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Satchu's Rich Wrap-Up
Friday 12th of March 2021

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The Markets have been bracing themselves for a Post Pandemic World.
World Of Finance

I expect the P.1 Lineage to be dominant worldwide in 8-12 weeks 

My Thesis is based on the ultra hyperconnectedness of the c21st World.

Therefore, I would be tempering my COVID19 optimism and holding my horses which introduces interesting dynamics into the markets.

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Brazil's Covid variant is an 'atomic bomb' that could reinfect the world @MailOnline

'This information is an atomic bomb' Dr Roberto Kraenkel, a biological mathematician with the Covid-19 Brazil Observatory, told the Washington Post.

'I'm surprised by the levels [of variants] found. The media isn't getting what this means. All of the variants of concern are more transmissible...and this means an accelerated phase of the epidemic. A disaster.' 

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Exponential growth unlike any other that we have seen. Brazil is a global threat @bollemdb

My concern is that Brazil which was the epicenter of the Virus in May 2020 is once again a Precursor and a Harbinger

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.@DalrympleWill on the trail of Babur’s paradise lost @FT

In 1526, Zahir-ud-Din Babur, a young Timurid poet-prince from Fergana, in what is now Uzbekistan, descended the Khyber Pass with a small army of hand-picked followers; with him he brought some of the first modern muskets and cannon seen in India. 

With these he defeated the Delhi sultan, Ibrahim Lodhi, and established in Delhi and Agra the beginnings of what would soon become the Mughal Empire.

This was not Babur’s first conquest. He had spent much of his youth throneless, living with his companions from day to day, rustling sheep and stealing food

Occasionally he would capture a town — he was 14 when he first took Samarkand and held it for four months. But for much of his youth he lived as a brigand, wandering for years across central Asia in a tent, displaced and dispossessed

“It passed through my mind,” he wrote, “that to wander from mountain to mountain, homeless and helpless, has little to recommend it.”

Babur died in 1530, only four years after his arrival in India, and before he could consolidate his new conquests. 

He regarded himself as a failure for having lost his family lands in Fergana, and had no idea whether his new Indian conquests were secure. 

History may remember him as the first Mughal emperor, but in his own eyes he was always a refugee.

Towards the end of his life, Babur spent his days writing, polishing and editing one of the great memoirs of the world, The Baburnama, recalling all he had done and, also, all he had lost. 

Re-reading it recently to write an introduction to the new Everyman edition, it was striking how, despite having won the wondrous treasures and landscapes of India, Babur still lamented his lost Fergana homeland, a place that is today largely forgotten, but which Babur always remembered as an earthly paradise.

In passage after passage he lovingly describes the things of Fergana that he adored and now, writing in Indian exile, missed: spring mornings spent amid hillsides dotted with wild violets, tulips and roses; cold running water passing through “a shady and delightful clover meadow where every passing traveller takes a rest”

“beautiful little gardens with almond trees in the orchards”; “pomegranates renowned for their excellence . . . good hunting and fowling . . . pheasants which grow so surprisingly fat that rumour has it four people could not finish one they were eating with its stew”.

Ever since I first fell in love with The Baburnama, when I read it aged 18 on my first visit to India, I had always wondered what had happened to the valley Babur described with so much love and longing. Reports were mixed. 

When I began making inquiries at the end of the 1980s, travellers who had been there told me I was too late, that it was wrecked: the Soviets, they told me, had tried to industrialise the valley as the centre of their central Asian cotton industry. Factories, smoke stacks, workers’ barracks and railway yards had sprung up in the shadow of the Tien Shan.

But, more recently, I had begun to hear other accounts. Several travellers I talked to said that since the end of Soviet rule, the heavy hand of Moscow and its five-year industrial plans had been quickly lifted from central Asia; with the departure of the Soviets, many of the old state-run industries and monocultures had simply died. 

The factories ran first to ruin, then eventually had to be taken down. Even the collectivised farmland was said to be returning to private ownership, under the guise of “50-year private leases”. 

After all, a whole generation had been born and grown up since the fall of the Berlin Wall, and to them the Soviet empire seemed almost as distant as that of the Timurids, the Sogdians and the Kushans who preceded them.

I paid my first visit to Uzbekistan last spring, just before lockdown. On arrival in Tashkent, these impressions of rapid de-Russification were quickly confirmed. 

The wide boulevards and the vast 1960s apartment blocks that lined them were among the last signs of the old Soviet system, along with a lingering national passion for vodka, surprising in a Muslim country

But the country had changed beyond all recognition. The trains were now faster, cleaner and more modern than many lines in Europe; there were good 4G internet connections in the hotels. 

The TV was full of Turkish sitcoms and Ottoman costume dramas — Resurrection: Ertugrul was the favourite show.

Politically, things were changing fast too. After his election in 2016, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev had launched a programme of sweeping political and economic reforms: he freed some political prisoners — though many remain imprisoned — and enacted reforms to weed out corruption and improve government services. 

He announced a market-driven budget instead of a state-controlled one, liberalising the economy and attracting foreign investment. 

The contrast with the world of his predecessor, Islam Karimov, one of central Asia’s most brutal dictators, was stark.

You could see the results everywhere around you in the streets of Tashkent. The roads were now full of Japanese and Korean cars; there was craft beer on sale in the bars; cappuccino shops with seats under parasols filled the pavements under the shade of chestnuts and chinars. 

Fashionably dressed lovers held hands under the casuarina trees. 

At the end of 2019, The Economist named Uzbekistan its country of the year, declaring that “no other country travelled so far”. 

It was quite a feat for a state that in the past had often found itself at the bottom of international rankings on corruption, governance and human rights.

But what of Fergana? I was determined to see how much, or little, was left of the valley Babur described as the closest place on earth to the heavenly paradise. I negotiated a fee with a taxi driver and set off to find out.

The valley was reached from the flat steppe around Tashkent by a road that led at first through an unpromising belt of factories, power plants and cooling towers, pylons marching through steppe grasslands and semi-derelict freight yards. 

Here there were occasional glimpses of dead white fields killed by salination from careless irrigation for the obsessive Soviet cotton monoculture.

But, after an hour, the highway turned sharply into the mountains. It began to climb, corkscrewing steeply upwards through what soon became green Alpine meadows

The roadsides were full of hollyhocks, asphodels and wild tulips, all framed by the blinding white of the snowy peaks rising in the distance. 

As we rose, huge, high central Asian skies stretched out, framed by the peaks of the Tien Shan. It grew distinctly colder, and we began passing patches of snow by the roadside.

At the top of the pass, we went through a rain shadow, a high-altitude desert, then descended on the far side into scrubby, arid steppe grassland. Then, quite suddenly, at the bottom of the slope the steppe blossomed

Beyond the first green fields of rich spring wheat, we saw the bubbling irrigation runnels, muddy with fresh snowmelt from the Kyrgyz Pamirs, that had brought about the transformation. 

Beyond these fields, framed by jagged snow peaks, lies the fertile fruit basket of Babur’s beloved homeland. 

Whatever the case 30 years ago, there was not a cotton factory to be seen now. The Fergana Valley has reverted to the high-altitude Eden it was at the time of Babur.

As we drove along avenues of poplars, rolling meadows full of poppies flanked apple, mulberry, apricot and almond orchards. 

In the distance, on the higher ground at the edge of the valley, were vineyards, with young vine shoots twisting their way along the supports. 

Next to some of the larger irrigation runnels men sat cross-legged on wooden charpoys, sipping tea. 

Flocks of fat-tailed sheep were grazing amid the meadows, watched over by women in wimples and velveteen waistcoats. Donkeys rested by the roadside. 

An old man with gold teeth cast a fishing line from a bridge. It reminded me of Kashmir or, perhaps, the Shomali plain in Afghanistan. 

As we drove, I fished out The Baburnama and re-read the first section, which describes the young Babur’s days in this valley. I was astonished yet again by the freshness of Babur’s writing. 

Throughout he admits us to his confidence as he constantly examines and questions the world around him. It is in many ways an oddly modern text, almost Proustian in its self-awareness. 

It presents the uncensored fullness of the man, a life perfectly pinned to the page in simple, direct and attractively unpretentious prose. 

As much as any pre-modern text it is a reminder that while some things change from age to age, much remains universal. 

To read Babur on the beauty of a Fergana garden is still as resonant and pleasurable in the 21st century as it was in the 16th.

The green intensified as we pushed deeper into the valley. We were passing now along straight, dusty Russian roads, flanked on both sides by lines of poplars. 

The meanders of the great Syr Darya, Alexander the Great’s Jaxartes, lay ahead beyond the fields. 

On the far side, directly above its banks, rose the eroded but precipitous mud-brick walls of the greatest fortress of Fergana, and the valley’s ancient capital: Akhsikath (also known as Ahsiket, Axsikent and by various similar spellings)

We had arrived at the home fortress of Babur’s dynasty, and the focus of his exiled longings.

I had feared that Babur had exaggerated its beauty; I need not have worried. Babur is a reliably honest writer, even when writing about his lost home. 

The sun was now setting behind the snow peaks, turning the massive mud walls of Akhsikath a bright and spectacular red in the last light of the day. 

Below, in the canebreaks, waterfowl were calling to roost. There was no one about. The town was destroyed and left deserted by a cataclysmic earthquake of 1621 but, even in complete ruination, you could still sense the grandeur and might of this place in its Timurid glory days. 

It was a few days later that I found myself in a village that brought me closer to Babur than anywhere else I saw in central Asia.

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.@DalrympleWill on the trail of Babur’s paradise lost @FT [continued]

I had been touring Samarkand and, wonderful though it was, I could not help feeling the damage of the irreparable cultural break effected first by 19th-century Russian imperialism, then by Soviet Marxism. 

The old madrasas and mosques are no longer functioning as places of worship or learning. Cut off from both the ulema and the believers who once looked after them, they stand only as garishly over-restored museums, there for the benefit of dollar-wielding tourists rather than as living centres of the community in the way the great Mughal mosques of India still are. 

Timur’s tomb, the most magnificent monument of all, today feels more like a wedding parlour than a place of mourning with its gilt cornices and three-tiered crystal chandeliers.

But I was told that some distance outside of town there was one gorgeous Timurid monument that had escaped the Soviets: a collection of monuments dating from the childhood of Babur, set in a beautiful river valley. 

On my second morning in Samarkand, we abandoned the tour groups and set off on our own into the countryside.

At the top of the pass separating Samarkand from Timur’s other great capital of Shakhrisabz, we stopped for lunch: tent flaps of naan and log skewers of shashlik, freshly cooked on charcoal, and served with mulberry plov (pilau) and sometimes manti, a sort of Turkic ravioli. 

The food was served next to a bubbling mountain spring on wooden divans in the shade of the poplars. 

Here were all the things Babur missed: shady gardens, clear streams, wild tulips and cool mountain landscapes with views down over the valleys below.

We drove on, down the switchbacks, past women offering us qurut — balls of sour, fermented goats cheese — pistachios, bottles of melon juice and, more eccentrically, bunches of rhubarb, which they claimed were “good for blood pressure”

We stopped for petrol, and I wondered: where else in the world do the pump attendants invite you for a cup of tea?

Twenty miles beyond Shakhrisabz, we turned up a green and lovely valley towards Katta Langar. Herds of goats were grazing in rolling water meadows; eagles soared overhead

At the very end of the valley, high on a hill, long after the tarmac road had given way to dusty farm track, we saw what we had come for: the 15th-century Naqshbandi Sufi shrine of the Timurid scholar-poet Sheikh Mohammed Sadik, a direct contemporary of Babur’s, whose gorgeous tomb, surrounded on all sides by a thickly planted, shade-giving orchard, has the beginnings of the long neck and elongated Timurid dome that would, three generations later, blossom into the silhouette of the Taj Mahal.

The only other visitors were three elderly women in aprons, who prostrated themselves, then reversed out, still facing the grave of the saint. 

Inside, we found the shrine keeper, Abu’l Hasan. He sported a pepper-and-salt beard and was wearing an Afghan-style chapan of beautifully striped silk topped with a small polygonal Uzbek cap. 

I asked him about the sheikh: “He was a very great Sufi saint,” said Abu’l Hasan. “A very great academic, and a poet too.”

“And people still come and pray?”

“Of course,” he said. “More and more people come. Pilgrims come from all over . . . Uzbeks, Afghans, Turks, Hindustanis, Arabs . . . even Europeans. The whole world. Everyone comes. Especially on a Thursday.”

He gestured around him. “He knows every time when we step inside this building. He knows what we wish for and he will tell the Emir [by which I presume he meant God]. Many people are cured of illness. Barren women became pregnant. The poor find sustenance.”

“How did the shrine escape the Soviets?” I asked, thinking of the dead madrasas and shrines we had seen the day before in Samarkand.

“It didn’t,” he said. “The Soviets completely closed this place. During the Soviet time we prayed on the mountaintops and read the Koran in secret. It was illegal to have a Koran then. If they found one, they put you in jail. We reopened the shrine only in 1991. Then, in 2007, I raised the money to make some small renovations to stop it collapsing. Keeping the memory of the saint alive: this is now my life.” 

“And how do you do that?” 

“We sing his poems,” said Abu’l Hasan. “His words are remembered whenever we pray here. We sing, and only after that can my heart rest. Would you like to hear?”

“I would.”

So Abu’l Hasan began to sing, and he did so with all his heart, filling the shrine chamber with a beautifully strong, tonic descant of minor chords, rising to a climax, then falling gently away again. 

He fell quiet when he had done, hands cupped, eyes closed, lost in prayer. Outside, you could hear the birds chattering amid the roses and the mulberry and almond blossom.

“Who comes here prays to Allah,” he said eventually, “and their wishes are fulfilled. You pray to the saint and he tells the Lord. God sees everything.”

The Soviets had come and gone, but here at least I felt I had touched on something vital and undamaged, something that Babur would have recognised, and loved.

As we were leaving, Abu’l Hasan asked where I had come from. When I said Delhi, his face lit up and he quoted some Persian texts by the poet Bedil. “He died in Delhi,” he said. “Do you know his work? Do they still tend his tomb?”

Babur’s memoirs, The Baburnama, have recently been republished by Everyman, with an introduction by William Dalrymple

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He walked three times around Humayun’s bed, praying: “O God! If a life may be exchanged for a life, I who am Babur, I give my life and my being for a Humayun.”

There are many mythical tales about Babur but my favourite is the story of Humayun. eldest son and heir-apparent, was stricken by a fever. Despite the best efforts of the royal physicians, his condition steadily worsened.

Driven to despair, Babur consulted a man of religion who told him that the remedy “was to give in alms the most valuable thing one had and to seek cure from God.”

Babur is said to have replied thus: “I am the most valuable thing that Humayun possesses; than me he has no better thing; I shall make myself a sacrifice for him. May God the Creator accept it.”

Humayun possessed a priceless diamond, they said, which could be sold and the proceeds given to the poor... Babur would not hear of it. “What value has worldly wealth?” Babur is quoted to have said. 

“And how can it be a redemption for Humayun? I myself shall be his sacrifice.”

He walked three times around Humayun’s bed, praying: “O God! If a life may be exchanged for a life, I who am Babur, I give my life and my being for a Humayun.” 

A few minutes later, he cried: “We have borne it away, we have borne it away.”And sure enough, from that moment Babur began to sicken, while Humayun grew slowly well. Babur died near Agra on December 21, 1530.

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ISRAEL and IRAN are attacking each other’s shipping in a broadening of their shadow war: @WSJ H/T @JKempEnergy
Law & Politics

Israel has targeted at least a dozen vessels bound for Syria and mostly carrying Iranian oil out of concern that petroleum profits are funding extremism in the Middle East, U.S. and regional officials say, in a new front in the conflict between Israel and Iran.

Since late 2019, Israel has used weaponry including water mines to strike Iranian vessels or those carrying Iranian cargo as they navigate toward Syria in the Red Sea and in other areas of the region. 

Iran has continued its oil trade with Syria, shipping millions of barrels and contravening U.S. sanctions against Iran and international sanctions against Syria.

Some of the naval attacks also have targeted Iranian efforts to move other cargo including weaponry through the region, according to U.S. officials.

The disclosure of the Israeli campaign at sea marks a new dimension in its campaign to counter Iran’s military and economic entrenchment and its support of allied groups in the region. 

Since 2018, Israel has conducted hundreds of airstrikes, mostly in Syria, to rout Iranian-backed groups, weapons and influence across the region.

Mark Dubowitz, chief executive of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a think tank that opposes the Iran deal and urges a hard line against Tehran, said Israel and the U.S. have long set their sights on Iranian oil revenue.

“Israel stepped up the game beyond sanctions to sabotage,” he said. “The Red Sea sabotage is keeping with a broader economic warfare campaign.”

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06-JAN-2020 :: The Assassination (The Escalation of 'Shadow War')
Law & Politics

At the beginning of From Russia With Love (the movie not the book), Kronsteen is summoned to Blofeld’s lair to discuss the plot to steal the super-secret ‘Lektor Decoder’ and kill Bond. 

Kronsteen out- lines to Blofeld his play Blofeld [read Trump]: Kronsteen, you are sure this plan is foolproof? Kronsteen [read Pompeo]: 

Yes it is because I have anticipated every possible variation of counter-move.

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Xi Jinping is both Sun Tzu ‘'The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting'' And hard edged at the same time.
Law & Politics

He has brought Hong Kong to heel, he is prowling around Taiwan like a Lion prowled around our Tent one night in the Tsavo, he has marched 400 kms into Indian Territory and Narendra ‘’Benito’’ Modi has said nary a word.

Xi has taken calculated risks. The muscular and multi-faceted nature of Chinese Power is seen in its handling of COVID19

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.@FHeisbourg «Le coronavirus, c’est un Tchernobyl chinois à la puissance dix»
Law & Politics

First, they staged their "exemplary handling" of the pandemic in a very loud manner, in order to avoid interest in the regime.

And then they severely punished countries that demanded an impartial international investigation, made up of the best experts. Australia, which had insisted on the need for transparency, was imposed economic sanctions and a block on its imports.

The debate on the origin of the virus remains totally open, fundamental and potentially explosive.

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Xi Jinping has exhibited Chinese dominance over multiple theatres [Full Spectrum Dominance]
Law & Politics

Controlling the COVID19 Narrative, suppressing the Enquiry, parlaying the situation into one of singular advantage marks a singular moment 

Xi Jinping has exhibited Chinese dominance over multiple theatres from the Home Front, the International Media Domain, the ‘’Scientific’’ domain over which he has achieved complete ownership and where any dissenting view is characterized as a ‘’conspiracy theory’’

It remains a remarkable achievement.

Of course, the c21st World is not bipolar but the relationship between the US and China remains the overwhelming question.

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China could be preparing to invade Taiwan by 2027, says US commander @thetimes H/T @MaajidNawaz
Law & Politics

“I’m worried about them moving that target closer. Taiwan is clearly one of their ambitions before then and I think the threat is manifest during this decade, in fact in the next six years.”

He pointed to several worrying indicators of Beijing’s strategy on Taiwan’s “reunification”: the numbers of ships, aircraft and missiles China had “put in the field”, the “line of actual control” the Chinese military had imposed in the South China Sea and East China Sea, and the attacks on democracy in Hong Kong.

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Over 2.7 million new COVID-19 cases were reported last week, a 2% increase compared to the previous week @WHO

The global case increase was driven by increases in the Eastern Mediterranean (10%), African Region (10%), and Europe (4%), while small declines were seen in the Americas (-2%), South-East Asia (-2%) and Western Pacific regions (-6%).

Global new deaths continued the downward trend observed since early February 2021, declining a further 6% compared to last week. 

The highest numbers of new cases were reported from 

the United States of America (427 233 new cases; 10% decrease), 

Brazil (413 597 new cases; 11% increase), 

France (143 622 new cases; 4% decrease), 

Italy (138 937 new cases; 24% increase), and 

India (114 068 new cases; 9% increase).

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"We have clear signs: The third wave in Germany has already begun," Lothar Wieler, president of the @rki_de center for disease control, warned. @dw_politics

RKI recorded 14,356 new infections in the past 24 hours. 

The infection rate also continued to rise, reaching 69.1 new cases per 100,000 people in the past seven days for Germany as a whole. The infection rate on Wednesday was 65.4.

Wieler described the vaccination drive as a race against the mutating virus, but was hopeful that 80% of the population could become immune to coronavirus by fall. Until then he considered continued hygiene measures to be necessary.

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I think we can say that #Italy in its third wave. New daily #COVID19 cases trending up since mid-Feb and today reached 25,673 as new variants hit hard. @ereguly

I think we can say that #Italy in its third wave. New daily #COVID19 cases trending up since mid-Feb and today reached 25,673 as new variants hit hard. Deaths today were 373, taking total to 101,184. Another lockdown seems certain.

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My concern is that Brazil which was the epicenter of the Virus in May 2020 is once again a Precursor and a Harbinger

And sure the numbers slid for around 6 consecutive weeks but they have bottomed out of late.

“I see a huge storm forming in Brazil.” Denise Garrett, vice president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute in Washington

The bottom line: P.1 is 2.5 times more transmissible than the wild-type B lineage. And way more transmissible than B.1.1.7. @bollemdb @obscovid19br 

"The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function." - Professor Allen Bartlett 

Exponential growth unlike any other that we have seen. Brazil is a global threat @bollemdb

Model-based evaluation of transmissibility and reinfection for the P.1 variant of the SARS-CoV-2

The variant of concern (VOC) P.1 emerged in the Amazonas state (Brazil) and was sequenced for the first time on 6-Jan- 2021 by the Japanese National Institute of Infectious Diseases.

It contains a constellation of mutations, ten of them in the spike protein.

The P.1 variant shares mutations such as E484K, K417T, and N501Y and a deletion in the orf1b protein (del11288-11296 (3675-3677 SGF)) with other VOCs previously detected in the United Kingdom and South Africa (B.1.1.7 and the B.1.351, respectively).

Prevalence of P.1 increased sharply from 0% in November 2020 to 73% in January 2021 and in less than 2 months replaced previous lineages (4).

The estimated relative transmissibility of P.1 is 2.5 (95% CI: 2.3-2.8) times higher than the infection rate of the wild variant, while the reinfection probability due to the new variant is 6.4% (95% CI: 5.7 - 7.1%).

If you have a "normal" pandemic that is fading, but "variants" that [are] surging, the combined total can look like a flat, manageable situation. @spignal

We all know by now ''viruses exhibit non-linear and exponential characteristics'

COVID19 Historic Peaks Deaths a day @brodjustice

I expect th P.1 Lineage to be dominant worldwide in 8-12 weeks notwithstanding the Focus on SARS-CoV-2 lineage B.1.1.7

My Thesis is based on the ultra hyperconnectedness of the c21st World.

Therefore, I would be tempering my COVID19 optimism and holding my horses which introduces interesting dynamics into the markets.

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And the belief in Vaccine Efficacy is now bumping at euphoric levels. Folks I followed on Twitter for their epidemiological excellence now simply recite Vaccine / Inoculation data like a liturgy.

And sure the numbers slid for around 6 consecutive weeks but they have bottomed out of late.

Its not clear what % of the suppression was due to the ‘’hard’’ lockdowns [non pharmaceutical intervention] and what % was due to the vaccinnes.

We will discover the answer imminently.

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As soon as people who are vaccinated meet, they are selecting for the most vaccine evading type. @yaneerbaryam

Laboratory studies that only use one clonal type, do not necessarily reveal the effectiveness of antibodies that are generated by a vaccine. 

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Currency Markets at a Glance WSJency
World Currencies

Euro 1.1942

Dollar Index 91.433

Japan Yen 108.99

Swiss Franc 0.9276

Pound 1.3938

Aussie 0.7754

India Rupee 72.75

South Korea Won 1134.03

Brazil Real 5.5363

Egypt Pound 15.7028

South Africa Rand 14.9685

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Tech Giants' Dreams of Free Internet Wither in African Backlash @bpolitics

Uganda’s shutdown of social-media sites in January, right before a disputed election handed President Yoweri Museveni a sixth term, dealt a devastating blow to rice trader Elizabeth Nagunda: Her sales slowed to a near-halt.

“Before I would advertise, market my products on Facebook, WhatsApp, and even get customer orders” via those platforms, she said in an interview in Kampala, the capital. 

“I can’t run any more adverts online. Even if I do, there are no people to view them.”

Facebook Inc. and Google are spending billions trying to get more people online in Africa, but the internet giants are now facing a backlash from governments worried about social-media platforms being used to remove them from power.

These platforms, including Twitter, gave opposition politicians access to previously unreachable audiences and have been used to organize protests—most notably during the Arab Spring that toppled leaders from Tunisia to Egypt.

Now governments in sub-Saharan Africa are increasingly ordering internet service providers to shut their gateways or throttle data traffic when confronted with dissent or the threat of electoral defeat.

Facebook, Twitter and other companies have pushed back, condemning the disruptions and blocking accounts they allege are being used to undermine democracy—actions that further raised the authorities’ ire and led to several outright bans on their services. 

Access Now and the #KeepItOn Coalition, which campaign for an end to internet shutdowns, documented 20 intentional disruptions in a dozen African nations last year.

Ethiopia was among the worst violators of online freedom in 2020, imposing at least four outages in a bid to contain ethnic unrest and restrict the flow of information during a conflict in its northern Tigray region.

More curbs have been introduced in 2021. The latest was in Senegal, where the government imposed an outage earlier this month after the arrest of an opposition leader triggered the most violent demonstrations in years.

“Not only do internet shutdowns interfere with the rights to access information, freedom of expression, and other fundamental freedoms, they are used in attempts to hide egregious human-rights violations,” Access Now said in a report published March 3.

Tech executives have long preached about offering their services to the estimated 3 billion people who remain offline, about 700 million of them in Africa. 

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has argued that connectivity is a basic human right.

Early endeavors to get more people online seemed more fanciful than serious. Facebook tried to build a gigantic drone to provide high-altitude connectivity but grounded the Aquila project in 2018 after only two test flights, the first of which ended in what was described as a “structural failure.” 

Google—using a project called Loon—attempted something similar with helium-filled balloons sailing into the stratosphere, scrapping it in 2021 after the unit failed to develop a viable business model.

Now the tech companies are taking the opposite approach, driven in part by a desire to win over a vast swathe of new users. 

Facebook and some of the world’s largest telecom carriers are spending almost $1 billion building a sub-sea internet cable that will connect Europe to the Middle East and 16 African countries. 

Google has announced its own sub-sea cable connecting Europe to Africa, using a route down the west coast.

For now, companies have limited scope to counter internet shutdowns. Social media platforms are also trapped between attempting to be seen to counter misinformation and working with local governments to provide internet access.

Telecommunications companies say they’ll lose their operating licenses if they ignore government orders to halt or restrict internet access. 

Even so, they’ve faced accusations that they are overly accommodating toward repressive regimes and complicit in denying people access to an essential public good.

“Companies should definitely be taking a tougher stance,” said Nic Cheeseman, a professor of democracy at the University of Birmingham. 

“If a company wants to depict itself as being about freedom of information—as most telecommunication companies do—then they must defend media freedom, even in cases where it might hurt their business interests to do so.”

MTN Group Ltd., Africa’s largest wireless carrier by sales, responded to queries by referring to a statement published on its website that states: 

“Our response to digital human rights is underpinned by a sound policy and due-diligence framework. Our approach is consistent with internationally recognized principles, while ensuring that MTN remains compliant with the terms of our various jurisdictional legal obligations and license conditions.”

Rival Vodacom Group Ltd. said it seeks to balance its responsibility to respect its customers’ right to privacy and freedom of expression against its legal obligation to respond to the authorities’ lawful demands, while safeguarding its employees. 

Airtel Africa Ltd. and Orange SA, which also have wireless operations on the continent, declined to comment.

Shutdowns “are hugely harmful, and undermine the public conversation and the rights of people to make their voices heard,” Twitter said in an emailed response. 

“The long-term result of this could be an internet that is less open, less free and less empowering for all.”

“Even temporary disruptions of internet services have tremendous, negative human rights, economic and social consequences,” Facebook said in a written response to questions.

It’s questionable whether governments derive any benefit from trying to stop their citizens from communicating: 

Research published in 2019 by Jan Rydzak, an associate director at Stanford University’s Global Digital Policy Incubator, showed social media curbs tended to fuel rather than reduce violence; and internet shutdowns in Algeria and Sudan did nothing to quell protests—and may in fact have stoked outrage and accelerated their leaders’ downfalls.

Besides stifling democracy and free speech in the world’s poorest continent, the disruptions have had far-reaching economic consequences, hindering business activity, curbing tax revenue and deterring foreign investment. 

Top10VPN, a U.K.-based digital privacy and security research group, estimates that shutdowns cost the sub-Saharan African region an estimated $237.4 million last year.

In Ethiopia, the communications blackout prevented accurate reporting on the conflict in Tigray and fettered aid agencies trying to help tens of thousands of displaced people. 

Phone connections have been restored to major towns and cities, but data services remain suspended.

The absence of a vibrant, independent mainstream media in many African nations makes a lack of access to online content all the more problematic.

“News about us and news about the values that we stand for does not feature on local radio or local TV,” Bobi Wine, a Ugandan pop star-turned-politician who alleges that the vote he lost to Museveni was rigged, said in an interview with Johannesburg-based 702 Talk Radio. 

“Social media is our only platform to express ourselves and communicate the raw reality of what is happening in Uganda.”

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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

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10-JUN-2019 :: 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 normal. 

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The Africa region reported over 55 000 new cases and over 1300 new deaths, a 10% increase and 16% decrease respectively compared to the previous week @WO @WHOAFRO

Since new weekly case counts peaked in early January 2021, this is the first weekly increase following 6 weeks of decreasing case numbers. 

The highest numbers of new cases were reported from 

South Africa (7981 new cases; 13.5 new cases per 100 000 population; a 19% decrease), 

Ethiopia (6976 new cases; 6.1 new cases per 100 000; a 13% increase), 

Zambia (4840 new cases; 26.3 new cases per 100 000; a 48% increase).

The highest numbers of new deaths were reported from 

South Africa (706 new deaths; 1.2 new deaths per 100 000 population; a 30% decrease), 

Ethiopia (66 new deaths; 0.1 new deaths per 100 000; a 21% decrease), 

Nigeria (59 new deaths; <0.1 new deaths per 100 000; a 20% decrease).

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311,472 Active COVID-19 Cases in Africa @BeautifyData

-40.101% % below 520,000 record high from January 2021 

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Africa is currently reporting a million new infections about every 61 days @ReutersGraphics

Guinea and Cameroon at Peak Ivory Coast at 92% Somalia 76% Ethiopia at 74% 

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Both "Magufuli is in Nairobi" and "Magufuli has been flown to India" were TISS' "dezinformatsiya" (disinformation). Is he alive or not? I can't answer that @Chahali

My highly trusted source confirms again not only that  @MagufuliJP  is in Dar but had never left the city in the first place. Both "Magufuli is in Nairobi" and "Magufuli has been flown to India" were TISS' "dezinformatsiya" (disinformation). Is he alive or not? I can't answer that

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In his bed, in Chato? In a North Wing Presidential suite, in Nairobi Hospital? In an iron lung, in Hyderabad? In an air ambulance, en route to Europe? In a coffin, in Dar? No evidence has been produced @mzungundege

In his bed, in Chato? In a North Wing Presidential suite, in Nairobi Hospital? In an iron lung, in Hyderabad? In an air ambulance, en route to Europe? In a coffin, in Dar? No evidence has been produced to establish any of these scenarios.

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Before Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi assumed power, in January 2019, expectations for what, concretely, he could achieve while in office—in light of the power imbalance with Joseph Kabila’s Front commun pour le Congo (FCC)—were low. 

As if to accentuate this uncertainty, he faltered during his inauguration speech. Appearing to lose his breath, he was forced to sit down for several minutes. 

The Congolese public watched intensely, scrutinizing the moment, the president’s health, and what it all meant. 

Had he been poisoned? Had some other force been used against him to weaken him or end his presidency before it had even begun? 

Was this the physical manifestation of his weakness compared to Kabila who, for the occasion, had shaved his grey beard in favor of a younger look, as if to reinforce his own vitality? 

And then, Tshisekedi rose again to the lectern, this time unencumbered by the ill-fitting bulletproof vest he had been wearing. 

“More fear than harm,” a friend and Tshisekedi supporter told me at the time.

 Tshisekedi’s inauguration reminds us of the importance, at least since the time of Mobutu, of projecting images of strength, of a strong man, as part of political leadership

In the DRC as elsewhere, leaders’ political power often lies, in part, in managing public perceptions (and therefore those of the political class) of that power. 

His predecessor, Kabila, was able to project an aura of power, largely through his silence. 

The rarity of his public appearances and speeches heightened the mystery surrounding him. 

He cultivated the image of the calm, contemplative, unflappable monarch, rising above the fray of petty political infighting. This silence allowed people to project their fantasies of his potency onto him

These fantasies were incorporated into political propaganda. A video made by a supporter of Kabila’s Parti du peuple pour la reconstruction et la démocratie (PPRD) circulated on social media in October 2019. 

Against a backdrop of Kabila walking purposefully, in slow motion set to ominous background music, we see text appear on the bottom of the screen: “Joseph Kabila, the game. More than a player. He has become the game itself.”

 It is difficult, today, to remember precisely how feared Kabila and his inner circle were until recently (and it may be too soon to write them off entirely, despite their apparent hesitance to enter the opposition)

But this aura of the man who was “the game itself” reflects how many Congolese perceived the FCC-CACH coalition when it began. 

Kabila controlled parliament and most of the provinces—i.e., he had formal institutional power—but perhaps even more than that, he was Kabila, the Raïs, Yemeyi. 

There was simply no way that Félix Tshisekedi—who, for some, projected the image of a kind, if somewhat naïve, leader—could overcome Kabila’s overwhelming, sometimes ominous might.

 And so, when the bureau of the National Assembly led by Jeanine Mabunda—a key Kabila ally—fell on December 10, 2020, it took nearly everyone by surprise. 

Even those who supported the petition against Mabunda were shocked, in the end, at how easy it was. 

How could it have been possible to topple one of the linchpins of Kabila’s hold on power so soon after president Tshisekedi had announced the end of the FCC-CACH coalition? 

“These things often fall like a house of cards,” the Cameroonian philosopher Achille Mbembe remarked to me at the time.

We realized that he was not as formidable as we thought”

The significance of Mabunda’s ouster, and the rumors about the number of signatories to the petition against Mabunda circulating before the vote, reinforced and even surpassed the simple changes he brought about in parliament and, later, in the government. 

It triggered a wave of high-profile defections within the PPRD as well as the FCC. 

More than that, it pulled back the curtain on the former president’s presumed invincibility. 

“His power was demystified and we realized that he was not as formidable as we thought”, a national deputy who joined Félix Tshisekedi’s Union sacrée de la nation (USN) told me

The vote created (or reinforced, for some) the perception that Tshisekedi was the new master of the game.

All of this recalls an insight that the French historian and philosopher Michel Foucault, in a lecture at the Collège de France in February 1976, brought to understanding Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan, and in particular his notion of the “war of all against all.” 

This idea, Foucault argued, is not simply about the state of nature among human beings before the creation of the State. 

It persists even within the modern state itself. But, he warned, this is not a war with “weapons or fists,” nor “between savage forces that have been unleashed.” 

Instead, this is a war of appearances, designed to make believe (faire croire) in one’s strength: “There are presentations, manifestations, signs, emphatic expressions, wiles, and deceitful expressions; there are traps, intentions disguised as their opposite, and worries disguised as certainties. We are in a theater where presentations are exchanged, in a relationship of fear in which there are no time limits; we are not really involved in a war.”

 Today, Tshisekedi’s power rests as much on his growing control of Congo’s political institutions as on an attempt to cultivate his own aura of invincibility. 

Indeed, the former depends in part on the latter. And with Tshisekedi, this aura is represented by his moniker  

“Fatshi (made of) concrete” (Fatshi béton). 

As if to reject the idea of a weak president, this nickname that links the president to the idea of hardness man refers both to the concrete poured as part of the 100 days program (a series of public infrastructure projects designed to make a mark during his first few months in office) and, even more so given recent events, to the idea of a strong president, in the image of an immovable object. 

Today, the nickname has taken on another dimension with the president’s recent political victories. 

Are those victories as solid as the nickname suggests? Will “Fatshi béton” continue to project the image of a strong man? 

Or are we dealing with another type of leadership, more humble, less inclined to instill fear? 

In the meantime, the game—the war of appearances—seemingly never ends. The real challenge, however, is not in creating and maintaining an image of strength: this is the domain of intrigue and control, not of governing. 

It is, instead, the breaking of the postcolonial symbolic shackles in which so many leaders in Congo and elsewhere seem doomed to repeating the same representations, ever trying to resemble Congolese author Sony Labou Tansi’s “Providential Guide.”


How could things be done differently, in order to create accountability and a climate of mutual respect between the president and the Congolese citizenry? 

Examples in Africa and elsewhere abound: Thomas Sankara who stopped the practice of displaying the president’s portrait in public places; 

Pope Francis who knelt to wash inmates’ feet; Tshisekedi himself, who assisted a minister with a disability to climb the stairs in 2019; and citizen movements, such as LUCHA in the DRC, which go beyond humility, instead operating without a singular leader, using a horizontal leadership structure and carrying out salongo (public trash clean ups).

“Mukalenga wa bantu, bantu wa mukalenga.” This Tshiluba adage, which can be translated as “the leader (in the service) of the people, the people (in the service) of the leader,” is appropriate. 

It implies that the leader who serves the people is a precondition for a people to support their leader. Something to think about when recreating a social contract in the DRC.

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07-JAN-2019 :: Joseph Kabila Kabange sporting a new sartorial look In one interview he alluded to Arnold Schwarzenegger's famous quote "I'll be back''

V.S. Naipaul, in A Bend in the River wrote “It isn’t that there’s no right and wrong here. There’s no right.”

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According to a projection (2016) the population of Kinshasa will increase significantly, to 35 million by 2050, 58 million by 2075 and 83 million by 2100.

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.@MoodysInvSvc has placed the Government of Ethiopia's B2 long-term issuer and senior unsecured ratings on review for downgrade

The decision to place Ethiopia's ratings on review for downgrade reflects Moody's conclusion that the government's commitment, as part of its entry into the G20 Common Framework, to sign a (MoU) that requires it to engage with private creditors raises the risk those creditors will incur losses. 

It is increasingly clear that, in contrast to the approach taken last year under the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI), official sector lenders are intent on upholding the principle of comparable treatment of official and private sector lenders. 

Meanwhile, domestic political risks remain elevated as tensions in northern and westerly regions of the country simmer, with potential implications for donor community funding.

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.@StandardBankZA forecast a multi-year, non-linear recovery in its home market @Reuters

But the bank, which reported a 43% decline in full-year profit on Thursday, said it had kept its annual dividend 76% lower than 2019 in part to retain capital to deploy towards emerging growth opportunities on the continent.

Standard Bank had already signalled an intention to ramp up in West Africa, and said on Thursday that Ethiopia was also attractive, with organic growth in Kenya and Nigeria also a focus.

CEO Sim Tshabalala said rising mobile and internet penetration in Africa, a growing population becoming healthier and better educated, and consumer spending on course to reach $5 trillion per year by the next decade were among the key trends informing the bank’s strategy.

“Twenty years ago, being an Africa-focused financial services group might have seemed unconventional. But with these trends in mind... it’s going to become increasingly enviable,” he said.

Standard Bank said it was also looking to expand in banking-adjacent activities like insurance and payments.

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Kenya 13.287% TPR [Test Positivity Rate]

Today, 829 people have tested positive to the disease, out of a sample size of 6,239 tested in the last 24 hours

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India has donated a consignment of 100,000 doses of the Covishield Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine Spoke to analyst @alykhansatchu who says ths 'a geo-economic move '. @NationAfrica @LeonLidigu

The Indian initiative, popularly known as "vaccine maitri" (vaccine friendship), a ''win win'' for Kenya and the situation is geo-economic, not geo-political.

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Payroll taxes fall Sh52bn as firms reduce pay, staff @BD_Africa H/T @ColdTusker
Kenyan Economy

Payroll taxes plunged by Sh52.65 billion in the six months to December 2020 as firms stepped up pay cuts in a tough labour market that defied re-opening of the economy.

The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) collected Sh152.62 billion in Pay As You Earn (PAYE) In July-December 2020 period compared with Sh205.27 billion a year earlier, data published by the National Treasury show.

The 25.65 percent drop in PAYE receipts — the first contraction in more than a decade — pushed the collections from monthly workers’ pay to the lowest levels since Sh144.07 billion in a similar period ended December 2016.

The drop in taxes also came in a period when the Treasury offered reduction in maximum income tax rate to 25 from 30 percent between May and December 2020 and cushioned workers earning a monthly pay of up to Sh24,000 from taxation.

The taxman, as a result, missed the half-year target in PAYE receipts by Sh28.91 billion, with collections accounting for 40.48 percent of the Sh376.99 billion full-year goal.

“The decline is largely attributed to the difficult operating environment due to the Covid-19 pandemic which has adversely affected revenue performance as from March 2020,” the Treasury officials wrote in the review report.

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Payment of external debt nearly doubles in 6 months to Dec @BD_Africa
Kenyan Economy

epayment of principal sums owed to external lenders for six months through December 2020 nearly doubled in the lead-up to Treasury’s U-turn in taking debt relief offer and push to create a special debt fund.

External debt redemptions jumped 83.99 percent to Sh80.71 billion in the period compared with a similar period a year earlier when they amounted to Sh36.84 billion, Treasury data shows.

The increased expenditure were largely driven by a surge in redemptions (principal sums) owed to China’s state-owned lenders as well as commercial creditors under the Eurobond and a consortium of international banks.

Repayments to Chinese banks — predominantly the Exim Bank— jumped more than three-fold, or 349.61 percent, to Sh16.84 billion from Sh3.75 billion a year earlier. This followed expiry of five-year period that Beijing had extended to Nairobi for the loans used to build the standard gauge railway (SGR) line.

The data further shows that payment of principal sums on commercial credit — Eurobond and syndicated loans largely arranged by Trade and Development Bank, formerly the PTA Bank — gobbled up Sh39.83 billion. This is a 90.50 percent jump compared with Sh20.91 billion spent in the first half of previous financial year.

Overall, Kenya’s external debt service costs shot up 34.54 percent to Sh141.77 percent in the six-month period despite interest costs remaining largely unchanged at Sh61.06 billion, a slight drop from Sh61.51 billion a year earlier.

The Treasury in January got a reprieve on bilateral debt obligations after the Paris Club of international creditors deferred Sh32.9 billion in debt obligations that were due this financial year ending June.

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by Aly Khan Satchu (www.rich.co.ke)
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March 2021

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