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Satchu's Rich Wrap-Up
Monday 05th of July 2021

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09-MAY-2021 The Markets The Lotos-eaters
World Of Finance

On 8th March when the Bears had gotten hold of the US 10 Year, I wrote that I expected the 10 Year to target 1.45% well we got real close on Friday before the market reversed 

Ten- year yields initially plunged to a more than two-month low of 1.46%, then reversed to end the day at 1.58%. However, I am resetting my target Yield to 1.25% now.

Given the volume of money Printing and the extraordinary stimulus I have to say that the US Recovery is actually really weak and I believe it will be very short lived and the Penny will drop soon with the Bond Market and the Shorts will be forced to cover.

The Consensus View appears to be that the Global economy is going to accelerate big time and that its going to BOOM! 

I beg to differ

Furthermore The Central Banks are in a corner. 

They have fired a lot of bullets and even if there was a meaningful bounce they cannot raise rates.

Here is why central banks are trapped and cannot raise rates even if inflation rises: @dlacalle_IA Feb 2 

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“Derivatives,” Alvin said. “I don’t speculate about the future, I trade it.” @NewYorker
World Of Finance

And they were cross‑linked and interwoven and resold in large bundles, “future on future,” Alvin said, handing me a paper towel.
“Forget about the forces of the free market, my friend. Commodity prices no longer refer to any value, past or present—they’re just ghosts from the future.”

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Canyon de Chelly, panorama of valley from mountain Navajo Nation, Arizona, ca. 1941 @PeashootG

"I believe the world is incomprehensibly beautiful  -an endless prospect of magic and wonder."  - Ansel Adams 

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What exactly happened in Wuhan? Virus origin hunter exposes genetic experiments in Wuhan with American support @TheWeekLive @TheSeeker268
Law & Politics

At some point in late 2019, an outbreak of a novel SARS-like coronavirus was detected in Wuhan and reached the level of a global contagion. Where did it come from?
Did it spill over naturally from a bat to humans? Did it originate in a wet market in Wuhan? 

Or is there any truth in the “conspiracy theory” that the virus slipped out of a laboratory in Wuhan where active research on SARS-like coronavirus was being conducted?

Or, the thorniest question of all, could it have been genetically modified or tinkered with? In recent months, the debate has been reignited.

What really happened? At this stage it seems that nobody knows for sure. Very little is known about the beginnings of the pandemic, but everything indicates that the first outbreak of the virus appeared in Wuhan. The trillion-dollar question is: how did it get to Wuhan?

There are multiple paths it could have taken, and to explain the turn of events, two theories have emerged. 

One school of thought assumes it is a natural zoonotic event. 

The other school of thought assumes that it escaped from a nearby research laboratory that studies and works with exactly this kind of coronavirus.  

As for the first theory, there are a range of possibilities including a zoonotic jump from bats to humans, either directly or via an intermediate host. 

This is not beyond the realm of possibility. This is what happened with SARS and MERS. However, with SARS and MERS, scientists were able to determine rather quickly which animal species had carried the virus from bats to humans. 

SARS had also escaped laboratory containment on at least four occasions. 

For SARS-CoV-2, a year and a half has passed without any intermediate species or precursor virus being identified.

 Under the second theory, there are several scenarios, including an accidental spillover due to some lapse in safety protocols (sometimes confused with the theory of a man-made virus). 

This spillover could have come either from an original virus that had been kept for study, or from a virus that was genetically manipulated in a laboratory. 

(Such manipulation is usually a matter of making some changes to an existing virus, either by introducing mutations into the virus, or by inserting proteins that can help it more readily infect humans—and it is reasoned that such research helps test drugs and potentially devise vaccines.)

 On the surface, there might seem to be a significant counter-argument to the genetic modification theory: no telltale signs of manipulation in the SARS-CoV-2 genome have been detected

Yet this observation does not negate the argument. In the past, older methods of genetic modification showed traces of manipulation. 

But newer methods, known as ‘no-see-um’ or ‘seamless’ technology, leave no signatures of manipulation—nor do other techniques of virus manipulation such as serial passaging in humanised animal cells or lung cells. 

(Serial passaging is the name given to a laboratory method that “teaches” the virus to better adapt to other cell types. That is, it accelerates the process of evolution of a virus in a host.)

There is no definitive evidence either way. Both theories are still on the table, and theoretically, it could be both—a lab escape of a natural-origin virus. 

However, what is striking is that only one of these two avenues of potential inquiry has been discredited as a “conspiracy” from the outset, and that alone is worthy of attention.

Two coronavirus research institutes being within a driving distance of the first documented outbreak is, to say the least, suspicious, and warranted further investigation. 

So why was a lab leak so difficult to accept as a possibility, and one highly probable at that? 

Some of the answers can be found in two letters in prestigious journals early on—one in The Lancet, the other in Nature Medicine —which set the tone of the global debate.

The Lancet letter was initiated and organised by Peter Daszak, the president of EcoHealth Alliance, with which many of the signatories are connected. 

Among the signatories were Rita Colwell and James Hughes, who are on the board of directors of EcoHealth Alliance; William Karesh, its executive vice president; and Hume Field, its scientific and political adviser. 

This is the same organisation that had acted as an interface between the Wuhan Institute of Virology's (WIV) research programmes, the US National Institute of Health (NIH) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

The tone of the letter was insistent: “We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin.” 

(When did the conspiracy theory even have the chance to be debunked? Why could it not be investigated scientifically, without recourse to emotional language?) 

Financial and reputational conflicts of interest, which would have been obvious to most readers, were not declared in this letter. 

On the contrary, the letter concluded: “We declare no competing interests.” At the time of writing, this letter in its current form still remains in breach of basic standards of scientific publishing.

The letter in Nature Medicine played a major role in discrediting the lab origin theory by making assurances that this was a natural zoonotic spillover, without any evidence to support this claim. 

With these two letters the debate was gradually consigned to the margins—before it even took place. 

Others shunned it because of its connection to President Donald Trump. 

For the media, the theory likely became an article of political faith, rather than a scientific quest. 

From that moment, the lab leak theory increasingly seemed to be a case of pariahs pitted against reasonable, scientific people. 

The theory largely disappeared from scientific and media discussion for a year. 

Even mentioning the suspicion that Covid-19 may have accidentally leaked from a laboratory in Wuhan was tantamount to insanity. That is, until recently.

After almost a year, in a letter to Science magazine, eminent members of the scientific community dared to articulate their dissatisfaction with the imbalance in the attention paid to the lab leak theory, and expressed the need for a “transparent, objective, data-driven” investigation. The genie was out of the bottle.

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There is no natural Pathway for the Evolution of COVID19.

Today only the Paid for Propagandists and Virologists and WHO will argue that there is a ''zoonotic'' origin for COVID19. 

It is remarkable that the Propaganda is still being propagated more than a year later. 

Those who have chosen to propagate this narrative are above the radar and in plain sight and need to be called to account. 

The Utter Failure to call these 5th columnists to Account is the clearest Signal that there is no external threat because it is already on the inside.

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01-MAR-2020 :: The Origin of the #CoronaVirus #COVID19 h

“If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about answers.”― Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow

 “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.

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

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

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

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What exactly happened in Wuhan? Virus origin hunter exposes genetic experiments in Wuhan with American support @TheWeekLive @TheSeeker268 [continued]


If we were going to theorise a ‘laboratory scenario’, what kind of data do we have? First of all, the location: Wuhan is not a spillover zone for SARS-like viruses (SL-CoV). 

The nearest phylogenetically-related bat coronaviruses are over 1,600km from Wuhan, and bats were hibernating around the time of the outbreak. 

The only place where bats are known to have been kept in the city of Wuhan was at the virology labs themselves.

In October 2013, Shi Zhengli published a scientific article in Nature in which she showed for the first time that it is possible for SARS-like viruses to jump directly from the bat to humans, without the need for an intermediate host.
Only after the sequence identity of RaTG13 with Ra4991 had been pointed out several times, did Shi and her team clarify it in November 2020. 

They also revealed two additional years of sampling of the mine, and the fact that they had fully sequenced the genome of RaTG13 in 2018.
What is also known is that none of the animals in the animal market were found to be positive for SARS-CoV-2. 

On the other hand, Wuhan is home to at least two institutes that research bat coronaviruses, collecting samples in the field and bringing them to Wuhan for research purposes. 

The obvious question seems to be this: is it a coincidence that a novel coronavirus appeared in the very city where two coronavirus research institutes are located? 

You don’t have to be a mathematician to say that the probability of such a coincidence is microscopically small. However, the oddities don’t end there.
To understand better why the lab leak theory is now attracting so much attention, we have to jump back in time a few years. 

Like an exciting suspense thriller—but real unfortunately—the trail leads us to cases of a mysterious illness that occurred in 2012, in Mojiang county, Yunnan province, China.


One of the mandates of the Wuhan Institute of Virology was to investigate potential sources of pandemic pathogens. 

Flashback to 2012, when six miners who were cleaning an abandoned mine in Tongguan, in Mojiang, fell sick with an unexplained form of pneumonia. Three of them died. 

The illness of these six miners sent alarm bells ringing among the Chinese authorities, who had gone through a brief SARS epidemic ten years before. 

Scientists from multiple virology labs, including WIV, China’s Center for Disease Control and labs from Beijing, were called in to investigate the mine. 

(For some reason, the Chinese government did not report the incident to the World Health Organization at that time. The cases didn’t even make it into the official China CDC statistics. Why?)

What followed, however, was years of intense bat sampling missions. Within a few years, scientists from WIV had collected samples from thousands of bats from the site. 

More than half of the samples tested positive for coronaviruses. Multiple other viruses were detected in bats, and one of them was Ra4991, whose RdRp sequence is almost identical to SARS-CoV-2 (98.9%). 

The research was led by Shi Zhengli, who published the results in 2016 in the journal Virologica Sinica. However, she did not mention the cases of sick miners.

The study was funded by three NIH grants and the funds were channelled through EcoHealth Alliance.

Shi Zhengli received the first of these grants in 2012 for Discovery, isolation, identification, distribution, genetic evolution, and pathogenicity of human pathogens carried by bats (Grant number 81290341). 

In 2013, just two months before Shi Zhengli sampled Ra4991 from the mine, she received another grant to Investigate Viral Pathogen Profiles in Some Natural Hosts and Vectors in China (Grant number 2013FY113500). 

In October the same year, Shi Zhengli published a scientific article in the journal Nature in which she showed for the first time that it is possible for SARS-like viruses to jump directly from the bat to humans, without the need for an intermediate host.

In 2014, one of Shi Zhengli’s students, Wang Ning, wrote an academic thesis, in which the virus carried by bats in the infamous mine was investigated. 

It noted: “It’s likely that the six miners were infected with the pathogen carried by bats.” 

In the same year, WIV received a renewal of funding from the NIH, specifically to work on the SARS-like viruses collected in South China—and to investigate the routes of infection to humans (Grant number R01AI110964).
In June 2019, Yu Ping, a student of Shi Zhengli, full genome sequenced Ra4991, and characterised an entirely new lineage of SARS-like CoVs comprising nine coronaviruses from the mine closely related to SARS-CoV-2.

Fast forward to January 2020, a month after the first known cases of Covid-19 were identified. This is when Shi Zhengli published a full genome sequence—from a library of unpublished sequences—of the closest match to SARS-CoV-2, namely RaTG13

She did so without specifying where it originated, or what triggered the sampling in that mine. Nor did she cite her own 2016 paper.

There was a rational reason to study the mine—SARS was a big deal in the early 2000s. And why wouldn’t China’s leading research centre for SARS-like coronaviruses study a site associated with six cases of SARS-like pneumonia? 

They had every motivation to look into these after the first SARS outbreak, which was traced to a cave near Kunming. Their goal? Hunting for prospective bat coronavirus candidates which could attack through the human ACE-2 receptor.


In early 2020, it took a few scientists and internet sleuths to correlate the sequence identity of RaTG13 with that of a short bat coronavirus fragment, Ra4991. 

The latter had been uploaded to the GenBank database in 2016, obtained from the same mine where six miners fell sick with the SARS-like illness. 

In May 2020 the connection between the Mojiang miners and WIV was finally established, with the unearthing of a master's thesis written by Dr Li Xu, one of the doctors of the Kunming Medical University.

The thesis described in detail the diagnosis, treatment and the probable cause of illness of the six miners. 

It summarised the cases to be “caused by SARS-like CoV or bat SARS-like coronavirus that has been isolated from the Chinese rufous horseshoe bat”. 

Symptoms were identical to what we now call Covid-19, including high fever, respiratory problems, cough, body pain, thromboembolism, hypoxia and organ failure. CT scans showed similar signs as many Covid-19 patients have today.

The next puzzle piece came from a 2016 PhD thesis written by Huang Canping, a student of Gao Fu, the current director of China CDC (who will play a prominent role, for various reasons, throughout the story). 

In addition to what was already known, this document clearly states that WIV had tested the four miners (two had died by then); and all four of them had tested positive for SARS-like antibodies. 

(However, in a 2020 interview with Scientific American, Shi Zhengli claimed that the miners died of a fungal infection, and that no coronavirus had been involved. Why?)

Only after the sequence identity of RaTG13 with Ra4991, and the connection to the unexplained pneumonia outbreak had been pointed out several times, did Shi Zhengli and her team clarify this—nine months later—in November 2020, within an addendum to their original article. 

In this addendum, her team also revealed two additional years of sampling of the mine, and the fact that they had fully sequenced the genome of RaTG13 in 2018.

It is remarkable, therefore, that despite these glaring discrepancies in the narrative of WIV, the media still seemed convinced of the narrative, consistently playing down even the possibility of a lab leak.
It is indicative that even a year and a half after the outbreak of the pandemic, no closer relative of SARS-CoV-2 has been found. So there are good reasons to investigate the mine for clues about the origin of the virus.

America’s top infectious disease expert, Anthony Fauci, has asked China to disclose all information —including medical records about the sick miners —noting, “It is entirely conceivable that the origin of SARS-CoV-2 was in that cave and either started spreading naturally or went through the lab.”

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What exactly happened in Wuhan? Virus origin hunter exposes genetic experiments in Wuhan with American support @TheSeeker268 [continued]


Since 2009, USAID has conducted a large-scale pilot project on identifying emerging pandemic threats, called PREDICT. 

They do this by collecting samples from virus habitats, sequencing their genomes, but also by manipulating them, in order to understand the mechanisms by which viruses can be transmitted from animal hosts to humans. 

The field research was largely organised by EcoHealth Alliance. In the next ten years of the PREDICT project, which ran up to September 2019, EcoHealth Alliance collaborated with WIV on the investigation and characterisation of a large number of bat coronaviruses throughout China. 

The research, in fact, allowed the identification of coronaviruses from the Mojiang mine.
In the freezers of this particular laboratory, it is estimated that there is one of the largest inventory of bat virus samples on the planet. (Over the past few years, WIV and its associates collected more than 15,000 bat samples from all over China, including at least 1,322 samples from the Mojiang mine.)


Since 2015, the WHO has been publishing a list of potential pathogens that could trigger a pandemic. 

The list, which is updated every year, includes Ebola, Marburg, Zika, Lassa fever, Congo-Crimean fever, SARS, MERS, Nipah and Rift Valley fever—deadly diseases for which there is no cure or effective vaccines. 

The WHO wanted to stimulate research for drugs and vaccines against them.
In 2018, for the first time, a certain 'Disease X' was added to the list, a disease still unknown.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology, in addition to having collaborations with EcoHealth Alliance, was one of the key sites of the Global Virome Project. 

In 2018, the representatives of the US embassy in China visited WIV, and sent official diplomatic cables to Washington.
In 2018, for the first time, a certain 'Disease X' was added to the list, a disease still unknown, but capable of causing the next pandemic. 

To combat this threat, in 2018, scientists launched the Global Virome Project (GVP), an international initiative promoted by USAID and funded by numerous agencies and governments. 

The project aimed to identify, map and catalogue roughly 1.6 million undiscovered viruses that reside in mammals and birds, and learn about the viruses that can potentially infect humans.

 Dennis Carroll, Peter Daszak, Jonna Mazet and Gao Fu were among the leading figures of the Global Virome Project.

The project had begun to take shape in 2016 in Bellagio, Italy, at a meeting organised by the University of California-Davis and USAID. 

In early 2017, they met again in Beijing to implement the associated China Virome Project. 

The cornerstones of the project were published in the journal Science in 2018, in which the authors affirmed: “Funding has been identified to support an initial administrative hub, and fieldwork is planned to begin in the first two countries, China and Thailand.” 

The authors also noted that “leaders in China and Thailand have begun developing national virome projects as part of the GVP, leveraging current research funding to include GVP sites”.

Since the fall of 2018, the China Virome Project has been working on the listing of all potential pandemic viruses in China. 

According to its promoter Gao Fu, “Scientists will collect virus samples from animals such as bats and rats for study using techniques like next generation sequencing” to identify the viruses, and “thoroughly study those that could pass to humans”. 

In addition, he said, “Ideally we can develop vaccines and a diagnosis for such viruses even before they cause human epidemics.

“EcoHealth Alliance is committed to the GVP... The hope is that we can learn everything to know about Disease X before it strikes,” Daszak explained. 

“We are about to start initial work in China... the project could also be attractive for pharmaceutical companies because it could allow them to anticipate viruses and target them more broadly.”

The Wuhan Institute of Virology, in addition to having collaborations with EcoHealth Alliance, was one of the key sites of the Global Virome Project. 

In 2018, representatives of the US embassy in China visited WIV and sent official diplomatic cables to Washington. 

According to them, “Institute officials expressed strong interest in the Global Virome Project (GVP), and said Chinese funding for the project would likely come from Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).” 

They further noted: “Other countries... are skeptical on whether China could remain transparent as a “gatekeeper” for this information.”

They also raised doubts about the observance of biosafety rules in Wuhan. “The new lab has a serious shortage of appropriately trained technicians and investigators,” warned the diplomats. 

In another US state department cable released by USRTK in May, the diplomats wrote, “Shi Zhengli... stated that CAS has already allocated funding for GVP-related research.”

In a semi-annual report published in 2019, it is stated: “PREDICT developed specific maps for... the China Virome Project and presented these... in high-level meetings with Chinese Government and US embassy leaders in Beijing... these analyses will form the basis for the design of specific work plans in both countries during the rollout of their virome projects in 2019-20.” 

These included bat colonies in South China including Yunnan.
(The latest PREDICT report, released in December 2020, is conspicuously silent on this project. Why?)

In May 2019, Weifeng Shi, a researcher from Shandong First Medical University, posted a job listing mentioning the “China Virome Project and novel pathogen discovery”. That’s the last we heard of the project. 

(Curiously, this group of scientists would later publish some of the close known relatives of SARS-CoV-2: RpYN06 and RmYN02.)

On May 2020, just after the pandemic spread, Peter Daszak gave an interview, in which he revealed exactly what they had in plan: 

“We found the closest relative to the current SARS-CoV-2 in a bat in China in 2013. 

We sequenced a bit of the genome, and then it went in the freezer; because it didn’t look like SARS, we thought it was at a lower risk of emerging. 

With the Global Virome Project, we could have sequenced the whole genome, discovered that it binds to human cells and upgraded the risk. 

And maybe then when we were designing vaccines for SARS, those could have targeted this one too, and we would have had something in the freezer ready to go if it emerged.” 

It couldn't be clearer—but there’s a problem: contrary to Daszak’s claim, RaTG13 wasn’t forgotten in the freezer. WIV had actually characterised the whole genome of RaTG13 in 2018.

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However, after sequencing the full genome for RaTG13 the lab’s sample of the virus disintegrated, he said. “I think they tried to culture it but they were unable to, so that sample, I think, has gone.”

According to Daszak, the mine sample had been stored in Wuhan for six years. Its scientists “went back to that sample in 2020, in early January or maybe even at the end of last year, I don’t know. They tried to get full genome sequencing, which is important to find out the whole diversity of the viral genome.”
However, after sequencing the full genome for RaTG13 the lab’s sample of the virus disintegrated, he said. “I think they tried to culture it but they were unable to, so that sample, I think, has gone.”

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What exactly happened in Wuhan? Virus origin hunter exposes genetic experiments in Wuhan with American support @TheSeeker268 [conti]

The CAS “Special Project”

In the fall of 2018, Chinese Academy of Sciences approved a “Special Project” titled, “Pathogen Host Adaptation and Immune Intervention”. The project was led by Gao Fu. 

The project description states, among other things, “Clarify the source and transmission mechanism of the pathogens of emerging and sudden infectious diseases such as influenza and SARS... provide a theoretical basis for vaccine development and clinical treatment...”
On September 1, 2019, just before the pandemic spread, a summary meeting of the CAS “Special Project” was held. 

The five research teams reported on their achievements and and key scientific issues of the future. This is where the trail fades. The project vanished into thin air, like, no trace at all.
In a 2017 doctoral thesis Reverse Genetic System of Bat SARS-like Coronaviruses and Function of ORFX, the Wuhan Institute of Virology pioneered the technique of creating chimeric coronaviruses “without leaving any trace sequences (e.g. incorporated enzymatic sites) in the recombinant viral genome”.
The “Special Project” was divided into five subprojects, and Shi Zhengli was the person in charge for 

Project 1: Research on virus traceability, cross-species transmission, and pathogenic mechanism

A paragraph in the project description reads: “For patients with unexplained disease… conduct unknown pathogen detection and pathogen group research to explore and identify pathogens with potential risks of infecting humans and animals... study their ability to invade different host cells and their ability to replicate in different host cells, analyze the key molecules affecting their cross-species infections... Develop new vaccines and… focus on... realizing the industrialisation of 1-2 application results.” Imagine that—industrialising such results.


There are various ways in which the SARS-CoV-2 virus might have developed into a form that could first gain the potential to infect humans, and then reach the point of efficiently adapting to the new human host. 

Such gain of function, in principle, can arise through natural recombinations, but another pathway is via human intervention, in the form of artificial manipulation of the genome.
In this respect, it is important to note the type of experiments that were carried out in Wuhan. 

In a 2017 doctoral thesis, Reverse Genetic System of Bat SARS-like Coronaviruses and Function of ORFX, the Wuhan Institute of Virology pioneered the technique of creating chimeric coronaviruses “without leaving any trace sequences (e.g. incorporated enzymatic sites) in the recombinant viral genome”. 

In other words, they leave no signs of manipulation.
The paper details the methodology and, in passing, it notes, “determining in the laboratory whether recombination occurs after co-infection with different SL-CoV strains and what new strains may arise from recombination is beneficial for studying the evolutionary pattern of SL-CoV and providing a basis for preventing possible future outbreaks of SARS-like diseases.”
The study, in which the experiments were conspicuously done in BSL-2 labs, culminates by looking forward to newly emerging methods: “yeast recombination or in vitro recombination… applied to the reverse genetics of coronaviruses could develop a more efficient and economical method... for the development of antiviral drugs, for basic virology research, etc.”
This begs the question, what has happened, in the meantime, to this fundamental line of research? 

Did WIV expand and build on this technique? 

The doctoral thesis does not prove that it did, yet does provide a strong indicator that manipulations may indeed have been carried out… without leaving a trace.


As already mentioned, WIV was working on SARS-like coronaviruses, with state grants from the USA and China. 

Since 2018, the laboratory has been involved in (at least) four more key research projects:

1. Study on the evolutionary mechanism of bat SARS-like coronavirus adapted to host receptor molecules and the risk of cross-species infection (Project number 31770175). In other words, it investigated the evolution of SARS-like viruses and studied its potential to cross the species barrier.
2) Pathogenicity of two new bat SARS-related coronaviruses to transgenic mice expressing human ACE-2 (Project number 31800142). This project tested “two new SARS-like coronaviruses” by infecting humanised mice to assess their spillover potential to humans.
3) Genetic evolution and transmission mechanism of important bat-borne viruses (Project number XDB29010101). This project examined the type of changes in the genome required for different bat viruses to be able to make the leap over to other mammals—and also infect humans.
From the 2018 project abstract itself, we know that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was “experimentally using reverse genetics, pseudovirus and receptor binding assays, and virus infection experiments across a range of cell cultures from different species and humanized mice.”
It only took a few months to find the intermediate host for SARS and MERS. Perhaps scientists haven't found an intermediate host for SARS-Cov-2 because one doesn't exist, or that it's a laboratory animal, or perhaps even a transgenic animal model using human ACE2 receptor.

4) Understanding the Risk of Bat Coronavirus Emergence (Project number R01AI110964-05 and -06). 

From the 2018 project abstract itself, we know that WIV was “experimentally using reverse genetics, pseudovirus and receptor binding assays, and virus infection experiments across a range of cell cultures from different species and humanized mice.” 

The 2019 contract stipulates: “We will fully characterise natural SARSr-CoV diversity in southern China. We will sequence receptor binding domains (spike proteins) to identify viruses with the highest potential for spillover which we will include in our experimental investigations... We will use S protein sequence data, infectious clone technology, in vitro and in vivo infection experiments and analysis of receptor binding to test the hypothesis that % divergence thresholds in S protein sequences predict spillover potential.”

After the outbreak of the pandemic, the NIH withdrew the funding for the project. 

In emails to EcoHealth Alliance, Michael Lauer, the NIH's deputy director for extramural research, suggested that the Wuhan lab had “not satisfied safety requirements under the award”. 

To address the NIH’s concerns, he asked EcoHealth Alliance to “explain why WIV failed to note that the RaTG13 virus, the bat-derived coronavirus in its collection with the greatest similarity to SARS-CoV-2, was actually isolated from an abandoned mine where three men died in 2012 with an illness remarkably similar to COVID-19, and explain why this was not followed up.” 

In another email, Lauer wrote to Daszak: “We need to know all sites in China that have been in any way linked to this award.”

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What exactly happened in Wuhan? Virus origin hunter exposes genetic experiments in Wuhan with American support @TheSeeker268 - further

You wonder what kind of experiments were carried out in the intervening period regarding these projects. What did they achieve? And what (if there are any) relationship could such research have to do with the Covid-19 pandemic? 

These questions may never be answered, but the facts demonstrate a lot: in the run-up to the Covid-19 pandemic, WIV continued to perform the kind of research which had long been extremely controversial among virologists.

The research was cutting edge, but it also meant that such research carried a potential-risk of a pathogen escape.

We can summarise the landscape with the following panorama:

* Covid-19 was detected in the same city as China's leading research centre for SARS-like coronavirus.
* There were no bats or pangolins for sale at the time of the outbreak. As for wild bats, just a year before the pandemic outbreak, the lab under scrutiny obtained a patent for cages for "breeding bats in artificial conditions."
* It only took a few months to find the intermediate host for SARS and MERS, but despite advances in disease surveillance and tracing since then, we were one year and six months too late for SARS-CoV-2. 

(Perhaps scientists haven't found an intermediate host because one doesn't exist, or it's a laboratory animal, or perhaps even a transgenic animal model using human ACE-2 receptor.)
* WIV had gathered a huge collection of samples from a mine linked to SARS-like cases. Starting 2018, the institute was running potentially dangerous experiments designed to test the infectivity of SARS-like viruses, and their transmission between species.
*  The lab has been reluctant to provide information on the viruses it has been working on. WIV's virus databases, which contained data on more than 22,000 viruses, have been taken offline by Chinese authorities. 

Critical data such as case histories of the first cases, wastewater samples and blood samples were also withheld. Nor have they shared raw data, log books or laboratory records on its extensive work on SARS-like coronaviruses.
*  Most of the coronavirus research was done in BSL-2 or BSL-3 laboratories, i.e., less than ideal safety conditions. Two years before the outbreak of the pandemic, major safety issues were documented within the facility.
*  Scientists had been warning us of a potential pandemic induced by human error, and that the need for, and safety of, this research should be under serious scrutiny.
* Once Chinese authorities learned of the outbreak, they failed to correctly communicate the seriousness of the situation, and this stalled the entire world’s ability to respond effectively or to contain the epidemic.
* Major media outlets and scientific journals dedicated themselves to repeating and reinforcing the same positioning evident in the letters in The Lancet and Nature Medicine. For a time these letters seemed to effectively close the debate.
* The WHO was not able to investigate the theory of lab leak. It had to rely on the information provided to it by Chinese scientists who were under the control of the state, and who did not make any raw data available. 

WHO team members also appear to have taken assurances from lab workers at face value, and then recommended little in the way of follow-up action investigation—

in short, a seeming absence of the search for the truth. Even the WHO director was unsatisfied with the insufficient effort given to the lab leak theory, and has called for a more detailed investigation to be done.
* All studies on the origin of the virus were, and are, subject to special review by the Chinese ministry and must be officially approved in order to be published.
All in all, there is a significant link in the chain of evidence yet to be investigated. This includes evidence of obfuscations, omissions and inconsistencies in the data provided by WIV. 

For the record, none of this is to say that there is a definitive evidence of a lab leak, but these phenomena cannot be ignored or overlooked when trying to ascertain exactly what did happen. 

It also means that obsessively asserting the impossibility of a virus emerging from a laboratory —as the scientific and media establishment did throughout 2020—does not meet the most basic standards of journalistic or scientific inquiry.
Considering the known circumstances, and the timing and the type of research they were engaged in, the question whether the pandemic arose because of gross human mishandling of a virus, which then assumed Dantesque proportions, is a valid question to ask. It is also time to demand answers.

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.@RahulGandhi was mocked for saying this. @SriniSivabalan @srinivasiyc


What if this is a Harbinger for later in the Year? 

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Nations w/ high COVID avg 2wk case/day increase @jmlukens

Cyprus: 455%
Mozambique: 447%
Burma: 356%
Rwanda: 198%
UK: 150%
Bangladesh: 135%
Indonesia: 132%
Tunisia: 125%
Kyrgyzstan: 102%
Portugal: 96%

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Nations w/ fastest avg #COVID19 growth rate (daily/total) @jmlukens

Fiji: 8.02%
Liberia: 4.28%
Vietnam: 3.20%
Rwanda: 2.21%
Thailand: 1.97%
Namibia: 1.93%
Cambodia: 1.84%
Mongolia: 1.67%
Zambia: 1.65%

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“The UK is in an absolutely unique position,” says Mark Woolhouse, Prof of infectious disease at ⁦@EdinburghUni We have the biggest Delta outbreak in a well-vaccinated country. We are a petri dish for the world.” @BasuAshis

Through a combination of history, biology, mathematics and politics, the country stands alone in pitting an advanced vaccination programme against a substantial wave of Covid driven almost entirely by the fast-spreading Delta variant.
Nowhere in the world is the race between vaccination and virus more keenly watched than here.

“The UK is in an absolutely unique position,” says Mark Woolhouse, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh. 

“We have the biggest Delta outbreak in a well-vaccinated country. We are a petri dish for the world.”

Perhaps the most crucial question is this: can vaccination break the link between Delta variant infection and hospitalisation, or between infection and death?
The concept of breaking the link entirely makes more sense in epidemiology textbooks than in the real world.

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This ongoing adaptive diversification could substantially prolong the pandemic and the vaccination campaign, in which variant-specific vaccines are likely to be required. PNAS

Everything now pivots on Vaccine Efficacy and I for one don't think we can be as confident as some Vaccinologists would want us to be 

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Currency Markets at a Glance WSJ
World Currencies

Euro 1.18531

Dollar Index 92.335

Japan Yen 111.13

Swiss Franc 0.92222

Pound 1.3821

Aussie 0.7512

India Rupee 74.5915

South Korea Won 1131.53

Brazil Real 5.0605

Egypt Pound 15.6671

South Africa Rand 14.263

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Delta Variant Creates Emerging Markets Gap as Outperformers Hit @markets
Emerging Markets

A handful of emerging-market currencies have held onto gains versus the dollar this year. That list may shrink in the coming weeks as the highly contagious delta variant forms a new fault line for developing nations.

Countries that are lagging in vaccination rates -- such as South Africa and Russia -- may feel the pressure as they tighten restrictions that will hurt economic activity, according to Credit Agricole CIB. 

Once the best performers of 2021, the rand and ruble were among those that knocked an index of emerging-market currencies lower in June for the first time in three months.
“Achievements in terms of vaccination will increasingly be a differentiation factor among emerging markets in the second half,” said Sebastien Barbe, head of emerging-market strategy at Credit Agricole. 

“The impact of the further spread of the virus variants will vary significantly depending on vaccination rates,” as well as economic and political factors, he added.

Both the South African rand and Colombian peso are feeling the pain from a spike in Covid-19 cases, which is keeping expectations for tighter monetary policy at bay. 

It’s also wreaking havoc on their economies: tighter restrictions are pressuring a South African economy that’s reeling from its worst contraction in a century, while Colombia’s decision to shelve a plan to raise taxes earned it a rating cut to junk from Fitch Ratings.

The currencies of South Africa and Colombia are the most vulnerable as their central banks aren’t hiking rates “to build up a real rate cushion” against the U.S., according to Ed Al-Hussainy, a senior interest-rate and currency analyst at Columbia Threadneedle Investments in New York. 

Adding to the pressure: the prospect of higher fiscal spending and risk of outflows after yield-hungry global investors flocked to the nations’ assets this year, he said.
In comparison, the Brazilian real and Mexican peso will be more resilient as their central banks tighten policy, he said. 

The real has outpaced all of its developing peers this year, even as Covid-19 cases remain at record highs.
The spread of the delta strain is also taking its toll on Southeast Asia. MUFG Bank Ltd. expects sluggish tourism revenue to weigh on Thailand’s baht. 

Meantime, Indonesia’s rupiah fell to its weakest since April as the country imposed the strictest curbs yet on the economic centers of Java and Bali.
Deepening Divisions
Only a few developing nations -- Chile, China, Israel, the UAE and the Central Eastern European countries -- have inoculated close to half of their populations, the level seen as needed to curb the spread of the delta variant, 

Bank of America Corp. said in a report Friday. Most major emerging markets should get there by year-end, including Brazil, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia and Turkey, said David Hauner, head of cross-asset strategy at BofA.
South Africa is the outlier, he said, with only about 5% of its population vaccinated. At the current rate, it would take until 2023 for the nation to reach 50%. In Colombia, only 11% of the population is fully vaccinated -- a lower proportion than in Chile, Mexico and Brazil.
Economic data bears out the division: purchasing managers’ indexes in Russia and South Africa, along with those in Asian nations with relatively low vaccination rates, fell in June. 

Those in Eastern Europe and Latin America, where inoculation programs are more advanced, mostly rose.

That may increase pressure on developing-nation central banks to remain accommodative, another negative for currencies as the Federal Reserve starts discussing the withdrawal of stimulus. 

And it could deepen the divide between emerging and developed markets. 

That’s already showing: a Bloomberg index of developed-market stocks has beaten its emerging-market counterpart by a factor of almost two since the start of the second quarter.

Even more industrialized nations, such as the U.K., are struggling to contain the virus, despite relatively tight restrictions and vaccine progress. 

So the latest surge in infections across many developing economies -- in many cases not yet driven by the new strain -- suggests that “outcomes could be far worse now,” Deutsche Bank AG said in a report.
“We are watching the resurgence of infection numbers closely,” said Witold Bahrke, a Copenhagen-based senior macro strategist at Nordea Investment. 

“It is one of the factors that leads us being underweight EM currencies, especially due to its potential impact on the EM-DM growth differential.”

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Africa Faces Worst Week of Pandemic as Delta Variant Spreads

Coronavirus cases in Africa are rising so quickly that the continent will soon face its worst week since the start of the pandemic, with the more infectious delta variant of the disease becoming more widespread.

Almost 202,000 new cases of the illness were reported in the past week, and infections are doubling every three weeks, World Health Organization Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti said in an online briefing Thursday

“The speed and scale of Africa’s third wave is like nothing we’ve seen before,” Moeti said. “The continent is on the verge of exceeding its worst week ever in this pandemic.”
Fourteen African nations are facing a resurgence of the virus, 12 of which have detected “variants of concern,” including nine with the delta strain, she said.

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South Africa winter COVID wave rapidly expanding with record 26,485 new COVID cases yesterday. @jmlukens

One week average 18,921 cases/day up 87% past 2wks.  Average deaths per day up 96% past 2wks to 247/day

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COVID mortality rate can be used as possible calibration point. However, much of rest of Africa is too high or too low. I imagine both cases and deaths are underepresented in most nations. @jmlukens

COVID mortality rate can be used as possible calibration point.  South Africa and Tunisia showing comparible mortality rates to many western nations.  However, much of rest of Africa is too high or too low. I imagine both cases and deaths are underepresented in most nations.

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Protests against the king of Eswatini, Africa’s last absolute monarch, turned violent @thecontinent_
Law & Politics

Government later released a statement that the king had not fled the country. But by now the king should have addressed the country to prove that he is here. 

Instead, we saw his first-born daughter [Princess Sikhanyiso Dlamini] addressing the country, which raises questions.

The protests are somewhat chaotic now. We are seeing the burning of government properties, and properties of companies associated with the king. 

The king holds shares in big companies in Eswatini, so protesters seem to be targeting those properties. 

The protest manifested after three pro-democracy members of parliament advocated in parliament that this country should be ruled by a democratic government. 

These MPs asked the government to at least elect their own prime minister [currently, the prime minister is appointed by the king].

After those submissions in parliament, citizens in other constituencies started delivering petitions around the country, urging other MPs to discuss these issues in parliament. 

After seeing that the momentum was growing, parliament banned the delivery of petitions. In so doing they were seen to be banning freedom of expression, and that then manifested into chaos.

What is happening right now, we have about 80% of the population living below the poverty line. In the midst of that unfortunate situation, the king is seen to be living an extravagant lifestyle. 

the emergence of independent online media, it is becoming impossible for the government to censor information

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Turning to Africa

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 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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African countries issued $11.8 billion worth of eurobonds in the first half of 2021. @emsovdebt

1.   African countries issued $11.8 billion worth of eurobonds in the first half of 2021.
2. There are currently 20 African sovereigns in the eurobond market, with $136 billion worth of eurobonds being traded (up from $100 billion, 2 years ago).
3.   Where debt problems exist, they are often linked to an inability to invest the proceeds of borrowing well. 

This compares to total emerging market sovereign issuance of $109 billion between January and June 2021. 

·        Emerging Africa issuance (January-June 2021): Egypt $3.75 billion (multiple bonds with the 10-year portion at 5.875%)
·        Frontier Africa issuance (January-June 2021): Kenya ($1 billion, 12.5 year at 6.3%); Ghana ($3 billion, multiple bonds with the 13-year portion at 8.625%); Benin (€1 billion, 11-year at 4.875%); Senegal (€0.8 billion, 16-year at 5.375%); and Cameroon (€0.7 billion, 11-year at 5.95%).
·        Not all the borrowing is ‘is new debt’ because a proportion of the proceeds from bond sales is being used increasingly to refinance past debts. This active debt management is sensible, either to moderate repayment risk, or because the new debt costs less to borrow than the old debt. For example, in recent months Benin, Senegal and Cameroon directly tendered eurobonds coming due in the next few years, by issuing longer-dated bonds.
·        In April 2021, Ghana issued an innovative a zero coupon eurobond that matures in July 2025. The bond was issued at 78 US cents per dollar of debt to attract investors. The idea being that debt service obligations between now and 2025 were lower versus issuing a more standard coupon paying eurobond. The Ghanaian government pledged to use some of the bond proceeds to repay some domestic currency debt.
·        Senegal said the net proceeds from their June issuance would be used to fund youth employment programmes.
·        Cameroon’s debut bond, issued in US$ in 2015, was worth $750 million, but a June 2021 tender reduced it to $154 million (that will be repaid over 2023-25 as per the repayment schedule). The new eurobond was issued in Euro. So that currency hedging was no longer required, as Cameroon uses a regional currency pegged to the Euro.
·       Meanwhile Nigeria repaid a $500 million eurobond in January, and Senegal repaid a $500 million eurobond in May on the day they were scheduled to mature. 

Headline 2: There are currently 20 African sovereigns in the eurobond market, with $136 billion worth of eurobonds being traded (up from $100 billion, 2 years ago).

·        Emerging economies including Egypt, South Africa and Nigeria dominate the top five of African eurobond issuers. Alongside are the frontier heavy-weights of Ghana (also with over $10 billion outstanding) and Ivory Coast.
·        Relative to the size of their economies the biggest eurobond stocks have been issued by Ghana, Zambia, Senegal, Gabon and Ivory Coast.  
·        Since 2003 African countries have issued $162 billion of sovereign eurobonds. Of that amount $16.5 billion has been repaid at maturity. $11.8 billion has been tendered and bought back as countries have worked to reduce repayment risks. And $0.8 billion has been restructured into new bonds (largely linked to Mozambique’s default in 2017, but also to Seychelles’ in 2008).
·        This current stock of African sovereign eurobonds is $136 billion outstanding (mostly in US$, but 16% is in Euro), of which 98% is being serviced. Leaving 2% in default (that is all of Zambia’s $3 billion eurobond issuance that the country stopped servicing from October 2020).
·        The overall stock has grown by $36 billion since April 2021 when it reached $100 billion for the first time. The biggest issuer in the period since 2019 has been Egypt (with $18.4 billion, or 35% of the total). Meanwhile South Africa and Nigeria have reduced their issuance (by opting for condition free IMF money in 2020 and domestic currency borrowing).

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The monetary policy committee hiked the rate to 20% from 15.5%, Governor Jose de Lima Massano told reporters Friday in Luanda.

The meeting that was originally due to take place on July 29 was moved forward because of the recent “evolution of the main indicators, especially inflation,” said Massano. The rise in the rate was aimed at tempering the trajectory of price growth, he said.
“The spread between inflation and the interest rate has been growing wider since the beginning of year,” the governor said. 

“Current data indicates additional inflationary pressures, which may put at risk the central bank’s inflation target of 19.5% for the end of the year.”

The national inflation rate, while still high at 24.9%, has come down from December. The rate was at more than 40% late in 2016 and dropped below 20% in 2018, until the currency started weakening.

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Central rule in #Ethiopia is withering, as #TDF has regained controll in #Tigray, & now #OLF / #OFC rejects #election, calling #PP gov illegitimate & establishes a #TransitionalGov in #Oromia @KjetilTronvoll

Central rule in #Ethiopia is withering, as #TDF has regained controll in #Tigray, & now #OLF / #OFC rejects #election, calling #PP gov illegitimate & establishes a #TransitionalGov in #Oromia. This may galvanize z #Oromo insurgency, remobilising #Qeerroo.

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Abiy Ahmed, the Nobel peace laureate at war @FT @davidpilling

Few leaders have seen their reputation fall so far and so fast as Abiy Ahmed

Two years ago, Ethiopia’s prime minister was being feted as a peacemaker and reformer. 

At the age of 43, he won the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize for emptying his country’s jails of political prisoners, making peace with opposition groups and ending a state of war with neighbouring Eritrea.
That was then. Now Abiy stands accused of pursuing a conflict in Ethiopia’s northern region of Tigray that has unleashed a horror of rape, massacres and ethnic cleansing. 

After months of fighting, the spectre of famine hangs over Tigray in a country where two decades of impressive economic development had appeared to banish the threat of starvation.
Washington, which until recently had embraced Abiy as a moderniser, has dropped him like a stone. 

It denounced the war in Tigray — which Abiy branded as a “law and order operation” against a “criminal clique” — and imposed sanctions. 

After eight months of fighting, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front this week marched back into Mekelle, the provincial capital, marking a devastating military reversal in a war that Abiy had vowed would be over in weeks.
It is a momentous journey for a man born in a small town in Oromia, a former independent state far from the centre of Ethiopian power. 

His father was an Oromo farmer and a Muslim. Abiy was his 13th child by his fourth wife. 

The Oromo, who make up roughly 35 per cent of Ethiopia’s 117m people, had long felt marginalised, having been colonised at the end of the 19th century by Emperor Menelik II. 

Yet as a child his mother had told him that, despite his humble beginnings, one day he would be “a king of Ethiopia”.
Gifted at school and speaking both Afaan Oromo and Amharic, Abiy fought as a child soldier in the last stages of the guerrilla uprising to overthrow Ethiopia’s Soviet-backed Derg regime. 

Tigrayan fighters led the rebellion and Abiy added Tigrinya to his linguistic armoury. He also spoke English and later earned a masters degree in “transformational leadership” from London’s Greenwich University.
After the Derg fell in 1991, Abiy worked in intelligence and communications, becoming a senior figure in the feared security apparatus.
The TPLF dominated power for the next 27 years as the leading member of the four-party Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front. 

Though it oversaw rapid development, it ran a police state. For many Ethiopians it was intolerable that Tigrayans, who make up about 6 per cent of the population, should wield so much power. 

Tensions boiled over in 2018 after years of protests in which thousands were killed.
The ruling EPRDF looked for a new leader. It alighted on Abiy, by now a parliamentarian, who as an Oromo could perhaps help cool ethnic tensions. 

Initially, Abiy did not disappoint. Speeches in which he admitted to the regime’s use of torture electrified the country. 

After meeting Isaias Afwerki, the Eritrean dictator, he concluded a lightning peace that set off scenes of jubilation as long-separated families reunited.
Yet even at the height of “Abiymania”, some warned of character flaws

One acquaintance said that, ever since his mother’s prophecy, Abiy had possessed a messianic quality. 

A devout Pentecostalist, he consulted God but rarely heeded earthly counsel. 

He prized his physical strength, boasting of having seen off an attempted coup by impressing soldiers with his press-ups.
In an interview with the FT in 2019, there were hints he was intoxicated with power. 

Showing off his slick office refurbishment, he said he had transformed it from “hell to paradise”, promising to do the same for Ethiopia. If he achieved that, he said, “whether I like it or not, you will magnify my name”.
Things began to deteriorate when ethnic rivalries, long suppressed by the EPRDF, erupted, displacing 2m people. 

In Abiy’s home region of Oromia there was a backlash. 

“Many Oromo feel he has a nostalgia for the imperial days,” said Merera Gudina, chairman of an Oromo opposition party, citing Abiy’s praise of Menelik II and Emperor Haile Selassie.
Meanwhile, a battle was brewing with the TPLF. Abiy purged Tigrayans and targeted Tigrayan-dominated state enterprises accused of rank corruption. 

Last year, he postponed parliamentary elections, citing Covid, and branded the poll that went ahead in Tigray as illegal.
Abiy started calling the TPLF “hyenas”. Last November, he ordered troops into Tigray after the TPLF attacked a federal army base. 

Though he initially denied it, soldiers from Eritrea, Ethiopia’s old enemy, also crossed the border along with Amhara militia, committing some of the war’s worst atrocities. 

Abiy lashed out at foreigners who condemned the war, saying they failed to understand that the TPLF had fanned the flames of ethnic hatred and needed to be stopped.

As war dragged on, Abiy looked increasingly isolated, though his Prosperity party is likely to win parliamentary elections as results trickle in after voting last month. 

Abiy’s war in Tigray is popular among some Ethiopians, who blame the TPLF for years of repression. Many opposition leaders are back in jail.
“War makes for bitter men. Heartless and savage men,” Abiy said in his Nobel prize lecture. 

This week, as the TPLF moved on Mekelle and international alarm grew about the situation in Tigray, he declared a ceasefire. 

For the man who won the Nobel Prize only to go to war, it is far from clear what comes next

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November 8, 2020 @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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Next Africa: Tigray Loss Is Just Start of Abiy’s Headache @business Antony Sguazzin

When Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops into the northern province of Tigray, he thought he could reassert control over the restive region and tighten his grip on Africa’s second-most populous country.

That gamble has backfired.
Eight months later, Tigrayan forces have regained control of the provincial capital and a cease-fire declared by Abiy has yet to be recognized. 

Thousands are dead and hundreds of thousands more face a famine the conflict has exacerbated.
The months ahead look no easier. Troops from neighboring Eritrea are on Tigrayan soil and have been accused of human-rights abuses, and Sudan has taken the opportunity to seize territory in the northwest. 

There’s also an increasing chance of bloody inter-ethnic conflict between the Tigrayans and Abiy’s allies from the Amhara region.
At the same time, the prime minister is under pressure from western allies to resolve a long-running dispute with Egypt and Sudan over plans to fill a massive dam that could limit the flow of the Nile.
It has been a chastening three years in charge for the 44-year-old, who was initially feted globally as a reformer and even won a Nobel Peace Prize for ending a two-decade conflict with Eritrea.

The de facto defeat in Tigray comes as Abiy awaits results of an election he is predicted to win comfortably. 

That should have given him the electoral mandate he needs to push ahead with plans to transform Ethiopia’s economy and society.
That dream lies in tatters.

He now leads a nation that seethes with ethnic tension and is at odds with nearby states, and a potential break up of the country cannot be ruled out.

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February 1st 2021 ‘The genie out of the bottle’ @AfricanBizMag

It’s impossible for the state to manage a guerrilla war up there and at the same time manage to control the rest of the country.

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‘I Didn’t Expect to Make It Back Alive’: An Interview With Tigray’s Leader @nytimes @declanwalsh

GIJET, Ethiopia — The convoy sped down from the mountain, slipping and sliding on roads greasy from a recent shower of hailstones. 

As it descended toward the regional capital of Tigray, curling through rocky hills and remote hamlets, people clustered along the route in celebration.

Women stood ululating outside stone farmhouses, and fighters perched atop a ridge fired their weapons into the air as the vehicles curled around the detritus of battle: burned-out tanks, overturned trucks and a mucky field where on June 23 an Ethiopian military cargo plane, shot down by the Tigrayans, had smashed into the ground.
The leader of Tigray, Debretsion Gebremichael, was going home.
Two days earlier, his scrappy guerrilla force had retaken the regional capital, Mekelle, hours after Ethiopian troops suddenly abandoned the city. 

Now Mr. Debretsion, a former deputy prime minister of Ethiopia, was leaving the mountains where he had been ensconced for eight months leading a war to re-establish his rule over the region.
“I didn’t expect to make it back alive,” Mr. Debretsion said on Thursday night in an interview, his first since the fall of Mekelle. 

“But this isn’t personal. The most important thing is that my people are free — free from the invaders. They were living in hell, and now they can breathe again.”

The Tigrayan leader offered a rebel-side account of the conflict that has plunged Ethiopia into chaos since Nov. 4, when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered a military operation there. 

The civil war has led to the displacement of nearly two million people, and to widespread hunger and reports that civilians were subjected to atrocities and sexual violence.

Mr. Debretsion, who is believed to be in his late 50s, claimed to have crippled Ethiopia’s powerful army, defeating seven of its 12 divisions and killing at least 18,000 soldiers. 

He also detailed plans to expand the war across Tigray, in defiance of international calls for a cease-fire, until his fighters have expelled from the region every outside force, including Eritrean soldiers and ethnic Amhara militias.
“They have taken the land by force,” Mr. Debretsion said. “So we will take it back by force.”

When we arrived for the interview, on a stormy late afternoon, to a fortresslike house in Mekelle, Mr. Debretsion was working on a laptop in a nearly dark upstairs bedroom. The government had cut the power to the city and shut down its phone network.

Barely visible in the gloom, Mr. Debretsion apologized for the circumstances. Tigray was “under siege,” he said, criticizing Mr. Abiy — a onetime political ally — as an impetuous and inexperienced leader who had overreached.

“This is a complex country, very messy,” Mr. Debretsion said. “Abiy had no experience, no maturity. But because of his ambition to be king or ruler of Ethiopia, he viewed us as obstacles in his way.”

Billene Seyoum, a spokeswoman for Mr. Abiy, did not respond to requests for comment.
On Friday, the Tigray Defense Forces mounted a spectacle that seemed intended to humiliate Ethiopia’s leader. 

The fighters marched at least 6,000 Ethiopian prisoners of war through downtown Mekelle past residents chanting, “Abiy is a thief!” A woman holding a large photograph of Mr. Debretsion led the procession.
The Tigrayan leader fought his first war in the 1980s as the head of a guerrilla radio station for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, a rebel group leading the resistance against a brutal Marxist dictatorship in Ethiopia.
The rebels swept to power in 1991, with the Tigrayan leadership at the head of a governing coalition that dominated Ethiopia for nearly three decades until Mr. Abiy became prime minister in 2018.
In power, the Tigrayan leadership stabilized Ethiopia and achieved soaring economic growth for nearly a decade. But progress came at the cost of basic civil rights. 

Critics were imprisoned or exiled, torture was commonplace in detention centers and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front won successive elections with a reported 100 percent of the vote.
By then, Mr. Debretsion had a reputation as a low-key technocrat. He served as communications minister and headed Ethiopia’s power utility, where he oversaw construction of a $4.5 million hydroelectric dam that, when completed, will be Africa’s largest.
But as popular protests against the Tigrayan leadership’s rule roiled Ethiopia from 2015, and as the police killed hundreds of protesters, Mr. Debretsion rose in prominence inside the party. 

Analysts say he was seen as a younger and more moderate figure than those steeped in Tigrayan nationalism who had dominated the party for decades.
The eruption of war changed everything.
Mr. Abiy said he had no choice but to launch military action, after months of escalating political tensions, when Tigrayan forces attacked a military base on Nov. 4.
Mr. Debretsion challenged that account, saying that Ethiopian troops had been massing on Tigray’s borders for days in preparation for an assault

He had advance knowledge of those plans, Mr. Debretsion said, because ethnic Tigrayans accounted for more than 40 percent of senior Ethiopian military officers, and many defected in the early days of the fight.
At first, Tigrayan forces were caught off guard by a barrage of drone strikes against artillery and supply lines that he said were conducted by the United Arab Emirates, an ally of both Mr. Abiy and the leader of Eritrea, Isaias Afwerki.
An Emirates spokesman did not respond to questions about the alleged drone strikes. Mr. Debretsion said they had changed the course of the war.
“Without the drones,” he said, “the fight would have been different.”

The Tigrayans, buoyed by a huge influx of new recruits, mounted their dramatic comeback just before Ethiopia’s election on June 21.

With the vote canceled in Tigray, Ethiopian forces attacked the T.D.F. at its stronghold in the Tembien mountains, west of Mekelle. 

The Tigrayans struck back hard, and within days several Ethiopian bases had been overrun and thousands of Ethiopian soldiers were captured.

Mr. Debretsion said he would free most of the Ethiopian prisoners who were marched through Mekelle on Friday, but would continue to detain the Ethiopian officers.
He called on the international community to ensure accountability for the spree of atrocities reportedly committed in Tigray in recent months — massacres, rape, the use of starvation as a weapon of war. 

Some Tigrayans had also been accused of atrocities during the conflict. But Mr. Debretsion rejected a United Nations-led investigation that is being conducted alongside a rights body linked to the Ethiopian government.
“It’s very clear they are partial,” he said.
He warned that if Mr. Abiy tried to mass forces in regions bordering Tigray again, he would quickly send fighters to intercept them.
In recent days, some Tigrayan leaders have suggested that troops could march on Asmara, Eritrea’s capital, to oust Mr. Afwerki, who harbors a decades-old enmity with them.
Mr. Debretsion sounded a more cautious note. Tigrayan troops would fight to push Eritrean troops over the border, he said, but not necessarily go farther.

“We have to be realistic,” Mr. Debretsion said. “Yes, we would like to remove Isaias. But at the end of the day, Eritreans have to remove him.”

The euphoric mood that gripped Mekelle this past week, with some fighters rushing to be with families and others celebrating in the city’s restaurants and nightclubs, is also a challenge for Mr. Debretsion.

The mood might be deflated in the coming weeks, as shortages of food and fuel hit Mekelle, now isolated on all sides.
Aid groups say that more vulnerable Tigrayans may starve if Mr. Abiy’s government does not allow vital aid deliveries.
Even if the conflict ends soon, Mr. Debretsion said, Tigray’s future as part of Ethiopia is in doubt.  “The trust has broken completely,” he said. “If they don’t want us, why should we stay?”
Still, he added, nothing has been decided: “It depends on the politics at the center.”

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Ethiopia’s Abiy Ahmed must be stripped of his @NobelPrize @zittokabwe @thecontinent_

Until November 2020, when he launched the civil war against Ethiopia’s Tigray province, Abiy Ahmed meant a lot to many upcoming politicians in Africa. 

At that time, many of us thought the Nobel Peace Prize that he received for brokering peace with Eritrea was fully deserved; we were proud of his achievements.

No one imagined then that the Ethiopian prime minister and his government would later preside over the atrocities that have been committed against the people of Tigray, in northern Ethiopia.

Eritrea’s involvement is particularly damning of Abiy’s leadership: it is staggering that the head of government of a sovereign state would invite the army of another country to kill, rape and displace his own citizens.

His credibility has been further diminished by the blatant untruths he has told about the cause and conduct of the war, and the way his government has repeatedly targeted civilians by cutting off electricity and internet in the region, and preventing access for humanitarian workers.

Abiy himself must eventually answer to the International Criminal Court for the crimes committed on his watch.

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I wrote this in 2 JUL 18 :: :Ethiopia Rising

“To create one contagious movement, you often have to create many small movements first.” 

“Look at the world around you. It may seem like an immovable, implacable place. It is not, With the slightest push—in just the right place—it can be tipped.”—Malcolm Gladwell .
He has been Prime Minster for 90 days. During those 90 days, he has criss-crossed the country, ended a state of emergency, released thousands of political prisoners, thawed relations with Eritrea 

[29 Mar 2018 HE Abiy Ahmed @PM_AbiyAhmed - It is time. Lets build a wall of love between #Ethiopia & #Eritrea], bagged a $1b from the UAE, announced a dramatic economic about-turn. 

In matters language and linguistics, he has tapped into a ‘’Nelson Mandela’’ 1994 mood. 

These 90 or so days represent the most consequential arrival of an African politician on the African stage since Mandela walked out of prison blinking in the sunlight and constructed his ‘’rainbow nation’’.

 It’s all about speed and velocity. Paul Virilio terms it ‘dromology’, which he defined as the “science (or logic) of speed“. 

He notes that the speed at which something happens may change its essential nature, and that which moves with speed quickly comes to dominate that which is slower.
“Whoever controls the territory possesses it. Possession of territory is not primarily about laws and contracts, but first and foremost a matter of movement and circulation.”

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From fashion to fascism – and back? What a president’s style says about their politics @thecontinent_

Kenneth Kaunda, the Zambian liberation leader who died last month, inspired many Africans to fight colonialism. He was also an unlikely fashion icon.
His signature look was a short-sleeve jacket with two breast pockets, worn with trousers of the same hue. 

According to Kaunda himself, it was Tanzania’s president Julius Nyerere who gave the ensemble its name: the Kaunda suit.
Any resemblance to the sartorial leanings of Mao Zedong is probably not accidental – the two leaders met in 1974, and Kaunda is said to have been inspired by the Chinese leader’s outfit, as well as his ideology.
Ever the diplomat, Kaunda balanced his communist-inspired suit with a jaunty ascot cravat, appealing to the sensibilities of both socialist intellectuals and western diplomats.
Perhaps because of its political overtones, the Kaunda suit caught on: Nyerere adopted a similar style, while any self-respecting African headmaster in the 1970s had at least one in their wardrobe.

From fashion to fascism – and back? What a president’s style says about their politics

On the other side of the continent, among the Yoruba the fly whisk (Irukere) is also considered to be a symbol of power and respect.
Zaire’s Mobutu Sese Seko, on the other hand, created his own fashion in the form of his trademark leopard-print hat, shaped in the style of a western garrison cap. 

He then banned anyone else from wearing the design, reinforcing his own supremacy in the hierarchy of the state.

Famously, the Central African Republic’s self-styled Emperor Jean-Bédel Bokassa inspired Uganda’s Idi Amin when he visited Kampala in 1972. 

Bokassa’s military outfit was draped in medals and insignia, and Amin decided he needed to have the same.

When he took power in Uganda in 1986, Yoweri Museveni went in a different direction. 

He framed himself as a man of the people, wearing loosely-fitted clothes and a (now iconic) wide-brimmed summer hat. 

In the 2011 election, rural voters received text messages from the president, which were signed simply: “Vote for the old man with the hat”.

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir is never without his cowboy hat. The present was a gift from former United States President George W Bush, and perhaps serves as a reminder that he also owns the country’s largest cattle herd.

Kenyatta Jr’s Madiba shirts do have a Kenyan link: they are made by a state- owned company called Rivatex,

In South Africa and Uganda, Julius Malema and Bobi Wine have turned the red beret into a potent symbol of resistance to the government, drawing on the garment’s long history, dating back to the French Revolution, as a sign of unity among the proletariat

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

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