s not on the radar of as many investors, Uruguay’s peso fell
for a sixth day and trades at its weakest level ever against the
dollar. The currency tends to closely track the Argentine peso, which
is close to its own record low.
Latin America is now home to the three worst-performing
emerging-market currencies this year: Argentina’s peso, down 37%,
Chile’s peso, 15% lower, and Brazil’s real, down 9.0%. Only the
Mexican peso, up 0.5%, has managed to eke out a gain against the
dollar during that span.
13-AUG-2019 :: The Feedback Loop Phenomenon
China has exerted the power of pull over a vast swathe of the world
over the last two decades. We can call it the China, Asia, EM and
Frontier markets feedback loop.
This feedback loop has been largely a positive one for the last two
decades. With the Yuan now in retreat [and in a precise response to
Trump], this will surely exert serious downside pressure on those
countries in the Feed- back Loop.
The Purest Proxy for the China, Asia, EM and Frontier markets feedback
loop phenomenon is the South African Rand aka the ZAR.
Burundi Accuses Rwanda of Armed Attack, Threatens Retaliation @bpolitics
Burundi accused Rwanda of sending troops earlier this month to attack
one of its military positions and pledged to “use legitimate defense”
if its northern neighbor continues the hostility.
Eight Burundian soldiers were killed when gunmen attacked their camp
close to the Rwandan border on Nov. 16. The invaders retreated back
into Rwanda after the attack, Burundi said.
“Burundi avails itself of this opportunity to warn Rwanda against
these repetitive and multifaceted attacks against Burundi and wants
the international community to take note,” the government’s spokesman,
Prosper Ntahorwamiye, told reporters on Thursday in Bujumbura.
“In case of recidivism, the government of the Republic of Burundi
reserves the right of legitimate defense.”
The Rwandan army’s spokesman, Innocent Munyengango, dismissed the
allegation and asked Burundi for evidence. “If we were to do it, it
would be in broad daylight,” he said by phone from the capital,
Burundi reported past incidents of aggression to the United Nations,
the African Union and the East African Community but none of the
international organizations responded or censured Rwanda for the
“If nothing is done, such acts by Rwanda against Burundi constitute a
threat to the peace and security of the entire African Great Lakes
region,” Ntahorwamiye said.
Press Release Eritrea Ministry of Information
As it will be recalled, the GOE had issued several statements in the
past that elucidated Qatar’s deplorable schemes of subversion using
the Sudan as a springboard. In this particular year in which the
prospects of using the Sudan as a suitable venue for launching
terrorist activities has become increasingly slimmer, the desperation
of Qatar, its sponsors and minions has accordingly become higher.
In the event, the 10-point scheme of subversion that Qatar has mapped
out consists of: (the scheme also includes fueling ethnic clashes in
1. To regroup Eritrean opposition political leaders; unify their
associations and extend requisite support to the latter;
2. To give special focus to Eritrean youth; unify their
associations and incite them to engage in acts of rebellion against
the Eritrean government;
3. To instill religious extremism on Eritrean Islamist opposition
elements and thereby induce an uprising of Eritrean Muslims against
4. To sow the seeds of ethnic cleavage and hatred among the Eritrean people;
5. To launch efforts to induce protests and demonstrations in
Eritrean cities against the Government;
6. To give military training (in the Sudan) to “Muslim Brotherhood”
opposition elements in the planting of landmines, ambushes and
assassination of prominent government officials; to facilitate their
infiltration into Eritrea to conduct these operations;
7. To assassinate influential Eritrean leaders;
8. To conduct acts of economic sabotage in Eritrea;
9. To intensify hostile propaganda;
10. To publicize human rights violations in Eritrea in
international organizations and foreign countries; to disseminate
documents and videos to that effect.
The above constitutes, in brief and skeletal form, Qatar’s nefarious,
even if inconsequential, agenda.
Ministry of Information
28 November 2019
*(The specific scheme of inciting ethnic conflict in Port Sudan will
be revealed soon with all relevant details)
@edmnangagwa orders maize subsidy restored, claims Ncube never consulted @zimlive
President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Wednesday performed a spectacular
volte-face after claiming he was not consulted on a key policy shift
in the 2020 budget: the removal of government subsidies on maize meal
The removal of the subsidy is not due to take effect until January 1
next year, but millers have already almost doubled prices of the
staple mealie-meal, and some Zimbabweans have been hoarding
mealie-meal creating shortages in the market.
The opposition MDC said this week that the removal of the subsidy was
“cruel and degrading,” and warned of potential civil strife in the
Ministers tried to mitigate the crisis following a Cabinet meeting on
Tuesday by announcing that all import restrictions on maize meal,
mealie-meal and flour had been lifted.
No questions would be asked about the source of foreign currency used
to buy the maize, acting information minister Mangaliso Ndlovu said.
Mnangagwa told a meeting of the Zanu PF Youth League in Kadoma on
Wednesday that he had only heard “two days ago” that the subsidy on
maize had been removed.
“We must create safety nets to help the poor among us. Two days ago, I
heard that the subsidy on mealie-meal and rice had been removed. No!
I’m telling you now, maize-meal affects a lot of people, we can’t
remove the subsidy,” Mnangagwa said.
“So, I’m restoring it so that the price of mealie-meal is also
reduced. They’re going to publish tomorrow that ‘what we had done, we
had not consulted the President’.”
Finance minister Mthuli Ncube removed the subsidy while delivering the
2020 budget statement in front of Mnangagwa in Parliament on November
“The current subsidy policy whereby the government funds the
procurement of grain at market prices and sells this to registered
grain millers at subsidised prices, has been open to abuse and placed
a huge burden on the fiscus,” Ncube said.
“At times the intended beneficiaries do not enjoy the benefits of the
subsidy from the government… To address these distortions, the
government, will, with effect from January 2020 remove the existing
subsidies for maize and wheat, that were being provided to grain
millers through the Grain Marketing Board.
Jumia shuts Tanzania e-commerce business in portfolio review @ReutersAfrica
Online retailer Jumia Technologies, dubbed “the Amazon of Africa,”
said on Thursday it had shut its e-commerce business in Tanzania in a
review of its portfolio.
Jumia, which has seen its share price plummet since a Wall Street
debut in April, also suspended its e-commerce business in Cameroon on
“We have to focus our resources on our other markets. It is more
important now than ever to put our focus and resources where they can
bring the best value and help us thrive,” the company said in a
T-Bills heavily underperform. @MihrThakar
Performance rates: 91-day just 23.42% bids received of amount offered;
market weighted average interest rate 0.686% higher than that accepted
182-day just 10.56%; market weighted average interest rate 0.653%
higher 364-day just 63.61%.
I & M Holdings Ltd reports Q3 2019 Earnings
Closing Price: 49.30
Total Shares Issued: 826,810,738.00
Market Capitalization: 40,722
I&M Holdings Limited Q3 2019 results through 30th September 2019 vs.
30th September 2018
Q3 Loans and advances to banks 51.989467b vs. 34.111223b +52.412%
Q3 Loans and advances to customers 174.111284b vs. 163.327426b +6.603%
Q3 Other financial assets at amortised costs 24.443205b vs. 31.941007b -23.474%
Q3 Total assets 324.349839b vs. 289.595306b +12.001%
Q3 Deposits from customers 236.229016b vs. 209.040852b +13.006%
Q3 Total shareholders’ equity 57.618471b vs. 49.780248b +15.746%
Q3 Net interest income 10.585427b vs. 10.120219b +4.597%
Q3 Net fee and commission income 3.055970b vs. 2.906967b +5.126%
Q3 Revenue 13.641397b vs. 13.027186b +4.715%
Q3 Change in expected credit losses and other credit impairment
charges [1.299351b] vs. [1.898339b]-33.292%
Q3 Net operating income 15.445701b vs. 13.776252b +12.118%
Q3 Operating expenses [6.757101b] vs. [6.120035b] +10.410%
Q3 Operating Profit 8.698600b vs. 7.656217b +13.615%
Q3 Share of profit of joint venture 604.128m vs. 634.506m -4.788%
Q3 Profit before income tax 9.302728b vs. 8.290723b +12.206%
Q3 Profit for the period 6.634673b vs. 5.850835b +13.397%
Basic and diluted EPS 15.24 vs. 13.36 +14.072%