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Satchu's Rich Wrap-Up
Friday 03rd of September 2021

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Just published @NEJM Breakthrough infections in health care workers before and during the Delta wave @EricTopol

mRNA Vaccine effectiveness vs symptomatic infections dropped from 94% to 66% [95% CI 49,77]

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"Our data suggest that vaccine effectiveness against any symptomatic disease is considerably lower against the Delta variant and may wane over time since vaccination" @EricTopol

The breakthrough attack rate went from pre-Delta 0.25/100,000 to Delta 5.7/100,000 in fully vaccinated (23-fold)

Each successive variant has proven to be slightly more vaccine-evading than the last. @yaneerbaryam

“The variants are like a thoroughbred and our vaccines are like a workhorse,” noted evolutionary biologist Sally Otto.

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He said that snakes had been known to bite their own tails Roberto Bolaño Last Evenings on Earth

He said that snakes had even been known to swallow themselves whole & if you see a snake in process of swallowing itself you better run because sooner or later something bad is going to happen some dislocation of reality

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A Little Lumpen Novelita | Roberto Bolaño

That’s what I remember. And I remember the sunset, a sunset of rose and ocher that crept all the way to the back of the salon, but never touched me.

My brother and the two men who lived in our house were waiting for me. I saw them from outside. 

The three of them were standing in the window, like fish in a fishbowl, watching the street. It took them a while to spot me there on the sidewalk, watching them.

He was born in Pescara, but had lived in Rome since he was fifteen, in Santa Loreto, a suburb that he thought of as home and for which he was sometimes nostalgic, though when luck was on his side, he bought the big house on Via Germanico where I met him the night I was brought there.

A night that was like high noon in August and was one of the strangest nights in my life.
The Bolognan rang the bell several times. A voice over an intercom asked who was there.
Then the gate opened and we were let into the little garden where even at night the plants struggled for scarce living space. More than a garden, it was like a cemetery.

There were three stone steps up to the porch. For a long time we stood there waiting for someone to open the door.

A voice — Maciste’s — told me to stay where I was, not to move forward or back, and then he greeted my brother’s friends, hello, how are you? 

And in that brief how are you I sensed an incredible fragility, a fragility like a manta ray falling from the ceiling, the dark foyer the bottom of the sea and the manta ray watching us from above, halfway between the sea floor and the surface.

Between the two paintings there was a niche holding an icon of St. Pietrino of the Seychelles.

“St. Pietrino of the Seychelles? The Seychelle islands?”
“Yes,” said Maciste.
“He went so far away — who is this St. Pietrino?”
“A saint.”
''Yes, but what kind of saint? I’ve never heard of him. It must be a joke.”
“No, it isn’t a joke,” said Maciste. “He’s a modern-day Roman saint who was born in Santa Loreto, like me, and one day he went to preach in the Seychelles, that’s all.”

Sometimes I heard a strange sound that split the darkness like a ray of chalk, and Maciste said it was the cry of a hawk that lived in an abandoned house nearby, though I had never heard of a hawk living in a big city, but these things happen in Rome, strange things that were at the time beyond my comprehension

That night, for the first time in a long time, night was really night, dark and fragile and edged with fears, and it was the weak and the weary who sat up awake, eager to see the dawn again, the shimmering light of Piazza Sonnino. 

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Etnografia Maputo Museum Mozambique #Africa


"Courage!" he said, and pointed toward the land, 

"This mounting wave will roll us shoreward soon." 

In the afternoon they came unto a land
In which it seemed always afternoon.
All round the coast the languid air did swoon, Breathing like one that hath a weary dream.
Then some one said, "We will return no more"; And all at once they sang, 

"Our island home Is far beyond the wave; we will no longer roam."

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“The precocity of the Indian Ocean as a zone of long-range navigation and cultural exchange is one of the glaring facts of history’, made possible by the ‘reversible escalator’ of the monsoon.” [Professor Felipe Fernández-Armesto].

Interview with Maria Joao Lopo de Carvalho about Luis de Camoes and her book which followed his c16th journey from Portugal to Macau via the Cape of Good Hope Mozambique Mombasa Malindi Oman Hormuz Goa Sri Lanka Macau Malacca

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Mohsin Hamid on Afghanistan — and the case against wars @FT
Law & Politics

A little over half a century ago, in 1970, my mother’s parents took her to Kabul to shop for her wedding. From Lahore, Kabul was only a short flight or a long drive away, much closer than Karachi. It was the first time my mother had left Pakistan.
They stayed in a hotel but were shown around Kabul by a family friend, a young Persian-speaking Afghan woman who had attended medical school in Lahore with my mother’s sister. 

This friend wore stylish western dresses, as many well-off women in Kabul did, and my mother was struck by how modern and cosmopolitan Kabul seemed. 

The city was full of westerners, including, in my mother’s recounting, throngs of “hippies and druggies”. My mother loved it at once.
One day they went for a picnic in a park. There was a river or a canal nearby, and beside this body of water some western women were sunbathing in bikinis. 

A group of Afghan men in traditional attire emerged from the trees and began to stare. Clearly uncomfortable, the women covered themselves and ran off.
My mother’s party all laughed as they watched this scene unfold. It seemed harmless enough. “Westerners come here,” their Afghan friend said, “and forget where they are.”
In recent weeks, as I have seen the heart-rending images from Kabul airport — of thousands of desperate people crowded outside, of babies being handed to soldiers over barbed wire, of men clinging to the sides of aircraft and tumbling from the skies after take-off, of blood staining the ground after a bomb blast — I have asked myself how this can be happening once again. 

For this is not the first time a western intervention in Afghanistan has ended in horror and chaos. Those of us in the region who are old enough can remember another.

When I was a boy growing up in Lahore, Afghanistan and Pakistan were made into a cold war battlefield. 

A coup in 1978 established a communist government in Afghanistan, and in the face of Afghan resistance to the new regime, the Soviet Union invaded in 1979

The US intervened, allying with Pakistan in a massive operation to defeat the Soviet Union. The plan was to arm and train mujahideen, those who do jihad — or, as we might call them today, jihadists — to enter Afghanistan from bases in Pakistan and wage a guerrilla war against the Soviet Union. 

Most of these fighters were Afghans, but some Muslims drawn from all over the world by an international call to join in jihad, among them a young Saudi named Osama bin Laden.

The Soviets fought brutally. They also engaged in a massive nation-building exercise, educating and providing technical training to tens of thousands of Afghans, constructing schools and hospitals and infrastructure. 

But soon American-backed guerrillas controlled most of the countryside. The Soviets and their Afghan government allies controlled mainly the cities and towns and major roads. 

Millions of Afghan refugees displaced by the fighting came to Pakistan and Iran. More than half a million Afghans died, possibly far more.

After 10 years of attempted occupation, the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989

The US withdrew from the region as well, and reimposed sanctions on Pakistan for its nuclear weapons programme, sanctions that had been lifted and replaced by copious aid in the 1980s while the war against the Soviets was under way. 

Afghanistan descended into civil war and chaos. And in horrific fighting between various mujahideen factions in 1992, Kabul was all but destroyed. Afghanistan lay in ruins.

Pakistan, too, suffered during this time. Had my mother gone to Karachi rather than Kabul for her wedding shopping, she would have found a city with bars and nightclubs, with many foreigners from diplomatic missions and corporate offices and airline flight crews wandering around. 

For in 1970, Karachi was the Dubai of its era, a thriving hub for air traffic and trade and commerce, perched advantageously midway between Europe and east Asia. 

But by 1992, flooded with Kalashnikovs and heroin and militants from the Afghan conflict, and riven by inter-ethnic violence and crime, Karachi was a deeply troubled city non-Pakistanis usually did their best to avoid.
To defeat the Soviets, America had enthusiastically supported the regime of Pakistan’s dictator, General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, and had enabled Zia’s project of Islamisation, which sought to remake every aspect of Pakistani life along the lines of Zia’s regressive interpretation of Islam. 

Schoolbooks were rewritten, newspapers censored and opponents imprisoned. Religious student groups intimidated secular faculty on university campuses. Militants killed members of religious minorities. 

All while Zia was feted at the White House by Ronald Reagan and given billions of dollars of American arms and aid.
The US won the cold war. But Afghanistan was shattered, and the scars suffered by Pakistan from that period have yet to heal

Some, indeed, have festered and grown worse. For many of the people of this region, the price paid for America’s victory in the cold war might understandably have felt much, much too high.
The Afghan civil war of the 1990s gave birth to the Taliban. The Taliban played host to Osama bin Laden (who returned to the site of his 1980s jihad against the Soviets). 

Bin Laden resented America’s military presence in Saudi Arabia. He orchestrated the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Thousands in America were killed. The US invaded Afghanistan. The routed Taliban attempted to surrender in exchange for amnesty. They were rebuffed. 

Twenty more years of fighting ensued. Once again a foreign power and its Afghan government allies controlled Afghanistan’s cities. 

Once again jihadist guerrillas controlled the countryside. Once again the guerrillas finally seized Kabul. And once again a foreign army is now beating a retreat.
What has been the point of it all? And what has been the point of the rest of it, the disasters that followed military intervention in Iraq and elsewhere across the region? 

“We came to defeat terrorism,” it is repeatedly said of the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. But surely terrorism has not been defeated, as last week’s suicide bombing at Kabul airport attests? 

And if it has not been defeated, if the best that can be done is for terrorism to be managed through a combination of political settlements and international pressure and working with local regimes and with neighbouring countries and launching occasional narrowly targeted operations, then why were the wars of the past 20 years waged at all?
The end of a war ought not to be a time to adjust our focus to the next war. The end of a war ought to be a time to focus on peace
Rather than ask these questions, we are told that the withdrawal from Afghanistan frees America to focus its military on China. China, not terrorism, is the real threat. China must, at all costs, be stopped.
I am not a military expert. But I am familiar with what it is like to live in a country run by military experts. 

In Pakistan the population has long been told that India is the greatest challenge Pakistan faces. Not illiteracy, not militancy, not climate change, not poverty, not healthcare, but India. 

India is no doubt a dangerous neighbour to Pakistan. (And Pakistan is to India, as well.) But I nonetheless wish Pakistan had chosen its priorities differently.
Meanwhile in India, now enlisted by the US as an ally against China, there are signs of a transformation similar in many ways to that of America-allied Pakistan in the 1980s. 

In place of the Soviet threat there is the Chinese threat, in place of Zia’s Islamisation there is Modi’s Hindutva, and once again minorities are victimised, journalists are intimidated, and the structures of democracy are yielding to an increasingly intolerant autocracy. 

Pakistan’s history of superpower-backed religious chauvinism should have served India as a cautionary tale. Instead, it seems to be serving as something of an inspiration

And so, as we the people of the world are encouraged to pivot from a cold war to a war on terror to a war against Chinese hegemony, I would suggest that we watch closely the calamitous debacle unfolding in Afghanistan and remain suitably sceptical.
Other than China, what might qualify as a worthy challenge for the world to do its utmost to meet? The Covid-19 pandemic we are currently battling is an obvious candidate. Vaccines are an important part of the solution. 

We are struggling to vaccinate enough people outside of Europe, North America and China. But what if these three centres of power had worked together? 

What if they had pooled resources in a plan to make more of the best vaccines more quickly, with a goal of dramatically expanding production facilities on every continent and vaccinating all the world’s adults by early next year?
Certainly the result would have been better than the alternative that actually occurred: national dose hoarding and bilateral vaccine diplomacy and endless sniping about relative vaccine quality and the introduction of geopolitical rivalry into what ought to have been a shared, humanity-wide goal. 

Confronted by the most sudden and urgent global pandemic in living memory, an emerging new cold war has not helped us at all.
Terrible though it has been, the Covid-19 crisis barely registers in scale and complexity when compared with the impending disaster of climate change. 

It is too late to avoid some of the damage: we can already see it all around us, in fires and floods and droughts and heatwaves. 

In Pakistan, the city of Jacobabad has already experienced wet-bulb temperatures over 35C — the point at which, even in the shade and with plenty of drinking water, the human body cannot cool itself and will soon die. 

A year ago a friend who lives in the Italian Alps sent me two pictures: one from a Nasa satellite, the second from his home showing a nearby mountain that was less visible than normal, though it was a cloudless day. 

It seemed the jet stream had carried smoke there from colossal fires raging on the west coast of the US.
But we can still limit the damage from climate change to levels that need not cause the displacement of billions of human beings. It is still possible to prevent the collapse of our planet’s main agricultural regions. But we do not have time or resources to waste. 

And the notion that we will do what needs to be done, act on the scale required of us, while the US and China settle into an ever-deteriorating stand-off in the western Pacific seems implausible at best. 

More aircraft carriers, hypersonic missiles, nuclear weapon silos — these are on their way, and they are decidedly not what humanity most requires.
The end of a war ought not to be a time to adjust our focus to the next war. The end of a war ought to be a time to focus on peace. 

In Afghanistan, this means bringing co-ordinated international pressure on the Taliban to create as inclusive a government as possible and to protect the human rights of the Afghan population, especially women and girls, victimised groups such as the Hazaras, and supporters of the previous western-backed dispensation. 

The Afghan economy will need assistance if it is not to collapse, as will Afghan refugees, particularly if more fighting swells their numbers, and the world will want assurances that Afghanistan will work to thwart groups who launch attacks on other countries.
But we must also consider what peace means beyond Afghanistan. We must, above all, seek to de-escalate the growing conflict between the US and China. 

This does not require us to assume that China is a benign actor in world affairs. It does not require us to assume that the US is either. 

Rather, it requires us to reckon with the consequences of endless conflict, to recognise that the benefits we are promised from military solutions rarely materialise and that the costs are often ruinously great.
The distinction between foreign policy and domestic policy is not a valid one. We are unlikely to be able both to fight endless wars and near-wars abroad and to reduce poverty and polarisation at home. 

This applies to wealthy and poor countries alike, to Europe and America and China just as much as it does to Pakistan and India. 

It is not simply a matter of resources, though resources are limited for overcoming the vast challenges humanity faces. 

Rather, it is also a matter of focus, of attention, of priority — indeed of culture.

The task at hand is to recognise that there are too many of us now, simply too many human beings living on and affecting our planet, for anything other than a profound increase in our level of co-operation to offer acceptable outcomes for us as a species. 

After the debacle in Afghanistan, it should be our ambition to regard war itself with more suspicion, and to think more radically about the possibilities for peace.

Mohsin Hamid is the author of ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’. His most recent novel is ‘Exit West’

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"It is likely that for months if not years to come, observers of Chinese history and current affairs will weigh the significance of an article making the rounds on China’s internet this past Sunday." @cnmediaproject H/T @JChengWSJ
Law & Politics

The article is penned by a virtually unknown blogger named Li Guangman (李光满), who claims that revolution is in the air in China, with profound transformations to be felt by all.

“This change will wash away all the dust, and the capital market will no longer be a paradise for capitalists to grow rich overnight,” he writes. 

“The cultural market will no longer be a paradise for effeminate stars, and the press will no longer be a place for the worship of Western culture.” 

The author’s next line reeks of Maoist nostalgia: “The red has returned, the heroes have returned, and the grit and valor have returned.”

The article opens with a summary of recent moves by the Chinese authorities to bring the entertainment industry in check and curb the influence of celebrities, coming on top of the suspension last year of the blockbuster IPO of China’s Ant Group, the fining of Alibaba, and the crackdown on “fandom culture” (饭圈文化). 

All of these moves have come amid intensified calls by Xi Jinping, and in the state media, for the country to pursue a renewed form of “common prosperity,” or gongtong fuyu (共同富裕).
Li also mentions recent actions taken directly against music composer Gao Xiaosong (高晓松) and the actress Zhao Wei (赵薇), noting with seeming glee that both have been yanked from major internet portal sites, and that “Zhao Wei’s name has been expunged from the [online video platform] iQiyi.”

Such punitive actions, which have now set the internet and entertainment industries trembling, are apparently what Li means by “grit and valor,” or xuexing (血性), a term that references an attitude of toughness and combativeness that has been actively encouraged within the People’s Liberation Army since 2013. 

“[All] of this tells us,” Li says, summing up the zeitgeist, “that China is undergoing a major change. From the economic sphere to the financial sphere, from the cultural sphere to the political sphere, a profound transformation is underway – or, one might say, a profound revolution.”

This talk of “revolution” quickly dominated discussion on many chatrooms and social media threads through Monday. 

Such language, appearing on the odd social media account, might ordinarily be dismissed as the ravings of a Maoist outlier. 

But this post, though attributed to Li’s own public account, “Li Guangman Freezing Point Commentary” (李光满冰点时评), was shared on the websites of eight major Party-state media on August 29, and on scores of commercial sites, all with the same headline: 

“Everyone Can Sense That a Profound Change is Underway!” (每个人都能感受到, 一场深刻的变革正在进行!)
The assumption many observers have naturally made, therefore, is that the joint posting of this WeChat article across Party-state media websites must have been coordinated by the Central Propaganda Department and other relevant offices.

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They now turn to rule over the people by means of what could be dubbed "big data totalitarianism" and "WeChat terror." @ChinaFile
Law & Politics

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

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

In China if you've been censored you've been "harmonised".

you will all be no better than fields of garlic chives, giving yourselves up to being harvested by the blade of power, time and time again. @ChinaFile #COVID19 
[ “garlic chives,” Allium tuberosum, often used as a metaphor to describe an endlessly renewable resource.]
What is thriving, however, is all that ridiculous ―Red Culture‖ and the nauseating adulation that the system heaps on itself via shameless pro-Party hacks who chirrup hosannahs at every turn @ChinaFile #COVID19
A polity that is blatantly incapable of treating its own people properly can hardly be expected to treat rest of the world well Such places will only be able to find their assumed pulchritude reflected back at them in mirror of their imperial self-regard

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@WHO’s latest #COVID19 Epi update Globally, trends continue to be worrying. Plateauing at more than 4.3 million cases each week and around 67k deaths @mvankerkhove


Weekly Infections snap a 9 week rising sequence 

19-JUL-2021 :: COVID-19

.@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). 

In the past week all regions reported either a decline (Africa, Americas) or a similar trend (Europe, South-East Asia, Eastern Mediterranean) in new cases, except for the Western Pacific Region which reported a 7% increase as compared to previous week. 

The highest numbers of new cases were reported from

United States of America (938 014 new cases; 8% decrease)

India (270 796 new cases; 17% increase), 

Islamic Republic of Iran (254 753 new cases; similar to the previous week)

United Kingdom (237 556 new cases; 8% increase)

Brazil (175 807 new cases; 16% decrease).

19-JUL-2021 :: COVID-19

The Virus remains unresolved.


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The table below shows (smoothed) week over week growth in daily Covid cases across the world. @ExanteData

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

23-AUG-2021 ::  I think the Spread improvement [Cases versus Deaths] has run its course.

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

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Israel moved to the top of this league. It now has the highest number in the world for new cases per capita. @fibke

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

Biggest Daily Rise (47,092) In #Covid19 Cases In 2 Months Amid #Kerala Surge @ndtv

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Today, Kerala reported 32,097 fresh #COVID19 cases with a TPR of 18.41%. @jamewils

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

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

We have already committed to losing the Greenland ice sheet, which will ultimately raise sea level by 6 m (20ft). Are we going to let Antarctica contribute a further rise of 55m, Sorry folks, it's that simple. @NickCowern

We have already committed to losing the Greenland ice sheet, which will ultimately raise sea level by 6 m (20ft). Are we going to let Antarctica contribute a further rise of 55m, or are we going to stop using fossil fuels in our houses and our cars? Sorry folks, it's that simple.

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In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state.

Lorenz wrote:
"At one point I decided to repeat some of the computations in order to examine what was happening in greater detail. I stopped the computer, typed in a line of numbers that it had printed out a while earlier, and set it running again. I went down the hall for a cup of coffee and returned after about an hour, during which time the computer had simulated about two months of weather. The numbers being printed were nothing like the old ones. I immediately suspected a weak vacuum tube or some other computer trouble, which was not uncommon, but before calling for service I decided to see just where the mistake had occurred, knowing that this could speed up the servicing process. Instead of a sudden break, I found that the new values at first repeated the old ones, but soon afterward differed by one and then several units in the last decimal place, and then began to differ in the next to the last place and then in the place before that. In fact, the differences more or less steadily doubled in size every four days or so, until all resemblance with the original output disappeared somewhere in the second month. This was enough to tell me what had happened: the numbers that I had typed in were not the exact original numbers, but were the rounded-off values that had appeared in the original printout. The initial round-off errors were the culprits; they were steadily amplifying until they dominated the solution." (E. N. Lorenz, The Essence of Chaos, U. Washington Press, Seattle (1993), page 134)[7]
Elsewhere he stated:
One meteorologist remarked that if the theory were correct, one flap of a sea gull's wings would be enough to alter the course of the weather forever. The controversy has not yet been settled, but the most recent evidence seems to favor the sea gulls.

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23-NOV 2015 I cannot help feeling we are like frogs in boiling water. We have created massive interference in the "cosmic tuning" phenomenon

In this book, Martin Rees puts forward six equations which govern our universe, a universe so big that we are like a grain of sand on a beach. The mathematics of these equations is so miraculous that Rees speaks to a “cosmic tuning” phenomenon.
For example; Ω ≈ 0.3: the ratio of the actual density of the universe to the critical (minimum) density required for the universe to even- tually collapse under its gravity. Ω determines the ultimate fate of the universe. 

If Ω is greater than one, the universe will experience a big crunch. If Ω is less than one, the universe will expand forever.

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Currency Markets at a Glance WSJ
World Currencies

Euro 1.1876
Dollar Index 92.234
Japan Yen 110.01
Swiss Franc 0.9143
Pound 1.3830
Aussie 0.7423
India Rupee 73.0805
South Korea Won 1157.47
Brazil Real 5.18305
Egypt Pound 15.7050
South Africa Rand 14.4857

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"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

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Third Wave of Africa Covid-19 Cases Has Stabilized, @WHO Says @business

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 

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

―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

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.@SuluhuSamia the securocrat @Africa_Conf

The new president supports her security establishment’s policies on the Mozambican insurgency as well as harsh repression of the civil opposition

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I don’t need to be an autocrat, says Zambia’s new president @HHichilema @thetimes

Having been arrested 15 times since entering politics, once on a phony treason charge that led to four months in prison, Zambia’s new president could be forgiven for feeling vengeful.
Instead, Hakainde Hichilema wants Zambia’s neighbours to join him in recognising his predecessor, Edgar Lungu, as an example of what holds Africa back.
Despite the incumbent party’s strong-arm tactics, including the first army deployment during a Zambian election, Hichilema, on his sixth attempt at election for the top job, pulled off a landslide victory that was too big to steal.

“I told him [Lungu] afterwards, ‘I didn’t like the way you ran the country, you were heavy-handed and autocratic, but I don’t hate you and I will not do to you what you did to me and others,” Hichilema, 59, said of their exchange after Lungu surrendered power with a speed and grace few had predicted.

His most urgent task is tackling the economic crisis that has pushed Zambia to the brink, which could be worse than he feared. 

Digging into the mountain of debt that Lungu, 64, ran up “outside normal channels” with sleaze-ridden Chinese-built projects, estimates of $12 billion now look conservative.

“We had known for a long time that there was non-full disclosure. One of our jobs right now is to discover what the true debt is: both foreign and domestic debt,” the new president said.

In an interview with The Times speaking from Lusaka he put his despotic neighbours on notice.

“I want to show Zambians and our friends elsewhere that we can run the country better without a heavy hand. Trouble somewhere is trouble everywhere and Africa does not need all the violence and the militarism that we see today.

“Not respecting our constitutions or our political competitors, and instead treating them like enemies, is blocking the way of progress.’’

Hichilema is one of Zambia’s richest men, but to appeal to the youth and women he believed could secure a win, his campaign stressed his lowly upbringing as a barefoot “cattle boy” whose “grit and determination” won him a scholarship to study economics at the University of Zambia, and later for an MBA in Britain.

He was running a large accountancy firm at the age of 26 and had amassed his fortune from finance, property, tourism and healthcare by his first campaign loss in 2006.
At that time, his educational and commercial pedigree were not in demand: Zambia was a democratic beacon with a healthy economy and achieving middle-income status by his next unsuccessful election in 2011, when Lungu’s Patriotic Front (PF) was voted in. 

The ruinous management of the economy, corruption and rights abuses that followed stoked fears that the country was on course to become “the next Zimbabwe”.

After six years of Lungu’s reckless and murky spending, which saw public debt as a share of GDP climb from 66 to 113 per cent, Hichilema’s time had finally come. 

Once derided by the late President Sata as “calculator boy” for his jargon-filled speeches, Zambians now wanted to hear about his cures for their poverty, high unemployment and the state’s brutal neglect.

“[He] had always had this reputation for being stingy with his fortune, but suddenly that’s what voters wanted,” Laura Miti, the head of a Zambian NGO focused on public accountability, said. 

“They had also seen him suffer with them, get arrested and harassed. He was now one of them.”
After five failed attempts at power, two of them against Lungu, 64, Hichilema was leaving nothing to chance ahead of last month’s general election.
“We needed to win big and mobilise like never before to protect our votes,” the practising Christian and married father-of-three said. 

“We should have been in government in 2016 but we didn’t guard our votes. It was a very big lesson.”
By election day on August 12, clues that a fix or a dispute was planned merely hardened supporters of his United Party for National Development. 

The tweaking of the electoral roll in ruling party power bases, the menacing security forces and Lungu’s own Trumpesque early attack on the process as “not free or fair” proved futile against a record turnout of 70.9 per cent. 

Graduates dressed in their academic robes to protest poor job prospects for the under 35s who made up half of the seven million registered voters.
“They became fully responsible for their ballots beyond just casting them. They defended their votes by staying at the 13,000 polling stations to make sure they could not be stolen,” said Hichilema, who amassed one million more votes than Lungu.

His decisive victory, and the PF leader’s swift concession, gave an immediate boost to the value of Zambia’s stricken kwacha currency, while foreign investors welcomed the appointment of Situmbeko Musokotwane, a respected economist, as his finance minister.

But fixing the economy will not bring immediate relief to millions of hungry Zambians who cannot afford school fees. 

Once the full extent of the country’s debt crisis is known, the finance team will agree a bailout with the International Monetary Fund and restructure debts with a range of lenders, including the Export-Import Bank of China.
Fuel and farm subsidies that Lungu introduced to win favour will probably have to be scrapped to meet the IMF’s demand for reforms. 

But the new finance minister believes their sting could be soothed by rebuilding trust with Zambia’s mining industry, via lowered taxes and protected property rights, and doubling copper production. 

Prices for the metal have returned to levels not seen since the commodities boom a decade ago.
“You will be amazed how much foreign exchange this country is going to make,” Musokotwane said after his appointment.
Hichilema has, perhaps predictably, pledged to break with the PF era of corruption and nepotism. 

Even if his overdue victory has put him in debt to many, there will be no cabinet positions or contracts in return, he said. 

“I am repaying all debts by bringing better times to everyone in Zambia,” he added, citing this week’s sacking of the heads of the security forces and their deputies as an early favour to his nation of 17 million.

Last week’s inauguration marked the third peaceful shift of power to an opposition party in the country since its independence from Britain in 1964.

The overtuning of last year’s rigged general election in Malawi by its most senior judges, only the second occasion ever recorded in Africa, helped challenge notions of entrenched power. 

As did Hichilema’s inclusive guest list to National Heroes Stadium in the capital, where Africa’s heads of government and state were compelled to stand with their invited political rivals as he was sworn in.
Some responded more graciously than others. President Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe’s discomfort at the presence of the opposition leader, Nelson Chamisa, was evident; 

President Museveni of Uganda, 76, who is usually a stalwart for Africa’s set-piece events and won his sixth — and disputed — election victory in January, was a no-show.
Perhaps just as rattling for the despots in the stands was the crowd’s deafening booing of Lungu. It also put Hichilema on notice, according to Miti and her colleagues from the Alliance for Community Action, who were there.
“We don’t know what kind of president [he] will be, but Zambians will have the final say. We love him now, but he must know that our love is conditional,” she said.

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Zambian President Hichilema inherits 'empty treasury' @BBCAfrica

Zambia's new president has told the BBC that he has inherited an "empty" treasury, while "horrifying" amounts of money had been stolen.
"People are still trying to make last-minute movements of funds, which are unauthorised, which are not theirs," President Hakainde Hichilema said.

He defeated his rival Edgar Lungu in presidential elections last month.
Mr Hichilema did not name any officials. Mr Lungu has previously denied all wrongdoing.
The BBC has approached his party for comment.
Mr Lungu governed the copper-rich nation since 2015. He was widely praised for the smooth transition of power to Mr Hichilema, who won the presidency after five failed attempts.
Mr Hichilema won the election on a promise to tackle corruption, and to end the financial and economic crisis that has seen Zambia's debt ballooning.
For the first time since 1998, Zambia plunged into a recession last year. It also defaulted on a debt repayment.
In the BBC interview, the new president described the treasury as "literally empty".
He added that the "hole is much bigger than we expected" and the debt situation had not been "fully disclosed" by the former government.
"There's a lot of damage, unfortunately," Mr Hichilema said.

He added that his government would show "zero tolerance" towards corruption, and would get to the bottom of what he called the illicit movement of funds very soon.
"I don't want to pre-empt things but what we are picking [up] is horrifying," the president said.
"You'll feel nobody can do a thing like that but it's being done. People have done it. They are still trying to do things now."

Mr Hichilema also said there were "a lot of people who are not working, but are on the payroll" of the government.
Mr Hichilema has appointed economist and former International Monetary Fund (IMF) adviser Situmbeko Musokotwane as finance minister.
"Unless we do something to the budget, then the budget will be mainly for paying salaries and also servicing debt," Mr Musokotwane was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying soon after his appointment.
Zambia owed foreign lenders an estimated $12bn (£8.6bn), previous reports said.
It spends at least 30% of its revenue on interest payments, according to credit ratings firm S&P Global.
Last year, Zambia missed an interest repayment, making it the first African country to default on a loan during the pandemic.
It is also facing difficulties repaying other loans.
The former government had borrowed heavily - including from China - to build infrastructure.
Mr Hichilema said the government was committed to restoring its credibility among lenders.
The government would enter into talks with China, which he was confident would "understand that we've inherited a very difficult situation", the president said.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that unemployment rose to more than 12% in 2020 - the highest since 2011.
The promise to create jobs for young Zambians was another key reason behind his election victory.

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Turkish Defense Industry Exports $51.7m Armaments to Ethiopia @Yonigussie

The Turkish Defense and Aerospace Industry has exported $51.7M worth of armaments to #Ethiopia in August 2021. Details were not given on what exactly was exported but it's assumed to be drones.

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.

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

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The South-West Indian Ocean seascape is an increasingly contentious geopolitical space. @GlobalDryad

India is building what appears to be military facilities on Mauritius’s North Agaléga islan

But how suitable is a 3 000 m runway, two deepwater jetties, probable barracks and fields with military utility as a service to the 300 people living on two tiny islands seldom visited by tourists?
A country’s presence in maritime chokepoints offers a significant strategic advantage in times of conflict.
North Agaléga is located close to the sea line of communication between the Mozambique Channel and India. 

While the Mozambique Channel isn’t typically listed as a maritime chokepoint, India is one of the few countries to see it as one and included it in its Maritime Security Strategy.
A state’s ability to have a sustained presence in maritime chokepoints offers a significant strategic advantage in times of conflict. 

A chokepoint can cause backlogs and delays, severely disrupting shipping routes that countries rely on for food and energy imports.
Thirty percent of global tanker traffic and sizeable offshore gas reserves in the Mozambique Channel have attracted international investment from companies such as TotalEnergies and countries such as Japan, China, the US, EU states, the UK and India. 

All have a substantial interest in securing the offshore area to extract natural gas that will become an increasingly crucial component of their future energy-generation policies.
India is the third largest consumer of gas in the world, and the security of an efficient sea route from Mozambique to India is undeniably enhanced by facilities on islands such as North Agaléga. 

Its location is also far enough away from the Mozambique Channel not to alarm other countries, yet close enough to permit a prompt presence and project seapower if needed.
Security of the sea route from Mozambique to India would be enhanced by facilities on North Agaléga.

The Indian Ocean Economy and a Port Race

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

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