|Wednesday 18th of March 2020
Elephants travel to mourn the dead in faraway herds @thetimes
Elephants travel to “wakes” to mourn their dead even if they lacked a
close bond, a study has found.
The natural death of a 55-year-old elephant called Victoria in a
national park in Kenya, surrounded by her family, has helped to
provide researchers with a unique insight into how the animals respond
to loss, including a prolonged interest in the deceased even as the
After Victoria died the herd clustered around the fallen matriarch,
exploring her body with their trunks and feet.
Among the last to leave was her ten-year-old daughter, who was
observed by scientists to have temporal glands streaming with liquid,
a reaction linked to stress.
Later, they found evidence of an attempt to move the carcass,
apparently by her son.
“Witnessing elephants interact with their dead sends chills up one’s
spine, as the behaviour so clearly indicates advanced feeling,” said
George Wittemyer from Save the Elephants, a co-author of the findings
published in the journal Primates.
“This is one of the many magnificent aspects of elephants that we have
observed but cannot fully comprehend.”
Anecdotes of emotional interaction between elephants and their dead
are a familiar part of the species’ lore, but the research from
Samburu National Reserve, northern Kenya, is the first comprehensive
study of these interactions.
The day after Victoria’s death, more family members visited her
carcass, which was already being picked over by predators.
In the weeks that followed, five other herds arrived on the banks of
the Ewaso Ng’iro river to make their own inspection of the bones.
A review of field observations at the scene of elephant carcasses
reveals a pattern of behaviour, whether the deceased were known to the
visiting elephants or not.
Some of those making the journey to Victoria’s corpse would have been
familiar with the scent of the matriarch, but many more would have
If this had been a wake, it would have been well-attended, said Shifra
Goldenberg, from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, who
observed and filmed the elephants attending the body in 2013.
The study included 32 observations of wild elephant carcasses from 12
different locations in Africa and the case of Victoria, born five
years before Kenya’s independence from Britain in 1963, offered great
One of the most commonly observed behaviours seen by scientists was
elephants approaching the dead and examining the carcass.
They also appeared to use their advanced sense of smell to identify
which of their kind had died, with some seen attempting to loudly lift
or pull at the corpses.
“We don’t know what’s going on in their heads,” Dr Goldenberg, also
co-author of the report, said. “But we do know that they’re constantly
updating social information about each other.”
Mike Chase, an experienced elephant researcher, said that the species
had “an intense and curious fascination with death”.
Although the latest research shops short of describing the elephants’
response as a mourning emotion, Dr Chase said that he identified it as
such. “I am often at the carcass of a poached elephant and there will
be live elephants nearby demonstrating typical behaviour which
strongly implies to me they are mourning,” he said.
China is coming after author Mario Vargas Llosa for saying the coronavirus originated there @qz
Law & Politics
In its ongoing campaign to spin the global narrative over the origins
of the novel coronavirus, China is leaving no stone unturned. Its
latest target: Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa.
The Chinese embassy in Lima published an announcement (link in
Chinese) today blasting the Nobel laureate for his “irresponsible”
comments he made with regards to China and the coronavirus outbreak.
The statement, which can be found on the embassy’s account on chat app
WeChat, was in reference to a column (link in Spanish) written by
Vargas Llosa and published in Spanish newspaper El País yesterday.
In the column, 83-year-old Vargas Llosa stated that the virus had
“originated in China,” and that because of the epidemic, society is
showing signs of returning to the Middle Ages when people lived in
fear of the plague.
This would not be happening, Vargas Llosa wrote, were it not for
China’s undemocratic political system, highlighting the fact that
doctors who tried to blow the whistle at the start of the outbreak
were silenced, and time that could have been used to develop a vaccine
was thereby lost.
He said such actions were the hallmark of dictatorships, and compared
the sequence of events in China to that of the Chernobyl disaster (a
comparison that many in China began making in the early days of the
Regreso al Medioevo? MARIO VARGAS LLOSA @el_pais
Law & Politics
La peste ha sido a lo largo de la historia una de las peores
pesadillas de la humanidad. El coronavirus será una pandemia pasajera.
Lo que no pasará es el miedo a la muerte, que nos acompaña como una
La peste ha sido a lo largo de la historia una de las peores
pesadillas de la humanidad. Sobre todo en la Edad Media. Era lo que
desesperaba y enloquecía a nuestros viejos ancestros. Encerrados
detrás de las recias murallas que habían erigido para sus ciudades,
defendidos por fosos llenos de aguas envenenadas y puentes levadizos,
no temían tanto a esos enemigos tangibles contra los que podían
defenderse de igual a igual, enfrentarlos con espadas, cuchillos y
lanzas. Pero la peste no era humana, era obra de los demonios, un
castigo de Dios que caía sobre la masa ciudadana y golpeaba por igual
a pecadores e inocentes, contra la que no había nada que hacer, salvo
rezar y arrepentirse de los pecados cometidos. La muerte estaba allí,
todopoderosa, y después de ella las llamas eternas del infierno. La
irracionalidad estallaba por doquier y había ciudades que trataban de
aplacar a la plaga infernal ofreciéndole sacrificios humanos, de
brujas, brujos, incrédulos, pecadores sin arrepentir, insumisos y
rebeldes. Cuando Flaubert viajó a Egipto, todavía vio leprosos que
recorrían las calles tocando campanas para advertir a la gente que se
apartara si no quería ver (y contagiarse) de sus llagas purulentas.
The plague has been throughout history one of humanity's worst
nightmares. Especially in the Middle Ages. It was what made our old
ancestors desperate and crazy. Locked behind the sturdy walls they had
erected for their cities, defended by moats filled with poisoned
waters and drawbridges, they were not so much afraid of those tangible
enemies against whom they could defend themselves as equals, face them
with swords, knives, and spears. But the plague was not human, it was
the work of demons, a punishment from God that fell on the mass of the
citizenry and hit sinners and innocents alike, against whom there was
nothing to do, except pray and repent for the sins committed. Death
was there, almighty, and after it the eternal flames of hell.
Irrationality exploded everywhere and there were cities that tried to
appease the infernal plague by offering human sacrifices, witches,
sorcerers, unbelievers, unrepentant sinners, rebels and rebels. When
Flaubert traveled to Egypt, he still saw lepers roaming the streets
ringing bells to warn people to step aside if they did not want to see
(and catch) their purulent sores.
China locked in hybrid war with US @asiatimesonline
Law & Politics
Among the myriad, earth-shattering geopolitical effects of
coronavirus, one is already graphically evident. China has
For the first time since the start of Deng Xiaoping’s reforms in 1978,
Beijing openly regards the US as a threat, as stated a month ago by
Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Munich Security Conference during the
peak of the fight against coronavirus.
Beijing is carefully, incrementally shaping the narrative that, from
the beginning of the coronovirus attack, the leadership knew it was
under a hybrid war attack.
Xi’s terminology is a major clue. He said, on the record, that this
was war. And, as a counter-attack, a “people’s war” had to be
Moreover, he described the virus as a demon or devil. Xi is a
Confucianist. Unlike some other ancient Chinese thinkers, Confucius
was loath to discuss supernatural forces and judgment in the
afterlife. However, in a Chinese cultural context, devil means “white
devils” or “foreign devils”: guailo in Mandarin, gweilo in Cantonese.
This was Xi delivering a powerful statement in code.
When Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, voiced
in an incandescent tweet the possibility that “it might be US Army who
brought the epidemic to Wuhan” – the first blast to this effect to
come from a top official – Beijing was sending up a trial balloon
signaliing that the gloves were finally off.
Zhao Lijian made a direct connection with the Military Games in Wuhan
in October 2019, which included a delegation of 300 US military.
He directly quoted US CDC director Robert Redfield who, when asked
last week whether some deaths by coronavirus had been discovered
posthumously in the US, replied that “some cases have actually been
diagnosed this way in the US today.”
Zhao’s explosive conclusion is that Covid-19 was already in effect in
the US before being identified in Wuhan – due to the by now fully
documented inability of US to test and verify differences compared
with the flu.
Adding all that to the fact that coronavirus genome variations in Iran
and Italy were sequenced and it was revealed they do not belong to the
variety that infected Wuhan, Chinese media are now openly asking
questions and drawing a connection with the shutting down in August
last year of the “unsafe” military bioweapon lab at Fort Detrick, the
Military Games, and the Wuhan epidemic.
Some of these questions had been asked – with no response – inside the
Extra questions linger about the opaque Event 201 in New York on
October 18, 2019: a rehearsal for a worldwide pandemic caused by a
deadly virus – which happened to be coronavirus.
This magnificent coincidence happened one month before the outbreak in Wuhan.
Event 201 was sponsored by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the World
Economic Forum (WEF), the CIA, Bloomberg, John Hopkins Foundation and
the UN. The World Military Games opened in Wuhan on the exact same
Irrespective of its origin, which is still not conclusively
established, as much as Trump tweets about the “Chinese virus,”
Covid-19 already poses immensely serious questions about biopolitics
(where’s Foucault when we need him?) and bio-terror.
The working hypothesis of coronavirus as a very powerful but not
Armageddon-provoking bio-weapon unveils it as a perfect vehicle for
widespread social control – on a global scale.
Cuba rises as a biotech power
Just as a fully masked Xi visiting the Wuhan frontline last week was a
graphic demonstration to the whole planet that China, with immense
sacrifice, is winning the “people‘s war” against Covid-19, Russia, in
a Sun Tzu move on Riyadh whose end result was a much cheaper barrel of
oil, helped for all practical purposes to kick-start the inevitable
recovery of the Chinese economy.
This is how a strategic partnership works.
The chessboard is changing at breakneck speed. Once Beijing identified
coronavirus as a bio-weapon attack the “people’s war” was launched
with the full force of the state.
Methodically. On a “whatever it takes” basis. Now we are entering a
new stage, which will be used by Beijing to substantially recalibrate
the interaction with the West, and under very different frameworks
when it comes to the US and the EU.
Soft power is paramount. Beijing sent an Air China flight to Italy
carrying 2,300 big boxes full of masks bearing the script, “We are
waves from the same sea, leaves from the same tree, flowers from the
China also sent a hefty humanitarian package to Iran, significantly
aboard eight flights from Mahan Air – an airline under illegal,
unilateral Trump administration sanctions.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic could not have been more explicit:
“The only country that can help us is China. By now, you all
understood that European solidarity does not exist. That was a fairy
tale on paper.”
Under harsh sanctions and demonized since forever, Cuba is still able
to perform breakthroughs – even on biotechnology.
The anti-viral Heberon – or Interferon Alpha 2b – a therapeutic, not a
vaccine, has been used with great success in the treatment of
A joint venture in China is producing an inhalable version, and at
least 15 nations are already interested in importing the therapeutic.
Now compare all of the above with the Trump administration offering $1
billion to poach German scientists working at biotech firm Curevac,
based in Thuringia, on an experimental vaccine against Covid-19, to
have it as a vaccine “only for the United States.”
Social engineering psy-op?
Sandro Mezzadra, co-author with Brett Neilson of the seminal The
Politics of Operations: Excavating Contemporary Capitalism, is already
trying to conceptualize where we stand now in terms of fighting
We are facing a choice between a Malthusian strand – inspired by
social Darwinism – “led by the Johnson-Trump-Bolsonaro axis” and, on
the other side, a strand pointing to the “requalification of public
health as a fundamental tool,” exemplified by China, South Korea and
There are key lessons to be learned from South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore.
The stark option, Mezzadra notes, is between a “natural population
selection,” with thousands of dead, and “defending society” by
employing “variable degrees of authoritarianism and social control.”
It’s easy to imagine who stands to benefit from this social
re-engineering, a 21st century remix of Poe’s The Masque of the Red
Amid so much doom and gloom, count on Italy to offer us Tiepolo-style
shades of light. Italy chose the Wuhan option, with immensely serious
consequences for its already fragile economy.
Quarantined Italians remarkably reacted by singing on their balconies:
a true act of metaphysical revolt.
Not to mention the poetic justice of the actual St. Corona (“crown” in
Latin) being buried in the city of Anzu since the 9th century.
St. Corona was a Christian killed under Marcus Aurelius in 165 AD, and
has been for centuries one of the patron saints of pandemics.
Not even trillions of dollars raining from the sky by an act of divine
Fed mercy were able to cure Covid-19.
G-7 “leaders” had to resort to a videoconference to realize how
clueless they are – even as China’s fight against coronavirus gave the
West a head start of several weeks.
Shanghai-based Dr. Zhang Wenhong, one of China’s top infectious
disease experts, whose analyses have been spot on so far, now says
China has emerged from the darkest days in the “people’s war” against
But he does not think this will be over by summer. Now extrapolate
what he’s saying to the Western world.
It’s not even spring yet, and we already know it takes a virus to
mercilessly shatter the Goddess of the Market.
Last Friday, Goldman Sachs told no fewer than 1,500 corporations that
there was no systemic risk. That was false.
New York banking sources told me the truth: systemic risk became way
more severe in 2020 than in 1979, 1987 or 2008 because of the hugely
heightened danger that the $1.5 quadrillion derivative market would
As the sources put it, history had never before seen anything like the
Fed’s intervention via its little understood elimination of commercial
bank reserve requirements, unleashing a potential unlimited expansion
of credit to prevent a derivative implosion stemming from a total
commodity and stock market collapse of all stocks around the world.
Those bankers thought it would work, but as we know by now all the
sound and fury signified nothing.
The ghost of a derivative implosion – in this case not caused by the
previous possibility, the shutting down of the Strait of Hormuz –
We are still barely starting to understand the consequences of
Covid-19 for the future of neoliberal turbo-capitalism.
What’s certain is that the whole global economy has been hit by an
insidious, literally invisible circuit breaker.
This may be just a “coincidence.” Or this may be, as some are boldly
arguing, part of a possible, massive psy-op creating the perfect
geopolitlcal and social engineering environment for full-spectrum
Additionally, along the hard slog down the road, with immense, inbuilt
human and economic sacrifice, with or without a reboot of the
world-system, a more pressing question remains: will imperial elites
still choose to keep waging full-spectrum-dominance hybrid war against
5-FEB-2018 :: [The End of] Halcyon Days These became known as the "halcyon days," when storms do not occur.
Wikipedia has an article on: halcyon days and it reads thus,
From Latin Alcyone, daughter of Aeolus and wife of Ceyx. When her
husband died in a shipwreck, Alcyone threw herself into the sea
whereupon the gods transformed them both into halcyon birds
(kingfishers). When Alcyone made her nest on the beach, waves
threatened to destroy it. Aeolus restrained his winds and kept them
calm during seven days in each year, so she could lay her eggs. These
became known as the “halcyon days,” when storms do not occur. Today,
the term is used to denote a past period that is being remembered for
being happy and/or successfuL
Sub Saharan Africa
02-MAR-2020 :: The #COVID19 and SSA and the R Word
The First Issue is whether The #CoronaVirus will infect the Continent
We Know that the #Coronavirus is exponential, non linear and multiplicative.
what exponential disease propagation looks like in the real world.
Real world exponential growth looks like nothing, nothing, nothing ...
then cluster, cluster, cluster ... then BOOM!
Debt, virus and locusts create a perfect storm for Africa @TheAfricaReport
The year began with promise for sub-Saharan Africa.
All the major institutions tracking African growth said so:
The African Development Bank pronounced in its Economic Outlook that
Africa’s economic outlook continues to brighten. Its real GDP growth,
estimated at 3.4% for 2019, is projected to accelerate to 3.9% in 2020
and to 4.1% in 2021.
The IMF said in its World Economic Outlook sub-Saharan Africa growth
is expected to strengthen to 3.5% in 2020–21 (from 3.3% in 2019).
The World Bank predicted ”Regional growth is expected to pick up to
2.9% in 2020”
Interestingly the World Bank added a caveat which was prescient:
A sharper-than-expected deceleration in major trading partners such as
China, the Euro Area, or the United States, would substantially lower
export revenues and investment.
A faster-than-expected slowdown in China would cause a sharp fall in
commodity prices and, given Sub-Saharan Africa’s heavy reliance on
extractive sectors for export and fiscal revenues, weigh heavily on
Those forecasts are now defunct and it’s only March.
The Coronavirus has to date barely made landfall on the African
continent with only 5 countries reporting infections but a Virus is in
its essence non-linear, exponential and multiplicative and it would be
a Shakespeare-level moment of hubris if policy makers were to pat
themselves on the back.
Diagnostic kits were only recently availed and if South Korea had
tested the same number of People as the entire African Continent, they
too would be reporting single digit cases.
We all know now ”what exponential disease propagation looks like in
the real world. Real world exponential growth looks like nothing,
nothing, nothing … then cluster, cluster, cluster … then BOOM!” and
therefore we will know soon whether we really have dodged the
#Coronavirus Infection Bullet.
The issue at hand now is around the violence of the blowback from the
China #Coronavirus feedback loop phenomenon.
The virus is not correlated to endogenous market dynamics but is an an
exogenous uncertainty that remains unresolved and therefore, it is a
Fantasy predictions of a V shaped recovery in China have been dashed.
In fact China cannot just crank up the ‘Factory’ because that will
risk a second round effect of infections.
Therefore, I expect negative GDP Growth through H1 2020 in China as my
Standard Bank’s Chief Economist has calculated that a one percentage
point decrease in China’s domestic investment growth is associated
with an average 0.6 percentage point decrease in Africa’s exports.
Those countries heavily dependent on China being the main taker of
their commodities are at the bleeding edge of this now negative
feedback loop phenomenon. Commodity prices [Crude Oil, Copper, Coal]
have crashed more than 20% since the start of the year.
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist or an Economist to calculate
which countries in are directly in the line of fire. Angola, Congo
Brazzavile, DRC, Equatorial Guinea, Zambia, Nigeria and South Africa
spring immediately to mind.
Notwithstanding comments by the always upbeat and bright-eyed
President Adesina of the African Development Bank that Africa is not
facing a debt crisis.
He told Bloomberg, “Debt is not a problem, it’s very bad debt that’s a
The point is this.
SSA Countries with no exception that I can think off have gorged on
borrowing and balance sheets are maxed out.
Africa’s sovereign issuance in the Eurobond markets totaled $53bn in
2018 and 2019 and total outstanding debt topped $100bn last year.
Debt burdens have increased and affordability has weakened across most
of Sub-Saharan Africa, while a shift in debt structures has left some
countries more exposed to a financial shock, said Moodys in November
Very few of the investments made are within spitting distance of
providing an ROI [Return on Investment].
Rising debt service ratios are best exemplified by Nigeria where the
Government is spending more than half of its revenue servicing its
More than 50% of SSA GDP is produced by South Africa, Nigeria and Angola.
South Africa reported that GDP in Q4 2019 shrank by a massive 1.4%.
Annual growth at 0.2% is the lowest yearly growth since 2009 and the
tape is back at GFC times.
The rand which has been in free fall has a lot further to fall in 2020.
And this is before the viral infection.
Nigeria’s oil revenue is cratering and there is $16bn of ”hot money”
parked in short term certificates which is all headed for the Exit as
we speak. A Currency Devaluation is now predicted and predictable.
South Africa, Nigeria and Angola are poised to dive into deep recession.
East Africa which was a bright spot is facing down a locust invasion
which according to the FAO could turn 500x by June.
It is practically biblical.
“If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the
locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people;”
– 2 Chronicles 7:13-14
This is a perfect storm. Buckle up, and let’s stop popping the Quaaludes.
Angola is also at risk because crude accounts for almost all its exports
Angola is also at risk because crude accounts for almost all its
exports. It did ease some earlier pressure, however, by ending the
kwanza’s peg two years ago, since when it’s fallen 67% against the
Still, the country’s foreign-currency shortages triggered by the 2014
crash never completely went away, and last month, the kwanza was
trading almost 20% weaker than its official price on the streets of
Luanda, the capital.
2-SEP-2019 :: the China EM Frontier Feedback Loop Phenomenon. #COVID19
China EM Frontier Feedback Loop Phenomenon. This Phenomenon was
positive for the last two decades but has now undergone a Trend
The Fall-out is being experienced as far away as Germany Inc. The ZAR
is the purest proxy for this Phenomenon.
African Countries heavily dependent on China being the main Taker are
also at the bleeding edge of this Phenomenon.
This Pressure Point will not ease soon but will continue to intensify.
U.S. trade chief tells Congress of plans for trade deal with Kenya @ReutersAfrica
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on Tuesday informed
Congress of plans to negotiate a comprehensive trade agreement with
the African country of Kenya, and pledged to follow a process that
requires ongoing consultations with U.S. lawmakers.
Lighthizer said the Trump administration intended to follow procedures
set out under a 2015 law, often referred to as Trade Promotion
Authority (TPA), which ensures lawmakers can play a role in developing
U.S. negotiating positions for the talks.
Two-way goods trade between the United States and Kenya totaled $1.1
billion in 2019, up 4.9% from 2018.