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Satchu's Rich Wrap-Up
 
 
Wednesday 13th of January 2021
 
Afternoon
Africa

www.rich.co.ke 

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There is no V shaped recovery coming in 2021. Thats just a Fantasy.
World Of Finance

"As a consequence of decades of economic mismanagement, sequential resuscitations and constant bailouts—most especially during the past three years—vast portions of the global economy have mutated into a ‘zombified’ state." @mtmalinen

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Eurozone. Bloomberg Economics massively downgrades GDP for 2021. ''euro-area economy expanding just 2.9% in 2021, compared with 4.8% in our December projections". @dlacalle_IA
World Of Finance

Eurozone. Bloomberg Economics massively downgrades GDP for 2021. Pessimistic scenario estimate of 1Q GDP at -4% "consistent with the euro-area economy expanding just 2.9% in 2021, compared with 4.8% in our December projections". By Jamie Rush, Maeva Cousin and David Powell

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In many respects, 2020 was simultaneously both fathomable and unfathomable
Law & Politics

In many respects, 2020 was simultaneously both fathomable and unfathomable. 

it was fathomable because the Pathogen has always been there since time immemorial and lurking in the recesses. 

It was fathomable because Mankind has always reacted similarly as Nietzsche noted

"Time is a flat circle. Everything we have done or will do we will do over and over and over again- forever."

“Making masks a culture war issue was the dumbest thing imaginable,” said an Advisor to President Trump but remember it was also a culture war issue during the Spanish Flu.

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04-JAN-2021 :: we are witnessing massive decline in the cognitive capacity of leadership and a steep decline in the intellectual capacity of the corpus.
Law & Politics

We are witnessing massive decline in the cognitive capacity of leadership and a steep decline in the intellectual capacity of the cognitive capacity of the corpus. 

We live in an Era of gobbledygook debate, a moment of complete combustion. 

Just open your social media account and its a torrent of bite sized nonsense. 

This is the Achilles Heel which the Sun Tzu Maestro Xi Jinping understood and the Viral War he launched was a perfectly aimed Bullet.

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The Spinning Top
Law & Politics

The demise of the Reality TV Star turned seriously vaudeville

Counterintuitively, The Trump Vladislav Surkov Talking Points which of course always feature George Soros are strangely ineffective and a little like a receding tide.

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07-AUG-2017 :: Any financial expert will tell you that President Trump's financial affairs are a "smoking gun."
Law & Politics

Deutsche Bank loans were surely ‘’mirror’’ transactions, where Deutsche Bank was a commission agent interposed between Trump and the real lender.

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Students chanted “f*** the algorithm” @FinancialTimes
Law & Politics




“From a geopolitical perspective countries are engaged in a kind of arms race, where they’re trying to push to the forefront of innovation when it comes to algorithmic and automated decision making,” she says.


“We’ve really seen the pandemic used as a tech experiment on people’s rights and freedoms,” warns Ella Jakubowska, policy and campaigns officer at European Digital Rights, an advocacy group. 

“It’s completely treating our public spaces, faces and bodies as something to be explored and experimented with.”




But algorithmic surveillance remains widespread in France. Most concerning to activists is the Traitement des Antécédents Judiciaires, a criminal database of 8m faces which the police can use for facial recognition. 

“The file is about everyone who has been in an investigation,” says Mr Drago, including those acquitted as well as convicted of crimes. “It’s pretty bleak [that] millions of people can be subject to FRT.”


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And it all left me wondering Who exactly is controlling the Console? Whoever Controls The Narrative Controls The World
Law & Politics

The Russian "political algorithm" had long predicted the volatility now seen in western democracies.

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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 #COVID19 Xu Zhangrun
Law & Politics

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 

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‘’Zoonotic’’ origin was one that was accelerated in the Laboratory.
Law & Politics


There is also a non negligible possibility that #COVID19 was deliberately released

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04-JAN-2021 :: Today only the Paid for Propagandists and Virologists and WHO will argue that there is a ''zoonotic'' origin for COVID19. There is no natural Pathway for the Evolution of COVID19
Law & Politics


It is remarkable that the Propaganda is still being propagated more than a year later. There is no natural Pathway for the Evolution of COVID19.

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Data from #Covid19 worldwide on January 12: + 694,484 cases in 24 hours, or 91,595,095 in total @CovidTracker_fr
Misc.


Data from #Covid19 worldwide on January 12: + 694,484 cases in 24 hours, or 91,595,095 in total + 17,188 deaths in 24 hours, i.e. 1,962,931 in total

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04-JAN-2021 :: 'Reported'' Daily numbers are in the 650,000 to 750,000 daily range and set to undergo an exponential Phase Shift higher this month.
Misc.

The ''warp speed'' Vaccine Roll Out is chasing the coat Tails of the Virus.

''Reported'' Daily numbers are in the 650,000 to 750,000 daily range and set to undergo an exponential Phase Shift higher this month.

Therefore the Virus remains an exogenous uncertainty that is still not resolved.

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US 4,327 record #COVID19 deaths yesterday exponentially expanded total 1.14% to 380,670 following Christmas and New Year holidays. @jmlukens
Misc.


1.12% avg #COVID19 case growth rate (daily/total) on the rise with 247,677 avg new cases/day up 36% past 2wks.  US total cases now 22,838,110.

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Currency Markets at a Glance WSJ
World Currencies



Euro 1.2215

Dollar Index 89.935

Japan Yen 103.64

Swiss Franc 0.8853

Pound 1.3692

Aussie 0.7773

India Rupee 73.1085

South Korea Won 1095.47

Brazil Real 5.3227

Egypt Pound 15.675

South Africa Rand 15.2351

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Jack Ma vs Xi Jinping: the future of private business in China @FinancialTimes
Law & Politics

Four years ago, when Ant Group’s premier money market fund was racing to a peak of more than $260bn worth of assets under management, many of China’s state-owned banks and their regulators started to get agitated. 


In a series of calls and meetings with Jack Ma, Ant’s founder, bank executives and regulatory officials demanded that its Yu’E Bao fund be reined in.

“Yu’E Bao was pulling a lot of money from the banks,” says one person familiar with the discussions. 

“The banks were worried about the impact on liquidity and wanted Ant to take measures to minimise the impact. The conversations were pretty tense.”

In the end, Mr Ma had to back down and Yu’E Bao imposed caps on how much people could deposit. Between March and December of 2018, its funds under management fell by a third to $168bn and stood at $183bn last September.

The showdown would prove to be a prelude to the much bigger confrontation that now pits the Chinese Communist party and President Xi Jinping against not just Ant but also Alibaba, the ecommerce group founded by Mr Ma.

The stand-off, which has sparked rampant speculation about Mr Ma’s whereabouts, could become a defining moment for the future of private business in Mr Xi’s China.

On December 24, China’s market regulator announced it was launching an antitrust probe into Alibaba and sent investigators to its headquarters in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou, Mr Ma’s hometown. 

The announcement came just two weeks after the party’s politburo said it would target monopoly businesses to prevent the “disorderly expansion of capital”.


The move on Alibaba also came two months after financial regulators dramatically cancelled Ant’s planned $37bn initial public offering, which would have been the world’s largest.


Taken together, the measures amount to an unprecedented squeeze on a business empire whose ubiquitous services are central to the functioning of China’s pioneering online economy. 

Ant says Alipay, its payment app, is regularly used by 700m people — half of China’s total population — and 80m merchants, processing payments worth Rmb118tn ($18.2tn) in the group’s last financial year. 

Alibaba’s shares have fallen by almost 30 per cent since the regulatory showdown began in late October, putting a big dent in the net worth of Mr Ma, who has not been seen in public since then

Over the same period his fortune has declined from $62bn to $49bn, according to Bloomberg data. 

The Hurun China Rich List estimated that Mr Ma had been the country’s richest man as recently as October 20 but would now rank fourth, his top slot taken by a bottled water tycoon, Zhong Shanshan.

The results of the showdown will say a lot about the sort of economy that China is developing. 

If Ant and Alibaba are crippled by regulators — or its founder is personally targeted by investigators — it will go down as a landmark moment in the party’s fickle relationship with China’s private sector even though Mr Ma is, ironically, a party member himself.

Since Deng Xiaoping launched the “reform and opening” era 40 years ago, the party has become ever more dependent on private sector companies for economic growth, job creation and tax revenues. 

But the party’s fixation with control, especially since Mr Xi came to power almost a decade ago, also triggers periodic crackdowns on the sector and prominent entrepreneurs.


Yet there is another potential outcome that would indicate a less fraught relationship between the party-state and business. 

The investigations into Ant and Alibaba could lead to the sort of settlements that are not dissimilar to those pursued in the US and EU against large finance and technology groups. 

That would leave Mr Ma’s two flagship companies humbled but still formidable and highly profitable national champions. Even then, a strong political message would have been sent.


“Chinese internet magnates can still enjoy thriving businesses and enormous fortunes if they are able to convince the top leadership of their loyalty,” says Chen Long at Plenum, a Beijing-based consultancy. 

“The top leadership wants to ensure that neither Ma nor anyone else ever crosses the red line of trying to exert personal influence over government policies again — at least not publicly. The government will support them on the condition that they serve the national interest first.”

Fintech revolution

Mr Ma has not appeared in public since October 24, when he gave a high-profile speech critical of the same state-owned banks he clashed with over Yu’E Bao’s rapid growth, as well as regulators who he said often sacrifice innovation on the altar of stability. 

According to people involved in the listing, the speech angered Mr Xi, who made the final decision to halt the Ant IPO.


“To innovate without taking risks is to strangle innovation,” Mr Ma said. “There is no such thing as riskless innovation in the world. Very often, an attempt to minimise risk to zero is the biggest risk itself.”


He was speaking at the same forum where Wang Qishan, Mr Xi’s powerful vice-president and former anti-corruption tsar, had earlier emphasised the paramount importance of financial system stability. 

“Efforts should be made to prevent and lower financial risks . . . security always ranks first,” Mr Wang said. “While new financial technologies have improved efficiency and brought convenience, financial risks have been heightened.”

In an unprecedented public rebuke of Ant two months later, on December 26 China’s central bank criticised Ant for being too cavalier about financial risk and taking advantage of regulatory loopholes. 

But as frustrated as regulators are with Ant, they cannot ignore the beneficial effects of the financial revolution it has led in China.

“Ant Group,” People’s Bank of China vice-governor Pan Gongsheng admitted in his otherwise critical comments, “has played an innovative role in developing financial technology and improving the efficiency and inclusiveness of financial services”. 

The central bank, he added in a nod to jittery entrepreneurs, was also “unshakeable” in its commitment to “protect property rights and promote entrepreneurship”.


Mr Ma has long enjoyed support from officials in a range of State Council ministries, as well as the lead financial regulators, who appreciate the contributions of Ant, Alibaba and their rivals, all of whom have transformed China’s economy and made its online services sector a global leader. 

When his status as a party member was first confirmed only two years ago, it was in the context of an award he was receiving from the party’s Central Committee for “making China a leading player in the international ecommerce industry, internet finance and cloud computing”.


Alibaba and Ant’s ecommerce and online payment services were even more critical at the height of China’s successful battle to contain coronavirus, providing essential services to the hundreds of millions of people caught in draconian lockdowns.

“There are different lines of thought within the regulators,” Mr Chen says. “Until Jack Ma’s speech the pro-growth people had the upper hand. But Xi thought the speech was too much and a second [risk-averse] group took the lead. If his speech hadn’t happened, everything would have been fine.”

Disappearing acts are unusual for Mr Ma, who also missed the November finale of his African reality TV show — Africa’s Business Heroes. 

He routinely gives flamboyant musical performances at Alibaba events and hobnobs with heads of state and government leaders.


As China’s most successful private entrepreneur, Mr Ma enjoys unique status in China — and overseas. 

His fluent English has made him a huge celebrity on the international conference circuit, with a star quality unmatched by any of his private or state-sector peers.


When Mr Xi hosted the G20 leaders summit in Hangzhou in 2016, some of his guests also visited Mr Ma — something that irked the Chinese president, according to one diplomat involved and other people familiar with the matter. 

Mr Ma’s VIP callers included Indonesian president Joko Widodo, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau and the then Italian premier, Matteo Renzi. 

Foreign leaders were offered limited time slots and the Chinese foreign ministry was mostly cut out of the process.

Over the past week rumours about Mr Ma’s whereabouts have abounded on China’s carefully monitored social media channels, while domestic media outlets have received strict instructions from censors about the stories they can and cannot run on Ant and Alibaba’s regulatory troubles.

Many of Mr Ma’s friends and colleagues strongly dispute suggestions that he is personally in any sort of legal jeopardy, let alone on the run. 

“He is in China and not travelling because of Covid, not anything else. He’s lying low,” says one friend of Mr Ma.

Another friend who communicates with Mr Ma regularly adds: “Everyone is asking me if he’s in danger, but he’s doing fine. He responds [to messages and calls] quickly and seems like he’s in good spirits. Discussions with regulators are still very much in process so he just has to stay quiet until they are resolved.”



Leadership missteps

Friends add that while Mr Ma may now regret the consequences of his October 24 speech, he meant what he said and still believes passionately in what he sees as Ant’s mission to transform the provision of financial services in the world’s second-largest economy.

Yu’E Bao, which translates as “account balance treasure”, was started in 2013 and allowed anyone in China, from restaurant staff to the urban yuppies they serve, to deposit as little as Rmb1 ($0.15) in a money-market fund and earn more interest than they could in a Chinese savings deposit account. 

Just four years later it became the world’s largest money market fund, surpassing JPMorgan’s US government money market fund.

The fund’s success was a dramatic demonstration of Ant’s potential. But it was also a threat to one of China’s most powerful vested interest groups — state banks and the officials who regulate them. 

The central bank was also concerned. In its annual financial stability report published in late 2019, the PBoC said it would “strengthen regulation of systematically important money market funds”, without mentioning Yu’E Bao by name.


“When a taxi driver can deposit one renminbi in a money-market fund and get interest, that’s a big breakthrough,” says a former Alibaba executive. “Jack feels what Ant is doing is good for society.”


Mr Ma’s companies have rebounded strongly from regulatory disputes before, although Ant and Alibaba never faced scrutiny as intense as they now do. 

Ant’s run-in with banks and regulators over Yu’E Bao, for example, did little to hinder its overall business or influence.

Ant’s credit business grew so large that it now facilitates about one-tenth of all of China’s non-mortgage consumer loans.

The group also aligned its interests with those of powerful investors. Ant’s first fundraising in 2015 brought in a slew of well-connected shareholders, all of whom were set to be rewarded handsomely in the IPO. 

The Chinese government’s social security fund and a group of state-owned insurers held stakes in Ant valued at, respectively, Rmb48bn and Rmb45bn at the IPO price.

Shares belonging to an investment vehicle put together by Boyu Capital, whose executives have included the grandson of former Chinese president Jiang Zemin, were valued at Rmb15bn. 

Even China Central Television, the country’s state broadcaster, held Ant shares worth Rmb3bn.

“Financial regulators have been very concerned about Ant’s growing power and ability to push back against any attempts to bring it under control,” says one Chinese government adviser. 

“Previous attempts to bring Ant under more control were not really working because it was so big and so powerful. There is now clearly a very dramatic shift.”


Bill Deng, a former Ant executive and co-founder of XTransfer, a cross-border payments platform, says Mr Ma may have become too confident.


“For a long time, regulators let Ant expand and I think [management] became a bit too complacent,” he says. 

“If there are hundreds of people praising you, you can get overly optimistic. Financial deleveraging policies have been a trend for several years now and the government is extremely careful when it comes to finance.”

Healthy growth

The cancellation of Ant’s IPO triggered a cascade of official and state media criticism of the fintech group. 

Regulators have also made clear they want the group to shift many of its businesses — including payments, lending, insurance and wealth management — into a new, more tightly regulated holding vehicle. 

This will increase Ant’s capital requirements and lower its valuation.

Authorities see the holding company model as a way to rein in large financial conglomerates while increasing their transparency. 

They also want Ant to share its vast trove of consumer data with the central bank — something it has refused to do before.

Having to wait for a smaller return than they almost locked in a few months ago will be disappointing for Ant’s investors, but there are worse alternatives. 

“The Chinese government does not want to kill Ant, but to make sure it grows in a healthy way,” says Mr Deng. “Ant can surpass its current obstacles. If they have patience, they will be able to rise again.”



As for the antitrust investigation into Alibaba, a manageable outcome for the group would include an end to exclusivity arrangements that restrict merchants from selling on rival platforms. 

Alibaba could also potentially face a large fine — the maximum allowed would be 10 per cent of its previous year’s revenues — if it is deemed to have violated China’s anti-monopoly law.

“Debates about exclusivity have been going on for years, it’s a competitive market,” says the former Alibaba executive. 

“I don’t think Alibaba is going to get broken up. It’s just that the methods by which they fight for the market are going to be more regulated.”


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There is frequently a "coming to Jesus" meeting in Beijing where any number of things can happen
Law & Politics

Alibaba’s Jack Ma is still young, healthy, and his company is firing on all cylinders.  Yet, he recently stepped down as chairman at a handsome ceremony – posing as a rock star and singing a few tunes.  

The musical theme was appropriate.  He has been whistling past the graveyard for many years – as is the lot of prominent businessmen in the People’s Republic of China.

How a private business operates in a Communist Party-run state is a perpetual head scratcher.  However, a Western businessman with over three decades experience in China offered some insights.

You see, the Jack Ma’s of China may be entrepreneurs, but they are as much “Chinese Communist Party (CCP) corporate trustees.”  And Ma’s usefulness as a CCP corporate trustee has reached the end of its shelf-life.

The businessman continued:

Jack Ma and Alibaba were in effect used by the Party to counter eBay’s unexpected and stunning success in China.  And in China, the Party always wins.  As eBay’s fortunes sagged and Alibaba’s took off so did the career of Jack Ma.  

Under the mild-mannered Premier Hu Jintao, Ma became a national and international icon.  He served many roles the Party wanted China and the world to see. 

When Xi Jinping came into power Davos was not big enough for Xi and Ma.  Someone had to go.  

It was clear to a lot of people that Ma began to chafe under Xi’s increasing expectation that trustees like Ma subordinate themselves entirely to Xi.  

Ma perhaps didn’t know when to say “when.”  In 2015 he purchased 28,000 acres of pristine upper New York state forest lands.  This was okay under Hu, not under Xi.  

As far as is known Ma still has the land that he designated “preserved for the environment.”   

As long as he steps down from Alibaba, acknowledges Xi’s supremacy, and only talks about the environment he may be able to keep the land (and his house on Hong Kong’s Peak).  

If he falls afoul, Beijing will claim Ma purchased the land with “black money” and will want asset ownership turned over to the PRC government….a frequent tactic now when foreign real estate is the asset.  

One might expect Ma to declare his philanthropic future by building a conference and retreat center on the property where CCP officials and their corporate trustees can retire for rest, reflection, appreciation of the environment…..and meet Wall Street tycoons and American business leaders (and former U.S. State Department officials) to pitch the benefits of investing in China.

Indeed, maybe Jack Ma’s crowning achievement is not building Alibaba into a major global corporation.  Rather, it is staying both alive and out of jail as long as he has.

The businessman further explained:

Alibaba, like Huawei, HNA and similar ventures, are licensed and documented as “private” companies when in fact they are better thought of a as state-owned-private-enterprise companies (SOPE’s)…an expression the Western businessman coined.

The company “founders” are loyal CCP members (something Jack Ma kept hidden for many years) running the company effectively as CCP appointed trustees.  

The companies receive all kinds of perks (including protection), subsidies and access to whatever is needed to create powerful “champion’” companies across most major lines of business and industry.

Trustees are given executive responsibility to a great degree to run companies as they see fit – and thus appear like “regular” CEO’s of the Western sort.  But in doing so, they must follow these guidelines, noted the businessman:

-Must use company to fulfill CCP policy objectives (serve the party first and foremost)….these include political, business, brand-building and China nationalism objectives

-Build large entities in scope and scale, capability and capacity in their special field of endeavor

-Develop and/or acquire leading-edge technology

-Acquire Top 500 Company world status

-Be a major contributor to establishing new global standards for their respective business field (breaking the U.S. monopoly of the past 60 years or more)

These SOPEs have a deep line of credit with the CCP and the People’s Bank of China’s SAFE (State Administration of Foreign Exchange) should they need U.S. dollars for their overseas activities.   

As long as they stay within the CCP’s policy objectives FX (foreign exchange) authorizations continue.  

Try paying overseas in Chinese Yuan and it’s only a few degrees better than using Zimbabwe dollars.  

There’s a reason why moving one’s wealth overseas and turning it into U.S. dollars or other convertible currencies has been a national sport in China for years – even for CCP elites. 

The businessman continued:  The trouble starts when the celebrity trustee (they attain huge celebrity status in China) begins to get full of himself and starts to enter into transactions beyond his business scope.   

This is usually where the debt problem begins to appear because there is no automatic FX payment to bail them out of a non-policy transaction gone bad. 

Trying to fix the problem only makes its worse.  The attempted remedies don’t work – piling more debt on top of more debt. 

The CCP will fund SOPE debt as long as it goes to supporting policy objectives.  They will not fund non-policy debt.  Non-policy, usually debt-ridden ventures get sold off at fire sale prices. 

And there is frequently a “coming to Jesus” meeting in Beijing where any number of things can happen to a trustee – from forcing him to sell off non-policy debt-inducing assets, to accepting “retirement” to charges of corruption and a life sentence in prison….and no more access to the CCP’s official black hair dye #6.  

Indeed, CCTV showing court proceeding clips where the former celebrity tycoon now has white hair is the greatest indignity that can be levied on a person in political China.  The citizenry knows justice (such as it is) has been served.  

As a recent example of the CCP taking back one of its SOPEs….there is Anbang Insurance Company which got into a lot of things around the world other than insurance.  

The company was taken over by the government, renamed and rebranded as “Dajia Insurance.”  Its owner got 18 years in prison.

And the HNA conglomerate’s boss, Wang Jian, died in a fall in France last year after the company got overextended.  An accident?  The French police said so.  

But Chinese tycoons that run into trouble die with improbable frequency.  And as one observer put it:  “Typically, a man of Wang’s stature in China does not stand next to a 50 foot drop-off…especially for a photo.”   

But isn’t Alibaba different?  Yes and no.  Jack Ma wisely avoided the “overreach” that landed Anbang, HNA, and others in trouble.  

But in the PRC success can be as dangerous as failure.  And CCP leadership just might view highly profitable Alibaba as a juicy ripe peach.  The Party is the state (and everything in it), after all.

The businessman note that, of course, not all Chinese companies are SOPEs.  Small and medium size Chinese companies that you find seconded in distant parts of Los Angeles, for example, are wild-west outfits running up all kinds of debt in U.S. dollars.  

These are not SOPEs, do not have high-level backing and do not receive much consideration, if any, from SAFE. 

When these guys go broke you don’t want to be their creditor. 

So, despite Jack Ma’s considerable abilities and success, he can only be as successful and free as the CCP allows him to be.

I can hear it now…”Newsham you’re all wrong!”  Perhaps.  But here’s a test:  Have Jack Ma announce that he’s changed his mind and is going to retake Alibaba’s helm – running it as he sees fit and spending the earnings as he wishes.  

Will he be invited to a celebratory dinner in Zhongnanhai?  Maybe.  But if so, he’ll do well not to pose for photos afterwards on the rooftop.

This CCP sword of Damocles also hangs over foreign companies in China.  But there’s no shortage of Western executives who think it will be different for them. 

They’ve got well-connected Chinese friends who love them, and anyway, they are smarter than everyone else.

But this only ends one way.   Just wait a while and watch what happens to Elon Musk and Tesla after going all-in on China.

Musk should be glad he’s not Chinese.  He’ll only lose his company.

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FCA issues warning as bitcoin slumps by a quarter @thetimes
World Currencies




The City watchdog warned investors in digital currencies that they should be prepared to lose everything as the price of bitcoin slumped by as much as 25 per cent yesterday.

The Financial Conduct Authority said that consumers were at a “high risk of losses” if they invested in digital currencies, other “cryptoassets” or products linked to them.

Bitcoin, the world’s most popular digital or cryptocurrency, nearly quadrupled in value last year and this month it has risen by as much as 44.9 per cent to last week’s record high of $41,998.75

The price rise appears to have attracted droves of retail investors to the market.

However, the watchdog’s warning, combined with profit-taking after the recent record high, pushed bitcoin lower and in New York last night it was down 16.3 per cent, or $6,196.28, at $31,917.44, having pared some of its earlier losses.

Like its rivals, bitcoin exists as strings of computer code and has no physical form. 

It was developed by a secretive software developer using the name of Satoshi Nakamoto. 

It was intended to be used as currency to pay for goods and services but its main use to date has been speculative trading.

The City regulator believes that bitcoin and other unregulated cryptoassets “have no inherent value”. 

In a test conducted by the regulator last year on a particular cryptoasset, industry valuation models returned prices of anywhere between $0 and $50,000.

“Investing in cryptoassets, or investments and lending linked to them, generally involves taking very high risks with investors’ money,” the authority said. 

“If consumers invest in these types of product, they should be prepared to lose all their money.”

Volatility and the complexity of some cryptoassets compounded issues with pricing, the regulator added. 

There was also “no guarantee that cryptoassets can be converted back into cash”.

The authority said that consumers were unlikely to be able to benefit from protection such as from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme and the Financial Ombudsman Service if their investments turned sour.

The authority is under pressure to do more to protect people from risky investments after the London Capital & Finance scandal. 

Last month an inquiry excoriated the regulator for failing to protect 11,625 savers who lost most of the £237 million that they put into risky assets known as minibonds.

British investors appear to have piled into bitcoin in the new year. Investors using sterling made bitcoin trades worth nearly £1 billion in the first seven days of 2021, trading twice as many bitcoins as in all of January last year, aggregated data from digital currency exchanges published by The Times on Saturday showed.

Since last week, FCA-regulated firms have been banned from marketing, distributing and selling cryptoasset derivatives to retail investors in the UK. 

The regulator has found that investors were losing tens of millions of pounds a year trading contracts-for-difference and futures tied to cryptoassets.


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Investing is very simple. All you have to do is know exactly what it is you are betting on & who you are betting on. @andy___8
World Of Finance

But to truly know what you are betting on in areas where there is a dispute in pricing can be extremely difficult, because no one knows what they are betting on

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Few major assets have been so deeply misunderstood like Bitcoin. @andy___8
World Currencies

It has been so misunderstood that even the most vocal, committed and informed longterm holders have incorrect thesis’s about it, so how can an uninformed person even begin to trust it?

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08-JAN-2018 :: The Crypto Avocado Millenial Economy.
World Currencies

The ‘’Zeitgeist’’ of a time is its defining spirit or its mood. Capturing the ‘’zeitgeist’’ of the Now is not an easy thing because we are living in a dizzyingly fluid moment.

Gladwellian level move. “The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behaviour crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire”- Malcolm Gladwell. 

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CoViD19-ΛFЯICΛ: Actives: 521 469 (+ 11225) [Fresh ATH] @NCoVAfrica
Africa

Confirmed: 3 080 132 (+ 28120)

Actives: 521 469 (+ 11225)

Deaths: 73 401 (+ 689)

Recoveries: 2 483 086 (+ 16206)

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Africa countries w/ highest COVID-19 2wk avg case/day increase @jmlukens
Africa



#Seychelles: 2075%

#SaoTomeandPrincipe: 2000%

#Malawi: 1095%

#Gambia: 714%

#Lesotho: 566%

#Comoros: 504%

#Zambia: 462%

#Mozambique: 367%

#Mauritius: 367%

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Zambia (943/day) & Mozambique (410/day) avg #COVID19 cases/day up >367% past 2wks. @jmlukens
Africa



COVID-19 2wk avg case/day increase

#Malawi: 1095%

#Ireland: 572%

#Lesotho: 566%

#Zambia: 462%

#Mozambique: 367%

#Portugal: 182%

#Thailand: 158%

#Spain: 154%

#Lebanon: 124%

#Bolivia: 123%

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Estimates of severity and transmissibility of novel South Africa SARS-CoV-2 variant 501Y.V2
Africa



On 18 December 2020, researchers reported emergence of a novel SARS-CoV-2 variant, 501Y.V2, in South Africa. 


This coincided with an accelerating incidence of COVID-19 cases, despite the pandemic turning over earlier in the year under relaxing public health controls, consistent with dynamics reflecting substantial accumulation of immunity (Figure 1A-B). 

501Y.V2 was soon detected in other countries with probable connection to travellers from South Africa. 

Another fast-spreading variant appears to have emerged independently in the UK, estimated to be 1.56 (95% credible interval (CrI): 1.50-1.74) as transmissible as previously circulating lineages. 

As with the UK variant, there is an urgent need to characterise the transmissibility and severity of 501Y.V2.

Using globally available data, we calibrated an SARS-CoV-2 modelling framework the South African pandemic and evaluated the novel variant for potentially increased transmissibility or immune escape. 

Assuming complete cross-protection, we estimate 501Y.V2 is 1.50 (95% CrI: 1.20-2.13) times as transmissible as previously circulating variants. 

Assuming instead that 501Y.V2 is identically transmissible, the new variant evades 21% (95% CrI: 11-36%) of previously acquired immunity. 

Reality may lie between these extremes, with an intermediate increase in transmissibility and mildly imperfect cross-protection from past exposure. 

Though our analysis does not identify where on this spectrum 501Y.V2 lies, the entire range has serious public health consequences.

We found some evidence of a change in severity (Figure 1C), estimated from the corrected ratio of delay-adjusted cases and deaths in the Western Cape province, though there is substantial uncertainty and local reporting delays may differ from global estimates. 

Continued monitoring of severity, including more detailed investigation of differences in reporting, incidence in new demographic groups, or health system crowding is essential.

The emergence of two novel variants in the UK and South Africa with similar estimated increased transmissibility suggests there will be substantial challenges with global control of SARS-CoV-2 in early 2021. 

This highlights the need for maintaining control measures and accelerating vaccination roll-out, as well as continued monitoring of vaccine effectiveness against novel variants to detect immune escape promptly.


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Turning to Africa the Spinning Top
Africa

Democracy from Tanzania to Zimbabwe to Cameroon has been shredded.

We are getting closer and closer to the Virilian Tipping Point

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

Political leadership in most cases completely gerontocratic will use violence to cling onto Power but any Early Warning System would be warning a Tsunami is coming

10 NOV 14 : African youth demographic {many characterise this as a 'demographic dividend"} - which for Beautiful Blaise turned into a demographic terminator


Martin Aglo, a law student from Benin, told Reuters: “After the Arab Spring, this is the Black Spring”.We need to ask ourselves; how many people can incumbent shoot stone cold dead in such a situation – 100, 1,000, 10,000?

This is another point: there is a threshold beyond which the incumbent can’t go. Where that threshold lies will be discovered in the throes of the event.

The Event is no longer over the Horizon.

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Social media disinformation campaign targets Ugandan presidential election @DFRLab
Africa



A network of PR firms, news organizations and inauthentic social media accounts has engaged in a coordinated campaign to promote Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni ahead of the country’s January 14, 2021 presidential election, the DFRLab has learned.

A DFRLab investigation into the network, which began as part of its ongoing analysis of pre-election activity, uncovered a collection of Twitter accounts and Facebook pages engaging in suspicious online behavior. 

Accounts posted verbatim messages supporting the Ugandan government and criticizing the opposition, for example; Some of these accounts included users who appeared to be journalists.

After sharing our initial analysis with both platforms, they conducted an independent investigation and took action against the assets for violating their rules regarding coordinated inauthentic behavior (CIB), with Facebook removing them on January 8 and Twitter on January 10, 2021.

According to a statement, Facebook’s internal investigation attributed the network to a group within Uganda’s Ministry of Information, Communications and Technology:

This month, we removed a network of accounts and Pages in Uganda that engaged in CIB to target public debate ahead of the election. 

They used fake and duplicate accounts to manage Pages, comment on other people’s content, impersonate users, re-share posts in Groups to make them appear more popular than they were

Given the impending election in Uganda, we moved quickly to investigate and take down this network. 

We found this network to be linked to the Government Citizens Interaction Center at the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology in Uganda. 

Per our normal reporting process, we will share more details about the networks we removed this month in our January CIB report which we’ll release at the beginning of February.

Museveni, who has ruled Ugandan since 1986, is running for a sixth term, as presidential term limits were scrapped in 2005. 

In previous elections, Museveni and his political party, the National Resistance Movement (NRM), have been accused of violating free speech and free association, as well as intimidating journalists in an attempt to curb the spread of information. 

During the lead-up to the 2021 elections, critics accused the incumbent president of using COVID-19 measures to “control and destroy” opposition parties.

Opposition leaders have taken to social media ahead of the election to promote their messages, as freedom of the press is increasingly threatened in Uganda. 

This is not the first time the Ugandan government has been embroiled in social media scandal; in December 2020, the Ugandan Communications Commission (UCC) requested a number of opposition YouTube channels be removed for inciting violence, a request that was viewed as both “political” and exhibiting “prejudice.”

Initial suspicions

The DFRLab investigation into this network started as part of ongoing research into disinformation and intimidation targeting presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, commonly known as Bobi Wine, and the Ugandan government’s violent response to anti-government protests. 

A group of 10 Twitter accounts copying and pasting the same content unravelled a PR firm and news organization using social media to promote President Museveni and other members of his government.

These accounts regularly retweeted Museveni and his proponents with quotes containing the hashtags #SecuringYourFuture and #SevoLution. “Securing Your Future” is Museveni’s current campaign motto, while “Sevo” is a nickname for the president. 

The accounts were some of the first to retweet Museveni’s tweets, and often included the same text and hashtags when quoting his tweets. 

They responded quickly to negative comments about Museveni from other users using the same copied and pasted text.


Seven of the 10 accounts did not contain any identifiable information: their banner images and profile pictures were lifted from sites such as Pinterest, and they posted no personal information about the account operators

The other three accounts claimed to be operated by a PR firm, a news organization and a journalist.

Kampala Times and Robusto Communications

Two of the primary social media accounts included in the network promoting Museveni and the NRM party were Kampala Times, a news website, and Robusto Communications, a PR firm. 

According to corporation tracking database Open Corporates, Kampala Times Media Ltd and Robusto Communications Co Ltd are registered private companies that were incorporated in Uganda in 2019.

Robusto Communications’ now-deleted Twitter account, @RobustoUg, was created on November 10, 2018. It originally posted infrequently, commenting on seemingly random videos of animals and world news, and only began to post share more politically aligned content in January 2019. 

Despite advertising itself as a PR and communications firm, Robusto Communications did not post any information about its services or post content relating to communications and PR. 

Instead, the Twitter account focused on retweeting Museveni and his supporters or posting links to the Kampala Times website.

Unlike Robusto Communications, which did not appear to have a dedicated website, WHOIS data revealed that kampalatimesug.com was created on August 21, 2020

The website claimed that Kampala Times was an independent news aggregation service that was fully automated and linked to news websites around the world. 

It did not provide any other information about the operators of the site or the team members.

Although the website was created in August 2020, the Facebook page for the company was created on May 29 of that year, soon followed by its Twitter account @KampalaTimes_ on June 5. 

The first post to the Kampala Times Facebook page was a profile picture with information about Robusto Communications, indicating a clear connection between the two companies.


The Facebook page for Robusto Communications, “RobustoUg,” was created two months earlier on March 22, 2019, and included a link to the Kampala Times in its “About” section. Both pages also listed the same contact number.

Despite not having a dedicated website or any other information about its communication services, Robusto Communications posted job applications in May and August 2020 looking for a social media administrator and a Twitter administrator for a “fast growing communication company.”



RobustoUg posted a combination of articles by Kampala Times and information that looked like news stories tagged #KampalaTimes, although the page only started sharing posts by Kampala Times on July 2, 2020. 

Posts that did not follow this format were primarily copied and pasted from other Ugandan websites without accreditation. 

A post from December 9, 2020 with 13 shares and 5 likes that was presented as breaking news was lifted directly from a website called Trumpet News. 

The text and image from another post from December 17 was stolen from the Facebook page of popular Ugandan newspaper Daily Monitor.



Almost all the posts by RobustUg were shared by a profile called Nakamya Ritah, both to its own wall and to multiple Ugandan Facebook groups. The account also shared the first posts created by the Kampala Times page, in June 2020. The Nakamya Ritah profile had no unique images; its profile picture was an image of the Ugandan coat of arms, and its banner image a woman standing in front of an elevator that had been uploaded to Pinterest in 2017. The same image, along with other images uploaded by the Nakamya Ritah profile, were used by some of the Twitter accounts included in the network.

Excluding Robusto Communications and Kampala Times, the eight other accounts involved in the Twitter network also had corresponding Facebook profiles focused on sharing content from both Kampala Times and Robusto Communications, as well as amplifying pro-Museveni content. 

Although the eight user accounts corresponding to the eight Twitter accounts within the network did amplify the reach of Kampala Times and Robusto Communications, the Nakamya Ritah profile seemed dedicated to spreading posts from the two pages to pro-Museveni Facebook groups.

The email address in the “About” section of the RubustoUg page included the name Nakamya, suggesting a potential connection between the profile and Robusto Communications. 

A closer look at the Kampala Times website showed that most of the articles were uploaded to the website by a user named Ritah Nakamya, the inverse of the Facebook profile name Nakamya Ritah.



The article bylines changed when clicking on the specific article links. Although the pieces were primarily uploaded by Ritah Nakamya, another user name, Innocent Vuga, also appeared to be responsible for uploading content. 

A look at the website’s source code indicated that Ritah Nakamya was listed as user number 2, while Innocent Vuga was listed as user number 4. 

The DFRLab could not identify any information on users 1 and 3; however, Nakamya and Vuga were the only users to upload content to the website.

The URL for Ritah Nakamya’s author profile contained the name “Dickson Okello,” which is very similar to “Dickens Okello,” the name of the journalist whose Twitter account was among the 10 initially discovered by the DFRLab

The Kampala Times website had no other reference to Dickson or Dickens Okello as an author or a user uploading content. Unlike the Nakamya profile, the URL for the Innocent Vuga profile reflected the correct name.



The in-text bylines for the articles themselves often differed from the name of the accredited user uploading the pieces. 

In some instances, articles uploaded by Ritah Nakamya were allegedly authored by Innocent Vuga or Vuga Innocent. 

Other names identified in the network by the DFRLab, including Akech Oilvia, were also cited as authors of articles by Kampala Times.



Dickens H Okello

One of the oldest accounts in the network, both on Facebook and Twitter, was that of journalist Dickens Okello. 

According to ChimpReports, a Ugandan news website whose Facebook page was subsequently suspended in the takedown, Dickens H Okello wrote a combination of local and world news stories from as early as October 2014, with a large number of positive pieces dedicated to NRM politicians and parliamentary speaker Rebecca Kadaga. 

However, the @dickens_okello1 account, which joined Twitter as @dickens_heavens in August 2013, started tweeting links to ChimpReports and asking for comments and interviews as a ChimpReports journalist as early as December 2013. 

The Facebook URL for a “Dickens Okello Honeystraw” profile indicated that the account was originally created as “Dickens Honeywell.” 

According to ChimpReports, Okello’s middle name is Honeywell. Some of the earliest tweets by the Dickens Okello account include references to a personal email address that included the words “dickens” and “Honeywell.”



On Twitter, Okello amplified Museveni and his government as a member of the network of 10 accounts that copied and pasted content, and was the first account to engage with @RobustoUg for months. 

On Facebook, Okello was more original in his posts. He was vehemently pro-Museveni, shared NRM-related content on a daily basis and attacked supporters of opposition candidate Bobi Wine. 

His ChimpReports articles were amplified by the accounts within the network, including Robusto Communications and Kampala Times, as well as the Nakamya Ritah account.

The removal of Dickens’ accounts as part of a network allegedly operated by the Ugandan ICT ministry brings into question his legitimacy as an independent journalist, as well as the news organization ChimpReports, which has been operating in Uganda for over a decade. 

At the time of writing, ChimpReports remains active on Twitter, as does its editor, Giles Muhame, though their Facebook pages were suspended in the takedown.

Aftermath

The Ugandan government and supporters of President Museveni’s NRM party responded angrily to the Facebook takedown. 

Don Wanyama, senior press secretary to President Musaveni, tweeted, “Shame on the foreign forces that think they can aid and plant a puppet leadership on Uganda by disabling online accounts of @NRMOnline supporters.” 

In a subsequent tweet, he demanded that the national communications regular investigate Facebook and Twitter. 

“Big techs like @Twitter & @Facebook are being used by opponents of @NRMOnline to stifle pro-NRM voices in Uganda,” he stated. “They should “unfreeze” accounts they froze yesterday & today. We pray @UCC_Official is watching & can act to ensure a fair digital playfield. #StopTechcolonisation”

At the time of writing, the hashtag #FreeNRMAccounts was trending on Twitter.


The DFRLab will continue investigating the inauthentic networks taken down by Facebook and Twitter and will publish additional reporting in the weeks and months ahead, including a deeper analysis of the content shared by these networks.


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05-DEC-2016:: "We have a deviate, Tomahawk."
Africa

The first thing is plausible deniability (and some folks here at home need to remember those words).

The second thing is non-linearity, you have to learn how to navigate a linear system (the new 21st digital ecosystem) in a non-linear way. 

When you launch a social media campaign where a 100 bots repeat the same thing verbatim, like Mombasa did last week, then your very linearity is a monumental ‘’look its me’’ sign.

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