|Tuesday 16th of March 2021
After the Apocalypse Srećko Horvat @HorvatSrecko
1 Climate Crisis: Back to the Future Mediterranean
That evening a carpenter knocked on his door and said to him: ‘Let me help you build an ark, so that it may become false.’
Later a roofer joined them, saying: ‘It is raining over the mountains, let me help you, so that it may become false.’
Then a helmsman came, wiped the first drop of rain from his hair and said: ‘What maps will be of any use tomorrow? I come empty-handed. But let me help you, so that it may become false.
Günther Anders, Die beweinte Zukunft, 1961
Perhaps this is the best description of sirocco. In short, if you don’t kill someone, you might end up killing yourself.
Or like a moment from last summer, when my mother, watching the shining full moon quickly emerging above Mount Hum, tells her young grandchild: ‘This is us, and that is the moon, see how quickly we move,’ –
and I, as his uncle and her child, even more quickly transform into the curious grandchild myself, seeing the moon for the first time, not just as the moon, but seeing ourselves in the reflection of the Moon: three generations watching the 4.53 billion-year-old moon, how it rises above the hill above the island above us.
And I become fully aware of this moment, of this present that is vanishing as quickly as the moon is moving.
‘solastalgia’.It comes from the Latin word sōlācium (comfort) and the Greek root -algia (pain), describing a new sort of ‘homesickness’ that is focused not so much just on the place as it has been (the return to ‘home’), but on the place at its moment of disappearance.
Unlike the original meaning of nostalgia, coming from the Greek nóstos (Homeric word meaning ‘home coming’) and álgos (meaning ‘pain’), this distinctive form of contemporary ‘homesickness’ is not merely nostalgia towards a place called ‘home’, as a fixed point in the past. It is a longing for the place that is changing in ‘real time’, a longing that is connected to some sort of nostalgia, but, unlike traditional nostalgia, it is fundamentally future-oriented. There is no ‘return’ (as in nostalgia) to the place in the future, because the future itself is in question. The human reaction to this irreversibility is what we could call solastalgia.
Then there is another piece of recent research that might be described as a truly dystopian ‘new normal’. It suggests that the scale of plastic pollution in our oceans could be a million times worse than previously recorded.
What really surprised the biological oceanographer Jennifer Brandon, who led this research, published in the science journal Limnology and Oceanography Letters, was that ‘every salp, regardless of year collected, species, life stage, or part of the ocean collected, had plastics in its stomach’.
According to a recent study about human consumption of microplastics, published in 2019 in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, the average person today eats at least 50,000 particles of microplastic a year and breathes in a similar quantity.
Thomas Mann had already described it in Death in Venice, published just before the outbreak of the First World War, where the authorities are covering up a cholera outbreak so that the tourist machine could continue operating:
In early June the quarantine barracks of the hospital had been filling silently, in the two orphanages there was no longer enough room, and a horrific traffic developed between the city and San Michele.
But the fear of general damage, regard for the recently opened exhibition of paintings in the municipal gardens, for the enormous financial losses that threatened the tourist industry in case of a panic, had more impact in the city than love of truth and observation of international agreements.41
However, there is an important difference between Thomas Mann’s dystopian Venice and our current post- apocalyptic reality.
What the floods in Venice 2019, and only a couple of months later the coronavirus pandemic, unveiled is not only how fear of ‘general damage’, all those opened exhibitions and financial losses for the tourist industry, once again become more important than the well-being of people or places itself.
These eschatological threats (both the floods and the virus) also showed how quickly things return to ‘normal’ or, more precisely, how a ‘new normal’ is always being constructed in the ruins of the old order, how the disorder very often ends up being turned into ‘things as usual’ (as long as the flights are not interrupted and art museums can be visited, everything must still be OK).
What if the crowd described in Anders’s story about Noah is becoming even more blind – Apokalypseblindheit is a term Anders would use to describe this – than ever before?
a mental jump into the futur antérieur where the flood ‘will have been’, is a deeper understanding of our contemporary moment as a highly political one in which the Apocalypse is already provoking a struggle for meaning that very often ends up in the ‘normalization’ of the catastrophe. ‘Normalization’ is not merely the process of humans adopting to a situation after the disaster; it is much more an ideological process through which the very abnormality of a given situation is being transformed into something that is now described as the ‘new normal’.
this world system – something that would become global capitalism, now turning into its authoritarian and techno-totalitarian version – that has led to geological changes, not humans themselves.
Only after global capitalism occupied the whole planet with its logic of ‘growth’, extraction and expansion, did humans become the ‘masters of the Apocalypse’.
Even before the term ‘Capitalocene’ was coined, Félix Guattari, in his book The Three Ecologies, published in 1989 – incidentally or not, the same year that Francis Fukuyama published his notorious proclamation of the ‘End of History’ – argued that the ecological crisis that threatens our planet is a direct result of the expansion of a new form of capitalism and proposed a sort of ‘mental ecology’ that ‘must stop being associated with the image of small nature-loving minority or with qualified specialists’.Ecophilosophy, in Guattari’s sense, ‘questions the whole of subjectivity and capitalistic power formations, whose sweeping progress cannot be guaranteed to continue as it has for the past decade’.
In the good old days, it was Pompeii, but soon every city on both sides of the Adriatic coast was turned into a postmodern Pompeii.
If the accumulation of capital is based on extractivism (just take the extraction of natural resources or the extraction of human labour), why wouldn’t capitalism also extract the symbolic, semiotic or historic value of certain places like Venice through means of ‘vampire-like’ global tourism that is only living by sucking the ‘living currency’, namely the production of desire?
And even further: what if such post-apocalyptic images actually provoke a sort of dark apocalyptic desire (perhaps Todestrieb or even jouissance), or at least a ‘phantasy of the end’ that comes into being when such events occur?
The equivalent of radiation here is salt water, which is gradually causing the stone of the columns to crumble: ‘If you take an X-ray, it might seem a minor problem. But if you’re exposed to Chernobyl – and these repeated floods are like one Chernobyl after another – the accumulated damage is enormous. St Mark’s apocalypse has already begun.’
2 The Nuclear Age: ‘Enjoy Chernobyl, Die Later’
This wasn’t an ordinary fire, it was some kind of emanation. It was pretty. I’d never seen anything like it in the movies. That evening everyone spilled out onto their balconies, and those who didn’t have them went to friend’s houses. We were on the ninth floor, we had a great view. People brought their kids out, picked them up, said, ‘Look! Remember!’ They stood in the black dust, talking, breathing, wondering at it. People came from all around on their cars and their bikes to have a look. We didn’t know that death could be so beautiful.’ Svetlana Alexievich, The Voices from Chernobyl, 1997
Then, as an early sign of the ‘normalization’ of the Apocalypse, it informed me that it is possible to pre-book a vegetarian dish if I wished to have lunch at the socialist cantina of the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant.
You couldn’t see radioactivity. The threat was invisible. But as the rain poured down over Bavaria four days after the Chernobyl reactor exploded, the danger would become visible in its effects. Munich became a city of ghosts. Until life went back to ‘normal’.
But even 33 years later, measurements show that there are still radioactive mushrooms and boars in Bavaria that contain high levels of caesium-137.4
A few weeks earlier, French TV was still reporting on the ‘cloud that stopped at the border’ (le nuage qui s’est arrêté à la frontière), something that wasn’t just ignorance but ‘fake news’ avant la lettre (which certainly wasn’t an invention of Donald Trump or the twenty-first century) –
as if radioactive clouds care about the French Republic and its laws and borders.
In this kind of denialist atmosphere and blindness towards the catastrophe, Günther Anders addressed the physicians and scientists of the world, the ‘contemporaries of the end times’, with a powerful speech titled ‘Ten theses on Chernobyl’.
An historic speech that is becoming even more relevant today with the proliferation of nuclear weapons and nuclear energy.
One of the main points of Anders’s speech was that the real danger consists in its invisibility.
Not just because radioactivity is invisible, but because the under-tanding of the complexity of this eschatological threat is beyond our psychological and neural capacity. It is literally too big to grasp.
Those who have warned about this threat, says Anders, as if he had already predicted what kind of reaction would await Greta Thunberg and the children’s climate movement in 2019, have been accused of ‘sowing panic’ and of being ‘emotional’ and ‘irrational’.
And it should be shameful not to react in any other way but emotional. Because what is at stake is what Anders calls ‘globocide’, the destruction of the terraqueous globe.
What Anders was referring to with his dictum ‘Chernobyl is everywhere’ wasn’t just the obvious fact that radioactivity, due to weather conditions, can cross 2,000 kilometres and reach previously unthreatened places.
Chernobyl was everywhere not only as a place, but as time – it is temporality itself that is affected by the nuclear age.
Anders warns us to widen our sense of time, noting that ‘it is not only that the space of our Planet has shrunk together, that all places have become interconnected and neighbouring points, but also that the points in the system of our time have been drawn together’.
‘Hiroshima is everywhere’ into ‘Chernobyl is everywhere’, but also warns that the whole Earth could be transformed into something much worse than Hiroshima:
‘Because not only all locations in space, but also all points in time will be affected, if they have not already been affected. Then we, the men of our time and also our ancestors, will finally never have existed.’
Incidentally, this is also how Svetlana Alexievich, the Belarus investigative journalist and oral historian who was awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature, formulated the temporal catastrophe that happened with Chernobyl:
I see Chernobyl as the beginning of a new history ... because it challenges our old ideas about ourselves and the world. When we talk about the past or the future, we read our ideas about time into those words; but Chernobyl is, above all, a catastrophe of time ... . In the space of one night we shifted to another place in history ... beyond not only our knowledge but also our imagination. Time was out of joint. The past suddenly became impotent, it had nothing for us to draw on; in the all-encompassing – or so we’d believed – archive of humanity, we couldn’t find a key to open this door ... . We now find ourselves on a new page of history. The history of disasters has begun ... But people do not want to reflect on that ... preferring to take refuge in the familiar.
The world is unstable, and it will never be stable again, because the eschatological threat today is ‘supra- liminal’ (überschwellig): it exceeds the ordinary human experience and capacity to understand.
While the psychologist Gustav T. Fechner introduced the idea of stimuli that are so weak that they are ‘subliminal’ and remain below the threshold of our perception and consciousness (the way propaganda or ‘manufacturing consent’ works),
Anders introduced the concept of the ‘supraliminal’ to describe a situation in which stimuli are too strong to be registered by our perception – or even our imagination.
This was written decades before Chernobyl. But it is as if both Anders, in qualifying those ‘who control the Apocalypse’ as ‘fundamentally incompetent’, and Arendt, by describing ‘our brain’ as unable to ‘follow what we do’, were already sensing Chernobyl (a result of a fundamentally incompetent bureaucracy of the late Soviet Union) and also what would come later, namely, Fukushima (which was, again, not just a mere ‘natural’ catastrophe).
This gap between our actions and our imagination, which would turn us into ‘thoughtless creatures at the mercy of every gadget’, was called by Anders ‘the Promethean gap’ (Das Prometheische Gefälle) – the profound gap between our technical ability to create (like the nuclear bomb or climate change) and our (in)capacity to fully understand the actual effects of this creation.
To illustrate his ideas, as if he was preparing a set for a post-apocalyptic TV series like Chernobyl, Speer showed Hitler a science fiction drawing that depicted the Zeppelin Field after the Götterdämmerung – or ‘after the Apocalypse’ – overgrown with ivy and with its column fallen, but with still recognizable outlines.
Commodification of the Apocalypse
After a short introduction into the universe of the atom, the guide warned us that no animals, no drones, no drugs and no alcohol is permitted into the ‘Exclusion Zone’ – apparently the tours were becoming so popular in 2019 that some tourists would arrive in the morning directly from a crazy night out in Kyiv.
TV screen in the mini-bus. It was called ‘The Battle of Chernobyl’. We can see a machine operator who worked at the Reactor 4 describing the bright colours coming out of the explosion. ‘Colours like blood, a rainbow. It was ... beautiful.’
It reminded me of another description by another eye-witness recorded by Svetlana Alexievich: ‘The image is still burned into my eyes: a bright crimson glow, the reactor somehow glowing from inside. It was an incredible colour. It wasn’t an ordinary fire – it was like some kind of fluorescence. It was pretty.’
While our guide was checking the papers with the police, we, the post-apocalyptic mass tourists, had just enough time to check out the souvenirs, ranging from magnets, mugs glowing in the dark, dosimeter ’pencils’, personal protection equipment, ‘radioactive’ ice-cream and $19 canisters of Pripyat air with ‘the unforgettable smell of abandoned structures of the Soviet Union, the dampness of basements, mixed with the aroma of Pripyat roses’ – and last, but not least, a red T-shirt saying Enjoy Chernobyl, die later.
For instance, in the autumn of 2019, the company behind The Walking Dead comic series, together with global liquor giant Diageo, owner of brands like Smirnoff and Johnnie Walker, launched a special edition of what they called ‘Spirits of the Apocalypse’.
According to the website: ‘Set in an apocalyptic world, where the dead feed off the living, society has crumbled to the verge of extinction. There is no government, no stores, no mail delivery, no cable TV. But luckily, there is bourbon.’
In October 2019, the famous dating service app Tinder launched its first entertainment content, called ‘Swipe Night’, an interactive adventure series in which viewers are forced to make dating choices on humanity’s last night on Earth.
At the time of its launch, newspapers were writing that ‘Tinder wants users to find love in the Apocalypse’ and ‘Tinder’s video game will show you how prospective matches handle an apocalypse’.
A shock like the ancient Egyptian custom, mentioned by Michel de Montaigne in his essay That to study philosophy is to learn to die (1580), when, during times of festivities, a skeleton would be brought out with people cheering ‘Drink and be merry, for such shalt thou be wen thou art dead’.
3 The Collision: Marshall Islands Are Everywhere
Here among the blocks you at last find an image of yourself free of the hazards of time and space. This island is an ontological Garden of Eden, why seek to expel yourself into a world of quantal flux?’ J. G. Ballard, The Terminal Beach, 1964
Perhaps there is no better way to understand what it means to live ‘after the Apocalypse’ than to imagine a place in the midst of the Pacific Ocean, a chain of volcanic islands halfway between Hawaii and Australia.
Located north of the equator, this place spreads over an area roughly the size of Indonesia or Mexico.
For thousands of years the indigenous communities of these 1,200 islands, scattered across 750,000 square miles of ocean, have managed to survive and thrive on the waters, with skilled navigation and sophisticated knowledge about waves and winds, developing a common culture on this vast territory and constructing a large ocean state called the Marshall Islands
While in other parts of the world, sea-level rise was perhaps still seen as a sort of distant future, the sea around these islands has already risen two or three times faster than the global average since 1990
05-DEC-2016:: "We have a deviate, Tomahawk." "We copy. There's a voice." "We have gross oscillation here"
Law & Politics
However, my starting point is the election of President Donald Trump because hindsight will surely show that Russia ran a seriously sophisticated programme of interference, mostly digital.
Don DeLillo, who is a prophetic 21st writer, writes as follows in one of his short stories:
The specialist is monitoring data on his mission console when a voice breaks in, “a voice that carried with it a strange and unspecifiable poignancy”.
He checks in with his flight-dynamics and conceptual- paradigm officers at Colorado Command:
“We have a deviate, Tomahawk.”
“We copy. There’s a voice.”
“We have gross oscillation here.”
“There’s some interference. I have gone redundant but I’m not sure it’s helping.”
“We are clearing an outframe to locate source.”
“Thank you, Colorado.”
“It is probably just selective noise. You are negative red on the step-function quad.”
“It was a voice,” I told them.
“We have just received an affirm on selective noise... We will correct, Tomahawk. In the meantime, advise you to stay redundant.”
The voice, in contrast to Colorado’s metallic pidgin, is a melange of repartee, laughter, and song, with a “quality of purest, sweetest sadness”.
“Somehow we are picking up signals from radio programmes of 40, 50, 60 years ago.”
I have no doubt that Putin ran a seriously 21st predominantly digital programme of interference which amplified the Trump candidacy. POTUS Trump was an ideal candidate for this kind of support.
Trump is a linguistic warfare specialist. Look at the names he gave his opponents: Crooked Hillary, Lyin’ Ted, Little Marco, ‘Low-energy’ Jeb — were devastating and terminal.
The first thing is plausible deniability
The second thing is non-linearity, you have to learn how to navigate a linear system (the new 21st digital ecosystem) in a non-linear way.
Beppe Grillo, the comic turned leader of the Five Star movement in Italy said: ''This is the deflagration of an epoch. It’s the apocalypse of this information system, of the TVs, of the big newspapers, of the intellectuals, of the journalists.”
He is right, traditional media has been disrupted and the insurgents can broadcast live and over the top.
From feeding the hot-house conspiracy frenzy on line (‘’a constant state of destabilised perception’’), timely and judicious doses of Wikileaks leaks which drained Hillary’s bona fides and her turn-out and motivated Trump’s, what we have witnessed is something remarkable and noteworthy.
Putin has proven himself an information master, and his adversaries are his information victims.
My concern is that Brazil which was the epicenter of the Virus in May 2020 is once again a Precursor and a Harbinger
And sure the numbers slid for around 6 consecutive weeks but they have bottomed out of late.
“I see a huge storm forming in Brazil.” Denise Garrett, vice president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute in Washington
The bottom line: P.1 is 2.5 times more transmissible than the wild-type B lineage. And way more transmissible than B.1.1.7. @bollemdb @obscovid19br
"The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function." - Professor Allen Bartlett
Exponential growth unlike any other that we have seen. Brazil is a global threat @bollemdb
Model-based evaluation of transmissibility and reinfection for the P.1 variant of the SARS-CoV-2
The variant of concern (VOC) P.1 emerged in the Amazonas state (Brazil) and was sequenced for the first time on 6-Jan- 2021 by the Japanese National Institute of Infectious Diseases.
It contains a constellation of mutations, ten of them in the spike protein.
The P.1 variant shares mutations such as E484K, K417T, and N501Y and a deletion in the orf1b protein (del11288-11296 (3675-3677 SGF)) with other VOCs previously detected in the United Kingdom and South Africa (B.1.1.7 and the B.1.351, respectively).
Prevalence of P.1 increased sharply from 0% in November 2020 to 73% in January 2021 and in less than 2 months replaced previous lineages (4).
The estimated relative transmissibility of P.1 is 2.5 (95% CI: 2.3-2.8) times higher than the infection rate of the wild variant, while the reinfection probability due to the new variant is 6.4% (95% CI: 5.7 - 7.1%).
If you have a "normal" pandemic that is fading, but "variants" that [are] surging, the combined total can look like a flat, manageable situation. @spignal
We all know by now ''viruses exhibit non-linear and exponential characteristics'
COVID19 Historic Peaks Deaths a day @brodjustice
I expect th P.1 Lineage to be dominant worldwide in 8-12 weeks notwithstanding the Focus on SARS-CoV-2 lineage B.1.1.7
My Thesis is based on the ultra hyperconnectedness of the c21st World.
Therefore, I would be tempering my COVID19 optimism and holding my horses which introduces interesting dynamics into the markets.
Multiple SARS-CoV-2 variants escape neutralization by vaccine-induced humoral immunity
Vaccination elicits immune responses capable of potently neutralizing SARS-CoV-2.
However, ongoing surveillance has revealed the emergence of variants harboring mutations in spike, the main target of neutralizing antibodies.
To understand the impact of these variants, we evaluated the neutralization potency of 99 individuals that received one or two doses of either BNT162b2 or mRNA-1273 vaccines against pseudoviruses representing 10 globally circulating strains of SARS-CoV-2.
Five of the 10 pseudoviruses, harboring receptor-binding domain mutations, including K417N/T, E484K, and N501Y, were highly resistant to neutralization.
Cross-neutralization of B.1.351 variants was comparable to SARS-CoV and bat-derived WIV1- CoV, suggesting that a relatively small number of mutations can mediate potent escape from vaccine responses.
While the clinical impact of neutralization resistance remains uncertain, these results highlight the potential for variants to escape from neutralizing humoral immunity and emphasize the need to develop broadly protective interventions against the evolving pandemic.
Of particular concern is an E484K mutation in RBD, which was previously identified through in vitro selection experiments to escape from monoclonal antibodies (Baum et al. 2020) and was also recently identified through deep mutational scanning as a variant with the potential to evade monoclonal and serum antibody responses (Greaney et al. 2020, 2021).
Novel variants arising from the B.1.1.28 lineage first described in Brazil and Japan, termed P.2 (with 3 spike missense mutations) and P.1 (with 12 spike missense mutations), contain this E484K mutation, and P.1 in particular also contains K417T and N501Y mutations in RBD.
These strains have been spreading rapidly, and both P.2 and P.1 were recently found in documented cases of SARS-CoV-2 re-infection
China's Xi Jinping Tells People's Liberation Army to Get Ready For Combat
Law & Politics
Ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Xi Jinping has told the country's military and armed police force to get 'combat ready' to defend national sovereignty and security, amid fears that Beijing may be planning an invasion of democratic Taiwan in the next few years.
"The entire army needs to strengthen its performance so as to do a good job of ensuring a good start to the 14th Five-Year Plan, and of celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of the party," Xi told People's Liberation Army (PLA) and People's Armed Police (PAP) leaders
Xi, who as head of the CCP's Central Military Commission (CMC), is commander-in-chief of all military forces, said the PLA had, during the course of 2020, "strengthened military training and preparations for war ... and basically met its targets for national defense and military development for 2020."
He added: "We should persist in using combat to guide our work; step up preparations for war ... as well as developing a top-level strategic deterrent and joint forces combat system."
Wu Qiang, a former politics lecturer at Beijing's Tsinghua University, said Xi is likely planning to make a definite move to annex, or, in the CCP's terminology, "unify with," the democratic island of Taiwan in the next five years.
"Beijing is looking at speeding up a resolution of the Taiwan issue during Xi's third term as president," Wu said.
"This means that, over the next few years, the Taiwan issue will become the most important story in the Western Pacific."
"It is a focal issue that will trigger changes in Sino-U.S. relations sooner rather than later, and will be a flashpoint for Sino-U.S. conflict," he said.
Xi has also warned that "China's security situation is highly unstable and uncertain, and the whole army must be prepared to deal with a complicated situation at any time."
"Beijing is facing unprecedented military tensions in its backyard, a security situation that the CCP really didn't want to see," Wu said.
"Most of this revolves around Taiwan, which is the core goal of the national rejuvenation program by 2035," he said, adding that Xi is using the annual sessions of the National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing, which closes in Beijing this week, as a form of political mobilization towards this goal.
An independent scholar surnamed Zhuang from the northern city of Taiyuan said conflict between China and its neighbors has become more and more common in recent years.
"They are making a mess of our foreign relations, and there is constant friction with neighboring countries," Zhuang said.
"They are continuously increasing their military spending to prepare for external conflict, and they are eager to try [annexing] Taiwan."
"He is deliberately projecting an attitude of belligerence, both for the general public in China and for an overseas audience," he said.
America’s top commander in the region has warned that China could be preparing to bring forward plans to invade Taiwan as early as 2027.
Admiral Philip Davidson, commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Beijing could launch an invasion within the next six years.
"I worry that they’re accelerating their ambitions to supplant the United States and our leadership in the rules-based international order, which they’ve long said they want to do by 2050," he told the committee hearing.
"I’m worried about them moving that target closer," Davidson said.
China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) has flown multiple aircraft into Taiwan's air defense identification zone (ADIZ) since the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden took office on Jan. 20.
The democratic island's defense ministry said recent incursions have included bombers and fast-moving fighter jets usually used for offensive purposes, linking it to the reported presence of a U.S. aircraft carrier group in the vicinity.
In 2018, the Pentagon warned that the PLA is gradually preparing for a possible invasion of Taiwan, as the CCP "continued to develop and deploy increasingly advanced military capabilities intended to coerce Taiwan, signal Chinese resolve, and gradually improve capabilities for an invasion."
Taiwan has never been ruled by Beijing nor formed part of the People's Republic of China, but has been locked out of international diplomacy and agencies at the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)'s insistence.
Washington has said it will no longer seek to "appease" China on Taiwan, as the State Department announced an end to a ban on high-level official and diplomatic contact with Taiwanese officials on Jan. 9, at the tail end of the Trump administration.
Under CCP general secretary Xi Jinping, China has stepped up its rhetoric claiming the island as part of its territory, and has refused to rule out a military invasion.
But Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has repeatedly said that the country's 23 million people have no wish to give up their sovereignty or their democratic way of life.
Former top State Dept investigator says COVID-19 outbreak may have resulted from bioweapons research accident @FoxNews
Law & Politics
As top U.S. officials prepare to meet their Chinese counterparts for their first face-to-face meeting during the Biden administration, the State Department's former lead investigator who oversaw the Task Force into the COVID-19 virus origin tells Fox News that
he not only believes the virus escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, but that it may have been the result of research that the Chinese military, or People’s Liberation Army, was doing on a bioweapon.
"The Wuhan Institute of Virology is not the National Institute of Health," David Asher, now a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute told Fox News in an exclusive interview.
"It was operating a secret, classified program. In my view, and I’m just one person, my view is it was a biological weapons program."
Asher has long been a "follow the money" guy who has worked on some of the most classified intelligence investigations for the State Department and Treasury under both Democratic and Republican administrations.
He led the team that uncovered the international nuclear procurement network run by the father of Pakistan's nuclear program, AQ Khan, and uncovered key parts of North Korea's secret uranium enrichment.
He believes the Chinese Communist Party has been involved in a massive cover-up during the past 14 months.
"And if you believe, as I do, that this might have been a weapons vector gone awry, not deliberately released, but in development and then somehow leaked, this has turned out to be the greatest weapon in history," Asher said during a panel discussion at the Hudson Institute:
The Origins of the COVID-10: Policy Implications and Lessons for the Future. "You've taken out 15 to 20 percent of global GDP. You've killed millions of people. The Chinese population has been barely affected. Their economies roared back to being number one in the entire G20."
Asher says the Chinese government’s behavior reminds him of other criminal investigations he has overseen.
"Motive, cover-up, conspiracy, all the hallmarks of guilt are associated with this. And the fact that the initial cluster of victims surrounded the very institute that was doing the highly dangerous, if not dubious research is significant," said Asher, who engaged the Chinese government as the State Department’s lead representative during the 2003 SARS outbreak.
At first, China said the COVID19 virus originated in the Wuhan Seafood Market – but the problem with China's theory: the first case had no connection to the market.
Last fall the US obtained intelligence that indicates there was an outbreak among several Wuhan lab scientists with flu-like symptoms that left them hospitalized in November of 2019 - before China reported its first case.
Asher and the other Hudson Institute panel experts said that in 2007, China announced it would begin work on genetic bioweapons using controversial "gain of function" research to make the viruses more lethal.
The Chinese stopped talking publicly about their research at the Wuhan lab in 2016.
That, Asher believes, is when the People’s Liberation Army stepped in and went from biodefense research to bio-offense. The same year China’s top state television commentator stated:
"We have entered into an area of Chinese biowarfare, and including using things like viruses. I mean, they made a public statement to their people that this is a new priority under the Xi national security policy," Asher points out.
The Chinese, according to Asher, stopped talking publicly about the research into coronavirus "disease vectors which could be used for weapons" in 2017, at the same time its military began funding the research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
"I doubt that that's a coincidence," Asher said.
Meanwhile, U.S. bioweapons researchers are still mainly focused on older bioweapons like anthrax.
A key turning point in the search for how to defend against coronavirus bioweapons included controversial "gain of function" research and a breakthrough in the Netherlands that caught the science community by surprise.
"I remember I was in The Hague meeting with the Netherlands Foreign Ministry the day the news broke that a laboratory in the Netherlands funded by the National Institutes of Health was conducting a gain of function research on highly pathogenic avian influenza, specifically to increase the transmissibility of that very dangerous flu virus," recalled Andy Weber
The Obama administration swiftly imposed a moratorium on this kind of research, fearing it could become a playbook for terrorists.
The Trump administration lifted the moratorium in 2017, but halted NIH funding to the Wuhan lab in April 2020 after the pandemic began.
Biosafety has long been a concern with respect to China’s biosafety level 4 labs, according to experts.
"China has been involved in this type of virus research since 2003, the SARS outbreak," according to Miles Yu, the State Department official who co-wrote a recent op-ed in the WSJ with former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about the virus origins.
"China's biosafety standard is really low and is very dangerous. So this is an accident waiting to happen."
When the team sent by the WHO to Wuhan in February visited the Wuhan Institute of Virology, they did not don biosafety suits and spent 3 hours inside, but according to reports did not have access to the scientists or data they needed to fully rule out that the virus escaped from the lab.
At the time Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said, "It should be noted that virus traceability is a complex scientific issue, and we need to provide sufficient space for experts to conduct scientific research."
He added: "China will continue to cooperate with WHO in an open, transparent and responsible manner and make its contribution to better prevent future risks and protect the lives and health of people in all countries."
.@FHeisbourg «Le coronavirus, c’est un Tchernobyl chinois à la puissance dix»
Law & Politics
First, they staged their "exemplary handling" of the pandemic in a very loud manner, in order to avoid interest in the regime.
And then they severely punished countries that demanded an impartial international investigation, made up of the best experts. Australia, which had insisted on the need for transparency, was imposed economic sanctions and a block on its imports.
The debate on the origin of the virus remains totally open, fundamental and potentially explosive.
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.”
#Africa Painted by: Sisay Teshome @Allehone
The African Development Bank released its Flagship African Economic Outlook 2021 on Friday 12th March and of course via a virtual format.
The continent is projected to grow by 3.4 per-cent in 2021 after contracting 2.1 percent in 2020 which was the continent’s first recession in half a century.
For a variety of reasons, the COVID-19 medical emergency [There have been at least 4,055,000 reported infections and 107,000 reported deaths as per Reuters] was much less severe than worse case fears, however, this outcome did not salve what has been proven a circuit breaker level economic reversal.
Africa spent 2020 in recession and the AFDB President Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina estimated that about 39 million Africans could fall into extreme poverty in 2021. The Pandemic has exacted a heavy price on our Brothers and Sisters.
In his introduction to the Economic Outlook, The President wrote
''Yet the pandemic shock and ensuing economic crisis have had direct implications for budgetary balances and debt burdens: the average debt-to-GDP ratio for Africa is expected to climb by 10 to 15 percentage points in the short to medium term.
That means serious debt challenges might be looming, and disorderly defaults and lengthy resolutions could become a major obstacle to Africa’s progress toward prosperity.
However, debt payments are only deferred, and the initiative covers only a small fraction of Africa’s total bilateral debt.
Much larger financial support is needed, and the private sector creditors need to be part of the solution''
In the discussion alongside the release on Friday President Adesina pronounced that
The amount of debt Africa has is not sustainable (70- 75% of GDP) and it is in the hands of commercial creditors ($370 bn). Also ODA has plummeted from 54% to 27%, while commercial borrowing has grown from 17% to 40%.
Professor Stiglitz expanded ''You can't squeeze water out of a stone'' and floated the option that the Pandemic could be a Trigger for calling for a ''force majeure''
Stiglitz added ''A Standstill is not sufficient You need to move to a Debt Restructuring ...It has to be comprehensive''
Both Adessina and Stigliz addressed the new complexities around the Debt dynamics and how
''The current international financial architecture makes orderly sovereign debt restructuring complex to achieve. The fundamental difficulty with sovereign debt is that there are no formal bankruptcy procedures, as there are in corporate bankruptcies''
From the #2021AEO report
A decomposition of Africa’s debt dynamics shows that debt accumulation has been driven by exchange rate depreciation, growing interest expense, high primary deficits, poor governance, weak institutions, ambitious public investment programs, and increased defense-related expenditures.
The share of commercial creditors in Africa’s external debt stock has more than doubled in the last two decades, from 17 percent in 2000 to 40 percent by the end of 2019.
At least 21 African countries accessed international capital markets between 2000 and 2020.
There has been a shift away from traditional Paris Club lenders to non-Paris Club lenders, notably China
As of December 2020, of the 38 countries for which debt sustainability analyses are available, 14 were rated in high risk of debt distress and another six were already in debt distress.
Sixteen countries have a moderate risk of debt distress, while two are considered at low risk.
Aljazeera's Femi Oke was an Agent Provocateur and asked whether Africa should be asking for 50% Debt forgiveness
and the South African Reserve Bank Governor gave a very sophisticated and nuanced response as to why this was entirely sub optimal not least because of the damage it would inflict on Domestic Institutions who are essentially doing the heavy- lifting when it comes to Domestic Debt.
President Adesina made some typically pithy and forward looking comments
''There is good debt and there is ''hamburger'' debt'' and called for fiscal discipline....and closed ''There is light at the end of the Tunnel and we are running towards it''
He also called for an African Stabilisation Fund mechanism.
Adesina said 'Africans today have one of the highest implicit Tax rates in the World'' tapering some of the enthusiasm amongst some Governments for a kneejerk Tax raising response.
'Africa's Youth's Future is not in America and Europe Its in Africa'' which is something we can all agree with.
The #2021AEO report delved into Africa's economy with a great deal of granularity and is worth reading.
President Adesina African Development Bank Group However, debt payments are only deferred, and the initiative covers only a small fraction of Africa’s total bilateral debt. Much larger financial support is needed, and the private sector creditors need to be part of the solution.
15-MAR-2021 :: Africa Emerging from The Pandemic [continued]
CHAPTER 1 AFRICA’S GROWTH PERFORMANCE AND OUTLOOK AMID THE COVID–19 PANDEMIC
This projected recovery from the worst recession in more than half a century will be underpinned by a resumption of tourism, a rebound in commodity prices, and the rollback of pandemic- induced restrictions.
The outlook is, however, subject to great uncertainty from both external and domestic risks
Tourism-dependent economies are projected to recover from an 11.5 percent GDP decline in 2020 to grow by 6.2 percent in 2021;
Oil-exporting countries, from a 1.5 percent decline to grow by 3.1 percent;
and other-resource-intensive economies, from a 4.7 percent decline to grow by 3.1 percent.
Non-resource-intensive countries, where output shrank by 0.9 percent in 2020, are projected to grow by 4.1 percent in 2021
Downside factors that could derail recovery include a resurgence of COVID–19 infections, debt overhang, financial market volatility that impedes capital flows, low commodity prices, low tourism and remittances, extreme weather events, and social tensions.
Upside factors that could result in better-than-anticipated growth for the continent include the effective deployment of ther-apeutics and vaccines for COVID–19, especially in African countries, full implementation of ACFTA and continued progress in structural transformation, including digitalization and work- from-home arrangements
Significant currency depreciations have occurred in Africa, particularly in frontier market economies, partly as a result of the disruptions in external financial flows— including remittances, foreign direct investment, portfolio investment, and official development assistance.
Fiscal deficits are estimated to have doubled in 2020 to a historical high of 8.4 percent of GDP, leading to increased debt burdens
CHAPTER 2 DEBT DYNAMICS AND CONSEQUENCES
Since the COVID–19 pandemic began in early 2020, governments have announced fiscal stimulus packages ranging in cost from about 0.02 per-cent of GDP in South Sudan to about 10.4 percent of GDP in South Africa.
The Bank estimates that African governments need additional gross financing of about $154 billion in 2020/21 to respond to the crisis.
Debt to GDP projected to increase by 10 to 15 percentage points by 2021 as a result of COVID–19.
However, safety margins are being eroded by COVID–19, as spending rises and revenue falls.
Policymakers should take advantage of current low global interest rates to borrow relatively inexpensive capital for high return public investments that accelerate growth.
CHAPTER 3 DEBT RESOLUTION AND THE NEXUS BETWEEN GOVERNANCE AND GROWTH
Debt resolution in Africa has often been disorderly and protracted, with costly economic consequences
Yet, although the DSSI called on pri-vate creditors to agree to provide similar terms, if asked, the initiative does not include them. With-out all actors participating, the scope of any relief agreement is limited
15-MAR-2021 :: Africa Emerging from The Pandemic [continued 2 ]
AFRICA GROWTH PROSPECTS BY REGION
East Africa seems to be the most resilient region, thanks to less reliance on primary commodities and greater diversification. It enjoyed 5.3 per-cent growth in 2019 and an estimated 0.7 percent growth in 2020. In 2021, growth of real GDP is projected at 3.0 percent, and in 2022, 5.6 per-cent.
The top performers in 2021 would be Djibouti (9.9 percent), Kenya (5.0 percent), Tanzania (4.1 percent), and Rwanda (3.9 percent).
Southern Africa is the region that was hardest hit by the pandemic, with an economic contraction of 7.0 percent in 2020. It is projected to grow by 3.2 percent in 2021 and 2.4 percent in 2022.
GDP in West Africa is estimated to have contracted by 1.5 percent in 2020, better than the initial projection of a 4.3 percent decline in June 2020, partly due to the relatively limited spread of the virus in the region.
Many West African countries maintained positive growth in 2020 thanks to more targeted and less restrictive lockdowns— including Benin (2.3 percent), Côte d’Ivoire (1.8 percent), and Niger (1.2 percent).
Other countries such as Cabo Verde (–8.9 percent), Liberia (– 3.1 percent), and Nigeria (–3 percent) were in recession in 2020.
Growth in the region is projected at 2.8 percent in 2021 and 3.9 percent in 2022, as lockdowns are eased and commodity prices rebound.
In Central Africa, real GDP is estimated to have contracted 2.7 percent in 2020.
Countries significantly impacted by the crisis in the subregion include Cameroon (–2.4 percent), Republic of Congo (–7.9 percent), Democratic Republic of Congo (–1.7 percent), and Equatorial Guinea (–6.1 percent).
Growth is projected to recover to 3.2 percent in 2021 and 4 percent in 2022 in Central Africa.
The economies of North Africa contracted by an estimated 1.1 percent in 2020, propped up mainly by Egypt, which maintained 3.6 percent growth despite the relatively severe health impact of the virus in the country.
Other countries contracted significantly in 2020, including Tunisia (–8.8 percent), Morocco (–5.9 percent), and Algeria (– 4.7 percent)
North Africa is projected to experience robust recovery of 4 per-cent in 2021 and 6 percent in 2022.
Tourism-dependent economies are estimated to have experienced the sharpest decline in growth in 2020, –11.5 percent for the group, which includes, among others, Mauritius (–15 per-cent), Seychelles (–12 percent), and Cabo Verde (– 8.9 percent).
FISCAL FDI REMITTANCES PORTFOLIO FLOWS
The fiscal stimulus packages vary from about 32 percent in Mauritius to 10 percent in South Africa to less than 1 percent in Tanzania
Non-performing loans have increased the most in Angola, Republic of Congo, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia (figure 1.15).
Prolonged forbearance of prudential rules and high levels of non-performing loans could be a major source of macrofinancial risk that could, in turn, derail the expected recovery.
FDI flows are estimated to have declined by 18 percent, from $45.37 billion in 2019 to an estimated $37.20 billion in 2020— mainly due to heightened uncertainty in the investment climate.
The decline in investment flows is broad-based, affecting all sectors, including tourism, leisure, energy, aviation, hospitality, and manufacturing.
Portfolio investments completely reversed in 2020 from a net inflow of $23 billion in 2019 to a net outflow of $27 billion in 2020, as investors liquidated their investments in search of safer assets elsewhere.
ODA is estimated to have decreased by 10 percent in 2020, from $52.88 billion in 2019 to $47.59 billion in 2020 Remit-tances to Africa declined from $85.8 billion in 2019 to $78.3 billion in 2020.
Countries with the most significant drop in remittances were Lesotho, Mozambique, and Seychelles
Africa had the world’s second-fastest growing tourism sector before the pandemic— it grew 5.6 per-cent between 2017 and 2018 and lagged behind only Asia and the Pacific.
In 2018, the sector accounted for 8.5 percent of Africa’s GDP and employed about 24 million people.
The pandemic virtually halted international tourism. The number of international tourist arrivals between April and June 2020 was 98 percent lower than in the same period in 2019
Building economic resilience and reducing vulnerabilities
@AfDB_Group wants Africa ''growing back bigger greener and faster with greater economic resilience and inclusive growth for young People and women'' and Don't we all.
It was Winston Churchill who famously said “Never let a good crisis go to waste” And indeed it is also critical to appraise and diagnose the contours of the crisis in order to deliver the correct medicine.
The AFDB has done precisely that. The Challenge now is disseminating the diagnosis to the Country level and religiously taking the medicine.
The Bull Story remains in tact, it did encounter the ''Rumble in the Jungle''
but we all know how that ended.
Turning To Africa Spinning Top
Democracy from Tanzania to Zimbabwe to Cameroon has been shredded.
We are getting closer and closer to the Virilian Tipping Point
“The revolutionary contingent attains its ideal form not in the place of production, but in the street''
Political leadership in most cases completely gerontocratic will use violence to cling onto Power but any Early Warning System would be warning a Tsunami is coming
Since mid-January, confirmed Covid-19 infections in South Africa have fallen from a record of nearly 22,000 a day to around 1,000, without a large-scale vaccination campaign or stringent lockdown @WSJ.
The cause of this steep decline in cases remains somewhat of a mystery
“Anybody who professes certainty [about why infections started dropping] is lying,” said Harry Moultrie, a senior medical epidemiologist at South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases, or NICD. “There is so much uncertainty in all of this.”
Only about 1.5 million South Africans, around 2.5% of the population, have tested positive for Covid-19.
But it is clear that the actual level of infection has been much higher.
Since cases first started surging in May, the country has recorded more than 145,000 excess deaths, of which 85% to 95% are likely due to Covid-19, according to the South African Medical Research Council.
That means that about one in 500 people in South Africa—where the median age is a decade below the U.S.—has died of the disease over the past 10 months.
South African researchers, after testing the blood of 4,858 donors for antibodies in January, estimated that in the two hardest-hit provinces more than half of people between the ages of 15 and 69 had already had Covid-19.
“Highly sociable people get infected first, and the virus moves through these networks,” said Dr. Moultrie. When enough people in those networks have become immune, transmission peters out.