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Thursday 05th of December 2019

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Macro Thoughts

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The Trouble with "Heart of Darkness" @newyorker

Conrad’s little book has lost none of its power to amaze and appall:
it remains, in many places, an essential starting point for
discussions of modernism, imperialism, the hypocrisies and glories of
the West, and the ambiguities of “civilization.”
Critics by the dozen have subjected it to symbolic, mythological, and
psychoanalytic interpretation; T. S. Eliot used a line from it as an
epigraph for “The Hollow Men,” and Hemingway and Faulkner were much
impressed by it, as were Orson Welles and Francis Ford Coppola, who
employed it as the ground plan for his despairing epic of Americans in
Vietnam, “Apocalypse Now.”
Written in a little more than two months, the last of 1898 and the
first of 1899, “Heart of Darkness” is both the story of a journey and
a kind of morbid fairy tale. Marlow, Conrad’s narrator and familiar
alter ego, a British merchant seaman of the eighteen-nineties, travels
up the Congo in the service of a rapacious Belgian trading company,
hoping to retrieve the company’s brilliant representative and ivory
trader, Mr. Kurtz, who has mysteriously grown silent. The great Mr.
Kurtz! In Africa, everyone gossips about him, envies him, and, with
rare exception, loathes him. The flower of European civilization (“all
Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz”), exemplar of light and
compassion, journalist, artist, humanist, Kurtz has gone way upriver
and at times well into the jungle, abandoning himself to certain . . .
practices. Rifle in hand, he has set himself up as god or devil in
ascendancy over the Africans. Conrad is notoriously vague about what
Kurtz actually does, but if you said “kills some people, has sex with
others, steals all the ivory,” you would not, I believe, be far wrong.
In Kurtz, the alleged benevolence of colonialism has flowered into
criminality. Marlow’s voyage from Europe to Africa and then upriver to
Kurtz’s Inner Station is a revelation of the squalors and disasters of
the colonial “mission”; it is also, in Marlow’s mind, a journey back
to the beginning of creation, when nature reigned exuberant and
unrestrained, and a trip figuratively down as well, through the levels
of the self to repressed and unlawful desires. At death’s door, Marlow
and Kurtz find each other.
Rereading a work of literature is often a shock, an encounter with an
earlier self that has been revised, and I found that I was initially
discomforted, as I had not been in the past, by the famous manner—the
magnificent, alarmed, and (there is no other word) throbbing
excitement of Conrad’s laboriously mastered English. Conrad was born
in czarist-occupied Poland; though he heard English spoken as a boy
(and his father translated Shakespeare), it was his third language,
and his prose, now and then, betrays the propensity for high
intellectual melodrama and rhymed abstraction (“the fascination of the
abomination”) characteristic of his second language, French. Oh,
inexorable, unutterable, unspeakable! The great British critic F. R.
Leavis, who loved Conrad, ridiculed such sentences as “It was the
stillness of an implacable force brooding over an inscrutable
intention.” The sound, Leavis thought, was an overwrought, thrilled
embrace of strangeness. (In Max Beerbohm’s parody: “Silence, the
silence murmurous and unquiet of a tropical night, brooded over the
hut that, baked through by the sun, sweated a vapour beneath the
cynical light of the stars. . . . Within the hut the form of the white
man, corpulent and pale, was covered with a mosquito-net that was
itself illusory like everything else, only more so.”)
Read in isolation, some of Conrad’s sentences are certainly a howl,
but one reads them in isolation only in criticism like Leavis’s or
Achebe’s. Reading the tale straight through, I lost my discomfort
after twenty pages or so and fell hopelessly under Conrad’s spell;
thereafter, even his most heavily freighted constructions dropped into
place, summing up the many specific matters that had come before.
Marlow speaks:
“Going up that river was like travelling back to the earliest
beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted on the earth and the
big trees were kings. An empty stream, a great silence, an
impenetrable forest. The air was warm, thick, heavy, sluggish. There
was no joy in the brilliance of sunshine. The long stretches of the
waterway ran on, deserted, into the gloom of overshadowed distances.
On silvery sandbanks hippos and alligators sunned themselves side by
side. The broadening waters flowed through a mob of wooded islands.
You lost your way on that river as you would in a desert and butted
all day long against shoals trying to find the challenge till you
thought yourself bewitched and cut off for ever from everything you
had known once—somewhere—far away—in another existence perhaps. There
were moments when one’s past came back to one, as it will sometimes
when you have not a moment to spare to yourself; but it came in the
shape of an unrestful and noisy dream remembered with wonder amongst
the overwhelming realities of this strange world of plants and water
and silence. And this stillness of life did not in the least resemble
a peace. It was the stillness of an implacable force brooding over an
inscrutable intention.”
In one sense, the writing now seemed close to the movies: it revelled
in sensation and atmosphere, in extreme acts and grotesque violence
(however indirectly presented), in shivering enigmas and richly
phrased premonitions and frights. In other ways, though, “Heart of
Darkness” was modernism at its most intellectually bracing, with
tonalities, entirely contemporary and distanced, that I had failed to
notice when I was younger—immense pride and immense contempt; a mood
of barely contained revolt; and sardonic humor that verged on
Out of sight of their countrymen back home, who continue to cloak the
colonial mission in the language of Christian charity and improvement,
the “pilgrims” have become rapacious and cruel. The cannibals eating
hippo meat practice restraint; the Europeans do not. That was the
point of Shapiro’s taunting initial sally: “savagery” is inherent in
all of us, including the most “civilized,” for we live, according to
Conrad, in a brief interlude between innumerable centuries of darkness
and the darkness yet to come. Only the rivets, desperately needed to
repair Marlow’s pathetic steamboat, offer stability—the rivets and the
ship itself and the codes of seamanship and duty are all that hold
life together in a time of moral anarchy. Marlow, meeting Kurtz at
last, despises him for letting go—and at the same time, with
breathtaking ambivalence, admires him for going all the way to the
bottom of his soul and discovering there, at the point of death, a
judgment of his own life. It is perhaps the most famous death scene
written since Shakespeare:
“Anything approaching the change that came over his features I have
never seen before and hope never to see again. Oh, I wasn’t touched. I
was fascinated. It was as though a veil had been rent. I saw on that
ivory face the expression of sombre pride, of ruthless power, of
craven terror—of an intense and hopeless despair. Did he live his life
again in every detail of desire, temptation, and surrender during that
supreme moment of complete knowledge? He cried in a whisper at some
image, at some vision—he cried out twice, a cry that was no more than
a breath:
“ ‘The horror! The horror!’ ”
Despite the last sentence, which links the grove of death to ancient
and medieval catastrophes, there is a sense here, as many readers have
said, of something unprecedented in horror, something new on
earth—what later became known as genocide. It is one of Conrad’s
bitter ironies that at least some of the Europeans forcing the
Congolese into labor are “liberals” devoted to the “suppression of
savage customs.” What they had perpetrated in the Congo was not,
perhaps, planned slaughter, but it was a slaughter nonetheless, and
some of the students, pointing to the passage, were abashed. Western
man had done this. We had created an Inferno on earth. “Heart of
Darkness,” written at the end of the nineteenth century, resonates
unhappily throughout the twentieth. Marlow’s shock, his amazement
before the sheer strangeness of the ravaged human forms, anticipates
what the Allied liberators of the concentration camps felt in 1945.
The answer to the question “Does the book redeem the West?” was clear
enough: No book can provide expiation for any culture. But if some
crimes are irredeemable, a frank acknowledgment of the crime might
lead to a partial remission of sin. Conrad had written such an

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"Going up that river was like travelling back to the earliest beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted on the earth and the big trees were kings" - Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

“Going up that river was like travelling back to the earliest
beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted on the earth and the
big trees were kings. An empty stream, a great silence, an
impenetrable forest. The air was warm, thick, heavy, sluggish. There
was no joy in the brilliance of sunshine. The long stretches of the
waterway ran on, deserted, into the gloom of overschadowed distances.
[...] And this stillness of life did not in the least resemble a
peace. It was the stillness of an implacable force brooding over an
inscrutable intention. It looked at you with a vengeful aspect.” ―
Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

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The Hollow Men by T.S. Eliot Mistah Kurtz - he dead.

Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o'clock in the morning.

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow

For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow

Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow

For Thine is the Kingdom

For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but with a whimper.

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The axis of the world turns upon control of four resources: Protein Water Energy Firepower @man_integrated
Law & Politics

The first is the subject of this thread.
China's enormous population demands massive amounts of protein.
And a war is on for it.

Christmas Eve 2013, panicked calls to logistics managers working in
the grain industry began flooding in.
Without notice, China had banned the import of any corn or corn
co-product that contained more than a tiny trace of Syngenta's MIR162
transgenic trait.
MIR162 (trade name "Viptera") was in its first full year of mass
market release, spanning many hybrids of corn.
The trait is designed to kill insects that feed on corn plants,
particularly various worms and corn borers.
These insects can devastate a farmer's bottom line.
The problem is, Syngenta hadn't secured final regulatory approval in
the largest foreign market for US corn products:
The nation is an enormous consumer of corn protein sources for its
domestic livestock and poultry industries, and had been the demand
bull for years.
But China was battling a domestic issue.
The booming middle class was demanding more animal protein than ever.
The government was desiring a move to greater food security,
especially domestic production of critical feed ingredients.
Corn production had to be incentivized.
Unexpected record yields in 2013 tanked the domestic price, triggering
price supports and massive government purchases of corn from Chinese
farmers to keep them solvent.
However, Chinese protein buyers preferred a different ingredient for
their feed blends:
DDGS, or Distillers Dried Grains w/ Solubles, are the main co-product
of the traditional corn ethanol production process.
With the Obama admin's expansion of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS)
to blend 16.55B gallons of biofuels into the US fuel supply, ethanol
was booming.
DDGS are considered to be a more efficient feedstock for swine than
corn/soybean meal rations, with most estimates being 1 MT of DDGS
replacing roughly 1.22 MT of corn/SBM.
And as the largest corn ethanol producer in the world, China depended
on the US for this ingredient.
After harvest 2013, China found itself with a dilemma and an opportunity.
Dilemma: oversupply of domestic corn with a better ingredient cheaply
available from a frenemy nation
Opportunity: stage a conflict and lay the groundwork for better food security
It's important to understand a certain trade tactic employed by
nations (especially China).
Often, the nation will soft-approve some new tech without formally approving it.
They will look the other way as it builds importance - until it
becomes a big enough trade weapon.
However, there is all the difference in the world for World Trade
Organization partner countries between tacit and formal approval.
This is exploitable by unscrupulous nations.
A full-on ban would have triggered a WTO complaint by the US.
A "soft ban" is harder to prove.
This is what China did. They did not fully ban corn imports with ANY
of the unapproved MIR162 trait.
They just made the threshold low enough that it was virtually
impossible for any corn shipments to pass.
Testing for the trait was also notoriously unreliable and corrupt.
The new import regime on corn went into place on Christmas Eve 2013.
Nearly every American grain exporter was caught pants-down.
Many thousands of ocean containers, bulk vessels, trucks and railcars
were in transit to deliver DDGS to China.
Everything ground to a halt.

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When dust settled, multiple companies had gone bankrupt, estimated economic damage to US farmers and companies totaled north of $5 billion. But no one was more impacted than Syngenta. @man_integrated
Law & Politics

When the dust settled, and everything tallied, multiple companies had
gone bankrupt, and the estimated economic damage to US farmers and
companies totaled north of $5 billion. It was devastating. But no one
was more impacted than Syngenta. @man_integrated

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Overnight, the once-proud reputation of the powerhouse company was torched. Farmers fled from Syngenta crop chemicals, A billion-plus dollar class action suit was launched. @man_integrated
Law & Politics

Overnight, the once-proud reputation of the powerhouse company was
torched. Farmers fled from Syngenta crop chemicals, corn and soybean
hybrids, and transgenic traits that were being cross-marketed with
other brands. A billion-plus dollar class action suit was launched.
Its value tumbling, Syngenta hit the skids. Sales for 2014 were strong
due to farmers' habit of pre-purchasing most inputs the year prior,
but in 2015 global revenues fell by almost $2 billion. The company was
quietly looking for help.
In 2013, the China Oil and Food Corporation (COFCO) was the largest
buyer of DDGS. A true state-owned enterprise, the megacompany is
figurehead of all things grain-related in China.  The chairman at the
time was a man named (Frank) Ning Gaoning.
COFCO was the first entity to enforce the overnight "ban" on American
corn product imports, and also acted as a primary clearinghouse
internally to resolve the oversupply of Chinese corn as the feed mills
adjusted their blends. Mr Ning was at the very heart of the process.
Food prices are a leading indicator of potential civil unrest. The
exploding demand for protein increased prices in China for years prior
to 2013. COFCO and other companies would be critical to enacting a
more balanced domestic protein industry to feed the Chinese people.

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Throughout 2014, the drumbeat of "food security" continued to resonate in China. Only six companies had the means to provide all of those at once. @man_integrated
Law & Politics

Throughout 2014, the drumbeat of "food security" continued to resonate
in China. That meant modern solutions - better equipment, better
planning, better hybrids, better genetic traits, and better chemistry.
Only six companies had the means to provide all of those at once.

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The "Big Six" of modern, conventional agriculture are: - BASF - Bayer - Dow - DuPont - Monsanto - Syngenta For China to get into the game, it had to buy one. @man_integrated
Law & Politics

These giants live at the nexus of R&D, formulation, production, and
distribution of BOTH seeds and pesticides.
For China to get into the game, it had to buy one.

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That left Syngenta, who was suffering huge losses due to the COFCO-enforced ban on American corn products. The Chinese-created crisis had weakened a key target. @man_integrated
Law & Politics

Dow and DuPont were already in bed. They were out. BASF didn't want to
sell. Bayer had its eyes on Monsanto. That left Syngenta, who was
suffering huge losses due to the COFCO-enforced ban on American corn
products. The Chinese-created crisis had weakened a key target.

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Sinochem chairman says merger with ChemChina still underway Reuters
Law & Politics

Frank Ning Gao Ning, chairman of Chinese state-run Sinochem Group said
on Wednesday the planned merger with China National Chemical Corp, or
ChemChina, was still underway.
Ning also said the company is working on plans to list crop and seed
company Syngenta on the Shanghai stock exchange.
Talks between top management of the two groups about the
government-orchestrated merger were first reported three years ago.

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This thread is an example of how authoritarian regimes function internally. You learn little from the powerful men who speak from a podium. @man_integrated
Law & Politics

You watch for the domain-specific power brokers who make the real
moves behind the veil of commerce and trade. PEOPLE MOVE ASSETS.

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It is deadly business to underestimate an opponent that sees timelines in decades, not 3-year earning cycles. It was a masterful plan, skillfully executed across multiple levels of impact @man_integrated
Law & Politics

It is deadly business to underestimate an opponent that sees timelines
in decades, not 3-year earning cycles. Only by looking backwards can
we see the plan in action. This wasn't a conspiracy. It was a
masterful plan, skillfully executed across multiple levels of impact.

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China's Protectionism Online Is Driving Its Own Decoupling With the U.S. @WPReview @hofrench
Law & Politics

In 2003, just as I was arriving in China as a correspondent for The
New York Times, tectonic changes were coming to the worlds of internet
commerce, search and social media. But their rumblings were so deep
beneath the surface that few could have predicted their long-term
That year, Alibaba, a four-year-old web company that had started out
of an apartment in Hangzhou, fended off an ambitious push by eBay into
China’s e-commerce market by eliminating merchant fees for Taobao,
Alibaba’s own e-commerce platform, even as it was losing money.
The move helped put Alibaba on the road to becoming the world’s
biggest seller of goods online and its founder, Jack Ma, one of the
world’s richest men.
It was part of a series of measures, both public and private, that
were meant to create “national champions” for the internet in China,
meaning companies that would compete vigorously for business globally,
while getting help from Beijing in keeping foreign companies out of
their home market.
Fast forward to 2011, by which time I was living in New York, and more
big news about the internet in China suddenly arrived, this time like
a thunderclap.
Numerous friends in China as well as Chinese nationals living abroad
wrote to urge me to sign on to something called WeChat, which had
overnight become the must-have cellphone app for staying in touch, and
very soon thereafter, an almost unimaginable array of other services.
There has been much talk in recent months about a decoupling of the
world’s two largest economies, driven by the United States under
President Donald Trump.
But the stories of Alibaba, WeChat and other Chinese tech companies
show that Beijing has been pursuing a decoupling of its own, or at
least a strategy of asymmetrical market access, for decades now.
Consider China’s “Great Firewall.” Earlier this year, the Spectator
Index published a partial list of companies blocked on the Chinese
internet. It included Google search and Gmail, Yahoo, Facebook,
YouTube, Wikipedia, Twitter, Netflix, Instagram, WhatsApp and Dropbox,
as well as the websites of the BBC, The New York Times, Nikkei,
LeMonde, Der Spiegel and The Economist, among others.
While Alibaba and Tencent, the parent company of WeChat, have been
extraordinary success stories, not all of China’s would-be national
champions have enjoyed comparable triumphs.
For example, Baidu, the search engine that has dominated the Chinese
internet since Google abandoned China largely over censorship issues
in 2010, has garnered little success competing in international
Indeed, many in China loathe it, particularly young people, who often
turn to virtual private networks, or VPNs, and other technical hoops
to evade domestic internet controls so they can use Google and some of
the other popular Western tech giants that are blocked.
What Baidu’s example means is that there is potentially a steep price
to be paid for accepting the bargain offered by Beijing to Chinese
companies operating in what it considers a strategic sector.
Life inside of a walled garden may be cushy at first, but it is
ultimately quite limiting, even if you get to cater to the world’s
largest population.
Alibaba, WeChat and other Chinese tech companies show that Beijing has
been pursuing a decoupling of its own, or at least a strategy of
asymmetrical market access, for decades now.
Herein lies a lesson about how the United States and other advanced
economies should deal with China. One approach, already seen in the
sanctions-happy policies of the Trump administration, is largely
punitive and leaves little scope for what I’ll call “virtuous
A better approach would actively push for opportunities of
positive-sum engagement about the shape of the internet, and beyond
even that, the future of the world economy more generally.
Of course, it would have been better had Washington and other
governments tried this approach back at the start of this century,
when they had much more leverage in their discussions with Beijing.
But appeals to principles that offer prospects for true win-win
outcomes never lose all of their potency. Nor does the stifling
prospect of ever-more confinement to the walled garden that is China’s
How would this kind of engagement work? Today, Washington sanctions
Huawei, China’s telecom giant, because it considers the hardware it
builds—which is vital to the fifth-generation cellular networks, known
as 5G, that will soon to be arriving in markets everywhere—to be a
national security risk.
The U.S. is contemplating similar measures against TikTok, a Chinese
social media app whose business has recently exploded in the West.
Rather than punitively closing off markets, an approach based on
virtuous reciprocity would instead reserve that as a final step if
common standards for all couldn’t be reached.
For example, Washington and Beijing could agree to security reviews
for 5G hardware like Huawei’s in exchange for open markets where
companies from whatever quarter would be allowed to market their
equipment without restriction.
If that meant that China’s national champion wins this round, so be
it, despite all the talk about how high the stakes are for dominance
of 5G around the world. Sound common principles for market access that
are enforceable would be worth it.
For social media and the internet more broadly, the ship left port a
long time ago, so retroactive corrections are required in order to
arrive at a reciprocity that is meaningfully virtuous.
Since the major players of the internet outside China, like Google and
Facebook, are not allowed to operate in the country, Chinese companies
like WeChat and TikTok should not be allowed to operate in the U.S. or
other Western markets, until this asymmetry is seriously addressed.
One of the obstacles to this virtuous reciprocity is that Beijing, of
course, shies from openly articulating one of the key aspects of its
internet protectionism, which is not commercial at all but rather
based on a desire to sustain a regime of strict censorship.
As recent news stories have troublingly demonstrated, this censorship
extends to Chinese social media apps like WeChat and TikTok, which
have been found censoring discussions outside of China, for example
about developments in Hong Kong, or the forced internment of more than
a million Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.
For the Chinese state, censorship is a matter of national security. It
is high time, though, that the West treat it this way as well.
China corralling and indoctrinating its population online, insulating
it almost entirely from varied sources of outside information, amounts
to a strategy of weaponizing nationalism that threatens other
In light of all this, it seems clear that China may never be compelled
to fully open its internet to information and tech companies from
other countries.
But that doesn’t mean that the U.S., Japan, South Korea and Europe
shouldn’t insist upon it, while holding out the prospect of positive
outcomes with incentives for Beijing.
With its extraordinary functionality, WeChat, in particular, seems
like it could rival any mobile app in a world where the internet
wasn’t so Balkanized.
In the meantime, though, there’s only the walled garden, where more
Chinese citizens will become aware that their use of the internet—at
the center of so much of life today—is crippled not by others, but by
their own government.

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North Korea's Kim signals more confrontational stance with new horse ride, rare party meeting
Law & Politics

Kim Jong Un mounted a white horse again as North Korea announced on
Wednesday it will soon convene a rare meeting of the ruling party’s
leaders, steps analysts say may signal preparations for a more
confrontational stance with the international community.
For the second time in two months, Kim visited North Korea’s sacred Mt
Paektu on horseback, this time accompanied by senior military
officers, aimed at instilling a “revolutionary spirit” in the people,
state news agency KCNA reported.
Kim has warned the United States it has until the end of the year to
offer more concessions to restart stalled denuclearization talks or
North Korea will pursue an unspecified “new path”. Analysts believe
that may include a resumption of intercontinental ballistic missile
launches or nuclear tests.
The United States has called for North Korea to give up significant
portions of its nuclear arsenal before punishing international
sanctions are eased, while Pyongyang has accused the United States of
“gangster-like” demands for unilateral disarmament.
Speaking in Washington on Tuesday, U.S. Special Representative for
North Korea Stephen Biegun said the United States would not give up on
talks with Pyongyang.
Biegun has previously downplayed the year-end deadline, calling it
“artificial” and warning that it would be a “huge mistake and a missed
opportunity” for North Korea to take any provocative steps.
But North Korean state media have carried a steady chorus of
statements in recent weeks, saying Washington should not ignore the
warning and dismissing U.S. calls for talks as a stalling tactic.
The announcement that a Plenary Meeting of the Central Committee of
the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea would meet sometime in late
December underscores how North Korea is serious about making a major
decision, analysts said.
Such meetings have often been when North Korea has announced major
policy shifts.
KCNA said the plenum would discuss and decide on “crucial issues” in
light of the “changed situation at home and abroad”.
“That Pyongyang is opting to hold this meeting before the end of the
year indicates its strong resolve,” she said. “Taking the party plenum
announcement and the Mount Paektu visit together, the ‘resolve’ seems
to be that North Korea will not cave in to the U.S., and that it will
keep charging on despite the difficulties.”
The ride was aimed at instilling in North Koreans the mountain’s
“indefatigable revolutionary spirit” in the face of “unprecedented
blockade and pressure imposed by the imperialists,” KCNA reported.
Kim said there was a need to prepare for “the harshness and protracted
character of our revolution,” according to KCNA.
While Kim’s plans are still unclear, the signals suggest the window
for diplomacy is closing fast, if not already shut, said John Delury
of Seoul’s Yonsei University.
“The message is buckle up, it’s going to be a big year for us next
year,” he said. “And not a year of diplomacy and summitry, but rather
of national strength.”

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30-APR-2018 :: "A new history starts now. An age of peace, from the starting point of history."
Law & Politics

The Events that took place on Friday at the truce village of Panmunjom
and during the Inter-Korean Summit were breathtaking for the Hollywood
Optics. The Opening Shot of Kim Jong Un surrounded by a Phalanx of
North Korean Officials [later replayed as Chairman Kim sat in his
Presidential Vehicle surrounded by his Ninja bodyguards] was almost as
good as the opening Sequence in PT Anderson's Boogie Nights [Steadicam
operator Andy Shuttleworth]. This was Cinema of the highest level
which is no surprise when You consider that Kim Jong-Il the Father was
obsessed with Cinema and amassed arguably the world’s largest personal
film collection: over 20,000 bootlegged 35mm screening copies. Kim
Jong-Il also had a penchant for Hennessy Paradis cognac and for two
years in the mid-1990s, he was the world's largest buyer of Hennessy
Paradis cognac, importing up to $800,000 of the stuff a year.  Kim
Jong-Il began his career as the head of the state’s propaganda and
agitation department and its clear that Kim Jong-Un's sister Kim Yo
Jong who holds the same role and evidently handles all the optics, is
a chip off the old Block. Friday was tip-top Geopolitical Optics. Mike
Pompeo, the newly minted US Secretary of State [His predecessor was
fired via Twitter] had visited Pyongyang the previous week and
pronounced; that the young North Korean leader was "a smart guy who's
doing his homework"

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29-11-2010 FAR away in distant lands lies the Hermit Kingdom They all have had tiny little hands like the Elves in the Elves and the Shoemaker.
Law & Politics

They all have had tiny little hands like the Elves in the Elves and
the Shoemaker. And this country has nuclear weapons and on its border
with its neighbour South Korea sit 25,000 American soldiers.

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@NATO Names China as New Target, Alongside Russia
Law & Politics

During this week’s NATO meeting, they are going to officially add a
new nation to the list of “challenges,” in the form of China, with
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg saying NATO has to “tackle the issue” of
China’s growing capabilities.

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This was the first NATO meeting where leaders seemed to take the threat of a rising China as a direct challenge. But it was a muddled discussion @nytimes
Law & Politics

While Russia may be a disrupter on the edges of Europe, China is a
builder. For the first time it has a noticeable naval presence in the
Mediterranean, the Black Sea and the Nordic sea routes. It is laying
undersea fiber-optic cable, meaning more NATO nations will be
communicating over Chinese infrastructure. And those platforms will
pave the way for artificial intelligence applications and quantum
computing — two areas where China is investing heavily, often in
partnership with European universities. But the immediate issue is
driven by aggressive bids by Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications
giant, to build 5G — “Fifth Generation” — switching systems in NATO
countries, from Italy to Germany to Britain. Early this year Secretary
of State Mike Pompeo was warning European nations that if they buy
from Huawei, the United States might terminate their access to
intelligence. The reaction against Washington’s ultimatum was so sharp
that Mr. Pompeo toned it down. Now several European countries are
arguing they can “manage” China’s presence in their communication
networks, a bid to avoid so angering Beijing that it retaliates by
cutting European imports. Inside NATO, however, officials are
struggling to understand what happens if its day-to-day communications
run through Chinese switching systems and cell-tower networks — a
vulnerability China could exploit in a conflict.

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Poland's foreign minister, Jacek Czaputowicz, even suggested that France is "the Trojan horse of Russia." @nytimes
Law & Politics

They are also troubled by Mr. Macron’s claim that terrorism, not
Russia or China, is the main threat to NATO, and by his outreach to
President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. “If we want to build peace in
Europe, to rebuild European strategic autonomy, we need to reconsider
our position with Russia,” Mr. Macron declared in the same interview
in which he diagnosed NATO’s brain.
Poland’s foreign minister, Jacek Czaputowicz, even suggested that
France is “the Trojan horse of Russia.’’

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There is little doubt that Sayyed Moqtada al-Sadr controls the streets in Iraq and can make peaceful protests violent when he chooses. @ejmalrai
Law & Politics

There is little doubt that Sayyed Moqtada al-Sadr controls the streets
in Iraq and can make peaceful protests violent when he chooses.
Notwithstanding the presence of several smaller players and those
genuinely asking for serious reforms, Sayyed Moqtada can move the
street in the direction he wants. However, the strategic objectives of
Sayyed Moqtada are unknown to all politicians in Iraq, and perhaps
outside Mesopotamia as well. Whoever wins a large number of MPs and
the largest number of ministers has been always had the capacity to
ask for the resignation of the government and its Prime Minister. He
was the first to ask, from within the parliament, for Iran to leave
Iraq- despite the fact that the “Islamic Republic” has been Moqtada’s
best refuge ever since 2005 when he sensed his life was in danger and
the US was planning to assassinate him. Sayyed Moqtada is at this
moment in Iran, a country he returns to quite frequently. What does
Sayyed Moqtada want?

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@business Bloomberg editor quits over China story @politico
Law & Politics

Bloomberg News editor Ben Richardson has quit the organization in
protest of the editors’ handling of an investigative piece on China.
“I left Bloomberg because of the way the story was mishandled, and
because of how the company made misleading statements in the global
press and senior executives disparaged the team that worked so hard to
execute an incredibly demanding story," Richardson, who served as
editor-at-large for Asia news, told Jim Romenesko on Monday.
The story in question was written by reporter Michael Forstyhe, who
left Bloomberg for the New York Times after anonymous Bloomberg
employees revealed that top editors did not publish Forstyhe's
investigative article on Chinese elites due to fears that Bloomberg
would be expelled from the country.
Bloomberg relies heavily on sales of its financial data terminals in
the country.
Late last week, Bloomberg LP chairman Peter T. Grauer said publicly
that the company should have reconsidered publishing critical articles
about Chinese President Xi Jinping because they harmed Bloomberg's
bottom line.
Richardson said Grauer's comments were frank and that they "illustrate
the frame of mind of senior management from the business side" at
"Clearly, there needs to be a robust debate about how the media
engages with China. That debate isn’t happening at Bloomberg,"
Richardson said.
"The sad thing about this is that a small group of incompetent and
self-serving managers have screwed things up for everyone else," he
"I spent 13 years at the company, as did Mike [Forsythe]. I worked
with some fantastic people who did and continue to do great work."
Richardson also gave Romenesko some insight into how the story was
pulled, noting that "the reporters who worked on the story for months
didn’t get to review the copy before it was unilaterally spiked on a
conference call with a ludicrous amount of top brass."

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Currency Markets at a Glance WSJ
World Currencies

Euro 1.1083
Dollar Index 97.58
Japan Yen 108.87
Swiss Franc 0.9875
Pound 1.3140
Aussie 0.6845
India Rupee 71.6050
South Korea Won 1190.515
Brazil Real 4.2077
Egypt Pound 16.1543
South Africa Rand 14.5922

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Gold 6 month INO 1475.75

Emerging Markets

Frontier Markets

Sub Saharan Africa

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Macron conditions troop presence in Sahel on West African clarifications @ReutersAfrica

President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday demanded West African leaders
dismiss growing anti-French sentiment across the region if they wanted
France’s military to continue its operations against Islamist
France, the former colonial power, has the West’s largest military
presence waging counter-insurgency operations in Mali and the wider
Sahel, an arid region of west Africa just below the Sahara desert.
Rather than stabilising, security has progressively worsened with
militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State strengthening their
foothold across the region, making large swathes of territory
ungovernable and stoking ethnic violence, especially in Mali and
Burkina Faso.
The French government has faced criticism at home that its 4,500
troops are bogged down, while critical voices in the region have
increasingly scorned Paris for failing to restore stability and
anti-French sentiment has grown.
“I want them (leaders of Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad and
Mauritania) to clarify and formalise their demands regarding France
and the international community: do they want our presence and do they
need it? I want clear answers to these questions,” he said at a news
conference after a NATO summit in London.
Thirteen French soldiers were killed in Mali last week taking France’s
death toll since intervening in Mali in 2013 to 38.
The soldiers died when their helicopters collided in the dark as they
hunted militants. It was the biggest loss of French troops in a single
day since an attack in Beirut 36 years ago when 58 soldiers died.
“I can’t have French troops on the ground in the Sahel when there is
ambiguity (by authorities) towards anti-French movements and sometimes
comments made by politicians and ministers,” he said.
Whereas French troops were hailed as heroes in 2013 after preventing
an Islamist militant push to the Malian capital Bamako, there have
been growing protests demanding France leave or accusing it of being
in the region for economic reasons.
“Given what we have lived through, I believe they owe us clarity,”
Macron said. “France is not there contrary to what’s heard sometimes
for neo-colonialist, imperialist or economic reasons. We’re there for
our collective security and the region.”
The most notable example of anti-French sentiment was last month when
Salif Keita, a popular Malian musician, released a video on social
media telling his President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to stop being
subjected to the little kid Emmanuel Macron.
Macron said he had invited the five Sahel leaders to come to Pau in
southwestern France, where a regiment of last week’s fallen soldiers
is based, on Dec. 16 to discuss the issue.
“Their response is today a necessary condition for our troops to stay,” he said.

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02-DEC-2019 :: Salif Keita, released a video on his Facebook page in which he tells President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to stop "subjecting yourself to little Emmanuel Macron - he's just a kid."

President Macron’s France experienced one of its worst losses of in
France’s military in more than three decades -- 13 dead soldiers
during an anti-terrorism mission in Mali -- Two Helicopters collided
in the dead of the Mali-an night.
Salif Keita, one of Mali’s best-loved musicians, released a video on
his Facebook page in which he tells President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita
to stop “subjecting yourself to little Emmanuel Macron– he’s just a

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Island of Comoros Raises $4 Billion to Fund Infrastructure, Tourism @bpolitics

Comoros raised almost $4 billion in financing, more than threefold the
size of its economy, to develop strategic projects on the Indian Ocean
The financing was mobilized in investments, debt and donations at a
meeting in Paris this week, Foreign Minister Souef Mohamed El-Amine
said in a text-message, without giving details.
President Azali Assoumani led his officials to seek funds to help
boost the $1.2 billion economy with investments in infrastructure and
tourism, the Economy Minister Houmed Msaidie said earlier.
Comoros, an archipelago of 830,000 people between Mozambique and
Madagascar, is also rebuilding after the damage caused by Cyclone
Kenneth in April.
Assoumani won a second term in office in March after pledging to
stimulate economic growth partly by developing the tourism industry.
Other projects the Comorians presented at the Paris conference
included energy, roads and building of a university hospital.
The meeting was attended by the hosting French government, as well as
representatives from China, Japan, and Egypt. The Saudi and Kuwait
funds, World Trade Organization and League of Arab States made funding
Comoros is one of the world’s biggest producers of ylang ylang, an
essence used in perfumes, which together with cloves and vanilla
accounted for about 90% of its exports in 2018, according to the
Comorian central bank.

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On the Ethiopian highlands, church grounds have become accidental time capsules of biodiversity. @nytimes

I grew up attending churches surrounded by parking lots and populated
by congregations that didn’t connect their spirituality to ecology. So
when I first heard about the church forests of Ethiopia, I was
One of my great passions has been the environment, fighting for it,
telling stories of its abuse and our need to be caretakers and
champions of our shared home.
I was eager to meet people whose religion had some built-in practice
of respecting trees and preserving biodiversity.
And that belief, coupled with the ballooning threat of climate change
and a growing sense of despair, propelled me to visit the church
forests of Ethiopia.
A few months later I was in the office of a forest ecologist,
Alemayehu Wassie Eshete, who started his interview by telling me, “A
church, to be a church, must be enveloped by a forest.”
I had never heard those words before or that idea, but I was hearing a
truth I already knew:
The church should be immersed in creation, enjoying and protecting the
forest and shores and mountains, the whole earth.
As I spent time with Dr. Alemayehu and filmed in the little pockets of
old-growth forest that surround the churches of Ethiopia, my moments
of awe at the beauty of the church forests were countered by feelings
of despair.
They were so small. So much of the surrounding forest had already disappeared.
I wrestled with judging the Ethiopian Church for holding its beliefs
imperfectly, like all things human.
Why not save more of the forest than just a small patch around the
church? Where was the church when 97 percent of Ethiopia’s primary
forest was destroyed?
For me, these little blips of green forest rising out of vast swaths
of deforested brown earth represent hope.
They are a powerful intersection of faith and science doing some good
in the world.
E.O. Wilson, in his book “Half-Earth,” declared the church forests of
Ethiopia “one of the best places in the biosphere.”
They are proof that when faith and science make common cause on
ecological issues, it results in a model that bears repeating.
We have the blueprint of life held in these tiny circles of faith, and
that’s something to rejoice over and protect and expand with every
resource we can muster.

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Today, @SecPompeo announced the U.S. and the civilian-led transitional government of #Sudan decided to initiate the process to exchange ambassadors. @statedeptspox

We remain a steadfast partner of the Sudanese people and their pursuit
of peace, security, prosperity, democracy, and equality.

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10-JUN-2019 :: The "zeitgeist" of the Revolution in Khartoum was intoxicating.

The ‘’zeitgeist’’ of the Revolution in Khartoum was intoxicating. As I
watched events unfold it felt like Sudan was a portal into a whole new

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State-owned South African Airways is entering a business-rescue process to allow a "radical restructuring" under which the carrier will receive 4 billion rand ($274 million) in funding @BBGAfrica

State-owned South African Airways is entering a business-rescue
process to allow a “radical restructuring” under which the carrier
will receive 4 billion rand ($274 million) in funding, Public
Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan said in a statement Thursday.

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Foreign investors have ditched more than 141 billion rand ($9.6 billion) of South African stocks and bonds this year - the biggest annual selloff in at least a decade, data from the Johannesburg Stock Exchange showed. Reuters

But unlike previous selloffs, foreign investors are dumping stocks at
a much higher rate than bonds, with high local yields spurring carry
trade and providing some support to fixed income, according to
“Demand for bonds seems like it’s being stimulated by the systematic
rotation out of equities, which makes sense, especially given the
attractive yields now on offer in the SAGB market,” said Kieran Siney
ETM Analytics.
“But looking at South Africa’s economic fundamentals, its hard to believe.”
“You look at the carry you’re being offered of 4.5% on 10-year paper
in a 4% environment. Leave all else aside, that is an incredibly
attractive real yield, full stop,” said chief executive of Cannon
Asset Managers, Adrian Saville.
And the cost of insuring exposure to South Africa’s sovereign debt has
climbed steadily again since late October and accelerated sharply over
the past few days.
Five-year credit default swaps rose by 7 basis points from last
Friday’s close to 195 bps, according to IHS Markit. Data published by
the JSE on Monday showed foreign investors between January and the end
of November sold more than 112 billion rand of equities and over 29
billion rand of bonds.[nL8N28C24L]

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Uganda Plans to Borrow 600 Million Euros to Plug Budget Gap @economics

Uganda plans to borrow 600 million euros to finance a shortfall in its
2019-20 budget as revenue underperforms and the government fails to
get funds it expected from the World Bank.
The government is seeking lawmakers’ approval for loans of 300 million
euros each from Standard Bank Group’s local unit and the Trade &
Development Bank, according to a statement on the parliament’s
website, citing state minister for finance, David Bahati.

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How the world's largest lion relocation was pulled off @NatGeo


There was once a peaceful hunting community called the Thozo, living
in the lush, wildlife-rich wetlands of central Mozambique. Beyond
their village, great herds of buffalo thrived in the swamps, elephants
rumbled in the forests, and prides of lions hunted on the fringes of
the floodplains. The village was led by a great chief, Galanguira—a
hunter who loved the land because it provided for his family and
community. One day, a large army from a neighboring tribe arrived.
Twelve warriors with spears came to Galanguira’s house to kill him,
while the rest of the army waited nearby. Galanguira fought like a
warrior, defending his life and his village. He killed ten of the men.
But he didn’t finish off the last two. Instead, he dropped his spear
and raised his arm—exposing his heart—and told them to kill him. With
one thrust of an enemy’s spear, Galanguira dropped to the floor. The
two triumphant men were about to leave when suddenly a magnificent
lion rose out of Galanguira’s body and stood before them. Shocked and
fearful, the men ran off to tell the rest of the army the about the
supernatural animal and the powers of the Thozo people.The army was
never seen again.“Galanguira’s spirit lion still lives near here,
protecting us,” says Jorge Thozo, waving at the thick forest behind
his house. He is the current chief of the Thozo community, and the
great, great grandson of Chief Galanguira. Sitting on a wooden bench
outside his small mud-brick house, he tells the story of his
grandfather with such pride and enthusiasm that one can feel the
meaning of the words even before they are translated from his
scattered Portuguese. Jorge can hardly remember the last time he saw a
real lion. When he was a child, numerous prides of lions roamed the
game-rich wetlands of the Zambezi Delta. But their numbers were
decimated when their prey was overhunted during the drawn-out
Mozambican civil wars, which raged from 1977 to 1992. Across Africa, a
similar decline is occurring, with wild lion numbers dropping 42
percent in the last two decades, mostly as a result of habitat loss.

In 2018, conservationists, landowners, donors, and the Mozambican
government came up with an ambitious plan to add some two million
acres to African lions’ range. They identified 24 healthy lions from
reserves in South Africa and planned to relocate them to central
Mozambique—the largest lion reintroduction ever attempted. The lions’
proposed new home was the Marromeu Game Reserve—Chief Thozo’s
backyard—where the local community subsists in the thick forests that
fringe the Zambezi Delta floodplains.
With all the permits signed, partners on board, and the lions ready to
go, all pieces were in place to make the ambitious project happen. But
one question remained: Would the spirit lions allow it?

There was very little wildlife in the Coutada 11 concession, in
central Mozambique, when Mark Haldane, a South African hunter and one
of the architects of the lion reintroduction, first arrived in 1995.In
a spontaneous decision, Haldane bought the lease from a German owner
who wanted nothing more to do with war-torn Mozambique. At the time,
there were fewer than 44 sable antelope and perhaps a thousand buffalo
on one million acres. The forests were full of snares and traps for
small game species, and signs of civil war were everywhere.

“The brick walls that line our runway were chipped with bullets.
Mortars,” Haldane says. “Back then, I didn't know how good it would

Operating a single hunting lodge, Haldane dedicated much of his time
and resources to helping the wildlife return by investing in
anti-poaching measures, such as motorbike patrols and a team of
scouts. “Animals gravitate towards the most ideal habitat and
protection, and I think, just by absolute chance, it happened to my
block,” he says. “They came in, and then we had to look after them.”

Haldane takes me on a tour of the land in his helicopter. As we swing
over the floodplain, the full scale of the wilderness comes into view.
Striped throngs of zebra bound below among groups of red hartebeest
and shaggy waterbuck. Reedbuck dance through the water. And then a
scene of true African elegance: A herd of sable run in unison, their
brown and white manes flowing like waves across heavy backs, and their
iconic, sickle-shaped horns dancing on their heads.

“There are over 3,000 sable antelope on the concession today,” Haldane
says over the chopper din. We circle over a big herd of buffalo—some
300 galloping through the reeds like combine harvesters. Today, he
says, his block holds some 25,000 buffalo.

“All the animals have come back, virtually to capacity, with the only
exception being the apex predators.”

The Thozo believe that when you die, you can become a spirit lion.

“All of my ancestral spirits are lions,” says Jorge Thoza, the chief.
“If I want to be a spirit lion, the witch doctor goes in the bush to
get secret sticks, nobody really knows what they are, and they make
medicine. If I take that medicine, I will turn into a lion when I die.
As a spirit lion, I will stay here to watch over the people.”

This was going to be the largest movement of wild lions across borders
in history—24 in total.

“We made a ceremony for my ancestors [the spirit lions] to introduce
the lions,” says the chief, recounting the day the big cats arrived.
The chief laid out various offerings in plastic cups—coke, beer,
tobacco—for the spirit lions. If the spirits were unhappy, Jorge
explains, they would kill the new lions. And if the lions were
accepted, “we asked the spirit lions to protect the village, and to
prevent the lions from biting anybody.”

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@KeEquityBank's James Mwangi, the Banker Who Has Big Plans for Africa @BW

The Kenyan capital is trying to position itself as a regional
financial hub—the Dubai of Africa. Nairobi’s banks have expanded to
other East African nations but haven’t been as successful in moving
into southern, central, and western ones.
In April, however, Mwangi led Equity Group, Kenya’s largest lender by
valuation, in a deal with Atlas Mara Ltd. that gives it access to
Mozambique and Zambia and allows it to expand in Tanzania and Rwanda.
In exchange for 6.3% of Equity, Atlas is exiting those four markets.
In November, Equity Group made a cash offer for a bank in Congo that
it plans to combine with an existing subsidiary there.
Mwangi says his company is on course to be in 15 countries by 2026.

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@KeEquityBank share price data

Closing Price:           51.00
Market Capitalization: 192,457,414,902
PE: 9.714

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by Aly Khan Satchu (www.rich.co.ke)
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December 2019

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