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Monday 04th of April 2022
 
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Wealth denominated in paper money? China owns around $3 trillion of the green stuff at last count, The attraction seems to rest on a Fed promise to buy your Treasuries on demand. @hendry_hugh
World Of Finance

Wealth denominated in paper money? China owns around $3 trillion of the green stuff at last count, The attraction seems to rest on a Fed promise to buy your Treasuries on demand. But scratch further and you uncover a web of deceit and broken promises.

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You can print money, but not oil to heat or wheat to eat. @CreditSuisse Zoltan Pozsar
World Of Finance


The current environment is perhaps more complex than the crises of 1997, 2008, or 2020, for the problem is not only nominal (FX pegs, par, or the great overdraft, respectively), but also real: commodities are real resources (food, energy, metals), and resource inequality cannot be addressed by QE...
...you can print money, but not oil to heat or wheat to eat.
Wars also upend the dominance of currencies and serve as a doula to the birth of new monetary systems. 

What Deutsche Bank’s Bretton Woods II framework was to the first decade of the new century, and what QE and Basel III then were to the second (post-GFC) decade of the new century, we believe that our Bretton Woods III framework will be to the third decade of the new century......and potentially beyond.
If we are right, our framework will be the right framework to think about how to trade interest rates in coming years: inflation will be higher; the level of rates will be higher too; demand for commodity reserves will be higher, which will naturally replace demand for FX reserves (Treasuries and other G7 claims); demand for dollars will be lower too as more trade will be done in other currencies; and structurally then, the negative cross-currency basis (the dollar premium) will naturally fade away and potentially become a positive cross-currency basis.
In today’s dispatch we will expand on Perry Mehrling’s “four prices of money” framework. We have used this framework in our last dispatch from March 7th to show that in every major crisis since 1997, one of the four prices of money came into play, and, by extension, every major crisis is also a crisis of money.
To remind the reader, in Perry Mehrling’s framework, the four prices of money are: 

(1) Par
(2) Interest
(3) Foreign exchange 

(4) Price level

Par (parity) is the one-for-one price of different types of money: for banks, reserves are convertible into currency at par, and for all non-banks, deposits at one bank are convertible into deposits at another at par, and deposits at banks are convertible into currency at par. 

Parity between these forms of money ensures that transactions take place seamlessly today. 

Parity broke in 2008. Had the Fed not stepped in, we could not have been able to transact normally.
Interest is the price of future money (money tomorrow versus money today). Interest is the price at which you part with money for a period of time, that is, the price at which you part with liquidity. 

Depending on who you lend to, interest rates are different: fed funds is a rate of interest on interbank loans, repo is a rate of interest on loans versus collateral, FX swap implied yields are rates of interest on loans involving the swap of two different currencies. 

Interest rates depend on the nature of the transaction (unsecured or secured), the quality of the borrower, and the term of the loan. 

An overnight interest rate (EFFR) is always the anchor, and a swap curve indexed to an overnight anchor (an OIS curve) is the base against which all other interest rates are expressed (the EFFR-SOFR basis for repos and the OIS-OIS basis for FX swaps). 

Interest is about lending, lending uses balance sheet, and balance sheet costs, together with the type of lending, determine bases. 

Interest rates basically consist of an OIS part and layers of bases on top of OIS – the proverbial money market cake (sponge, cream, sponge, cream) that we often refer to. 

STIR traders trade either the OIS curve (the number of hikes up or down), or bases around OIS driven by one-off events like money market fund reform or corporate tax reform, or left-field events like the onset of Covid-19 in March 2020. 

Had the Fed not stepped in in March 2020, corporations would not have been able to draw on their credit lines and the Treasury couldn’t have funded itself.
Foreign exchange is the price of foreign money – the price of the U.S. dollar versus other currencies, which can be floating or fixed, or managed in between

Fixed exchange rates broke in several countries in Southeast Asia in 1997. Had the IMF not stepped in, we would have had a banking crisis in New York.
Price level is the price of commodities in terms of money. 

Commodities mean fossil fuels, metals, grains, and rare earths, and through these commodities, the price of everything imaginable. 

Commodity prices determine food and energy inflation and also core goods inflation. 

The price level was an afterthought for the past 25 years. Unlike crises related to par, interest (bases), or FX rates, there were no major price-level related crises over the past 25 years. If anything, the problem was persistently low inflation, which central banks tried to counter very hard through aggressive balance sheet policies (QE) with limited success.
Now consider this:
for a central bank like the Fed (or any other major central bank), it is easy to police the par, interest (bases), and FX rate aspects of money, for these prices exist in the nominal domain – 

if there is a run on banks and the par price breaks, become the LoLR to the troubled banks; 

if covered interest parity (CIP) breaks, become the DoLR to the troubled cross-currency pairs; 

if FX rates are in play, become the DoLR to the spot FX market and engage in QE or QT as needed.
Central banks have it easy when it comes to policing the prices of money in the nominal domain, but not when it comes to policing prices in the real domain of commodities, especially when pressures come not from demand, but supply, or rather, a supply shock caused by a collapse in demand for specific commodities, like Russian commodities (the market self-policing for fear of future sanctions).

Central banks are good at curbing demand, not at conjuring supply. 

Energy and commodities are needed for virtually everything, Russia exports everything, and unlike 1973, it’s not just the price of oil, but the price of everything that is surging. 

After laying dormant for decades, the fourth price of money is back with a vengeance – the par, basis, and FX-related prices of money are dormant at the moment, but the price level is about to become very volatile and the market is trying to price the price of future money (OIS), that is, the number of interest rate hikes and the FOMC adjusting the level of terminal rates (r*) in response to the new price level regime brought about by war and sanctions.
Once you cross over from the nominal domain of prices to the real domain, things gets more complicated. We will now expand the four prices framework:

(1) Par
(2) Interest (OIS and bases)
(3) Foreign exchange
(4) Price level = commodities
(5) Foreign cargo (priced in U.S. dollars) 

(6) Shipping
(7) Protection
The red items are all nominal – the four prices of money, the domain of money, and the domain of institutions that deal money: dealers, banks, and central banks.
The blue items are all real – the infrastructure that moves commodities around and the domain of institutions that deal in commodities: commodity traders (dealers), banks that finance commodity traders, and the foreign policy and military arms of the state that provide the legal and military protection to assets, which range from mines to fields, pipelines, ships, shipping routes, and straits.
Banks make loans and create deposits, while loans are created to buy stuff, which can be real assets or financial assets. 

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You can print money, but not oil to heat or wheat to eat. @CreditSuisse Zoltan Pozsar [continued]
World Of Finance


It gets more complicated.
Consider that as cheap Russian oil gets diverted to China, China will buy less oil from the Middle East and then Middle Eastern oil will now have to be shipped to Europe with the same loss of efficiency as the shipment of Baltic oil to China.
Remember that a Suezmax vessel is called a Suezmax vessel because it can sail through the Suez Canal with a full load of oil cargo. VLCCs cannot, because they carry 1 million barrels more than a Suezmax vessel, which means they are heavier and sail deeper and the Suez Canal isn’t deep enough for them.
But engineers in Egypt figured out a way around that: they skim the cargo load via pipes into storage facilities along the canal so that VLCCs can sail through and then pump the oil back onto the VLCCs once they are through the canal. 

But just as for taxiing Baltic crude on Aframax vessels for STS transfers above, lessening the load of VLCCs at Suez and then putting the load back on will take time. Time is money, and lending more money for longer terms means...
...that as commodity traders need more financing, banks’ own liquidity needs will start to move higher over time too. If not immediately, surely inevitably.
There are implications for funding markets and parallels with funding markets: as the above example shows, oil transports will take four months to finance instead of two weeks, and because oil prices are up, it will take more money to fill up VLCCs – which means more notional borrowings for much longer terms.
Our instinct says that as commodity price inflation and volatility drives the commodity world’s credit demand higher, banks’ LCLoRs will move higher too and banks’ willingness and ability to fulfill the commodity world’s credit needs will diminish. 

In 2019, o/n repo rates popped because banks got to LCLoR and they stopped lending reserves. 

In 2022, term credit to commodity traders may dry up because QT will soon begin in an environment where banks’ LCLoR needs are going up, not down. History never repeats itself, but it rhymes...
Banks currently have lots of excess reserves, so they will be able to lend more to commodity traders to move more expensive and more price-volatile cargo, while spillovers into measures of funding stress (Libor and cross-currency bases) will likely remain mute for now, but not forever. 

Banks’ LCLoRs are moving up as we speak because commodity and trade financing needs are growing too, and that cannot be good for banks’ demand for Treasuries on the eve of QT.
Furthermore, an encumbrance of VLCCs should ring alarm bells to STIR traders, since a lack of VLCCs to move oil around (and other ships for other stuff) is the real-world equivalent of year-end G-SIB constraints in the financial system.
One aim of this dispatch is to hammer home the parallels between the (nominal) world of money and its four prices and the (real) world of commodities, and just as G-SIB constraints around year-end gum up the free flow of money, VLCC constraints during times of war can gum up the free flow of commodities – can commodity prices spike like FX forward points when we run out of ships?
We can’t QE oil (= reserves) or VLCCs (= balance sheet).

But that is what we need...
...and 80 extra VLCCs are just for one product

Russia exports every major commodity imaginable, and the same problems will show up in other products and also with ships that move dry, as opposed to wet cargo. It will be a big mess.
Protection we tend to take for granted, much like we take it for granted that currency, deposits, and money fund shares are interchangeable always at par. 

Tankers pass through sea routes, and sea routes pass through straits, and straits must be open at all times and sea routes must be free of bottlenecks...
...bottlenecks engineered by states or pirates.
Wheat and oil are connected. Egypt used to be a big importer of Ukranian wheat. If much more oil is about to pass through the Suez Canal, Egypt might consider to introduce its own G-SIB surcharge: raising the fee required to pass through the Suez Canal in order to raise more money for the state’s coffers, such that the Egyptian state can buy more wheat in the wheat market to feed its people.
Hungary lost to Russia in 1956 because the U.S. protected the Suez Canal...
Pirates need to eat too, and they will have an extra incentive to engage in acts of piracy when there is a bread shortage (a wheat shortage is a bread shortage).
Protection again.
More expensive ships. More expensive cargo. More expensive transit fees. Much longer transit routes. More risks of piracy. More to pay for insurance. More price-volatile cargo. More margin calls. More need for term bank credit... ...a perfect time to do QT!
Don’t get me wrong – we need to tighten financial conditions, but it is now time to think about how to do QT such that we minimize the destruction of reserves while maximizing the amount of duration delivered into the bond market...
...to undo the mistake of believing that we can craft sanctions that maximize pain for Russia while minimizing financial and price stability risks for the West. 

Did OFAC coordinate with the FOMC and FSOC when crafting sanctions on Russia?
These are the links between Perry Mehrling’s four prices of money framework and the four pillars of commodity trading: you pay with dollars for commodities and the Fed and private banks (G-SIBs) police the par, interest (and bases), and foreign exchange aspects of the nominal side of the commodities trade, while sovereign states police the legal and military aspects of commodity trades so that shipping companies and commodity traders can move tonnages around.
Central banks and banks always cooperate. Money has no enemies. Sovereign states sometimes cooperate and sometimes they do not. Sovereign states have no enemies during globalization... ..but turn into enemies during periods of de-globalization.
If Larry Fink is right about globalization, some sovereign states are now enemies. Let’s now simplify the four prices and four pillars framework.
(1) Stability (financial stability instead of “par”)
(2) Time (the time value of money instead of “interest”)
(3) Trade (sell one currency, buy another instead of “foreign exchange”)

(4) Stability (price stability = price level = commodities)
(5) Trade (sell commodities, get dollars; West pays the East/OPEC)
(6) Time (the time it takes to ship, which requires money)
(7) Stability(geopolitical stability,underwritten by a unipolar,U.S.-ledworld)
The price level is thus underpinned by a healthy, well-functioning banking system (demand needs credit; if there is no credit, there is no demand and prices fall), but also a healthy, well-functioning world with efficient and open sea routes (demand needs commodities, and if there are no commodities, prices rise fast).
If the banking system gets gummed up and OIS-OIS bases widen, credit gets more expensive and that saps demand, and if the commodity trading system gets gummed up, commodities get more expensive, and that saps demand too.
But the former is a nominal (credit) shock that leads to much lower prices, and the latter is a real (trade) shock that leads to much higher prices. 

Real growth slows either way, but in the former case, nominal activity falls faster than prices, and in the latter case, prices rise faster than nominal activity = stagflation.
If Ray Dalio is right about stagflation, he must mean that the price signals from the four pillars of commodity trading will dominate the signals coming from the four prices of money. Central banks have a very hard task at hand...
...they can slow/stimulate demand via the nominal credit channel by playing with the four prices of money, but they can’t do a thing about commodities. You can print money but not print oil, iron, or wheat, nor VLCCs or other ships – not even with 3D printers

Let’s next take the simplified framework and turn it into a game of “origami”: the framework above has price stability in the middle and two other types of stability (financial and price stability) at the extremes.
Three points make a triangle (see Figure 1).
Between the left and top vertices we have notions of trade and time, and between the right and top vertices we have notions of trade and time too, where trade and time refer to currency trade and lending, and commodity trade and shipping, respectively. 

Between the bottom two vertices we have the monetary arrangement of the unipolar world: Bretton Woods II, where banks create eurodollars and OPEC and China buy U.S. Treasuries with eurodollars.
But this was not meant to be happily ever after...
Henry Kissinger is not Hans Christian Andersen......and realpolitik isn’t a fairy tale.
Instead of one triangle, we now have two (see Figure 2). Naturally so, as a multipolar (duo-polar) world needs two triangles to work, or rather, to co-exist.
The triangle on the left is the same as the one before, and the one on the right is the same as the one on the left conceptually, but it’s anchored by a different currency – euro renminbi instead of eurodollars. We show the two triangles as mirror images of each other so that they have the geopolitical vertex in common...
...because the second triangle grew from the first one due to a geopolitical conflict.
The top vertex of the second triangle is connected to the other two vertices by concepts of trade and time too: the left and top are connected by the concepts of commodity trade and time, and the right and top are connected by the concepts of currency trade and lending. But here, renminbi for other currencies instead

of U.S. dollars for other currencies, and between the bottom two nodes we have the monetary arrangement of the new world order: Bretton Woods III, where banks create eurorenminbi and where eurorenminbi balances are accumulated to buy Chinese Treasuries (inevitably, but not imminently), outside money like gold instead of G7 inside money, and commodity reserves instead of FX reserves.
Commodity reserves will be an essential part of Bretton Woods III, and historically wars are won by those who have more food and energy supplies – food to fuel horses and soldiers back in the day, and food to fuel soldiers and fuel to fuel tanks and planes today. 

According to estimates by the U.S. DoA (the Department of Agriculture), China holds half of the world’s wheat reserves and 70% of its corn. In contrast, the U.S. controls only 6% and 12% of the global wheat and corn reserves. 

This has implications for the price level of food and the conversation about VLCCs and the oil trade for the price level of energy.
The co-existence of the two triangles then has huge implications for the course of inflation in the East versus the course of inflation in the West. This is serious:
Bretton Woods II served up a deflationary impulse (globalization, open trade, just-in-time supply chains, and only one supply chain [Foxconn], not many), and Bretton Woods III will serve up an inflationary impulse (de-globalization, autarky, just-in-case hoarding of commodities and duplication of supply chains, and more military spending to be able to protect whatever seaborne trade is left).
Empires fall and rise. Currencies fall and rise. Wars have winners and losers.
When Wellington beat Napoleon, the trade was to buy gilts. I am no expert on geopolitics, but I am an interest rate strategist and I think the level of inflation and interest rates and the size of the Fed’s balance sheet will depend on the steady state that emerges after this conflict is over. Three is a magic number:
The four prices of money are managed via Basel III and central banks as DoLR. 

The four pillars of commodity trading are shaped by war, hopefully not WWIII. The new world order will bring a new monetary system – Bretton Woods III. Paul Volcker had it easy...
...he “only” had to break the back of inflation but had a unipolar world order and the rise of Eurodollars to support him. The triangle on the left supported him, and the triangle markets fussed about was the impossible trinity (you know, the stuff about monetary policy independence, FX rates, and open capital accounts), but that was about “our currency, your problem”. 

Jay Powell finding his inner Volcker won’t be enough to break inflation today. He’ll need a strong helping hand.....a strongman to take on the (inflationary) mess caused by other strongmen?
The new trinity of Bretton Woods III will be about “our commodity, your problem” – the EU’s inflation problem for sure, if not the inflation problem of the entire G7.

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29-NOV-2021 :: Regime Change
World Of Finance


A REGIME CHANGE IS UNDERWAY [in the markets]

There is no training – classroom or otherwise.. that can prepare for trading the last third of a move, whether it's the end of a bull market or the end of a bear market. 
There's typically no logic to it; irrationality reigns supreme, and no class can teach what to do during that brief, volatile reign. Paul Tudor-Jones

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Inverting Yield Curve Signals High Stakes for Fed and Investors @bloombergquint
World Of Finance


No sooner had the first quarter ended with a 5.6% loss for U.S. government bonds, the March employment data included a bigger-than-expected drop in the unemployment rate to 3.6%, among the lowest ever recorded, and set April off to a punishing start. 

The yield on the policy-sensitive two-year note climbed more than 13 basis points to 2.47%, topping the 30-year rate for the first time since 2007 and pulling further away from the 10-year yield, which it had exceeded earlier in the week.
The selloff was concentrated in short-dated Treasuries, and it reflects anxiety that the course of monetary policy is going to be even more drastic than has been contemplated. 

The Fed hasn’t raised rates by more than a quarter percentage point since 2000. 

Policy makers have all but announced a half-point increase in May, and futures markets are pricing in another one in June, and beginning to favo to favor a third in July. 

The implied forecast is for the policy rate to peak at around 3% in 2023 and decline in 2024 as higher rates take their economic toll. 
The latest turn of events has some investors wondering if the Fed could go further. In 1994, a series of hikes included a single three-quarter-point move. 

While it was from a much higher base of 4.75% (compared with an upper bound of 0.50% currently), it no longer seems far-fetched. 
Notably, Citigroup Inc. March 25 called for half-point hikes at the next four policy meetings, with a three-quarter-point move possible if inflation or long-term inflation expectations move higher. 

They project a peak in the range of 3.5% to 3.75%. Fed policy makers’ median forecast is 2.8%.
While much of the Treasury curve is inverted, with two- to five-year yields higher than longer-maturity ones other than the troublesome 20-year bond, three- and five-year yields remain higher than the two-year, keeping that part of the curve positively sloped.

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14-FEB-2022 :: the greatest macro trading opportunity to reset shorts in the US 10 and Ultra Bond. We can look across all G7 Bonds because this is a Super Bubble that is going to burst big.
World Of Finance

Friday's action and next immediate sessions might afford us the greatest macro trading opportunity to reset shorts in the US 10 and Ultra Bond. We can look across all G7 Bonds because this is a Super Bubble that is going to burst big. There is no way out now.

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The 40yr bond bull market will break - it’s just timing now . Notice I used the word - will . No fence sitting here .@bluewolfpack1
World Of Finance


29-NOV-2021 ::  Regime Change
https://j.mp/32AZEK5

A REGIME CHANGE IS UNDERWAY [in the markets]

There is no training – classroom or otherwise.. that can prepare for trading the last third of a move, whether it's the end of a bull market or the end of a bear market. 
There's typically no logic to it; irrationality reigns supreme, and no class can teach what to do during that brief, volatile reign. Paul Tudor-Jones

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The Curtain has been lifted and Mr. Powell has now arrived at his Volcker moment
World Of Finance


This is ‘’Voodoo Economics’’ and we have reached the point when the curtain was lifted in the Wizard of Oz and the Wizard revealed to be ‘’an ordinary conman from Omaha who has been using elaborate magic tricks and props to make himself seem “great and powerful”’’ should not lull us into a false sense of security

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Russia cannot afford to lose, so we need a kind of a victory: Sergey Karaganov on what Putin wants @NewStatesman
Law & Politics


Former presidential adviser to both Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin, Sergey Karaganov is honorary chair of the Moscow think tank the Council for Foreign and Defence Policy. 

He is associated with a number of key ideas in Russian foreign policy, from the so-called Karaganov doctrine on the rights of ethnic Russians living abroad to the principle of “constructive destruction”, also known as the “Putin doctrine”. 

Karaganov is close to both Putin and his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, and he formulated many of the ideas that led to the war in Ukraine – though he has also expressed disagreement with the idea of a long-term occupation of the country.
Karaganov has promoted the concept of “Greater Eurasia” and has defended a closer partnership with China

He is known as a foreign-policy hawk, and has argued that the long reign of the West in world politics is now at an end

On 28 March the New Statesman columnist Bruno Maçães interviewed Karaganov about his views on the war – including controversial statements on Ukrainian nationhood and denazification that would be disputed by those outside Russia – and the future of the liberal international order.
Bruno Maçães Why did Russia invade Ukraine?
Sergey Karaganov For 25 years, people like myself have been saying that if Nato and Western alliances expand beyond certain red lines, especially into Ukraine, there will be a war. 

I envisioned that scenario as far back as 1997. In 2008 President Putin said that if Ukraine’s membership of the alliance became a possibility then there will be no Ukraine. He was not listened to. So the first objective is to end Nato’s expansion

Two other objectives have been added: one is the demilitarisation of Ukraine; the other is denazification, because there are people in the Russian government concerned with the rise of ultra-nationalism in Ukraine to the extent that they think it is beginning to resemble Germany in the 1930s. 

There is also an aim to free the Donbas republics of eight years of constant bombardment.

There was also a strong belief that war with Ukraine was inevitable – maybe three or four years from now – which could well have taken place on Russian territory itself. 

So probably the Kremlin decided that if you have to fight, let’s fight on somebody else’s territory, the territory of a neighbour and a brother country, once a part of the Russian Empire. But the real war is against the Western expansion.
BM On 25 February Putin called on the Ukrainian army to overthrow President Volodymyr Zelensky. More recently, however, the Kremlin seems to be suggesting that it is interested in negotiating with Zelensky. Has the Kremlin changed its mind? Does it accept that Zelensky is the president of Ukraine and will remain the president of Ukraine?

SK It is a war, and we’re in the fog of war, so opinions change, aims change. At the start, maybe some thought that the Ukrainian military would arrange some kind of a coup so we would have a real power in Kyiv with whom we could negotiate – recent presidents, and especially Zelensky, are considered puppets.

BM You personally do not consider President Zelensky a Nazi, do you?
SK Of course not.
BM What do you think would be the final goal for the Kremlin at this point? What would be considered a successful outcome for the invasion?
SK I don’t know what the outcome of this war will be, but I think it will involve the partition of Ukraine, one way or another.

Hopefully there would still be something called Ukraine left at the end. But Russia cannot afford to “lose”, so we need a kind of a victory. 

And if there is a sense that we are losing the war, then I think there is a definite possibility of escalation

This war is a kind of proxy war between the West and the rest –  Russia being, as it has been in history, the pinnacle of “the rest” – for a future world order. 

The stakes of the Russian elite are very high – for them it is an existential war.
BM You talked about demilitarisation of Ukraine, but it seems that such a goal would not be achieved if the West continues to provide Ukraine with weapons. Do you think Russia will be tempted to stop that flow of arms, and does this risk a direct clash between Nato and Russia?
SK Absolutely! There is a growing probability of a direct clash. And we don’t know what the outcome of this would be. Maybe the Poles would fight; they are always willing. 

I know as a historian that Article 5 of the Nato treaty is worthless. Under Article 5 – which allows a state to call for support from other members of the alliance – nobody is obliged to actually fight on behalf of others, but nobody can be absolutely sure that there would be no such escalation. 

I also know from the history of American nuclear strategy that the US is unlikely to defend Europe with nuclear weapons. 

But there is still a chance of escalation here, so it is an abysmal scenario and I hope that some kind of a peace agreement between us and the US, and between us and Ukraine, can be reached before we go further into this unbelievably dangerous world.
BM If Putin asks for your advice, would you tell him that Article 5 is to be taken seriously or not? I understand from your words that it is not to be taken seriously in your view.
SK It might be that Article 5 works, and countries rally to the defence of another. But against a nuclear country like Russia… I wonder? 

Put it this way: if the US intervenes against a nuclear country, then the American president making that decision is mad, because it wouldn’t be 1914 or 1939; this is something bigger

So I don’t think America could possibly intervene, but we are already in a much more dangerous situation than several weeks ago. And Article 5 does not presume automatic obligations.
On Ukraine’s right to exist
BM What was your reaction to President Biden’s comment that President Putin cannot stay in power?

SK Well, President Biden often makes all kind of comments. [Afterwards,] he was corrected by his colleagues, so nobody’s taking the statement seriously.
BM Putin has argued that Ukraine does not exist as a nation. I would imagine that the conclusion from the events of the past weeks is that Ukraine does exist as a nation, when you have the whole population, including civilians, willing to sacrifice their lives to preserve the sovereignty and independence of their country. Does Ukraine exist as a nation, or is Ukraine just a part of Russia?
SK I am not sure whether there is a massive civilian resistance as you suggest, rather than just young men joining the army. In any case, I don’t know whether Ukraine will survive, because it has a very limited, if any, history of statehood, and it doesn’t have a state-building elite. 

Maybe something will grow from below, but it’s an open question… We shall see… This war – or military operation; however you call it – will decide. 

Maybe the Ukrainian nation will be born: I will be happy if Ukrainians have an effective, viable government – unlike the situation during the last 30 years. 

They were the absolute losers after the Soviet Union, because of their lack of a state-building elite.
BM If there is a partition, would the Russia-controlled section of Ukraine preserve a nominal independence, or would it be absorbed by Russia?
SK If the operation is to turn Ukraine into a “friendly” state, then absorption is clearly not necessary. There might be some kind of absorption – which has happened, effectively – in the Donbas republics. 

Whether they will be independent or not – I think they might be. Certainly there are calls for referendums there, but how you could run referendums during a conflict I do not know. 

So my judgement would be that some of Ukraine will become a friendly state to Russia, other parts may be partitioned. 

Poland will gladly take back some of parts in the west, maybe Romanians and Hungarians will, too, because the Hungarian minority in Ukraine has been suppressed along with other minorities. 

But we are in a full-on war; it is too hard to predict. The war is an open-ended story.
BM One argument is that Russia will fall under Chinese control, and this war does not help – because by isolating Russia from the West, it turns Russia into easy prey for Chinese economic influence. Are you worried that this could be the beginning of a “Chinese century” for Russia?
SK There are two answers to your question. One is that China’s economic influence in Russia and over Russia will grow. China has most of the technologies we need, and it has a lot of capital, so there is no question about that. 

Whether Russia would become a kind of a satellite country, according to the Chinese tradition of their Middle Kingdom, I doubt it.
If you asked me how I would describe Russia in one word, it is “sovereignty”. We defeated those who sought to rule us, starting with the Mongols, and then Carl [Charles XII] of Sweden, then Napoleon and Hitler. 

Also, recently, we had years of Western domination here. It was almost overwhelming. And nevertheless, you see what has happened: Russia revolted against all that. 

So I am not afraid of Russia becoming a part of a great China. The other reason I’m not afraid is because Chinese civilisation is very different. 

We have our Asian traits in our genes, and we are in part an Asian country because of this. 

And Siberia is at the core of the Russian empire: without Siberia, Russia wouldn’t have become a great country. 

And the Tatar and Mongol yoke left many traits in our society. But culturally, we are different, so I don’t think it is possible that we will become a subsidiary country.
But I am very concerned about the overwhelming economic predominance of China over the next decade. People like me have been saying precisely [that] we have to solve the Ukraine problem, we have to solve the Nato problem, so that we can be in a strong position vis-à-vis China. 

Now it will be much more difficult for Russia to resist Chinese power.
On winners and losers
BM Do you think the US is benefiting from this war?

SK At this juncture, yes, because the big losers are, in addition to Ukraine, Europe, especially if it continues with this mysterious zest for independence from Russian energy

But China is clearly the victor of this whole affair… I think the biggest loser will be Ukraine; a loser will be Russia; a great loser will be Europe; the United States will lose somewhat, but still it could very well survive as a huge island over the ocean; and the big victor is China.
BM You have argued that in the future there could be some kind of alliance between Russia and Europe – or at least some European countries, if not others. Surely now you must think there is no possibility for Europe and Russia to come closer together.
SK If we could have solved the crisis peacefully there’s no question that parts of Europe would have orientated themselves not towards Russia itself but Greater Eurasia, of which Russia would be a key part. 

That scenario is now postponed, but Europe needs to develop a relationship with Greater Eurasia. We lived through world wars and cold wars, and then we rebuilt our relationship. 

I hope that we shall do that in ten years. I hope I shall see that before I pass.
BM Do you think this is a moment of supreme danger for Russia?
SK I would say yes, this is an existential war. If we do not win, somehow, then I think we will have all kinds of unforeseen political repercussions which are much worse than at the beginning of the 1990s

But I believe that we will avoid that, first, because Russia will win, whatever that victory means, and second, because we have a strong and tough regime, so in any event, or if the worst happens, it will not be the dissolution of the country or collapse. 

I think it will be closer to a harsh authoritarian regime than to the dissolution of the country. But still, defeat is unthinkable.
BM What would qualify as defeat?
SK I do not know. That is the question. We need victory. I don’t think that, even if we conquered all of Ukraine and all the military forces of Ukraine surrendered, it would be a victory, because then we will be left with the burden of a devastated country, one devastated by 30 years of inept elite rule, and then of course devastation from our military operation.

So I think at one point we need a kind of a solution which would be called peace, and which would include de facto the creation of some kind of a viable, pro-Russian government on the territory of Ukraine, and real security for the Donbas republics.
BM If the current stalemate were to continue for years, would that be a defeat?
SK Stalemate means a huge military operation. No, I don’t think it is possible. I am afraid it would lead to escalation, because fighting endlessly on the territory of Ukraine – even now, is not viable.
BM It’s the second time you’ve mentioned that if there is no progress it would lead to an escalation. What does “escalation” mean in this context?
SK Well, escalation in this context means that in the face of an existential threat – and that means a non-victory, by the way, or an alleged defeat – Russia could escalate, and there are dozens of places in the world where it would have a direct confrontation with the United States.
BM So your suggestion is that, on the one hand, we could have an escalation towards the possible use of nuclear weapons – if there is an existential danger to Russia – and, on the other, an escalation towards conflict in other areas beyond Ukraine. Am I following you correctly?
SK I wouldn’t rule it out. We are living in absolutely a new strategic situation. Normal logic dictates what you have said.
BM How do you feel personally? Do you feel tormented by what is happening?
SK We all feel like we are part of a huge event in history, and it’s not just about war in Ukraine; it’s about the final crash of the international system that was created after the Second World War and then, in a different way, was recreated after the collapse of the Soviet Union. 

So, we are witnessing the collapse of an economic system – of the world economic system – globalisation in this form is finished

Whatever we have had in the past is gone. And out of this we have a build-up of many crises that, because of Covid-19, we pretended did not exist. For two years, the pandemic replaced decision-making

Covid was bad enough, but now everybody has forgotten about Covid and we can see that everything is collapsing. 

Personally, I’m tremendously saddened. I worked for the creation of a viable and fair system. But I am part of Russia, so I only wish that we win, whatever that means.
On the decline of European democracy
BM Do you sometimes fear this could be the rebirth of Western power and American power; that the Ukraine war could be a moment of renewal for the American empire?
SK I don’t think so. The problem is that during the last 500 years the foundation of Western power was the military preponderance of Europeans. This foundation started eroding from the 1950s and 1960s. 

Then the collapse of the Soviet Union made it seem for a while that Western predominance was back, but now it is done away with, because Russia will continue to be a major military power and China is becoming a first-class military power.
So the West will never recuperate, but it doesn’t matter if it dies: Western civilisation has brought all of us great benefits, but now people like myself and others are questioning the moral foundation of Western civilisation. 

I think geopolitically the West will experience ups and downs. Maybe the shocks we are experiencing could bring back the better qualities of Western civilisation, and we will again see people like Roosevelt, Churchill, Adenauer, de Gaulle and Brandt back in office. 

But continuous shocks will of course also mean that democracy in its present form in most European countries will not survive, because under circumstances of great tension, democracies always wither away or become autocratic. These changes are inevitable.

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Rublegas: the world’s new resource-based reserve currency @TheCradleMedia @RealPepeEscobar
Law & Politics


Saddam, Gaddafi, Iran, Venezuela – they all tried but couldn’t do it. But Russia is on a different level altogether.

The beauty of the game-changing, gas-for-rubles, geoeconomic jujitsu applied by Moscow is its stark simplicity.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s presidential decree on new payment terms for energy products, predictably, was misunderstood by the collective west. 

The Russian government is not exactly demanding straightforward payment for gas in rubles. What Moscow wants is to be paid at Gazprombank in Russia, in its currency of choice, and not at a Gazprom account in any banking institution in western capitals.
That’s the essence of less-is-more sophistication. Gazprombank will sell the foreign currency – dollars or euros – deposited by their customers on the Moscow Stock Exchange and credit it to different accounts in rubles within Gazprombank.
What this means in practice is that foreign currency should be sent directly to Russia, and not accumulated in a foreign bank – where it can easily be held hostage, or frozen, for that matter.
All these transactions from now on should be transferred to a Russian jurisdiction – thus eliminating the risk of payments being interrupted or outright blocked.
It’s no wonder the subservient European Union (EU) apparatus – actively engaged in destroying their own national economies on behalf of Washington’s interests – is intellectually unequipped to understand the complex matter of exchanging euros into rubles.
Gazprom made things easier this Friday, sending official notifications to its counterparts in the west and Japan.
Putin himself was forced to explain in writing to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz how it all works.
Once again, very simple: Customers open an account with Gazprombank in Russia. Payments are made in foreign currency – dollars or euros – converted into rubles according to the current exchange rate, and transferred to different Gazprom accounts.
Thus it is 100 percent guaranteed that Gazprom will be paid.
That’s in stark contrast to what the United States was forcing the Europeans to do: pay for Russian gas in Gazprom accounts in Europe, which would then be instantly frozen. These accounts would only be unblocked with the end of Operation Z, Russia’s military ops in Ukraine.
Yet the Americans want the war to go on indefinitely, to “bog down” Moscow as if this was Afghanistan in the 1980s, and have strictly forbidden the Ukrainian Comedian in front of a green screen somewhere – certainly not Kiev – to accept any ceasefire or peace deal.
So Gazprom accounts in Europe would continue to be frozen.
As Scholz was still trying to understand the obvious, his economic minions went berserk, floating the idea of nationalizing Gazprom’s subsidiaries – Gazprom Germania and Wingas – in case Russia decides to halt the gas flow.
This is ridiculous. It’s as if Berlin functionaries believe that Gazprom subsidiaries produce natural gas in centrally heated offices across Germany.
The new rubles-for-gas mechanism does not in any way violate existing contracts. Yet, as Putin warned, existing contracts may indeed be stopped: 

“If such [ruble] payments are not made, we will consider this to be the buyers’ failure to perform commitments with all ensuing implications.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov was adamant that the mechanism will not be reversed under the current, dire circumstances. 

Still that does not mean that the gas flow would be instantly cut off. Payment in rubles will be expected from ‘The Unfriendlies’ – a list of hostile states that includes mostly the US, Canada, Japan and the EU – in the second half of April and early May.
For the overwhelming majority of the Global South, the overarching Big Picture is crystal clear: an Atlanticist oligarchy is refusing to buy the Russian gas essential to the wellbeing of the population of Europe, while fully engaged in the weaponization of toxic inflation rates against the same population.
Beyond Rublegas
This gas-for-rubles mechanism – call it Rublegas – is just the first concrete building block in the construction of an alternative financial/monetary system, in tandem with many other mechanisms: ruble-rupee trade; the Saudi petroyuan; the Iran-Russia SWIFT- bypassing mechanism; and the most important of all, the China-Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) design of a comprehensive financial/monetary system, with the first draft to be presented in the next few days.
And all of the above is directly linked to the stunning emergence of the ruble as a new, resource-based reserve currency.
After the predictable initial stages of denial, the EU – actually, Germany – must face reality. 

The EU depends on steady supplies of Russian gas (40 percent) and oil (25 percent). 

The sanction hysteria has already engineered certified blowback.
Natural gas accounts for 50 percent of the needs of Germany’s chemical and pharmaceutical industries. 

There’s no feasible replacement, be it from Algeria, Norway, Qatar or Turkmenistan. Germany is the EU’s industrial powerhouse. 

Only Russian gas is capable of keeping the German – and European – industrial base humming and at very affordable prices in case of long-term contracts.
Disrupt this set up and you have horrifying turbulence across the EU and beyond.
The inimitable Andrei Martyanov has summed it up this way: “Only two things define the world: the actual physical economy, and military power, which is its first derivative. Everything else are derivatives but you cannot live on derivatives.”
The American turbo-capitalist casino believes its own derivative “narrative” – which has nothing to do with the real economy. 

The EU will eventually be forced by reality to move from denial to acceptance. 

Meanwhile, the Global South will be fast adapting to the new paradigm: the Davos Great Reset has been shattered by the Russian Reset.

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The @POTUS Official Who Pierced Putin’s Sanction-Proof Economy @NewYorker
Law & Politics



Singh said, “We’ve made him stare into an economic abyss. But he could choose to pull back.”

The markets are where these two systems touch—the supply of buckwheat, the joint energy ventures, the price of the ruble—and within this arena the sanctions were a demonstration that Washington still had levers to pull. “You know, we can play chess, too,” Singh said. “It was important for us to show that the fortress could come crumbling down.”


Conclusions

Sanction warfare against a TriPolar Power is a monstrous debacle



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The petro dollar economy was symbolically born on February 14, 1945 when King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia met with President Franklin D Roosevelt aboard the USS Quincy in Great Bitter Lake, Egypt.
Law & Politics


The Saudi kingdom would sell its oil for US dollars, recycle surpluses into US treasuries [The kingdom has nearly $1 trillion invested in the US and holds some $160 billion in US treasuries] and the US would lend its legitimacy and protection to the kingdom.

Trading in derivatives such as oil futures and options is mainly dollar denominated. 

The top two global energy exchanges, ICE and CME, traded a billion lots of oil derivatives in 2018 with a nominal value of about $5 trillion [Reuters]. 

The c21st Oil Economy is a very big deal and Ryszard Kapuściński who wrote as follows about the oil and petrochemical dollar economy in Shah of Shahs.
“Oil creates the illusion of a completely changed life, life without work, life for free. Oil is a resource that anaesthetizes thought, blurs vision, corrupts.” Ryszard Kapuściński, Shah of Shahs.
“Oil kindles extraordinary emo- tions and hopes, since oil is above all a great temptation. It is the temptation of ease, wealth, strength, fortu- ne, power. It is a filthy, foul-smelling liquid that squirts obligingly up into the air and falls back to earth as a rustling shower of money.”  

Ryszard Kapuściński, Shah of Shahs. Therefore, in many respects whomsoever controls this Spigot can control the World because this is real cash. 

Therefore one must also accept that access to oil “defined 20th-century empires and the petrodollar agreement was the key to the ascendancy of US as the world’s sole superpower” 

The US dollar remains de facto world currency. Accordingly, almost all oil sales throughout the world are denominated in US dollars. 

Since most countries rely on oil imports, they are forced to maintain large stockpiles of dollars in order to continue imports. 

This creates a consistent demand for USDs. America’s war machine runs on, is funded by, and exists in protection of oil. 

Threats by any nation to undermine the petrodollar system are viewed by Washington as tantamount to a declaration of war against USA.

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Printing gas: Soviet Union/Russia has delivered nat gas to Germany since the 1980s, being paid for in DEM/EUR. Now the EUR is a major currency, This would put euro area in a position to *print gas*. @VictorTheClean3
Law & Politics


Printing gas: Soviet Union/Russia has delivered nat gas to Germany since the 1980s, being paid for in DEM/EUR. Now the EUR is a major currency, and until recently, Russia accumulated EUR reserves. This would put euro area in a position to *print gas*.

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Did you notice that since about 2012, when EUR partly became a gas currency, euro area policitians were tempted to go on spending sprees, ECB began to monetize government debt @VictorTheClean3
Law & Politics

Did you notice that since about 2012, when EUR partly became a gas currency, euro area policitians were tempted to go on spending sprees, ECB began to monetize government debt, later some demanded common euro debt to be issued, at least the EFSF now exists.

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Why remain prudent if the opposite is not immediately punished? Now that RU is withdrawing gas support from the EUR, the policy choices of the ECB are seriously narrowed. @VictorTheClean3
Law & Politics


Why remain prudent if the opposite is not immediately punished? Now that RU is withdrawing gas support from the EUR, the policy choices of the ECB are seriously narrowed. They must absolutely hate the sanctions lady in Brussels.

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Post April 1, to meet contractual payment obligations, buyers must wire pmts directly to Gazprombank in Moscow & convert their USD/EUR into RUB...@S_Mikhailovich
Law & Politics


Pre-April 1, gas buyers could satisfy their contractual oblig. via pmnts to Gazprom accts held at Western banks.  
Post April 1, to meet contractual payment obligations, buyers must wire pmts directly to Gazprombank in Moscow & convert their USD/EUR into RUB...

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Pakistan warns of foreign-backed regime-change attempt, to disrupt China/Russia alliance
Law & Politics


Pakistan’s opposition is trying to overthrow Prime Minister Imran Khan with a no-confidence motion. 

Khan says the US sent him a threatening letter and he has proof of foreign funding for a regime-change operation, aimed at reversing his independent foreign policy – like his alliance with China and Russia and support for Palestine.

While the world’s attention is understandably focused on the crisis in Ukraine, equally grave developments are taking place elsewhere. Perhaps the most consequential – and underreported – is a regime-change operation underway in Pakistan.

This March, opposition lawmakers in Pakistan’s parliament launched a “no-confidence” motion aimed at overthrowing Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Khan, who was democratically elected in 2018, has warned that an “effort is being made to topple the government with the help of foreign funds in our country.”
“Our people are being used. Mostly unknowingly, but some knowingly are using this money against us,” Khan said at a rally on March 27. He added that the government had proof of these payments.
Khan argued that these external interests seek to reverse his independent foreign policy. 

He recalled his predecessor Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a Pakistani prime minister who was overthrown in a US-backed coup in 1977, then executed following a show trial.
Bhutto was punished “when he tried to bring in a free foreign policy to the country,” Khan declared.

Khan specifically singled out the United States for meddling to try to remove him from power. 

He said he received a letter from Washington that threatened him for refusing to allow it to establish US military bases in Pakistan.
He cautioned that the opposition is collaborating with the United States and other foreign countries in its no-confidence motion against him.

These warnings came just over a month after Khan publicly criticized the US government for cynically using Pakistan to advance Washington’s interests. He also simultaneously praised China for always acting as a “friend” of Islamabad.

“Whenever the US needed us, they established relations, and Pakistan became a frontline state [against the Soviet Union], and then abandoned it and slapped sanctions on us,” Khan complained.
On the other hand, “China is a friend which has always stood by Pakistan,” he contrasted.
The idea that a regime-change plot could even be conceived of, let alone attempted, in a nuclear-armed country of more than 220 million may seem shocking and preposterous. 

On the surface, it strikes as incredulous considering that Islamabad is a major world capital, arguably the most powerful within the Muslim-majority world.
Nevertheless, it is precisely these characteristics that make Pakistan so geopolitically important.
The following is an analysis of the principal reasons for why hostile foreign elites have decided that Prime Minister Imran Khan must go:
1) Imran Khan opposes US foreign policy
Imran Khan was always dubbed a “fanatic” – i.e., overly critical of US foreign policy.
Khan strongly opposed Washington’s so-called “war on terror,” and especially the war in Afghanistan, arguing that military solutions were both immoral and counterproductive. For this he was long disparagingly referred to as “Taliban Khan.”
What bruised Washington’s ego even more was that Khan turned out to be right. The American debacle in Afghanistan that ended with Kabul falling to the Taliban was perceived by the US as a victory for Pakistan, and for Khan in particular.
The US is unwilling to forgive Khan for its own humiliation in Afghanistan, even though he had little to do with it.
2) Khan’s anti-colonial voice on the international stage
Imran Khan’s speech at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2019 was condemned as overly audacious. 

A Pakistani leader speaking so strongly on issues of global injustice made Western elites feel that he had become way too big for his shoes.
At least three of the points that he emphasized in his remarks rubbed Western supremacists in the wrong way.
First, Khan condemned powerful Western countries for enabling elites of the Global South to plunder their own societies.

Second, he highlighted Islamophobia as not a marginal affair, but as a dangerous phenomenon structuring our global order – and one that the world must take seriously.
Relatedly, Khan scathingly criticized the insidious characterization of some Muslims as “moderate” and others as “radical.” 

These maliciously constructed distinctions have been essential to the political lexicon of the “war on terror.”
Third, Khan spoke passionately about the Kashmiri struggle against Indian occupation in a way that few Pakistani (or any other) leaders have.
His rhetorical performance seemed to be a page out of the anti-colonial playbook of the 1960s.
3) Khan deepened Pakistan’s friendship with China
Perhaps most concerning to Western elites is how Imran Khan has strengthened Pakistan’s decades-old relationship with China.
Islamabad and Beijing are key partners in infrastructure projects aimed at connecting the region. 

They work together in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the Belt and Road Initiative.

Khan received a very warm reception at the Beijing Olympics this February. It was a clear affirmation that Islamabad remains Beijing’s close ally.

In addition, President Xi Jinping and the Chinese leadership deem Khan to be a Pakistani leader genuinely interested in cooperation for Pakistan’s development, free from the enormous corruption and incompetence that characterize other political forces in the country.
Whether this is true or not, Beijing believes it. And Xi has built a very close relationship with Khan personally.
Furthermore, the fact that China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi attended the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Summit in Islamabad this March spoke volumes to China’s embrace of Pakistan’s leadership within the Muslim world.
4) Khan improved Pakistan’s ties with Russia
The recent breakthrough in the relationship between Pakistan and Russia seems to have been the straw that ultimately broke the camel’s back.
Islamabad never had a close relationship with Moscow. On the contrary, Pakistan and the Soviet Union had been adversaries during the first cold war, and retained a level of bitterness and distance. Moscow was always considered a strong ally of New Delhi.
But on the sidelines of the Beijing Olympics, Russian President Putin extended an invitation to Prime Minister Khan. 

Seeing an opportunity to at least neutralize a regional powerhouse that has historically been Islamabad’s foe, he agreed to the visit.
However, as soon as Khan landed in Moscow, Putin launched his military assault against Ukraine. 

Khan was lambasted by Western capitals for not condemning Russia then, and this continued when he returned home.

Khan received a strongly worded letter from European ambassadors demanding he denounce Moscow. 

The prime minister’s response, “we are not your slaves,” became quite popular not only in Pakistan, but in many parts of the Muslim world and the Global South.

Khan noted that his requests that these same Western countries condemn India’s behavior in Kashmir or Israel’s crimes in Palestine routinely fell on deaf ears.
Since then, Khan has consistently called for an end to the war in Ukraine and a diplomatic solution.
At the OIC summit he hosted, Khan specifically called on China to help mediate between Russia and Ukraine.
But the rapprochement with Russia appears to be where Khan crossed the rubicon.
As the global geopolitical battle lines are being rigidly drawn, Khan’s Pakistan seems to increasingly be on the “wrong side,” according to Washington.
5) Khan’s leadership in the Muslim world
The decision to host the 48th Session of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) in Islamabad this March crystallized Imran Khan’s role as one of the most popular Muslim political leaders today.
Khan seemed to be trying to mimic the performance and standing of Pakistan’s prime minister in the 1970s, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who similarly hosted an OIC meeting in Lahore, with great fanfare and purpose.
Whatever one’s feelings about Islam and politics, there is no question that powerful external forces detest those Muslim actors that they cannot control.
Washington has continued to work closely with brutal exclusivist forces such as al-Qaeda in Syria and the House of Saud. 

It has also cultivated a class of “moderate” Muslims since 9/11 that have faithfully delivered an empire-friendly Islam.
There is one factor that unites all of these disparate Muslim actors: their servility to Washington.
Unfortunately, Khan does not fit these imperial categories – as much as both Western and Pakistani liberal elites would want to portray him as a “fundamentalist.”
Khan’s invocation of an Islamicate civilizational ethos that centers social justice, however incoherently articulated and scarcely implemented, also advanced a politics of countering Western supremacy.
6) Pakistan’s gradual challenge to Saudi-led hegemony in the Muslim world
Imran Khan has demonstrated a gradual tilt toward countries that, on the whole, represent a counterweight to Saudi-led hegemony throughout the Muslim world.
The 2019 Kuala Lumpur Summit called by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad marked a milestone in this project. Nations such as Turkey, Iran, and Qatar participated.
Everyone knew that this was a significant attempt to challenge traditional Saudi dominance and influence.
Mahathir, who is very fond of Khan, invited Pakistan, and the participants understood how important the Pakistani prime minister’s presence would be.
Yet in the last minute, Islamabad pulled out.
Days before the Kuala Lumpur Summit, Khan was summoned to Riyadh, where he was warned in no uncertain terms: You are not to go to Malaysia, and if you do, the House of Saud will begin the deportation of Pakistani laborers, halt all oil subsidies and supplies, rescind any and all loans, and so on.
Khan was humiliated, but had to comply. He did not go to Kuala Lumpur.
7) Khan can’t be simply controlled by the military
Imran Khan came to power with the blessing of the Pakistani army. 

The commonsense understanding was that he and the military have a snug relationship and are on the same page – to the point that Khan was for a time portrayed as a puppet of the military establishment. That has turned out not to be true.
The military has always been in control of Pakistan’s national security and foreign policy. To the extent both Khan and the generals viewed things the same, all was fine.
However, Khan turned out to be no pushover. He has firmly asserted his right to be a part of any crucial national security issue – a right most previous civilian governments readily relinquished.
When the Pakistani media now incessantly reiterates “Khan has fallen out of favor with the military,” it simply means that the cat is finally out of the bag: Khan is no lackey of the men in khaki.
For Washington, this is a huge problem. Having militaries to “set things straight” when leaders of the Global South become disobedient has been standard American operating procedure.
8) Khan’s unequivocal support for Palestinian liberation
One of the most important reasons why imperialist forces demand Imran Khan’s ouster is the obvious: his consistent and unequivocal support for the Palestinian struggle.
His position became all too well-known and “controversial” when an intense campaign of pressure and threats came Islamabad’s way in 2020 and 2021.
After several Gulf monarchies normalized relations with apartheid Israel, and the extent of their coziness was finally paraded publicly, what followed was painful arm-twisting of other Muslim countries to follow suit.
For Tel Aviv, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, and of course Washington, Islamabad was the real prize.
For months, Pakistanis experienced an onslaught of information warfare geared to make the public more amenable to the idea of recognizing and accepting Israeli apartheid.
very quickly, it became obvious that not only the major national political parties, but also significant sections of the military high command all conveyed a willingness to entertain the idea of normalization.
The motive of Pakistan’s ruling elite was obvious: such a step, they believed, would get them into the good graces of Washington, and enable their private coffers to exponentially grow.
But Prime Minister Khan did not give in.
Prior to the hoopla around normalization, in May 2020, Khan vocally condemned Israel’s war on Gaza. He did not mince his words: “We are with Palestine. We are with Gaza.”

At the OIC summit this March, even at the risk of embarrassing some of his guests (especially from the Gulf), Khan consistently spoke about the failure of Muslim countries to stop Israeli brutality against the Palestinians.
There is no doubt that if Khan had avoided touching the Palestinian question, he would not be in so much trouble.
Criticisms of Imran Khan
While the reasons enunciated above explain why antagonistic global elites desire regime change in Islamabad, for the sake of clarity – especially for sincere liberal-progressive critics of Imran Khan – it is also worth acknowledging criticisms. 

Suffice to say, these are decidedly not reasons motivating this hybrid war on Pakistan:
1) Khan’s patriarchal views
2) Khan’s poor governance
3) Khan’s mismanagement of the economy
Whether any of the above is true or not – (and they certainly may be – it ought to be self-evident that these issues have never been the real motivations of global elites in their imperial interventions.
From the time that Khan first took power, we have been subject to an eerily familiar narrative. 

In the dirty war aimed at regime change in Syria, for years we heard the same refrain: the Assad regime is falling any day now.
We have been fed the same slogan for the past three-and-a-half years in Pakistan as well: the Imran Khan “regime” is just about to fall.
And since Khan has not “moderated” his views to be more palatable to the interests of Western capitals, the latter’s low-intensity hybrid war has been increased to full throttle.
The standard falsehoods recycled against all targets of regime change, including Latin American countries like Venezuela, now prevail in the narrative on Pakistan.
Claims that Khan is guilty of “increasingly authoritarian” rule, characterized by harsh repression of dissent and the media, fit an all too well-trodden script.
Yet it just so happens that the overwhelming majority of both the print and electronic media in Pakistan have been incessantly anti-Khan.
The hybrid warfare being waged against Pakistan – including information warfare, psyops, and the engineering of something like a “color revolution” – in no way means that there is not genuine opposition to the current government.
But in Pakistan we saw a coordinated campaign emerge this March, leading up to the opposition’s “no-confidence” motion in the parliament.
Virtually all of Pakistan’s media, dominant sections of elite civil society, and the opposition leaders and their moles in Khan’s political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), all of a sudden united in a full-scale blitzkrieg against Khan.
That this came right at the moment when Western condemnations of the prime minister had reached their peak does not seem like a mere coincidence.
As we witness geopolitical transformations of a world-historical importance, the international fault lines in this interregnum are becoming more visible.
Pakistan’s growing proximity to China and Russia and the country’s commitment to the Eurasian integration project has activated the wrath of American ruling elites.
At this particularly precarious conjuncture, Washington views Islamabad as a, if not the, major Muslim capital that needs to be controlled and severely disciplined if an independent Khan-type leader arises.
The turmoil afflicting Pakistan is the outcome of a well-coordinated strategy to discipline and punish Khan.
The opposition demand for a no-confidence vote in the National Assembly reflects the amalgamation of domestic and foreign machinations.
This vote will be a reflection of the balance of forces, resulting either in a victory for Washington and its political quislings, or the retention of at least a quasi-sovereign Pakistan with Khan still in power.
The shenanigans of politicians and their maneuvering to be on the “right side” of the political winds are the games of corrupt, power-hungry elites.
None of this has anything to do with genuine grievances of Pakistanis, and is largely a diversion from the real global power play inside the country.
Hostile global elites are trying desperately to find a new, Pakistani version of Juan Guaidó (the Western minion chosen unilaterally by Washington to replace Nicolás Maduro as supposed “interim president” of Venezuela).
Whether or not Khan survives, anyone even vaguely familiar with global regime-change operations will see exactly what is going on.

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REGIME CHANGE
Law & Politics



Change came to Saddam’s Iraq and for a while regime change was de rigeur.
Muammar Gaddafi was decapitated and the domino effect only stopped when Vladimir Putin decided he was going to put a stop to it and intervened on behalf of Bashar Al-Assad in Syria.
Today, the US has exited Afghanistan and the days of a Unipolar World are self evidently behind us. 

We exist in a Tripolar World [US China and Russia] with rapidly emerging Middle Powers. 

I am not discounting Fortress Europe but one senses the Fortress is keener on a more defensive posture unlike the US [notwithstanding its withdrawal from Afghanistan], China and Russia. 

Taiwan and Ukraine are the immediate geopolitical flashpoints.


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From Russia with Love
Law & Politics



Russia’s “political technologists” have reportedly devised bespoke solutions for confronting in- cipient and ongoing color revolutions

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This Shouldn’t Happen: Inside the Virus-Hunting Nonprofit at the Center of the Lab-Leak Controversy @VanityFair @KatherineEban
Misc.


On June 18, 2021, an evolutionary biologist named Jesse D. Bloom sent the draft of an unpublished scientific paper he’d written to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical adviser to the president of the United States. 

A bespectacled, boyish-looking 43-year-old often clad in short-sleeved checkered shirts, Bloom specializes in the study of how viruses evolve. 

“He is the most ethical scientist I know,” said Sergei Pond, a fellow evolutionary biologist. “He wants to dig deep and discover the truth.”
The paper Bloom had written—known as a preprint, because it had yet to be peer-reviewed or published—contained sensitive revelations about the National Institutes of Health, the federal agency that oversees biomedical research. 

In the interests of transparency, he wanted Fauci, who helms an NIH subagency, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), to see it ahead of time. 

Under ordinary circumstances, the preprint might have sparked a respectful exchange of views. But this was no ordinary preprint, and no ordinary moment.
More than a year into the pandemic, the genesis of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, was still a mystery. 

Most scientists believed that it had made the leap from bats to humans naturally, via an intermediary species, most likely at a market in Wuhan, China, where live wild animals were slaughtered and sold. 

But a growing contingent were asking if it could have originated inside a nearby laboratory that is known to have conducted risky coronavirus research funded in part by the United States. 

As speculation, sober and otherwise, swirled, the NIH was being bombarded by Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits. 

Fauci himself needed a security detail, owing to death threats from conspiracy theorists who believed he was covering up some dark secret.

Bloom’s paper was the product of detective work he’d undertaken after noticing that a number of early SARS-CoV-2 genomic sequences mentioned in a published paper from China had somehow vanished without a trace. 

The sequences, which map the nucleotides that give a virus its unique genetic identity, are key to tracking when the virus emerged and how it might have evolved. 

In Bloom’s view, their disappearance raised the possibility that the Chinese government might be trying to hide evidence about the pandemic’s early spread. 

Piecing together clues, Bloom established that the NIH itself had deleted the sequences from its own archive at the request of researchers in Wuhan

Now, he was hoping Fauci and his boss, NIH director Francis Collins, could help him identify other deleted sequences that might shed light on the mystery.

Bloom had submitted the paper to a preprint server, a public repository of scientific papers awaiting peer review, on the same day that he’d sent a copy to Fauci and Collins. 

It now existed in a kind of twilight zone: not published, and not yet public, but almost certain to appear online soon.
Collins immediately organized a Zoom meeting for Sunday, June 20. He invited two outside scientists, evolutionary biologist Kristian Andersen and virologist Robert Garry, and allowed Bloom to do the same

Bloom chose Pond and Rasmus Nielsen, a genetic biologist. That it was shaping up like an old-fashioned duel with seconds in attendance did not cross Bloom’s mind at the time. 

But six months after that meeting, he remained so troubled by what transpired that he wrote a detailed account, which Vanity Fair obtained.
After Bloom described his research, the Zoom meeting became “extremely contentious,” he wrote. 

Andersen leapt in, saying he found the preprint “deeply troubling.” If the Chinese scientists wanted to delete their sequences from the database, which NIH policy entitled them to do, it was unethical for Bloom to analyze them further, he claimed. 

And there was nothing unusual about the early genomic sequences in Wuhan.
Instantly, Nielsen and Andersen were “yelling at each other,” Bloom wrote, with Nielsen insisting that the early Wuhan sequences were “extremely puzzling and unusual.”
Andersen—who’d had some of his emails with Fauci from early in the pandemic publicly released through FOIA requests—leveled a third objection. 

Andersen, Bloom wrote, “needed security outside his house, and my pre-print would fuel conspiratorial notions that China was hiding data and thereby lead to more criticism of scientists such as himself.”
Fauci then weighed in, objecting to the preprint’s description of Chinese scientists “surreptitiously” deleting the sequences. The word was loaded, said Fauci, and the reason they’d asked for the deletions was unknown.
That’s when Andersen made a suggestion that surprised Bloom. He said he was a screener at the preprint server, which gave him access to papers that weren’t yet public. 

He then offered to either entirely delete the preprint or revise it “in a way that would leave no record that this had been done.” 

Bloom refused, saying that he doubted either option was appropriate, “given the contentious nature of the meeting.”

At that point, both Fauci and Collins distanced themselves from Andersen’s offer, with Fauci saying, as Bloom recalled it, “Just for the record, I want to be clear that I never suggested you delete or revise the pre-print.” They seemed to know that Andersen had gone too far.

Both Andersen and Garry denied that anyone in the meeting suggested deleting or revising the paper. Andersen said Bloom’s account was “false.” 

Garry dismissed it as “nonsense.” Sergei Pond, however, confirmed Bloom’s account as accurate, after having it read aloud to him. 

“I don’t remember the exact phrasing—I didn’t take any notes—but from what you described, that sounds accurate. I definitely felt bad for poor Jesse.” 

He added that the “charged-up” atmosphere struck him as “inappropriate for a scientific meeting.” A spokesperson for Fauci declined to comment.
The wagon-circling on that Zoom call reflected a siege mentality at the NIH whose cause was much larger than Bloom and the missing sequences. 

It couldn’t be made to disappear with creative editing or deletion. And it all began with a once-obscure science nonprofit in Manhattan that had become the conduit for federal grant money to a Wuhan research laboratory.

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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.”

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04-JAN-2021 :: Today only the Paid for Propagandists and Virologists will argue that there is a 'zoonotic' origin for COVID19.
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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.
Those who have chosen to propagate this narrative are above the radar and in plain sight and need to be called to account.
The Utter Failure to call these 5th columnists to Account is the clearest Signal that there is no external threat because it is already on the inside.

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This Shouldn’t Happen: Inside the Virus-Hunting Nonprofit at the Center of the Lab-Leak Controversy @VanityFair @KatherineEban [continued]
Misc.


In 2014, Fauci’s agency had issued a $3.7 million grant to EcoHealth Alliance, a nongovernmental organization dedicated to predicting and helping to prevent the next pandemic by identifying viruses that could leap from wildlife to humans

The grant, titled Understanding the Risk of Bat Coronavirus Emergence, proposed to screen wild and captive bats in China, analyze sequences in the laboratory to gauge the risk of bat viruses infecting humans, and build predictive models to examine future risk. 

The Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) was a key collaborator to whom EcoHealth Alliance gave almost $600,000 in sub-awards. 

But the work there had been controversial enough that the NIH suspended the grant in July 2020.
As it happened, EcoHealth Alliance failed to predict the COVID-19 pandemic—even though it erupted into public view at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, a short drive from the WIV itself. In the ensuing months, every move of EcoHealth Alliance, and its voluble president Peter Daszak, came under scrutiny by a small army of scientific sleuths and assorted journalists. 

What, they wanted to know, had really gone on at the WIV? 

Why had Daszak been so cagey about the work his organization had been funding there? 

And were Fauci and other officials trying to direct attention away from research that the U.S. had been, at least indirectly, financing?
The dispute over COVID-19’s origins has become increasingly acrimonious, with warring camps of scientists trading personal insults on Twitter feeds. 

Natural-origin proponents argue that the virus, like so many before it, emerged from the well-known phenomenon of natural spillover, jumping from a bat host to an intermediate species before going on to infect humans. 

Those suspecting a lab-related incident point to an array of possible scenarios, from inadvertent exposure of a scientist during field research to the accidental release of a natural or manipulated strain during laboratory work. 

The lack of concrete evidence supporting either theory has only increased the rancor. 

“Everyone is looking for a smoking gun that would render any reasonable doubt impossible,” says Amir Attaran, a biologist and lawyer at the University of Ottawa. 

Without cooperation from the Chinese government, that may be impossible.

In 2018, Daszak had appeared on Chinese state-run TV and said, “The work we do with Chinese collaborators is published jointly in international journals and the sequence data is uploaded onto the internet free for everyone to read, very open, very transparent, and very collaborative.” 

He added, “Science is naturally transparent and open…. You do something, you discover something, you want to tell the world about it. That’s the nature of scientists.”

But as COVID-19 rampaged across the globe, the Chinese government’s commitment to transparency turned out to be limited. 

It has refused to share raw data from early patient cases, or participate in any further international efforts to investigate the virus’s origin. 

And in September 2019, three months before the officially recognized start of the pandemic, the Wuhan Institute of Virology took down its database of some 22,000 virus samples and sequences, refusing to restore it despite international requests.
As for transparency-minded scientists in the U.S., Daszak early on set about covertly organizing a letter in the Lancet medical journal that sought to present the lab-leak hypothesis as a groundless and destructive conspiracy theory

And Fauci and a small group of scientists, including Andersen and Garry, worked to enshrine the natural-origin theory during confidential discussions in early February 2020, even though several of them privately expressed that they felt a lab-related incident was likelier. 

Just days before those discussions began, Vanity Fair has learned, Dr. Robert Redfield, a virologist and the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), had urged Fauci privately to vigorously investigate both the lab and natural hypotheses. 

He was then excluded from the ensuing discussions—learning only later that they’d even occurred. “Their goal was to have a single narrative,” Redfield told Vanity Fair.
Why top scientists linked arms to tamp down public speculation about a lab leak—even when their emails, revealed via FOIA requests and congressional review, suggest they held similar concerns—remains unclear. 

Was it simply because their views shifted in favor of a natural origin? 

Could it have been to protect science from the ravings of conspiracy theorists? 

Or to protect against a revelation that could prove fatal to certain risky research that they deem indispensable? 

Or to protect vast streams of grant money from political interference or government regulation?
The effort to close the debate in favor of the natural-origin hypothesis continues today. 

In February, The New York Times gave front-page treatment to a set of preprints—written by Michael Worobey at the University of Arizona, Kristian Andersen at Scripps Research Institute, and 16 coauthors, including Garry—claiming that a new analysis of public data from the Huanan market in Wuhan provided “dispositive evidence” that the virus first leapt to humans from animals sold there

But a number of top scientists, Bloom among them, questioned that assertion, saying the preprints, while worthy, relied on incomplete data and found no infected animal.
“I don’t think they offer proof. They provide evidence that more strongly supports the link to the wild animal market than to the WIV, and that’s the way I would have phrased it,” says W. Ian Lipkin, an epidemiologist at Columbia University who favors the natural-origin theory.

“Some scientists seem almost hell-bent on naming the Huanan market as the site of the origin of the pandemic; and some members of the media seem more than happy to embrace these conclusions without careful examination,” said Stanford microbiologist David Relman. 

“This issue is far too important to be decided in the public domain by unreviewed studies, incomplete and unconfirmed data, and unsubstantiated proclamations.”

Perhaps more than anyone, Peter Daszak—a Western scientist immersed in Chinese coronavirus research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology—was uniquely positioned to help the world crack open the origin mystery, not least by sharing what he knew. 

But last year, Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, the Columbia University economist who oversees the Lancet’s COVID-19 commission, dismissed Daszak from the helm of a task force investigating the virus’s genesis, after he flatly refused to share progress reports from his contested research grant. 

(In written responses to detailed questions, Daszak said he was “simply following NIH guidance” when he declined Sachs’s request, because the agency was withholding the reports in question “until they had adjudicated a FOIA request.” The reports are now publicly available, he said.)
“[Daszak] and NIH have acted badly,” Sachs told Vanity Fair. “There has been a lack of transparency…and there is a lot more to know and that can be known.” 

He said that the NIH should support an “independent scientific investigation” to examine the “possible role” in the pandemic of the NIH, EcoHealth Alliance, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and a partner laboratory at the University of North Carolina

“Both hypotheses are still very much with us,” he said, and “need to be investigated seriously and scientifically.” 

(“We are also on record as welcoming independent scientific investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Daszak told Vanity Fair.)
This story is based on more than 100,000 internal EcoHealth Alliance documents obtained by Vanity Fair, as well as interviews with five former staff members and 33 other sources. 

The documents, most of which predate the pandemic, span a number of years and include budgets, staff and board meeting minutes, and internal emails and reports. 

While the documents do not tell us where COVID-19 came from, they shed light on the world in which EcoHealth Alliance has operated: one of murky grant agreements, flimsy oversight, and the pursuit of government funds for scientific advancement, in part by pitching research of steeply escalating risk.

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This Shouldn’t Happen Inside the Virus-Hunting Nonprofit at the Center of the Lab-Leak Controversy @VanityFair @KatherineEban continued
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The story of how Daszak’s grant entangled Fauci in the specter of Wuhan coronavirus research began years earlier, at a stately Beaux Arts social club in Washington, D.C. 

For more than a decade, EcoHealth Alliance hosted a series of cocktail parties at the Cosmos Club near DuPont Circle to discuss the prevention of viral outbreaks. 

There, expert biologists, virologists, and journalists mingled with the true guests of honor: federal government bureaucrats who were in the position to steer grants.

On invitations, EcoHealth Alliance described the events as “educational.” Inside the nonprofit, however, officials called them “cultivation events.” 

The return on investment was excellent: For about $8,000 in Brie and Chardonnay per event, they got to network with prospective federal funders. 

As the organization’s 2018 strategic plan spelled out, “Given our strength in federal funding, we enhanced our cultivation events at the Cosmos Club in Washington DC, which now regularly attract 75-150 people at high levels in govt agencies, NGOs and the private sector.” 

(“These kinds of events are common among many nongovernmental organizations and nonprofits, which depend upon both public and private donors for support,” Daszak told Vanity Fair.)
Of all those high-level people, almost no one ranked as high as Fauci, a scientific kingmaker who dispensed billions in grant money each year—and Daszak was determined to share a podium with him

The idea was admittedly a reach. Though he’d met with Fauci and received funding from his agency, Daszak was relatively obscure. But he had cultivated back-channel access to the minders who guarded Fauci’s calendar.
On September 9, 2013, Daszak emailed Fauci’s senior adviser David Morens to see if the sought-after NIAID chief would be available as a panel speaker. 

Morens emailed back, recommending that Daszak “write Tony directly, thanking him for meeting with you all recently and then inviting him to be a member of this Cosmos Club discussion. That way, it is personal and doesn’t look ‘cooked’ by us.”
Though Fauci declined that invitation and several others, Daszak kept trying. 

In February 2016, Morens passed along a valuable tip: 

Fauci “normally says no to almost everything like this. Unless ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox are all there with cameras running. If he were asked to give THE main talk or the only talk that might increase the chances.”

The gambit worked. Fauci signed on to give a presentation on the Zika virus at the Cosmos Club on March 30, and the RSVPs flowed in. 

The guests came from an array of deep-pocketed federal agencies: the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Pentagon, even NASA. 

As Daszak would declare at a board meeting on December 15, the “Washington, DC cultivation events have been a great way to increase our visibility to federal funders,” according to meeting minutes. 

A month earlier, Donald Trump had been elected president. One board member at the meeting asked what his incoming administration might mean for a conservation nonprofit dependent on federal grants. 

Daszak offered breezy reassurance: The organization’s “apolitical mission” would help it adapt.

Little did he know that, in the era of Trump and COVID-19, science itself would become the ultimate political battleground.

If a shared podium with Fauci proved that Daszak had become a true player among virus hunters, it also underscored just how far he had come

For years, Peter Daszak sat at the helm of a struggling nonprofit with a mission to save manatees, promote responsible pet ownership, and celebrate threatened species

The organization, which operated under the name Wildlife Trust until 2010, was constantly on the hunt for ways to close its budget shortfalls. 

One year, it proposed to honor at its annual benefit a mining company operating in Liberia that was paying it to assess the risks of Ebola virus. 

Another idea was to seek donations from palm-oil millionaires leveling rainforests who might be interested in “cleaning up” their image.

Balding and usually clad in hiking gear, Daszak was one part salesman, one part visionary. 

He saw clearly that human incursions into the natural world could lead to the emergence of animal pathogens, with bats a particularly potent reservoir. 

Daszak was “making a bet that bats were harboring deadly viruses,” said Dr. Matthew McCarthy, an associate professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York. 

In 2004, as a 23-year-old Harvard medical student, McCarthy followed Daszak to Cameroon to trap bats. 

“I left my family, my friends,” he said. “It was a very powerful thing for people like me, going into the most remote parts of the world. I was taken by him, hook, line, and sinker.”
The bioterror attacks of 2001, in which letters dusted with anthrax spores were sent through the U.S. mail, coupled with the first SARS coronavirus outbreak in China the following year, would bring money for the study of lethal natural pathogens pouring into federal agencies. 

In 2003, the NIAID got an eye-popping $1.7 billion for research to defend against bioterrorism.
Daszak’s office on Manhattan’s Far West Side didn’t have a laboratory. The closest bat colonies were in Central Park. But he cultivated an affiliation with Shi Zhengli, a Chinese scientist who would rise to become the director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases

Slight and sophisticated with an international education, Shi became known in China as “bat woman” for her fearless exploration of their habitats. Dazsak’s alliance with her would open China’s bat caves to him.

“This Shouldn’t Happen”: Inside the Virus-Hunting Nonprofit at the Center of the Lab-Leak Controversy @VanityFair @KatherineEban [continued]
https://bit.ly/3Lwtf8J

In 2005, after conducting field research in four locations in China, Daszak and Shi coauthored their first paper together, which established that horseshoe bats were a likely reservoir for SARS-like coronaviruses. They would go on to collaborate on 17 papers. 

In 2013, they reported their discovery that a SARS-like bat coronavirus, which Shi had been the first to successfully isolate in a lab, might be able to infect human cells without first jumping to an intermediate animal. 

“[Peter] respected her,” said the former EcoHealth Alliance staffer. “In the view of everyone, they were doing great work for the world.” 

Their partnership gave Daszak an almost proprietary sense of the bat caves in Yunnan province, which he would later refer to in a grant proposal as “our field test sites.”
As Daszak’s staff and Shi’s graduate students intermingled, traveling between Wuhan and Manhattan, the exchange flourished. 

When Shi visited New York, the EcoHealth staff selected a restaurant for a celebratory dinner with great care. 

“Zhengli is not one to stand on formality; she makes dumplings by hand with her students in the lab!!” Daszak’s chief of staff wrote to another employee. 

“She got her PhD in France, loves red wine, and likes good food above formality.”
By 2009, bats had turned into big money. That September, USAID awarded a $75 million grant called PREDICT to four organizations, including Daszak’s

It was “the most comprehensive zoonotic virus surveillance project in the world,” USAID stated, and its purpose was to identify and predict viral emergence, in part by sampling and testing bats and other wildlife in remote locations.
The $18 million over five years awarded to what was then Wildlife Trust was a “game-changer,” Daszak told his staff in an ecstatic email sharing the news. 

“I want to take this opportunity (despite 7 hours of drinking champagne – literally!) to thank all of you for your support.”
The money transformed the ragged nonprofit. It increased its budget by half, ending a yearslong operating loss; began a long-deferred rebranding, which led to the new name EcoHealth Alliance; and spruced up its headquarters, even fixing its chronically broken air conditioner. 

Over the course of the grant, it allocated $1.1 million to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, USAID recently acknowledged in a letter to Congress.

When Dr. Maureen Miller, an infectious disease epidemiologist, arrived at EcoHealth Alliance in 2014, she landed in an environment that she found to be toxic and secretive. 

Closed-door meetings were the norm. The senior leadership constituted an unwelcoming “old boys network.” 

She soon came to believe that she was hired “because they needed a senior-level woman,” she said, adding, “I was excluded from pretty much everything.”

She came aboard shortly before the organization’s PREDICT grant was renewed for five more years. 

It was also the year the NIH approved Understanding the Risk of Bat Coronavirus Emergence, the $3.7 million grant that would come back to haunt Fauci. 

Miller said she was “lured by the idea of being able to create a pandemic-threats warning system.”
Miller got to work creating a surveillance strategy to detect zoonotic virus spillover. 

Chinese villagers living near bat caves in Southern Yunnan province would have their blood tested for antibodies to a SARS-like coronavirus, then answer questionnaires to determine if certain behaviors had led them to be exposed. 

It was a “biological and behavioral warning system,” Miller explained.

Over the next two years, Miller saw Daszak only a handful of times. But she worked closely with Shi Zhengli, who developed the test to screen the villagers’ blood. 

In that time, Miller noted, “I never got a result from [Shi] via phone. I had to show up in China to learn anything from her.” 

From that, Miller gleaned that, while Shi was a “world-class scientist, she respects the Chinese system.” 

In short, she followed the Chinese government’s rules. (Shi Zhengli did not respond to written questions for this article.)

Miller left EcoHealth Alliance in November 2016, never knowing what became of the strategy she’d developed. 

But in the fall of 2017, Shi alerted Miller’s former assistant to the fact that Daszak was about to get credit for her work in an upcoming publication. 

“Shi went out of her way to ensure I would be included,” Miller said. The final version of a letter, published in January 2018 in the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s journal, Virologica Sinica, included Miller’s name. Six out of 218 villagers had tested positive for antibodies, suggesting that the strategy was a successful way to gauge potential spillover.
But the experience left Miller with a dark impression of Daszak: “He is so single-minded that he wants to be the one who makes the discovery, without having to share.”
Daszak said Miller has been credited as a coauthor on at least eight papers stemming from her work at EcoHealth Alliance, “a testimony to the equity, fairness, and openness of our publication and authorship practices.” 

He added that the nonprofit’s staff is “diverse and culturally sensitive” and has been “majority female for 20 years.”
Daszak’s $3.7 million NIH grant first set off alarm bells in early May 2016, as it entered its third year. 

The NIH requires annual progress reports, but Daszak’s year-two report was late and the agency threatened to withhold funds until he filed it.

The report he finally did submit worried the agency’s grant specialists. It stated that scientists planned to create an infectious clone of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), a novel coronavirus found in dromedaries that had emerged in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and killed 35% of the humans it infected. 

The report also made clear that the NIH grant had already been used to construct two chimeric coronaviruses similar to the one that caused Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which emerged in 2002 and went on to cause at least 774 deaths worldwide

(A chimeric virus is one that combines fragments of different viruses.) 

These revelations prompted the NIH’s grant specialists to ask a critical question: Should the work be subject to a federal moratorium on what was called gain-of-function research?
With that, Daszak’s grant got tangled in a yearslong debate that had divided the virology community. 

In 2011, two scientists separately announced that they had genetically altered Highly Pathogenic Asian Avian Influenza A (H5N1), the bird flu virus that has killed at least 456 people since 2003. 

The scientists gave the virus new functions—enabling it to spread efficiently among ferrets, which are genetically closer to humans than mice—as a way to gauge its risks to people. Both studies had received NIH funding.
The scientific community erupted in conflict over what became known as gain-of-function research. 

Proponents claimed it could help prevent pandemics by highlighting potential threats. 

Critics argued that creating pathogens that didn’t exist in nature ran the risk of unleashing them. 

As the dispute raged, Fauci worked to strike a middle ground, but ultimately supported the research, arguing in a coauthored Washington Post op-ed that “important information and insights can come from generating a potentially dangerous virus in the laboratory.”
In October 2014, the Obama administration imposed a moratorium on new federal funding for research that could make influenza, MERS, or SARS viruses more virulent or transmissible, while a review took place. 

But the moratorium, as written, left loopholes, which allowed Daszak to try to save the research. 

On June 8, 2016, he wrote to the NIH’s grant specialists that the SARS-like chimeras from the completed experiment were exempt from the moratorium, because the strains used had not previously been known to infect humans

He also pointed to a 2015 research paper in which scientists had infected humanized mice with the same strains, and found that they were less lethal than the original SARS virus.

But the 2015 research paper he cited was not particularly reassuring. 

In it, Shi Zhengli and a preeminent coronavirus researcher at the University of North Carolina, Ralph Baric, mixed components of SARS-like viruses from different species, and created a novel chimera that was able to directly infect human cells. (Baric did not respond to written questions seeking comment.)

This gain-of-function experiment, which had begun prior to the moratorium, was so fraught that the authors flagged the dangers themselves, writing, “scientific review panels may deem similar studies…too risky to pursue.” 

The paper’s acknowledgments cited funding from the NIH and from EcoHealth Alliance, through a different grant.
If anything, the MERS study Daszak proposed was even riskier. So he pitched a compromise to the NIH: that if any of the recombined strains showed 10 times greater growth than a natural virus, “we will immediately: i) stop all experiments with the mutant, ii) inform our NIAID Program Officer and the UNC [Institutional Biosafety Committee] of these results and iii) participate in decision making trees to decide appropriate paths forward.”
This mention of UNC brought a puzzled response from an NIH program officer, who pointed out that the proposal had said the research would be performed at the WIV. 

“Can you clarify where the work with the chimeric viruses will actually be performed?” the officer wrote. 

Ten days later, with still no response from Daszak, the program officer emailed him again. On June 27, Daszak responded, buoyant as ever:
“You are correct to identify a mistake in our letter. UNC has no oversight of the chimera work, all of which will be conducted at the Wuhan Institute of Virology…. We will clarify tonight with Prof. Zhengli Shi exactly who will be notified if we see enhanced replication…my understanding is that I will be notified straight away, as [principal investigator], and that I can then notify you at NIAID. Apologies for the error!”
By July 7, the NIH agreed to Daszak’s terms, which relied entirely on mutual transparency: Shi would inform him of any concerning developments involving the lab-constructed viruses, and he would inform the agency. 

Daszak replied enthusiastically to a program officer, “This is terrific! We are very happy to hear that our Gain of Function research funding pause has been lifted.”

Allowing such risky research to go forward at the Wuhan Institute of Virology was “simply crazy, in my opinion,” says Jack Nunberg, director of the Montana Biotechnology Center. 

“Reasons are lack of oversight, lack of regulation, the environment in China,” where scientists who publish in prestigious journals get rewarded by the government, creating dangerous incentives.

 “So that is what really elevates it to the realm of, ‘No, this shouldn’t happen.’”

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This Shouldn’t Happen Inside the Virus-Hunting Nonprofit at the Center of the Lab-Leak Controversy @VanityFair @KatherineEban cont
Misc.


In 2005, after conducting field research in four locations in China, Daszak and Shi coauthored their first paper together, which established that horseshoe bats were a likely reservoir for SARS-like coronaviruses. They would go on to collaborate on 17 papers. 

In 2013, they reported their discovery that a SARS-like bat coronavirus, which Shi had been the first to successfully isolate in a lab, might be able to infect human cells without first jumping to an intermediate animal. 

“[Peter] respected her,” said the former EcoHealth Alliance staffer. “In the view of everyone, they were doing great work for the world.” 

Their partnership gave Daszak an almost proprietary sense of the bat caves in Yunnan province, which he would later refer to in a grant proposal as “our field test sites.”
As Daszak’s staff and Shi’s graduate students intermingled, traveling between Wuhan and Manhattan, the exchange flourished. 

When Shi visited New York, the EcoHealth staff selected a restaurant for a celebratory dinner with great care. 

“Zhengli is not one to stand on formality; she makes dumplings by hand with her students in the lab!!” Daszak’s chief of staff wrote to another employee. 

“She got her PhD in France, loves red wine, and likes good food above formality.”
By 2009, bats had turned into big money. That September, USAID awarded a $75 million grant called PREDICT to four organizations, including Daszak’s

It was “the most comprehensive zoonotic virus surveillance project in the world,” USAID stated, and its purpose was to identify and predict viral emergence, in part by sampling and testing bats and other wildlife in remote locations.
The $18 million over five years awarded to what was then Wildlife Trust was a “game-changer,” Daszak told his staff in an ecstatic email sharing the news. 

“I want to take this opportunity (despite 7 hours of drinking champagne – literally!) to thank all of you for your support.”
The money transformed the ragged nonprofit. It increased its budget by half, ending a yearslong operating loss; began a long-deferred rebranding, which led to the new name EcoHealth Alliance; and spruced up its headquarters, even fixing its chronically broken air conditioner. 

Over the course of the grant, it allocated $1.1 million to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, USAID recently acknowledged in a letter to Congress.

When Dr. Maureen Miller, an infectious disease epidemiologist, arrived at EcoHealth Alliance in 2014, she landed in an environment that she found to be toxic and secretive. 

Closed-door meetings were the norm. The senior leadership constituted an unwelcoming “old boys network.” 

She soon came to believe that she was hired “because they needed a senior-level woman,” she said, adding, “I was excluded from pretty much everything.”

She came aboard shortly before the organization’s PREDICT grant was renewed for five more years. 

It was also the year the NIH approved Understanding the Risk of Bat Coronavirus Emergence, the $3.7 million grant that would come back to haunt Fauci. 

Miller said she was “lured by the idea of being able to create a pandemic-threats warning system.”
Miller got to work creating a surveillance strategy to detect zoonotic virus spillover. 

Chinese villagers living near bat caves in Southern Yunnan province would have their blood tested for antibodies to a SARS-like coronavirus, then answer questionnaires to determine if certain behaviors had led them to be exposed. 

It was a “biological and behavioral warning system,” Miller explained.

Over the next two years, Miller saw Daszak only a handful of times. But she worked closely with Shi Zhengli, who developed the test to screen the villagers’ blood. 

In that time, Miller noted, “I never got a result from [Shi] via phone. I had to show up in China to learn anything from her.” 

From that, Miller gleaned that, while Shi was a “world-class scientist, she respects the Chinese system.” 

In short, she followed the Chinese government’s rules. (Shi Zhengli did not respond to written questions for this article.)

Miller left EcoHealth Alliance in November 2016, never knowing what became of the strategy she’d developed. 

But in the fall of 2017, Shi alerted Miller’s former assistant to the fact that Daszak was about to get credit for her work in an upcoming publication. 

“Shi went out of her way to ensure I would be included,” Miller said. The final version of a letter, published in January 2018 in the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s journal, Virologica Sinica, included Miller’s name. Six out of 218 villagers had tested positive for antibodies, suggesting that the strategy was a successful way to gauge potential spillover.
But the experience left Miller with a dark impression of Daszak: “He is so single-minded that he wants to be the one who makes the discovery, without having to share.”
Daszak said Miller has been credited as a coauthor on at least eight papers stemming from her work at EcoHealth Alliance, “a testimony to the equity, fairness, and openness of our publication and authorship practices.” 

He added that the nonprofit’s staff is “diverse and culturally sensitive” and has been “majority female for 20 years.”
Daszak’s $3.7 million NIH grant first set off alarm bells in early May 2016, as it entered its third year. 

The NIH requires annual progress reports, but Daszak’s year-two report was late and the agency threatened to withhold funds until he filed it.

The report he finally did submit worried the agency’s grant specialists. It stated that scientists planned to create an infectious clone of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), a novel coronavirus found in dromedaries that had emerged in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and killed 35% of the humans it infected. 

The report also made clear that the NIH grant had already been used to construct two chimeric coronaviruses similar to the one that caused Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which emerged in 2002 and went on to cause at least 774 deaths worldwide

(A chimeric virus is one that combines fragments of different viruses.) 

These revelations prompted the NIH’s grant specialists to ask a critical question: Should the work be subject to a federal moratorium on what was called gain-of-function research?
With that, Daszak’s grant got tangled in a yearslong debate that had divided the virology community. 

In 2011, two scientists separately announced that they had genetically altered Highly Pathogenic Asian Avian Influenza A (H5N1), the bird flu virus that has killed at least 456 people since 2003. 

The scientists gave the virus new functions—enabling it to spread efficiently among ferrets, which are genetically closer to humans than mice—as a way to gauge its risks to people. Both studies had received NIH funding.
The scientific community erupted in conflict over what became known as gain-of-function research. 

Proponents claimed it could help prevent pandemics by highlighting potential threats. 

Critics argued that creating pathogens that didn’t exist in nature ran the risk of unleashing them. 

As the dispute raged, Fauci worked to strike a middle ground, but ultimately supported the research, arguing in a coauthored Washington Post op-ed that “important information and insights can come from generating a potentially dangerous virus in the laboratory.”
In October 2014, the Obama administration imposed a moratorium on new federal funding for research that could make influenza, MERS, or SARS viruses more virulent or transmissible, while a review took place. 

But the moratorium, as written, left loopholes, which allowed Daszak to try to save the research. 

On June 8, 2016, he wrote to the NIH’s grant specialists that the SARS-like chimeras from the completed experiment were exempt from the moratorium, because the strains used had not previously been known to infect humans

He also pointed to a 2015 research paper in which scientists had infected humanized mice with the same strains, and found that they were less lethal than the original SARS virus.

But the 2015 research paper he cited was not particularly reassuring. 

In it, Shi Zhengli and a preeminent coronavirus researcher at the University of North Carolina, Ralph Baric, mixed components of SARS-like viruses from different species, and created a novel chimera that was able to directly infect human cells. (Baric did not respond to written questions seeking comment.)

This gain-of-function experiment, which had begun prior to the moratorium, was so fraught that the authors flagged the dangers themselves, writing, “scientific review panels may deem similar studies…too risky to pursue.” 

The paper’s acknowledgments cited funding from the NIH and from EcoHealth Alliance, through a different grant.
If anything, the MERS study Daszak proposed was even riskier. So he pitched a compromise to the NIH: that if any of the recombined strains showed 10 times greater growth than a natural virus, “we will immediately: i) stop all experiments with the mutant, ii) inform our NIAID Program Officer and the UNC [Institutional Biosafety Committee] of these results and iii) participate in decision making trees to decide appropriate paths forward.”
This mention of UNC brought a puzzled response from an NIH program officer, who pointed out that the proposal had said the research would be performed at the WIV. 

“Can you clarify where the work with the chimeric viruses will actually be performed?” the officer wrote. 

Ten days later, with still no response from Daszak, the program officer emailed him again. On June 27, Daszak responded, buoyant as ever:
“You are correct to identify a mistake in our letter. UNC has no oversight of the chimera work, all of which will be conducted at the Wuhan Institute of Virology…. We will clarify tonight with Prof. Zhengli Shi exactly who will be notified if we see enhanced replication…my understanding is that I will be notified straight away, as [principal investigator], and that I can then notify you at NIAID. Apologies for the error!”
By July 7, the NIH agreed to Daszak’s terms, which relied entirely on mutual transparency: Shi would inform him of any concerning developments involving the lab-constructed viruses, and he would inform the agency. 

Daszak replied enthusiastically to a program officer, “This is terrific! We are very happy to hear that our Gain of Function research funding pause has been lifted.”

Allowing such risky research to go forward at the Wuhan Institute of Virology was “simply crazy, in my opinion,” says Jack Nunberg, director of the Montana Biotechnology Center. 

“Reasons are lack of oversight, lack of regulation, the environment in China,” where scientists who publish in prestigious journals get rewarded by the government, creating dangerous incentives.

 “So that is what really elevates it to the realm of, ‘No, this shouldn’t happen.’”

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A subsequent development seemed to support that view. On January 15, 2021, in the waning days of the Trump administration, the State Department released a fact sheet based on declassified intelligence. 

It asserted that Chinese military scientists had been collaborating with the WIV’s civilian scientists since 2017, if not earlier. 

That raised the question of whether research there was being repurposed for offensive or military uses

Though Shi and other WIV leaders have previously denied such collaboration occurred, former deputy national security adviser Matthew Pottinger calls those denials “willful lies. 

If one were to give them the benefit of the doubt, you might go so far as to say they have no choice but to lie, but these are lies nonetheless.”
If China’s military had been collaborating with WIV scientists, it’s unclear if Daszak would have realized it. 

He had far less visibility into the WIV than he let on, a former EcoHealth Alliance staffer told Vanity Fair. 

The work being done there was “always an enigma,” the former staffer said

The nonprofit had hired a U.S.-based Chinese national who helped “interpret for them what was happening inside the WIV…. But we had to take everything at face value. It was more, ‘Accept what it is, because of this relationship’” between Shi and Daszak.
“He doesn’t know what happened in that lab,” said the former staffer. “He cannot know that.”
According to Daszak, EcoHealth Alliance “was aware” of the WIV’s research activities related to its NIH grant. 

He says he had no knowledge of Chinese military involvement there and was never notified of any by the U.S. government.
By 2017, despite massive infusions of grant money, EcoHealth Alliance faced a brewing financial crisis. 

Ninety-one percent of its funding came from the federal government, and 71% of that came from the PREDICT grant, according to minutes of the organization’s finance committee meeting. 

The renewed grant, known as PREDICT II, was slated to end in two years. There was no way to know if the grant would be reauthorized for a third time. The looming possibility that it would expire came to be known internally as the “PREDICT cliff.” 

How to prevent the organization from tumbling over it consumed meeting after meeting. 

One possible solution was the Global Virome Project, a nongovernmental initiative being organized by the infectious disease specialist Dennis Carroll, who had established PREDICT while working at USAID. 

The Global Virome Project was far more ambitious: Its goal was to map every possible virus on earth—an estimated 840,000 of which might infect human beings—as a way to “end the pandemic era.”
The program had a steep projected price tag of $3.4 billion over 10 years, Daszak explained to board members. But the cost of not knowing and suffering a pandemic was estimated at $17 trillion over 30 years. Looked at that way, the Global Virome Project was a relative bargain.
But there was another way that EcoHealth Alliance could ward off the $8 million shortfall it was facing. 

The Defense Department could serve as a federal life raft in a new ocean of grants. 

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) was seeking proposals for a new program called PREEMPT, which aimed to identify animal pathogens “to preempt their entry into human populations before an outbreak occurs.”
For EcoHealth Alliance, the PREEMPT grant seemed like a slam dunk. For years, Daszak had been developing a method of predictive modeling to identify likely sites of viral spillover around the world and stop pandemics at the source. 

Some questioned the effectiveness of Daszak’s approach. “In 20 years of using this method, [EcoHealth Alliance] did not predict a single outbreak, epidemic or pandemic,” Maureen Miller told Vanity Fair. 

But David Morens, senior adviser to the NIAID director, said that Daszak became one of the “key players” in understanding that “emerging diseases came from animals, the animals had their own geographic ranges, and if you knew where the animals were and what diseases they carried, you could predict hot spots.”
EcoHealth Alliance also doubled down on another key selling point: Its unique on-the-ground connections in China would effectively give the U.S. government a foothold in foreign laboratories. 

As Daszak had told his staff at a meeting some years earlier, one Defense Department subagency wanted “information on what is going on in countries in which they cannot access (China, Brazil, Indonesia, India).”

With the PREDICT cliff and the DARPA deadline coming ever closer, Daszak struck an upbeat note with his board, pointing out that the organization had a strong track record of winning federal grants. 

“This was the golden ticket,” a former staffer familiar with the DARPA grant application said. “The message was always, ‘We are going to do cool and cutting-edge science. DARPA is the right agency to fund this.’”

Last September, EcoHealth Alliance’s grant proposal to DARPA was leaked to DRASTIC, a loosely affiliated global group of sleuths—ranging from professional scientists to amateur data enthusiasts—dedicated to investigating the origins of COVID-19. 

From the 75-page proposal, a striking detail stood out: a plan to examine SARS-like bat coronaviruses for furin cleavage sites and possibly insert new ones that would enable them to infect human cells.
A furin cleavage site is a spot in the surface protein of a virus that can boost its entry into human cells. SARS-CoV-2, which emerged more than a year after the DARPA grant was submitted, is notable among SARS-like coronaviruses for having a unique furin cleavage site.

This anomaly has led some scientists to consider whether the virus could have emerged from laboratory work gone awry.

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Documents obtained by Vanity Fair shed new light on the chaotic process surrounding the DARPA proposal, which was cocreated with colleagues including Shi Zhengli at the WIV and Ralph Baric at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

As the March deadline approached, the grant’s collaborators worked 24/7, with versions pouring in from around the world. 

“Those documents were being written by many, many people,” one former employee recalled.
The grant application proposed to collect bat samples from caves in Yunnan Province, transport them to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, extract and manipulate the viruses they contain, and use them to infect mice with humanized lungs

It would then map high-risk areas for bats harboring dangerous pathogens and treat test caves with substances to reduce the amount of virus they were shedding.
It was a long way from saving manatees from motorboats.
By almost any definition, this was gain-of-function research. The federal moratorium had been lifted in January 2017 and replaced with a review system called the HHS P3CO Framework (for Potential Pandemic Pathogen Care and Oversight). This required a safety review by the agency funding the research.
EcoHealth Alliance’s DARPA proposal asserted that its research was exempt from the P3CO framework. 

It also emphasized the extensive experience of the team it would assemble. 

But at a staff meeting on March 29, Daszak expressed dismay at the slapdash and amateur nature of the DARPA submission. 

It was a “major failure on all accounts,” he noted, enumerating a cascade of mistakes: The application was late, sent in “30 minutes after deadline.” 

There were errors uploading documents, comment boxes that remained on the pages, a question of who was in charge. 

What was needed, he exhorted his staff, was a “change in culture” as “part of [a] mentaility [sic] to get money,” according to the meeting minutes.
Inside DARPA, the grant application was met with immediate skepticism. 

The contract was “never awarded because of the horrific lack of common sense” it reflected, said a former DARPA official who was there at the time. 

EcoHealth Alliance was viewed as a “ragtag group” and a “middle guy,” a backseat collaborator willing to get on an Air China jet, eat terrible food, and stay in bad hotels, said the former official.

Likewise, the WIV was also viewed as subpar, especially when compared with the Harbin Veterinary Research Institute, which operated China’s only other high-containment laboratory with the highest biosafety protocol: BSL-4. 

Harbin was China’s Harvard, said the former DARPA official. The WIV was more like a safety school. 

EcoHealth Alliance had “bolted on” a serious scientist, Ralph Baric, and “podged” the proposal together. 

Having the nonprofit serve as the prime contractor for a global project with national security risks was like “having your rental car agency trying to run an armada,” said the former DARPA official.
Though two of three DARPA reviewers deemed it “selectable,” the third, a program manager in the Biological Technologies Office, recommended against funding it. 

He wrote that the application did not adequately mention or assess the gain-of-function risk or the possibility that the proposed work could constitute dual-use research of concern (DURC), the technical term for science that can be repurposed to cause harm or endanger security.
The DARPA proposal was “basically a road map to a SARS-CoV-2-like virus,” says virologist Simon Wain-Hobson, who is among the scientists calling for a fuller investigation of COVID-19’s origins. 

If the research had the blessing of a top coronavirus scientist like Baric, then it is possible the WIV would have wanted to copy what it viewed as cutting-edge science, he said. 

“That doesn’t mean they did it. But it means it’s legitimate to ask the question.”
According to Daszak, no one at DARPA expressed any concerns about the proposed research to EcoHealth Alliance. 

On the contrary, he said, “DARPA told us that ‘we had a strong proposal’ and ‘wished DARPA had greater funding for the PREEMPT program.’” He added, 

“the research was never done by EHA or, to my knowledge, any of the collaborating partners on that proposal.”

By late December 2019, cases of what would soon be identified as SARS-CoV-2 began emerging around the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in the Jianghan district of Wuhan, roughly eight miles from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Daszak seemed poised to play a leading role in the emerging crisis. 

On January 2, 2020, he tweeted: “The GOOD news!! is that leading scientists from the US, China and many other countries are working together to actively block the ability of these viruses to spillover, and to rapidly detect them if they do.” 

He continued, “This includes active collaboration with China CDC, Wuhan Inst. Virology, @DukeNUS, @Baric_Lab, and a diverse array of Provincial CDCs, universities and labs across S. and Central China.”
On January 30, Daszak went on CGTN America, the U.S. outpost for Chinese state television, and said two things that proved to be spectacularly wrong. 

“I’m very optimistic…that this outbreak will begin to slow down,” he said.

“We’re seeing a small amount of human-to-human transmission in other countries, but it’s not uncontrollable.” 

He went on to conclude that the Chinese government was taking all necessary steps “to be open and transparent, and work with WHO, and talk to scientists from around the world, and where necessary, bring them in to help. They’re doing that. It’s exactly what needs to happen.”
In fact, the opposite was true. The virus was spreading uncontrollably and the Chinese government was busy crushing anyone who spoke out: 

It ordered laboratory samples destroyed, punished doctors who raised alarms, and claimed the right to review any scientific research about COVID-19 ahead of publication, a restriction that remains in place today.

At the highest levels of the U.S. government, alarm was growing over the question of where the virus had originated and whether research performed at the WIV, and funded in part by U.S. taxpayers, had played some role in its emergence.

To Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the CDC at the time, it seemed not only possible but likely that the virus had originated in a lab. 

“I personally felt it wasn’t biologically plausible that [SARS CoV-2] went from bats to humans through an [intermediate] animal and became one of the most infectious viruses to humans,” he told Vanity Fair

Neither the 2002 SARS virus nor the 2012 MERS virus had transmitted with such devastating efficiency from one person to another.
What had changed? The difference, Redfield believed, was the gain-of-function research that Shi and Baric had published in 2015, and that EcoHealth Alliance had helped to fund

They had established that it was possible to alter a SARS-like bat coronavirus so that it would infect human cells via a protein called the ACE2 receptor. 

Although their experiments had taken place in Baric’s well-secured laboratory in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, who was to say that the WIV had not continued the research on its own?

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In mid-January of 2020, Vanity Fair can reveal, Redfield expressed his concerns in separate phone conversations with three scientific leaders: Fauci; Jeremy Farrar, the director of the U.K.’s Wellcome Trust; and Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization (WHO). 

Redfield’s message, he says, was simple: “We had to take the lab-leak hypothesis with extreme seriousness.”
It is not clear whether Redfield’s concerns are what sparked Fauci’s own. 

But on Saturday night, February 1, at 12:30 a.m., Fauci emailed the NIAID’s principal deputy director, Hugh Auchincloss, under the subject line “IMPORTANT.” 

He attached the 2015 paper by Baric and Shi and wrote, “Hugh: It is essential that we speak this AM. Keep your cell phone on.” 

He instructed Auchincloss to read the attached paper and added, “You will have tasks today that must be done.”
February 1 proved to be a critical day. With the death count in China passing 300 and cases popping up in more than a dozen countries, Farrar convened a group of 11 top scientists across five time zones. 

That morning, he asked Fauci to join. “My preference is to keep this group really tight,” Farrar wrote. 

“Obviously ask everyone to treat in total confidence.” Fauci, Francis Collins, Kristian Andersen, and Robert Garry all joined the call. No one invited Redfield, or even told him it was happening.
In the conference call and emails that followed over the next four days, the scientists parsed the peculiarities of SARS-CoV-2’s genomic sequence, paying special attention to the furin cleavage site.
Dr. Michael Farzan, an immunologist, emailed the group, writing that the anomaly could result from sustained interaction between a chimeric virus and human tissue in a laboratory that lacked appropriate biocontainment protocols,

 “accidentally creating a virus that would be primed for rapid transmission between humans.” 

He leaned toward the lab-origin hypothesis, saying, “I think it becomes a question of…whether you believe in this series of coincidences, what you know of the lab in Wuhan, how much could be in nature—accidental release or natural event? I am 70:30 or 60:40.”

He was not alone. Garry wrote of the “stunning” composition of the furin cleavage site: 

“I really can’t think of a plausible natural scenario where you get from the bat virus or one very similar to it to [SARS-CoV-2] where you insert exactly 4 amino acids 12 nucleotide[s] that all have to be added at the exact same time to gain this function…. I just can’t figure out how this gets accomplished in nature.”

The previous evening, Andersen had emailed Fauci, saying that he and scientists including Garry, Farzan, and the Australian virologist Edward Holmes all found the genetic sequence “inconsistent with expectations from evolutionary theory.”
But within three days, four of the scientists on the call, including Andersen, Garry, and Holmes, had shared the draft of a letter arguing the opposite

Farrar shared a copy with Fauci, who offered feedback ahead of its publication on March 17 in Nature Medicine. 

The letter, The Proximal Origin of SARS-CoV-2, analyzed the genomic sequence and made a seemingly unequivocal statement: “we do not believe that any type of laboratory-based scenario is plausible.”
How they arrived at such certainty within four days remains unclear. In his book Spike: The Virus vs. The People—the Inside Story, Farrar cited “the addition of important new information, endless analyses, intense discussions and many sleepless nights.” 

But even as they circulated the draft on February 4, qualms remained. Farrar wrote to Collins and Fauci that, while Holmes now argued against an engineered virus, he was still “60-40 lab.”
A Wellcome spokesman told Vanity Fair, “Dr. Farrar is in regular conversation with and regularly convenes many other expert scientists.” 

He added, “Dr. Farrar’s view is that there was at no stage any political influence or interference during these conversations, or in the research carried out.” 

Garry said that it was “frankly tiresome to explain for the umpteenth time that that was one email cherry-picked among dozens, even hundreds, in part of an ongoing scientific discussion.”
Though he wasn’t part of those conversations, the epidemiologist W. Ian Lipkin told Vanity Fair, “I have known Fauci for 30 years. Fauci is not interested in anything but the truth. Anyone that says anything otherwise doesn’t know him.”
Lipkin was added as a fifth author on the Proximal Origin letter. Ahead of publication, he told his coauthors he was concerned that gain-of-function research on coronaviruses was being performed in laboratories with insufficient safeguards. 

The Proximal Origin letter addresses that issue, but dismisses a possible accident as the source of SARS-CoV-2. 

Lipkin was not invited to participate in future publications with the group, such as the preprints by Andersen and Worobey that made it onto the front page of The New York Times in February. 

“I can speculate on why I’ve not been asked to join various publications. However, I don’t know why I’ve not been asked,” he said.

While Andersen and the others were fine-tuning the Proximal Origin letter, Daszak was quietly working to bury speculation of a lab leak. 

On February 19, in a letter published in the influential medical journal The Lancet, he joined 26 scientists in asserting, 

“We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin.” 

Nine months later, emails released by a Freedom of Information group showed that Daszak had orchestrated the Lancet statement with the intention of concealing his role and creating the impression of scientific unanimity.

Under the subject line, “No need for you to sign the ‘Statement’ Ralph!!,” he wrote to Baric and another scientist: “you, me and him should not sign this statement, so it has some distance from us and therefore doesn’t work in a counterproductive way.” 

Daszak added, “We’ll then put it out in a way that doesn’t link it back to our collaboration so we maximize an independent voice.”

Baric agreed, writing back, “Otherwise it looks self-serving and we lose impact.”
The Lancet statement ended with a declaration of objectivity: “We declare no competing interests.” 

Among its signatories were Jeremy Farrar and one other participant in the confidential huddle with Fauci.
Reading the Lancet letter, with Farrar’s name attached to it, Redfield had a dawning realization. 

He concluded there’d been a concerted effort not just to suppress the lab-leak theory but to manufacture the appearance of a scientific consensus in favor of a natural origin. 

“They made a decision, almost a P.R. decision, that they were going to push one point of view only” and suppress rigorous debate, said Redfield. 

“They argued they did it in defense of science, but it was antithetical to science.”
A Wellcome spokesperson told Vanity Fair, “The letter was a simple statement of solidarity with highly reputable researchers based in China and against non-evidence-based theories. Dr. Farrar does not believe the letter was covertly organized. He had no conflict of interest to declare.”

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As the pandemic spread to every corner of the globe, Daszak continued to devote his considerable energies to promoting the idea that science itself had reached consensus: 

The virus emerged from nature, not a lab. But as one concerning detail after another slipped into public view, the facade of unanimity began to crack, exposing his own work to questions.
During a White House COVID-19 press briefing on April 17, 2020, a reporter for the right-wing television network Newsmax asked President Trump why the NIH would fund a $3.7 million grant to a high-level lab in China.

The details were wrong, and the question seemed queued-up to feed an anti-China political agenda. Trump responded, “We will end that grant very quickly.”
That exchange, in turn, uncorked a question from another reporter to Fauci: Could SARS-CoV-2 have come from a lab? 

His answer from the White House podium was swift and clear. A recently published analysis from a “group of highly qualified evolutionary virologists” had concluded that the virus was “totally consistent with a jump of a species from an animal to a human.” 

He was referring to the Proximal Origin letter, drafted by some of the scientists he’d met with confidentially in early February.
The next day, Daszak sent an email of profuse thanks to Fauci for “publicly standing up and stating that the scientific evidence supports a natural origin for COVID-19 from a bat-to-human spillover, not a lab release from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.” Fauci responded, thanking him back.
If Daszak thought that Fauci’s kind words meant his grant was safe, he was mistaken. 

Six days later, he received a sharply worded letter from a senior NIH official: His bat coronavirus research grant, which had provided subgrants to the WIV, was being terminated. 

Amid an uproar and legal threats, the agency reinstated the grant several months later, but suspended its activities. 

So began a bitter, ongoing battle between Daszak and the NIH over whether he’d complied with the grant’s terms. 

Swaths of this private correspondence have become public since last September, as part of a FOIA lawsuit waged by The Intercept.
Daszak also found himself answering increasingly pointed questions about the WIV’s decision to take down its online database of 22,000 genomic sequences in September 2019, prior to the known onset of the pandemic.
Maureen Miller says the human blood samples that were collected in China as part of the surveillance strategy she designed at EcoHealth Alliance could hold clues to COVID-19’s provenance. But they went into the WIV and are now out of reach. 

Why would a database supported by U.S. tax dollars to help prevent and respond to a pandemic be made “inaccessible exactly when it was needed to fulfill its intended purpose?” asks Jamie Metzl, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, who was among the first to call for a full investigation of COVID-19’s origins.

Presumably, Daszak possessed a great deal of that inaccessible data. He said as much during a March 2021 panel organized by a London-based think tank: 

“A lot of this work has been conducted with EcoHealth Alliance…. We do basically know what’s in those databases.” 

Previously, EcoHealth Alliance had signed a pledge, along with 57 other scientific and medical organizations, to share data promptly in the event of a global public health emergency. 

And yet, in the face of just such an emergency, Daszak told Nature magazine, “We don’t think it’s fair that we should have to reveal everything we do.”

In April 2020, he warned colleagues from other institutions that partnered on the PREDICT grants not to publicly release certain sequences. 

“All - It’s extremely important that we don’t have these sequences as part of our PREDICT release to Genbank at this point,” he wrote

“As you may have heard, these were part of a grant just terminated by NIH. Having them as part of PREDICT will [bring] very unwelcome attention to” the PREDICT program, grant partners, and USAID.
By October 2021, the NIH had repeatedly demanded that EcoHealth Alliance turn over data related to its grant research with the WIV. 

Daszak argued that he couldn’t share a number of SARS coronavirus sequences because he was waiting for the Chinese government to authorize their release. 

The explanation seemed to undercut the entire rationale for having the U.S. government help fund a global collaboration on virus emergence.
Daszak said it was “incorrect” to suggest that EcoHealth Alliance had not “readily shared data,” and asserted that all of its relevant coronavirus data from NIH-supported research at the WIV has now been made public. 

He added that he warned about “unwelcome attention” because he wanted “to avoid [colleagues] being dragged into the political fray unfairly” after the NIH’s decision to terminate EcoHealth Alliance’s grant “unleashed a torrent of unwarranted political attacks.”
U.S. officials and at least one of Daszak’s former colleagues were stunned when, in November 2020, the WHO announced the names of 11 international experts assigned to a fact-finding mission to China to investigate COVID-19’s origins. 

China had veto power over the list, and none of the three candidates put forward by the U.S. had made the cut. Instead, Peter Daszak was listed as America’s sole representative.

It’s still unclear how Daszak wound up on the commission. “I didn’t want to go, and I said no initially,” he later told Science magazine, before adding, “If you want to get to the bottom of the origins of a coronavirus outbreak in China, the number one person you should be talking to is the person who works on coronaviruses in China, who’s not from China…. So that’s me, unfortunately.”
Daszak told Vanity Fair, “WHO reached out to me and asked me to serve on the committee. I initially refused, but…following their persuasive arguments decided that it was my duty as a scientist to support the origins investigation.” 

A WHO spokesperson would neither confirm nor deny Daszak’s account.
One former EcoHealth staffer thinks it’s obvious who tapped Daszak for the role: “If his name was not among the names floated [by the U.S.], his was the name that the Chinese government chose.”
In China, the experts spent half of their monthlong mission quarantined in hotels

Once released, they made one trip to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Daszak later described the visit to 60 Minutes: 

“We met with them. We said, ‘Do you audit the lab?’ And they said, ‘Annually.’ ‘Did you audit it after the outbreak?’ ‘Yes.’ `Was anything found?’ ‘No.’ ‘Do you test your staff?’ ‘Yes.’ No one was—”
The correspondent, Lesley Stahl, interrupted: “But you’re just taking their word for it.” 

Daszak responded, “Well, what else can we do? There’s a limit to what you can do and we went right up to that limit. We asked them tough questions…. And the answers they gave, we found to be believable—correct and convincing.”
On March 24, 2021, Daszak presented a confidential preview of the WHO mission’s findings to a group of federal health and national security officials in a packed government conference room. 

Dressed in a tweed jacket instead of his usual hiking gear, he clicked through a 36-slide presentation, which Vanity Fair obtained.

Amid the charts, graphs, and old photos from the Huanan market of caged animals that could have harbored the virus, there was one slide devoted to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. 

It seemed to suggest that the questions swirling around the laboratory as a possible source of the pandemic could be put to rest. 

There had been annual external audits with no unusual findings. Access was strictly controlled. And his trusted partner Shi Zhengli said there had been no COVID-like illnesses among her staff.

The presentation complete, Daszak held up his hands, as if waiting for a standing ovation, the attendee recounted: “His ego couldn’t fit in the room with all those interagency partners.”
The WHO Commission released its 120-page final report a week later. The experts had voted, by a show of hands, that direct transmission from bat to human was possible to likely; transmission through an intermediate animal was likely to very likely; transmission through frozen food was possible; and transmission through a laboratory incident was “extremely unlikely.”
The report was so error-riddled and unpersuasive that WHO director general Tedros effectively disowned it the day it was released. “As far as WHO is concerned all hypotheses remain on the table,” he said.
Three months later, the commission’s lead expert, Danish food scientist Peter Ben Embarek, extinguished the last embers of the report’s credibility. 

He confessed to a documentary film crew that the group had made a backroom deal with the 17 Chinese experts attached to the commission: 

The report could mention the lab-leak theory only “on the condition we didn’t recommend any specific studies to further that hypothesis” and used the phrase “extremely unlikely” to characterize it.
But that wasn’t the final shoe to drop. Daszak himself all but admitted—in a letter to Dr. Michael Lauer, the NIH’s deputy director for extramural research—that he had signed on to the WHO mission with a personal and professional agenda: to gather exculpatory information about the WIV, in part to help lift the curtain of suspicion around his grant so it could be reinstated.

“I have made extensive efforts to satisfy NIH’s broad concerns,” he wrote on April 11, 2021. “This includes serving as an expert on the WHO-China joint Mission on the Animal Origins of COVID-19, which involved 1 month on the ground in China (including 2 weeks locked in quarantine), at great personal burden and risk to me, to our organization, and to my family.”

He wrote that, while he had “acted in good faith” to follow the WHO’s directives for the mission, he had also gathered essential information that “specifically addresses” one of the demands the NIH had made as a condition of reinstating the grant: that he arrange for an outside inspection team to find out if the WIV had SARS-CoV-2 in its possession prior to December 2019. 

He’d returned with “categorical statements from WIV senior staff” that they did not have it prior to December 2019, he wrote, and had managed to get their assurances included in the WHO final report.
Unfortunately for Daszak, the NIH was unmoved. The grant remains suspended today.
On February 25, 2022, a day before Worobey, Andersen, Garry, and their 15 coauthors rushed their preprints into the public domain, claiming “dispositive evidence” that SARS-CoV-2 originated from the Huanan market, China’s CDC published a preprint of its own that contained new data and pointed to a different conclusion. 

It revealed that, of the 457 swabs taken from 18 species of animals in the market, none contained any evidence of the virus. 

Rather, the virus was found in 73 swabs taken from around the market’s environment, all linked to human infections. 

Thus, while the samples proved the market served as an “amplifier” of viral spread, they did not prove the market was the source.

Meanwhile, an analysis published on March 16 in the medical journal BMJ Global Health, written by a group of Italian scientists and coauthored by Sergei Pond, cites a growing body of studies indicating that the virus may have been spreading worldwide for weeks, or even months, before the officially recognized start date of December 2019. 

If true, this would entirely upend the presumption of the market as the genesis of the pandemic.
“There are still a lot of credible questions that have not been answered,” says Pond. And with “no overwhelming evidence in either direction,” he adds, he is “puzzled as to why it’s necessary to push in one direction.” 

(Responding to written questions, Andersen said, “I have no particular stake in the idea that SARS-CoV-2 came from the market and not from virology research. The science speaks for itself and the evidence is clear.”)
Simon Wain-Hobson has his own hypothesis for what is taking place: The group of scientists pushing the claim of natural origin, he says, “want to show that virology is not responsible [for causing the pandemic]. That is their agenda.”

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There is now little doubt that SARS-CoV-2 is neurotrophic. @ToshiAkima
Misc.


It infects the brain: “neuroinflammation, microhemorrhages, brain hypoxia…including neuron degeneration and apoptosis [is] seen among animals that do not develop severe respiratory disease”

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Currency Markets at a Glance WSJ
World Currencies

Euro 1.10490
Dollar Index 98.586
Japan Yen 122.5990
Swiss Franc 0.926425
Pound 1.311810
Aussie 0.7511
India Rupee 75.75795 
South Korea Won 1217.625 
Brazil Real 4.6588 
Egypt Pound 18.292500
South Africa Rand 14.65149

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Interesting part is 'markdowns of private holdings' @PolemicTMM
World Of Finance


Added to a growing list of tells that the Private Equity bubble is strained. Opacity of price and illiquid assets have allowed mark to market obfuscation and 'it's long term just wait'  denial.

Cost of capital the pin.


Mirrors on the ceiling, The Pink champagne on ice



Mirrors on the ceiling,
The pink champagne on ice
And she said "We are all just prisoners here, of our own device" And in the master's chambers,
They gathered for the feast
They stab it with their steely knives,
But they just can't kill the beast
Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the passage back
To the place I was before
"Relax, " said the night man,
"We are programmed to receive. You can check-out any time you like, But you can never leave! "

And when the Feedback Loop kicks in I expect it to kick big to the downside
However, there are many discordant notes.




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Continental ties tested in a zero-sum game @Africa_Conf
Africa

Western diplomats in Africa are grappling with how to respond to the return of geopolitics after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
The rumbling crisis over Moscow's invasion of Ukraine has shown diplomats just how far Europe's relations with African states have deteriorated and how quickly both continents have snapped back into Cold War-style alignments.

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A spate of by-elections saw the demise of Mwonzora’s state-sponsored opposition and the arrival of Chamisa's bright yellow party @Africa_Conf
Africa

Two conclusions emerge from the results of the by-elections for 28 parliamentary seats and 122 council seats on 26 March: that the ruling party's strategy of dividing the opposition has run aground and President Emmerson Mnangagwa's authority over the party will diminish further because its poor electoral showing.

The big winner was Nelson Chamisa's new opposition Citizens' Coalition for Change (CCC) which, despite being launched less than two months ago, won 18 parliamentary seats and the majority of local council seats contested. 

As a further irritant to the ruling Zimbabwe African Nation Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), Chamisa's party won Mnangagwa's former parliamentary seat in Kwekwe Central.

Having triggered 18 of the 28 by-elections by recalling MDC-Alliance MPs, Mwonzora's party failed to win a single seat. 

The victory of Biti, as a former finance minister who then chaired parliament's public accounts committee into the government's financial mismanagement and grand corruption, is strategically important for the opposition.

With a year until the general election next year, ZANU–PF will have learnt lessons from the polls. 

A successful and popular CCC, with its young leadership and even younger support base, is a threat to Mnangagwa and the ruling party. 

Just how much of a threat this demographic represents will depend on how many young people register and vote, most importantly in the rural areas.
tHE regime will deploy its usual tactics to obstruct the new party: from requisitioning state election infrastructure to disenfranchise CCC supporters to mobilising loyal militias for intimidation and violence. 

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EGYPT Back to the IMF…again @Africa_Conf
Africa


Egypt is looking for a bailout for the third time since 2016, as the Ukraine war hits the economy and foreign portfolio investors head for the exit
The unfolding economic damage from Russia's war on Ukraine has again exposed Egypt's vulnerability to rising food and oil prices and the fickle money markets. 

On 23 March, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) confirmed that Egypt, the second largest borrower from the Fund after Argentina, had asked for help to deal with the fall-out from Russia's war. 

With its population of 100 million, Egypt was the biggest customer for wheat from Russia and Ukraine.

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Train and Airport Attacks Heighten Security Concerns in Nigeria @business
Africa


Two deadly incidents in three days outside city of Kaduna
President struggles to fulfil pledge to stop armed groups
Armed men carried out two lethal attacks in three days outside a major northern city in Nigeria, bringing pervasive insecurity across the country closer to its urban centers.
On Monday, unidentified gunmen targeted a train traveling to Kaduna from Abuja, the capital, blowing up the track and then opening fire on trapped passengers. 

At least seven people on board died, while others were injured or kidnapped, according to Lagos-based Channels Television. 

The attack came two days after Nigerian security forces repelled an assault on Kaduna’s airport that left one person dead.
The incidents are a particularly brazen demonstration of the deadly violence that’s plagued large parts of northern Nigeria for several years. 

Passengers pay more to travel the 100 miles between Abuja and Kaduna by air or rail because cars and buses are regularly attacked on the road linking the cities.

The latest attack came hours after Information Minister Lai Mohammed lauded the railway line that was opened to passengers in 2016.
“We are proud that in our time Nigerians are once again able to travel by rail, this time in total comfort and safety,” he said in a speech Monday.

Buhari, who was voted into office in 2015 on a pledge to bring peace to the country, risks leaving a legacy of having overseen the expansion of territories vulnerable to insecurity during his presidency. He will step down after elections scheduled for February.

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Tech Hub | Zambia may be better known for mining copper than crypto, but a group of young entrepreneurs is looking to reinvent the country as an African technology hub — with support from Ethereum co-creator Vitalik Buterin.
Africa



Startup founders from the country and abroad are talking to the government about creating the regulatory and business environment that would attract more tech firms and capital. 

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@SuluhuSamia said companies including @Shell & @Equinor may invest an extra $10 billion in a LNG complex & expressed a desire to conclude deals to build ports, hydropower plants, a key rail route and coal and iron ore mines @business
Africa


That’s a sea-change from life during the rule of Mugufuli, the leader known as the Bulldozer.
Under Magufuli, the nation of 60 million had become isolated. 

He antagonized the West, harassed the opposition and denied the existence of the coronavirus in his country. 

The gas project had stalled and a unit of Barrick Gold was threatened with a $190 billion fine. 

His administration blocked the release of an IMF report that criticized his policies.
Now, Hassan — currently the only female head of government in Africa — says, “embracing the private sector is our major priority.”
That doesn’t mean the rewards will come anytime soon, though. Gas will begin to flow in 2030 at the earliest, and investors still need to be secured for mines and ports that will take years to build.
Still, after years of investment stagnation, it’s a start.

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The marketers are sending a message to the govt, it's either fuel shortage or expensive fuel. They will struggle to restock required quantities if GoK doesn't pay for subsidies on time, GoK is subsidising upto 27 ksh/L @nvul_23
Kenyan Economy


The marketers are sending a message to the govt, it's either fuel shortage or expensive fuel. They will struggle to restock required quantities if GoK doesn't pay for subsidies on time, with the oil prices out of control & the Ksh. on a free fall. GoK is subsidising upto 27 ksh/L

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Jubilee Insurance Company Ltd. FY 2021 EPS +79.5% Earnings release
N.S.E Equities - Finance & Investment


Par Value:                  5/-
Closing Price:           272.00
Total Shares Issued:          72472950.00
Market Capitalization:        19,712,642,400
EPS:              89.88 
PE:                3.026


Jubilee Holdings limited reports FY 2021 Earnings through 31st December 2021 versus FY through dec 2020

FY Gross written premiums 30.629255b versus 29.971547b

FY Gross earned premium 29.536678b versus 29.815118b

FY Insurance revenue ceded to reinsurers [7.583908b] versus [9.674721b]

FY Net Insurance premium revenue 21.952770b versus 20.140397b

FY Investment Income 15.928210b versus 11.295345b

FY Other Income 1.647680b versus 1.677744b

FY Total Income 39.528660b versus 33.113486b

FY Net insurance benefits and returns on investment contracts [23.806152b] versus [20.401864b]

FY Total expenses and commissions [9.060102b] versus [8.856261b]

FY Result of operating activities 6.662406b versus 3.855361b

FY Finance costs [108.729m] versus [107.862m]

FY Share of results of associates 1.878203b versus 1.329396b

FY Group Profit before Income Tax 8.431880b versus 5.076895b

FY Profit after Tax 6.828655b versus 4.087586b

FY EPS 89.88 versus 50.06 + 79.5%

FY Cash and cash equivalents 7.918319b versus 12.123476b

Final Dividend 9 shillings a share + Special of 5 shillings a share & Interim of 1 shilling a share 

Commentary

''increase in profit is partly driven by the gain on the sale of controlling interests in the general businesses in Kenya and Uganda...Jubilee retains a 34% interest in both companies''

Total Assets 155b +6% 

No.1 regional medical insurer 

Conclusions

This is a very muscular Franchise and now keeps a 34% interest in the general businesses with Allianz which is I am sure an optimal scenario

Some of the EPS expansion was not organic and will not be repeated 

a well managed and well positioned business 

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TotalEnergies marketing Kenya reports FY 2021 EPS -16.984% Earnings here
N.S.E Equities - Industrial & Allied


Par Value:                  5/-
Closing Price:           25.00
Total Shares Issued:          175028706.00
Market Capitalization:        4,375,717,650
EPS:              4.35 
PE:                5.747

TotalEnergies Marketing Kenya reports FY 2021 Earnings through 31st December 2021 versus through 31st December 2020

FY Gross sales 110.161215b versus 97.351821b

FY Net Sales 74.710464b versus 65.431178b

FY Cost of Sales [65.909440b] versus [56.374062b]

FY Gross Profit 8.801024b versus 9.057116b

FY Other Income 1.806300b versus 1.902801b

FY Operating expenses [6.518951b] versus [6.179802b]

FY Profit before Tax 3.992919b versus 4.784574b

FY Profit after Tax 2.738908b versus 3.296532b

FY EPS 4.35 versus 5.24 -16.984% 

Final Dividend 1.31 versus 1.57 Yield of 5.24%

Cash and cash Equivalents 10.100456b versus 9.591950b

Company Commentary

''challenging environment of a sharp increase in Oil prices''

gross margins decreased majorly impacted by lag in price adjustment

rebranding costs

Total Assets 47.03b

Conclusions

Inexpensive on a PE Ratio of 5.747 and trading at 1/10th the value of its net assets

strong and well managed franchise

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ILAM Fahari I-REIT reports FY 2021 Earnings here
Africa



Closing Price:           5.90
Total Shares Issued:          180972300.00
Market Capitalization:        1,067,736,570
EPS:              -0.68]
PE:                 7.195

ILAM Fahari I-REIT reports FY 2021 Earnings versus FY 2020

FY Revenue 265.670495M VERSUS 324.669579m

FY Other Income 33.972521m versus 22.875975m

FY Operating Expenses [229.548302m] versus [229.611646m]

FY Increase in fair value of investment property [194.045724m] versus 30.091205m

FY [loss] Profit for the year [123.951010m] versus 148.025113m

Net Asset Value Unit 19.58 VERSUS 20.86

FY EPS [0.68] versus 0.82

Final Dividend 50cents a share versus 60 cents a share

Commentary

Net earnings decreased significantly to a loss of KShs 124.0 mln in 2021 (2020: Profit of KShs 148.0 mln). The decrease was mainly due to a fair value loss on revaluation of investment property (compared to a gain in the prior year) against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic whose impact is a material valuation uncertainty in the short to medium term. In addition, there was increased vacancy at Greenspan Mall resulting from the new anchor tenant Naivas taking up less space compared to that previously occupied by Tuskys, which contributed to a further devaluation. This was a strategic move by the REIT Manager to reduce concentration risk and will ultimately have a positive impact once the remaining space is leased out.


Distributable earnings decreased by 24% to KShs 102.0 million (2020: KShs 134.4 million). The decline was mainly attributable to the loss of revenue from the anchor tenant for the first seven months of the year under review. The previous anchor tenant occupied 48% of the Gross Lettable Area (GLA), which accounted for about 40% of rental income collected. In addition, property expenses increased significantly due to the tax leakage from the provision of irrecoverable withholding tax by the tenants. The provision grew by 61% to KShs 22.8 million (2020: KShs 13.9 million).

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by Aly Khan Satchu (www.rich.co.ke)
 
 
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April 2022
 
 
 
 
 
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