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Satchu's Rich Wrap-Up
Tuesday 06th of July 2021

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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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I finished @MargaretAtwood's The Blind Assassin

“In Paradise,” Atwood’s aged narrator, Iris Chase, observes, “there are no stories, because there are no journeys. It’s loss and regret and misery and yearning that drive the story forward, along its twisted road.” 

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@MargaretAtwood's The Blind Assassin

“If you knew what was going to happen, if you knew everything that was going to happen next—if you knew in advance the consequences of your own actions—you'd be doomed. You'd be ruined as God. You'd be a stone. You'd never eat or drink or laugh or get out of bed in the morning. You'd never love anyone, ever again. You'd never dare to.”  ― Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin

“When you're young, you think everything you do is disposable. You move from now to now, crumpling time up in your hands, tossing it away. You're your own speeding car. You think you can get rid of things, and people too—leave them behind. You don't yet know about the habit they have, of coming back. Time in dreams is frozen. You can never get away from where you've been.” 

“It wasn't so easy though, ending the war. A war is a huge fire; the ashes from it drift far, and settle slowly.” 

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The Pandemic Is a Portal

I found myself immersing myself in the latin American genre of magic realism, following William Dalrymple’s twitter handle to exotic destinations

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Home in the World by Amartya Sen — citizen of everywhere @FT @EdwardGLuce

It took 20 minutes to manoeuvre Amartya Sen from his Harvard home to a restaurant at the Charles Hotel two minutes around the corner. 

At 87, Sen’s mind remains as sharp as when he won the Nobel memorial prize in economics in 1998. But his body is painfully frail.
In 2018, Sen underwent 90 days of radiation therapy to treat prostate cancer. He suffered from mouth cancer as a student in Kolkata in the early 1950s. 

His Indian doctors gave him a one in seven chance of surviving beyond five years. He confounded them all.
Much like Vladimir Nabokov’s dental agony, Sen’s memoir, Home in the World, published in the UK next week, is pockmarked with Sen’s life-long physical ailment. 

In more ways than one, his life has been a triumph of mind over matter.
Dressed in a tweedy shirt and a billowing bright yellow Harvard raincoat, Sen’s inimitable appearance is completed by what looks like a Lenin cap, minus the red star. It is a drizzly summer day in Cambridge, Massachusetts. 

“That’s Amartya Sen,” I heard more than one person remark as we shuffled across the hotel foyer.
Sen has had one knee replaced but is not yet robust enough to replace the other, which means he is constantly unbalanced and suffers cramps from poor circulation. 

Only his cerebrally sunny demeanour seems unscarred. “I haven’t lost any of my teeth,” Sen tells me with a lopsided grin.

It is hard to know where to begin with Sen’s life — the epitome of the globe-trotting intellectual-scholar. 

He established a whole new way of thinking about development — as much a rights-based political endeavour as an economic one.
Home in the World, which begins in colonial India, which gained independence when he was 14, stops in 1963. 

This is before his major work on the economics of famine, social choice theory, the capability approach — Sen was an inspiration behind the UN’s human development report — gender equity and a career at the summit of western and Indian academia.
The first non-white head of a Cambridge college when he became master of Trinity in 1998, he has taught at Harvard, Oxford, Delhi, the London School of Economics, with brief spells at too many more to mention. 

He was also the first head of India’s Nalanda University, the moribund Buddhist institution (arguably the world’s first university), which was founded by Emperor Ashoka in the third century BC and brought back into existence in 2014.
Very little of this happened before 1963. Yet, minus one or two romantic dramas, his memoir presages all that was to follow. 

Sen, who has been married three times and has two children from each of his first two marriages, tells me it might be impolitic to write a second that would touch on their lives. 

He has been married since 1991 to Emma Rothschild, the distinguished historian who now holds a chair at Harvard. It seems that one volume will have to suffice. “I am so glad finally to get this book off my hands,” says Sen.
His odyssey is by no means complete. He plans to write monographs on various pet themes. 

These include the future of higher education, which would include spicy critiques of Harvard’s administrative shortfalls. The university’s managers, whom Sen mischievously likens to the autocratic British Raj, spend more time with donors than scholars. 

“They are too distant from the academia they are supervising,” he says. “As master of Trinity, I had lunch with every undergraduate.”
Given Sen’s close familiarity with America, he is surprisingly reluctant to speculate on the origins of western populism, although he rates America’s outlook as less dire than India’s. 

“Joe Biden showed quite a lot of willingness to take on the world in the first couple of weeks,” he says. “Then he seemed to weaken a bit.” 

Sen is particularly exercised by Biden’s unwillingness to further investigate Donald Trump’s alleged abuses of power.
Another topic is the importance of gender equity. The early parts of Sen’s book cover his education at Shantiniketan, an ashram-like retreat in West Bengal founded in the 19th century by the father of Rabindranath Tagore, the Bengali poet and Nobel Prize winner for literature, who gave Sen his first name, which means “immortal” in Sanskrit. 

Sen’s grandfather was a close friend of Tagore’s.
The school — which was largely unaffected by the great 1943 Bengal famine that killed more than 2m people and inspired Sen’s Nobel-cited study on how starvation is caused by income inequality rather than food shortages — was remarkably progressive. Girls and boys were treated equally.
It was at Shantiniketan that Sen decided he was an atheist, which, he is keen to underline, is a noble and accepted strand of thought in the Hindu tradition. 

Yet if someone put a gun to his head and forced him to choose, he would take Buddhism (“the philosophy of Buddha, which was secular — not the religion”).

Sen resigned from Nalanda in 2015 after Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist BJP had taken office and blocked money to a university that it suspected was anti-Hindu. 

Modi’s government denied Nalanda permission to celebrate Buddha’s birthday, even though the philosopher-prince gave the world a creed that was quintessentially Indian.

A few years ago, Sen was to appear on the BBC’s Hard Talk programme and noticed he was described on the teleprompter as a “Hindu scholar”. “I said: ‘Are you going to take this off, or shall I leave?’ They took it out.”
The title of Sen’s book is drawn from a Tagore novel, The Home and the World, which is about the complexities of India’s struggle against western domination that was also immortalised in a Satyajit Ray movie of the same name. 

To Sen, the title evokes the secular, intellectually curious and tolerant climate in which he was raised. Sen recalls visitors to the ashram included Eleanor Roosevelt, Chiang Kai-shek and, of course, Mohandas Gandhi, who was murdered by a Hindu nationalist.

Today’s Indian rulers, Sen fears, are attempting to stamp out its tradition of openness. 

The BJP is rewriting history to excise the secular legacy of the early Moghuls, such as Akbar, who had as many Hindus at court as Muslims, and, of course, Ashoka, who preached tolerance for all beliefs.

“India has a long history of pluralism that is now under threat,” says Sen

“Akbar’s court was thriving in the late 16th century when they were burning heretics in Rome’s Campo di Fiore.” 

Sen attaches some of the blame to VS Naipaul, the late Nobel Prize-winning Trinidadian Indian, who depicted the history of India’s Muslim dynasties as a dark night of temple-razing oppression. 

“What Naipaul wrote was absolute nonsense,” says Sen. “A complex story has been simplified by a group of very determined people.”
Sen’s story as a cosmopolitan in the world has not lessened his sense of Indianness. Though he has lived abroad since 1971, he only has an Indian passport. 

Before the pandemic, he would visit Shantiniketan up to five times a year, where he keeps a house (aided by a life-long right to free first-class travel on Air India — a massive perk that followed his Nobel award).
In the past few years, a heated debate has erupted about the legacy of British imperialism. Sen’s view is that India took a lot from Britain — “the powerful journalistic tradition”, “parliamentary debate” and “Shakespeare’s English”. 

But such upsides came in spite of the British empire, “which, at best, gave India very little of value”, rather than because of it. “You have to separate the two,” says Sen. “The empire denied India its freedoms.”
When Sen arrived at Cambridge in 1953, his landlady, Mrs Hangary, worried that his brown skin would stain the bath tub. 

By the end of his tenancy, she had become a campaigner for racial equality. “She went from racist to jihadi for equality,” says Sen, chuckling. “I adored Mrs Hangary.”
Almost half a century later, Sen became master of the college that gave the world Isaac Newton, Lords Byron and Tennyson, John Dryden, Bertrand Russell, Jawaharlal Nehru and Ludwig Wittgenstein. 

Tony Blair called Sen personally to persuade him to take the job. At the college meeting to decide the next master, the chair said: “Sen is the only person this year whom we might someday consequently regret not having elected.” 

Sen, chuckling, adds: “This was considered a ringing endorsement. It was a masterclass in English understatement.”
The walls of his living room, to which, at glacial speed, we have long since returned, display a life of the mind. 

There are portraits of John Rawls, the Harvard political philosopher, who was arguably the most influential liberal theorist of the late 20th century, and Willard Van Orman Quine, the linguistic philosopher, each of whom were close friends (both painted by Rawls’s wife, Margaret).
There is a Halo light that Sen uses to illuminate himself for Zoom. And there is a painting of Nalanda university by a Chinese artist. 

Somewhere in the house I imagine there must be parts of the ancient bicycle that Sen used to traverse West Bengal when he was researching the famine.

Looking around, it strikes me that Sen is more than an economist, a moral philosopher or even an academic. 

He is a life-long campaigner, through scholarship and activism, via friendships and the occasional enemy, for a more noble idea of home — and therefore of the world.
In this age of identity politics, this Bengali savant refuses to be defined by labels. 

“Home and the world are the same thing for me,” he says. “It always was.” Our colour, our religion, our gender, our nationality — these are mere facets of our complex selves.
Noticing I am late for my flight, I urge Sen not to show me to the door. It would take too long to get there. 

“That’s an astute observation,” he responds as he waves goodbye from what looks like a philosophical repose.
Home in the World: A Memoir by Amartya Sen, Allen Lane, RRP£25, 480 pages
Edward Luce is the FT’s US national editor

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All the questions asked in 1989 as Soviet troops left are asked again as NATO packs up. When will Kabul fall? Will there be talks? How long can the President hold on @bbclysedoucet
Law & Politics

All the questions asked in 1989 as Soviet troops left are asked again as NATO packs up. When will Kabul fall? Will there be talks? How long can the President hold on - like President #Najibullah am recording here.. #Afghanistan

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Moutstuart Elphinstone in 1839 on the impossibility of occupying Afghanistan: @DalrympleWill
Law & Politics

Moutstuart Elphinstone in 1839 on the impossibility of occupying Afghanistan: "... I have no doubt you will take Candahar &Cabul and set up Shuja.... but maintaining him in a poor, cold, strong &remote country, among a turbulent people like the Afghans, it seems to me hopeless."

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The Bamiyan Statues @ramonpradosan
Kenyan Economy

And then I recalled

‘’You remember those twin statues of the Buddha that I told you about? Carved out of a mountain in Afghanistan, that got dynamited by the Taliban back in the spring? Notice anything familiar?" Thomas Pynchon

"Twin Buddhas, twin towers, interesting coincidence, so what." "The Trade Center towers were religious too. They stood for what this country worships above everything else, the market, always the holy fuxxing market." [Thomas Pynchon]

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Global 382,851 #COVID19 avg cases/day exponentially growing 0.21% per day @jmlukens

Global 382,851 #COVID19 avg cases/day exponentially growing 183.7M total 0.21% per day.  6,320 Deaths yesterday below 7,689/day avg down 13% past 2days.

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The best passage is the one where @Dominic2306 tries to explain what @BorisJohnson is really like. Here’s an extract @guardian
Law & Politics

The truth is [Johnson] is neither [a clown or a campaigning genius]. He is a much deeper and more complex character than the media generally portrays. 

When I saw pundits seek mysteries in Cameron, I said the hidden depths weren’t there, he’s ‘a sphinx without a riddle’. Cameron was simple but portrayed as a sphinx but with Boris it’s the opposite, Boris is complex portrayed as simple

Behind each mask lies another mask — but there’s no masterplan behind all the masks, just the age old ‘will to power’. 

He is happy to hide behind the mask of a clown, mostly unbothered by ridicule, while calculations remain largely hidden (including from parts of his own mind).
He rewrites reality in his mind afresh according to the moment’s demands. He lies – so blatantly, so naturally, so regularly – that there is no real distinction possible with him, as there is with normal people, between truth and lies

He always tells people what they want to hear and he never means it. He always says ‘I can’t remember’ when they remind him and is rarely ‘lying’. 

He trusts nobody including his own family yet bears almost no grudges. He will sacrifice anybody for his career yet wants to make up with people who have screwed him over. 

He will use anybody for anything but is more polite than most top politicians towards junior staff. 

He is totally untrusted by anybody in No 10 yet has a superpower for making people feel sorry for him — ‘I feel sorry for him like my old deadbeat boyfriend, I hate myself for it but I can’t help it,’ said one in despair after a particularly dreadful meeting. 

He’s almost as comfortable with living in chaos as Floyd Mayweather but panics all day about the media. 

He sometimes compares himself to historic titans (Octavian is a favourite) and regularly admits it’s ludicrous he’s prime minister. He’s hopeless at bureaucratic infighting and examines every room he enters for physical escape routes.
He is both much more useless than the media portray and much more capable of self-awareness and ruthlessness than they ever portray, or his enemies usually discern. 

He routinely says and does things so foolish that people are open-mouthed, and is so hopeless at getting rid of duffers, so determined to avoid difficult situations, that people are usually shocked when he suddenly moves with ruthless speed to remove them. 

He was desperate to be prime minister but has almost no interest in the job.
Cummings argues that the best way of understanding Johnson is realising that he operates in two modes: Boris-Normal (his routine, chaotic mode) and Boris-Self-Aware (his ruthless, effective mode).

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The 3 Simple Rules That Underscore the Danger of Delta @TheAtlantic

Fifteen months after the novel coronavirus shut down much of the world, the pandemic is still raging. 

Few experts guessed that by this point, the world would have not one vaccine but many, with 3 billion doses already delivered. 

At the same time, the coronavirus has evolved into super-transmissible variants that spread more easily. 

The clash between these variables will define the coming months and seasons. 

Here, then, are three simple principles to understand how they interact. Each has caveats and nuances, but together, they can serve as a guide to our near-term future.

1. The vaccines are still beating the variants.

2. The variants are pummeling unvaccinated people.

3. The longer Principle No. 2 continues, the less likely No. 1 will hold.

None of the scientists I talked with knows when that might occur, but they agree that the odds shorten as the pandemic lengthens. 

“We have to assume that’s going to happen,” Gupta told me. “The more infections are permitted, the more probable immune escape becomes.”

The discussion about vaccine-beating variants echoes the early debates about whether SARS-CoV-2 would go pandemic. 

“We don’t think too well as a society about low-probability events that have far-reaching consequences,” Majumder told me. 

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09-MAY-2021 :: However, The Western World and China think they have the microbe licked with their Superpower Vaccine[s]

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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Like clockwork, serious COVID infections are surging--exactly 2 weeks after Israel's Delta outbreaks began. New COVID cases are up 1,000% @JeffSmithi24

Like clockwork, serious COVID infections are surging--exactly 2 weeks after Israel's Delta outbreaks began. New COVID cases are up 1,000% ... and within the last few days, SERIOUS cases are up 35% as well. (from 26 serious, to 35) 

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Why the ongoing mass vaccination experiment drives a rapid evolutionary response of SARS-CoV-2 @GVDBossche

More infectious ‘variants of concern’ (VoCs, i.e., alpha [B.1.1.7], beta [B.1.351], gamma [P.1]) started to appear as of late 2020 and led to a steep increase in cases worldwide. 

Significant convergent evolution(*) of more infectious circulating Sars-CoV-2 variants is not a neutral, host-independent evolutionary phenomenon that merely results from increased viral replication and transmission but is strongly suggestive of natural selection and adaptation following a dramatic shift in the host(ile) environment the virus is exposed to (1).

Molecular epidemiologists fully acknowledge that the pandemic is currently evolving Sars-CoV-2 variants that “could be a considerably bigger problem for us than any variants that we currently know in that they might have any combinations of increased transmissibility, altered virulence and/or increased capacity to escape population immunity”

Deployment of current Covid-19 vaccines in mass vaccination campaigns combined with the ongoing widespread circulation of Sars-CoV-2 can only increase immune selective pressure on Sars-CoV-2 spike protein and hence, further drive its adaptive evolution to circumvent vaccine-induced humoral immunity

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“Looking just at the data you’d say that it looked like this virus was designed to infect humans,” Petrovsky said.

Surprisingly, the results showed that SARS-CoV-2 bound to ACE2 on human cells “more tightly than any of the tested animal species, including bats and pangolins”.
If one of the animal species tested was the origin, it would normally be expected to show the highest binding to the virus.
Said Professor Petrovsky, “What shocked us, and not what we were expecting, was that humans came out at the very top.”

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

“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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Currency Markets at a Glance WSJ
World Currencies

Euro 1.1891
Dollar Index 92.017
Japan Yen 110.81
Swiss Franc 0.9197
Pound 1.3892
Aussie 0.7588
India Rupee 74.314
South Korea Won 1130.39
Brazil Real 5.09218
Egypt Pound 15.68
South Africa Rand 14.1716

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Cases are doubling every three weeks, and the continent is on the verge of exceeding its worst week of the pandemic.

On Friday, the number of South African daily coronavirus infections surged to a record. 

Cities from Johannesburg to Kampala have been forced to lock down and intensive care units are overflowing. 

In the continent’s poorer countries, patients are dying because of a lack of oxygen and health-care workers are overwhelmed, with nurses looking after as many as 40 patients each.

In Gauteng, South Africa’s economic hub and the richest area on the continent, excess deaths rose to a pandemic-era record in the week to June 20 and private hospitals are airlifting patients to other provinces. 

With 4,795 cases per million people, Namibia had the worst epidemic globally over the last seven days. 

Meanwhile, medical facilities and mortuaries in many countries are struggling to cope.
Coffin makers and florists in Lusaka, Zambia’s capital, say they are struggling to keep pace with demand. 

Laura Miti, a social activist in the country, told Bloomberg a colleague died of Covid-19 after spending time in a hospital, where patients perished as power outages interrupted oxygen supply. 

The shortage of front-line workers is also taking a toll, she said.

“The speed and scale of Africa’s third wave is like nothing we’ve seen before,” said Matshidiso Moeti, Africa director for the World Health Organization, on a conference call on Thursday.

“If we do not vaccinate at speed, our economy will continue to be damaged,” John Nkengasong, director of the Africa CDC, said on Thursday. 

“You will see a fourth, fifth and sixth wave and it will be extremely difficult for us to survive as a people. Let us be very clear that is what is at stake.”

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President @EdgarCLungu bids to postpone poll @Africa_Conf

Political violence, Lungu's ill-health, rows about Kaunda's burial, and rampant Covid make for a grim backdrop ahead of the general election
Exceptional levels of violence – by ruling Patriotic Front thugs and police – are raising questions about the credibility of the parliamentary, municipal and presidential elections due on 12 August. 

Arrests and beatings of opposition parties are curbing their campaigns.

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The Kenyatta-Odinga political plan goes back to the courts @Africa_Conf
Law & Politics

Appeal court hearing will decide the fate of the Building Bridges Initiative and perhaps next year's elections
Judges sat for five consecutive days at the Appeal Court to review the 14 May High Court ruling that the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), at the centre of the alliance between Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga, would breach the constitution 
The BBI is the product of the four years of negotiations. It doubles as a constitutional overhaul that expands government and a political deal to carve up power between President Kenyatta and 'handshake' partner Raila Odinga 
The stakes are high. The lawyers for President Kenyatta and Odinga are seeking to persuade the Court that there is nothing to prohibit the President from driving the BBI process. 

The judgement that BBI is an act of presidential fiat underpinned the May ruling that it was unconstitutional.
They also contend that Suna East MP Junet Mohammed and former Dagoretti South MP Dennis Waweru are the promoters of the BBI.
The BBI principals have had to move quickly following the 14 May ruling. 

Should they obtain even a partial overturning of the ruling, that would allow them to use their parliamentary majority to pass revised BBI legislation.
They could then set the timetable for a referendum that needs to be held by early 2022 ahead of the presidential and parliamentary elections next August.
The second side to the May ruling focuses on the plans to create 70 new parliamentary constituencies, which the Court struck down on the grounds that this can only be made on the basis of a recommendation by the Independent Electoral Board Commission.
This will be tougher to reverse. The new constituencies, which were concentrated in the Mount Kenya region, were intended to bolster Kenyatta's Kikuyu constituency in the National Assembly, potentially to balance an Odinga presidency.
Should the May ruling be upheld on all counts that would spell the end of the BBI. In so doing it would hand a clear victory to Kenyatta's estranged Deputy William Ruto and his campaign for the presidency next year.

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

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