|Friday 17th of September 2021
23-AUG-2021 :: ZigZag
World Of Finance
In one of his books Nassim Nicholas Taleb @nntaleb described his Trading Strategy as one which lost money 364 days of the year but made more on one day than was lost in those preceding 364 days.
He makes the point that Few People or Trading Desks have the mental stamina to last those 364 days for that extreme one day pay out.
"I love trading macro. If trading is like chess, then macro is like 3D chess. You never have a complete information set or information edge the way analysts can have when trading individual securities." Paul Tudor Jones @NeckarValue
"When it comes to macro, you cannot rely solely on fundamentals; you have to be a tape reader, something of a lost art form''
''While I spend a significant amount of my time on analytics and fundamental information, at the end of the day, I am a slave to the tape and proud of it."
While I'm a staunch advocate of higher education, there is no training – classroom or otherwise.. that can prepare for trading the last third of a move, whether it's the end of a bull market or the end of a bear market. There's typically no logic to it; irrationality reigns supreme, and no class can teach what to do during that brief, volatile reign.
"This is the BIGGEST bubble I have seen in my career."— Stanley Druckenmiller @TihoBrkan
"As a macro investor, my job for 30 years was to anticipate changes in the economic trends that were not expected by others - and therefore not yet reflected in securities prices". Stanley Druckenmiller
Why Allende had to die By Gabriel García Márquez @NewStatesman
Forty years have passed since the Chilean president Salvador Allende died in La Moneda Palace in Santiago, attempting to defend himself with an AK-47 he had been given by Fidel Castro.
Here, in a piece from the New Statesman published in March 1974, the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Gabriel García Márquez explores Allende’s record in Chile, his rivals’ dealings with the United States and the rise of his successor – the army general Augusto Pinochet.
It was towards the end of 1969 that three generals from the Pentagon dined with five Chilean military officers in a house in the suburbs of Washington.
The host was Lieutenant Colonel Gerardo López Angulo, assistant air attaché of the Chilean Military Mission to the United States, and the Chilean guests were his colleagues from the other branches of service.
The dinner was in honour of the new director of the Chilean Air Force Academy, General Carlos Toro Mazote, who had arrived the day before on a study mission.
The eight officers dined on fruit salad, roast veal and peas and drank the warm-hearted wines of their distant homeland to the south, where birds glittered on the beaches while Washington wallowed in snow, and they talked mostly in English about the only thing that seemed to interest Chileans in those days:
the approaching presidential elections of the following September.
Over dessert, one of the Pentagon generals asked what the Chilean army would do if the candidate of the left, someone like Salvador Allende, were elected.
General Toro Mazote replied: “We’ll take Moneda Palace in half an hour, even if we have to burn it down.”
One of the guests was General Ernesto Baeza, now director of national security in Chile, the one who led the attack on the presidential palace during the coup last September and gave the order to burn it.
Two of his subordinates in those earlier days were to become famous in the same operation: General Augusto Pinochet, president of the military junta, and General Javier Palacios.
Also at the table was Air Force Brigadier General Sergio Figueroa Gutiérrez, now minister of public works and the intimate friend of another member of the military junta, Air Force General Gustavo Leigh, who ordered the rocket bombing of the presidential palace.
The last guest was Admiral Arturo Troncoso, now naval governor of Valparaíso, who carried out the bloody purge of progressive naval officers and was one of those who launched the military uprising of September 11.
That dinner proved to be a historic meeting between the Pentagon and high-ranking officers of the Chilean military services.
On other successive meetings, in Washington and Santiago, a contingency plan was agreed upon, according to which those Chilean military men who were bound most closely, heart and soul, to US interests would seize power in the event of Allende’s Popular Unity coalition victory in the elections.
The plan was conceived cold-bloodedly, as a simple military operation, and was not a consequence of pressure brought to bear by International Telephone and Telegraph.
It was spawned by much deeper reasons of world politics.
On the North American side, the organisation set in motion was the Defence Intelligence Agency of the Pentagon but the one in actual charge was the naval intelligence agency, under the higher political direction of the CIA, and the National Security Council.
It was quite the normal thing to put the navy and not the army in charge of the project, for the Chilean coup was to coincide with Operation Unitas, which was the name given to the joint manoeuvres of American and Chilean naval units in the Pacific.
Those manoeuvres were held at the end of each September, the same month as the elections, and the appearance on land and in the skies of Chile of all manner of war equipment and men well trained in the arts and sciences of death was natural.
During that period, Henry Kissinger had said in private to a group of Chileans: “I am not interested in, nor do I know anything about, the southern portion of the world from the Pyrenees on down.”
By that time, the contingency plan had been completed to its smallest details and it is impossible to suppose that Kissinger or President Nixon himself was not aware of it.
Chile is a narrow country, some 2,660 miles long and an average of 119 wide, and with ten million exuberant inhabitants, almost three million of whom live in the metropolitan area of Santiago, the capital.
The country’s greatness is derived not from the number of virtues it possesses but, rather, from its many singularities.
The only thing it produces with any absolute seriousness is copper ore but that ore is the best in the world and its volume of production is surpassed only by that of the United States and the Soviet Union.
It also produces wine as good as the European varieties but not much of it is exported.
Its per capita income of $650 ranks among the highest in Latin America but, traditionally, almost half the gross national product has been accounted for by fewer than 300,000 people.
In 1932, Chile became the first socialist republic in the Americas and, with the enthusiastic support of the workers, the government attempted the nationalisation of copper and coal. The experiment lasted only for 13 days.
Chile has an earth tremor on average once every two days and a devastating earthquake every presidential term.
The least apocalyptic of geologists think of Chile not as a country of the mainland but as a cornice of the Andes in a misty sea and believe that the whole of its national territory is condemned to disappear in some future cataclysm.
Chileans are very much like their country in a certain way. They are the most pleasant people on the continent, they like being alive and they know how to live in the best way possible and even a little more; but they have a dangerous tendency toward scepticism and intellectual speculation.
A Chilean once told me on a Monday, “No Chilean believes tomorrow is Tuesday,” and he didn’t believe it, either.
Still, even with that deep-seated incredulity – or thanks to it, perhaps – the Chileans have attained a degree of natural civilisation, a political maturity and a level of culture, that sets them apart from the rest of the region.
Of the three Nobel Prizes in Literature that Latin America has won, two have gone to Chileans, one of whom, Pablo Neruda, was the greatest poet of this century.
Kissinger may have known this when he said that he knew nothing about the southern part of the world.
In any case, US intelligence agencies knew a great deal more. In 1965, without Chile’s permission, the nation became the staging centre and a recruiting locale for a fantastic social and political espionage operation: Project Camelot.
This was to have been a secret investigation that would have precise questionnaires put to people of all social levels, all professions and trades, even in the furthest reaches of a number of Latin American nations, in order to establish in a scientific way the degree of political development and the social tendencies of various social groups.
The questionnaire destined for the military contained the same question that the Chilean officers would hear again at the dinner in Washington: what will their position be if communism comes to power? It was a wild query.
Chile had long been a favoured area for research by North American social scientists. The age and strength of its popular movement, the tenacity and intelligence of its leaders and the economic and social conditions themselves afforded a glimpse of the country’s destiny.
One didn’t require the findings of a Project Camelot to venture the belief that Chile was a prime candidate to be the second socialist republic in Latin America after Cuba.
The aim of the United States, therefore, was not simply to prevent the government of Allende from coming to power in order to protect American investments.
The larger aim was to repeat the most fruitful operation that imperialism has ever helped bring off in Latin America: Brazil.
On 4 September 1970, as had been foreseen, the socialist and Freemason physician Allende was elected president of the republic.
The contingency plan was not put into effect, however.
The most widespread explanation is also the most ludicrous: someone made a mistake in the Pentagon and requested 200 visas for a purported navy chorus, which, in reality, was to be made up of specialists in government overthrow; however, there were several admirals among them who couldn’t sing a single note.
That gaffe, it is to be supposed, determined the postponement of the adventure.
The truth is that the project had been evaluated in depth: other American agencies, particularly the CIA, and the American ambassador to Chile felt that the contingency plan was too strictly a military operation and did not take current political and social conditions in Chile into account.
Indeed, the Popular Unity victory did not bring on the social panic US intelligence had expected.
On the contrary, the new government’s independence in international affairs and its decisiveness in economic matters immediately created an atmosphere of social celebration.
During the first year, 47 industrial firms were nationalised, along with most of the banking system.
Agrarian reform saw the expropriation and incorporation into communal property of six million acres of land formerly held by the large landowners.
The inflationary process was slowed, full employment was attained and wages received a cash rise of 30 per cent.
All copper nationalised
The previous government, headed by the Christian Democrat Eduardo Frei, had begun steps towards nationalising copper, though he called it “Chileanisation”.
All the plan did was to buy up 51 per cent of US-held mining properties and for the mine of El Teniente alone it paid a sum greater than the total book value of that facility.
Popular Unity, with a single legal act supported in Congress by all of the nation’s popular parties, recovered for the nation all copper deposits worked by the subsidiaries of the American companies Anaconda and Kennecott.
Without indemnification: the government having calculated that the two companies had made a profit in excess of $800m over 15 years.
The petite bourgeoisie and the middle class, the two great social forces that might have supported a military coup at that moment, were beginning to enjoy unforeseen advantages and not at the expense of the proletariat, as had always been the case, but, rather, at the expense of the financial oligarchy and foreign capital.
The armed forces, as a social group, have the same origins and ambitions as the middle class, so they had no motive, not even an alibi, to back the tiny group of coup-minded officers.
Aware of that reality, the Christian Democrats not only did not support the barracks plot at that time but resolutely opposed it, for they knew it was unpopular among their own rank and file.
Their objective was something else again: to use any means possible to impair the good health of the government so as to win two-thirds of the seats in Congress in the March 1973 elections.
With such a majority, they could vote for the constitutional removal of the president of the republic.
The Christian Democrats make up a huge organisation cutting across class lines, with an authentic popular base among the mod-ern industrial proletariat, the small and middle-sized rural landowners and the petite bourgeoisie and middle class of the cities.
Popular Unity, while also inter-class in its make-up, was the expression of workers of the less-favoured proletariat – the agricultural proletariat – and the lower middle class of the cities.
The Christian Democrats, allied with the extreme right-wing National Party, controlled the Congress and the courts; Popular Unity controlled the executive.
The polarisation of these two parties was to be, in effect, the polarisation of the country.
Curiously, the Catholic Frei, who doesn’t believe in Marxism, was the one who took the best advantage of the class struggle, the one who stimulated it and brought it to a head, with an aim to unhinge the government and plunge the country into the abyss of demoralisation and economic disaster.
The economic blockade by the United States, because of expropriation without indemnification, did the rest.
All kinds of goods are manufactured in Chile, from automobiles to toothpaste, but this industrial base has a false identity: in the 160 most important firms, 60 per cent of the capital was foreign and 80 per cent of the basic materials came from abroad.
In addition, the country needed $300m a year in order to import consumer goods and another $450m to pay the interest on its foreign debt.
But Chile’s urgent needs were extraordinary and went much deeper. The jolly ladies of the bourgeoisie, under the pretext of protesting rationing, galloping inflation and the demands made by the poor, took to the streets, beating their empty pots and pans.
It wasn’t by chance, quite the contrary; it was very significant that that street spectacle of silver foxes and flowered hats took place on the same afternoon that Fidel Castro was ending a 30-day visit that had brought an earthquake of social mobilisation of government supporters.
Why Allende had to die By Gabriel García Márquez @NewStatesman [continued]https://j.mp/3tMMgwfSeed of destruction
President Allende understood then – and he said so – that the people held the government but they did not hold the power.
The phrase was more bitter than it seemed and also more alarming, for inside himself Allende carried a legalist germ that held the seed of his own destruction: a man who fought to the death in defence of legality, he would have been capable of walking out of La Moneda Palace with his head held high if the Congress had removed him from office within the bounds of the constitution.
The Italian journalist and politician Rossana Rossanda, who visited Allende during that period, found him aged, tense and full of gloomy premonitions as he talked to her from the yellow cretonne couch where, seven months later, his riddled body was to lie, the face crushed in by a rifle butt.
Then, on the eve of the March 1973 elections, in which his destiny was at stake, he would have been content with 36 per cent of the vote for Popular Unity.
And yet, in spite of runaway inflation, stern rationing and the pot-and-pan concert of the merry wives of the upper-class districts, he received 44 per cent.
It was such a spectacular and decisive victory that when Allende was alone in his office with his friend and confidant, the journalist Augusto Olivares, he closed the door and danced a cueca all by himself.
For the Christian Democrats, it was proof that the process of social justice set in motion by the Popular Unity coalition could not be turned back by legal means but they lacked the vision to measure the consequences of the actions they then undertook.
For the United States, the election was a much more serious warning and went beyond the simple interests of expropriated firms.
It was an inadmissible precedent for peaceful progress and social change for the peoples of the world, particularly those in France and Italy, where present conditions make an attempt at an experiment along the lines of Chile possible.
All forces of internal and external reaction came together to form a compact bloc.
CIA financed final blow
The truck owners’ strike was the final blow. Because of the wild geography of the country, the Chilean economy is at the mercy of its transport. To paralyse trucking is to paralyse the country.
It was easy for the opposition to co-ordinate the strike, for the truckers’ guild was one of the groups most affected by the scarcity of replacement parts and, in addition, it found itself threatened by the government’s small pilot programme for providing adequate state trucking services in the extreme south of the nation.
The stoppage lasted until the very end without a single moment of relief because it was financed with cash from outside.
“The CIA flooded the country with dollars to support the strike by the bosses and . . . foreign capital found its way down into the formation of a black market,” Pablo Neruda wrote to a friend in Europe.
One week before the coup, oil, milk and bread had run out.
During the last days of Popular Unity, with the economy unhinged and the country on the verge of civil war, the manoeuvring of the government and the opposition centred on the hope of changing the balance of power in the armed forces in favour of one or the other.
The final move was hallucinatory in its perfection: 48 hours before the coup, the opposition managed to disqualify all high-ranking officers supporting Allende and to promote in their places, one by one, in a series of inconceivable gambits, all of the officers who had been present at the dinner in Washington.
At that moment, however, the political chess game had got out of the control of its players.
Dragged along by an irreversible dialectic, they themselves ended up as pawns in a much larger game of chess, one much more complex and politically more important than any mere scheme hatched in conjunction by imperialism and the reaction against the government of the people.
It was a terrifying class confrontation that was slipping out of the hands of the very people who had provoked it, a cruel and fierce scramble by counterpoised interests, and the final outcome had to be a social cataclysm without precedent in the history of the Americas.
A military coup under those conditions would not be bloodless. Allende knew it. The Chilean armed forces, contrary to what we have been led to believe, have intervened in politics every time that their class interests have seemed threatened and they have done so with an inordinately repressive ferocity.
The two constitutions that the country has had in the past 100 years were imposed by force of arms and the recent military coup has been the sixth uprising in a period of 50 years.
The bloodlust of the Chilean army is part of its birthright, coming from that terrible school of hand-to-hand combat against the Araucanian Indians, a struggle that lasted 300 years.
One of its forerunners boasted in 1620 of having killed more than 2,000 people with his own hands in a single action.
Joaquín Edwards Bello relates in his chronicles that during an epidemic of exanthematic typhus the army dragged sick people out of their houses and killed them in a poison bath in order to put an end to the plague.
During a seven-month civil war in 1891, 10,000 died in a series of gory encounters.
The Peruvians assert that during the occupation of Lima in the war of the Pacific, Chilean soldiers sacked the library of Don Ricardo Palma, taking the books not for reading but for wiping their backsides.
Why Allende had to die By Gabriel García Márquez @NewStatesman [continued]https://j.mp/3tMMgwfHistory of brutality
Popular movements have been suppressed with the same brutality. After the Valparaíso earthquake of 1906, naval forces wiped out the longshoremen’s organisation of 8,000 workers.
In Iquique, at the beginning of the century, demonstrating strikers tried to take refuge from the troops and were machine-gunned: within ten minutes, there were 2,000 dead.
On 2 April 1957, the army broke up a civil disturbance in the commercial area of Santiago and the number of victims was never established because the government sneaked the bodies away.
During a strike at the El Salvador mine during the government of Eduardo Frei, a military patrol opened fire on a demonstration to break it up and killed six people, among them some children and a pregnant woman.
The post commander was an obscure 52-year-old general, the father of five children, a geography teacher and the author of several books on military subjects: Augusto Pinochet.
The myth of the legalism and the gentleness of that brutal army was invented by the Chilean bourgeoisie in their own interest.
Popular Unity kept it alive with the hope of changing the class make-up of the higher cadres in its favour.
But Allende felt more secure among the Carabineros, an armed force that was popular and peasant in its origins and that was under the direct command of the president of the republic.
Indeed, the junta had to go six places down the seniority list of the force before it found a senior officer who would support the coup.
The younger officers dug themselves in at the junior officers’ school in Santiago and held out for four days until they were wiped out.
That was the best-known battle of the secret war that broke out inside military posts on the eve of the coup.
Officers who refused to support the coup and those who failed to carry out the orders for repression were murdered without pity by the instigators.
Entire regiments mutinied, both in Santiago and in the provinces, and they were suppressed without mercy, with their leaders massacred as a lesson for the troops.
The commandant of the armoured units in Viña del Mar, Colonel Cantuarias, was machine-gunned by his subordinates.
A long time will pass before the number of victims of that internal butchery will ever be known, for the bodies were removed from military posts in garbage trucks and buried secretly.
All in all, only some 50 senior officers could be trusted to head troops that had been purged beforehand.
Foreign agents’ role
The story of the intrigue has to be pasted together from many sources, some reliable, some not.
Any number of foreign agents seem to have taken part in the coup.
Clandestine sources in Chile tell us that the bombing of La Moneda Palace – the technical precision of which startled the experts – was actually carried out by a team of American aerial acrobats who had entered the country under the screen of Operation Unitas to perform in a flying circus on the coming 18 September, Chile’s national independence day.
There is also evidence that numerous members of secret police forces from neighbouring countries were infiltrated across the Bolivian border and remained in hiding until the day of the coup, when they unleashed their bloody persecution of political refugees from other countries of Latin America.
Brazil, the homeland of the head gorillas, had taken charge of those services. Two years earlier, she had brought off the reactionary coup in Bolivia, which meant the loss of substantial support for Chile and facilitated the infiltration of all manner and means of subversion.
Part of the loans made to Brazil by the United States was secretly transferred to Bolivia to finance subversion in Chile.
In 1972, a US military advisory group made a trip to La Paz, the aim of which has not been revealed.
Perhaps it was only coincidental, however, that a short time after that visit, movements of troops and equipment took place on the frontier with Chile, giving the Chilean military yet another opportunity to bolster their internal position and carry out transfer of personnel and promotions in the chain of command that were favourable to the imminent coup.
Finally, on September 11, while Operation Unitas was going forward, the original plan drawn up at the dinner in Washington was carried out, three years behind schedule but precisely as it had been conceived: not as a conventional barracks coup but as a devastating operation of war.
It had to be that way, for it was not simply a matter of overthrowing a regime but one of implanting the Hell-dark seeds brought from Brazil, until in Chile there would be no trace of the political and social structure that had made Popular Unity possible. The harshest phase, unfortunately, had only just begun.
In that final battle, with the country at the mercy of uncontrolled and unforeseen forces of subversion, Allende was still bound by legality.
The most dramatic contradiction of his life was being at the same time the congenital foe of violence and a passionate revolutionary.
He believed that he had resolved the contradiction with the hypothesis that conditions in Chile would permit a peaceful evolution toward socialism under bourgeois legality.
Experience taught him too late that a system cannot be changed by a government without power.
That belated disillusionment must have been the force that impelled him to resist to the death, defending the flaming ruins of a house that was not his own, a sombre mansion that an Italian architect had built to be a mint and that ended up as a refuge for presidents without power.
He resisted for six hours with a sub-machine gun that Castro had given him and was the first weapon that Allende had ever fired.
Around four o’clock in the afternoon, Major General Javier Palacios managed to reach the second floor with his adjutant, Captain Gallardo, and a group of officers.
There, in the midst of the fake Louis XV chairs, the Chinese dragon vases and the Rugendas paintings in the red parlour, Allende was waiting for them.
He was in shirtsleeves, wearing a miner’s helmet and no tie, his clothing stained with blood. He was holding the sub-machine gun but he had run low on ammunition.
Allende knew General Palacios well. A few days before, he had told Augusto Olivares that this was a dangerous man with close connections to the American embassy.
As soon as he saw him appear on the stairs, Allende shouted at him: “Traitor!” and shot him in the hand.
Fought to the end
According to the story of a witness who asked me not to give his name, the president died in an exchange of shots with that gang.
Then all the other officers, in a caste-bound ritual, fired on the body. Finally, a non-commissioned officer smashed in his face with the butt of his rifle.
A photograph exists: Juan Enrique Lira, a photographer for the newspaper El Mercuriotook it.
He was the only one allowed to photograph the body. It was so disfigured that when they showed the body in its coffin to Señora Hortensia Allende, his wife, they would not let her uncover the face.
He would have been 64 years old next July. His greatest virtue was following through but fate could grant him only that rare and tragic greatness of dying in armed defence of an anachronistic booby of bourgeois law, defending a Supreme Court of Justice that had repudiated him but would legitimise his murderers, defending a miserable Congress that had declared him illegitimate but which was to bend complacently before the will of the usurpers, defending the freedom of opposition parties that had sold their souls to fascism, defending the whole moth-eaten paraphernalia of a shxxxy system that he had proposed abolishing but without a shot being fired.
The drama took place in Chile, to the greater woe of the Chileans, but it will pass into history as something that has happened to us all, children of this age, and it will remain in our lives for ever.
23-AUG-2021 :: But Holmes was startled. “This virus has gone up three notches in effectively a year and that, I think, was the biggest surprise to me”
But Holmes was startled. “This virus has gone up three notches in effectively a year and that, I think, was the biggest surprise to me”
The 1918–19 influenza pandemic also appears to have caused more serious illness as time went on, says Lone Simonsen, an epidemiologist at Roskilde University who studies past pandemics.
“Our data from Denmark suggests it was six times deadlier in the second wave.”
“Many still see Alpha and Delta as being as bad as things are ever going to get,” he says.
“It would be wise to consider them as steps on a possible trajectory that may challenge our public health response further.”
Some dangerous variants may only be possible if the virus hits on a very rare, winning combination of mutations, Eugene Koonin told me.
“But with all these millions of infected people, it may very well find that combination.” @kakape
The virus has mutated far more than most experts expected, becoming more contagious and beginning to pose a challenge to the vaccines that are currently available. @derspiegel
With the Delta variant now dominant around the world, one infected person infects six to seven other people without containment measures in place – more than twice as many as were infected by the original wild type of the virus circulating in 2020.
The vaccines that are currently available still provide good protection against a severe course of the disease, but less protection against infection with the virus than for the previous variants that had been prevalent.
That's just one reason that hopes for herd immunity by this autumn have been dashed.
The number of intensive care patients in German is once again rising significantly.
"If we don’t manage to drastically increase vaccinations, the current fourth wave may be devastating," Lothar Wieler, the president of Germany’s center for disease control, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), said last Wednesday.
It could well be that the second pandemic winter will be a difficult one.
And no one dares to venture a guess at what will come after that.
What happens next depends not only on vaccination, but also on how the virus might mutate.
Even for leading epidemiologists, like Emma Hodcroft of the University of Bern, making predictions is something of a fool's errand.
As part of the Nextstrain project, Hodcroft is collecting SARS-CoV-2 genome sequences around the world.
"I don’t think we understand SARS-CoV-2 well enough to be able to give a definite answer to the question of how the virus might evolve," Hodcroft told DER SPIEGEL.
"This virus keeps surprising us," agrees Mary Bushman, a mathematician and population biologist at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
"No one expected such large jumps in contagiousness.”
However, it doesn’t currently appear that C.1.2 will be able to displace the Delta variant.
"Delta has relatively few mutations," says Tulio de Oliveira, a bioinformatician at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, "but it apparently manages to keep C.1.2 at bay."
"We Will See Much More Dangerous Variants"
Still, that doesn’t necessarily mean that Delta will remain dominant forever.
"I think it is very likely we will see much more dangerous variants than Delta because of the large number of unvaccinated people around the world," predicts politician Karl Lauterbach, who is the health policy point person for the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) and a leading German voice in the pandemic.
Harvard University's Bushman ran a model calculation in an attempt to gather at least some clues about which new variants researchers and public health officials should be keeping a close eye on and what precautions will be essential for winter.
The model simulated the emergence of new virus variants.
According to her findings, variants that are even more contagious are likely to prevail over the Delta variant in the current phase.
The so-called moderate escape variants, on the other hand, w
19 APR 20 :: Tavi Costa tweeted
World Of Finance
1/12 The idealization of Chinese economic success has always been a big scam. Throughout history we have had several similar examples of communist countries that have reached unsustainable levels of internal and external debt and have suffered marked collapses.
2/12 Para elaborar nessa proposição, considere a seguinte reflexão. De acordo com o PIB publicado pelo governo chinês, a China foi responsável por mais de 60% do crescimento econômico global desde 2008.
2/12 To elaborate on this proposition, consider the following reflection. According to GDP published by the Chinese government, China has accounted for more than 60% of global economic growth since 2008.
3/12 Com isso, ela passou a ser, incomparavelmente, a maior importadora de commodities no mundo. Se caso o seu crescimento de PIB tivesse sido tão expressivo, como justificaríamos a queda geral de preços de commodities no mundo?
3/12 As a result, it has become, by far, the largest importer of commodities in the world. If your GDP growth had been so expressive, how would we justify the general drop in commodity prices in the world?
4/12 Curiosamente, esse período marcou uma das piores décadas para esse mercado na história. É incontestável a contradição entre esses números, presumivelmente mais apurados, e os números “criados” pelo próprio governo comunista Chinês.
4/12 Interestingly, this period marked one of the worst decades for this market in history. The contradiction between these numbers, presumably more accurate, and the numbers “created” by the Chinese communist government is undeniable.
WHO regional overviews – Epidemiological week 30 Aug–5 Sep 2021 African Region
The African Region continued to report substantial declines in incidence of both cases and deaths.
This week the Region reported over 110 000 new cases and over 2800 new deaths, decreases of 25% and 26%, respectively, as compared to the previous week.
These declining trends for the Region’s third wave are encouraging, and largely driven by continued declines in South Africa.
Nonetheless, several countries continued to report increasing trends in cases (> 30%) this week while mortality continued to increase, albeit at a lower proportion (>10%) in five countries.
Third Wave of Virus Infections Continues to Rage in Africa @AfricaCDC @bpolitics
Africa remains in the throes of a third wave of coronavirus infections, despite a recent decline in new cases, according to the Africa Centres for Disease Control & Prevention.
New infections and deaths fell 14% in the four weeks through Sept. 12, John Nkengasong, the center’s director said in an online briefing on Thursday.
He estimates that 70% of the population may need to be inoculated to curb the spread of the disease.
It’s unlikely that Africa has had “a significantly higher number of deaths than has been reported,” Nkengasong said.
“What we know for sure is that we have an excess number of infections. There are people that have been infected and we didn’t count them.”
Many media outlets and pharmaceutical executives claim that Africa has not been badly hit by Covid-19. The evidence shows the opposite is true. @thecontinent_ Laura López González
The world has used a lack of data to tell itself that Africa has emerged from the Covid-19 pandemic relatively unscathed.
It is a dangerous and deeply rooted fiction – and a tacit justification for one of this century’s darkest moments
a recent Time magazine headline read, “Why Africa’s Covid-19 outbreak hasn’t been as bad as everyone feared.”
In Africa, there’s absolutely no data to say the continent has been spared. In fact, Professor Tom Moultrie, a demographer from the University of Cape Town, thinks the notion should be retired altogether.
“The reason why we think there’s no Covid in much of Africa is simply because we don’t know where to find those deaths... that doesn’t at all mean to say that they are not happening,” Moultrie told The Continent.
Moultrie tracks uncounted Covid-19 deaths in South Africa. “I buy the argument that we have a younger population, but that is not enough. Without hard evidence built off reliable data from health and vital registration systems and reasonably large sample sizes of testing and mortality tracking, we simply cannot say that Africa has been spared.”
We also may never know Covid-19’s true body count in Africa for two reasons: A lack of testing and a dearth of records.
Enemies of Progress Howard W. French @nybooks @hofrench
Sometime in late 1983 or very early 1984, I traveled to Ouagadougou, the capital of a West African country then called Upper Volta, to get a sense of a man whose recent rise to power was already a sensation throughout the continent.
I was an inexperienced reporter—to be truthful, not even a full-fledged journalist yet.
At the age of thirty-three, almost a decade older than me, Thomas Sankara had just become president of a landlocked, drought-afflicted country that had gained independence from France in 1960 and remained one of the world’s poorest places and the near-perfect definition of a political backwater.
I met Sankara by happy accident shortly after arriving in Ouagadougou by train from Abidjan, in Ivory Coast, where I lived.
Somehow I had gotten word of a public meeting he was holding in a quiet neighborhood in the city, and made it there in time to find him sitting in a tree-shaded spot and engaging in relaxed conversation with a group of ordinary citizens.
As the lone foreigner present, and a quite tall one at that, I soon caught Sankara’s eye. He asked me to introduce myself, and I said that I was a reporter from the United States.
Sankara inquired what America made of his country’s new revolution, causing me to stumble awkwardly through an unprepared answer.
Then, smiling, he urged me to sit down and, speaking as much to the murmuring crowd as to me, said that as a foreign “friend,” I was welcome.
Sankara had put his small country in the news and begun shaking up his region not by executing opponents or expelling migrant trading communities from distant continents or declaring himself emperor, president for life, or field marshal, as was happening around this time in other African countries.
Instead, he made clear there would be no tolerance for self-enrichment by officials and banned the use of limousines by high-ranking members of his government.
He even rejected the idea of promoting himself from the rank of army captain.
A voracious reader and intellectually nimble junior officer who had been trained by the French military in Madagascar and lived briefly in Paris, Sankara had become a national hero by the age of twenty-five in a brief and futile border war with Mali, but this was as much for his outspoken pacifism as for any action in battle.
The unpopular government, trying to take advantage of his fame, named him prime minister in 1983, only to detain him a few months later for his overt progressivism.
He became president just a few months before my visit, following a military coup engineered by one of his closest friends, army captain Blaise Compaoré.
To be sure, many of Sankara’s early moves were symbolic and almost playfully populist (though he always bridled at that term).
These included riding a bicycle around Ouagadougou and popping up impromptu, sometimes in light disguise, to engage with people in encounters like the one I witnessed.
But in time, they were followed by more meaningful actions that announced an utterly new kind of politics in deeply conservative and profoundly corrupt West Africa.
For example, Sankara urged African countries to mobilize jointly against repayment of onerous debt to Western countries, which had helped sustain rotten regimes and which he called immoral.
And long before it became fashionable at the level of national politics, even in the West, he talked up the threat of global climate change, which he called the “perturbation of the seasons.”
Sankara pushed a range of ambitious environmental policies in his country, including an enormous tree-planting campaign and the extensive digging of rural wells to provide water security to peasants.
And his improvement of public health services, including a mass immunization program against common, preventable diseases, won widespread praise from international aid organizations.
Although he never used the term, Sankara also became an outspoken proponent of feminism, pushing for women’s rights, respect for the dignity of their work, and their representation in public affairs.
In a country that had always been dominated by men, his government implemented a 30 percent female quota for all government offices, and appointed women as heads of ten out of thirty provinces.
He inveighed against female circumcision and polygamy, alienating many men and some women, too, in a traditionalist society heavily weighted toward its rural inhabitants.
And in a sly inversion of gender roles, he decreed a state-sanctioned day of “husbands to the markets,” on which men were urged to buy household provisions instead of sending their wives.
“The state does not compel anyone into marriage, but requires that he who founds a family fulfills his responsibilities,” Sankara said in one speech, quoted in Brian J. Peterson’s Thomas Sankara: A Revolutionary in Cold War Africa.
“There are men who transform their wife into an all-purpose maid, but while refusing her a salary that goes with a maid.”
Peterson describes his book as “the first full-scale biography and book-length academic study of Thomas Sankara in English.”
It is much more than that, though. It is one of the most fully realized biographies of a modern African political figure in recent years, and a striking portrayal not just of this fascinating and ultimately tragic statesman but of an entire political era on the continent.
Sankara’s progressive politics, which drew from an eclectic range of influences—Marx, Lenin, and Mao, but also Catholic liberation theology, Frantz Fanon, Fidel Castro, and anticolonial liberation movements in Portuguese-speaking Africa and Algeria—
would have been more in tune with the times a decade or two earlier, when memories of Africa’s independence era were still fresh and leaders of many countries were eagerly experimenting with Marxism.
But in the early 1980s his style faced the heavy tides of a period when Reaganism and Thatcherism were ascendant and, even more importantly for his country, when France still behaved as if the independence of its former colonies were a mere formality.
This is widely remembered as the continent’s “lost decade,” after the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank imposed harsh fiscal austerity regimes and the abandonment of capital controls on African states as a condition for their funds, as part of the so-called Washington Consensus.
For Africans, this meant the drastic shrinking of government services, from education to health care, and a brutal regression in living conditions for millions of poor people.
Sankara, in defiant contrast, increased funding for education by 26 percent per student between 1983 and 1987, according to Peterson.
By this stage of the cold war, Western powers were seeing third-world bogeymen everywhere they looked.
The American ambassador personally delivered a warning to Sankara in his austere presidential office, telling him that if he continued to express rhetorical support for socialists in the Western Hemisphere, like the Sandinistas in Nicaragua or the Marxist-Leninists in tiny Grenada, which the United States invaded in October 1983 in order to overthrow its leftist government, Washington would stop providing economic assistance to Ouagadougou.
Sankara calmly told the ambassador that he would not be blackmailed and “would refuse American aid if necessary.”
At the time, Peterson writes, in the midst of a famine, the US was providing the country with more emergency food relief than any other donor, and although Sankara later made a number of conciliatory gestures, American assistance dried up.
The next US ambassador was directed to sustain the pressure but gradually came to believe that Washington’s antagonism was badly misplaced. He wrote:
I thought Sankara might be something different for Africa. That’s why I wanted that post. The more I read into it, the more I liked this guy Thomas Sankara. I said to myself, “Here’s a guy who shows no signs of being corrupt.”
A cable from the embassy reported that Sankara’s “austerity measures, proudly introduced without outside coaching, would make even the IMF happy.”
France, meanwhile, looked with alarm at the spreading influence in sub-Saharan Africa of the Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi.
It regarded any political or military advance of his in the region as something that must be contained or reversed, lest Paris’s authoritarian dependencies in the region start falling like dominoes.
The French press described Sankara as a virtual puppet of Qaddafi, and Peterson recounts multiple instances when the government appeared to be involved in plotting his overthrow or assassination.
The solidarity between Sankara and Qaddafi was greatly exaggerated, however, as I came to know from personal experience.
During a subsequent visit to the country that coincided with Qaddafi’s arrival there, I witnessed a fierce dispute between Sankara and the Libyan leader over my permission to follow their motorcade during a trip to the base at a southern town called Po that had been used by Compaoré to launch his coup in 1983.
Qaddafi objected to the presence of an American, but Sankara insisted that he knew me and overruled his angry guest.
More importantly, as Peterson’s book documents, Sankara’s government received precious little aid from Libya, or for that matter from the Soviet bloc.
Nearly a year after my initial visit, on the first anniversary of the coup that brought him to power, Sankara renamed his country Burkina Faso, which Peterson translates as “Country of Honest People,” but the name has also been rendered as “Land of Upright People,” which captures Sankara’s spirit.
Yet there were already serious internal divisions that would eventually make the new leader vulnerable.
“Strident demands for more radical policies recently split the new government, causing an internal crisis,” I reported at the time in The Washington Post.
In 1984, on twelve hours’ notice, I traveled at the request of the Post to Chad, oil-rich Libya’s southern neighbor—the first of countless hastily arranged trips in my life as a foreign correspondent.
There, earlier that year, Paris had launched its largest overseas military operation since the Algerian War, in a new flare-up of an on-again, off-again proxy war for dominance over Chad that pitted France against Libya.
The scenes of destruction I encountered in N’Djamena, the capital, astonished me.
Nearly every building in the small, colonial-era downtown had been badly damaged during a recent round of fighting, when the forces of the Libyan-backed insurgent leader Goukouni Oueddei had indiscriminately fired Soviet antiaircraft guns mounted on Toyota pickups, killing at least seven thousand.
A day or two later, I was flown by helicopter to the front in the deserts of eastern Chad, where French jets flying low over the desert were bombing the positions of Libya’s rebel allies.
Operation Manta, as that French deployment was known, marked the end of any remaining illusions in Africa that François Mitterrand, the longtime Socialist Party leader who had been elected French president in May 1981, would give substance to the progressive third-worldist rhetoric of his time in opposition.
Mitterrand instead stuck resolutely to France’s long-standing obsession with retaining control over its former colonies on the continent, through a variety of political and economic means backed by the frequent use of military force.
France’s resort to arms in Africa had reached a peak late in the preceding decade.
According to a partial tally by Nathaniel K. Powell in his France’s Wars in Chad: Military Intervention and Decolonization in Africa, French mercenaries unsuccessfully attempted to overthrow a Marxist regime in Benin in 1977 and intervened in Mauritania that same year against the Western Sahara rebellion.
And in 1978 and 1979 France intervened in Zaire to put down a rebellion backed by neighboring Angola.
The French had fought to take over Chad, long seen as both remote and bereft of profitable resources, mostly to keep it out of British hands.
As Marielle Debos recounts in Living by the Gun in Chad: Combatants, Impunity and State Formation, by the time it was formally decreed a colony in 1920, France had scant appetite for actually administering it.
Instead, Paris labeled the far southern reaches of the country, which receive regular rainfall, “Le Tchad Utile,” and paid little attention to the rest.
By independence in 1960, Chad had almost no paved roads, and there were only three high schools for a population of 3.5 million.
What passed for governance was an abject form of indirect rule carried out by French “novices and adventurers,” Debos writes.
“Extortion was authorised by the colonial bureaucracy,” and whoever enjoyed local authority “did not hesitate to rob and pillage.”
When I interviewed Chad’s president, Idriss Déby, for The New York Times in 2007 about his recent turn to China as an alternative to France, his answer deflected to Africa generally but sounded like an apt description of his own country’s history.
“In what manner has Africa progressed, in what sector?” he asked me. “Whatever the good will of Africa’s old friends and the old partners in its development, it has not progressed at all.”
In 1991 he had overthrown the dictator Hissène Habré, after serving as his army chief. Déby survived as long as he did not through business with China but by offering his country’s army to fight against Islamic insurgencies spreading throughout the Sahel—the broad band of semi-arid savanna lands that stretches beneath the Sahara from Mauritania in the west to Sudan, far to the east—on behalf of France and the US.
In tacit exchange, they remained silent about his terrible record on human rights and corruption.
Déby was killed in a battle against insurgents in April of this year and, in a move backed by Paris, was quickly succeeded by his son.
Militarism and pillage have been central features of Chad’s tragic history from the start.
France conscripted Chadians to fight in its European wars and in Indochina, and those veterans formed the backbone of the newly independent state.
Paris might have been content to leave its barren Chadian colony almost entirely to its own devices had it not been for the cold war, France’s need to maintain an exclusive grip on the uranium found in abundance in next-door Niger, which supplied its nuclear energy industry and weapons programs, or Qaddafi’s recurrent efforts to gain control over Chad.
These included Libya’s annexation in 1973 of the Aouzou Strip, along Chad’s northern border, which has been called the world’s biggest sandbox because of its barrenness.
Qaddafi later sought recognition of all of Chad as part of Libya’s “vital space.”
France, however, had traditionally seen almost all of French-speaking Africa as its own pré carré, or privileged domain, and vital to its standing as a world power.
Such clashing interests formed the basis of a long series of face-offs between Paris and Tripoli over the next two decades, which in turn fueled the proliferation of Chadian armed movements that fought in shifting constellations to take over the country, either as putative defenders of national sovereignty against Libya or against France’s proxies, with the support of Libya.
Among the earliest and surely the most redoubtable of the rebel leaders was Habré, who, like Thomas Sankara, seven years his junior, had been trained in French military schools, where he quickly attracted attention for his sharpness and competence.
As he plunged into national politics via warlordism, the viscerally anti-Libyan Habré distinguished himself as the most ruthless and violent Chadian of his era.
He became infamous for torching the oases of hostile desert tribes from the north and waged campaigns to exterminate rival clans of fellow Arabic-speaking Muslim northerners, including that of his successor, Déby.
Habré’s men were even more brutal toward southerners, who were predominantly Christian or animist. Inhabitants of entire regions fled, and Habré became known for the extrajudicial execution of captured enemies.
What first brought him to the attention of the French public, though, was a kidnapping-for-ransom ploy in the far-northern town of Bardaï in 1974, during which a German was killed and three other Europeans were captured.
The last of the hostages, a French archaeologist named Françoise Claustre, was released only in 1977, after Habré used the ransom funds to acquire weapons.
Habré’s drive to assume power, which finally reached fruition in 1982, took so long in part because of deep French ambivalence toward him.
In 1980 a French foreign ministry note bluntly warned, “Hissène Habré’s brutal and cynical behavior…suggest[s] that if he wins, he’s more likely to become a new bloodthirsty dictator than the unifier that Chad needs.”
Later that year, as Libya’s allies continued making inroads in Chad, France abandoned its reservations about Habré and backed his takeover as the best way to resist further Libyan attacks.
This led to Operation Manta, the enormous intervention that I stumbled into as a novice reporter.
Later still, France would continue to back him as he finally drove Libya’s proxies out of the country at the head of a desert army of machine-gun-mounted jeeps.
France under President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing had come around to this position only after seriously considering radical alternatives to supporting Habré, which ranged from withdrawal from the country altogether to, according to Powell, assassinating Qaddafi.
In the end, Giscard sided with Habré, because Gallic pride could not bear the thought of France being defeated by an African force, in this case the Libyan-backed army of Habré’s bitter rival Goukouni Oueddei.
“The French beaten by the Libyans and [Goukouni’s ethnic group] the Tubu!” said Giscard. “I could never allow this.”
Powell quotes his foreign minister Louis de Guiringaud, capturing a feeling that is only now fading in France with the costly and humbling failures of its ongoing interventions against Islamic extremism in the Sahel, especially in Mali, where a succession of French-backed governments have proven powerless to provide security against insurgency and terrorist attacks in the countryside:
“Africa is the only continent which remains within France’s reach, within the range of its means. The only one where she can still, with 500 men, change the course of history.”
As an opposition leader, Mitterrand had spoken scornfully of French military interventionism in the country, asking during a National Assembly debate, “Why is France fighting in Chad?”
In power, however, after his own bouts of reluctance, he came to the same conclusion as his predecessor:
“If Niger and Cameroon crack, French influence in Africa is finished.”
Thus, out of fear of falling dominoes, much like the United States in Southeast Asia, France turned a blind eye to the ballooning human rights catastrophe in the country as Habré killed tens of thousands of opponents both real and imagined and presided over the brutal rape and torture of countless others.
Enemies of Progress Howard W. French @nybooks @hofrench [continued]
Some of Powell’s most interesting material documents how Paris’s domino logic pushed it into supporting Jean-Bedel Bokassa, the delusional autocrat who ruled the Central African Republic.
Feeling that France needed the country as a secure base from which to carry out its interventions in Chad, Giscard told Bokassa:
Believe me, Mr. President for Life, my dear relative and friend, that France deeply feels solidarity towards the Central African Republic which has, under your leadership, committed itself to an in-depth effort to promote economic, cultural, and human development.
This unreserved support continued even as Bokassa crowned himself emperor in December 1977 and spent an amount equivalent to the entire French annual aid allocation to the country on a gilded coronation patterned on Napoleon’s.
In 1996 I interviewed Bokassa in the capital of the Central African Republic, Bangui, where he had been allowed to return following years of exile after French troops engineered his overthrow in 1979.
Bokassa, who had fought for France in its colonial wars in Indochina, had been put in power by France.
He laughed off the claim that he was a cannibal, which had eagerly been used by the Paris media to justify the intervention against him and was later thoroughly debunked:
“Every time we have a problem, the French have to come meddle. Finally, you have to ask yourself, are we independent, or are we not?”
In decisively backing Habré, France had been anything but alone. At the behest of William Casey, the director of the CIA, the Reagan administration launched its first covert action in Chad in late 1981 as part of an effort to weaken Qaddafi, according to The Trial of Hissène Habré: How the People of Chad Brought a Tyrant to Justice by the journalist Celeste Hicks.
“Qaddafi’s recent success in Chad ensures that his aggressive policies will pose a growing challenge to US and western interests,” read one early Reagan administration report.
The prospect, it said, was “more adventurism” from Libya. The US secretary of state, Alexander Haig, was blunt, saying that increasing covert support for Habré should “increase the flow of pine boxes back to Libya.”
In fact, as Hicks’s book reveals, it was in Habré’s archipelago of prisons and detention centers that bodies were accumulating most rapidly, especially at the most notorious of them, an underground, indoor swimming pool converted into a center of confinement and torture called La Piscine.
The regime’s national security agency, the Directorate of Documentation and Security (DDS), which ran these centers, was headquartered across the road from the offices of USAID (the Agency for International Development), making it implausible that American diplomats were unaware of the atrocities.
An American ambassador to Chad, Donald Norland, had written to Washington in February 1981 to warn,
“I feel strongly that helping Habré should be viewed as the least desirable expedient,” citing his record of atrocities and his uncompromising nature. Later that year, Norland resigned, explaining, “I felt that I didn’t want to be associated with this.”
Washington got behind Habré’s regime to the hilt, providing an estimated $182 million of economic and military aid in the 1980s, and hundreds of millions more in covert support, according to Hicks.
Though I didn’t know it at the time, America’s AWACS reconnaissance planes were providing crucial battlefield information to the French during Operation Manta.
That is not the only way Washington assisted Habré, though. In 1987 the stern dictator, whom victims whispered of fearfully as the “little God,” was welcomed to the White House by Reagan.
That year, contrary to abundant evidence, the annual State Department Human Rights Report concluded that “there were no verified instances of government-instigated political killings” in the country.
Hicks’s book centers on Habré’s conviction in 2016 by the International Criminal Court at a trial in Senegal.
He had settled into what had initially been a quiet exile in that country, another former French colony, after his overthrow by Déby.
Hicks, who was present, recounts that at the start of the trial, Habré had shouted, with no hint of irony, “Down with imperialists. [The trial] is a farce by rotten Senegalese politicians. African traitors. Valet of America.”
Some of the most powerfully damning testimony against him involved sexual violence against female prisoners, including young girls, who were forced to work for Habré’s men by day and then were systematically raped by night. Hicks writes:
Fatimé Limane, who was pregnant in detention, described how soldiers had inserted bayonets into her vagina, killing her unborn child.
Garba Akhaya testified about a female cellmate receiving electric shocks to her breasts and genitals which left her unable to walk.
He was sentenced to life in prison for, among other things, “crimes against humanity, consisting of the underlying crimes of murder, summary executions, forced disappearances, torture and cruel and inhuman acts.”
This was the first time the courts of one African country had been used to try a former leader of another, and as Hicks notes, the jurists and prosecutors were all Africans.
This was made possible, in part, by early work in documenting atrocities in Chad by Amnesty International in the 1980s.
In the following decade, former prisoners of the DDS in Chad began to organize and collect testimonies, and in 2000 Human Rights Watch helped them launch their legal case.
In late August of this year, a week after his seventy-ninth birthday, Habré died in a hospital in Dakar, Senegal, of Covid-19.
Thomas Sankara was murdered at his office in a carefully planned hit on October 15, 1987.
By that time I had been a metropolitan reporter for The New York Times for about a year, and I remember reading the first wire reports of his death in the newsroom that afternoon.
A day or two later, when I proposed a follow-up article to an editor of foreign news at the paper, he rejected the idea, gently suggesting that I felt too strongly about the man.
Sankara’s successor, his former friend and ally Blaise Compaoré, whose indictment for Sankara’s murder by a military court in Burkina Faso was announced only last April, took over the country and ruled it as an authoritarian strongman for twenty-seven years, usually in close concert with France.
When Compaoré was finally overthrown in a popular revolt in 2014—he was replaced by a transitional government and, the following year, by a democratically elected president, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré—
France, Powell writes, helped engineer his escape into exile in Ivory Coast, where he remains.
In August, thirty-four years after the killing, Compaoré was finally put on trial, in absentia, by Burkina Faso for Sankara’s murder.
By the tenth anniversary of Sankara’s assassination, I was West Africa bureau chief for the Times, and I visited Burkina Faso to see what remained of the spirit of his revolution.
Fearful of his political ghost, Compaoré’s government had long since banned commemoration of Sankara, arresting people who put up banners bearing his name.
One afternoon I took a taxi to the modest grave and memorial where his body had been relocated from the mass grave in which he was initially buried, along with several others killed in the hit job.
It was on the far outskirts of town, to make it difficult to visit, and yet people had planted small flags, written graffiti in Sankara’s memory, and left mementos.
I decided to try to interview Compaoré, whom I had met at the same time I had gotten to know Sankara.
He struck me as a somewhat nervous and taciturn figure then, in stark contrast to Sankara, with his ever-ready smile and optimistic demeanor.
By this time, Compaoré had constructed a lavish presidential palace for himself at Ziniaré, some twenty miles from the capital.
In the spirit of dictatorial overkill all too common in Africa, its expansive grounds included a zoo, with a pet lion that was sometimes promenaded on a chain.
Compaoré remembered me, greeted me inside the gates with an awkward embrace, and insisted that we take a selfie together.
He seemed on edge, and had to have known what I had come to ask him.
We sat in the gardens, and I let the conversation unspool for a few minutes before coming to the point.
“Did you order the murder of Thomas Sankara?” I asked. After a pause, Compaoré stood up and, looking shocked, declared the interview over.
Sankara’s followers—including at least one political party that reclaims him as its inspiration—nowadays celebrate his memory openly.
If anything, outside of Burkina Faso his standing as a martyr and inspiration to new generations of African youth has grown even more impressively.
On a continent that by 2040 will have 60 percent of the world’s people under thirty, most of the celebrations of Sankara are conducted by those with no direct recollection of him.
For me, if there is a lesson to his life, it is one that is best seen in contrast to the Habrés and Débys and Bokassas who litter postindependence African history: Western powers have achieved little good or mostly wreaked grave havoc on this continent by imposing their priorities and picking its leaders.
Thomas Sankara: A Revolutionary in Cold War Africa by Brian J. Peterson Indiana University Press, 333 pp., $90.00; $35.00 (paper)
France’s Wars in Chad: Military Intervention and Decolonization in Africa by Nathaniel K. Powell Cambridge University Press, 360 pp., $99.99
Living by the Gun in Chad: Combatants, Impunity and State Formation by Marielle Debos, translated from the French by Andrew Brown Zed, 239 pp., $95.00; $29.95 (paper)
The Trial of Hissène Habré: How the People of Chad Brought a Tyrant to Justice by Celeste Hicks Zed, 217 pp., $95.00; $24.95 (paper)
How not to write about an African election @TheAfricaReport
By the end of 2021, 13 African countries would have held presidential elections.
That's 13 different opportunities for global media to paint the same story of rigged and, in some cases, violent elections that have become the single story of democracy in Africa.
Is it an African election if it’s not unfair, violent or marred by chaos and social media shutdown?
We won’t have long to wait because in the next three months Somalia, Cabo Verde, Gambia and Libya will have their own elections, and chances are it will be more of the same story.
Zambia 2021 as a case study
Contrary to the narrative around the reporting, Zambia is not new to democratic elections.
Hichilema himself has participated in five previous elections and will be the country’s seventh president since the late Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia’s first president who served between 1964 to 1991 and died earlier this year.
With a free and fair election now under Zambia’s belt and with the benefit of hindsight, many of the media headlines and predictions are almost laughable.
To The Economist, a free and fair election was an unlikely outcome.
“Zambia’s election is crucial,” they wrote some days before election day, “but it’s not a fair fight. Hakainde Hichilema deserves to be elected, but the world should prepare for a rigged vote.”
Sadly, The Economist wasn’t the only news platform that predicted chaos. “Zambians head to the polls, but hopes of a free election are slim,” South Africa’s Business Day Live said.
“Zambians go to the polls Thursday amid fears of unfair election,” RFI warned. “Election to test Zambia’s standing as a stable democracy,” AP News said.
There were declarations of hitting “rock bottom”, as CAJ News Africa reported after Lungu initially rejected election results.
Although unhappy with the results, Lungu accepted them and subsequently congratulated the new president in a handover of power that was free from violence.
Reports that didn’t suggest that the elections would be unfair said poverty, economic woes and Covid-19 underscored the polls.
Zambia’s economy is indeed in recession due to Covid-19, but this is a global issue that also created a public health and economic crisis in the US.
The Zambian election had its expected cliches. The internet was shut down, but the rule of law reigned when the High Court ruled that access should be fully restored.
There were accusations and counteraccusations of violence against members of the campaigning parties and even military presence on election day.
Still, there was a high turnout at polling stations. It showed that Zambians had faith in the democratic system working, as evidenced by the peaceful handover of power in previous general elections.
Continued use of old frames
Unfortunately, this stereotypical framing of African elections has become the norm for how news platforms cover African elections – there will be violence, fraud, and corruption.
This continued use of old frames is problematic. The arrogance of some of the predictions and the bias of the reporting is feeding a narrative about this continent that many Africans and their leaders are trying to move away from.
Elections in Africa are not a test for democracy; they are proof that democracy and institutions meant to uphold the system work despite the typical politicking of elections everywhere.
For instance, the February elections in Niger were a second run-off between candidates after the initial elections on 27 December 2020 failed to produce a winner.
The 29 August elections in São Tomé and Príncipe were a second run-off. The first elections were initially held on 18 July.
Impact of the youth
What’s often missing in the current style of election reporting is the context that could help frame the story differently.
We all know that Africa’s population is very youthful, and elections are often happening against the backdrop of youth-led unrest sparked by the economic impact of Covid-19 and movements like #EndSARS in Nigeria.
The youth vote was credited with swaying the Zambian elections in Hichilema’s favour showing the power of using elections as a tool for protest.
It’s time for more nuanced, contextualised reporting on African elections as the current framing does a disservice to the process of democracy.
Al Jazeera‘s post-election report on Zambia provided an alternative perspective for election reporting in this line: “They say this was a protest vote, a protest for hope and a protest for change.”
The story of elections in Africa is more complex and far more interesting than the media often give us credit for.
A new framing of hope and change reflects more authentically what elections have come to signify in Africa and encourages a style of reporting that should dig deeper.
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity.
Chinese mining firms told to stop work and leave Democratic Republic of Congo @SCMPNews Jevans Nyabiage
China has ordered its companies that broke laws and environmental standards in the Democratic Republic of Congo to cease operating and leave the country – at a time when the African nation’s government is aiming to renegotiate “infrastructure for minerals” deals with Beijing.
It came after South Kivu province suspended six Chinese firms’ operations over illegal mining and destruction of the environment.
The companies had missed a deadline to register their activities with the Congolese authorities.
Wu Peng, director general of the Chinese foreign ministry’s African affairs department, on Tuesday said that the authorities in China had investigated and “commanded the companies involved to respect the order of the local government of the DRC, stop their business completely and leave South Kivu province as soon as possible”.
The companies will be punished by the Chinese government, Wu said.
It is rare for China to order firms to cease their overseas operations.
“We will never allow Chinese companies in Africa to violate local laws and regulations,” Wu said, a day after police in the South Kivu city of Mwenga fired tear gas at residents who protested outside a Chinese mine that had ignored last month’s order by governor Theo Kasi to stop operating.
The DRC identified the companies as BM Global Business, Congo Blueant Minerals, Orientale Resource Congo, Yellow Water Resources, New Continent Mineral, and Groupe Cristal.
“We support the DRC in cracking down on illegal economic activities,” Wu said.
Zhu Jing, China’s ambassador to the DRC, tweeted on Tuesday:
“The Chinese authorities have taken action to support the Congolese government in the fight against the illegal exploitation of natural resources. A special cell has also been set up within the Chinese embassy.”
China-DRC relations were already being tested after DRC President Felix Tshisekedi ordered a review of mining deals with Chinese companies signed by his predecessor Joseph Kabila.
The DRC is also under pressure from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to “clean up lopsided mining agreements granted to foreign firms” as a precondition for a new US$1.5 billion credit line.
President Tshisekedi wants a US$6 billion deal covering infrastructure and minerals signed in 2008 with Chinese companies to be renegotiated.
Former president Kabila had negotiated for Chinese companies to be offered cobalt and copper in exchange for the construction of infrastructure.
Congolese state-owned commodity trading and mining company Gecamines formed a joint venture named Sicomines with a consortium of Chinese firms led by Sinohydro and China Railway Engineering Corporation to develop a copper and cobalt mine for US$9 billion.
However, the value was renegotiated to US$6 billion after a push from the IMF.
So far, about US$2.7 billion has been paid by the Chinese side, mostly in the form of investments, according to the DRC.
China’s foreign ministry on Monday defended the deal, saying the model had not only increased tax revenue and created more jobs in the DRC but had also provided investment in infrastructure projects such as roads, hospitals and hydropower stations.
“Not long ago, [Chinese companies] signed with the province of Katanga a US$11.5 million aid agreement to support the construction of local roads and power facilities, and improvement of education, medical care and environment, which has been warmly welcomed by the local people,” ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said.
“I want to stress that China and the DRC boast a long-standing friendship and bilateral practical cooperation has yielded fruitful win-win results.”
It is the second major deal that the DRC wants to be reviewed after the Congolese government in August formed a commission to investigate the reserves at the Tenke Fungurume Mining (TFM) copper and cobalt project, which is majority-owned by China Molybdenum.
This would help determine the true value of the government’s shareholding through its state-owned mining company La Generale des Carrieres et des Mines, which owns 20 per cent.
The DRC controls more than 60 per cent of the world’s reserves of cobalt ore.
Other Chinese companies operating in the DRC include Huayou Cobalt, Chengtun Mining, Wanbao and CNMC.
Baby Matabishi, a researcher at the Carter Centre in the DRC, said that renegotiating mining contracts was more about politics than business.
“The question is, what do we want to negotiate? We must avoid the same mistakes of the past,” Matabishi said. In 2007, the DRC revised the contracts, criticising the ones that had been signed.
“The result was that the major mines were ceded cheaply to friends of Joseph Kabila’s regime,” Matabishi said.
“Does the current regime want to do the same? We are afraid that what is being considered will lead us to make the same mistakes.”
Palm Oil Giant’s Industry-Beating ESG Score Hides Razed Forests @business
In the impoverished West African country of Liberia, a unit of the world’s second-largest palm oil company has admitted to destroying forests and violating the rights of indigenous people.
Yet its parent is among the industry’s leaders in investor ratings for environmental and social policies.
Golden Agri Resources Ltd. acknowledged in February that its Golden Veroleum Liberia (GVL) unit hadn’t done enough to compensate local residents for business practices that included razing part of one of the planet’s richest biodiversity regions.
Among the company’s shareholders is BlackRock Inc., the world’s largest asset manager, whose chairman Larry Fink has made combatting climate change a focus for the $9.5 trillion of assets his firm manages.
Part of Golden Agri’s attraction for investors is that it tops a global list of more than two dozen agricultural producers and wholesalers for its environmental efforts, and ranks fourth on social-related issues, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
And while the industry’s performance as a whole isn’t good — Golden Agri rose to the top of the environment chart with a score of only 4 out of 10 — it makes the company the best of the pack for investors that need to keep a diverse portfolio.
“This is an example of a common problem with ESG ratings,” says Andrew King, professor of management at Boston University's Questrom School of Business, who focuses on ESG measurement and corporate sustainability.
“Their inaccuracy can protect bad actors by impeding pressure for real improvement.”
It also shows the difficulty investors and activists face in tracking and bringing to book wayward agricultural enterprises that often operate through units or joint ventures in remote, poor areas of the world.
The controversy surrounding Golden Veroleum surfaced three years ago when Friends of the Earth and the Sustainable Development Institute Liberia filed a complaint with the High Carbon Stock Approach, a body set up a decade ago by Golden Agri and environmental groups to develop a scientific way of evaluating tropical forests to curb deforestation and protect the rights of local people.
HCSA’s members now include some of the world’s biggest food producers such as Unilever Plc and Cargill Inc.
Activists for the environmental groups had visited the area around Wiah’s Town, a ramshackle group of some 100 tin-roofed buildings strung along a red-dirt road an hour’s drive from the coast.
Inhabitants say GVL promised to provide jobs and amenities such as piped water, but instead the company cut down the forest, deprived farmers of their land and polluted the water supply.
“GVL cleared the land of the Lower Kulu people called Blogbo land without our consent,” says Russels Kumon, 67, a retired teacher who returned to Wiah’s Town a few years after his country’s second civil war ended in 2003.
“The whole place has been enclaved. We are just in the enclaved area, making farming and any other things difficult for us. The land has been destroyed.”
Looking up at the palm oil mill, belching out smoke, he says the factory was built on a sacred hill, Tarhuowon, that members of the community used to climb to rectify ailments.
GVL said there was no indication from local representatives that the hill was sacred when it erected the plant.
Few of the expected jobs materialized, Kumon says. Several of those who are employed in the mill and plantation complained to Bloomberg of low wages and arduous working conditions, with some saying they work seven days a week for $150 a month.
Further down the road, in the village of Butawu, 48-year-old electrician Othello Jartoe says the palm oil grower constructed just one hand pump, to be shared by more than 100 people, while he and others were laid off by the company after a year.
“The minority is employed and the majority is unemployed,” he says.
The High Carbon Stock Approach has a system to investigate such complaints and in February it concluded that GVL failed to conduct a proper consent process with local communities before clearing land and setting up its operation, and hadn’t done enough to remediate the misconduct and compensate residents.
HCSA said the palm oil company must halt land development until conflicts with communities are resolved, provide new biodiverse forest and adopt policies to prevent further rights violations.
But restoring rainforest biodiversity is difficult if not impossible. GVL operates in the Upper Guinean forests, which span six West African nations, from Guinea in the west to Togo in the east.
Only about 20% of the original forest remains — about half of it in Liberia — and it is considered a vital carbon sink and a world biodiversity “hotspot,” with an estimated 390 terrestrial mammal species, or more than a quarter of all those in Africa.
Palm Oil's Expanding Frontier Liberia holds about half of the remaining Upper Guinean Forests
“The region is a mosaic of forests interspersed with villages, and as such is more vulnerable to deforestation than other regions such as the Congo,” says Wannes Hubau, associate professor of tropical forest ecology at Ghent University in Belgium.
“Its accessibility is hastening the switch from being a carbon sink to releasing carbon dioxide.
GVL said in a Sept. 7 response to queries from Bloomberg that it had made “mistakes” and had stopped clearing land in February, though it denied many of the allegations leveled by local communities.
Singapore-listed Golden Agri, part of the Sinar Mas Group of the billionaire Indonesian Widjaja family, said in a statement that GVL has suspended further land development and implemented some other recommended measures, including drawing up a sustainability plan.
Liberian Information Minister Ledgerhood Rennie referred queries to the company and didn’t comment further.
Since the HCSA ruling, Friends of the Earth said that local communities hadn’t been consulted about the sustainability plan.
GVL said it has consulted communities, investigated complaints when they were made, followed the law with regard to land acquisition and met the water quality standards of the nation’s regulator.
For investors, the resolution of cases like the one in Liberia and better oversight of operations, especially in developing countries, is critical if ESG investing is to be meaningful.
A group of more than 60 indigenous leaders and activists from six continents wrote to BlackRock executives in March, saying the asset manager can’t turn a blind eye to the destruction of the Upper Guinean forests and similar ecosystems in South America and Southeast Asia.
“Climate change isn’t simply a risk to be calculated in terms of profit margins,” they wrote. “It is a constant stream of risks to our peoples and our planet, which we face every day.”
BlackRock holds only about 0.7% of Golden Agri and is one of several dozen banks, investment firms and pension funds that have small stakes in the grower.
Officials at Vanguard Group, which held about a 1.3% stake in Golden Agri as recently as late August, declined to comment about its investment.
Blackrock said in March it will press companies on their environmental and human rights policies, and those that fail to properly oversee the use of natural resources “may face negative consequences arising from regulatory, reputational or operational risks.”
BlackRock, without disclosing the company’s name, said in a quarterly stewardship report in May that it had engaged with a Singapore-listed palm oil producer and its unit in Africa to discuss environmental and social controversies related to that business.
It referenced HCSA’s February report and said it was told about remediation steps the unnamed company had taken and that it had commissioned a third party to investigate the extent of deforestation.
The palm oil company told BlackRock that HSCA is still determining the amount of compensation for the cleared forests and acknowledged the lack of progress in providing remediation to the communities.
The pandemic had delayed the process and the review had resumed in March, the company told BlackRock.
“We expect the company to continue paying attention to the environmental and social controversies signaled in HSCA’s report and work towards resolving them,” BlackRock said in its report. A BlackRock spokesman declined to name the company.
At the heart of the problem for investors are the ESG scores, which are largely based on self-reported and unaudited information, lack consistency between ratings providers, and emphasize corporate policies and processes rather than impacts.
Even within those limits, many of the world’s top agricultural producers and wholesalers score poorly.
Golden Agri has spent years trying to build an image as a producer of sustainable palm oil and topped the environmental list in 2019 after its rating rose to 4 from 0.9 in 2015, data compiled by Bloomberg show.
The poor showing of the plantation owners and food companies shows how much more needs to be done to protect the rights of individuals and preserve some of the earth’s most important carbon stores.
About 20% of Liberia’s tree cover has vanished during the past two decades, reducing carbon dioxide absorption by the equivalent annual emissions of 8 million cars, Global Forest Watch said.
The World Bank forecast in July that the world economy risks losing as much $2.7 trillion a year by 2030 if countries continue to destroy biodiversity.
“If you promised to do something and you did it only halfway, to me you have done nothing,” says Jartoe in Butawu village.
Longhorn Kenya Ltd reports FY PAT 21 7.475m Earnings here
N.S.E Equities - Commercial & Services
Closing Price: 4.00
Total Shares Issued: 369940476.00
Market Capitalization: 1,479,761,904
A leading Publishing firm in East Africa.
Longhorn Kenya reports FY Earnings through 30th June 2021 versus 30th June 2020
FY 2021 Revenue 1.243925b versus 1.067926b
FY Cost of Sales [746.501m] versus [580.645m]
FY Gross Profit 497.424m versus 487.281m
FY Operating Expenses [296.403m] versus [630.706m]
FY Finance Costs [183.247m] versus [151.929m]
FY Profit [Loss] before Tax 17.774m versus [295.354m]
FY Profit [Loss] after Tax 7.475m versus [225.870m]
FY Total Assets 2.877729b versus 2.450164b
FY Total Liabilities 2.136808b versus 1.715399b
FY Borrowings 1.177002b versus 1.175241b
Cash and Cash Equivalents 36.866m versus 115.769m
The COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on economies and people had the most significant impact on the business in the year under review.
There was the extended suspension of learning in schools and constrained consumer wallets.
Kenya and Uganda begun the year with schools closure and movement restrictions as part of the pandemic containment measures.
Overall, the countries where Longhorn operates were adversely impacted by COVID-19.
Revenue for the year increased by 16% to Shs 1.244 billion compared to the previous year. Kenya recorded an 18% revenue growth, Tanzania 8% while Uganda recorded 83% for the year.
Tanzania marked the 4th straight year of revenue growth while Uganda surpassed USD 1 million in revenue despite the country being under lockdown for most of the year.
The operating expenses for the year decreased by 53% compared to the previous year due to the cost containment measures implemented during the year such as renegotiation with suppliers and the streamlining of operations.
Finance costs increased by 21% which was attributable to the investments the Group continues to make in regional expansion, product diversification and the digital transformation journey.
Management intends to reduce the loan balances progressively as the Group’s performance improves.
Borrowings and finance costs have reduced by approximately 30% in Q1 of FY 2022.
Profit before tax was Shs 17.8 million compared to the prior year loss before tax of Shs 295 million.
This marked a significant turnaround in the business, confirming the resilience of Longhorn’s business model, strong brand, agile employees and ability to adapt to a changing operating environment.
Digital –The business is upgrading its eLearning and eBook platforms which are anticipated to be launched in Q2 of FY 2022.
New products such as SOMO are being developed to serve the ex-curriculum space.
Regional presence – The Group continues to take advantage of opportunities and revenue is expected to grow in the African markets including the DRC and Cameroon, which we entered last year. Plans to enter the Ghana market are at advanced stages.
Product portfolio – The significant titles developed in the year included primary and secondary coursebooks in Uganda, approval of CBC Grade 6 titles in Kenya, as well as English and French titles in Cameroon.
The development of titles in both course and non- course books will continue as part of our product development.
They are in an interesting space.