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Satchu's Rich Wrap-Up
 
 
Monday 29th of March 2021
 
Morning
Africa

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[I have been reading] The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
Misc.



So, then, the novel begins in Year 25, the Year of the Flood, without explanation of what era it is the 25th year of, and for a while without explanation of the word "Flood". 

We will gather that it was a Dry Flood, and that the term refers to the extinction of - apparently - all but a very few members of the human species by a nameless epidemic. 

The nature and symptoms of the disease, aside from coughing, are undescribed. One needs no description of such events when they are part of history or the reader's experience; a reference to "the Black Plague" or "the swine flu" is enough. 

But here, failure to describe the nature of the illness and the days of its worst virulence leaves the epidemic an abstraction, novelistically weightless. 



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US is worried that #China is #flirting with military #attack on #Taiwan. And check out the amazing exchange between Secretary of State Antony Blinken & Yang Jiechi @Dimi
Law & Politics



US is worried that #China is #flirting with military #attack on #Taiwan. 

And check out the amazing exchange between Secretary of State Antony Blinken & Yang Jiechi, top Chinese foreign policy official who was rebuffed when invited US for talks in Beijing



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Xi Jinping is both Sun Tzu ‘'The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting'' And hard edged at the same time.
Law & Politics


He has brought Hong Kong to heel, he is prowling around Taiwan like a Lion prowled around our Tent one night in the Tsavo

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Just a reminder that this pandemic, far from being over, is gathering steam once again globally with cases going up across the world. @kakape
Misc.


Yes, vaccines are starting to help. Half a billion doses have been given. But we are a LONG way from vaccinating ourselves out of this problem.

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Worldwide cases have been on the rise for a while, and deaths are following. @Marco_Piani
Misc.


While vaccines are being rolled out worldwide, only few countries have been able to vaccinate large parts of their population.




Wave 3 - We are once again in an exponential escape velocity Phase #COVID19 


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08-FEB-2021 :: We are at peak vaccine euphoria
Misc.


Folks I followed on Twitter for their epidemiological excellence now simply recite Vaccine / Inoculation data like a liturgy.

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08-MAR-2021 My concern is that Brazil which was the epicenter of the Virus in May 2020 is once again a Precursor and a Harbinger
Misc.


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

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.

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Structural Analysis of Spike Protein Mutations in an Emergent SARS-CoV-2 Variant from the Philippines
Misc.



A SARS-CoV-2 emergent lineage with multiple signature mutations in the Spike protein region was recently reported with cases centered in Cebu Island, Philippines. 

Whole genome sequencing revealed that the 33 samples with the Ph-B.1.1.28 emergent variant merit further investigation as they all contain the E484K, N501Y, and P681H Spike mutations previously found in other variants of concern such as the South African B.1.351, the Brazil P.1 and the UK B.1.1.7 variants. 

This is the first known report of these mutations co-occurring in the same virus. 

The possible implications of the mutations found in the Spike protein were analyzed for their potential effects on structure, stability, and molecular surface character. 

The analysis suggests that these mutations could significantly impact the possible interactions of the Spike protein monomer with the ACE2 receptor and neutralizing antibodies and warrants further clinical investigation. 

Some of the mutations affecting the N and C terminal domains may have effects on Spike monomer and trimer stability. 

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Humans, Not Animals, Likely Took the COVID Virus to Wuhan, Contrary to China's Claims @Newsweek @rowanjacobsen
Misc.



By the time the scientists investigating the origins of SARS-CoV-2 in the Chinese city of Wuhan convened on March 10 for a virtual press conference, more than a year had passed since the World Health Organization asked Beijing for permission to admit them. 

During this time, as more than 2.6 million people died of COVID-19 and millions more suffered lasting effects of the illness, the mystery of the coronavirus' origins has loomed.

There is broad agreement that the coronavirus is part of a lineage of viruses found in horseshoe bats in South China. 

The mystery centers on how the virus came to cause an outbreak in Wuhan, a thousand miles away, without leaving any trace of its journey.

That is essentially the question Peter Daszak, an expert on disease zoology and a member of the WHO team, attempted to address in the press conference. 

Daszak, who is head of EcoHealth Alliance, a non-profit that funded research into bat coronaviruses in China and elsewhere, is a vocal critic of the notion that the pandemic's origin involved some kind of laboratory accident; instead, he favors natural zoonosis as an explanation, which holds that the pandemic jumped from animals to people without human intervention.

In guessing how this might have happened, Daszak suggested frozen food imports, and mentioned animal carcasses as a potential "conduit from Wuhan to the provinces in South China, where the closest relative viruses to [the coronavirus] are found in bats. 

This was a telling admission for Daszak because it highlights a weakness in the random-zoonosis theory and points toward a more logical—and often overlooked—culprit.


Daszak and many other scientists have pointed out that, as a general rule, a new pandemic is more likely to be triggered by a random zoonosis than by a virus escaping a lab. 

What happens generally, though, does not necessarily explain what happened in this particular instance. 

The important question is, what is the most likely way that this particular virus could have caused this particular outbreak in Wuhan? As an explanation, random zoonosis does not seem to fit the facts. It has a vector problem.

For the virus to have jumped from a South China horseshoe bat to another animal, and then to have followed a chain of transmission through an unknown series of hosts, possibly as part of the wildlife trade, until it reached Wuhan, where it then exploded into the population and got noticed at last, requires a series of low-probability events.

The Wuhan Institute of Virology scientist at the heart of the controversy, Shi Zhengli, told Scientific American that she herself "never expected this kind of thing to happen in Wuhan." 

She'd have expected it to happen in South China, where these viruses are naturally found. 

In addition, South China has a much stronger tradition of wildlife consumption than other parts of China. 

(One survey found that 83 percent of the residents of the South China megacity of Guangzhou had eaten wildlife in the past year, while only 5 percent of Beijing residents had. 

The wildlife trade flows in that direction, and major wet markets are found there. 

A South China virus would have been vastly more likely to trigger an outbreak in South China, which is exactly what happened with the first SARS in 2002.


With almost no data, we can't be certain of any theory. 

We could concoct a theoretical game of hopscotch in which the virus randomly transmits from host to host, accumulating mutations along the way, threading the needle of cities and villages and South China wet markets, and landing in downtown Wuhan ready for its coming-out party. 

It's not impossible. It's just getting-struck-by-lightning-while-being-eaten-by-a-shark unlikely.


And if it did happen, it should have been part of a noticeable pattern. In a long, meandering chain of transmissions, each node branching into new infections, Wuhan would have been just one twig of a full-fledged tree—the kind of tree epidemiologists use to trace viral evolution. 

Even if most other branches eventually died out, the entire tree could not have disappeared without leaving a trace. And yet it doesn't exist. 

Most of the scientific evidence points toward COVID-19 beginning in Wuhan in October or November 2019. 

Despite a year of intense searching, not a single close ancestor of the virus has been found. 

As a group of 26 scientists stated in a recent letter calling for a new, objective investigation into the origins of SARS-CoV-2, 

"There is as yet no evidence demonstrating a fully natural origin of this virus." It's as if it just teleported from South China to Wuhan.

Daszak is hoping frozen food can explain this teleportation. 

The theory is that wild animals being farmed in South China picked up the virus from bats, were killed, frozen, and shipped to Wuhan, and somehow managed to spread the virus through the environs of the market. 

If the idea had merit, it would at least provide a possible direct line to Wuhan. Unfortunately, it's both bad science and bad math.

The theory has its roots in a case last fall in the Chinese port city of Qingdao, when two dock workers tested positive for COVID-19. 

An exhaustive search found traces of the virus on frozen packages of cod; the Chinese government seized on the case as evidence that the virus could be imported in frozen food and may have started elsewhere. 

The notion has been widely derided by experts, who point out that there has never been a documented case of the virus having been transmitted through frozen food. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says there is "no credible evidence" to support it. 

The Chinese government has promoted it heavily, perhaps as a way of deflecting responsibility.

Under normal circumstances, it might be surprising for WHO scientists to peddle a discredited theory

But the origins investigation is a joint exercise with China, which closely negotiated every step of the process, retained veto power over the selection of team members, and required that conclusions in the final report be a consensus between the Chinese and international delegations. 

The WHO had limited options.


The science is also bad because it isn't based on any on-the-ground evidence. There were many cases of COVID-19 in Wuhan before the market outbreak. 

In addition, the only live animals in the market seem to have been snakes, turtles, and frogs, none of whom are potential carriers, and they all tested negative. 

Peter Daszak himself has admitted that all of the carcasses examined tested negative for SARS-CoV-2. Yes, you read that right: the theory is based on the fact that they didn't find any infected animals in Wuhan.


In any case, the director of China's Center for Disease Control dismissed the market theory last May, explaining that there was no connection and that the virus "existed long before" it was found in the market, which makes it rather extraordinary that the WHO team chose to spend its limited time poking around the empty building (which had been closed, cleared and disinfected more than a year ago).

In light of these challenging details, Daszak has floated the idea that perhaps another market in Wuhan that was selling frozen farmed wildlife triggered the outbreak, and has implied that some vendors in Wuhan were supplied from South China, but this still doesn't dig the WHO team out of its statistical hole. 

Any South China farm whose animals were infected with the coronavirus would have contaminated its own workers, as well as other vendors it was supplying, and again, most of those would most likely have been in South Asia. 

The only way the theory would make any sense (assuming it could be proved to be scientifically feasible) is if a farm in South China was exclusively supplying Wuhan with all its animals, which seems unlikely. 

In any case, the WHO team's Chinese investigators pretty much scuttled Daszak's theory by announcing that they had tested tens of thousands of wild and farmed animals across China without finding a single trace of SARS-CoV-2.

Can the frozen-food theory be a credible explanation of the conduit conundrum? No. 

But it's good the WHO brought it up, because it takes the investigation in an important direction: the need to find conduits that could have delivered the virus to Wuhan. 

These conduits would need to meet the WHO's criteria: they'd have to be animals that make good hosts for the virus, they'd need to have had opportunities to interact with the bats known to carry these particular coronaviruses, and they'd need to have traveled directly to Wuhan from the rural areas of the region without ping-ponging all over South China.



That sounds like a tall order. What are the chances of finding documented proof of such vectors? 

Remarkably, however, we actually have a wealth of evidence that fits this description perfectly: human beings—the best SARS-CoV-2 hosts of all—who had extremely close contact with horseshoe bats in South China. 

We know they made repeated visits over many years to the exact caves where SARS-related viruses were found. 

There, they handled bats directly, spent extensive time inside the caves breathing the air, and brought thousands of samples of guano, blood, and other bits of bat (possibly even live bats) back to Wuhan with them.

Those were researchers from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, who had been scouring South China caves for coronaviruses with the ability to infect humans.

 They did this as part of a massive virus-hunting project—a collaboration between Peter Daszak's EcoHealth Alliance, the USAID's Predict program, a new organization called the Global Virome Project, and other groups—to track down the world's viruses in their lairs, bring them back to the lab, and study them. 

They would pay special attention to the ones with the ability to infect humans, learning how they enter cells, how they mutate, how they jump from host to host, and how they escape the immune system and persist in individuals.


The project has been criticized by the world's top virologists as being useless at best and extremely dangerous at worst. COVID-19 certainly hasn't weighed in its favor: 

Despite 15 years of coronavirus hunting and testing by the WIV, it was helpless to prevent a pandemic in its own backyard. If that's a coincidence, it's one of the great ironies of history.


Over that period, the WIV accumulated one of the largest collections of coronaviruses in the world. 

According to the Washington Post, it contained the records of 22,000 samples, including the sequences for more than 100 coronaviruses known only to the WIV

But we don't know exactly which viruses, because in the earliest days of the pandemic the WIV took the databases containing this information offline and has declined to share them. 

(When asked about the database at the press conference, Daszak said, "We did not ask to see the data" but said he was familiar with it from his close collaboration with the WIV.) 

From the research papers published in the scientific literature by WIV scientists, we know that the lab held many dangerous ones.


The WIV had spent years identifying the caves where the scary ones lurked. Over a four-year period, it visited one cave in Yunnan repeatedly and brought back 1,322 samples, including at least nine of SARS-CoV-2's close relatives. 

Overall, the effort brought more than 15,000 bat samples back to Wuhan, which included more than 400 coronaviruses new to science and at least 50 of the variety that can infect people. And we know almost nothing about this cache.


We do know, from online photos, videos, and accounts, that the virus hunters didn't always wear adequate protective gear, and were bitten by bats with some regularity. And this is what they did while the cameras were rolling.

The WIV also had a reputation for shoddy safety. U.S. diplomats who evaluated the institute in 2017 were so alarmed that they sent an urgent cable back to Washington warning that the institute suffered from "a serious shortage of appropriately trained technicians and investigators needed to safely operate this high-containment laboratory."

In other words, you could not build a better conduit for channeling viruses straight from rural South China to downtown Wuhan. 

Whether or not the virus made it into the lab and later escaped, this was its best transport option. 

This viral monorail ran between a number of caves in South China and the WIV multiple times every year, with a different mix of students and scientists.



And it wasn't limited to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The Wuhan CDC also extensively collected bat samples and has been accused of inadequate precautions.

 One Wuhan University post about a sampling trip to Yunnan in the summer of 2019 (a few months before the pandemic started) shows researchers entering bat caves in street clothes and handling bats with their bare hands, a shocking violation of safety protocols. 

The bats collected included horseshoe bats, the kind most likely to carry SARS-like diseases. If you're looking for potential carriers, there's no need for hypothetical frozen ferret badgers. Start with the motherlode of cases right in the scientific record.

Even in tightly controlled lab settings, viruses infect researchers all too often. The first SARS escaped labs in Singapore, Taiwan, and China six times, and it wasn't nearly as infectious as SARS-CoV-2. 

As Alison Young has extensively documented in the USA Today, "lab accidents aren't rare." 

Over a five-year period, U.S. labs reported more than 450 accidents involving dangerous pathogens—nearly one hundred per year. 

Those include only the ones in the U.S. that were reported. As Harvard's Marc Lipsitch points out, lab accidents are often shrouded in secrecy. Worldwide, the number each year must be staggering.


In the chaotic environment of fieldwork, the risk of infection must be even larger. The close air of a bat cave is the ideal place to pick up a bat virus. Accidents are inevitable. 

Collectors may have suffered flu-like symptoms (as has been documented for some WIV researchers, three of whom were hospitalized with pneumonia in the fall of 2019, exactly when the outbreak started) and shaken it off without much thought. 

But considering how often COVID-19 is asymptomatic, they may never have known.


Technically, of course, this would count as a "natural origin," because the virus would have evolved naturally and jumped to humans of its own accord. (It's only "unnatural" if the virus was altered by scientists in the lab.) 

This may even be one of the scenarios experts quietly have in mind when they carefully use phrases like that.

Obviously, the proximity was anything but natural, and there's the rub. Having seen up close how much damage one virus can do, we want to do everything in our power to reduce the chance of the next one. 

That means choking off as many conduits as possible. Clamping down on the world wildlife trade (as China has already begun to do) is an obvious step that can be taken. Animal farming probably needs to be rethought in its entirety.


Lab experimentation on dangerous pathogens is another no-brainer, regardless of its role in this pandemic. There are thousands of labs around the planet doing this research, much of it of limited value. 

And as Filippa Lentzos, one of the world's leading biosecurity experts, recently told the Washington Post, there is zero international regulation of their activities. 

"There's no set international law that they have to follow. There's nobody checking what they're doing. There are no inspectors, no regulators. There's none of that."


The same is true of virus collection. That's a concern, because a titanic amount of it is planned for the coming years. 

Proponents of the Global Virome Project want to collect more than a million of the world's unknown viruses over the next ten years, including hundreds of thousands with the potential to infect humans, and bring them back to labs for research.

If this project moves forward, the flow of unknown viruses from remote locations to population centers will be like nothing in history. 

That will certainly increase our knowledge about these viruses and how they work, which is useful information. But it will also give many of them a crack at us for the first time.


Is it worth it? That discussion will be important in the coming years. Now that the WHO team has brought up the vector question, this would be an excellent time to begin. 

Rigorous regulation of biolabs can certainly reduce civilization's exposure to emerging viruses, but merely regulating what happens within the labs will not be enough if we keep sending so many vulnerable collectors into the hottest of viral hotspots.

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Members of the World Health Organization team, including Peter Daszak (C) and Hung Nguyen (L), investigating the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic Wuhan on January 14, 2021. PHOTO BY NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES/GETTY
Misc.


Members of the World Health Organization team, including Peter Daszak (C) and Hung Nguyen (L), investigating the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic, board a bus following their arrival at a cordoned-off section in the international arrivals area at the airport in Wuhan on January 14, 2021. PHOTO BY NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES/GETTY

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




Controlling the COVID19 Narrative, suppressing the Enquiry, parlaying the situation into one of singular advantage marks a singular moment and Xi Jinping has exhibited Chinese dominance over multiple theatres from the Home Front, the International Media Domain, the ‘’Scientific’’ domain over which he has achieved complete ownership and where any dissenting view is characterized as a ‘’conspiracy theory’’

It remains a remarkable achievement.




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The family of SARS2 is getting bigger but no one else is so special. Still no no FCS or strong hACE2 binding. It just confirms that the backbone is natural, but for the rest we don’t know. @Rossana38510044
Misc.


"The discovery of PrC31 supports that bats are the natural hosts of SARS-CoV-2.”: FALSE. It just confirms that the backbone is natural, but for the rest we don’t know.

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




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

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

There is no natural Pathway for the Evolution of COVID19.




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



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



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



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

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

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

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You just have to believe in the immaculate infection. @gdemaneuf
Misc.


If you have the faith, then it much better explains an outbreak of a fully adapted SARS-CoV-2 in Wuhan than the pagan lab-related accident.

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Modelling the approximate "Blow Out Portfolio" of 9 blocks sold Friday. @bauhiniacapital
World Of Finance



Blue is the portfolio value if long-only (in USD mm). 

Greenish is the portfolio vs a 100% NDX hedge (as of 31Dec19).

Red is 15 day realized EWMA (0.94) volatility.

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ARK Innovation ETF's Top 10 Holdings, % Below High: @charliebilello
World Of Finance



1) Tesla $TSLA: -31%

2) Square $SQ: -26%

3) Teladoc $TDOC: -42%

4) Roku $ROKU: -37%

5) Zillow $Z: -39%

6) Zoom $ZM: -46%

7) Spotify $SPOT: -31%

8) Shopify $SHOP: -30%

9) CRISPR $CRSP: -49%

10) Baidu $BIDU: -46%


Data: @ycharts

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Currency markets At A Glance WSJ
World Currencies



Euro 1.1788

Dollar Index 92.834

Japan Yen 109.40

Swiss Franc 0.9398

Pound 1.3768

Aussie 0.7619

India Rupee 72/586

South Korea Won 1132.655

Brazil Real 5.754

Egypt Pound 15.7105

South Africa Rand 15.0533

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Press Release Ministry of Information Eritrea Shabait
Africa



In light of the common strategic partnership and envisioned joint trajectory, the vicious military attacks unleashed in the past five months, and attendant disinformation campaigns were also assessed in depth. 

The two sides agreed that important lessons have been gleaned from temporary hurdles precipitated by this reality that will further bolster the joint undertakings by the two sides in the period ahead.

The two sides also agreed to hold follow-up consultative meetings in Addis Abeba.



Ministry of Information

Asmara

26 March 2021

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@PMEthiopia has launched an unwinnable War on Tigray Province.
Africa







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

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

@PMEthiopia has launched an unwinnable War on Tigray Province.





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In the meantime, he has gone into hiding in Kampala – it is too dangerous to be at home. “Anti-drone zifuuse drones,” he said in Luganda. The drones have become a big problem @thecontinent_
Africa



Minivans with tinted windows, known locally as ‘drones’, have become a new symbol of oppression. 

Security forces have developed a reputation for careering around town in the vehicles, snatching opposition supporters off the streets in broad daylight.

“I see the days of panda gari have returned”, said Muhammad Ssegirinya, a newly elected legislator representing Kawempe North, who is popular for his political humour. 

Panda gari is Kiswahili for ‘get in the truck’. It was a popular phrase during Idi Amin’s brutal regime, when people were abducted by trucks – many never to be seen again.

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Turning to Africa
Africa






Democracy from Tanzania to Zimbabwe to Cameroon has been shredded.

We are getting closer and closer to the Virilian Tipping Point

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

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


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301,718 Active COVID-19 Cases in Africa @BeautifyData
Africa


-41.977% below record high reached in January 2021 

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Africa countries with fastest avg #COVID19 growth rate (daily/total) @jmlukens
Africa



#Mauritius: 1.58%

#Seychelles: 1.56%

#Benin: 1.29%

#Somalia: 1.11%

#Burundi: 1.11%

#Djibouti: 1.11%

#Togo: 1.10%

#CotedIvoire: 1.09%

#Botswana: 1.03%

#Kenya: 1.00%

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The tragic events in #Palma, #CaboDelgado #Mozambique, over the last few days have major implications for peace and security on the Swahili coast of East #Africa. Herewith some thoughts in a mega thread @DinoMahtani
Africa



This is an insurgency that has been snowballing since October 2017.
 It started attacking in the form of small groups of young men, brandishing mainly blunt weapons, and attacking remote security posts. It has evidently now grown into something much more serious.

Recently the U.S. sanctioned the group and called it an affiliate of #IslamicState. By doing so, the group has now been elevated into a box where policy solutions designed to deal with this problem will now be partially framed or qualified by that designation.

If you peer a bit closer, you will see that the insurgency did not come from nowhere. In fact it has grown out of historical factors, out of grass roots grievances, and has developed partially along ethnic lines before becoming the monster it is today.

The insurgents, known by locals as "Al-Shabaab" (or "the youth") are a mixed bunch, and include foreigners, mainly Tanzanians, but you can see domestic constituencies. Many are coastal Mwani youth, or Makwa men, from the west and southern hinterlands of Cabo Delgado.

Among them include petty traders, small time smugglers, former fishermen and farm boys. There are also some miners who were thrown out of ruby mines in the west of the province in 2017.

There are even one or two Makonde, which is unusual, because the Makonde are mostly Christians, and the ethnic group of President Filipe Nyusi, and many of the older generation of anti-colonial war liberation heroes who went on to dominate business and politics in Cabo Delgado

By and large though, you can see that there are some ethno-political cleavages there. That is not to suggest this is an ethnic conflict pitting the Mwani and Makwa against the Makonde, however. To portray it that way is a gross oversimplification.

To a degree, religion, or quasi-religion, played a role. The frustrated Makwa and Mwani boys who began rebelling against local religious leaders in 2007 had obviously picked up some religious ideas which they used as the vehicle to rebel. Lets look at them:

Many had probably picked up some elements of Qoranic teaching at Wahhabi mosques and madrassas that had started proliferating in Northern Mozambique from the 1990s onwards.

These mosques were built by friends and associates of the Islamic Council of Mozambique, dominated by Wahhabis who became useful to the state at the time because they were a way for Maputo to come closer to the Islamic community, but also to wealthy Arab states.

While living peacefully in Mozambique, Wahhabis however introduced forms of scripture and ideology that can be often be misunderstood by young minds that do not have the literacy to engage with the scriptures appropriately.

In addition, local "Al-Shabaab" boys were also consuming East African Swahili propaganda content of the late Kenyan radical Aboud Rogo, whose connections to Al Qaeda in East Africa and to the Al-Shabaab group of Somalia are well known.

So taking on the appearance of jihadis, with their rudimentary, warped and mixed understanding of Islam, the insurgents started challenging local religious and community leaders, including local imams supported by the Islamic Council of Mozambique itself. The rest is history.

As you can see, this situation is a lot more complex than the idea of just calling these guys "Islamists", or "jihadis", or even Islamic State to say the least. That does not mean however that there is not an internationalist dimension to this. There is.

The largest components of the insurgents are Tanzanians. These include a number of former traders and miners who were the low level business partners of many of the petty traders I described above. Some also come from Rogo influenced radical madrassas in Tanzania.

Remember, this is the Swahili coast. So, many of these Mozambicans and Tanzanians have seafaring experience. Some of the Tanzanians, or at the very least their  associates, we know as far back as 2012 had travelled to Somalia to fight with Al-Shabaab back then.

At the same time, you also had a few associates of Somali pirates at the time, sitting in the Cabo Delgado port of Mocimboa da Praia (now out of government control) storing fuel drums and enjoying a bit of R and R. So this was a febrile environment for all kinds of illicit trade.

The biggest illicit trade is of course drugs. Lots of heroin and amphetamine from Afghanistan comes down to the Makran coast in Iran and Pakistan, and then is transported to the East Africa or Swahili coast seaboard, otherwise known as the "heroin coast".

Most of those involved on the Africa side of the trade are powerful elites and those who have the money and privilege to get in the mix of this lucrative trade. So we are not talking about "jihadists" who are controlling the trade.

However the smuggling vessels that this narcotics is shipped in on are mainly ocean going wooden dhows from India and Pakistan, and which often bunker their illicit cargoes into fishermen smugglers who bring the stuff onshore.

These fishermen smugglers are also sometimes the guys trafficking Somalis, East Africans and Mozambicans up and down the Swahili coast. So there is a whole policy issue here about what to do about all this illicit traffic on the seas in a way that doesn't kill off livelihoods.

I heard this week that #EuropeanUnion has been discussing extending the geographical scope of Operation Atalanta, the former piracy force to extend its zone of operation down into the Mozambican channel, but that questions over finances have led this to a dead end for now.

While Mozambique and partners develop a security response and debate how they might retake the ports of Palma and Mocimboa da Praia, they may need to consider grass roots grievances, and how addressing them can incentivise insurgents to lay down arms and win back the population.

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Mozambique bread riots may be warning sign on African food security Africa Monitor CSMONITOR By Aly-Khan Satchu, September 6, 2010
Africa


Given the fragility of the food markets, Maputo might well be a shot across the bows of many regimes, who have yet to secure access to sufficient food at sufficiently low prices for their people. Failure to execute on this front, surely imperils many

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.@FitchRatings Affirms Kenya at 'B+'; Outlook Negative
Kenyan Economy


Kenya's 'B+' rating reflects a track record of strong growth and relative macroeconomic stability and a favourable government debt structure. 

These positive factors are balanced against rising public debt levels, high net external indebtedness, and GDP per capita and governance indicators that are below the 'B' range medians.

The Negative Outlook on Kenya's ratings reflects the underlying weaknesses of the public finances and the uncertain pace of planned fiscal consolidation

For several years, the government has passed budgets that contained medium-term plans to narrow fiscal deficit, but which still left deficits substantially worse than rated peers'. 

The Covid-19 shock has further delayed potential consolidation and we forecast the general government fiscal deficit to reach 9% of GDP in the fiscal year ending June 2021 (FY21), above the 'B' median of 7.1%.

The government's medium-term fiscal framework, presented in the 2021 Budget Policy Statement (BPS), envisages bringing the fiscal deficit to 7.5% of GDP in FY22 and to below 5% in FY24. 

We forecast only a slightly larger FY22 deficit of 7.7%, but believe subsequent narrowing of the deficit will be slower than what is contained in the BPS.

We expect capital expenditure to continue falling as large infrastructure projects like the Standard Gauge Railway come to an end, but current expenditure will remain high as the government pursues its Post Covid-19 recovery programme and its focus on targeted social spending. 

We expect revenue/GDP will remain flat through FY22 as the BPS contains a number of tax administration adjustments meant to increase collection and expand the tax base, but no new revenue measures.

The Kenyan government has reached staff-level agreement with the IMF on a 38-month USD2.4 billion support programme. 

Fitch believes that the IMF programme will provide a firmer anchor for Kenya's fiscal consolidation efforts but notes that Kenya did not complete the second review under the previous IMF programme agreed in 2015.

Fitch forecasts general government debt to reach 68.8% of GDP in FY21 and to plateau at approximately 71% over the medium term

Our FY21 debt forecast is in line with 'B' rated peers', but Kenya's debt/revenue, at 382%, is higher than the 'B' median of 218%

Despite rising debt levels, Kenya has a favourable debt structure, with foreign-currency debt composing approximately half of government debt versus the current 'B' median of 63%, and fairly flexible fiscal financing options.

In the absence of Eurobond issuance in 2020, the government was able to increase its domestic debt issuance in FY21, while interest rates remained stable. 

We estimate that Kenya faces USD2.6 billion (2.6% of GDP) in sovereign external debt servicing in FY21 and USD3.6 billion (3.3%) in FY22, which the government will meet with a combination of IMF financing, a USD1 billion World Bank Development Policy Operation, and planned Eurobond issuance in FY21 and FY22.

The government has announced that it will take part in the G20s Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) in 2021 after not taking part in 2020. 

The reversal likely reflects Kenya's determination that DSSI participation would not impact capital-market access negatively. 

Kenya is eligible to apply for debt restructuring under the G20 Common Framework, but we do not expect Kenya to request such treatment in the near term.

We expect Kenya's public finances to improve on the back of a swift growth recovery, as real GDP returns to pre-pandemic levels in 2021. 

We estimate that GDP continued to grow in 2020, at 1.2% and we forecast growth to accelerate to 5.5% in 2021. 

Growth has been supported by steady growth in the agricultural sector, which benefited from good weather and a reprieve from the ongoing desert locust outbreak.

Economic activity was also supported by the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK), which lowered interest rates in 1Q20, lowered the banks' reserve ratio to inject liquidity into the economy, and urged banks to adopt emergency measures to restructure existing loans. 

CPI averaged 5.3% in 2020, which we forecast to remain the same in 2021, within the CBK's target band of 5% plus or minus 2.5bp. This will allow the CBK to maintain its accommodative policy stance.

The effort to vaccinate Kenya's population of 50 million will stretch over multiple years, increasing the possibility of future Covid-19 waves. 

This will provide some risks to economic growth, as does the re-emergence of locust swarms in early 2021 and the spectre of instability around the approaching 2022 elections.

Kenya has reported an International Investment Position for the first time, which has led Fitch to update our external debt indicators. 

At 45.7% of GDP in 2020, Kenya's net external debt was more than 2.5x the 'B' median of 17.8%. 

High external debt reflects a recent history of large current account deficits (CAD) and a lack of non-debt creating investment flows.

Lower capital imports and an increase in remittances have helped to narrow the CAD, to an estimated 4.8% of GDP in 2020 after averaging 7.3% in 2010-2019. 

We forecast the CAD to remain broadly stable, at 4.9% of GDP, in 2021, although exports are likely to remain stagnant and tourism receipts will take several years to recover.

The coronavirus shock has exacerbated the already weak asset quality of Kenya's banks, with non-performing loans (NPLs) increasing to 14.3% of total loans in January 2021, from 12.2% a year earlier. 

NPLs will likely further increase as emergency measures on loan restructuring ended in March 2021; these resulted in the restructuring of 57% of the sector's total loans. 

Kenya's largest banks, including KCB Bank Kenya (B+/Negative) and Stanbic Bank Kenya (B+/Negative), are generally well-capitalised and provisioned, but the financial profiles of the smaller banks are more vulnerable to the pandemic.

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