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Satchu's Rich Wrap-Up
Wednesday 14th of April 2021

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28-MAR-2021 :: I expect UST 10 YEAR YIELDS TO TARGET 1.45%
World Of Finance

Mar 20 Powell has the “shorts” where he wants them. 

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Help!! Someone, somewhere is asking for a second opinion. This is what a massive heart attack looks like on an ECG. @DrJeilan

You may be forgiven for thinking it’s a graphic of some tombstones. The tombstones come next. Only time to act is now.

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Taiwan reports largest incursion yet by Chinese air force @NikkeiAsia
Law & Politics

TAIPEI (Reuters) -- Twenty-five Chinese air force aircraft including fighters and nuclear-capable bombers entered Taiwan's air defence identification zone (ADIZ) on Monday, the island's government said, the largest reported incursion to date.

While there was no immediate comment from Beijing, the news comes after the U.S. State Department on Friday issued new guidelines that will enable U.S. officials to meet more freely with Taiwanese officials, further deepening ties with Taipei.

Chinese-claimed Taiwan has complained over the last few months of repeated missions by China's air force near the self-ruled island, concentrated in the southwestern part of its air defence zone near the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands.

The latest Chinese mission involved 14 J-16 and four J-10 fighters, as well as four H-6K bombers, which can carry nuclear weapons, two anti-submarine aircraft and an early warning aircraft, Taiwan's Defence Ministry said.

It was the largest daily incursion since the ministry began regularly reporting Chinese Air Force activities in Taiwan's ADIZ last year.

The ministry added that combat aircraft were dispatched to intercept and warn away the Chinese aircraft, while missile systems were also deployed to monitor them.

The Chinese aircraft all flew in an area close to the Pratas Islands, according to a map the ministry provided.

China has in the past described such missions as being to protect the country's sovereignty and deal with "collusion" between Taipei and Washington.

The United States, which like most countries has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, has watched with alarm the stepped up tensions with Beijing.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday the United States is concerned about China's aggressive actions against Taiwan and warned it would be a "serious mistake" for anyone to try to change the status quo in the Western Pacific by force.

China describes Taiwan as its most sensitive territorial issue and a red line the United States should not cross. It has never renounced the possible use of force to ensure eventual unification.

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解放军军机扰台回应驱离称“这里都是中国空域,你们很快就能适应了” @RFI_Cn
Law & Politics

The PLA military planes responded to Taiwan's turmoil, saying, "This is all Chinese airspace, and you will soon be able to adapt."

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“Unity is iron and steel; unity is a source of strength,”
Law & Politics

“Complete reunification of the motherland is an inevitable trend..no one and no force can ever stop it!” 

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The Covid dissidents taking on China @unherd @ianbirrell
Law & Politics

Feng Zijian played a central role in the World Health Organisation’s inquiry into the origins of Covid-19. 

The Chinese epidemiologist was one of the team leaders who briefed diplomats on the findings, which fell suspiciously in line with Beijing’s version of events. 

Feng explained how the carefully vetted team had concluded that the virus was most likely to be a natural disease that spilled over from bats to humans, although it could have been imported on frozen food. 

The chance of a leak from a Chinese laboratory was dismissed as “extremely unlikely”.

The Chinese-controlled results sparked global accusations of a whitewash and further corroded confidence in the WHO. 

Few experts give much credibility to claims the pandemic was imported on a packet of chilled pork or slab of frozen pangolin sold at a market. 

And demands are growing for the leak hypothesis to be taken more seriously. 

Wuhan, after all, is the major research centre for bat coronaviruses in Asia, where there are secretive labs, known biosafety concerns and high-risk experiments being conducted.

It has now emerged that Feng, deputy head of China’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and an expert on emergency health responses, performed an even more sinister role as the pandemic played out. 

He was one of four names copied on a CDC memo sent out in February 2020 ordering China’s scientists not to share any data, documents or specimens relating to the epidemic and to “prioritise the interests of the country”. 

The memo warned that anyone violating the request would be “dealt with severely in accordance with discipline, laws and regulations” — a threat to be taken seriously in a country ruled by fear.

The document, originally obtained by Associated Press last year among a cache labelled “not to be made public”, was a key plank in President Xi Jinping’s campaign to regain control of the pandemic narrative by silencing dissenting scientific voices and shutting down internal debate

It was sent out following the publication of report by two Chinese scientists which concluded “the coronavirus probably originated from a laboratory”, as well as a series of investigations by local media and citizen reporters into pandemic failings. 

The scientific report was swiftly withdrawn and journalists jailed on grounds such as “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”.

This nugget about Dr Feng’s disturbing dual role — as a voice of the WHO study into pandemic origins while also party to a Communist dictatorship’s clampdown on unfettered scientific discussion — was dug out by an Indian architect and film-maker, who shared it earlier this month on social media under his moniker ‘The Seeker’. 

“I know how to use a search engine,” he told me.

Last year, he made an even more significant discovery: a thesis that discussed how three miners died of a mysterious respiratory disease, eerily similar to Covid 19, they caught while clearing out bat droppings in a cave network in Yunnan, southern China. 

The trio were infected in an abandoned copper mine where scientists from Wuhan Institute of Virology sampled RaTG13, the closest known relative of Sars-Cov-2.

‘The Seeker’ is a member of Drastic, an informal guerilla group of internet sleuths, scientists and data experts who have spent the past year scouring a multitude of digital sources for such vital pieces of evidence. 

Some members have expertise in areas such as microbiology, genetics and virology. Others are data specialists, engineers or simply obsessed with discovering the truth about the origin of this wretched pandemic. 

Some hide their identities; others are open. They have been accused of hacking and fiercely deny it. Occasionally they hurtle down blind alleys.

Yet there is no doubt their collective efforts — and some of the illuminating evidence they have uncovered — have been crucial in challenging both China and the scientific establishment to ensure the lab leak theory is properly investigated. 

“We have exposed so many things they wanted to cover up, while there has been too much geo-politics around the issues,” said Gilles Demaneuf, a French data scientist who works at a New Zealand bank and is another Drastic member. 

“Many people now accept there is a possibility that a lab leak was the cause of the pandemic and that this is not a conspiracy theory as claimed at the outset.”

It has been fascinating to see, in the course of my investigations over the past year, how this group of activists — in tandem with few brave scientists — has forced the lab leak hypothesis from the shadows. 

Note how the UK was one of 14 nations that reacted so strongly to the dismal WHO report by accusing China of “withholding access to complete, original data and samples”, while Anthony Blinken, the new US secretary of state, criticised China’s cover-up and called for deeper investigation at the weekend. 

Even Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director-general and a long-time Beijing crony from his days as a minister in an Ethiopian autocracy, had to insist that “further data and studies will be needed to reach more robust conclusions”.

Typical of Drastic’s work was the way Demaneuf stumbled across an interview in the Chinese magazine Health Times with Yu Chuanhua, professor of biostatistics at Wuhan University and compiler of China’s official case database. 

The Beijing line, rubber-stamped in the WHO report, claims the first confirmed Covid case was on December 8, 2019 with no evidence of the virus in Wuhan before then — although this conflicts with research published in medical journals, media reports and claims made by the US State Department that Wuhan scientists were possibly infected in the autumn. 

Yet Prof Chuanhua told the magazine there were 47,000 cases on his database by late February, which included one suspected fatality — a patient who had fallen ill on September 29, 2019 — followed by two suspected cases on November 14 and 21.

This interview took place on the same day that Chinese health authorities issued their scientist gag. 

Prof Chuanhua subsequently contacted his interviewer to retract what he had said, claiming the onset dates may have been entered wrongly. 

Now go back to that memo tied to Dr Feng: it ordered experts to withdraw and redo any papers or “progress reports” that had not been sanctioned. 

Is this a coincidence — or another sign of China’s appalling cover-up, now endorsed by the WHO?

Another key figure in Drastic is Yuri Deigin, a biotech entrepreneur. Early in 2020, he started to doubt the conventional wisdom that the lab leak hypothesis was some kind of crazy conspiracy. 

And the more he delved, the more his doubts grew. He published his thoughts in a long analysis last April, first in Russian and then two weeks later in English. 

This prompted private discussion groups with fellow sceptics on social media, which evolved into the informal grouping with its determination to challenge a complacent scientific consensus that the pandemic was, beyond doubt, a natural spillover event.

Later, Deigin published a paper with Austrian-based microbiologist Rossana Segreto given the blunt title “The genetic structure of Sars-CoV-2 does not rule out a laboratory origin”. 

The Canadian-Russian scientist continues to press his case, having just published a pre-print paper with researchers from Canada, Japan and Spain highlighting the existence of undisclosed coronaviruses at Wuhan Institute of Virology, and expressing fresh concerns over its biosafety.

He has come under fire from other scientists. “They attacked my credibility,” he tells me, “my competence and me personally but I’ve destroyed critics with solid arguments.” 

Another scientist in the group, an academic in the US, was less fortunate. He lost his research post, which he says followed a complaint and warning to stay silent from his university’s corporate partner when he aired his dissenting views in the media.

Drastic has 26 core members divided into sub-groups exploring aspects such as biosafety, missing databases, coronavirus vaccine development, tracing and translating deleted documents, along with its own website. 

The co-ordinator, who adopts a mischievous style on social media, calls himself “Billy Bostickson”. 

He admits to feeling a duty to carry out the investigations, “out of respect for so many old folks who died and the terrible effect on local economies”.

Another member of the team is Monali Rahalkar, an Indian microbiologist, who wondered why prominent scientists seemed so certain the virus had natural zoonotic origins. 

So she started ploughing through scientific papers during her lockdown in Pune last March. 

“I read one paper that argued Sars-CoV-2 could not have come from a lab,” she says, “yet I could see they were doing lots of work on various coronaviruses in Wuhan.”

Rahalkar learned about the miners’ deaths and high-risk “gain of function” research carried out in Wuhan that forces viruses to evolve fast in order to assist vaccine development, but which some experts have long warned risk sparking a pandemic. 

Working with her husband, a fellow scientist, she carried out “blast” tests on genetic sequences taken from another strain of bat coronavirus found by Professor Shi Zhengli — the celebrated Wuhan-based virologist known as “Batwoman” for her expeditions to gather samples in caves where the mammals roost hundreds of miles from her lab. 

This strain came from samples collected in Yunnan and was identified in 2016, yet there was no link made to the miners. 

The pair were puzzled by their findings since it showed such similarity to RaTG13, so they posted a paper about their research.

Following their criticism, Prof Shi published an addendum to her paper in Nature, admitting these were the same virus and also linked to the miners’ deaths — and that she also has genetic sequences from seven other unidentified viruses sampled there. 

Inevitably, her reaction has fuelled concerns over the Wuhan labs, especially since this prominent scientist has admitted her first thought on learning about a novel coronavirus outbreak in the central Chinese city was that it could be a lab leak.

Drastic’s members have also found evidence of virus databases being deleted, anomalies in scientific papers and published statements, details of pathogenic experiments on humanised mice with modified coronaviruses, scrubbed lab website pages, even details about patents for bat breeding cages at Wuhan Institute of Virology.

There is still no conclusive explanation for the origin of this devastating pandemic. But science, like journalism, should always follow the trail of evidence to wherever it leads. 

This crucial issue was clouded by Donald Trump’s aggressive intervention on the subject, since his toxicity made it easier for experts to dismiss concerns of a lab leak as a conspiracy theory; it enabled respected scientific journals to close down debate and for reporters to ignore glaring conflicts of interest among key figures.

Yet the significance of these sleuths goes beyond even the task of unravelling the origins of a new virus that has killed almost 3 million people worldwide and raising uncomfortable questions over closed minds, let alone posing the question of whether scientists themselves might have accidentally sparked this global disaster. 

Ultimately, their digging is a reminder that in the digital age even the most powerful states, even an Orwellian dictatorship such as China under Xi Jinping, cannot erase everything from the past and hide all truths, however hard it tries.

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Xi has taken calculated risks. The muscular and multi-faceted nature of Chinese Power is seen in its handling of COVID19
Law & Politics

Controlling the COVID19 Narrative, suppressing the Enquiry, parlaying the situation into one of singular advantage marks a singular moment 

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

It remains a remarkable achievement.

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There is no natural Pathway for the Evolution of COVID19.

Today only the Paid for Propagandists and Virologists and WHO will argue that there is a ''zoonotic'' origin for COVID19. 

It is remarkable that the Propaganda is still being propagated more than a year later. 

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A potential leak "requires further investigation, potentially with additional missions involving specialist experts" [Kudos] @DrTedros said @AFP @YahooNews

He added that the international team had difficulty accessing raw data during the mission to China, demanding "more timely and comprehensive data sharing" in future.

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It is remarkable that the Propaganda is still being propagated more than a year later.

Today only the Paid for Propagandists and Virologists and WHO will argue that there is a ''zoonotic'' origin for COVID19. 

It is remarkable that the Propaganda is still being propagated more than a year later. 

There is no natural Pathway for the Evolution of COVID19.

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"Let’s say, for instance that a Florida panther rampaged through the South Bronx, injuring many people. It would be immediately reasonable to wonder: How could that possibly happen?." @R_H_Ebright

"Let’s say, for instance that a Florida panther rampaged through the South Bronx, injuring many people. It would be immediately reasonable to wonder: How could that possibly happen? Florida panthers don’t live anywhere near the Bronx and aren’t normally so ferocious."

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01-MAR-2020 :: The Origin of the #CoronaVirus #COVID19

“If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about answers.”― Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow

 “There's always more to it. This is what history consists of. It is the sum total of the things they aren't telling us.”

“A paranoid is someone who knows a little of what's going on.”

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With Its Economy in Free Fall, Myanmar Braces for the Worst @bpolitics
Law & Politics

With a tea shop right next to key protest zones in Myanmar’s biggest city, Soe is never quite sure whether he should keep the business open.

If protesters enter to evade authorities, the 43-year-old risks getting shot, arrested or having his property destroyed as the military and police hunt them down. 

But if he turns away fleeing demonstrators, he may face a backlash on Facebook and a boycott of his tea shop, among hundreds in Yangon that have long served as de facto community centers.

“Now we can’t open our shop on a daily basis but we have to pay regular rental fees, municipal fees, labor wages,” said Soe, using only his first name because of concerns for his personal safety. 

“Many tea shop owners in Yangon are not sure how long they’ll be able to survive if this crisis continues.”

Small businesses like Soe’s are on the front lines of an economy now seemingly in free fall after a group of generals seized power on Feb. 1

The junta has killed at least 614 civilians since then, driving away foreign investors as Western nations put on new sanctions. 

Their opponents in the Civil Disobedience Movement, meanwhile, are pushing to tank the economy to deprive the military of financial resources.

Shipping lines have suspended operations as truck drivers strike, leaving cargo containers trapped at the ports. 

Restrictions on cash withdrawals have businesses struggling to pay employees. The military has restricted internet access, making it harder to reach customers. 

And thousands of civil servants aligned with the protesters are refusing to work, leaving areas with limited public services.

Altogether it amounts to a speedy erosion of the economic gains Myanmar reaped after investors rushed in a decade ago following a shift toward democracy. 

An economy that averaged growth rates of more than 6% over the past 10 years -- more than doubling gross domestic product -- is now projected by the World Bank to shrink 10% in 2021, by far the worst in Asia as countries rebound from a pandemic-induced slump.

“We are deeply concerned,” Aaditya Mattoo, the World Bank’s chief economist for Asia, said in an interview. 

“A 10% contraction in growth for a poor country seems to me disaster enough already. And when I add to it all the other costs, which have an impact on long term growth, I think we have a pretty dismal scenario.”

Some analysts are expecting things to get even worse: Fitch Solutions is projecting a “conservative” 20% contraction for the 2020-21 fiscal year

It said this month the rising death toll combined with increased social instability means “all areas of GDP by expenditure are set to collapse.”

“There is no worst-case scenario on the economy which we can rule out,” Fitch said.

At the moment in Yangon, there’s still no sign of a humanitarian crisis. Supermarkets, convenience stories and small shops still have plenty of food, and prices of rice and other staples are relatively stable. 

But signs of distress are popping up, like long queues outside banks and ATMs after some banks capped daily withdrawals from ATMs at 200,000 kyat ($135). Demand for gold and U.S. dollars is rising.

“We understand that only 10% of the total number of branches in Myanmar have reopened, and we are aware of the difficulties to withdraw cash at ATMs,” junta spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun said on Friday at a news briefing.

But even business elites in Myanmar aren’t convinced that this is merely a temporary blip.

“No one can predict how long it will take to get back to normal,” said Maung Maung Lay, senior vice president of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “Frankly speaking, the future of our economy is now uncertain.”

Western investors have largely shunned Myanmar since allegations surfaced in 2017 of genocide against minority Rohingya Muslims, prompting the government to focus on attracting capital from Asian countries like Singapore and China. 

But even though China blocked the United Nations Security Council from imposing sanctions after the coup, it remains wary of supporting Myanmar’s generals -- particularly after several Chinese-owned factories were torched amid the protests.

“Beijing’s displeasure with the coup and its aftermath, and the attacks on its businesses, mean that neither the Chinese state nor many Chinese companies are likely to rush to invest,” the Brussels-based International Crisis Group said in a report this month.

That doesn’t leave the junta many places to turn to revive growth. Myanmar’s purchasing managers index last month fell further to a record low 27.5, according to IHS Markit data -- well below the 48.9 average since the series began in December 2015 for a measure in which 50 is the dividing line between respondents seeing an expansion and contraction in demand.

“The generals had a big miscalculation in going through with the coup,” said Moe Thuzar, a fellow at Singapore’s ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute. 

“They wanted to project a more business-friendly attitude -- and thought this is where they could have an edge over the National League for Democracy government -- and it backfired big time.”

Now the question is just how bad things might get. The World Bank last month warned of a “sharp increase in poverty,” while the United Nations World Food Programme said the crisis “will severely undermine the ability of the poorest and most vulnerable to put enough food on the family table.”

The situation on the ground is likely to turn into a “withering stalemate” as the army seeks to take control of the streets while the civil disobedience campaign keeps much of the country ungovernable, according to Thant Myint U, author of “The Hidden History of Burma: Race, Capitalism, and the Crisis of Democracy in the 21st Century.”

“The economy will collapse, destroying the lives of millions of people,” he said. “Whatever happens afterward it will be impossible for Myanmar to recover for many years.”

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21 OCT 19 :: "The New Economy of Anger"
Law & Politics

Paul Virilio pronounced in his book Speed and Politics, 

“The revolutionary contingent attains its ideal form not in the place of production, but in the street, where for a moment it stops being a cog in the technical machine and itself becomes a motor (machine of attack), in other words, a producer of speed.’’

Prolonged stand-offs eviscerate economies, reducing opportunities and accelerate the negative feed- back loop.

Antonio Gramsci wrote, “The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum, a great variety of morbid symptoms appear. now is the time of monsters.”

Ryszard Kapucinski also said: “If the crowd disperses, goes home, does not reassemble, we say the revolution is over.”

It is not over. More and more people are gathering in the Streets.

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

―In this respect, our townsfolk were like everybody else, wrapped up in themselves; in other words, they were humanists: they disbelieved in pestilences.

A pestilence isn't a thing made to man's measure; therefore we tell ourselves that pestilence is a mere bogy of the mind, a bad dream that will pass away.

But it doesn't always pass away and, from one bad dream to another, it is men who pass away, and the humanists first of all, because they have taken no precautions.

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The pandemic in India. • Week over week confirmed cases increased by 70%. @MaxCRoser

• The test positivity rate has also continued to increase and is now close to 10%.

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Gujarat Govt’s official COVID death count for the ENTIRE state is 55 yesterday. Sandesh TV’s investigation found that 63 dead bodies were sent from just ONE hospital (civil hospital) in Ahmedabad @free_thinker

Gujarat Govt’s official COVID death count for the ENTIRE state is 55 yesterday. Sandesh TV’s investigation found that 63 dead bodies were sent from just ONE hospital (civil hospital) in Ahmedabad to various crematoriums in a span of 17 hours (12am-5pm)

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A Clash of Wills Keeps a Leonardo Masterpiece Hidden @nytimes

French curators had worked for a decade to prepare a major exhibition marking the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci. 

When it opened, though, the most talked-about painting they had planned to show — “Salvator Mundi,” the most expensive work ever sold at auction — was nowhere to be seen.

Plucked from shabby obscurity at a New Orleans estate sale, the painting had been sold in 2017 as a rediscovered “lost” Leonardo and fetched more than $450 million from an anonymous bidder who kept it hidden from view. 

The chance to see it at the Louvre museum’s anniversary show two years later had created a sensation in the international art world, and its absence whipped up a storm of new questions.

Had the Louvre concluded that the painting was not actually the work of Leonardo, as a vocal handful of scholars had insisted? 

Had the buyer — reported to be Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, though he had never acknowledged it — declined to include it in the show for fear of public scrutiny? 

The tantalizing notion that the brash Saudi prince might have gambled a fortune on a fraud had already inspired a cottage industry of books, documentaries, art world gossip columns, and even a proposed Broadway musical.

None of that was true.

In fact, the crown prince had secretly shipped the “Salvator Mundi” to the Louvre more than a year earlier, in 2018, according to several French officials and a confidential French report on its authenticity that was obtained by The New York Times. 

The report also states that the painting belongs to the Saudi Culture Ministry — something the Saudis have never acknowledged.

A team of French scientists subjected the unframed canvas to a weekslong forensic examination with some of the most advanced technology available to the art world, and in their undisclosed report they had pronounced with more authority than any previous assessment that the painting appeared to be the work of Leonardo’s own hand.

Yet the Saudis had withheld it nonetheless, for entirely different reasons: a disagreement over a Saudi demand that their painting of Jesus should hang next to the “Mona Lisa,” several French officials said last week, speaking on condition of anonymity because the talks were confidential.

Far from a dispute about art scholarship, the withdrawal of the painting appears instead to have turned on questions of power and ego.

Believed to have been painted around 1500, “Salvator Mundi” was one of two similar works listed in an inventory of the collection of King Charles I of England after his execution in 1649. But the historical record of its ownership ends in the late 18th century.

Then, around 2005, a pair of New York art dealers browsing a New Orleans estate sale spotted a badly restored and partially painted over image that they suspected might be worth a closer look. 

They acquired it for less than $10,000 and brought it to a skilled specialist to remove the later paint layers and restore the original.

It changed hands few times since then, and hung as a Leonardo in the 2011 exhibition at the National Gallery in London. 

But it was the record-setting bid in 2017 — for $450 million — that turned the “Salvator Mundi” into the stuff of front-page headlines.

Now the controversy has made headlines again with the release of a new French documentary this past week claiming that the Louvre had concluded that Leonardo had “merely contributed” to the “Salvator Mundi.” 

Set to air on French television on Tuesday, the documentary features two disguised figures, identified as French government officials, asserting that Crown Prince Mohammed would not loan the painting to the anniversary exhibition because the Louvre refused to attribute the work fully to Leonardo.

The Louvre had insisted that the report on the painting’s authenticity “did not exist,” Mr. Viktine said.

Experts at the Center for Research and Restoration of the Museums of France, an independent culture ministry institute, used fluorescent X-rays, infrared scans and digital cameras aimed through high-powered microscopes to match signature details of the materials and artistic techniques in the “Salvator Mundi” with the Louvre’s other Leonardo masterpieces.

The thin plank of wood on which the “Salvator Mundi” was painted was the same type of walnut from Lombardy that Leonardo used in other works. The artist had mixed fine powdered glass in the paint, as Leonardo did in his later years.

Traces of hidden painting under the visible layers, details in the locks of Christ’s hair, and the shade of bright vermilion used in the shadows all pointed to the hand of Leonardo, the report concluded.

“All these arguments tend to favor the idea of an entirely ‘autographed’ work,” Vincent Delieuvin, one of two curators of the anniversary exhibition, wrote in a lengthy essay describing the examination, noting that the painting had been “unfortunately damaged by bad conservation” and by “old, unquestionably too brutal restorations.”

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MBS, alleged owner of Leonardo Da Vinci's Salvator Mundi which is a painting of Christ as Salvator Mundi (Latin for "Savior of the World")

The painting shows Jesus, in Renaissance dress, giving a benediction with his right hand raised and two fingers extended, while holding a transparent rock crystal orb in his left hand. 

The rock crystal orb of course reappeared during Trump’s visit to the Desert Kingdom. 

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Russia suspended most air travel with Turkey, citing rising coronavirus infections @bpolitics

Russia suspended most air travel with Turkey, citing rising coronavirus infections, cutting off a key source of tourism revenue to the country amid tensions over Ankara’s support for Ukraine.

Most charter and regular flights will be suspended between April 15 and June 1, but two flights a week will still run between Moscow and Istanbul, Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova said in a televised briefing Monday. 

Fully 80% of the cases of Covid-19 identified in Russians returning from abroad were in people who came from Turkey, public-health chief Anna Popova told the same briefing.

Some 500,000 Russians had booked tours to Turkey over the period, which covers two public holidays, RIA Novosti cited the Russian Association of Tour Operators as saying

Borsa Istanbul’s tourism index declined 6.4% on Monday as rumors spread that flights may be suspended, closing at the lowest level since Jan. 11.

Russia was the biggest source of tourists to Turkey last year, with 2.13 million people visiting despite coronavirus restrictions.

Daily cases in Turkey, the highest in Europe, hit a record 55,941 on April 8. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to announce stricter social distancing measures after a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

Erdogan hosted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky over the weekend amid rising tensions with Moscow over a massive Russian troop buildup near its border with Ukraine. 

President Vladimir Putin spoke by phone with Erdogan about the Ukraine crisis and the Covid-19 situation the day before.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied any link between the flight ban and Zelensky’s visit, telling RIA Novosti the move is solely related to the coronavirus situation. 

Russia also suspended flights with Tanzania on Monday, citing the outbreak there.

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Currency Markets at a Glance WSJ
World Currencies

Euro 1.1959

Dollar Index 91.74

Japan Yen 108.94

Swiss Franc 0.9199

Pound 1.3771

Aussie 0.7663

India Rupee 75.1881

South Korea Won 1118.21

Brazil Real 5.7173

Egypt Pound 15.6882

South Africa Rand 14.4863

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.@jpmorgan Flags Geopolitics as Reason to Sell Emerging Markets @markets
Emerging Markets

The outlook for emerging market currencies is looking bleaker for JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Strategists Jonny Goulden and Saad Siddiqui recommended cutting emerging market currencies to underweight. 

The bank cited tensions in Russia as part of the reason behind the move. 

Domestic policy in Turkey and Brazil, and slowing growth and portfolio flows in China were also among challenges noted by the bank.

Those issues are compounded by the U.S. dollar’s rebound this year, spurring losses for 22 of the 24 emerging currencies tracked by Bloomberg. 

Rising Treasury yields have also dragged developing nations’ borrowing costs higher and inflicted pain on their local debt, where year-to-date losses stand at 24% for Nigeria, 16% for Turkey and 13% for Brazil.

“EM domestic risks have been incrementally changing,” the strategists wrote in an emailed note. “EM FX will find it difficult to attract inflows at current levels of both exchange rates and interest rates.”

Russian rates and the ruble in particular have drawn concern from JPMorgan, which shifted to market-weight from overweight last week. 

That’s when a massive buildup of troops on the border with Ukraine started weighing on ruble bonds, known as OFZs.

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More than 200 Sudanese doctors, nurses and medical workers have died from Covid-19, according to sources close to the health ministry – more than three times the official figure @guardian

More than 200 Sudanese doctors, nurses and medical workers have died from Covid-19, according to sources close to the health ministry – more than three times the official figure.

Like other countries across sub-Saharan Africa, Sudan has struggled to obtain vaccines and distribute them to frontline medical staff. 

Many of the doctors who have died were senior consultants in their 50s and 60s or older, and so were in high-risk categories.

“Doctors are exhausted and they have to work and go to their clinics despite being elderly in order to pay for their living expenses,” said Manal El-Degair, a Sudanese doctor and member of Jisir, an NGO campaigning in providing vaccines and other medical supplies to Sudan. 

“If no one acts now to protect them with vaccines, we will lose more doctors in the third wave.”

Other health workers are also suffering. “People tend to focus on doctors but the number of nurses who died is unknown, and that’s a huge loss. With Covid19, the role of nurses is really central,” El-Degair said.

Sudan has registered 32,000 cases and 2,000 deaths, but this is widely believed to reflect only a fraction of the true number of victims. 

A study published late last year by scientists from Imperial College London’s Covid-19 response team in Sudan found that only about 2% of Covid deaths in the capital, Khartoum, had been reported.

Last month Sudan became the first country in the Middle East and north Africa region to receive vaccine doses through the UN-backed Covax facility, taking delivery of 828,000 doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca shot.

Though the country has also received a shipment of 250,000 doses of the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine, its health minister said recently that the stocks were not enough.

The families of doctors who have died from Covid-19 in Sudan blame local authorities for diverting scarce funds elsewhere, and the international community for hoarding vaccines.

Dr El-Taib El-Naiem, 63 a senior orthopaedic surgeon, is believed to have been exposed to the virus during his contacts with students doctors or possibly at his home when treating poor patients who could not afford to go to hospital.

“My father was always like that … that probably made him vulnerable to the virus as well ” said his son Mahmoud El-Naiem, an NHS doctor who works with Covid-19 patients in London.

Sudan has only three doctors who specialise in intensive care and fewer than 80 ICU beds for 43m inhabitants. 

There are only 150 dedicated Covid beds in Khartoum, a city of 6 million. The government has banned big gatherings but few people practise social distancing or wear masks.

“Many of our facilities and public hospitals are closed because of a lack of basic supplies, not just PPE or trained staff. That is one reason so many doctors have died,” said a health ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Hussain Gasim Abu-Eikar, an emergency doctor at a dedicated clinic treating Covid-19 victims in Khartoum who lost his 63-year-old cousin to the pandemic last week, said many healthworkers in Sudan had no choice but to continue working despite the risks because they had no other way of earning a living.

Thousands of Sudanese doctors are on strike, protesting against work conditions and a failure to pay their salaries for almost a year. 

Some doctors complained that their families paid for their food and transportation and living expenses. 

Many hospitals failed to provide them with face masks, they said.

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Another war in the Horn? Rising tension at the Ethiopia-Sudan border @LoviseAalen

Could the Horn of Africa be set for another war?

The prospects for a fresh conflict are certainly increasing. Both Ethiopia and Sudan are in extremely vulnerable positions since the change of power in the two countries in 2018 and 2019. Ethiopia is also at war with the former ruler TPLF in northern Ethiopia.

At the same time, clashes are taking place on the border between the two countries, and there is speculation that a full-scale war is developing. 

It may seem rather incomprehensible that this happens when both countries face so many internal challenges.

But it is precisely these internal problems that can explain why there is an escalation at the border right now. In other words, domestic and international politics cannot be separated.

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@PMEthiopia has launched an unwinnable War on Tigray Province.

Ethiopia which was once the Poster child of the African Renaissance now has a Nobel Prize Winner whom I am reliably informed

PM Abiy His inner war cabinet includes Evangelicals who are counseling him he is "doing Christ's work"; that his faith is being "tested". @RAbdiAnalyst

@PMEthiopia has launched an unwinnable War on Tigray Province.

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President Edgar Lungu was unanimously chosen as the ruling PF party's presidential candidate for the August 12 elections in #Zambia. @NKCAfrica

The polls will likely be another two-horse race between him and Hakainde Hichilema of the UPND, who may win if the vote is free and fair.

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The next 15 months are going to be very challenging for Uhuru spin doctors, as his debt legacy unravels, IMF austerity bites, Covid19 exposes the full extent of his administration’s incompetence, and political schemes go haywire. @DavidNdii
Law & Politics

The next 15 months are going to be very challenging for Uhuru spin doctors, apologists and enablers as his debt legacy unravels, IMF austerity bites, Covid19 exposes the full extent of his administration’s incompetence, and political schemes go haywire.

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Kenya petrol prices will from midnight today increase to highest levels in Kenya history. @moneyacademyKE
Kenyan Economy

Petrol is set to increase by Shs 4.30 to Shs 127.11 per litre while diesel will rise to Shs 109.96.

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

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