|Thursday 23rd of April 2020
The Way we live now
''You felt the land taking you back to what was there a hundred years
ago, to what had been there always.” ― V.S. Naipaul, A Bend in the
Kim Jong-un’s sister tipped as his successor as North Korea’s next leader
Law & Politics
Few people had even heard her name two years ago.
But at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in 2018, Kim
Yo-jong executed a tactic not commonly associated with her older
brother Kim Jong-un: Charm offensive.
With North Korea’s leader now rumoured to be grappling with a serious
heart condition, the world’s eyes have focused on the 31-year-old
Pyongyang-born Politburo member.
Yet very little is known about Dear Leader’s kid sister, apart from
public observations that the siblings appear to be very close, and,
like her brother, she believes a carefully oiled propaganda machine is
key to maintaining an iron grip on power in North Korea.
Here’s what we know about Kim Yo-jong:
She was recently re-installed as a member of North Korea’s Politburo,
the country’s official decision-making body.
As ultimate ruler, her brother appointed her.
It is Kim Yo-jong who is being widely tipped to seize power in the
hermit kingdom that has been ruled by three successive generations of
the Kim dynasty for the past seven decades.
She is also vice director of the Propaganda and Agitation Department
of the country’s only political party, the Workers’ Party of Korea.
Like her brother, she was sent to a private school in Switzerland at a
young age for her education.
She then studied computer science at the Kim Il-sung University, named
after her grandfather who founded North Korea with the assistance of
the Soviet Union in 1948.
It is also believed she underwent some form of military training.
Her private life
Reports that Kim Yo-jong married the son of a senior government
official in 2015 have never been confirmed.
That she subsequently gave birth to a child the same year, who may
have been fathered by someone else, have never been confirmed or
wholly discounted either.
Some recent photos appear to show a ring on her left hand, but it is
unclear whether this can be considered a wedding ring.
One of the world’s first glimpses of Kim Yo-jong was at her father Kim
Jong-il’s funeral in 2011, when she was 22.
Once her brother succeeded to power, she was occasionally photographed
at his side during propaganda shoots.
She is now credited with moulding Kim Jong-un’s “man of the people”
persona, and responsible for the iconic images of her brother scaling
the country’s sacred Mount Paektu on a white horse.
Yo-jong became the first member of the ruling Kim dynasty to visit
South Korea since the 1950-1953 Korean War, when she attended the 2018
Winter Olympics opening ceremony in Pyeongchang.
The visit was a PR triumph for North Korea, with Yo-jong photographed
laughing and applauding next to South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in
during the women’s ice hockey events.
In February, she publicly praised US President Donald Trump after he
sent a letter to her brother pledging to maintain bilateral relations
and offering to provide the US with assistance in battling the
But after North Korea resumed missile testing and its neighbour issued
public condemnations, she decried South Korea as a “frightened dog
Why she is the favourite
Kim Sengupta, the diplomatic editor for the UK’s Independent
newspaper, says Yo-jong is credited with persuading her brother to
“pursue detente” with Trump, after the world endured a nervous few
months witnessing the two leaders hurling insults at each other.
But Western intelligence agencies also claim that she is a senior
member of a government department which oversees illicit activities to
raise foreign reserves including counterfeiting, cybertheft, drugs and
arms sales, Sengupta warns.
“However, if Kim Jong-un’s health problems do turn out to be true,
then it is Kim Yo-jong who emerges, for the time being at least, the
custodian of power in North Korea,” he writes.
“But fathoming just when this takes place, and for how long, will
remain difficult to ascertain in a state which goes to such lengths to
shut itself off from the outside world.”
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"
The notorious nine: These world leaders responded to the coronavirus with denial, duplicity and ineptitude #COVID19 @globeandmail
Law & Politics
Everyone remembers the powerful world leaders who derided the
coronavirus threat or even denied its existence in its early stages.
U.S. President Donald Trump said the virus would disappear “like a
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson boasted cheerfully about shaking
hands with “everybody” at a hospital, including COVID-19 patients.
Chinese officials arrested or muzzled doctors who tried to warn of the
But what about other leaders around the world? Some have performed
admirably under pressure – educating their citizens, advocating good
health measures, taking brave action to protect lives.
Others were, er … less helpful.
Who were the deniers, the minimizers, the blithe mockers, the
confident believers, the vodka promoters, the unconcerned and the
uninterested? The Globe and Mail looks at some of the most dubious
responses to the pandemic.
The strongman of Belarus delivered some startling news to his
country’s citizens last week. “No one will die of coronavirus in our
country. I publicly declare this,” President Alexander Lukashenko
In fact, at least 36 people have already died in Belarus from
COVID-19, according to the country’s Health Ministry – but the
country’s 65-year-old dictator doesn’t accept that.
All of the dead had pre-existing health conditions, he claimed.
“Therefore, I say that not a single person died purely from the
Vodka helps too, according to Mr. Lukashenko, as does playing hockey.
To demonstrate, he took part in a hockey tournament over the weekend
that was played with spectators in attendance. Unsurprisingly, the
dictator’s team won the tournament for an 11th time.
In late March, as Mexico recorded its first COVID-19 deaths, President
Andrés Manuel López Obrador released a Facebook video encouraging his
people to go out for dinner.
“If you’re able and have the means to do so, continue taking your
family out to eat,” the President advised as he sat on a restaurant
patio, a large meal spread before him. “That strengthens the economy.”
Mr. López Obrador, a left-wing populist who goes by “AMLO,” long
resisted calls to impose physical-distancing measures, fearing his
working-class base would be hurt most by shutting down the economy.
And he continued to hold rallies at which he would wade into the crowd
to greet supporters with handshakes and cheek kisses.
At his daily news conferences, he brandished a series of good-luck
charms: prayer cards, a US$2 bill and a drawing of a six-leaf clover.
These and his strong moral character, the President declared, would
keep him from becoming infected. “The protective shield is honesty –
not permitting corruption,” he said.
He did finally relent and authorized a shutdown of non-essential
activities. Even then, he mostly dispatched subordinates to make the
And he has made sure that work can continue on his priority
infrastructure projects, including a new oil refinery and a rail line
through the country’s south.
In Mexico City, meanwhile, the mayor has shut down most businesses and
limited restaurants to takeout service.
If the President were still tempted to follow his own advice on eating
out, there would be nowhere to go in his capital.
While most countries were going into lockdown and banning large
gatherings, Tanzanian President John Magufuli was instead telling his
people to keep going to their churches and mosques.
“Corona is the devil and it cannot survive in the body of Jesus,” he
told a church service in late March. “It will burn.”
Less than three weeks later, his theological premise is in doubt.
Today there are 254 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Tanzania,
with 10 deaths, and the number is increasing dramatically.
Undeterred, the President doubled down. He announced a plan for three
days of prayer in mid-April to ask God to save the country.
Tanzania today remains the only country where the government has
recommended church attendance as a way of combatting the virus.
While he did take some action based on medical science, including the
suspension of classes and sports events, Mr. Magufuli has refused to
introduce a broader lockdown or curfew – even though most of his East
African neighbours have done so.
With the government playing down the threat, life has continued as
normal. Bars and clubs are reportedly still crowded.
Senior government officials have mocked anyone practising physical
distancing or self-isolating at home. “Get out and work,” one official
The official number of coronavirus cases in the Central Asian state of
Turkmenistan is zero.
The country is so unaffected by the virus that President Gurbanguly
Berdymukhamedov recently led a mass cycling event through the capital,
Ashgabat. None of the participants wore a mask.
It is, of course, highly unlikely that a country that shares a border
with Iran – one of the countries hardest-hit by COVID-19 – would not
have single infected citizen.
But in Turkmenistan, where information is tightly controlled by the
government, that’s the official version.
Chronicles of Turkmenistan, a Vienna-based news website run by exiled
Turkmen journalists, has reported that a special tent hospital –
cordoned off and surrounded by watch towers – has been erected for
patients with COVID-19 symptoms.
But Turkmenistan’s official media have made no mention of the facility.
Meanwhile, the U.S. government-funded Radio Azatlyk, which has
anonymous correspondents in Turkmenistan, has reported that people
have been arrested by plain clothes officers after talking about the
pandemic or wearing masks in public.
Reporters Without Borders has accused Turkmenistan – which ranked dead
last, below even North Korea, on last year’s Press Freedom Index – of
putting its 5.6 million citizens in danger by “limiting all
information about the coronavirus.”
Kim Jong-un, who has made truculence and duplicity an art form, has
stayed true to form during the coronavirus outbreak. North Korea,
officially speaking, is the sole Asian outlier, a virus-free haven.
The country’s trade and travel connections extend almost exclusively
through China, where the virus first spread. And yet Pyongyang has
steadfastly denied that any virus has arrived on its own soil.
There is reason for skepticism: North Korea also claims no one has
ever tested positive for HIV inside its borders; scientists estimate
the real number is almost 10,000.
Meanwhile, Daily NK has reported the deaths of some 200 soldiers and
four doctors suffering COVID-19-like symptoms.
The country’s actions, too, suggest fear: at least 10,000 people have
been kept in quarantine and schools have been closed, state media have
Yet Mr. Kim’s paranoid dictatorship may have responded to the virus
with appropriate caution. North Korea shut its border with China in
January – two days before Beijing locked down the epicentre of the
“Authoritarian states are very good at shutting things down,
controlling the population,” said Oliver Hotham, managing editor of NK
News. “And it may be that North Korea has harnessed its tools of
repression to prevent an outbreak.”
A week after China began locking down Wuhan, Cambodia’s strongman
leader threatened to boot out any journalist covering their face
during a news briefing in his country.
“The Prime Minister doesn’t wear a mask, so why do you?” Hun Sen asked.
A few days later, he landed in Beijing and shook hands with Chinese
President Xi Jinping, the first foreign leader to visit as the
epidemic raged. Neither man wore a mask.
“What is more terrible than the epidemic is the panic itself,” Mr. Hun
He refused to evacuate Cambodian citizens from China and kept planes
flying between the two countries.
By mid-February, he was back home, taking a helicopter to
Sihanoukville, where he personally greeted tourists disembarking from
the cruise ship Westerdam after it was turned away by five other
Those leaving the ship were ordered not to wear masks, and Mr. Hun Sen
invited them to tour the country. Some later tested positive for
But Cambodia’s Health Minister had already dismissed the risk:
“Infections are unlikely here because our country is just too hot,”
Mam Bun Heng said.
Now, Cambodia has banned interprovincial travel, closed its borders to
people from a half-dozen Western countries and suspended visa-free
arrivals – a privilege previously granted to travellers from China, in
California’s 22nd congressional district
First, Devin Nunes advised Americans to keep patronizing restaurants
even as public-health experts were calling for them to close.
“It’s a great time to just go out, go to a local restaurant,” the
California congressman told Fox News on March 15. “Likely you can get
in, get in easily.”
A few days later, he falsely claimed that there was no evidence the
coronavirus was particularly contagious.
“If this virus is really spreading like some people say that it is, we
don’t have any data on that,” Mr. Nunes said on KMJ, a talk radio
station in his district.
Then, in another Fox appearance on April 1, he said it was “way
overkill” to close schools and that people should “stop looking at the
death counters” marking the number of people killed by COVID-19.
“When you have people staying at home, not taking care of themselves,
you will end up with a hell of a lot more people dying by other causes
than you will by the coronavirus,” he declared.
A member of the House intelligence committee, Mr. Nunes is best known
for defending President Donald Trump against investigations of his
alleged dealings with Russia and Ukraine, pushing conspiracy theories
that U.S. spies and the Ukrainian government have tried to take down
His own state, meanwhile, has drawn plaudits for taking some of the
swiftest action in the country to fight the pandemic.
Governor Gavin Newsom was the first to impose a stay-at-home order, on
March 19, and his state appears to have avoided the worst of the
In mid-March, as the pandemic grew, Zimbabwean President Emmerson
Mnangagwa took action: he announced a series of measures, including an
immediate ban on gatherings of more than 100 people.
A day later, he held a political rally and gave a speech to several
hundred people at a school in northeastern Zimbabwe, blatantly
violating his own decree.
When asked about it, he claimed his ban on large gatherings didn’t
take effect for two days, even though his own government had made it
clear that the decree was effective immediately.
Mr. Mnangagwa, a former vice-president who replaced the long-ruling
Robert Mugabe after a military coup in 2017, has shown little interest
in improving Zimbabwe’s decrepit health care system to deal with the
Its first victim was a well-known broadcaster, Zororo Makamba, who
died in a Harare hospital that had been designated as the main
isolation facility for the coronavirus – but lacked any ventilators to
treat patients. His brother said the government was unprepared for the
As of April 15, just 716 coronavirus tests had been conducted in
Zimbabwe, a country of 15 million people.
In one case, a test was delayed for so long (reportedly because of
transport problems) that the patient died three days before the
positive results came back.
But police and soldiers in the authoritarian state have been
enthusiastically enforcing the national lockdown.
In one raid, police confiscated and destroyed several tons of fresh
fruit and vegetables by setting fire to them – because the vendors had
broken travel restrictions.
In a country plagued by malnutrition and hunger, it was a shockingly
Coronavirus’s ability to mutate has been vastly underestimated, and mutations affect deadliness of strains, Chinese study #COVID19 @SCMPNews
Law & Politics
The most aggressive strains of Sars-CoV-2 could generate 270 times as
much viral load as the least potent type
A new study by one of China’s top scientists has found the ability of
the new coronavirus to mutate has been vastly underestimated and
different strains may account for different impacts of the disease in
various parts of the world.
Professor Li Lanjuan and her colleagues from Zhejiang University found
within a small pool of patients many mutations not previously
These mutations included changes so rare that scientists had never
considered they might occur.
They also confirmed for the first time with laboratory evidence that
certain mutations could create strains deadlier than others.
“Sars-CoV-2 has acquired mutations capable of substantially changing
its pathogenicity,” Li and her collaborators wrote in a non-peer
reviewed paper released on preprint service medRxiv.org on Sunday.
Li’s study provided the first hard evidence that mutation could affect
how severely the virus caused disease or damage in its host.
Li took an unusual approach to investigate the virus mutation. She
analysed the viral strains isolated from 11 randomly chosen Covid-19
patients from Hangzhou in the eastern province of Zhejiang, and then
tested how efficiently they could infect and kill cells.
The deadliest mutations in the Zhejiang patients had also been found
in most patients across Europe, while the milder strains were the
predominant varieties found in parts of the United States, such as
Washington state, according to their paper.
A separate study had found that New York strains had been imported from Europe.
The death rate in New York was similar to that in many European
countries, if not worse.
But the weaker mutation did not mean a lower risk for everybody,
according to Li’s study.
In Zhejiang, two patients in their 30s and 50s who contracted the
weaker strain became severely ill. Although both survived in the end,
the elder patient needed treatment in an intensive care unit.
This finding could shed light on differences in regional mortality.
The pandemic’s infection and death rates vary from one country to
another, and many explanations have been proposed.
Genetic scientists had noticed that the dominant strains in different
geographic regions were inherently different.
Some researchers suspected the varying mortality rates could, in part,
be caused by mutations but they had no direct proof.
The issue was further complicated because survival rates depended on
many factors, such as age, underlying health conditions or even blood
In hospitals, Covid-19 has been treated as one disease and patients
have received the same treatment regardless of the strain they have.
Li and her colleagues suggested that defining mutations in a region
might determine actions to fight the virus.
“Drug and vaccine development, while urgent, need to take the impact
of these accumulating mutations … into account to avoid potential
pitfalls,” they said.
Li was the first scientist to propose the Wuhan lockdown, according to
state media reports.
The government followed her advice and in late January, the city of
more than 11 million residents was shut down overnight.
The sample size in this most recent study was remarkably small. Other
studies tracking the virus mutation usually involved hundreds, or even
thousands, of strains.
Li’s team detected more than 30 mutations. Among them 19 mutations –
or about 60 per cent – were new.
They found some of these mutations could lead to functional changes in
the virus’ spike protein, a unique structure over the viral envelope
enabling the coronavirus to bind with human cells.
Computer simulation predicted that these mutations would increase its
To verify the theory, Li and colleagues infected cells with strains
carrying different mutations. The most aggressive strains could
generate 270 times as much viral load as the weakest type. These
strains also killed the cells the fastest.
It was an unexpected result from fewer than a dozen patients,
“indicating that the true diversity of the viral strains is still
largely underappreciated,” Li wrote in the paper.
The mutations were genes different from the earliest strain isolated
in Wuhan, where the virus was first detected in late December last
The coronavirus changes at an average speed of about one mutation per month.
By Monday, more than 10,000 strains had been sequenced by scientists
around the globe, containing more than 4,300 mutations, according to
the China National Centre for Bioinformation.
Most of these samples, though, were sequenced by a standard approach
that could generate a result quickly.
The genes were read just once, for instance, and there was room for mistakes.
Li’s team used a more sophisticated method known as ultra-deep
sequencing. Each building block of the virus genome was read more than
100 times, allowing the researchers to see changes that could have
been overlooked by the conventional approach.
The researchers also found three consecutive changes – known as
tri-nucleotide mutations – in a 60-year-old patient, which was a rare
Usually the genes mutated at one site at a time. This patient spent
more than 50 days in hospital, much longer than other Covid-19
patients, and even his faeces were infectious with living viral
“Investigating the functional impact of this tri-nucleotide mutation
would be highly interesting,” Li and colleagues said in the paper.
Professor Zhang Xuegong, head of the bioinformatics division at the
National Laboratory for Information Science and Technology at Tsinghua
University, said ultra-deep sequencing could be an effective strategy
to track the virus’ mutation.
“It can produce some useful information,” he said.
But this approach could be much more time consuming and costly. It was
unlikely to be applied to all samples.
“Our understanding of the virus remains quite shallow,” Zhang said.
Questions such as where the virus came from, why it could kill some
healthy young people while generating no detectable symptoms in many
others still left scientists scratching their heads.
“If there is a discovery that overturns the prevailing perception,
don’t be surprised.”
06-APR-2020 : The Way we live now
What I do know is this. Regime implosion is coming to the Oil
Producers and Trump can game the price a little more sure but its a
pointless exercise. Demand has cratered and a return to a hyper
connected 100m barrels per day world is not going to happen for the
foreseeable future. Putin will survive because he prepared for this
moment. Others are as good as terminated.
22-MAR-2020 :: COVID-19 and a Rolling Sudden Stop #COVID19
We are moving from a World of Hyper Connectedness to a World of
Quarantine. A complete Quarantine is the only way to vaccine this
c21st World of ours
#Coronavirus "has started behaving a lot like the once-in-a-century
pathogen we've been worried about." - @BillGates
The Price of Crude Oil is perfectly correlated to the #COVID19 Sudden Stop
“Oil creates the illusion of a completely changed life, life without work, life for free. Oil is a resource that anaesthetises thought, blurs vision, corrupts.”― Ryszard Kapuscinski, Shah of Shahs
“Oil kindles extraordinary emotions and hopes, since oil is above all
a great temptation. It is the temptation of ease, wealth, strength,
fortune, power. It is a filthy, foul-smelling liquid that squirts
obligingly up into the air and falls back to earth as a rustling
shower of money.”― Ryszard Kapuściński, Shah of Shahs
Response strategies for COVID-19 epidemics in African settings: a mathematical modelling study Centre for Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases
The health impact of COVID-19 may differ in African settings as
compared to countries in Europe or China due to demographic,
epidemiological, environmental and socio-economic factors.
We used a Susceptible-Exposed-Infectious-Recovered mathematical model,
stratified by age, to predict the evolution of COVID-19 epidemics in
three countries representing a range of age distributions in Africa
(from oldest to youngest average age: Mauritius, Nigeria and Niger),
under various effectiveness assumptions for combinations of different
non-pharmaceutical interventions: self-isolation of symptomatic
people, physical distancing, and ‘shielding’ (physical isolation) of
the high-risk population.
At the time of writing, only two African countries, Lesotho and
Comoros, had not reported any confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infections2. In
these and other low-income settings, two factors (younger age
distributions and, potentially, warmer temperatures4,5) may help to
attenuate the pandemic’s severity.
However, other factors may plausibly combine to worsen its impact:
these include demography (larger household sizes and more
intergenerational mixing within households), environmental conditions
(overcrowded urban settlements, inadequate water and sanitation),
pre-existing disease burden (higher prevalence of undiagnosed or
unmanaged non-communicable diseases, tuberculosis and, if confirmed to
be risk factors for COVID-19 severity, HIV and undernutrition), and,
critically, a very low baseline of and access to hospitalisation
capacity, particularly intensive and sub-intensive care6–10. In
several African countries, armed conflict, food insecurity and
resulting forced displacement further worsen societal resilience11–16.
To account for uncertainty regarding the transmissibility of
SARS-CoV-2 in Africa, we implemented the model stochastically and
sampled the basic reproduction number 𝑅0, from a normal distribution
with mean 2.6 and standard deviation of 0.525.
Simulations of an unmitigated epidemic in Niger resulted in a median
of 4.1 million clinical cases during the first 12 months following
introduction of the first case, 48.7 million in Nigeria and 490 000 in
Mauritius (Table 2), with the most probable epidemic peaks after 3, 4
and 2 months respectively (Figure 1).
We estimate some 39,000 deaths due to COVID-19 in Niger, 605,000 in
Nigeria and 17,000 in Mauritius would occur over the same period, not
accounting for indirect excess mortality due to health service or
socio- economic disruptions
2-MAR-2020 :: The #COVID19 and SSA and the R Word
The First Issue is whether The #CoronaVirus will infect the Continent
We Know that the #Coronavirus is exponential, non linear and multiplicative.
what exponential disease propagation looks like in the real world.
Real world exponential growth looks like nothing, nothing, nothing ...
then cluster, cluster, cluster ... then BOOM!
14-OCT-2019 :: Ozymandias
''My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare.
The lone and level sands
stretch far away.”
19-APR-2020 :: The End of Vanity China Africa Win Win
I have a curious Triple Whammy of Kicks [not Hennessey I can assure
you but Coffee, Sturm und Drang and now the practically hourly roll of
And the entire China Africa relationship has been an extraordinary
exercise in Narrative Framing and linguistic control, accompanied by a
chorus of Party Hacks chirruping Hosannas at every turn
2-SEP-2019 :: the China EM Frontier Feedback Loop Phenomenon. #COVID19
This Phenomenon was positive for the last two decades but has now
undergone a Trend reversal. The ZAR is the purest proxy for this
African Countries heavily dependent on China being the main Taker
arealso at the bleeding edge of this Phenomenon.
This Pressure Point will not ease soon but will continue to intensify