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Satchu's Rich Wrap-Up
Monday 06th of September 2021

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Luminous and Fairy Tale

It's as if my hearing is sharpened. I hear the Breeze, birdsong, Nature in its many forms

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How Sea Urchin Tastes @NewYorker I point to a bin and say that’s what I want—those split spiny spheres, like cracked-open meteorites.

July, 1980. I’m about to turn fifteen and our family is in Seoul, the first time since we left, twelve years earlier. I don’t know if it’s different. My parents can’t really say. 

They just repeat the equivalent of “How in the world?” whenever we venture into another part of the city, or meet one of their old friends. 

“Look at that—how in the world?” “This hot spell, yes, yes—how in the world?” My younger sister is very quiet in the astounding heat. We all are. 

It’s the first time I notice how I stink. You can’t help smelling like everything else. And in the heat everything smells of ferment and rot and rankness. 

On the wide streets near the city center, there are student demonstrations; my cousin says they’re a response to a massacre of citizens by the military down south in Kwangju. 

After the riot troops clear the avenues, the air is laden with tear gas—“spicy,” in the idiom. 

Whenever we’re in a taxi, moving through there, I open the window and stick out my tongue, trying to taste the poison, the human repellent. My mother wonders what’s wrong with me.
I don’t know what’s wrong. Or maybe I do. I’m bored. Maybe I’m craving a girl. 

I can’t help staring at them, the ones clearing dishes in their parents’ eateries, the uniformed schoolgirls walking hand in hand, the slim young women who work in the Lotte department store, smelling of fried kimchi and L’Air du Temps. 

They’re all stunning to me, even with their bad teeth. I let myself drift near them, hoping for the scantest touch.
But there’s nothing. I’m too obviously desperate, utterly hopeless. 

Instead, it seems, I can eat. I’ve always liked food, but now I’m bent on trying everything. 

As it is, the days are made up of meals, formal and impromptu, meals between meals and within meals; the streets are a continuous outdoor buffet of braised crabs, cold buckwheat noodles, shaved ice with sweet red beans on top. 

In Itaewon, the district near the United States Army base, where you can get anything you want, culinary or otherwise, we stop at a seafood stand for dinner. 

Basically, it’s a tent diner, a long bar with stools, a camp stove and fish tank behind the proprietor, an elderly woman with a low, hoarse voice. 

The roof is a stretch of blue poly-tarp. My father is excited; it’s like the old days. 

He wants raw fish, but my mother shakes her head. I can see why: in plastic bins of speckled, bloody ice sit semi-alive cockles, abalones, eels, conchs, sea cucumbers, porgies, shrimps. 

“Get something fried,” she tells him, not caring what the woman might think. “Get something cooked.”
A young couple sitting at the end of the bar order live octopus. The old woman nods and hooks one in the tank. It’s fairly small, the size of a hand. 

She lays it on a board and quickly slices off the head with her cleaver. She chops the tentacles and gathers them up onto a plate, dressing them with sesame oil and a spicy bean sauce. 

“You have to be careful,” my father whispers, “or one of the suction cups can stick inside your throat. You could die.” 

The lovers blithely feed each other the sectioned tentacles, taking sips of soju in between. 

My mother immediately orders a scallion-­and-seafood pancake for us, then a spicy cod-head stew; my father murmurs that he still wants something live, fresh. 

I point to a bin and say that’s what I want—those split spiny spheres, like cracked-open meteorites, their rusty centers layered with shiny crenellations. 

I bend down and smell them, and my eyes almost water from the intense ocean tang. 

“They’re sea urchins,” the woman says to my father. “He won’t like them.” 

My mother is telling my father he’s crazy, that I’ll get sick from food poisoning, but he nods to the woman, and she picks up a half and cuts out the soft flesh.
What does it taste like? I’m not sure, because I’ve never had anything like it. All I know is that it tastes alive, something alive at the undragged bottom of the sea; it tastes the way flesh would taste if flesh were a mineral. 

And I’m half gagging, though still chewing; it’s as if I had another tongue in my mouth, this blind, self-satisfied creature. 

That night I throw up, my mother scolding us, my father chuckling through his concern. 

The next day, my uncles joke that they’ll take me out for some more, and the suggestion is enough to make me retch again.
But a week later I’m better, and I go back by myself. The woman is there, and so are the sea urchins, glistening in the hot sun. 

“I know what you want,” she says. I sit, my mouth slick with anticipation and revulsion, not yet knowing why. ♦

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When the cold war ended, the United States took its place at the head of a unipolar world order. @TheEconomist Arundhati Roy
Law & Politics

After the attacks of September 11th, the political world as we knew it spun on its axis. And the pivot of that axis appeared to be located somewhere in the rough mountains of Afghanistan.

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Afghan women of 2021 are not the same as the Afghan women of the 1990s. @SodabaH
Law & Politics

Under the first Taliban rule our mothers went through hell which the new generation of Afghan women refuse to go through. Our mothers were a different kind of brave but the new women are something else.

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Yes Churchill held views we'd term racist. But so did Gandhi, Voltaire, Shakespeare & St. Paul, all of whom exhibited prejudices not universal to their day. @ikeijeh
Law & Politics

Judging the past by the present is an endless hamster wheel of futile recrimination from which there is no logical escape.

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.@WHO Weekly epidemiological update on COVID-19 - 31 August 2021

With just under 4.4 million new cases reported this week (23-29 August), the number of new cases reported globally remains similar to the previous week after increasing for nearly two months (since mid-June). 

Weekly Infections snap a 9 week rising sequence 

19-JUL-2021 :: COVID-19


The Virus remains unresolved.

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World 606,764 avg COVID cases per day down 7.5% past 2wk. 9,437 Average deaths per day down 4.5% past 2wks. Global growth trends on decline since start of July. @jmlukens

the fourth wave has arrived in our midst like some crazed arsonist in a dry forest under a heat dome. @TheTyee

So we now have three major problems. Less than 24 per cent of the globe’s population has been vaccinated. 

That means the virus has lots of wiggle room to evolve into something more transmissible, deadly or immune evading. 

As a result, more variants will appear on the global horizon as assuredly as 18th century pirates on the ocean waters of the Caribbean. 

Don’t be surprised if one variant soon makes a mockery of vaccination campaigns in rich countries.
Second, the uncontrolled pace of global travel — a threat to a civilization as we know it — guarantees that any new variant will have access to eight billion fresh hosts anytime and everywhere unless effective border controls are imposed. 

Our addiction to mobility abets and supports rapid viral spread.
Third, all of this is happening at a time when many public health authorities have removed effective measures such as masks in public spaces because they have no real plan to defeat the pandemic other than wishful thinking.
Any high-tech society that surrenders to a novel virus, notes pandemic expert Yaneer Bar-Yam, essentially loses control and embraces a future of chaos. 

“The enemy won’t stop fighting because we surrender.” But that’s the path our political elites seem to be choosing. Again and again.

23-AUG-2021 ::  Lets turn briefly to COVID-19 because I sense an Inflexion Point

As to the goal of reaching herd immunity—vaccinating so many people that the virus simply has nowhere to go

“With the emergence of Delta, I realized that it’s just impossible to reach that,” says Müge Çevik, an infectious disease specialist at the University of St. Andrews. Via @ScienceMagazine @kakape
But Holmes was startled. “This virus has gone up three notches in effectively a year and that, I think, was the biggest surprise to me”
The 1918–19 influenza pandemic also appears to have caused more serious illness as time went on, says Lone Simonsen, an epidemiologist at Roskilde University who studies past pandemics.

 “Our data from Denmark suggests it was six times deadlier in the second wave.”

“Many still see Alpha and Delta as being as bad as things are ever going to get,” he says. 

“It would be wise to consider them as steps on a possible trajectory that may challenge our public health response further.”
Some dangerous variants may only be possible if the virus hits on a very rare, winning combination of mutations, Eugene Koonin told me. 

“But with all these millions of infected people, it may very well find that combination.” @kakape 

We have now crossed peak Vaccine Euphoria

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Official covid figures are nonsense. "Although the official number of deaths caused by covid-19 is now 4.5m, our single best estimate is that the actual toll is 15.2m people." @shashj

―They fancied themselves free, wrote Camus, ―and no one will ever be free so long as there are pestilences

―In this respect, our townsfolk were like everybody else, wrapped up in themselves; in other words, they were humanists: they disbelieved in pestilences.
A pestilence isn't a thing made to man's measure; therefore we tell ourselves that pestilence is a mere bogy of the mind, a bad dream that will pass away.
But it doesn't always pass away and, from one bad dream to another, it is men who pass away, and the humanists first of all, because they have taken no precautions

Covid-19 data The pandemic’s true death toll @TheEconomist 

The standard method of tracking changes in total mortality is “excess deaths”. This number is the gap between how many people died in a given region during a given time period, regardless of cause, and how many deaths would have been expected if a particular circumstance (such as a natural disaster or disease outbreak) had not occurred. 

Although the official number of deaths caused by covid-19 is now 4.5m, our single best estimate is that the actual toll is 15.2m people. 

We find that there is a 95% chance that the true value lies between 9.3m and 18.1m additional deaths.

The Economist has built a machine-learning model, which estimates excess deaths for every country on every day since the pandemic began. 

It is based both on official excess-mortality data and on more than 100 other statistical indicators.

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NEW global estimates of excess deaths — The Economist’s excess death model is from now on updated daily. @fibke

15 million excess deaths globally during this pandemic. Around 4 million in India alone.

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Nations w/ most avg deaths per day @@jmlukens

US: 1,401
Russia: 779
Mexico: 722
Brazil: 644
Indonesia: 626
Iran: 624
India: 379
Vietnam: 360
Malaysia: 303
South Africa: 290

The most tumultuous period in SARS-CoV-2’s evolution may still be ahead of us, says @ArisKatzourakis @ScienceMagazine @kakape

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Nations w/ high COVID19 avg 2wk case/day increase @jmlukens

Nations w/ high COVID19 avg 2wk case/day increase
West Bank and Gaza: 222%
Romania: 150%
Norway: 148%
Mongolia: 138%
Australia: 124%
Serbia: 112%
Albania: 99%
Croatia: 66%
Ethiopia: 65%
Germany: 64%

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

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Thread about lineages S and L (also called lineages A and B) and their relevance for the origins debate. @AntGDuarte

Many questions remain with regard to the two early genomic lineages of SARS-CoV-2 that were circulating in Wuhan around the time the virus was first reported.

Thread about lineages S and L (also called lineages A and B) and their relevance for the origins debate.

Lineage S (like seen in related bat CoVs) has 8782T/28144C whereas 8782C/28144T defines lineage L, now fully dominant in humans. @AntGDuarte

SARS-CoV-2 lineages were first defined by Tang et al. 2020 according to differences in genomic positions 8782 and 28144.
Lineage S (like seen in related bat CoVs) has 8782T/28144C whereas 8782C/28144T defines lineage L, now fully dominant in humans.

While lineage S is likely ancestral almost all early sequenced/early deposited Wuhan genomes are lineage L (most are also linked to the Huanan Market). @AntGDuarte


For their March 2020 paper, Tang et al. couldn't find but one S genome from Wuhan (EPI_ISL_406801, no wet market link).

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Though Tang et al. seem well-aware of the phylogenetic implications, they don't address the skewed ratio of S vs. L sequences on the Wuhan section of their 103-genome data set. @AntGDuarte

Here's how their Fig. 4 would look like considering only the 27 Wuhan genomes available to them:

The two sites that define lineages S & L are tightly linked: ~99.8% of all recorded genomes are either S (~3.4%) or L (~96.4%). @AntGDuarte


Besides its closer link with bat CoVs, S precedence is also consistent with its replacement by L forms as the virus spread

That is, around 37% of those Wuhan-acquired infections were caused by lineage S viruses. Also noteworthy, the S/L proportion of those cases didn't change much throughout January. @AntGDuarte


So why couldn't Tang et al. find more than one lineage S genome (out of 27) sampled in Wuhan?

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Also, if S emerged earlier and (as another Tang paper suggests) caused more severe cases in Wuhan, where are the sequences from those early S cases? @AntGDuarte

08-MAR-2021 :: Xi has taken calculated risks. The muscular and multi-faceted nature of Chinese Power is seen in its handling of COVID19


.@FHeisbourg François Heisbourg: «Le coronavirus, c’est un Tchernobyl chinois à la puissance dix»
First, they staged their "exemplary handling" of the pandemic in a very loud manner, in order to avoid interest in the regime.
And then they severely punished countries that demanded an impartial international investigation, made up of the best experts.
Australia, which had insisted on the need for transparency, was imposed economic sanctions and a block on its imports.
The debate on the origin of the virus remains totally open, fundamental and potentially explosive.
Controlling the COVID19 Narrative, suppressing the Enquiry, parlaying the situation into one of singular advantage marks a singular moment and 

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

Of course, since the virus "existed long before" spreading at the Huanan market, traces of its ancestral, S lineage had to be found in Wuhan: over 350,000 of its urban residents were infected before May 2020. @AntGDuarte

Some S sequences were eventually found.

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Despite the gaps, SARS-CoV-2 phylogeny is consistent with expansion from a single S-like progenitor. @AntGDuarte

And since there's no evidence of zoonosis at the Huanan market (let alone in other markets where no Covid clusters were ever reported), Garry's theory is dubious at best.

This further suggests that S evolved into L in humans. @AntGDuarte

In addition, in times and places where S and L viruses co-circulated, a small number of intermediate sequences (8782C/28144C or 8782T/28144T) was also detected, likely testifying the evolution of S into L variants.

This further suggests that S evolved into L in humans.

Lineage S shares its defining 8782T/28144C pattern with the closest known relatives of SARS-CoV-2: @AntGDuarte


- RaTG13
- RmYN02
- RpYN06
- SARSr-CoV ZC45
- GD "pangolin" CoV
- GX "pangolin" CoVs

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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.

Lineage S was seen as ancestral at least since Mar. 2020. It was obvious that tracing the origin of the virus would require ID'ing patients infected by S variants & tracing their contacts. Instead, they focused on a market-related cluster involving a descendant lineage L. @AntGDuarte

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.”

A lab-leak in Sep/Oct. 2019 is the simplest explanation for SARS-CoV-2 emergence, involving an S variant that accumulated a few mutations as it transmitted in Wuhan. Later, an L case started a superspreader at the Huanan market, confirming the outbreak was out of control. @AntGDuarte

’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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How US cash funded Wuhan lab dealing in deadly viruses @thetimes @SharriMarkson

It’s late March 2018 and the US career diplomat Rick Switzer has just flown home to Beijing after a trip to Wuhan. 

Along with his colleague Jamie Fouss, the US consul-general in Wuhan, he’d led a delegation of American environmental, science, technology and health consular staff to inspect the Wuhan Institute of Virology, where he’d met Shi Zhengli, the “batwoman”.
It was two years before a pandemic would arise from that very city — perhaps even that very laboratory — and he was deeply concerned about what he saw during his visit. 

The consular official at the US embassy in Beijing tapped out a “sensitive but unclassified” cable to send back to the State Department. 

He needed to let Washington know just what was going on inside China’s new level-4 biocontainment facility dealing with the world’s deadliest and most contagious pathogens. 

The cable warned of poor safety practices at the laboratory.
Switzer pressed send on the cable two weeks later, on April 19, 2018, with the subject line: “China Virus Institute Welcomes More US Co-operation on Global Health Security”. 

It was an unusual choice of email subject, because the contents of his cable outlined how the opposite was true. 

The laboratory, built on the condition of international collaboration, was severely limiting the number of international researchers who could work inside its walls.

The Wuhan Institute of Virology level-4 lab had originally been built in conjunction with the Jean Mérieux BSL-4 Laboratory in Lyons, France

It was to be China’s first high-containment laboratory under the direction of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which is under People’s Liberation Army control. 

Construction of the laboratory began in 2004 and took 11 years to complete, finally finishing on January 31, 2015. The project cost $44 million. 

It is a vast building, with four floors stretching over 3,000 sq m (32,000 sq ft). It was accredited in February 2017 by the China National Accreditation Service for Conformity Assessment, and began working on live viruses by 2018.

There were “intense clashes” between the French and Chinese parties during the construction phase, according to a Chinese Academy of Sciences video. 

It was far from a smooth process. Even before the deal was signed, there was strong objection in France to co-operating on such a laboratory in Wuhan, but the scientists advocating the collaboration won.

Once the laboratory was up and running, the French were soon kicked out. 

While the initial funding, training and construction was in conjunction with the French, according to Switzer and Fouss’s cable, “it is entirely China-funded and has been completely China-run since a ‘handover’ ceremony in 2016”. 

And despite being built in the name of international scientific collaboration, few international researchers were welcome to work inside the facility. 

“Institute officials said there would be ‘limited availability’ for international and domestic scientists who had gone through the necessary approval process to do research at the lab,” the cable stated.

So a laboratory working with the most lethal pathogens known to humankind had effectively cut off collaboration with the international community.

What made this particularly alarming was the work the laboratory was conducting. 

Disturbingly, Switzer and Fouss discovered the laboratory was setting up its very own database identifying all deadly viruses with pandemic potential

It would be its own version of a concept called the Global Virome Project (GVP), the cable stated. 

“The GVP aims to launch this year as an international collaborative effort to identify within ten years virtually all of the planet’s viruses that have pandemic or epidemic potential and the ability to jump to humans,” the cable read.

The cable quoted a Wuhan Institute of Virology official saying: “We hope China will be one of the leading countries to initiate the Global Virome Project.” 

But in the meantime, the institute official told Switzer and Fouss that they were already running a similar project of their own.

This revelation — of such a database being developed by a laboratory where the US had no oversight — should have been highly alarming. 

Except it’s unclear whether anybody with any level of seniority ever read this cable after it was sent to the State Department and intelligence apparatus in Washington.

The cable made clear the extent of the US involvement with the Wuhan Institute of Virology. 

“In the last year, the institute has also hosted visits from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Science Foundation and experts from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.” 

It said the Galveston branch had trained the Wuhan lab technicians in lab management and maintenance while the US National Science Foundation had just concluded a workshop with the Wuhan Institute in Shenzhen involving 40 scientists from the US and China.
It also made clear — at this early stage — how America was funding the coronavirus research at the Wuhan lab. 

“NIH was a major funder, along with the National Science Foundation of China, of Sars research by the Wuhan Institute of Virology,” the cable states. The paragraphs that follow are redacted.
Shi Zhengli was well known in the close-knit scientific community that studied bat coronaviruses. She had become a scientific celebrity after discovering the closest virus to Sars in bats. 

As the director for the Centre for Emerging Infectious Diseases at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, she became known as the “batwoman” for her sampling of thousands of bats in remote caves.
It was nothing compared with the global fame she would attract after the pandemic outbreak. Her institute’s research, with all its risks, would be exposed for the world to judge.
Shi has in total collected 19,000 samples and coronavirus was detected in 2,481 of them, according to information she provided to the World Health Organisation in February this year. 

She had been engaging in genetically modifying viruses since at least 2006. 

A paper published in the Journal of Virology that year shows she was trying to determine how coronaviruses gain the ability to skip from one species to another by “inserting different segments from the human SARS-CoV spike protein into the spike protein of the bat virus”.

When questions arose in China about whether her laboratory was the source of the outbreak at the start of February last year — three months before President Trump raised the prospect — Shi snapped. 

“Those who believe and spread rumours, shut your dirty mouth,” she posted on the WeChat social media app on February 6. 

Instead, she said, Covid-19 “is nature’s punishment for uncivilised living habits of human beings. I, Shi Zhengli, use my life to guarantee that it has nothing to do with our lab.”

Just how dangerous was the research she was conducting, often without the watchful eyes of international partners? What were Shi and her colleagues up to, and who was funding it?
Of particular focus would be her “gain-of-function” experiments. Gain-of-function research aims to make viruses more infectious and deadlier or more virulent, often to humans. 

The technical definition is research that “involves experimentation that is expected to increase the transmissibility and/or virulence of pathogens”. 

It can result in a pathogen acquiring new abilities; for example, a bat virus becoming able to infect humans or a virus that wasn’t airborne having the ability to become so.
This research, which has been carried out in the US and other western countries as well as China, has been justified by scientists who claim it could help predict pandemics by discovering which viruses are capable of becoming infectious to humans. 

They say this allows them to pre-emptively develop vaccines and therapeutics. 

But only two laboratories globally were doing gain-of-function research on coronaviruses prior to the pandemic.
Other research projects may not strictly fall into the gain-of-function category but are equally dangerous. 

They include bringing back to life very old viruses and manipulating them in a laboratory. This type of research deals with what are referred to as “potential pandemic pathogens”.
To many outside the scientific community, this type of experimentation sounds absurd. How is it even legal, given the astronomical risks? 

Debate has raged about the grave dangers of allowing gain-of-function research to take place. 

There are two main concerns. Firstly, it can be misused for malevolent military purposes such as bioweapons. Secondly, it can accidentally cause a pandemic.
Global controversy around this type of research ignited in 2012, when scientists wanted to see if it would be possible for bird flu (H5N1) to evolve naturally into a virus that was capable of human-to-human transmission, and thus cause a pandemic. 

Their stated intention was to be able to predict which viruses could turn into a pandemic. Scientists fiercely opposed to gain-of-function research formed a body called the Cambridge Working Group in 2014. There were 200 esteemed signatories. 

They released a letter specifically warning that accidents while scientists were experimenting with these dangerous viruses could cause “an accidental pandemic” that could infect a quarter of the world’s population. 

“Accident risks with newly created ‘potential pandemic pathogens’ raise grave new concerns,” their letter said. 

“Laboratory creation of highly transmissible, novel strains of dangerous viruses, especially but not limited to influenza, poses substantially increased risks. An accidental infection in such a setting could trigger outbreaks that would be difficult or impossible to control. Historically, new strains of influenza, once they establish transmission in the human population, have infected a quarter or more of the world’s population within two years.”
This type of research carries such a grave risk of causing a pandemic that President Obama paused funding for gain-of-function experiments in 22 fields in 2014, including research involving Sars, influenza and Mers viruses. 

This happened after an outcry in the scientific community about the dangerous experiments some virologists were conducting. 

“Specifically, the funding pause will apply to gain-of-function research projects that may be reasonably anticipated to confer attributes to influenza, Mers, or Sars viruses such that the virus would have enhanced pathogenicity and/or transmissibility in mammals via the respiratory route,” the White House statement, dated October 17, 2014, said. 

“During this pause, the US government will not fund any new projects involving these experiments and encourages those currently conducting this type of work — whether federally funded or not — to voluntarily pause their research while risks and benefits are being reassessed.”

Before the ban took effect, Dr Anthony Fauci, a director at the NIH, had welcomed a voluntary pause on gain-of-function research but argued that 

“the benefits of such experiments and the resulting knowledge outweigh the risks. It is more likely that a pandemic would occur in nature [than as a result of a laboratory accident or leak], and the need to stay ahead of such a threat is a primary reason for performing an experiment that might appear to be risky.”

Fauci, 80, with his calm and measured manner of speech, has cultivated an image as a wise grandfatherly figure. 

Called “America’s doctor” in the media, he has spent 50 years in public service, joining the NIH during the Vietnam War after studying as a physician. 

He was appointed director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in 1984. 

Like many medical officials around the world, he became a household name during the pandemic.
Fauci’s organisation was very familiar with the work undertaken at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, with the NIH and the National Science Foundation visiting the facility in the year prior to April 2018. 

In total, the NIH has funded at least 60 scientific projects at the Wuhan Institute of Virology over the past decade. 

USAID, the federal aid agency, funded at least 16 (ten of which were jointly funded with the NIH), the Department of Health and Human Services funded three, the Department of Defense, Department of Energy, and the China–US Collaborative Program on Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Diseases individually each funded one project in conjunction with the Wuhan Institute. 

Other institutions that frequently collaborate with the institute include the New York Blood Center, the University of North Carolina and University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. 

At the same time Obama cut off funding for gain-of-function research in America, US money was still flowing to China for risky coronavirus research.
Fauci defended the scientists who had undertaken the highly controversial gain-of-function research that had prompted the global debate, saying they had “conducted their research properly and under the safest and most secure conditions”. 

The same research that some international scientists said should be banned, Fauci described as “important”. 

“Within the research community, many have expressed concern that important research progress could come to a halt just because of the fear that someone, somewhere, might attempt to replicate these experiments sloppily,” he wrote in his 2012 paper.
The mandatory “pause” or ban on gain-of-function research was inexplicably lifted under the Trump administration in 2017. 

No adequate explanation has been given for why this decision was made. There was no public debate. 

On December 19, 2017, the NIH announced it would resume funding gain-of-function research involving Mers, Sars, coronaviruses and influenza after a new “framework” had been developed by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Senior administration officials told me Fauci did not raise the issue of kickstarting gain-of-function research with any senior figures in the White House. 

There was one White House meeting, which Fauci requested with the Office of Science and Technology Policy, where he raised the issue of gain-of-function research. “It kind of just got rammed through,” a senior source claimed.

I asked the former national security adviser Robert O’Brien about this. “I was in meeting after meeting with Dr Fauci, and that never came up,” he says. 

“I don’t know if he alerted anyone. I never heard about it until I was out of office.” 

Mike Pompeo, who was director of the CIA from 2017 to 2018, said he didn’t know if Fauci got permission from anyone to re-start the dangerous research, particularly with regard to contributing funding via sub-grants to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. 

Fauci didn’t even tell his boss, Alex Azar, the health secretary, who only found out the US restriction on gain-of-function research had been lifted from media reports in 2021.
In hindsight we can clearly see that health authorities, the US government and international governments all ignored the warnings from eminent scientists, and allowed the dangerous scientific research to go ahead. 

The public was never brought into these debates. A pandemic is something that affects all of us — we have lost loved ones, battled serious illness, lost jobs, had our businesses and ways of life destroyed. 

While the origins of Covid-19 have not yet been established, it’s clear this type of research carries grave risks.
What was even more terrifying was that not only was the NIH funding gain-of-function research in the US — but it was funding research in China, where it had no oversight and no way of knowing how safe the laboratories were where these risky experiments were taking place.
Extracted from What Really Happened in Wuhan: the Cover-Ups, the Conspiracies and the Classified Research by Sharri Markson, to be published by HarperCollins on September 30 at £20. Available to order now at amazon.co.uk

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U.S. employment recovery continues, but pace of hiring slows sharply in August. Economy still 5.3 mln jobs down from pre-pandemic high of 152.5 mln. @ReutersJamie
World Of Finance

In 1929, President Herbert Hoover assured the country that things were already “back to normal,” Liaquat Ahamed writes in Lords of Finance

I don’t think this liquidity is from the Fed. [An interesting Thread] @coloradotravis

today’s world where memes are a constant assault on the senses. @coloradotravis

The Markets Are Wilding

17. Title: Bar, Las Vegas, Nevada Artist: Robert Frank

In the olden days, gold and currencies were somewhat similar:  a sovereign could issue more currency (share split) but that would dilute the imputed worth of each unit of currency, since everyone was pegging their currencies to gold via convertability.

When it’s the bankers creating the money, what governs how much is created?
Well, interest rates of course!  If you jack those things higher and make money “more expensive” this slows the growth of credit (sometimes causing it to outright contract if debt can't be rolled).

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What was once measured in gold (everything) is now measured in dollars. @coloradotravis
World Of Finance

But what’s relevant is this: the dollar, which had become the centerpiece of global finance, remained the centerpiece even after the gold peg was dropped.

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And now we can start to see a glimmer of where this “liquidity” comes from — it floods into America from the savings of other countries. Countries which are saving want dollars. They must source them from us. @coloradotravis
World Of Finance

And so we oblige, by creating dollars via debt.

So this flood of liquidity coming in is not about the Fed.

It’s about the fact that there is massive demand for dollars, and we are obliging by creating dollars (via debt) that other countries may save.
The Fed plays a role as part of this complex system, but what role?

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So the Fed monkeys around with the interest rates, and QE and SRP and RRP are a part of that. @coloradotravis
World Of Finance

BUT to attribute this liquidity influx to the Fed alone is outright incorrect.
In fact if anything, QE itself constrains non-USA borrowing by removing prime collateral.

This is why there’s so much downward pressure on the curve. Demand for collateral still massive - the Fed is lending a trillion dollars out overnight. @coloradotravis


The liquidity is not from the Fed, they’re just trying to run this weird machine.
It’s a flood savings.
From everywhere.

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BRRRR is BS. @coloradotravis
World Of Finance

And that’s why you’re gonna want to keep an eye on places like China that look like they’re beginning to roll over.
And also keep an eye on everything else because this is all very complex.
And also read the book referenced here:  “Trade Wars Are Class Wars”

23-AUG-2021 ::  ZigZag

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Currency Markets at a Glance WSJ
World Currencies

Euro 1.1867
Dollar Index 92.034
Japan Yen 109.80
Swiss Franc 0.9147
Pound 1.3844
Aussie 0.7429
India Rupee 73.047
South Korea Won 1157.67
Brazil Real 5.1938
Egypt Pound 15.7086
South Africa Rand 14.3562

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The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation at 21: Where to Next? @AfricaACSS @PNantulya

The forthcoming Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit in Dakar, Senegal, confronts a relationship that is expanding but remains deeply asymmetrical. 

After 21 years of triennial summits, there is a widespread perception that China still benefits more from the relationship than its African partners. Africa maintains a structural annual trade deficit with China amounting to over $20 billion. 

With large-scale manufacturing largely absent, African countries continue importing expensive finished goods from China while exporting cheaper raw materials. 

African countries depend on Chinese firms and lenders to finance and build critical export infrastructure. 

Yet African firms face significant entry barriers to China’s value-added product markets relative to commodity exports.
Another persistent problem is that too often African elites harness Chinese largesse to build patronage networks, strengthen their political positions, and maximize self-enrichment. 

The lack of transparency in these deals is often detrimental to African citizens’ interests

Critical regulations regarding debt ceilings, environmental and labor standards, public oversight, and knowledge transfer are flouted, leaving the respective African nation in a perpetually weaker position relative to China.

At the same time, pushback by African civil society is increasing and putting the relationship under more scrutiny as shown by the growth in recent media reporting, litigation, and protests targeting Chinese projects. 

Kenya’s loss-making Chinese-built Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) is a case in point. 

In June 2020, the Kenyan Court of Appeals declared the SGR contract illegal because it was not negotiated through a “fair, transparent, equitable, competitive and cost-effective” process—resulting in an unfavorable outcome for the public. 

While civil society engagement did not prevent Kenya from committing to the dubious deal, civil society organizations pushed for answers throughout the process, demanded more transparency, and launched multiple lawsuits.
FOCAC 2021 thus takes place in a context of growing questions over how Africa’s ruling elites manage their relationships with China. 

This is spurring growing calls to overhaul the partnership, including revisiting FOCAC’s institutional architecture.
Four Major Themes that have Shaped FOCAC in the Past Two Decades
A process rather than a mere series of summits. More African leaders choose to attend FOCAC than the UN General Assembly, the world’s largest summit. 

In 2018, 51 African presidents attended the FOCAC summit compared to just 27 at the General Assembly 2 weeks later. 

A central appeal of FOCAC is its focus on cultivating close partnerships (huǒbàn, 伙伴). Its agenda is negotiated quietly through dialogues at the ambassadorial, director-general, senior official, and ministerial levels, alternating between African and Chinese venues. 

Strategic priorities are laid down in 12 policy forums like the China-Africa Defense and Security Forum and the Ministerial Forum on China-Africa Health Cooperation. 

Technical organs like the China-Africa Local Government Cooperation Forum and the China-Africa Think Tanks Forum organize short-term training. 

Specialized think tanks within the Chinese government organize programs to give African recipients deeper exposure to China. 

The China-Africa Press Center, for example, offers 10-month fellowships for African journalists under the auspices of China’s foreign ministry.
Roughly 50,000 training slots are distributed to African Union (AU) members across these 4 categories triennially

An additional 60,000 go toward educating civilian and military students, including several thousand at the leadership level. 

By 2020, China was providing more training for Africans than any other country, having overtaken India, Germany, Japan, and the United States.

These training programs are driven by Chinese institutions, however, leading to calls for giving Africans a greater role in designing programs meant for their benefit. 

Countries like South Africa have created binational commissions dedicated to leveraging FOCAC and shaping its institutions.
China’s cultural presence has also grown. In 2000, China had no cultural institutes in Africa and educated less than 2,000 African students. 

Presently, China has the second largest number of cultural institutes in Africa having overtaken the British Council, Germany’s Goethe Institute, and the State Department’s American Centers, which have operated in Africa since 1883, 1934, and 1960, respectively

The number of African students studying in China has ballooned to 60,000, making China the top destination for English-speaking students.
Expanding China’s reach. In 2009, China displaced the United States as Africa’s largest trade partner, with total trade topping $200 billion in 2020

Chinese imports from Africa constitute between 20 to 30 percent of this trade volume and are dominated by crude oil and hydrocarbons, minerals, precious stones, and base metals

African imports from China consist of machinery, transport equipment, electronics, textiles, and footwear. 

These skewed trade patterns have led to calls for China to immediately remove tariffs on African value-added products as a means to increase the quality of Africa-to-China trade.
Investment in infrastructure and telecommunications. In 2000, China’s investment stock in Africa was just 2 percent of U.S. levels, with fewer than 200 Chinese firms on the ground. 

This soared to over 55 percent of U.S. levels by 2020, and the number of Chinese firms expanded to over 10,000, of which about 10 percent are state-owned. 

In construction alone, China’s state-owned firms have generated over $40 billion in revenues annually since 2012 in Africa

They finance one in five and build one in three projects, making China the single largest player in African infrastructure. 

Transport and energy infrastructure dominate Chinese foreign direct investment (FDI), along with utilities, technology, and real estate. 

Sixty-five percent of Chinese lending goes to the same sectors, making it difficult to neatly separate loans from investments.

Between 2000 and 2020, the Chinese portfolio included 46 port projects in Sub-Saharan Africa, one-third of Africa’s power grid and energy infrastructure, 186 government buildings, and 14 intragovernmental telecommunications networks. 

It is unclear how much of this is FDI and how much is debt-financed. However, over the same period, African countries signed 274 loans worth $46.6 billion for transport infrastructure, 174 loans for energy projects worth $38 billion, and 141 loans for communications and national security purposes worth $15.3 billion.
Many Africans are concerned that this borrowing, often subject to confidentiality clauses that bar borrowers from revealing their terms, will increase the risk of default and debt distress. 

In short, the past two decades of FOCAC collaboration have produced opportunities to expand training and infrastructure, but often on inequitable terms, which reinforce the asymmetrical nature of the relationship and increase African dependence.
Elevating African Agency
The Chinese partnership model prioritizes mutual dependency, reciprocal gestures, and networks (guānxi, 关系), meaning China must satisfy its partners—however weak—to accomplish its goals. 

Many African elites exploit this for self-serving ends. For example, entrenched regimes in resource-rich countries have long capitalized on China’s need for stable supplies to develop highly transactional relationships with Chinese actors who willingly finance African leaders’ pet projects in exchange for preferential access to resources and power brokers.
“Too often African elites harness Chinese largesse to build patronage networks, strengthen their political positions, and maximize self-enrichment.”
This has led to calls to broaden African agency in relations with China so that public interests are elevated. 

A case in point is the agreement signed by the AU and China in 2021 to align China’s Belt and Road strategy with Africa’s strategic blueprint known as Agenda 2063. 

This is a popular proposal that African think tanks lobbied the AU to table. 

Another example of African agency was the Economic Community of West African States’ (ECOWAS) creation of a single market vis-à-vis China in 2008 to increase ECOWAS’ leverage.
It should be recalled that the FOCAC enterprise itself was initiated by African countries to minimize the risk of being marginalized by the major powers after the Cold War. 

African initiative was also decisive in transforming it from a diplomatic initiative to a mechanism for development cooperation.
African agency is also being asserted bilaterally. For example, Ethiopia insisted on technology transfer and building a competent labor force as part of its negotiations with China Railway Group Limited for the 756-kilometer Ethiopia-Djibouti Railway. 

This included support for the African Railway Center of Excellence, a regional institute that trains rail engineers, including up to the masters and doctoral level. The railway is fully electrified and came at a cost of $3.4 billion. 

By way of comparison, Kenya’s Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway cost $3.2 billion, yet it is only partially electrified and covers 475 kilometers.

Kenyan civil society leaders blame corruption and lack of transparency for the government’s failure to secure better terms and ultimately defaulting on the loan. 

Kenya cancelled the project in September 2020 to comply with the Kenya Court of Appeals’ ruling that the project was illegal and avoid more lawsuits. 

Kenya then demanded to take over operations of the railway. The Chinese operator, however, insisted on receiving 38 billion Kenya shillings  (around $380 million) in unpaid bills before complying.
By contrast, in 2019 the Tanzanian government publicized the terms of the $10 billion Bagamoyo Megaport Project which it found “unacceptable” and “demeaning” including a provision for a 99-year Chinese lease and a commitment by Tanzania not to develop other ports. 

The Chinese partner accused the government of “misleading the public” but quickly tried to save face by accepting some of the counterproposals. 

With public opinion firmly against it and China’s image at risk, the Chinese side returned to the table in June 2021.
These examples show that African partners can exercise agency and shape their relationships with China. In seeking to address this, leading African specialists on China met in Johannesburg in November 2018 to lobby South Africa to use its position as the incoming FOCAC co-chair to initiate a debate on a common African approach toward China to enhance African leverage. 

In 2021, they published a policy framework on a common position for the AU to consider, which among other things calls for better coordination, ethical leadership, and transparency.
Inside FOCAC 2021: Priorities for Africa
COVID-19 vaccine access will be a top priority for the AU. It is seeking commitments from China to open up production facilities to allow African countries to purchase vaccines. 

The African side is also mobilizing Chinese support for the AU’s ongoing effort to establish five vaccine manufacturing hubs across Africa. 

In July, Egypt started manufacturing the first Chinese COVID-19 vaccine in Africa through a partnership with Sinovac, a model the AU wants to replicate as part of a larger strategy to solve supply shortages.
Debt forgiveness will be a hard sell. Chinese lenders hold roughly 21 percent of African debt and extended loans worth $152 billion to 49 countries between 2000 and 2018. 

China fears setting a precedent for blanket forgiveness and will likely stick to debt restructuring and postponing repayments. 

At least 18 African nations are renegotiating debts with around 30 different Chinese lenders. 

A further 12 African countries are attempting to reschedule around $12 billion in loans. 

The five countries with the largest Chinese debts are Angola ($25 bn), Ethiopia ($13.5 bn), Zambia ($7.4 bn), the Republic of the Congo ($7.3 bn), and Sudan ($6.4 bn).
It is unclear if some of the restructured debt will involve resource-for-infrastructure financing (RFI) or debt-equity swaps. 

In both scenarios borrowers would risk forfeiting strategic assets, effectively putting their sovereignty at risk. 

African observers are warning that China would be courting a public relations disaster if it went down this road.
Negotiating increased infrastructure financing will be complicated as China’s infrastructure lending and FDI in Africa may slow over the mid-term due to the growing number of borrowers unable to repay their debts.
The problems of commodity dependence, non-tariff barriers, and trade deficits will also feature in the Dakar discussions. 

Despite its stated commitments to diversify, China imports little beyond commodities, and its markets for finished African products remain difficult to access, a problem that requires major policy reforms on the Chinese side.
On the African side, greater efforts are needed to expand opportunities for technology-intensive manufacturing. Notable exceptions include the tiny island nation of Mauritius. 

In 2020, it became the only African country to negotiate a free trade agreement with China, granting it duty-free access for 8,000 value-added products. 

This is a game changer that could grow Mauritius’ high-tech industries, create high paying jobs, and set an example for others. 

This took several years of tough and disciplined negotiations by Mauritius, however, which simultaneously negotiated a similar agreement with India. China was compelled to offer concessions that have eluded other countries.
“China wants to expand its ‘low-cost, low-risk, and high-yield’ security strategy in Africa.”
Negotiations over security and military cooperation will be more straightforward. 

China wants to expand its “low-cost, low-risk, and high-yield” security strategy in Africa given its growing interests and the security dimensions of the Belt and Road. 

In the process, China is steadily increasing its security presence (and leverage) and is keen to consolidate its engagements in peacekeeping, military education and professionalism, and military sales and exercises. 

Moreover, the China-Africa Peace and Security Fund, a special facility created in 2015 to operationalize the African Standby Force, is up for discussion and will likely be extended to 2024.
On the sidelines of the FOCAC summit, independent voices are also conveying their priorities given the impact these policies have on ordinary citizens, namely that:
African governments must be accountable to their citizens for their engagements with China, especially on financial decisions.
Public concerns should be considered in all negotiations such as environmental rights, debt sustainability, respect for local regulations, and labor laws.
African countries should be more strategic, for instance, by leveraging their engagements with China to support the AU’s six continental frameworks: agriculture; infrastructure; mining; science, technology and innovation; intra-African trade; industrial development, and value-addition.
Transforming FOCAC
China views Africa as place of economic and geostrategic opportunity despite the risks and wants to integrate Africa into China’s global strategy to restore itself as a “Great Power” (shì jiè qiáng guó; 世界强国). 

By contrast, African countries have not articulated a clear strategy, leading to growing calls for better coordination based on national, regional, and continental priorities. 

The expanding role of independent African actors, likewise, shows that Africa-China relations are not the exclusive domain of governments.
African citizens are calling on governments to revisit FOCAC’s architecture by expanding its existing mechanisms to reflect African inputs, establishing their own institutions within the partnership, and pushing China to undertake reforms to make it more equitable.

African voices are, moreover, pushing harder for accountability, transparency, and better oversight. While they largely welcome more Chinese investment and capacity building, they remain concerned that key aspects of the Africa-China relationship remain personalized and secretive, and therefore prone to corruption.
While it takes two to tango, African citizens are attempting to assert agency on their governments by demanding that they set and stick to the rules that Chinese actors must uphold. 

While in a much more dominant position, China can ill-afford to ignore these realities given how acutely sensitive it is to its image and how its intentions are perceived and characterized, particularly among developing countries. 

For FOCAC to deliver for African citizens, both African and Chinese leaders must be held accountable to prioritize citizen interests and be compelled to demonstrate transparently how all agreements undertaken at FOCAC are doing so.

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Opening ceremony of the 2018 FOCAC summit. (Photo: Présidence de la République du Bénin) @AfricaACSS

19-APR-2020 ::  China Africa Win Win

And the entire China Africa relationship has been an extraordinary exercise in Narrative Framing and linguistic control, accompanied by a chorus of Party Hacks chirruping Hosannas at every turn amplifying largely meaningless feel good Phrases artfully placed in the mouths of our Politicians and our Newspapers.It is remarkable.
I reference excerpts from Chinese President Xi Jinping's speech at the opening ceremony of 2018 FOCAC Beijing Summit

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

Ladies and Gentlemen,

China and Africa have extended sympathy to and helped each other throughout all the years. Together, we have embarked on a distinctive path of win-win cooperation.

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

"The red rising sun will light up the road ahead." I am confident that the baton of China-Africa friendship will be passed from one generation to the next and that China and Africa, working together, will build an even more vibrant community with a shared future. 

The day will surely come when the Chinese nation realizes its dream of national renewal and Africa realizes its dream of unity and invigoration!

Interestingly, At that 2018 FOCAC Meeting Xi Jinping also delivered a thinly veiled warning
China's Xi says funds for Africa not for 'vanity projects' Reuters #FOCAC2018
Our African Leaders did not take notes and that Warning was missed.

I said this in an Interview with Aljazeera in 2018
“China had a singular and positive influence on Africa. It rebalanced the demand side for Africa’s commodities and also bought those commodities on a long-term basis. It was this which triggered the African recovery some two decades ago, 

However, since then a freewheeling China has favourited elites, has facilitated large-scale looting via inflated infrastructure, some of which were white elephants and has lumped the African citizen with the tab. How this plays out is now the key to Sino-African relations going forward. A Hambantota scenario would be problematic,” 

referring to the Sri Lankan port which has been leased to China for 99 years. .

This is a symptom of the SSA disease.
Basically China has an Option to buy in SSA Assets at fire-sale Prices.

“Let the people of the country see what the terms of the debt are as their government makes commitments,” Malpass said.
The Terms of these debts are hidden precisely because they are so egregious.

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#COVID19 update in Africa as of 03/09/2021 @AfricaCDC

"24 out of 54 African countries – are still reporting high or fast-rising #COVID19 case numbers. The epicentre is a moving target, jumping from one sub-region to the next." - Dr @MoetiTshidi @WHOAFRO

"24 out of 54 African countries – nearly half – are still reporting high or fast-rising #COVID19 case numbers. The epicentre is a moving target, jumping from one sub-region to the next. Cases are rising in West, Central & East Africa." - Dr @MoetiTshidi

19-JUL-2021 :: So, my Point is this, our Attention span is short and Many Folks seem to feel we are in the final Act of the COVID-19 Play. I would be limit short that particular narrative.

Drinking the Kool-Aid 

Ethiopia is entering a third wave of #COVID19, with cases up by 1,800% since early July. @ONEAftershocks

''viruses exhibit non-linear and exponential characteristics''

28-MAR-2021  we are seeing a sustained acceleration in mutant viruses.

“It has all of the signatures of immune escape,” Tulio de Oliveira @Tuliodna the director of South Africa’s world-leading gene-sequencing institute known as @krisp_news @business 

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Possibly an ongoing coup in Conakry, Guinea @africaken1

The first footage of the President of #Guinea Alpha Condé arrested by the military appeared on social networks. @terror_alarm


The President seems to be arrested, soldiers taking pictures on him. @ncambirwa

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Turning to Africa

We are getting closer and closer to the Virilian Tipping Point

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

A domino effect post Bamako and Ndjamena. These proto-states of ours where regents can be removed just like that. @hervegogo

I will be first to admit, in terms of countries where I expected a coup d'etat (Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Niger and possibly Mauritania), Guinea was quite far down the list @Pol_Sec_Analyst

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

In my memoirs, Ill write about how I spent a good few days in the company of coup leader Mamadi Doumbouya in a German ski resort town, most of which was looking for his misplaced Burberry scarf @Pol_Sec_Analyst

So Alpha Conde is the latest West African statesman to fall victim to a coup d'etat. In my memoirs, Ill write about how I spent a good few days in the company of coup leader Mamadi Doumbouya in a German ski resort town, most of which was looking for his misplaced Burberry scarf

The masses are PISSED :: Thanks For Coming To My Ted Talk @mwandokamau

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Re-election, Death and Putsch: A zero Sum Game. @hervegogo

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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Russia will be watching the coup in #Guinea closely: @SamRamani2

1) Guinea is Russia's strongest West African partner
2) Yevgeny Prigozhin has bauxite interests in Guinea
3) Russia backed Conde's third term and the Wagner Group has deployed PMCs there

Boyarkin blames the protests mainly on “outside forces” and has nothing but praise for Conde. “I consider him a savior for Guinea.”

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Vladimir Putin and Alpha Conde during a meeting on the sidelines of the 2019 Russia-Africa Summit, on Oct. 24, in Sochi. Photographer: Valery SharifulinTASS via Getty Images

28 OCT 19 ::  From Russia with Love

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

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'War makes for bitter men. Heartless and savage men,” Abiy said in his Nobel prize lecture. @FT @davidpilling

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity.

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Ethiopia's Tigrayans rounded up, mutilated and dismembered in civil war ethnic purge @Telegraph

Forces occupying a major city in Ethiopia are throwing thousands of men, women and children into makeshift "concentration camps", cutting off limbs and dumping mutilated bodies into mass graves as part of an orchestrated ethnic purge, a dozen separate witnesses told The Telegraph.
Ethnic Amhara forces have been going "door-to-door" to round up anyone who is ethnic Tigrayan in the latest harrowing evidence of population cleansing in Ethiopia's blood-drenched civil war. 

Humera is a city of about 50,000 near Ethiopia's border with Eritrea and Sudan. 

Because of its strategic location, it was one of the first places to be attacked when Ethiopia's Nobel Peace Prize-winning Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrea's dictator launched a devastating pincer attack to crush Tigray's regional government in November. 

Sources said that after a stunning series of victories by the Tigrayan Defence Forces in late June, the occupying forces in Humera started to purge ethnic Tigrayans in the city.
The Telegraph understands that on 15 July, Amhara forces held a public meeting in the main municipality hall in Humera to decide the fate of Tigrayans in the areas they controlled.
"They said this; 'We should exterminate all Tigrayan residents in the city. We must cleanse them all," said one man who claims he attended the public meeting. 

"If it is written in your identity card that you are Tigrayan, there is no mercy," said another. 

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Recruits for reserves of Amhara regional forces, together with members of the Amhara militia CREDIT: EDUARDO SOTERAS/AFP via Getty Images @Telegraph

9-JUL-2021 :: 
His Army has been defeated and now he is sending conscripts to slaughter whilst his Adversaries are fighting for their existence.


In the Horn of Africa the Prime Minister of Ethiopia who cloaked his messianic zeal in the language of Mandela 1994 is unlikely to last more than twelve months.

His Army has been defeated and now he is sending conscripts to slaughter whilst his Adversaries are fighting for their existence. 

The Contagion will surely boomerang as far as Asmara and destabilise the Horn of Africa for the forseeable future.
If I could I would be limit short the Ethiopian Birr [It trades at 60 to the $ on the black market

If this ⁦@Telegraph report from #Humera, #Ethiopia, is correct, then unquestionably the homicidal acts at scale described amount to #genocide against #Tigrayans. ⁦@UNHumanRights @HelenClarkNZ

What is clear is that Abiy’s campaign to centralize power in the capital is in tatters. 

‘The genie out of the bottle’ @AfricanBizMag

November 8, 2020 Ethiopia which was once the Poster child of the African Renaissance

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Inflation that quickened to 30.4% in August. That’s the highest since December 2012. @business

The East African nation on Sept. 1 doubled the statutory reserve requirement for commercial lenders to 10% and increased the amount of foreign currency they must remit to the central bank, in an effort to rein in inflation 
Annual food inflation accelerated to 37.6% in August from 32% the previous month as the cost of items from bread to rice increased rapidly. 

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BOZ fortnightly day from their website, the excel has a tab for outstanding gov bonds, shows increase from ZMW 100bn in April to ZMW 135bn July 2nd (latest data in there for mo). @emsovdebt

14-OCT-2019 ::The Canary in the Coal Mine is Zambia

Wow I did not see that? That explains all the cash we saw being bandied around by ruling party cadres! That is close to economic sabotage. @SimumbaTrevor

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Nigeria’s naira fell to a record low of 530 against the dollar on the parallel market, according Abokifx, an online platform that tracks the data. @business

5 March 2020 A Currency Devaluation is now predicted and predictable. @TheAfricaReport

"He is usually addressed by the title “Mallam”, out of respect for his erudition... So it may seem odd that one of his early acts as governor was to fire almost 22,000 primary-school teachers. Yet he had cause. Those he booted out had failed a test designed for nine-year-olds."

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Déby’s Spring Fall: How an Unlikely Rebellion Toppled Chad’s Dictator @SmallArmsSurvey

The first time I saw Idriss Déby was in 2014 at the first Dakar Forum, the now yearly event organized by the French Defence Ministry in Senegal’s capital to strengthen ties with African allies, in particular the-then brand new G5-Sahel coalition (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger) in the fight against terrorism in the Sahel. 

The Chadian army’s reputation as the best in the lot allowed the unusually jovial Déby to tease both the older Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta from Mali (since then toppled by a military coup), calling him by his initials, and French Minister of Defence Jean-Yves Le Drian (now Minister of Foreign Affairs). 

The latter didn’t laugh much when the Chadian ruler half-jokingly suggested that, since the ongoing chaos in Libya and its repercussions on the Sahel were due to the removal of Qaddafi by a NATO-operation largely inspired by France, Paris now needed to ‘provide after-sales service’ and send troops to Libya again. 

No matter how embarrassed his French guest felt, Déby was running the show.
I saw him a second and last time in 2016 — the crucial year of his penultimate, and possibly most disputed, re-election. 

Growing worries on his longevity and controversies over succession plans undermining balances within both his political support base and his own Zaghawa tribe, were about to begin a five-year period where divides were exposed more publicly than ever. 

That second sighting took place in the symbolic heart of Déby’s power, in Am Djéress, his small ‘capital’ in barren, north-eastern Chad. 

The odd and short stretch of paved road from the local airport to town was patrolled by armoured vehicles and the whole area appeared to be surrounded by military camps

In fact, there seemed to be more military than civilians in town, although the locals driving me around told me that there were more people than usual. 

Most didn’t like to live here, they said, but many were coming back at times, when ‘the boss’ was in town — both so that he would see them there and so that he wouldn’t leave with the illusion that it was a ghost town — from where he increasingly seemed to manage the affairs of the state. 

My guides were frustrated, accusing the president of having done nothing tangible to develop their desert homeland and ironized the ‘international airport’ as well as the two-storey columned palace of the president, which he rarely seemed to leave.

The occasion of my visit was a festival of the ‘Saharan cultures’, but the festive showman I had seen in Dakar was almost invisible. 

He only left the palace for the horse race; not a huge surprise as he was said to be truly fond of horses, often spending time riding when he was in Am Djéress. 

Wearing a cowboy hat — an accessory adopted by various African leaders — he stood up to give medals and cash to the winners, many of whom were riding horses belonging to the stable of ‘His Majesty the Sultan of Dar Bilia’ (none other than the president himself, having self-proclaimed as sultan in 2010). 

But this time, ‘His Majesty’ didn’t make jokes and his limited appearance only exacerbated longtime rumours that Déby was seriously ill. The atmosphere was tense. 

At a makeshift exhibit on the local culture, handwritten panels vainly praised the president’s clan as the best of all. ‘These flatterers are not doing any good’, one of Déby’s relatives commented to me.
A History of Discontent
Idriss Déby ruled Chad for thirty years, during which the country suffered many violent episodes, including regular rebel attacks on the capital, of which two managed to reach it. 

However, the political changes that many Chadians were calling for (change of type of regime, change of ruler) didn’t take place — thus allowing for Chad to be systematically praised internationally as a ‘stable’ state. 

Déby took power as a rebel leader in 1990 and, as it was the end of the cold war, many expected him to soon relinquish control to a civilian, democratic regime, as he had promised. Instead, he held onto power thanks to rigged elections and changes to the constitution.
Almost immediately after Déby took control, the first rebels against him appeared — many of whom were dissatisfied brothers-in-arms from the group that had led him to the presidency: the Mouvement patriotique du salut (MPS; Salvation Patriotic Movement). 

After peace talks with Déby, his former chief-of-staff-turned-rebel Abbas Kotty was assassinated, leaving a lasting impression that Déby only understood the language of weapons and that the agreements he signed were not to be trusted, in turn feeding continuous rebellions. 

Unarmed opponents long called for peaceful change through fair elections or dialogue, but were not taken seriously by Chad’s main foreign backer, France, who kept describing both armed and unarmed opponents as ‘immature’. 

On the contrary, Déby’s first election, in 1996, was rigged, with the support of French ‘experts’. Ten years after, he changed the constitution to be able to run again.
In the meantime, the regime became increasingly rife with corruption, culminating in Déby caught red-handed in a massive case involving printed counterfeit Bahraini dinars, in 1998

This did not prevent the World Bank from, around the same time, promoting an Exxon-operated oil project in southern Chad — whose royalties would be dedicated to the country’s development — as a model for others. 

Yet, as dissensions surfaced within the regime, and as Déby’s cousins, the Erdimi brothers (one of whom had been Chad’s oil negotiator with Exxon) formed a rebellion, Déby began using the oil money to buy weapons against them — in a perfect illustration of the oil curse.
Déby’s main curse, however, may have been his own Zaghawa tribe

In 2003, some of his Zaghawa army officers began to support or join the early Darfur rebels in Sudan, whether in a bet of replicating Déby’s takeover on the other side of the border, or simply to protect their kin from the Sudanese government’s counter-insurgency. 

Khartoum’s reaction was to arm not only the infamous Sudan-based janjawid militias, many of whom were recruited among Chadian Arabs, but Chadian rebels of all tribes. 

Two successive rebel raids, in 2006 and 2008, nearly toppled Déby, but he was ultimately saved by the rebels’ disagreements and French military support. 

The 2010 reconciliation between Chad and Sudan ended these rebellions and saw Déby fight the Sudanese Zaghawa rebels instead, as well as pressure them into making peace with Khartoum.
The Zaghawa community resented the boss’ shifting loyalties. 

In 2016 in Am Djéress, while not wishing to comment on Déby’s health, a relative acknowledged to me that no one was eternal and the family was trying to discuss scenarios for succession, in case anything happened. 

Several sons’ names were mentioned, including that of young General Mahamat ‘Kaka’. 

But there were disagreements, and Déby systematically cut short such discussions, seeing them as attempts to remove him.
It had not always been like that, the relative told me, claiming that in 2005, the family (and allegedly France) were the ones that had to pressure Déby so that he would amend the constitution to be allowed to run for a third mandate (he ran three more times since). 

But now, the relative said, the situation was not good. As we were talking, Am Djéress inhabitants were claiming the festival’s money had disappeared at the hands of some officials from elsewhere.
The teeth grinding I had heard in Am Djéress became louder during Déby’s fifth term (2016–2021). 

In recent years, in particular since that crucial 2016 election year, Déby’s power circle became tighter, so that dissidents appeared within his own Zaghawa community, within the army, and within his own family — all of whom may have seen themselves in power positions prior to this. 

His power grip culminated in 2020, when he celebrated his thirty-year rule by elevating himself as Chad’s first and only Field Marshall. 

The opposition crystallized in the lead-up to the 2021 election for which one of his cousins, Yaya Dilo, decided to run against Déby. 

In February 2021, Déby sent forces, even tanks, to arrest him, but Dilo resisted and although his mother was killed, he managed to escape, likely thanks to complicity within the army…
An Unlikely Success
After the Dilo episode, Déby’s popularity was rather low but in April, he still ran for election a 6th time. 

This brought Chadian rebels, believing Déby’s re-election should not happen quietly once again, back to the picture. 

Both Chadian and Sudanese decades-old rebel movements were based in Libya, surviving there as guns-for-hire serving different Libyan factions fighting each other. 

One of these Chadian rebel groups was the Front pour l’alternance et la concorde au Tchad (FACT — Front for Change and Concord in Chad). Its leader, Mahamat Mahadi, was the typical first generation Chadian rebel. 

He told me he had first joined the rebellion in 1978, when he was only 14, ‘imitating the elders’. ‘Today, I would be called a child soldier’, he joked

Interestingly, he did not join the group of his Goran kinsman Hissène Habré.[1] Since then, he alternatively led the lives of a rebel in the Sahara and an asylum seeker in France.
In April 2021, FACT decided to attack on election day, and rushed toward the capital. They were intercepted by the Chadian army 300 kilometers from N’Djaména

Déby went to the frontline to make sure his troops would not demobilize. It was then announced that he had been killed — officially by the rebels. Another version of the story is that he was killed during a shoot-out between his guards and a frustrated general from his own tribe.
In fact, this scenario (Déby’s violent death) had been predicted for long, but as mentioned above it seems Déby had prevented people, including his own family, to discuss succession or transition plans. 

As a result, no plans existed and, in a rush, a group of generals — most of them from Déby’s tribe — proclaimed themselves as a Transitional Military Council (TMC) under Déby’s son General Mahamat ‘Kaka’, one of the possible heirs I had heard of in Am Djéress. 

A general in his thirties, Mahamat had first come to the fore as deputy commander of the Chadian contingent in Mali. 

In reality, the TMC’s proclamation was a military coup and a breach of the constitution. 

France is Chad’s main backer and initially fully supported the TMC, but then had to adjust to criticism and calls, nationally and internationally, for democratic transition and inclusive dialogue. 

It seems Paris was short of measuring how fed up the Chadians really were — even some army generals appeared to reject the TMC. Since May 2021, the process has been rather quiet and slow.
As a Matter Of FACT
However, the FACT assault could have been just another ‘usual’ rebel attack, and only became a catalyst for a long-forecast succession crisis as a result of numerous and simultaneously unfolding events.
Retrospectively, some of the fighters who took part in the raid described it as a suicide mission — there was no guarantee that they would overpower the Chadian army, and in reality FACT was largely defeated. 

However, it seems the rebels were hoping, rather than to defeat the army, that it would demobilize — in 2019, as a lighter Zaghawa rebel column entered Chad, the Chadian army (most of whose leadership were also from the Zaghawa group) had refused to fight, so French jets had intervened to stop the rebels

But in 2021, the rebels were from the Goran group and the army appeared ready. In addition, while FACT hoped that France would stay neutral, it did not since French planes were still involved as observers, providing precious intelligence and some logistical support.
Since it is not difficult to cross to and from Libya for Chadian (or Sudanese) combatants, FACT survivors were able to return to Libya, and the group may still be able to reconstitute itself through troops and equipment. 

But it may not be as easy as it used to be, since the attention they attracted may not only bring them would-be recruits, but also obstacles from actors in Libya keen to avoid new cross-border raids.
International Roles

Unlike in Sudan and Libya where multiple agendas and actors are present on the ground, France is still the dominant actor in Chad, and it does not view itself as a foreign player but rather an internal player taking decisions impacting and influencing Chad’s internal policies and governance.
With the current status quo, France is at a crossroads to either continue its policy and support a new military regime in exchange for continuing to borrow Chad’s troops in the Sahel, or seize the opportunity to support a genuine democratic change in the country. 

Moreover, France’s hegemonic role in Chad is making France unpopular in the country which is opening the door for other players to intervene in Chad, with the sole goal of undermining France’s role.
This is obvious by looking at Russia’s policies and role in the region. Russia is now very influential in the Central African Republic (CAR), south of Chad. 

There are concerns that Russia is also willing to set foot in Chad, and that it may have supported FACT as an end to those means (other conspiracies theories involved support from the United Arab Emirates, Sudan, and even France itself…). 

The FACT attack raised questions on not only Haftar’s loyalties toward Chad and France, but also the slightly odd coexistence of French and Russian forces on Haftar’s side. 

Mahamat Mahadi’s own reply to those questions — mentioning that he has been cooperating with both French and Russian forces in Libya for years — reminds us that Libya is the only place where Russia and France (and many other foreign players, with the notable exceptions of Turkey and Qatar) are on the same side.
Whether Russia supported the FACT attack is not confirmed, and it is possible that Russia was not involved at all. It is however obvious that Russia is trying to benefit from Déby’s death, and from France’s growing unpopularity, to gain influence in Chad — but much less through Libya than CAR. 

The competition between France (or more generally the West) and Russia on central Africa or other regions at the UN Security Council level hinders local ability, including for the Chadian people, to decide on their own fate and their national aspirations.
[1] Alongside the closely related Tubu and the Zaghawa, the Goran, also called Dazagada, are one of the main communities of the Chadian Sahara. Chad’s former president Hissène Habré (in power from 1982–1990) was one of them, and his authoritarian regime became increasingly tribal until he was toppled by his former chief of staff Déby. Hissène Habré died on 24 August 2021.
Jérôme Tubiana is an independent researcher and SANA expert. For more than twenty years, he covered conflicts in Chad, Sudan, South Sudan, Niger and Libya, notably for the Small Arms Survey. He is the author of Guantánamo Kid: The True Story of Mohammed El-Gharani (SelfMadeHero/Abrams, 2019).

 Idriss Déby’s palace in his desert capital Am Djéress, January 2016. Source: Jérôme Tubiana @SmallArmsSurvey

 Idriss Déby (third from left) and traditional chiefs at a horse race in his stronghold of Am Djéress, northeastern Chad, January 2016. Source: Jérôme Tubiana @SmallArmsSurvey

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Am Djéress, Idriss Déby’s empty desert capital, January 2016. Source: Jérôme Tubiana @SmallArmsSurvey

Re-election, Death and Putsch: A zero Sum Game. @hervegogo

28 OCT 19 ::  From Russia with Love

“Our African agenda is positive and future-oriented. We do not ally with someone against someone else, and we strongly oppose any geopolitical games involving Africa.”

“Russia regards Africa as an important and active participant in the emerging polycentric architecture of the world order and an ally in protecting international law against attempts to undermine it,” said Russian deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov back in November 2018.

Recently we have seen Russian interventions in the Central African Republic CAR.
In July this year, a three-minute animated video appeared on YouTube. Called Lionbear, the cartoon was aimed at children and told the story of a brave but beleaguered Central African lion, who was fighting a losing battle against a pack of hungry hyenas. 

Luckily the lion had a friend who came to the rescue — the strong Russian bear. 

The bear fights off the hyenas brings peace to the land and everyone lives happily ever after.The video was produced by Lobaye Invest, a Russian mining company with links to the Wagner Group. 

Lobaye runs a radio station in the CAR, and organised a Miss CAR pageant. 

But, as a CNN investigation reported this year, Lobaye also funds the 250 Russian mercenaries who are stationed in the country.
“The dividend for Lobaye Invest: generous concessions to explore for diamonds and gold in a country rich in mineral wealth,” it reported. 

The Russian mercenaries are officially there to train the CAR’s national army.

Andrew Korybko writes Moscow invaluably fills the much-needed niche of providing its partners there with “Democratic Security”, or in other words, the cost-effective and low-commitment capabilities needed to thwart colour revolutions and resolve unconventional Wars (collectively referred to as Hybrid War).
To simplify, Russia’s “political technologists” have reportedly devised bespoke solutions for confronting incipient and ongoing color revolutions, just like its private military contractors (PMCs) have supposedly done the same when it comes to ending insurgencies.

Once we look through the Optics of two nuclear-capable supersonic bombers belonging to the Russian Air Force landing in Pretoria for the aircraft’s first-ever landing on the African continent and, according to an embassy official, only the second country in which it has made a public appearance outside of Russia.

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A night at Africa’s highest city bar @thecontinent_

Somewhere up there in the clouds above the continent’s wealthiest square mile floats Alto234

Africa’s highest urban bar – perched on the very top of Africa’s tallest skyscraper – is opening this weekend, and a few select members of the public were invited for a sneak peek (aka moi). 

After summiting 234 metres to the 57th floor of The Leonardo in Sandton, Johannesburg, we were greeted with a stream of Moët & Chandon and views of the thriving metropolis that is Johannesburg, from the very centre of what is Africa’s richest square mile: this is Alto 234.

“We’re giving the consumer not only golden sunsets but a golden experience,” Moët Hennessy @MoetHennessy  portfolio manager Patrick John Leslie told The Continent.
“There’s more money within a mile of where we are right now on this rooftop than the majority of close to 50 countries on the African continent. It really is the pulse of the African economy.”

An Interview with Philippe Schaus CEO of Moët Hennessy @MoetHennessy @LVMH @RichTvAfrica

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

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