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Satchu's Rich Wrap-Up
Monday 21st of December 2020

“That crazy feeling in America when the sun is hot on the streets and music comes out of the jukebox or from a nearby funeral, that’s what Robert Frank has captured in the tremendous photographs,” Kerouac wrote.

“With the agility, mystery, genius, sadness, and strange secrecy of a shadow,” he continued, Frank “photographed scenes that have never been seen before on film.”

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Early morning David Hockney @princessekateri

“I prefer living in color.” ~David Hockney.

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The Winter Solstice sunset at Stonehenge is, alongside the Summer Solstice sunrise, its defining alignment

The winter solstice sunset, framed by the inner trilithons, is a breathtaking cosmic drama, re-enacted every year – the ultimate mystery play. 

And not wishing to miss out on a good party, the people of the Neolithic came from far and wide (as the large quantities of charred animal bones left over from midwinter feasts at Durrington attest) to witness and celebrate the rebirth of the sun, when after three days of  apparent stillness upon the horizon it begins its six month journey back to its northernmost point. 

From generations of observation the stone-builders knew that the solstitium, the still point, marked the turning in the sun’s annual migration (or rather our migration around the sun): from this nadir the days will start to get longer. The light and warmth will return. 

This was of huge significance to the ancestors, and it is no less so for dwellers of the northern hemisphere, affected as we are by the cold and dark in all kinds of ways. 

Our planetary sun lamp is the antidote to our collective seasonally adjusted disorder. We bask in it. Even if we cannot feel its warmth on a chill day, we can feel uplifted by its presence. 

It reminds us that however dark it gets the light will vanquish it – our solar hero will save the day.

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The next conjunction is December 20th 2020. @aaolomi

Every few hundred years, Jupiter and Saturn meet in a Great Conjunction. 

For medieval Muslim astrologers the cycles would represent the rise and fall of empires, the coming of messiahs, and foretell the apocalypse. 

The next conjunction is December 20th 2020. 

A thread-

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05-DEC-2016:: "We have a deviate, Tomahawk." "We copy. There's a voice." "We have gross oscillation here"
Law & Politics

One common theme is a parabolic Putin rebound. 

However, my starting point is the election of President Donald Trump because hindsight will surely show that Russia ran a seriously sophisticated programme of interference, mostly digital. 

Don DeLillo, who is a prophetic 21st writer, writes as follows in one of his short stories:

The specialist is monitoring data on his mission console when a voice breaks in, “a voice that carried with it a strange and unspecifiable poignancy”.

He checks in with his flight-dynamics and conceptual- paradigm officers at Colorado Command:

“We have a deviate, Tomahawk.”

“We copy. There’s a voice.”

“We have gross oscillation here.”

“There’s some interference. I have gone redundant but I’m not sure it’s helping.”

“We are clearing an outframe to locate source.”

“Thank you, Colorado.”

“It is probably just selective noise. You are negative red on the step-function quad.”

“It was a voice,” I told them.

“We have just received an affirm on selective noise... We will correct, Tomahawk. In the meantime, advise you to stay redundant.”

The voice, in contrast to Colorado’s metallic pidgin, is a melange of repartee, laughter, and song, with a “quality of purest, sweetest sadness”.

“Somehow we are picking up signals from radio programmes of 40, 50, 60 years ago.”

I have no doubt that Putin ran a seriously 21st predominantly digital programme of interference which amplified the Trump candidacy. POTUS Trump was an ideal candidate for this kind of support.

The first thing is plausible deniability (and some folks here at home need to remember those words).

The second thing is non-linearity, you have to learn how to navigate a linear system (the new 21st digital ecosystem) in a non-linear way. 

Beppe Grillo, the comic turned leader of the Five Star movement in Italy said: This is the deflagration of an epoch. It’s the apocalypse of this information system, of the TVs, of the big newspapers, of the intellectuals, of the journalists.”

He is right, traditional media has been disrupted and the insurgents can broadcast live and over the top. 

From feeding the hot-house conspiracy frenzy on line (‘’a constant state of destabilised perception’’), timely and judicious doses of Wikileaks leaks which drained Hillary’s bona fides and her turn-out and motivated Trump’s, what we have witnessed is something remarkable and noteworthy.

Putin has proven himself an information master, and his adversaries are his information victims.

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No ‘Negative’ News: How China Censored the Coronavirus @nytimes
Law & Politics

In the early hours of Feb. 7, China’s powerful internet censors experienced an unfamiliar and deeply unsettling sensation. They felt they were losing control.

The news was spreading quickly that Li Wenliang, a doctor who had warned about a strange new viral outbreak only to be threatened by the police and accused of peddling rumors, had died of Covid-19. Grief and fury coursed through social media. 

To people at home and abroad, Dr. Li’s death showed the terrible cost of the Chinese government’s instinct to suppress inconvenient information.

Yet China’s censors decided to double down. Warning of the “unprecedented challenge” Dr. Li’s passing had posed and the “butterfly effect” it may have set off, officials got to work suppressing the inconvenient news and reclaiming the narrative, according to confidential directives sent to local propaganda workers and news outlets.

They ordered news websites not to issue push notifications alerting readers to his death. 

They told social platforms to gradually remove his name from trending topics pages. And they activated legions of fake online commenters to flood social sites with distracting chatter, stressing the need for discretion: 

“As commenters fight to guide public opinion, they must conceal their identity, avoid crude patriotism and sarcastic praise, and be sleek and silent in achieving results.”

China’s censors issued special instructions to manage anger over Dr. Li’s death.



“… do not use push notifications, do not post commentary, do not stir up speculation. Safely control the fervor in online discussions, do not create hashtags, gradually remove from trending topics, strictly control harmful information.”



“We must recognize with clear mind the butterfly effect, broken windows effect and snowball effect triggered by this event, and the unprecedented challenge that it has posed to our online opinion management and control work. All Cyberspace Administration bureaus must pay heightened attention to online opinion, and resolutely control anything that seriously damages party and government credibility and attacks the political system …”

The orders were among thousands of secret government directives and other documents that were reviewed by The New York Times and ProPublica. 

They lay bare in extraordinary detail the systems that helped the Chinese authorities shape online opinion during the pandemic.

At a time when digital media is deepening social divides in Western democracies, China is manipulating online discourse to enforce the Communist Party’s consensus. 

To stage-manage what appeared on the Chinese internet early this year, the authorities issued strict commands on the content and tone of news coverage, directed paid trolls to inundate social media with party-line blather and deployed security forces to muzzle unsanctioned voices.

Though China makes no secret of its belief in rigid internet controls, the documents convey just how much behind-the-scenes effort is involved in maintaining a tight grip. 

It takes an enormous bureaucracy, armies of people, specialized technology made by private contractors, the constant monitoring of digital news outlets and social media platforms — and, presumably, lots of money.

It is much more than simply flipping a switch to block certain unwelcome ideas, images or pieces of news.

China’s curbs on information about the outbreak started in early January, before the novel coronavirus had even been identified definitively, the documents show. 

When infections started spreading rapidly a few weeks later, the authorities clamped down on anything that cast China’s response in too “negative” a light.

The United States and other countries have for months accused China of trying to hide the extent of the outbreak in its early stages. 

It may never be clear whether a freer flow of information from China would have prevented the outbreak from morphing into a raging global health calamity. 

But the documents indicate that Chinese officials tried to steer the narrative not only to prevent panic and debunk damaging falsehoods domestically. 

They also wanted to make the virus look less severe — and the authorities more capable — as the rest of the world was watching.

The documents include more than 3,200 directives and 1,800 memos and other files from the offices of the country’s internet regulator, the Cyberspace Administration of China, in the eastern city of Hangzhou. 

They also include internal files and computer code from a Chinese company, Urun Big Data Services, that makes software used by local governments to monitor internet discussion and manage armies of online commenters.

The documents were shared with The Times and ProPublica by a hacker group that calls itself C.C.P. Unmasked, referring to the Chinese Communist Party. 

The Times and ProPublica independently verified the authenticity of many of the documents, some of which had been obtained separately by China Digital Times, a website that tracks Chinese internet controls.

The C.A.C. and Urun did not respond to requests for comment.

“China has a politically weaponized system of censorship; it is refined, organized, coordinated and supported by the state’s resources,” said Xiao Qiang, a research scientist at the School of Information at the University of California, Berkeley, and the founder of China Digital Times. 

“It’s not just for deleting something. They also have a powerful apparatus to construct a narrative and aim it at any target with huge scale.”

“This is a huge thing,” he added. “No other country has that.”

Controlling a Narrative

China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, created the Cyberspace Administration of China in 2014 to centralize the management of internet censorship and propaganda as well as other aspects of digital policy. 

Today, the agency reports to the Communist Party’s powerful Central Committee, a sign of its importance to the leadership.

The C.A.C.’s coronavirus controls began in the first week of January. An agency directive ordered news websites to use only government-published material and not to draw any parallels with the deadly SARS outbreak in China and elsewhere that began in 2002, even as the World Health Organization was noting the similarities.

At the start of February, a high-level meeting led by Mr. Xi called for tighter management of digital media, and the C.A.C.’s offices across the country swung into action. 

A directive in Zhejiang Province, whose capital is Hangzhou, said the agency should not only control the message within China, but also seek to “actively influence international opinion.”

Agency workers began receiving links to virus-related articles that they were to promote on local news aggregators and social media. 

Directives specified which links should be featured on news sites’ home screens, how many hours they should remain online and even which headlines should appear in boldface.

Online reports should play up the heroic efforts by local medical workers dispatched to Wuhan, the Chinese city where the virus was first reported, as well as the vital contributions of Communist Party members, the agency’s orders said.

Headlines should steer clear of the words “incurable” and “fatal,” one directive said, “to avoid causing societal panic.” 

When covering restrictions on movement and travel, the word “lockdown” should not be used, said another. 

Multiple directives emphasized that “negative” news about the virus was not to be promoted.

When a prison officer in Zhejiang who lied about his travels caused an outbreak among the inmates, the C.A.C. asked local offices to monitor the case closely because it “could easily attract attention from overseas.”

Officials ordered the news media to downplay the crisis.



“Do not use ‘incurable,’ ‘fatal’ or similar headlines to avoid causing societal panic.”



“… when reporting on limits on travel, controls on movement and other prevention and control measures, do not use formulations like lockdown, road closures, sealed doors or paper seals.”



“Do not use pop-up notifications … for any negative news reports about the prevention and control of the ‘novel coronavirus epidemic.’”

News outlets were told not to play up reports on donations and purchases of medical supplies from abroad. 

The concern, according to agency directives, was that such reports could cause a backlash overseas and disrupt China’s procurement efforts, which were pulling in vast amounts of personal protective equipment as the virus spread abroad.

“Avoid giving the false impression that our fight against the epidemic relies on foreign donations,” one directive said.

C.A.C. workers flagged some on-the-ground videos for purging, including several that appear to show bodies exposed in public places. 

Other clips that were flagged appear to show people yelling angrily inside a hospital, workers hauling a corpse out of an apartment and a quarantined child crying for her mother. The videos’ authenticity could not be confirmed.

The agency asked local branches to craft ideas for “fun at home” content to “ease the anxieties of web users.” 

In one Hangzhou district, workers described a “witty and humorous” guitar ditty they had promoted. It went, “I never thought it would be true to say: To support your country, just sleep all day.”

Then came a bigger test.

‘Severe Crackdown’

Dr. Li’s death in Wuhan loosed a geyser of emotion that threatened to tear Chinese social media out from under the C.A.C.’s control.

It did not help when the agency’s gag order leaked onto Weibo, a popular Twitter-like platform, fueling further anger. Thousands of people flooded Dr. Li’s Weibo account with comments.

The agency had little choice but to permit expressions of grief, though only to a point. 

If anyone was sensationalizing the story to generate online traffic, their account should be dealt with “severely,” one directive said.

The day after Dr. Li’s death, a directive included a sample of material that was deemed to be “taking advantage of this incident to stir up public opinion”: 

It was a video interview in which Dr. Li’s mother reminisces tearfully about her son.

The scrutiny did not let up in the days that followed. “Pay particular attention to posts with pictures of candles, people wearing masks, an entirely black image or other efforts to escalate or hype the incident,” read an agency directive to local offices.

Larger numbers of online memorials began to disappear. The police detained several people who formed groups to archive deleted posts.

In Hangzhou, propaganda workers on round-the-clock shifts wrote up reports describing how they were ensuring people saw nothing that contradicted the soothing message from the Communist Party: that it had the virus firmly under control.

Officials in one district reported that workers in their employ had posted online comments that were read more than 40,000 times, “effectively eliminating city residents’ panic.” 

Workers in another county boasted of their “severe crackdown” on what they called rumors: 16 people had been investigated by the police, 14 given warnings and two detained. 

Researchers have estimated that hundreds of thousands of people in China work part-time to post comments and share content that reinforces state ideology. 

Many of them are low-level employees at government departments and party organizations. Universities have recruited students and teachers for the task. Local governments have held training sessions for them.

Local officials turned to informants and trolls to control opinion.



“Mobilized online commenters to comment and guide more than 40,000 times, effectively eliminating city residents’ panic, boosting confidence in prevention and control efforts, and creating a good atmosphere of public opinion for winning the battle against the epidemic.”



“As of Feb. 13, our county published 15 rumor-debunking posts, reposted 62 rumor-debunking posts, 16 people were investigated by public security organs, 14 people were educated and admonished, two people were put in administrative detention …”



“Mobilized the force of more than 1,500 cybersoldiers across the district to promptly report information about public opinion in WeChat groups and other semiprivate chat circles.”

Engineers of the Troll

Government departments in China have a variety of specialized software at their disposal to shape what the public sees online.

One maker of such software, Urun, has won at least two dozen contracts with local agencies and state-owned enterprises since 2016, government procurement records show. 

According to an analysis of computer code and documents from Urun, the company’s products can track online trends, coordinate censorship activity and manage fake social media accounts for posting comments.

One Urun software system gives government workers a slick, easy-to-use interface for quickly adding likes to posts. 

Managers can use the system to assign specific tasks to commenters. The software can also track how many tasks a commenter has completed and how much that person should be paid.

According to one document describing the software, commenters in the southern city of Guangzhou are paid $25 for an original post longer than 400 characters. 

Flagging a negative comment for deletion earns them 40 cents. Reposts are worth one cent apiece.

Urun makes a smartphone app that streamlines their work. They receive tasks within the app, post the requisite comments from their personal social media accounts, then upload a screenshot, ostensibly to certify that the task was completed.

The company also makes video game-like software that helps train commenters, documents show. 

The software splits a group of users into two teams, one red and one blue, and pits them against each other to see which can produce more popular posts.

Other Urun code is designed to monitor Chinese social media for “harmful information.” Workers can use keywords to find posts that mention sensitive topics, such as “incidents involving leadership” or “national political affairs.” They can also manually tag posts for further review.

In Hangzhou, officials appear to have used Urun software to scan the Chinese internet for keywords like “virus” and “pneumonia” in conjunction with place names, according to company data.

A Great Sea of Placidity

By the end of February, the emotional wallop of Dr. Li’s death seemed to be fading. C.A.C. workers around Hangzhou continued to scan the internet for anything that might perturb the great sea of placidity.

One city district noted that web users were worried about how their neighborhoods were handling the trash left by people who were returning from out of town and potentially carrying the virus. 

Another district observed concerns about whether schools were taking adequate safety measures as students returned.

On March 12, the agency’s Hangzhou office issued a memo to all branches about new national rules for internet platforms. 

Local offices should set up special teams for conducting daily inspections of local websites, the memo said. Those found to have violations should be “promptly supervised and rectified.”

The Hangzhou C.A.C. had already been keeping a quarterly scorecard for evaluating how well local platforms were managing their content. 

Each site started the quarter with 100 points. Points were deducted for failing to adequately police posts or comments. Points might also be added for standout performances.

In the first quarter of 2020, two local websites lost 10 points each for “publishing illegal information related to the epidemic,” that quarter’s score report said.

 A government portal received an extra two points for “participating actively in opinion guidance” during the outbreak.

Over time, the C.A.C. offices’ reports returned to monitoring topics unrelated to the virus: noisy construction projects keeping people awake at night, heavy rains causing flooding in a train station.

Then, in late May, the offices received startling news: Confidential public-opinion analysis reports had somehow been published online. 

The agency ordered offices to purge internal reports — particularly, it said, those analyzing sentiment surrounding the epidemic.

The offices wrote back in their usual dry bureaucratese, vowing to “prevent such data from leaking out on the internet and causing a serious adverse impact to society.”

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Whoever Controls The Narrative Controls The World
Law & Politics

US army war college quarterly 1997. The US officer assigned to the deputy chief of staff (Intelligence), charged with defining the future of warfare, wrote

“One of the defining bifurcations of the future will be the conflict between information masters and information victims.”

 What @AmbJohnBolton is telling me is Xi played @POTUS all the way especially in the matter of #COVID19

Mr. Trump, he writes, was “pleading with Xi to ensure he’d win.” 

Mr. Bolton said that Mr. Trump “stressed the importance of farmers, and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome.” @nytimes

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05-MAR-2018 :: China has unveiled a Digital Panopticon in Xinjiang
Law & Politics

“strike-hard” campaign, and Xi’s “stability maintenance” and “enduring peace” drive in the region. 

Authorities say the campaign targets “terrorist elements,” but it is in practice far broader, and encompasses anyone suspected of political disloyalty.

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With social media posts about the #coronavirus being censored in #China here‘s a bit of cool protest art going around...@StephenMcDonell
Law & Politics

If you look closely here you'll see references to #China's tech companies Huawei, Wechat (微信), Alibaba etc. Also 和谐 hexie over the eyes means "harmony" (from former Pres Hu catchphrase). In China if you've been censored you've been "harmonised".

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They now turn to rule over the people by means of what could be dubbed “big data totalitarianism” and “WeChat terror.” @ChinaFile #COVID19 Xu Zhangrun
Law & Politics

To put it another way, a breakthrough originating from the periphery may augur once more [as it did in the 1890s, the 1910s, the 1940s and again in the 1980s] a moment that favors a push towards meaningful constitutional and legal rule in China.

That‘s right, we, We the People, for [as I have previously said] how can we let ourselves ―survive no better than swine; fawn upon the power-holders like curs; and live in vile filth like maggots‖?!

As I write these words I reflect on my own situation which also dramatically changed in 2018 [when the author published his famous anti-Xi Jeremiad]. For having raised my voice then, I was punished for ―speech crimes.‖

Thereafter, I was suspended from my job as a university lecturer and cashiered as a professor, reduced to a minor academic rank. I was placed under investigation by my employer, Tsinghua University; my freedoms have been curtailed ever since.

Writing as I do herein, I can now all too easily predict that I will be subjected to new punishments; indeed, this may well even be the last piece I write. But that is not for me to say.

Confronted by this Great Virus, as all of us are right now, I feel as though a vast chasm has opened up before us all and I feel compelled to speak out yet again. There is no refuge from this viral reality and I cannot remain silent

you will all be no better than fields of garlic chives, giving yourselves up to being harvested by the blade of power, time and time again. @ChinaFile #COVID19 

[ “garlic chives,” Allium tuberosum, often used as a metaphor to describe an endlessly renewable resource.]

What is thriving, however, is all that ridiculous ―Red Culture and the nauseating adulation that the system heaps on itself via shameless pro-Party hacks who chirrup hosannahs at every turn @ChinaFile #COVID19

A polity that is blatantly incapable of treating its own people properly can hardly be expected to treat rest of the world well 

Such places will only be able to find their assumed pulchritude reflected back at them in mirror of their imperial self-regard

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“If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about answers.” ― Origin of the #CoronaVirus #COVID19
Law & Politics

“There's always more to it. This is what history consists of. It is the sum total of the things they aren't telling us.”

“A paranoid is someone who knows a little of what's going on. ”

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‘’Zoonotic’’ origin was one that was accelerated in the Laboratory.
Law & Politics

There is also a non negligible possibility that #COVID19 was deliberately released

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"The B.1.1.7 lineage carries a larger than usual number of virus genetic changes. The accrual of 14 lineage-specific amino acid replacements prior to its detection is, to date, unprecedented'' @AntGDuarte

"The B.1.1.7 lineage carries a larger than usual number of virus genetic changes. The accrual of 14 lineage-specific amino acid replacements prior to its detection is, to date, unprecedented in the global virus genomic data for the COVID-19 pandemic."

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Drinking The Kool Aid
World Of Finance

“Everybody, everybody everywhere, has his own movie going, his own scenario, and everybody is acting his movie out like mad, only most people don’t know that is what they’re trapped by, their little script.” ― Tom Wolfe, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

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South Africa says it has identified a new coronavirus variant

 the ‘501.V2 Variant’ 

Explaining the findings, Professor Salim Abdool Karim said the second wave is showing some early signs that it is spreading faster than the first wave.

“It is still very early but at this stage, the preliminary data suggests that the virus that is now dominating in the second wave is spreading faster than the first wave. It is not clear if the second wave has more or less deaths, in other words, the severity is still very unclear. We would expect it to be a less severe virus, but we do not have clear evidence at this point. We have not seen any red flags looking at our current death information,” he said.

“We had all of these different strains routinely spreading in South Africa during our first wave and subsequently. What became quite different that we did not expect is the rapid way in which this variant has become dominant in South Africa.

This particular virus has three mutations on the receptor-binding domain, which is the actual part of the virus that attaches to the human cell. One of the interpretations of these changes is that it increases the affinity for the ACE2 receptor. The other two mutations possible add some potential antibody escape but the full implications of the combination of the three mutations still need to be understood in more detail.”

Karim said the new variant has increased viral loads in the body.

“When we look at this new variant, the CT score is lower than the other viruses that have been spreading during our first wave. It means that the amount of virus in the swab is higherA lower score means a higher amount of virus: we refer to that as the viral load. When we do a swab, we are getting a lot more virus in these patients that have the 501.V2 virus,” he said.

“The higher viral load in these swabs may translate to a higher efficiency of transmission. If there’s higher transmissibility, it may translate to a higher R0 (the number of additional people one patient may infect).While the other viruses are still transmitting, this virus is spreading so much faster that when we take swabs it is the dominant variant that we see. This may translate into a second wave that may have many more cases than the first wave.

We do know that it is an unusual variant. It has been reported in other countries, including the UK, Australia and several others. In our country, we are finding between 80 and 90% of the virus is this 501.V2 mutant.”

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Moreover, the enhancing antibodies increased the binding of ACE2 to the D614G spike protein. @RolandBakerIII

Notably, the effect of the enhancing antibodies on ACE2 binding to the spike protein was higher than that of the D614G mutation21. Moreover, the enhancing antibodies increased the binding of ACE2 to the D614G spike protein.

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No-one has ever produced a safe and effective vaccine against a coronavirus. Birger Sørensen, Angus Dalgleish & Andres Susrud

What if, as I fear, there will never be a vaccine. I was involved in the early stages of identifying the HIV virus as the cause of Aids. 

I remember drugs companies back then saying there would be a vaccine within around 18 months. Some 37 years on, we are still waiting. Prof ANGUS DALGLEISH @MailOnline

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And if those mutations render drugs and vaccines ineffective, which is possible, we'll be in a lot more trouble. @AliNouriPhD

5/These are just a few of the many mutations this virus is accumulating. Every time it replicates, we give it the opportunity to mutate. And if those mutations render drugs and vaccines ineffective, which is possible, we'll be in a lot more trouble.

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‘’Zoonotic’’ origin was one that was accelerated in the Laboratory.

There is also a non negligible possibility that #COVID19 was deliberately released

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Currency Markets at a Glance WSJ
World Currencies

Euro 1.2186

Dollar Index 90.468

Japan Yen 103.45

Swiss Franc 0.8866

Pound 1.3354

Aussie 0.7561

India Rupee 73.691

South Korea Won 1102.96

Brazil Real 5.1031

Egypt Pound 15.80

South Africa Rand 14.7655

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27 NOV 17 :: Bitcoin "Wow! What a Ride!"
World Currencies

My investment thesis at the start of the year was that Bitcoin was going to get main-streamed in 2017. It has main-streamed beyond my wildest dreams,

Let me leave you with Hunter S. Thompson, “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”

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08-JAN-2018 :: The Crypto Avocado Millenial Economy.
World Currencies

The ‘’Zeitgeist’’ of a time is its defining spirit or its mood. Capturing the ‘’zeitgeist’’ of the Now is not an easy thing because we are living in a dizzyingly fluid moment.

Gladwellian level move. “The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behaviour crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire”- Malcolm Gladwell. 

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Africa crosses 2.5 million COVID-19 cases - Reuters tally

Countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Mauritania, Ghana and Ivory Coast have seen a sharp rise in cases and are reporting near record levels of infection, according to a Reuters tally.

Quick measures including travel restrictions and border closures enabled countries in Africa to limit the spread when first cases were reported in March. But the economic impact of the measures prompted governments to ease them.

As people relax their guards and ditch social distancing measures, infections have spiked.

According to a Reuters analysis, Africa has reported about 454,000 new cases in the past 30 days, nearly 18% of its reported total of 2.5 million cases.

South Africa remains the worst-affected African country with 912,477 cases and 24,539 deaths. The country has seen a sharp spike in infections since the start of December.

The South African government said on Friday it had identifed a new variant of the coronavirus that is driving a second wave of infections.

Governments across the region are imposing lockdowns, curfews and restricting gatherings ahead of Christmas celebrations.

Nigeria on Friday ordered schools to shut indefinitely, banned concerts, carnivals and street parties and ordered some civil servants to work from home in its commercial capital, Lagos.

The Democratic Republic of Congo announced a curfew and other measures, including the mandatory wearing of masks in public spaces.

As developed countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom start vaccinating their people, most poorer African countries are depending on the World Health Organization’s COVAX programme, which aims to deliver at least 2 billion vaccine doses by the end of 2021.

However according to a Reuters report this week, the scheme faces a “very high” risk of failure, potentially leaving nations that are home to billions of people with no access to vaccines until as late as 2024, internal documents say.

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Since mid-October, an average of 46 000 cases per week have been recorded in the 47 countries in @WHO African region compared with about 29 000 cases per week between early September and early October

Brazzaville – COVID-19 cases in the African region have risen steadily over the past two months, underscoring the need for reinforced public health measures to avert a surge in infections, particularly as people gather or travel for end-of-year celebrations.

Since mid-October, an average of 46 000 cases per week have been recorded in the 47 countries in the World Health Organization (WHO) African region compared with about 29 000 cases per week between early September and early October. 

Ten countries in the region have reported the highest number of cases, accounting for 88% of new cases in the past month. 

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Update: #COVID19 in #SouthAfrica 19 December • New cases = 10 939 • Daily test positivity = 22.6% • Active cases = 100 156 @rid1tweets

• New cases = 10 939

• New tests = 48 387

• Daily test positivity = 22.6%

• New deaths reported = 254

• Active cases = 100 156

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Update: #COVID19 in South Africa @rid1tweets

Confirmed cases, Number of days per 100k:

0-100k: 110 days

100-200k: 14 days

200-300k: 9 days

300-400k: 8 days

400-500k: 9 days

500-600k: 20 days

600-700k: 56 days

700-800k: 48 days

800-900k: 15 days  

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The conflict in Ethiopia @ReutersGraphics

The fighting is believed to have killed thousands of people and displaced over 950,000, some 50,000 of them into neighbouring Sudan, according to United Nations (U.N.) and local government estimates. 

The government said it regained control of the regional capital, Mekelle, and other cities at the end of November. TPLF leaders said they had withdrawn from Mekelle but fighting continued elsewhere.

The government declared victory over the TPLF after taking control of Mekelle. It has appointed an interim administration and pledged to rebuild infrastructure destroyed in the conflict.

The TPLF, however, has vowed to fight on. Most of its top leaders – including high-ranking military officials – remain at large. There is little incentive for them to surrender; they face long prison terms. 

The government has rejected all offers to mediate the conflict, calling it an internal law enforcement matter.

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@PMEthiopia has launched an unwinnable War on Tigray Province.

Ethiopia which was once the Poster child of the African Renaissance now has a Nobel Prize Winner whom I am reliably informed

PM Abiy His inner war cabinet includes Evangelicals who are counseling him he is "doing Christ's work"; that his faith is being "tested". @RAbdiAnalyst

@PMEthiopia has launched an unwinnable War on Tigray Province.

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Somalia Accuses Kenya of Arming Local Militia as Tensions Rise @bpolitics

The alleged steps can “undermine general security of the Horn of Africa region,” Somalia’s Ministry of Information said in a statement posted to its Twitter account on Saturday.

Calls and text messages to the spokeswoman for Kenya’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Principal Secretary Macharia Kamau outside of normal working hours weren’t answered.

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Turning to Africa The Spinning Top

Democracy from Tanzania to Zimbabwe to Cameroon has been shredded.

We are getting closer and closer to the Virilian Tipping Point

“The revolutionary contingent attains its ideal form not in the place of production, but in the street''

Political leadership in most cases completely gerontocratic will use violence to cling onto Power but any Early Warning System would be warning a Tsunami is coming

10 NOV 14 : African youth demographic {many characterise this as a 'demographic dividend"} - which for Beautiful Blaise turned into a demographic terminator

Martin Aglo, a law student from Benin, told Reuters: “After the Arab Spring, this is the Black Spring”.We need to ask ourselves; how many people can incumbent shoot stone cold dead in such a situation – 100, 1,000, 10,000?

This is another point: there is a threshold beyond which the incumbent can’t go. Where that threshold lies will be discovered in the throes of the event.

The Event is no longer over the Horizon.

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Nigeria's economy could contract by c. 4% in 2020, equivalent to more than 6% drop in per-capita incomes that could take years to claw back. @Africa_Conf

#Nigeria's economic standing has been severely impacted by this year’s twin crises of #COVID19 and an #oil price crash. The economy could contract by c. 4% in 2020, equivalent to more than 6% drop in per-capita incomes that could take years to claw back.

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Condé’s iron resolve @Africa_Conf

Having won a controversial third term, President Alpha Condé is eyeing growing mineral riches

The long-delayed development of Guinea's headline-grabbing Simandou iron ore project has once again climbed to the top of President Alpha Condé's agenda, as he settles into a much-disputed third term in office.

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The first freight train to Naivasha in the Central Rift Valley leaves Nairobi in December 2019. The next phase of the rail project is on hold, pending funding through China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Photo: AFP

More than six years ago, Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan and Rwanda hatched a grand plan to build an ambitious standard gauge railway line linking their countries from the Kenyan coast and eventually stretching to the mineral-rich Democratic Republic of Congo.

The rail link was expected to be completed by 2018 but so far only its first phase – from the port city of Mombasa to Kenya’s capital Nairobi and then on to Naivasha, a town in the Central Rift Valley – has been done, with US$4.7 billion funding from the Export-Import (Exim) Bank of China.

Kenya has yet to secure funding for the phase linking the railway to Kisumu and on to the Malaba border crossing with Uganda, where construction is then supposed to continue into it and other landlocked countries in the Great Lakes region.

The Exim Bank, one of China’s top lenders for overseas projects, has asked Kenya to redo a feasibility study for the Malaba extension to prove its commercial viability before funds are released. 

Uganda too is yet to secure funding from the same bank, with officials in Kampala saying negotiations are ongoing.

Analysts say the railway line – part of the Belt and Road Initiative – is facing challenges like others around the world, as Beijing makes a gradual government-directed paradigm shift within China’s policy banks to a more cautious appraisal of projects.

Sources in Beijing say the tight finance for belt and road projects is partly due to China’s slow economic growth, which has been hit by the pandemic, and increasing debt risks.

Zambia has already defaulted on a US$42.5 million repayment of one of its dollar-denominated Eurobonds. China recently said it had suspended US$2.1 billion of debt service payments from 23 countries as the pandemic has ravaged economies in Africa.

According to Boston University’s Global Development Policy Centre, lending by China Development Bank and Exim Bank fell to US$3.9 billion last year, from a high of US$75 billion in 2016.

Tim Zajontz, a research fellow in the African Governance and Space project at the University of Edinburgh, said there had been a decline in funding, especially from Chinese policy banks, as a result of stricter risk assessments.

“We are currently witnessing an incremental shift in the financial governance of the Belt and Road Initiative. The main reason for this shift is the waning debt sustainability of several key participant countries – such as Kenya, Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Sri Lanka – and the questionable economic viability of some flagship projects,” he said.

Kenya’s new standard gauge railway incurred a loss of US$200 million between May 2017 and May 2020. 

At the same time, the Kenyan government was contractually obliged to pay almost US$30 million every quarter in fees to Chinese-owned Afristar for the operation of the railway.

The situation is similar in Ethiopia where its new electrified standard gauge railway (SGR) reported US$40 million in revenues in 2019, while operating costs were US$70 million.

“As grace periods of the loans for these projects have come to an end, debt servicing costs have kicked in and eaten up significant shares of public budgets,” Zajontz said.

“In the Kenyan case again, debt servicing costs for the SGR amounted to almost US$900 million in 2020, even though some of the repayments are currently postponed as part of the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative.”

Zajontz said for a long time the lending of institutions such as Exim Bank had been very supply driven.

“What we are increasingly witnessing now is that not all of the funding was based on comprehensive and independent project appraisals and feasibility studies. In the case of the Kenyan SGR, there were actually, several independent studies and reports that clearly indicated that the construction of a standard gauge railway on a new rail track would not be economically viable,” he said.

Yang Tingzhi, a Beijing-based researcher on China-Africa relations, said while the belt and road plan was a global project, most of its activity was aimed at Asia, particularly Southeast Asia.

“When the Belt and Road Initiative came along, most cooperation activities that China had done with Africa over the years were brought into belt and road cooperation,” he said.

When it came to loans from China, it had never been the case that “more is always better”, Yang said. 

“Most of China’s loans are project-based and are evaluated on their own merits. Each country’s ability to handle debt is different, and we have to look at each country’s own ability separately.”

Nevertheless, the current headwinds do not mean China is abandoning the belt and road plan. Beijing is still signing more deals.

For example, on Wednesday China’s National Reform and Development Commission announced the first belt and road cooperation agreement to be signed with a regional international organisation – the African Union.

Yun Sun, director of the China programme at the Stimson Centre in Washington, said the slowdown in financing did not suggest the belt and road strategy had been abandoned, nor that Chinese financing would not climb in the future.

“This is reflected in the redefinition of belt and road from ‘impressionist’ during the first Belt and Road Initiative Forum in 2017 to ‘perfectionist’ at the second one in 2019,” she said.

“During the first stage, the Chinese were trying to create the Belt and Road Initiative as a grand scheme and many things were counted as belt and road to enrich the initiative. But in the past two to three years, Chinese financing has become more cautious and calculating,” she said.

Linda Calabrese, a research fellow and development economist at the Overseas Development Institute in London, attributed the financing drop to two factors: Chinese policy banks learning how to deal with operating internationally, but also learning that China’s international image did not benefit from debt default in borrowing countries.

She predicted that funding for belt and road projects in low and middle income countries would continue in the short term.

“It may be scaled down, or it may become more prudent, but since the drivers of the Belt and Road Initiative persist, in the short term we are not likely to see dramatic changes,” she said.

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The End of Vanity China Africa Win Win

September has just set in Beijing, bringing with it refreshing breeze and picturesque autumn scenery. And we are so delighted to have all of you with us, friends both old and new, in this lovely season for the reunion of the China-Africa big family at the 2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC).

To quote a Chinese saying, "The ocean is vast because it rejects no rivers."

Interestingly, At that 2018 FOCAC Meeting Xi Jinping also delivered a thinly veiled warning

China's Xi says funds for Africa not for 'vanity projects' Reuters #FOCAC2018

Our African Leaders did not take notes and that Warning was missed.

Tavi Costa tweeted

1/12 The idealization of Chinese economic success has always been a big scam. Throughout history we have had several similar examples of communist countries that have reached unsustainable levels of internal and external debt and have suffered marked collapses.

2/12 Para elaborar nessa proposição, considere a seguinte reflexão. De acordo com o PIB publicado pelo governo chinês, a China foi responsável por mais de 60% do crescimento econômico global desde 2008.

2/12 To elaborate on this proposition, consider the following reflection. According to GDP published by the Chinese government, China has accounted for more than 60% of global economic growth since 2008.

3/12 Com isso, ela passou a ser, incomparavelmente, a maior importadora de commodities no mundo. Se caso o seu crescimento de PIB tivesse sido tão expressivo, como justificaríamos a queda geral de preços de commodities no mundo?

3/12 As a result, it has become, by far, the largest importer of commodities in the world. If your GDP growth had been so expressive, how would we justify the general drop in commodity prices in the world?

4/12 Curiosamente, esse período marcou uma das piores décadas para esse mercado na história. É incontestável a contradição entre esses números, presumivelmente mais apurados, e os números “criados” pelo próprio governo comunista Chinês.

4/12 Interestingly, this period marked one of the worst decades for this market in history. The contradiction between these numbers, presumably more accurate, and the numbers “created” by the Chinese communist government is undeniable.

The Hambantota Moment

Basically China has an Option to buy in SSA Assets at fire-sale Prices.

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With the #debt jubilee, ask yourself, who is going to pay for it? @mtmalinen

Debt is always an asset (principal + interest) to someone. The most likely ways to cover for it:

1) Monetization (->hyperinflation).

2) Confiscation of savings and assets.

Be careful what you wish for.

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by Aly Khan Satchu (www.rich.co.ke)
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December 2020

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