|Monday 02nd of March 2020
"The problem," writes the archaeologist Bora Petursdottir, "is not that things become buried far down in strata - but that they endure, outlive us, and come back at us with a force we didn't realise they had, a dark force of 'sleeping giant
“The problem,” writes the archaeologist Þóra Pétursdóttir, “is not
that things become buried far down in strata – but that they endure,
outlive us, and come back at us with a force we didn’t realise they
had, a dark force of ‘sleeping giants’,” roused from their deep-time
"It's complete chaos," a senior administration official said. "Everyone is just trying to get a handle on what the [expletive] is going on." @washingtonpost
Law & Politics
Minutes before President Trump was preparing Wednesday to reassure a
skittish nation about the coronavirus threat, he received a piece of
crucial information: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
had identified in California the first U.S. case of the illness not
tied to foreign travel, a sign that the virus’s spread in the United
States was likely to explode.
Trump’s playing down of the California patient at his news conference
underscores the administration’s slapdash and often misleading
attempts to contain not just the virus, but also potential political
damage from the outbreak — which has tanked financial markets, slowed
global commerce and killed some 3,000 people worldwide, including the
first U.S. death, announced Saturday.
Interviews with nearly two dozen administration officials, former
White House aides, public health experts and lawmakers — many speaking
on the condition of anonymity to share candid assessments and details
— portray a White House scrambling to gain control of a rudderless
response defined by bureaucratic infighting, confusion and
“It’s complete chaos,” a senior administration official said.
“Everyone is just trying to get a handle on what the [expletive] is
When Trump stepped in front of the cameras, “he had not slept for a
day-and-a-half, two-and-a-half” days, as acting White House chief of
staff Mick Mulvaney told a gathering of conservatives Friday morning.
The president offered an account that was, by turns, misleading and
Trump did not, however, name a single “czar,” as some previous
administrations have done during health emergencies. The president
decided against that option after worrying that bringing in a person
from outside the administration might be seen as a failure — and
wondering whether such a person would be loyal to him, according to
those familiar with the debate.
“It’s going to disappear. One day — it’s like a miracle — it will
disappear,” Trump said. “And from our shores, we — you know, it could
get worse before it gets better. It could maybe go away. We’ll see
what happens. Nobody really knows.”
#irancorona all of this, why? @aliostad
Law & Politics
The regime hid the initial cases since:
1) it was just before election and needed high turnout
2) due to political need, did not stop flights to china
3) source seems to becleric students from china arrived in Qom
4) did not close religious shrines
5) instead of providing information on the gravity of the risks to the
public, played down and resorted to the same tactic of rhetoric “we
will fight and beat it”
Now it has spread everywhere. The world now has an example on what
failure to contain the virus can do.
@WHO chief on #coronavirus Global markets "should calm down and try to see the reality" @CNBC
Law & Politics
“Global markets … should calm down and try to see the reality,” Tedros
Adhanom Ghebreyesus told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble during a panel
discussion in Riyadh.
“We need to continue to be rational. Irrationality doesn’t help. We
need to deal with the facts.”
“We need to go into the numbers, we need to go into the facts, and do
the right thing instead of panicking. Panic and fear is the worst.”
Still, the rapid spread, if not adequately contained, could tip the
world into a global pandemic.
“Based on the facts on the ground, containment is possible,”
Ghebreyesus said. “But the window of opportunity for containing it is
narrowing. So we need to preparing side by side for a pandemic.”
“Containment works. But at the same time we cannot be sure. This thing
could change direction and be worse. That’s why we prepare for the
#coronavirus far more likely than Sars to bond to human cells due to HIV-like mutation, scientists say @SCMPNews #COVID19
Law & Politics
Scientists say the new coronavirus may be significantly different from Sars.
The new coronavirus has an HIV-like mutation that means its ability to
bind with human cells could be up to 1,000 times as strong as the Sars
virus, according to new research by scientists in China and Europe.
The discovery could help to explain not only how the infection has
spread but also where it came from and how best to fight it.
Scientists showed that Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome)
entered the human body by binding with a receptor protein called ACE2
on a cell membrane.
And some early studies suggested that the new coronavirus, which
shares about 80 per cent of the genetic structure of Sars, might
follow a similar path.
But the ACE2 protein does not exist in large quantities in healthy
people, and this partly helped to limit the scale of the Sars outbreak
of 2002-03, in which infected about 8,000 people around the world.
Other highly contagious viruses, including HIV and Ebola, target an
enzyme called furin, which works as a protein activator in the human
Many proteins are inactive or dormant when they are produced and have
to be “cut” at specific points to activate their various functions.
When looking at the genome sequence of the new coronavirus, Professor
Ruan Jishou and his team at Nankai University in Tianjin found a
section of mutated genes that did not exist in Sars, but were similar
to those found in HIV and Ebola.
“This finding suggests that 2019-nCoV [the new coronavirus] may be
significantly different from the Sars coronavirus in the infection
pathway,” the scientists said in a paper published this month on
Chinaxiv.org, a platform used by the Chinese Academy of Sciences to
release scientific research papers before they have been
“This virus may use the packing mechanisms of other viruses such as HIV.”
According to the study, the mutation can generate a structure known as
a cleavage site in the new coronavirus’ spike protein.
The virus uses the outreaching spike protein to hook on to the host
cell, but normally this protein is inactive.
The cleavage site structure’s job is to trick the human furin protein,
so it will cut and activate the spike protein and cause a “direct
fusion” of the viral and cellular membranes.
Compared to the Sars’ way of entry, this binding method is “100 to
1,000 times” as efficient, according to the study.
Just two weeks after its release, the paper is already the most viewed
ever on Chinarxiv.
In a follow-up study, a research team led by Professor Li Hua from
Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, Hubei
province, confirmed Ruan’s findings.
The mutation could not be found in Sars, Mers or Bat-CoVRaTG13, a bat
coronavirus that was considered the original source of the new
coronavirus with 96 per cent similarity in genes, it said.
This could be “the reason why SARS-CoV-2 is more infectious than other
coronaviruses”, Li wrote in a paper released on Chinarxiv on Sunday.
Meanwhile, a study by French scientist Etienne Decroly at
Aix-Marseille University, which was published in the scientific
journal Antiviral Research on February 10, also found a “furin-like
cleavage site” that is absent in similar coronaviruses.
A researcher with the Beijing Institute of Microbiology, Chinese
Academy of Sciences in Beijing, said the studies were all based on
“Whether [the virus] behaves as predicted will need other evidence
including experiments,” said the researcher who asked not to be named.
“The answer will tell how the virus makes us ill,” he said.
Scientists’ understanding of the new coronavirus has changed
dramatically over the past few months.
At first the virus was not considered a major threat, with the Chinese
Centres for Disease Control and Prevention saying there was no
evidence off human-to-human transmission.
But that assumption was soon invalidated, and as of Wednesday, there
had been more than 81,000 confirmed infections around the world.
Chinese researchers said drugs targeting the furin enzyme could have
the potential to hinder the virus’ replication in the human body.
These include “a series of HIV-1 therapeutic drugs such as Indinavir,
Tenofovir Alafenamide, Tenofovir Disoproxil and Dolutegravir and
hepatitis C therapeutic drugs including Boceprevir and Telaprevir”,
according to Li’s study.
This suggestion is in line with reports by some Chinese doctors who
self-administered HIV drugs after testing positive for the new
coronavirus, but there is as yet no clinical evidence to support the
There is also hope that the link to the furin enzyme could shed light
on the virus’ evolutionary history before it made the jump to humans.
The mutation, which Ruan’s team described as an “unexpected
insertion”, could come from many possible sources such as a
coronavirus found in rats or even a species of avian flu.
16-FEB-2020 :: possible origins of 2019-nCoV coronavirus Botao Xiao and Lei Xiao #COVID19 @TheLancet
Law & Politics
Surgery was performed on the caged animals and the tissue samples were
collected for DNA and RNA extraction and sequencing 4, 5. The tissue
samples and contaminated trashes were source of pathogens.
The principle investigator participated in a project which generated a
chimeric virus using the SARS-CoV reverse genetics system, and
reported the potential for human emergence 10.
A direct speculation was that SARS-CoV or its derivative might leak
from the laboratory. In summary, somebody was entangled with the
evolution of 2019-nCoV coronavirus
I am a senior Chinese military intelligence officer and I know the truth about the coronavirus outbreak. It is far worse than the media are telling you. @reddit Posted byu/Wuhanvirusthrowaway #COVID19
Law & Politics
Let me return to the virus. Last year, large-scale anti-government
protests erupted in Hong Kong. The Standing Committee of the Chinese
Communist Party considered these to be a grave threat to the integrity
and stability of the motherland. The U.S. government and the EU both
knew that the Chinese were secretly working on a biological agent that
was supposed to make the protesters docile and obedient. Without going
into detail, I worked on that project. We tried to develop a sort of
spray that could be dispersed from helicopters or drones and that
would lead to mental retardation and behavioural change. Naturally, as
Hong Kong is one of the most open and international cities in the
world, the Party decided that it was too risky to release the agent in
Hong Kong without first testing it. For this, it needed a great number
of human guinea pigs. Two groups were identified for this. First, we
rounded up a large number of so-called "islamic radicals" in Xinjiang
Province and took them to what we called "training camps". We exposed
the inmates to various "alpha" experimental agents. As these were
odourless and invisible, the subjects were not aware that they were
taking part in medical trials. The resulting high rates of cancer,
premature dementia, suicidal depression and death by organ failure
could easily be suppressed, as the camps are located in very remote
parts of our motherland.
Regional growth is expected to pick up to 2.9% in 2020 @WorldBank Economic Outlook
Risks: 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
China to Take a Third Less West African Oil as Virus Hits Demand @markets.
The volume of crude that will be shipped to China from West Africa
next month is set to drop by at least ten million barrels as the
demand destruction caused by the coronavirus hits home.
Exports of March-loading cargoes to China are expected to total no
more than 20 million barrels in March, according to three oil traders
who specialize in West African grades.
That compares with about 33 million barrels that were scheduled for
export to the Asian nation in February, data compiled by Bloomberg
China is the biggest buyer of crude from the region, whose key
producing nations include Angola and Nigeria.
WAF exports to China are set to extend their slide from recent months
If the flows transpire as expected, the tally would be the lowest
monthly volume to China from the region since at least January 2012.
More bookings could be made in the coming weeks and cargoes can be
re-sold before they reach their destination.
Flows from West Africa already slumped this month to about 1.15
million barrels a day -- the lowest monthly rate since June 2018 --
but the effects of coronavirus are expected to be more visible in
March volumes, since most February cargoes had already been traded
before the crisis intensified. March shipments only began trading in
A glut of West African crude is also having a knock-on effect
elsewhere. Some of the surplus oil is being shipped to Europe, putting
differentials for crude grades in that region under pressure from the
increased competition amid weak refining margins, the traders said.
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
COVID-19 Expected to Cause Widespread Economic Disruption in Africa @StandardBankZA's Jeremy Stephens H/T @eolander
This year, a demand shock and price decline would be very difficult
for Africa. Even though tallying the impact of this coronavirus is not
yet possible, already expectations for oil consumption have been
reduced by 1.5mn barrels per day in Q1:20 and demand for copper is
forecast to fall by 300,000 metric tons in 2020. Already, prices of
key commodities, like copper, oil and thermal coal have already fallen
by 20% since mid-January, and a few reports are emerging that Chinese
buyers have postponed overseas orders, some declaring force majeure.
"a one percentage point decrease in China’s domestic investment growth
is associated with an average 0.6 percentage point decrease in
09-DEC-2019 :: Time to Big Up the Dosage of Quaaludes
This week Moody’s Investor Services @MoodysInvSvc downgraded Nigeria
to negative and we learnt that Foreign Investors are propping up the
Naira to the tune of NGN5.8 trillion ($16 billion) via short-term
Everyone knows how this story ends. When the music stops, everyone
will dash for the Exit and the currency will collapse just like its
collapsing in Lusaka as we speak.
Nigeria's First #coronavirus Case Traveled Through Lagos Before Detection: Minister @usnews @Reuters
ABUJA (REUTERS) - Nigeria's first confirmed coronovirus case was not
detected at airport, and traveled through Lagos before he took ill and
went to a hospital, the country's health minister said on Friday.
The Italian man, who authorities said arrived in Nigeria from Milan on
the evening of Feb. 24, did not have symptoms when the plane landed.
Authorities are now working to "meet and observe" all those who were
on the flight with him, and are also identifying all the people he met
and places he visited in Lagos, a city of some 20 million people,
before reporting to the hospital.
Nigeria Finds Over 100 People Exposed to First Coronavirus Case @business
Nigerian health authorities have reached out to over 100 people who
had contact with the Italian man who tested positive for the
coronavirus and asked them to remain in self-isolation.
The Italian citizen arrived in Lagos earlier this week on a commercial
flight from Milan and traveled to neighboring Ogun state for business.
He’s the first confirmed case in sub-Saharan Africa.
Lafarge Africa Plc said it has quarantined 39 people who were in
contact with him, a vendor for the company. It added in a statement
that its cement factory in Ogun state remains open.
Authorities traced people who traveled with the patient and stayed at
the same hotel and asked for them to remain isolated for 14 days while
undergoing daily temperature checks, said Akin Abayomi, the Lagos
state commissioner for health.
“The numbers keep changing -- they are going up gradually,” said
Abayomi, adding that he calculates authorities have identified more
than 100 people across the country. He said none of those in isolation
in Lagos have presented any symptoms yet.
The Italian man who tested positive for the virus is in stable
condition and showing signs of improvement, Abayomi said.
He denied local media reports that the patient had tried to escape
isolation due to poor conditions in the hospital, but said he was
moved to another facility because the ward was undergoing renovation.
.@IMFNews Executive Board Concludes 2020 Article IV Consultation with Zimbabwe
On February 24, 2020, the Executive Board of the International
Monetary Fund (IMF) concluded the Article IV consultation  with
Zimbabwe is experiencing an economic and humanitarian crisis.
Macroeconomic stability remains a challenge: the economy contracted
sharply in 2019, amplified by climate shocks that have crippled
agriculture and electricity generation; the newly introduced ZWL$ has
lost most of its value; inflation is very high; and international
reserves are very low. The climate shocks have magnified the social
impacts of the fiscal retrenchment, leaving more than half of the
population food insecure. With another poor harvest expected, growth
in 2020 is projected at near zero, with food shortages continuing.
The government that came to office following the 2018 elections
adopted an agenda focused on macro stabilization and reforms. This was
supported by a Staff Monitored Program from the IMF, adopted in May
2019, but is now off-track as policy implementation has been mixed.
Notable reforms include a significant fiscal consolidation that has
helped reduce the monetary financing of the deficit, the introduction
of the new domestic currency in February 2019, the creation of an
interbank FX market, and the restructuring of the command agriculture
financing model to a public-private partnership with commercial banks.
However, uneven implementation of reforms, notably delays and missteps
in FX and monetary reforms, have failed to restore confidence in the
Reengagement with the international community continues to face
delays. The Zimbabwean government has yet to define the modalities and
financing to clear arrears to the World Bank and other multilateral
institutions, and to undertake reforms that would facilitate
resolution of arrears with bilateral creditors. This continues to
constrain Zimbabwe’s access to external official support. As a result,
the authorities face a difficult balance of pursuing tight monetary
policy to reduce very high inflation and prudent fiscal policy to
address the macroeconomic imbalances and build confidence in the
currency, while averting a crisis. While the 2020 budget includes a
significant increase in social spending, it is likely insufficient to
meet the pressing social needs. Absent a scaling up of donor support,
the risks of a deep humanitarian crisis are high.
Executive Board Assessment 
Executive Directors noted with concern that Zimbabwe is facing an
economic and humanitarian crisis exacerbated by policy missteps and
climate‑related shocks. These would require difficult policy choices
from the authorities and support from the international community.
Directors urged the authorities to make a concerted effort to ensure
economic and social stability through the adoption of coordinated
fiscal, monetary and foreign exchange policies, alongside with efforts
to address food insecurity and serious governance challenges. They
emphasized the importance of reengagement with the international
community to support efforts to achieve economic sustainability and
address the humanitarian crisis.
Notwithstanding efforts in 2019 to tighten the fiscal stance and
contain quasi‑fiscal operations by the central bank, Directors noted
that pervasive deficits remain and could be exacerbated by the need to
respond to the humanitarian crisis. Directors called for non‑essential
spending cuts, including decisive reforms to agricultural support
programs, to allow for social spending needs. They underscored the
importance of public financial management and enhanced domestic
revenue mobilization efforts.
Directors stressed that eliminating deficit monetization would not
only be crucial for fiscal sustainability, but it would also serve as
a precondition for the stabilization of hyper‑inflation and the
preservation of the external value of the currency.
Directors noted that Zimbabwe remains in debt distress, with large
external arrears to official creditors, and encouraged the authorities
to give impetus to reengagement efforts and debt management and
In particular, they cautioned against continued recourse to
collateralized external borrowing on commercial terms as this may
potentially complicate any future arrears clearance operation.
Directors underscored the need to establish credibility in the new
currency. They encouraged the authorities to press forward with the
establishment of a functional foreign exchange market and to remove
distortions that could lead to rent‑seeking behavior in the economy.
Directors agreed that given low reserves and hyper‑inflation, limited
credibility, and a lack of access to traditional forms of external
financing, a monetary targeting regime is appropriate to conduct
Enhancing central bank independence and transparency, including by
timely publication of monetary statistics, would be important.
Directors welcomed the progress on financial innovation, supervision
and inclusiveness indicators. They noted, however, the need for
continued vigilance to ensure financial stability.
They encouraged the authorities to conduct asset quality reviews of
the banking sector, develop a new framework for managing weak banks,
and increase the effectiveness of the AML/CFT framework, including by
effectively implementing FAFT standards.
Directors stressed the need to address governance and corruption
challenges, entrenched vested interests, and enforcement of the rule
of law to improve the business climate and support private‑sector‑led
Such efforts would be instrumental to advance reengagement efforts
with the international community and mobilize the needed support. They
noted with regret that the Staff‑Monitored Program was off‑track and
underscored the importance of continued engagement between the Fund
and the authorities, including through technical assistance, policy
advice and other innovative ways, to help immediately stabilize the
economy and address the humanitarian crisis.
Zimbabwe's secret money printing threatens IMF assistance @FT @jsphctrl
Secret money printing by the central bank of Zimbabwe has derailed
efforts to revive the southern African nation’s stricken economy and
now threatens to end IMF oversight of the government’s reform drive.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who took power in a 2017 coup, pledged
last May to implement a series of initiatives designed to stabilise
The IMF agreed to monitor the effort, including the relaunch of a
local currency, but on Wednesday said the programme was “off-track”.
“Uneven implementation of reforms, notably delays and mis-steps in FX
and monetary reforms, have failed to restore confidence in the new
currency,” the IMF said in a statement.
But according to people familiar with the discussions between the
government and the IMF, the multilateral lender’s greatest concern was
a recent discovery by IMF officials that the central bank had
restarted printing the revived Zimbabwe dollar to provide state
subsidies to gold producers.
The money-printing scheme, which went against IMF advice, was designed
to incentivise gold exports but hastened a decline in the local
currency, the people said, declining to be identified. The Zimbabwe
dollar has lost 90 per cent of its value against the US dollar since
it was reintroduced last year.
The IMF did not refer to the scheme in its statement. The Reserve Bank
of Zimbabwe did not respond to a request for comment.
Mr Mnangagwa had hoped the IMF’s backing would help him to unlock
international funding, blocked since he replaced the late dictator
Robert Mugabe three years ago.
But the Washington-institution’s continued involvement in his
government’s reforms is now in doubt, the people said.
The gold subsidy “was one of the central reasons that the IMF came to
a conclusion that the programme is off-track,” said a senior
The subsidy has now been stopped and a plan to continue monetary
reforms without IMF oversight is being crafted, the official added.
The IMF programme for Zimbabwe only dispensed advice, not loans, but
was seen as critical to stabilising the economy, which contracted more
than 8 per cent in 2019, the IMF estimates.
A new IMF monitoring programme would need “a credible package [of
policies] to address the macro-economic imbalances that are still
there, importantly to have adequate social protection, and it would
need to tackle macro-critical governance weaknesses,” said Gene Leon,
the head of the IMF mission to Zimbabwe.
Under the programme, agreed in May 2019, Mr Mnangagwa’s government had
pledged to stop printing money to pay for state activities.
The finance ministry embarked on large spending cuts to reduce a
deficit that had traditionally been financed by the central bank, and
fuel and other import subsidies were ended.
Still, money supply growth in 2019 far outpaced an IMF target of 10
per cent, reaching 127 per cent by the end of the year.
Zimbabwe had already received warnings from the IMF in September over
payments at inflated exchange rates made by the central bank to
Sakunda Holdings, a fuel importer owned by an ally of Mr Mnangagwa.
Officials said the gold subsidy scheme was intended to support miners
who are required by the central bank to convert much of their US
dollar export earnings at the official exchange rate.
Since the US dollar is worth far more on the street, the miners were
losing money and the subsidy aimed to reduce this loss and discourage
producers from selling their gold on the black market.
Moreover, response to the plague is being attempted through a maze of acronyms, supragovernmental orgs, NGO's, and private interests. @man_integrated
The FAO continues to beg for donations, recently increasing their
funding target from $70 million to ~$140 million.
Money raised is supposed to be for the purchase, transport, and
application of effective quantities of insecticide to disrupt,
eliminate, or build a firewall against the swarms.
Current estimates are ~$25/hectare for aerial spraying - in other
words, $3 mil for one swarm.
So what's the solution? There are three interconnected chokepoints to overcome: Money Coordination Supply Chain @man_integrated
A failure in each reinforces the failure of the other two.
MONEY The afflicted nations are underfunded and dependent on
international aid to one degree or another. They are resource
economies, which means a slowdown in exports triggers an immediate
cash crunch. Further, China is the largest buyer of the region's
Any shortfall in @UN /@FAO funding cannot be made up by the nations
themselves. Under normal circumstances, this is a challenge. But in a
#COVIDー19 world, the locust plague will get shuffled further down the
deck. Locust detection and prevention will be further crippled.
COORDINATION The response to the locust plague is presently being
coordinated/funded by the FAO, with support from a network of state
and NGO aid/relief orgs. However, the work of spraying itself is being
piecemealed to smaller groups, locals, and independents.
These groups are in many cases running their own supply chains and
doing what they can with less than optimal oversight. Again, this is
not a failure of will, kindness, or capability. It's a failure of
coherence. The competing interests and lack of common framework hurt.