No country could fail to be shaken by the kind of profound struggle between all its political groups that currently prevails in Iraq. The US does not need to make any great effort to sow discord between the parties because they are currently intrinsically fragmented. The removal of Major General Qassim Suleimani from the Iraqi scene– whose personal objective had been to bring the various political parties together – was a major event, but not a game-changer. It did not profoundly modify the Iraqi political scene because he had already failed, two months before his assassination by the US, to persuade the parties to agree on a single Prime Ministerial candidate, following the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi. Iraqi politicians put their differences above all else in order to protect their political influences, unmoved by the patriotic duty for unity in the light of the serious challenges facing their country.

Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi was not mistaken when he once told me: “We do not know how to rule. We are good at opposing the ruler.”

No ruler in Iraq will be able to get the country out of its current severe financial crisis, the political acrimony, and COVID-19 health crisis, because the financial means are lacking. The pressure from the street, where protestors were demanding improved living conditions, will return stronger than ever. The low price of crude oil is undermining Iraq’s yearly income. The state’s budget deficit is skyrocketing; its external debts are persistent and its need for help from the World Bank, which is under US control, is greater than ever. America will not provide financial assistance until its demands are fulfilled and Iranian influence is removed from Iraq.

America rejects Iraq’s balancing policy. Iraq considers its relationship with the US only as important as its relationship with neighbouring Iran. Washington wants Iraq for itself, adopting one principle: “after me, the great flood” (après moi le deluge) an expression said to be often used by Louis XV of France to indicate that he is the centre of attention, no other consideration matter but his own self-obsession and that any other considerations are irrelevant.

The US is supporting Iraqi Kurdistan by expanding its “Harir” military base and establishing another large military base on the border with Iran. The message to Baghdad seems blunt: US forces will remain in the face of resistance from those parts of Iraq more subject to Baghdad’s authority. In Kurdistan, the central government authority is not as effective as in other parts of the country. The US supports the Kurdish Peshmerga and arms them through its allies, the United Arab Emirates, who are providing the Kurdish armed men with weaponry: four cargos full of weapons landed recently in Erbil.

It is not excluded, if Trump remains in power, that his administration will help the Kurdistan region detach itself from Iraq, as it may also support a Kurdish secession attempt in north-eastern Syria. In the part of Syria, the US is occupying with Kurdish help, US forces are stealing Syrian crude oil- even if its price is no longer sufficient to pay the expenses of the troops deployed around it- indicating that there is another reason for their presence, related to the US ally, Israel.

Iraqi protestors refer to the United States as the “Joker,” a powerful force exerting influence on events in Iraq, often covertly. This influence was evident in last year’s demonstrations, but most conspicuously in the Kurdistan independence movement. Kurdish officials already rejected the binding constitutional decision of the Iraqi parliament – in a clear rebellion against the authority of Baghdad –which demanded the US withdrawal from Iraq.

Iraqi decision-makers in Baghdad believe that US President Donald Trump acts only in accordance with his own country’s interests. He thanked Adel Abdul-Mahdi for his protection of the US embassy because it was attacked in Baghdad. The US President sent a positive message to Iran through Abdul-Mahdi and then, a few days later, killed the Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. The US administration is also working for Israel’s interests in Iraq – and not according to the “declared” interest of the US in building a strong and friendly Iraq-US relationship.

Trump did not listen to his protests when Abdul-Mahdi called him personally and told him that US actions in attacking security forces were angering the Iraqis and that any unilateral action would have catastrophic consequences for everyone. Rather, Trump listened to his aides who consider the Middle East leaders as subordinates, not allies. This US condescension serves the interests of Iran, which knows how to benefit from American mistakes, said the sources.

There is no doubt that Iraq is facing a crisis, with severe domestic bickering adding to the difficult economic and sanitary situation affecting all countries. But the greatest danger to the country comes from the Trump administration, which can only imagine subduing states by force. The US will certainly end up “reaping the whirlwind” rather than gaining a robust alliance with Iraq.

There is no doubt that Iraq is experiencing difficult labour in the midst of severe domestic bickering, plus the difficult economic and sanitary situation affecting all countries. But even more dangerous is the fact that Iraq is in the eye of the storm, pulled off course by the winds of Trump, who can only imagine subduing states by force. The US will certainly end up “reaping the whirlwind” rather than gaining any kind of robust allies.

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Western Media Continues to Spread Fake News About North Korea

April 29th, 2020 by Lucas Leiroz de Almeida

In modern warfare, one of the greatest weapons is the power to manipulate information. In a globalized international society, extremely integrated and connected by an infinite information circulation network, a media which controls the dissemination and content of such information is in an extremely advantageous position, as this power allows it to shape public opinion. In the mass society, we are all hostages to the dissemination of information and to the way it is carried out, which puts us in a position of extreme fragility, as we are daily forced to consume false information strategically manipulated by its disseminators.

Lies fill a large part of the mass media, as it is controlled by the most powerful groups in society and which are better able to guarantee their interests. In the Western world, the use of false information to denigrate the public image of people, countries, ideologies and movements that in some way oppose the liberal hegemonic ideology has become frequent. One of the biggest victims of this information war is North Korea, a country that is extremely denigrated in the West with numerous and repeated lies about its political regime and its society as a whole.

North Korean President Kim Jong-un was the youngest victim of the unfounded “death” news in Western media. In fact, it has become common for all North Korean public figures who are absent from the media spotlight for a few days to be reported as “dead” around the world – these death reports are often accompanied by weird accusations that such people were “sentenced to death”, even if there is no evidence for such conclusions. Once again, history repeated itself: after about two weeks without public appearances, Kim Jong-un was presumed dead by the West.

The trigger for world hysteria was Kim’s absence from the celebration of the last Day of the Sun – a traditional Korean holiday – on April 15th. Immediately, a media bombardment began in the West, with worldwide reports of the alleged “death” or “serious state of health” of the Korean President. The legend was generated around an alleged cardiac surgery, which would have been unsuccessful. According to the New York Post, the deputy director of HKSTV in Hong Kong said that Kim would be dead, citing a “very solid source” – which was not identified – while the Japanese newspaper, Shukan Gendai, said that Kim would be in “vegetative state” after undergoing cardiac surgery at the beginning of the month. On social media, the hashtag #kimjongundead quickly gained absurd popularity, being one of the most accessed on Twitter.

Apparently, the West wants to see Kim Jong-un dead, but the truth came out, with a series of official responses denying the avalanche of lies by the mass media. The South Korean intelligence service was the first to report the lie behind the information that Kim either died or was ill. “Our position in the government is firm”, special national security adviser, Moon Chung-in, said in an interview with CNN this Sunday (26), “Kim Jong-un is alive and well”. The adviser also said that Kim had been in Wonsan – a tourist town in the east of the country – since April 13 – which is why he was absent from public commitments – adding, “No suspicious movements were detected so far ”.

Then, a satellite photo captured an image of the President in Wonsan, showing that Kim is alive and well. The North Korean media then responded to the Western media offensive with several messages from Kim, confirming his health and thanking the messages of support received from public figures around the world who sympathized with the President’s alleged serious state of health. The most curious thing is that the lies invented by the West call attention for the degree of accuracy and complexity. Not satisfied with inventing death, vegetative condition and heart surgery, the media agencies released fake news stating that China had sent a team of doctors to operate Kim. Fortunately, Beijing denied the information immediately, leaving no doubt to its deleterious character.

In the end, Kim is alive, well and there is no concrete data that can tell us anything more accurate about his health. Obviously, the lie promoters already knew all this with antecedence, but they were concerned to make a lie in order to provoke inflamed reactions worldwide and destabilize Korea by tarnishing its image, portraying it as a dictatorial country, extremely closed and with a systemic censure – so strong that they are able to hide from the whole world a news as important as the death of their own president.

The darker side of this “fake news age” is that this false information drives big political decisions and is capable of influencing the actions of the people on large scale. Another example of the info-war power is Brazil, where fake news accusing China of having created the new coronavirus was officially admitted by the government, generating a serious diplomatic crisis between both countries and causing a wave of synophobia and hostility against Asians in the country, with Chinese immigrants being beaten on the streets. On social media, millions of messages containing fake news about the virus are spread daily and already completely permeate the popular mentality.

An important tactic of information warfare is the handling of which news should be broadcast. Despite the huge repercussions of Kim Jong-un’s “death”, very few agencies have so far reported about the farce of this information, or, if they did, have invested little in its dissemination. The reason is simple: in addition to the interest in spreading fake news, denying previous information is costly and damages the image of these media outlets, which prefer to keep the lie.

Even though Pyongyang denies Kim’s death, Beijing denies having sent doctors for heart surgery and South Korea itself admits that it is all about fake news, in the popular imagination of Western mass societies, an image of Korea as a “terrible dictatorship” and “the most closed country in the world” is already formed and can hardly be rebuilt without a strong media work committed to the truth (which is far from emerging).

The fact is that Kim Jong-un is alive and, more than ever, it is proven that most of the content released about non-Western countries is made up of fake news. In our times, the circulation of information is a real battlefield, really worthy of attention for purposes of national defense and strategy.

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This article was originally published on InfoBrics.

Lucas Leiroz is a research fellow in international law at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

David Swanson was to speak at a conference in Florence, Italy, on April 25, 2020.commemorating the 75 anniversary of Italy’s Liberation. 

The conference became a Live Stream. 

This was David Swanson’s speech at this important venue in Italy organized by the Italian Committee No Guerra, No NATO  together with Global Research.

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Video: Liberiamoci dal virus della guerra

April 29th, 2020 by Manlio Dinucci

“Convegno internazionale “Liberiamoci dal virus della guerra” in occasione del 75° anniversario della Liberazione d’Italia”

Michel Chossudovsky (Canada), economista, direttore del Centro di ricerca sulla globalizzazione; Peter Koenig (Svizzera), economista con lunga esperienza nella Banca Mondiale, Guido Grossi, già dirigente Banca Nazionale del Lavoro, ci diranno come potenti forze economiche e finanziarie sfruttano la crisi del coronavirus per impadronirsi dei nostri risparmi e soffocarci con la stretta del debito, e cosa dovremmo fare per risolvere tale situazione.

David Swanson (Stati Uniti), direttore di World Beyond War; Tim Anderson (Australia), docente di economia politica; Giorgio Bianchi, fotogiornalista e filmmaker; Franco Cardini, storico e saggista, ci parleranno delle guerre in corso, funzionali agli interessi delle stesse potenti forze.

Vladimir Kozin (Russia), consigliere capo del Centro Studi Politico-Militari, Diana Johnstone (Stati Uniti), saggista; Kate Hudson (Regno Unito), Segretaria Campagna per il Disarmo Nucleare, spiegheranno come e perché aumenta la probabilità di un catastrofico conflitto nucleare.

John Shipton (Australia), padre di Julian Assange, Ann Wright (Stati Uniti), già colonnello US Army e funzionaria Dipartimento di Stato, ci parleranno delle condizioni disumane in cui è detenuto a Londra Julian Assange, il giornalista fondatore di WikiLeaks, incarcerato per aver portato alla luce i crimini di guerra USA, che rischia di essere estradato da Londra negli Stati Uniti dove lo attende la pena dell’ergastolo o la pena di morte; Giulietto Chiesa, giornalista, direttore di Pandora TV. ci parlerà della fondamentale battaglia per il diritto costituzionale di manifestare liberamente il proprio pensiero e per una informazione veritiera.

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Israel has deployed additional units of the Iron Dome and Patriot air defense systems near the borders of Lebanon and Syria. Pro-Israeli sources claim that the country’s military is preparing to repel possible retaliatory strikes from Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed forces following the recent airstrikes on alleged ‘Iranian targets’ near Damascus.

Over the past year, the Israeli Defense Forces have been steadily increasing their military presence in the area of the occupied Golan Heights under pretext of combating the so-called Iranian threat. Syrian sources describe these developments as a part of preparations for wider aggressive military actions against forces of the Damascus government and its allies in southern Syria.

Late on April 27, Turkish unmanned aerial vehicles dropped leaflets calling on Idlib residents to support actions of the Turkish Army in the area of the M4 highway. Such actions by the Turkish military likely demonstrate that the negotiations with Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, which were held after a military incident between the sides on April 26, likely ended with no real progress. If the Turkish Army continues its efforts to de-block the part of the M4 highway near Nayrab by force, it may find itself in the state of an open military confrontation with Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.

2 US soldiers were abducted after an attack on their vehicle near the Omar oil fields, on the eastern bank of the Euphrates, Syrian state media said on April 27. Arab media regularly report about security incidents involving US-led coalition forces and their proxies in eastern Syria. Earlier in April, Syria’s SANA claimed that a US soldier and 2 members of the Syrian Democratic Forces were killed in an attack near the village of al-Wasia in Deir Ezzor province.

On top of this, ISIS via its news agency Amaq regularly reports successful attacks against personnel of the Syrian Democratic Forces and civilians in the US-controlled area. For example on April 21, Amaq announced that ISIS forces had killed a “sorcerer” in the town of al-Sabhah. The victim was identified as Hassan Ghanem al-Osman. He became the third “sorcerer” killed by ISIS in eastern Deir Ezzor during the last two months.

The US-led coalition prefers to remain silent regarding the ISIS terror campaign, which is ongoing under the nose of its forces. However, it found time to comment on the April 27 report about the supposed casualties among US personnel calling it fake.

The Russian Military Police established a new observation point near the town of Tell Tamir in northeastern Syria. Kurdish sources claim that Turkish-backed militants regularly shelled the town and the surrounding areas during the past few weeks. They expect that the deployment of the Russians there should help to put an end to these regular ceasefire violations.

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The Coronavirus 5th “Relief Package” We Need

April 29th, 2020 by Howie Hawkins

The coronavirus depression is fast becoming as deep as the Great Depression. The federal government’s response has been too little, too late.

While sickness and death spread, while unemployment and small business failures soar, while health care and essential workers lack personal protective equipment (PPE), Congress is in recess until May 4.

The childlike dummy, Donald Trump, spouts bad advice daily in his televised briefings. Thursday he said we could beat the coronavirus by injecting disinfectants or somehow shining ultraviolet radiation inside our bodies.

Meanwhile, the presumptive Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, is MIA. Is he sitting on a park bench somewhere feeding bread crumbs to pigeons?

Since the lockdown started five weeks ago, 26 million people have applied for unemployment insurance. But many qualified people have yet to receive unemployment benefits, or even get their applications accepted through overwhelmed state unemployment insurance agencies.

Economists estimate that the real unemployment rate may have reached 23% in April, which is about as high as it ever got in the Great Depression. The economy had contracted nearly 50% four years into Great Depression, while economists predict a contraction of 25% to 50% over a few months now.

Many of these temporary layoffs are turning into permanent job losses as businesses fail, particularly the small business that provide half of the nation’s jobs. Half of small businesses went into the lockdown with less than a month of cash reserves to cover fixed expenses like rent or mortgage and utilities. When small businesses run out of cash, they are dead.

The Payroll Protection Program (PPP) was supposed to keep these small businesses going, but like the unemployment insurance program, the loans are not getting to most people and the money allocated is far from enough to meet the need. 60% of small businesses have applied, but only 5% small businesses have received PPP funding.

When the lockdown started, Obama’s Small Business Administration head, Karen Mills, predicted a small business failure rate of 20% in a “best case scenario” and 30% in a “good scenario.” With a nearly 100% failure rate by the federal government in responding to the coronavirus depression, the carnage among small businesses and their workers is looking like a worst case scenario.

Big businesses are getting bailed out. Much of the money designated for small businesses has been snatched up by big businesses before small business’s applications were even considered. The half a trillion allocated for big businesses is being doled out to Trump cronies without disclosure of the recipients and without restrictions against firing workers or bonuses for executives. The Federal Reserve has cut its overnight borrowing interest rate for banks to zero and is engaged in unlimited trillions of dollars of quantitative easing to backstop corporate debt.

Meanwhile, essential workers—in hospitals, grocery stores, public transit, sanitation, food processing, package handling, delivery—are working in most cases without adequate or any PPE. We have already lost 83 transit workers to COVID-19 in New York City. We must demand an OSHA Temporary Standard to provide enforceable PPE protection for workers.

Most of the elements of the 5th Relief Package we need have been introduced by various members of Congress, but they won’t be included if we don’t speak up and demand real emergency relief.

Here are measures the 5th Relief Package should include to protect our health and well-being during the crisis:

  • Medicare to Pay for COVID-19 Testing and Treatment and All Emergency Health Care
  • Defense Production Act to Rapidly Plan the Production and Distribution of Medical Supplies and a Universal Test, Contact Trace, and Quarantine – – Program to Safely Reopen the Economy
  • An OSHA Temporary Standard to Provide Enforceable PPE Protection for Workers
  • $2,000 a Month to All Over Age 16 and $500 per Child
  • Loans to All Businesses and Hospitals for Payroll and Fixed Overhead To Be Forgiven If All Workers Are Kept on Payroll
  • Moratorium on Evictions, Foreclosures, and Utility Shutoffs
  • Cancel Rent, Mortgage, and Utility Payments; Federal Government Pays Those Bills; High-income People Pay Taxes on this Relief
  • Suspend Student Loan Payments with 0% Interest Accumulation
  • Federal Universal Rent Control
  • Aid to State and Local Governments Sufficient to Keep Essential Services Running
  • Universal Mail-in Ballots for the 2020 General Election

A study by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco found that over the last 600 years, the economic depression after pandemics persists for about 40 years, in contrast to much faster recoveries after wars. The difference is that capital is destroyed in wars that has to be rebuilt, but not in pandemics. Coming out of this pandemic, we should destroy the productive capital stock that has been heating up the planet and poisoning the environment and replace it with clean energy, zero waste production systems.

To rebuild our economy when it is safe to go back to work, we should invest public money on the scale needed to put everyone to back to doing what we should have been doing before the coronavirus crisis hit in order to protect our climate and our people. I have detailed a 10-Year, $42 Trillion budget for an Ecosocialist Green New Deal that would create 38 million new jobs rebuilding all of our production systems for zero-to-negative greenhouse gas emissions, zero-waste recycling, and 100% clean renewable energy by 2030 in order to reverse the climate crisis and other environmental problems.

This full-strength Green New Deal includes an Economic Bill of Rights to end poverty and economic despair. It provides for a job guarantee, a guaranteed income above poverty, affordable housing, Medicare for All, lifelong tuition-free public education, and a secure retirement by doubling Social Security benefits. We need the Green New Deal now for economic recovery as well as climate safety.

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Howie Hawkins is a Trade Unionist and co-founder of the Green Party of the United States. He is the leading candidate for the Green Party nomination for president in 2020. His website is HowieHawkins.US.

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Welcome to the Era of the Great Disillusionment

April 29th, 2020 by Jonathan Cook

This is a column I have been mulling over for a while but, for reasons that should be immediately obvious, I have been hesitant to write. It is about 5G, vaccines, 9/11, aliens and lizard overlords. Or rather, it isn’t. 

Let me preface my argument by making clear I do not intend to express any view about the truth or falsity of any of these debates – not even the one about reptile rulers. My refusal to publicly take a position should not be interpreted as my implicit endorsement of any of these viewpoints because, after all, only a crazy tinfoil hat-wearing conspiracy theorist sympathiser would refuse to make their views known on such matters.

Equally, my lumping together of all these disparate issues does not necessarily mean I see them as alike. They are presented in mainstream thinking as similarly proof of an unhinged, delusional, conspiracy-oriented mindset. I am working within a category that has been selected for me.

Truth and falsehood are not what this column is about. To consider these topics solely on the basis of whether they are true or false would distract from the critical thinking I wish to engage in here – especially since critical thinking is so widely discouraged in our societies. I want this column to deny a safe space to anyone emotionally invested in either side of these debates. (Doubtless, that will not deter those who would prefer to make mischief and misrepresent my argument. That is a hazard that comes with the territory.)

I am focusing on this set of issues now because some of them have been playing out increasingly loudly on social media as we cope with the isolation of lockdowns. People trapped at home have more time to explore the internet, and that means more opportunities to find often obscure information that may or may not be true. These kinds of debates are shaping our discursive landscape, and have profound political implications. It is these matters, not questions of truth, I want to examine in this column.

Social media and 5G

Let’s take 5G – the new, fifth-generation mobile phone technology – as an example. I am not a scientist, and I have done no research on 5G. Which is a very good reason why no one should be interested in what I have to say about the science or the safety of 5G. But like many people active on social media, I have been made aware – often with little choice on my part – of online debates about 5G and science.

Like TV presenter Eamonn Holmes, I have inevitably gained an impression of that debate. To a casual viewer, the debate looks (and we are discussing here appearances only) something like this:

a) State scientific advisers, as well as scientists whose jobs or research are financed by the mobile phone industry, are very certain that there are no dangers associated with 5G.

b) A few scientists (real ones, not evangelical pastors pretending to be former Vodafone executives) have warned that there has not been independent research on the health effects of 5G, that the technology has been rushed through for commercial reasons, and that the possible dangers posed long term to our health from constant exposure have not been properly assessed. 

c) Other scientists in this specialist field, possibly the majority, are keeping their peace.

Business our new god

That impression might not be true. It may be that that is just the way social media has made the debate look. It is possible that on the contrary:

  • the research has been vigorously carried out, even if it does not appear to have been widely reported in the mainstream media,
  • mobile phone and other communication industries have not financed what research there is in an attempt to obtain results helpful to their commercial interests,
  • the aggressively competitive mobile phone industry has been prepared to sit back and wait several years for all safety issues to be resolved, unconcerned about the effects on their profits of such delays,
  • the industry has avoided using its money and lobbyists to buy influence in the corridors of power and advance a political agenda based on its commercial interests rather than on the science,
  • and individual governments, keen not to be left behind on a global battlefield in which they compete for economic, military and intelligence advantage, have collectively waited to see whether 5G is safe rather than try to undercut each other and gain an edge over allies and enemies alike.

All of that is possible. But anyone who has been observing our societies for the past few decades – where business has become our new god, and where corporate money seems to dominate our political systems more than the politicians we elect – would have at least reasonable grounds to worry that corners may have been cut, that political pressure may have been exerted, and that some scientists (who are presumably human like the rest of us) may have been prepared to prioritise their careers and incomes over the most rigorous science.

Looney-tunes conspiracism

Again, I am not a scientist. Even if the research has not been carried out properly and the phone industry has lobbied sympathetic politicians to advance its commercial interests, it is still possible that, despite all that, 5G is entirely safe. But as I said at the start, I am not here to express a view about the science of 5G. 

I am discussing instead why it is not unreasonable or entirely irrational for a debate about the safety of 5G to have gone viral on social media while being ignored by corporate media; why a very mainstream TV presenter like Eamonn Holmes might suggest – to huge criticism – a need to address growing public concerns about 5G; why such concerns might quickly morph into fears of a connection between 5G and the current global pandemic; and why frightened people might decide to take things into their own hands by burning down 5G masts.

Explaining this chain of events is not the same as justifiying any of the links in that chain. But equally, dismissing all of it as simply looney-tunes conspiracism is not entirely reasonable or rational either.

The issue here is not really about 5G, it’s about whether our major institutions still hold public trust. Those who dismiss all concerns about 5G have a very high level of trust in the state and its institutions. Those who worry about 5G – a growing section of western populations , it seems – have very little trust in our institutions and increasingly in our scientists too. And the people responsible for that erosion of trust are our governments – and, if we are brutally honest, the scientists as well.

Information overload

Debates like the 5G one have not emerged in a vacuum. They come at a moment of unprecedented information dissemination that derives from a decade of rapid growth in social media. We are the first societies to have access to data and information that was once the preserve of monarchs, state officials and advisers, and in more recent times a few select journalists.

Now rogue academics, rogue journalists, rogue former officials – anyone, in fact – can go online and discover a myriad of things that until recently no one outside a small establishment circle was ever supposed to understand. If you know where to look, you can even find some of this stuff on Wikipedia (see, for example, Operation Timber Sycamore).

The effect of this information overload has been to disorientate the great majority of us who lack the time, the knowledge and the analytical skills to sift through it all and make sense of the world around us. It is hard to discriminate when there is so much information – good and bad alike – to digest.

Nonetheless, we have got a sense from these online debates,  reinforced by events in the non-virtual world, that our politicians do not always tell the truth, that money – rather than the public interest – sometimes wins out in decision-making processes, and that our elites may be little better equipped than us – aside from their expensive educations – to run our societies.

Two decades of lies

There has been a handful of staging posts over the past two decades to our current era of the Great Disillusionment. They include:

  • the lack of transparency in the US government’s investigation into the events surrounding 9/11 (obscured by a parallel online controversy about what took place that day);
  • the documented lies told about the reasons for launching a disastrous and illegal war of aggression against Iraq in 2003 that unleashed regional chaos, waves of destabilising migration into Europe and new, exceptionally brutal forms of political Islam;
  • the astronomical bailouts after the 2008 crash of bankers whose criminal activities nearly bankrupted the global economy (but who were never held to account) and instituted more than a decade of austerity measures that had to be paid for by the public;
  • the refusal by western governments and global institutions to take any leadership on tackling climate change, as not only the science but the weather itself has made the urgency of that emergency clear, because it would mean taking on their corporate sponsors;
  • and now the criminal failures of our governments to prepare for, and respond properly to, the Covid-19 pandemic, despite many years of warnings.

Anyone who still takes what our governments say at face value … well, I have several bridges to sell you.

Experts failed us

But it is not just governments to blame. The failings of experts, administrators and the professional class have been all too visible to the public as well. Those officials who have enjoyed easy access to prominent platforms in the state-corporate media have obediently repeated what state and corporate interests wanted us to hear, often only for that information to be exposed later as incomplete, misleading or downright fabricated.

In the run-up to the 2003 attack on Iraq, too many political scientists, journalists and weapons experts kept their heads down, keen to preserve their careers and status, rather than speak up in support of those rare experts like Scott Ritter and the late David Kelly who dared to sound the alarm that we were not being told the whole truth.

In 2008, only a handful of economists was prepared to break with corporate orthodoxy and question whether throwing money at bankers exposed as financial criminals was wise, or to demand that these bankers be prosecuted. The economists did not argue the case that there must be a price for the banks to pay, such as a public stake in the banks that were bailed out, in return for forcing taxpayers to massively invest in these discredited businesses. And the economists did not propose overhauling our financial systems to make sure there was no repetition of the economic crash. Instead, they kept their heads down as well, in the hope that their large salaries continued and that they would not lose their esteemed positions in think-tanks and universities.

We know that climate scientists were quietly warning back in the 1950s of the dangers of runaway global warming, and that in the 1980s scientists working for the fossil-fuel companies predicted very precisely how and when the catastrophe would unfold – right about now. It is wonderful that today the vast majority of these scientists are publicly agreed on the dangers, even if they are still trapped in a dangerous caution by the conservatism of scientific procedure. But they forfeited public trust by leaving it so very, very late to speak up.

And recently we have learnt, for example, that a series of Conservative governments in the UK recklessly ran down the supplies of hospital protective gear, even though they had more than a decade of warnings of a coming pandemic. The question is why did no scientific advisers or health officials blow the whistle earlier. Now it is too late to save the lives of many thousands, including dozens of medical staff, who have fallen victim so far to the virus in the UK.


 

Lesser of two evils

Worse still, in the Anglosphere of the US and the UK, we have ended up with political systems that offer a choice between one party that supports a brutal, unrestrained version of neoliberalism and another party that supports a marginally less brutal, slightly mitigated version of neoliberalism. (And we have recently discovered in the UK that, after the grassroots membership of one of those twinned parties managed to choose a leader in Jeremy Corbyn who rejected this orthodoxy, his own party machine conspired to throw the election rather than let him near power.) As we are warned at each election, in case we decide that elections are in fact futile, we enjoy a choice – between the lesser of two evils.

Those who ignore or instinctively defend these glaring failings of the modern corporate system are really in no position to sit smugly in judgment on those who wish to question the safety of 5G, or vaccines, or the truth of 9/11, or the reality of a climate catastrophe, or even of the presence of lizard overlords.

Because through their reflexive dismissal of doubt, of all critical thinking on anything that has not been pre-approved by our governments and by the state-corporate media, they have helped to disfigure the only yardsticks we have for measuring truth or falsehood. They have forced on us a terrible choice: to blindly follow those who have repeatedly demonstrated they are not worthy of being followed, or to trust nothing at all, to doubt everything. Neither position is one a healthy, balanced individual would want to adopt. But that is where we are today.

Big Brother regimes

It is therefore hardly surprising that those who have been so discredited by the current explosion of information – the politicians, the corporations and the professional class – are wondering how to fix things in the way most likely to maintain their power and authority.

They face two, possibly complementary options.

One is to allow the information overload to continue, or even escalate. There is an argument to be made that the more possible truths we are presented with, the more powerless we feel and the more willing we are to defer to those most vocal in claiming authority. Confused and hopeless, we will look to father figures, to the strongmen of old, to those who have cultivated an aura of decisiveness and fearlessness, to those who look like down-to-earth mavericks and rebels.

This approach will throw up more Donald Trumps, Boris Johnsons and Jair Bolsonaros. And these men, while charming us with their supposed lack of orthodoxy, will still, of course, be exceptionally accommodating to the most powerful corporate interests – the military-industrial complex – that really run the show.

The other option, which has already been road-tested under the rubric of “fake news”, will be to treat us, the public, like irresponsible children, who need a firm, guiding hand. The technocrats and professionals will try to re-establish their authority as though the last two decades never occurred, as though we never saw through their hypocrisy and lies.

They will cite “conspiracy theories” – even the true ones – as proof that it is time to impose new curbs on internet freedoms, on the right to speak and to think. They will argue that the social media experiment has run its course and proved itself a menace – because we, the public, are a menace. They are already flying trial balloons for this new Big Brother world, under cover of tackling the health threats posed by the Covid-19 epidemic.

We should not be surprised that the “thought-leaders” for shutting down the cacophony of the internet are those whose failures have been most exposed by our new freedoms to explore the dark recesses of the recent past. They have included Tony Blair, the British prime minister who lied western publics into the disastrous and illegal war on Iraq in 2003, and Jack Goldsmith, rewarded as a Harvard law professor for his role – since whitewashed – in helping the Bush administration legalise torture and step up warrantless surveillance programmes.

Need for a new media

The only alternative to a future in which we are ruled by Big Brother technocrats like Tony Blair, or by chummy authoritarians who brook no dissent, or a mix of the two, will require a complete overhaul of our societies’ approach to information. We will need fewer curbs on free speech, not more. 

The real test of our societies – and the only hope of surviving the coming emergencies, economic and environmental – will be finding a way to hold our leaders truly to account. Not based on whether they are secretly lizards, but on what they are doing to save our planet from our all-too-human, self-destructive instinct for acquisition and our craving for guarantees of security in an uncertain world.

That, in turn, will require a transformation of our relationship to information and debate. We will need a new model of independent, pluralistic, responsive, questioning media that is accountable to the public, not to billionaires and corporations. Precisely the kind of media we do not have now. We will need media we can trust to represent the full range of credible, intelligent, informed debate, not the narrow Overton window through which we get a highly partisan, distorted view of the world that serves the 1 per cent – an elite so richly rewarded by the current system that they are prepared to ignore the fact that they and we are hurtling towards the abyss.

With that kind of media in place – one that truly holds politicians to account and celebrates scientists for their contributions to collective knowledge, not their usefulness to corporate enrichment – we would not need to worry about the safety of our communications systems or medicines, we would not need to doubt the truth of events in the news or wonder whether we have lizards for rulers, because in that kind of world no one would rule over us. They would serve the public for the common good.

Sounds like a fantastical, improbable system of government? It has a name: democracy. Maybe it is time for us finally to give it a go.

This essay first appeared on Jonathan Cook’s blog: https://www.jonathan-cook.net/blog/

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His books include “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jonathan-cook.net.

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Since death is one idea that has no history except as an idea and not a reality any of us has experienced, it is the most frightening idea there is and also quite simple. It is the ultimate unknown. It has always haunted human beings, whether consciously or unconsciously. It lies at the root of war, violence, religion, art, love, and civilization. The good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly, why we like to win and not lose, pass and not fail, “pass on” and not die. It is so funny and so sad.  We would be lost without it, even when we feel lost when thinking about it.  And it is fundamental for understanding the action and reaction to Covid-19. 

Societies have always been people banded together in the face of death.  And since people are not just physical beings but symbolic creatures who can think and imagine the past and the future, societies are necessarily mythic symbol systems whose job is not only to protect people physically, but symbolically as well. Sometimes, however, the protection is a protection racket with racketeers holding people hostage to fabricated fears that keep them locked in a living-death.

Thus death, this most potent imaginative idea and reality that doesn’t exist except as a mystery about which anything we say is speculation, can be used for good and evil, depending on who controls society.  Death is the great fear, the human haunting that hangs by a thread over life like the sword of Damocles.

In 1944 in a newspaper column, George Orwell made an astute remark:

There is little doubt that the modern cult of power worship is bound up with the modern man’s feeling that life here and now is the only life there is.  If death ends everything, it becomes much harder to believe that you can be in the right even if you are defeated…. I would say that the decay in the belief in personal immortality has been as important as the rise of machine civilization.

Beliefs, of course, like “personal immortality” and all others, such as the recent rise in the belief in atheism, which is as much a belief as belief in God, are, partially at least, relative to time and place, and develop out of social storytelling. The “hard facts” on which many feel their lives and security rest are themselves dependent upon the symbols which give them legitimacy. Reality is indeed precarious with society suspended by a web of myths and symbols.  It is through cultural and social symbol systems that society’s meaning is transmitted to individuals, and it is within the symbol systems that the control and release of action resides.  In today’s electronic mass media world, those who control the mass media that control the narrative flow – the storytelling – control the majority’s beliefs and actions.

Since society is held together by this myth system – the beliefs and values people live for and live by – that sustains it, societies have always had to offer symbolic “answers” to death.  For without a meaningful symbolic for coming to terms with death, human action would be stymied and people would be reduced to what the psychiatrist Allan Wheelis termed “intense, preoccupying yearning.” Today we can hear such yearning everywhere.

Shortly after Orwell made his prescient comment in The Tribune, nuclear weapons were developed and used by the United States to kill hundreds of thousands of innocent Japanese civilians.  With those weapons and their use, the ages-old symbolic narrative of life and death was transformed in a flash.  “The significance of the possibility of nuclear death is that it radically affects the meaning of death, of immortality, of life itself,” wrote Hans Morgenthau.  The traditional symbolic sources that once served to allow humans to transcend death were fundamentally undercut, and the search for new modes of death transcendence was carried on beneath the portentous covering of the nuclear umbrella. A qualitative transformation in the meaning of human existence was thus brought about as humans, who had the weapons, replaced the belief in God as the holder of the power over life and death, since nuclear war could result in the extinction of human life, leaving no one left to die.

This is our world today, and it is where the Covid-19 story takes place.  A world not just of nuclear fear, but a host of other fears constantly inflamed by the mass media that hypnotize people through the conjuring of death-fear.

In his great work on group psychology, Freud showed us how it was not just mental contagion and the herd instinct that got people to join in group behavior.  People could be induced to become little children and obey their leaders because they have “an extreme passion for authority.” When leaders speak, the children hear the inner voices of their parents telling them to be careful, be very careful, the bogeyman is everywhere, so listen and obey. Freud, the Jewish atheist, and Dostoevsky, the Russian Orthodox Christian, were in agreement about people’s desire to give up their freedom to authority figures who would allegedly shelter them within their warm embrace.

The easiest way to do this is to convince people that death is stalking them, for the bogeyman is always death in one form or another.

It works to get people to support the terrifying sadism of wars against fabricated “others,” who are always portrayed as aliens who are out to kill the good people.

It works to get people to give up their freedoms out of fear of “terrorists,” who are said to slide and hide in the interstices of everyday life, ready to pounce and kill at any moment.

And it works to get people to obey orders to protect themselves from terrifying viruses that are lying in wait everywhere to strike them dead.

In his novel The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky said that people want miracles, mystery, and authority, not freedom.  His Grand Inquisitor, while a fictional creation, lives on in reality.  For the Grand Inquisitor represents those power elites across the world who wish to cower people into accepting their dicta on Covid-19 as truth without questioning its logic or rationale.  To question has become an act of insubordination deserving death by censorship or the defiling of one’s name via the term “conspiracy theorist,” a name used by the CIA to dismiss anyone questioning its murder of President Kennedy.  Death comes in many forms, and the fear of it has always been used by the powerful to render the common people speechless and obedient.

How can any thinking person, anyone not totally crippled by fear, not question what is going on with the coronavirus disaster when reading what Peter Koenig, a thirty-year veteran economist of the World Bank and World Health Organization, writes in his article “The Farce and Diabolical Agenda of a ‘Universal Lockdown’”:

The pandemic was needed as a pretext to halt and collapse the world economy and the underlying social fabric.

There is no coincidence. There were a number of preparatory events, all pointing into the direction of a worldwide monumental historic disaster. It started at least 10 years ago – probably considerably earlier – with the infamous 2010 Rockefeller Report, which painted the first phase of a monstrous Plan, called the “Lock Step” scenario. Among the last preparatory moves for the “pandemic” was Event 201, held in NYC on 18 October 2019.

The event was sponsored by the Johns Hopkins Center for Public Health, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and the World Economic Forum (WEF), the club of the rich and powerful that meets every January in Davos, Switzerland. Participating were a number of pharmaceuticals (vaccine interest groups), as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s of the US and – of China.

One of the objectives of Event 201 was a computer simulation of a corona virus pandemic. The simulated virus was called SARS-2-nCoV, or later 2019-nCoV. The simulation results were disastrous, killing 65 million people in 18 months and plunging the stock market by more than 30% — causing untold unemployment and bankruptcies. Precisely the scenario of which we are now living the beginning.

The Lock Step scenario foresees a number of ghastly and disturbing events or components of The Plan to be implemented by the so called Agenda ID2020, a Bill Gates creation, fully integrated into the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) – target date for completion – 2030 (also called Agenda 2030, the hidden agenda unknown to most of the UN members), the same target date for completion of the Agenda ID02020.

I ask the question but I am afraid I know the answer: miracle, mystery, and authority usually defeat evidence and simple logic.  Fear of death and free thought scare children. The Grand Inquisitor lives on:

But man seeks to bow before that only which is recognized by the greater majority, if not by all his fellow-men, as having a right to be worshipped; whose rights are so unquestionable that men agree unanimously to bow down to it.

Death: A simple idea with such a powerful punch.

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Distinguished author and sociologist Edward Curtin is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. Visit the author’s website here.

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The Dubious COVID Models, The Tests and Now the Consequences

April 29th, 2020 by F. William Engdahl

Since late in January the world has undergone staggering changes which in many cases may be irreparable. We have given decisions over every aspect of our lives to the judgment of tests and to the projections of computer models for the coronavirus first claimed to have erupted in Wuhan China, now dubbed SARS-CoV-2. With astonishing lack of transparency or checking, one government after the other has imposed China-model lockdowns on their entire populations. It begins to look as if we are being led like sheep to slaughter for corrupted science.

The Dubious COVID Models

Two major models are being used in the West since the alleged spread of coronavirus to Europe and USA to “predict” and respond to the spread of COVID-19 illness. One was developed at Imperial College of London. The second was developed, with emphasis on USA effects, by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) in Seattle, near the home of Microsoft founder Bill Gates. What few know is that both groups owe their existence to generous funding by a tax exempt foundation that stands to make literally billions on purported vaccines and other drugs to treat coronavirus—The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

In early March, Prof. Neil Ferguson, head of the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis at Imperial College London issued a widely-discussed model that forecast possible COVID-19 deaths in the UK as high as 500,000. Ferguson works closely with the WHO. That report was held responsible for a dramatic u-turn by the UK government from a traditional public health policy of isolating at risk patients while allowing society and the economy to function normally. Days after the UK went on lockdown, Ferguson’s institute sheepishly revised downwards his death estimates, several times and dramatically. His dire warnings have not come to pass and the UK economy, like most others around the world, has gone into deep crisis based on inflated estimates.

Ferguson and his Imperial College modelers have a notorious track record for predicting dire consequences of diseases. In 2002 Ferguson predicted that up to 50,000 people in UK would die from variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, “mad cow disease”, possibly to 150,000 if the epidemic expanded to include sheep. A total of 178 people were officially registered dead from vCJD. In 2005, Ferguson claimed that up to 200 million (!) people worldwide would be killed by bird-flu or H5N1. By early 2006, the WHO had only linked 78 deaths to the virus. Then in 2009 Ferguson’s group at Imperial College advised the government that swine flu or H1N1 would probably kill 65,000 people in the UK. In the end, swine flu claimed the lives of 457 people. Ferguson and his Imperial College group have a notoriously bad track record for predicting disease consequences.

Yet the same Ferguson group at Imperial College, with WHO endorsement, was behind the panic numbers that triggered a UK government lockdown. Ferguson was also the source of the wild “prediction” that 2.2 million Americans would likely die if immediate lockdown of the US economy did not occur. Based on the Ferguson model, Dr Anthony Fauci of NIAID reportedly confronted President Trump and pressured him to declare a national health emergency. Much as in the UK, once the damage to the economy was begun, Ferguson’s model later drastically lowered the US fatality estimates to between 100,000 to 200,000 deaths. In both US and UK cases Neil Ferguson relied on data from the Chinese government, data which has been shown as unreliable.

Neil Ferguson and his modelling group at Imperial College, in addition to being backed by WHO, receive millions from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Ferguson heads the Vaccine Impact Modelling Consortium at Imperial College which lists as its funders the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Gates-backed GAVI-the vaccine alliance. From 2006 through 2018 the Gates Foundation has invested an impressive $184,872,226.99 into Ferguson’s Imperial College modeling operations.

Notably, the Gates foundation began pouring millions into Ferguson’s modelling operation well after his catastrophic lack of accuracy was known, leading some to suggest Ferguson is another “science for hire” operation.

University of Washington—Gates too…

More recently, the forecast models being used to justify the unprecedented lockdown measures across the United States have been developed at the University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) in Seattle.

Its COVID-19 model forecasts deaths and the use of hospital resources such as hospital beds, ICU beds and ventilators. At the end of March the model from IHME also “predicted” up to 2.2 million American coronavirus deaths unless drastic lockdown measures were followed. By April 7 IHME models revised that down to up to 200,000 deaths. Their last down revision puts deaths at just over 60,000. The claim is that the down revisions are informed by actual data. Yet the wildly inaccurate projections were the ones used to impose catastrophic social and economic restrictions across the USA.

Alex Berenson, a former New York Times reporter questioned the IMHE model:

“Aside from New York, nationally there’s been no health system crisis. In fact, to be truly correct, there has been a health system crisis, but the crisis is that the hospitals are empty,” he said. “This is true in Florida where the lockdown was late, this is true in southern California where the lockdown was early, it’s true in Oklahoma where there is no statewide lockdown. There doesn’t seem to be any correlation between the lockdown and whether or not the epidemic has spread wide and fast.”

IHME claims its revisions are result of the lockdown taking effect even though that would take weeks to show up.

Like Neil Ferguson at the Imperial College London, the University of Washington’s IHME is another project of the Gates Foundation. It was created in 2007 with a major grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In May 2015 IHME and the World Health Organization signed a major agreement to collaborate on data used to estimate world health trends. Then in 2017 IHME got an additional $279 million from the Gates Foundation to expand its work over the next decade. That, in addition to another a $210 million gift in 2016 from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to fund construction of a new building to house several UW units working in population health, including IHME. In other words, IHME has been a crucial piece of the Gates global health strategy for more than 13 years.

They have been turning out highly inflated models for state-by-state emergency room demands. Those inflated projections, from New York to California and beyond have wreaked havoc on the entire health care system. When one IHME model predicted need for 430,000 intensive care beds across the US in March, states went into panic mode from New York to California to Pennsylvania and beyond. By the third week of April the reality was that hospital beds were empty and untold numbers of other operations had been canceled to make room for covid19 patients who never materialized.

Faulty Tests

The wide variety of different tests that are supposed to tell whether one is infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus have added a crucial element to the perfect dystopian storm that is raging globally. Simply put, the tests are not that reliable.

A leading German laboratory reported in early April that, according to WHO recommendations, Covid19 virus tests are now considered positive, even if the specific target sequence of the Covid19 virus is negative and only the more general corona virus target sequence is positive. This can lead to other corona viruses such as cold viruses also triggering a false positive test result. That means you can have a simple cold and you are deemed coronavirus positive. Little wonder that the tally of coronavirus “infected” is exploding over the past weeks. But what does that number really mean? We simply don’t know. Yet our politicians are glibly shutting down entire economies and causing inconceivable social damage based on false model projections and WHO’s dodgy testing guidelines.

In Germany the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the government agency leading the COVID19 response, has deliberately refused to list the actual daily number of persons tested despite requests. Prof. Christopher Kuhbander, author of a detailed study states,

“The reported figures on new infections very dramatically overestimate the true spread of the corona virus. The observed rapid increase in new infections is almost exclusively due to the fact that the number of tests has increased rapidly over time. So, at least according to the reported figures, there was in reality never an exponential spread of the coronavirus. The reported figures on new infections hide the fact that the number of new infections has been decreasing since about early or mid-March.” 

Yet the uncritical media presentation of endless statistics from the head of the RKI have fostered unprecedented anxiety and fear in the population of Germany.

Californian physician Dr. Dan Erickson described his observations regarding Covid19 in a press briefing. He stated that hospitals and intensive care units in California and other states have remained largely empty so far. Dr. Erickson reports that doctors from several US states have been “pressured“ to issue death certificates mentioning Covid19, even though they themselves did not agree. In Pennsylvania the state was forced to remove some 200 “coronavirus” deaths after doctor autopsy revealed death from pre-existing causes such as heart or lung diseases.

The more that actual facts are emerging around this pandemic and its consequences, it is becoming clear were are being told to commit economic and social suicide based on wrong methods and wrong information.

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F. William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook” where this article was originally published. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. 

Featured image is from NEO


seeds_2.jpg

Seeds of Destruction: Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation

Author Name: F. William Engdahl
ISBN Number: 978-0-937147-2-2
Year: 2007
Pages: 341 pages with complete index

List Price: $25.95

Special Price: $18.00

 

This skilfully researched book focuses on how a small socio-political American elite seeks to establish control over the very basis of human survival: the provision of our daily bread. “Control the food and you control the people.”

This is no ordinary book about the perils of GMO. Engdahl takes the reader inside the corridors of power, into the backrooms of the science labs, behind closed doors in the corporate boardrooms.

The author cogently reveals a diabolical world of profit-driven political intrigue, government corruption and coercion, where genetic manipulation and the patenting of life forms are used to gain worldwide control over food production. If the book often reads as a crime story, that should come as no surprise. For that is what it is.

How to Think Post-Planet Lockdown

April 29th, 2020 by Pepe Escobar

Between unaccountability of elites and total fragmentation of civil society, Covid-19 as a circuit breaker is showing how the king – systemic design – is naked. 

We are being sucked into a danse macabre of multiple complex systems “colliding into one another,” producing all kinds of mostly negative feedback loops.

What we already know for sure, as Shoshana Zuboff detailed in The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, is that “industrial capitalism followed its own logic of shock and awe” to conquer nature. But now  surveillance capitalism “has human nature in its sights.”

In The Human Planet: How We Created the Anthropocene, analyzing the explosion in population growth, increasing energy consumption  and a tsunami of information “driven by the positive feedback loops of reinvestment and profit,” Simon Lewis and Mark Maslin of University College, London, suggest that our current mode of living is the “least probable” among several options. “A collapse or a switch to a new mode of living is more likely.”

With dystopia and mass paranoia seemingly the law of the (bewildered) land, Michel Foucault’s analyses of biopolitics have never been so timely, as states across the world take over biopower – the control of people’s life and bodies.

David Harvey, once again, shows how prophetic  was Marx, not only in his analyses of industrial capitalism but somehow – in Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy – even forecasting the mechanics of digital capitalism:

Marx, Harvey writes, “talks about the way that new technologies and knowledge become embedded in the machine: they’re no longer in the laborer’s brain, and the laborer is pushed to one side to become an appendage of the machine, a mere machine-minder. All of the intelligence and all of the knowledge, which used to belong to the laborers, and which conferred upon them a certain monopoly power vis-à-vis capital, disappear.”

Thus, adds Harvey, “the capitalist who once needed the skills of the laborer is now freed from that constraint, and the skill is embodied in the machine. The knowledge produced through science and technology flows into the machine, and the machine becomes ‘the soul’ of capitalist dynamism.”

Living in ‘psycho-deflation‘

An immediate – economic – effect of the collision of complex systems is the approaching New Great Depression. Meanwhile, very few are attempting to understand Planet Lockdown in depth – and that goes, most of all, for post-Planet Lockdown. Yet a few concepts already stand out. State of exception. Necropolitics. A new brutalism. And, as we will see, the new viral paradigm.

So let’s review some the best and the brightest at the forefront of Covid-19 thinking. An excellent road map is provided by Sopa de Wuhan (“Wuhan Soup’), an independent collection assembled in Spanish, featuring essays by, among others, Giorgio Agamben, Slavoj Zizek, Judith Butler, David Harvey, South Korean Byung-Chul Han and Spaniard Paul Preciado.

The last two, along with Agamben, were referenced in previous essays in this running series, on the Stoics,  Heraclitus,  Confucius, Buddha and Lao Tzu, and contemporary philosophy examining The City under The Plague.

Franco Berardi, a 1968 student icon now professor of philosophy in Bologna, offers the concept of “psycho-deflation” to explain our current predicament. We are living a “psychic epidemic … generated by a virus as the Earth has reached a stage of extreme irritation, and society’s collective body suffers for quite a while a state of intolerable stress: the illness manifests itself at this stage, devastating in the social and psychic spheres, as a self-defense reaction of the planetary body.”

Thus, as Berardi argues, a “semiotic virus in the psycho-sphere blocks the abstract functioning of the economy, subtracting bodies from it.” Only a virus would be able to stop accumulation of capital dead in its tracks: “Capitalism is axiomatic, works on a non-verified premise (the necessity of unlimited growth which makes possible capital accumulation).

Every logical and economic concatenation is coherent with this axiom, and nothing can be tried outside of this axiom. There is no political way out of axiomatic Capital, there’s no possibility of destroying the system,” because even language is a hostage of this axiom and does not allow the possibility of anything “efficiently extra-systemic.”

So what’s left? “The only way out is death, as we learned from Baudrillard”. The late, great grandmaster of simulacrum was already forecasting a systemic stall back in the post-modernist 1980s.

Croatian philosopher Srecko Horvat , in contrast, offers a less conceptual and more realist hypothesis about the immediate future: “The fear of a pandemic is more dangerous than the virus itself. The apocalyptic images of the mass media hide a deep nexus between the extreme right and the capitalist economy. Like a virus that needs a living cell to reproduce itself, capitalism will adapt itself to the new 21st century biopolitics.”

For the Catalan chemist and philosopher Santiago Lopez Petit, coronavirus can be seen as a declaration of war: “Neoliberalism unabashedly dresses up as a war state. Capital is scared,” even as  “uncertainty and insecurity invalidate the necessity of the same state.” Yet there may be creative possibilities when “obscure and paroxistic life, incalculable in its ambivalence, escapes algorithm.”

Our normalized exception 

Giorgio Agamben caused immense controversy in Italy and across Europe when he published a column in late February on “the invention of an epidemic.” He later had to explain  what he meant. But his main insight remains valid: The state of exception has been completely normalized.

And it gets worse: “A new despotism, which in terms of pervasive controls and cessation of every political activity, will be worse that the totalitarianisms we have known so far.”

Agamben redoubles his analyses of science as the religion of our time: “The analogy with religion is taken literally; theologians declared that they could not clearly define what is God, but in his name they dictated rules of conduct to men and did not hesitate to burn heretics. Virologists admit they don’t know exactly what is a virus, but in its name they pretend to decide how human beings shall live.”

Cameroonian philosopher and historian Achille Mbembe, author of two indispensable books, Necropolitics and Brutalisme, has identified the paradox of our time: “The abyss between the increasing globalization of problems of human existence and the retreat of states inside their own, old-fashioned borders.”

Mbembe delves into the end of a certain world, “dominated by giant calculation devices,” a “mobile world in the most polymorphous, viral and near cinematic sense,” referring to the ubiquity of screens (Baudrillard again, already in the 1980s) and the lexicography, “which reveals not only a change of language but the end of the word.”

Here we have Mbembe dialoguing with Berardi – but Membe takes it much farther: “This end of the word, this definitive triumph of the gesture and artificial organs over the word, the fact that the history of the word ends under our eyes, that for me is the historical development par excellence, the one that Covid-19 unveils.”

The political consequences are, inevitably, dire: “Part of the power politics of great nations does not lie in the dream of an automated organization of the world thanks to the manufacturing of a New Man that would be the product of physiological assemblage, a synthetic and electronic assemblage and a biological assemblage? Let’s call it techno-libertarianism.”

This is not exclusive to the West: “China is also on it, vertiginously.”

This new paradigm of a plethora of automated systems and algorithmic decisions “where history and the word don’t exist anymore is in frontal shock with the reality of bodies in flesh and bones, microbes, bacteria and liquids of all sorts, blood included.”

The West, argues Mbembe, chose a long time ago to “imprint a Dionysiac course to its history and take the rest of the world with it, even if it doesn’t understand it. The West does not know anymore the difference between beginning and ending. China is also on it. The world has been plunged into a vast process of dilaceration where no one can predict the consequences.”

Mbembe is terrified by the proliferation of “live manifestations of the bestial and viral part of humanity,” including racism and tribalism.

This, he adds, conforms our new viral paradigm.

His analysis certainly dovetails with Agamben’s: “I have a feeling that brutalism is going to intensify under the techno-libertarianism drive, be it under China or hidden under the accoutrements of liberal democracy. Just like 9/11 opened the way to a generalized state of exception, and its normalization, the fight against Covid-19 will be used as a pretext to move the political even more towards the domain of security.”

“But this time”, Mbembe adds, “it will be a security almost biological, bearing with new forms of segregation between the ‘immunity bodies’ and ‘viral bodies’. Viralism will become the new theatre for fractioning populations, now identified as distinct species.”

It does feel like neo-medievalism, a digital re-enacting of the fabulous Triumph of Deathfresco in Palermo.

Poets, not politicians 

It’s useful to contrast such doom and gloom with the perspective of a geographer. Christian Grataloup, who excels in geo-history, insists on the common destiny of humanity (here he’s echoing Xi Jinping and the Chinese concept of “community of shared destiny”): “There’s an unprecedented feeling of identity. The world is not simply an economic and demographic spatial system, it becomes a territory. Since the Great Discoveries, what was global was shrinking, solving a lot of contradictions; now we must learn to build it up again, give it more consistence as we run the risk of letting it rot under international tensions.”

It’s not the Covid-19 crisis that will lead to another world – but society’s reaction to the crisis. There won’t be a magical night – complete with performances by “international community” pop stars – when “victory “will be announced to the former Planet Lockdown.

What really matters is a long, arduous political combat to take us to the next level. Extreme conservatives and techno-libertarians have already taken the initiative – from refusal of any taxes on the wealthy to support the victims of the New Great Depression to the debt obsession that prevents more, necessary public spending.

In this framework, I propose to go one step beyond Foucault’s biopolitics. Gilles Deleuze can be the conceptualizer of a new, radical freedom. Here is a delightful British series that can be enjoyed as if it were a serious Monty Python-ish approach to Deleuze.

Foucault excelled in the description of how meaning and frames of social truth change over time, constituting new realities conditioned by power and knowledge.

Deleuze, on the other hand, focused on how things change. Movement. Nothing is stable. Nothing is eternal. He conceptualized flux – in a very Heraclitean way.

New species (even the new, AI-created Ubermensch) evolve in relation with their environment. It’s by using Deleuze that we can investigate how spaces between things create possibilities for The Shock of the New.

More than ever, we now know how everything is connected (thank you, Spinoza). The (digital) world is so complicated, connected and mysterious that this opens an infinite number of possibilities.

Already in the 1970s, Deleuze was saying the new map – the innate potentially of newness – should be called “the virtual.” The more living matter gets more complex, the more it transforms this virtual into spontaneous action and unforeseen movements.

Deleuze posed a dilemma that now confronts us all in even starker terms. The choice is between “the poet, who speaks in the name of a creative power, capable of overturning all orders and representations in order to affirm difference in the state of permanent revolution which characterizes eternal return: and that of the politician, who is above all concerned to deny that which “differs,” so as to conserve or prolong an established historical order, or to establish a historical order which already calls forth in the world the forms of its representation.”

The time calls for acting as poets instead of politicians.

The methodology may be offered by Deleuze and Guattari’s formidable A Thousand Plateaus – significantly subtitled “Capitalism and Schizophrenia,” where the drive is non-linear. We’re talking about philosophy, psychology, politics connected by ideas running at different speeds, a dizzying non-stop movement mingling lines of articulation, in different strata, directed into lines of flight, movements of deterritorialization.

The concept of “lines of flight” is essential for this new virtual landscape, because the virtual is conformed by lines of flight between differences, in a continual process of change and freedom.

All this frenzy, though, must have roots – as in the roots of a tree (of knowledge). And that brings us to Deleuze’s central metaphor; the rhizome, which is not just a root, but a mass of roots springing up in new directions.

Deleuze showed how the rhizome connects assemblies of linguistic codes, power relations, the arts – and, crucially, biology. The hyperlink is a rhizome. It used to represent a symbol of the delightful absence of order in the internet, until it became debased as Google started imposing its algorithms. Links, by definition, always should lead us to unexpected destinations.

Rhizomes are the antitheses of those Western liberal “democracy” standard traits – the parliament and the senate. By contrast, trails – as in the Ho Chi Minh trail – are rhizomes. There’s no masterplan. Multiple entryways and multiple possibilities. No beginning and no end. As Deleuze described it, “the rhizome operates by variation, expansion, conquest, capture, offshoot.”

This can work out as the blueprint for a new form of political engagement –as the systemic design collapses. It does embody a methodology, an ideology, an epistemology and it’s also a metaphor. The rhizome is inherently progressive, while traditions are static. As a metaphor, the rhizome can replace our conception of history as linear and singular, offering different histories moving at different speeds. TINA (“ There is no alternative”) is dead: there are multiple alternatives.

And that brings us back to David Harvey inspired by Marx. In order to embark onto a new, emancipatory path, we first have to emancipate ourselves to see that a new imaginary is possible, alongside a new complex systems reality.

So let‘s chill – and deterritorialize. If we learn how to do it, the advent of the New Techno Man in voluntary servitude, remote-controlled by an all-powerful, all-seeing security state, won’t be a given.

Deleuze: a great writer is always like a foreigner in the language through which he expresses himself, even if it’s his native tongue. He does not mix another language with his own language; he carves out a non pre-existent foreign language within his own language. “He makes the language itself scream, stammer, murmur. A thought should shoot off rhizomatically – in many directions.

I have a cold. The virus is a rhizome.

Remember when Trump said this was a “foreign virus”?

All viruses are foreign – by definition.

But Trump, of course, never read Naked Lunch Grandmaster William Burroughs.

Burroughs: “The word is a virus.”

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This article was originally published on Asia Times.

Pepe Escobar is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image: The Triumph of Death, fresco, Palermo, Italy (artist unknown).

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While the US government has proceeded expeditiously to hand over trillions of dollars to the Wall Street banks and corporations, millions of workers who have lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic have been blocked from applying for unemployment benefits.

A survey published Tuesday by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) shows that the widely reported figure of 26.5 million workers who applied for jobless benefits over the past five weeks significantly underestimates the actual number of people who have lost their jobs since March 15.

The EPI survey reveals that for every 10 people who have successfully applied for unemployment benefits during the pandemic, three or four more tried to apply but could not get through to make a claim. An additional two people did not try to apply at all because the process was so onerous.

EPI summarizes the survey results in the following way:

“When we extrapolate our survey findings to the full five weeks of UI [unemployment insurance] claims since March 15, we estimate that an additional 8.9–13.9 million people could have filed for benefits had the process been easier.”

The EPI further states:

“These findings imply the official count of unemployment insurance claims likely drastically understates the extent of employment reductions and the need for economic relief during the coronavirus crisis.”

The inability of millions of workers across the country to even apply for unemployment benefits stands in stark contrast to the trillions of dollars that have been transferred from the US Treasury and the Federal Reserve to corporations, banks and the super-rich.

At present, the amount of “emergency assistance” provided to the corporations and banks by the US government—since President Trump signed the initial $2.2 trillion CARES Act on March 27—stands at between $4.2 and $6 trillion.

The denial of resources to unemployed workers while unlimited funds are made available to the ruling elite demonstrates that the officially stated purpose of the CARES Act—voted for unanimously by both Democrats and Republicans—as “fast and direct economic assistance for American workers, families and small businesses” is an utter fraud.

The unemployment benefits program included in the CARES Act has been, to a large extent, an elaborate exercise in deliberate mass deception. When Congress and the White House presented the additional 13 weeks of state-based unemployment insurance beyond the typical 26 weeks, plus an additional $600 weekly federal supplement through July 31, 2020, as a social safety net during the COVID-19 crisis, they knew very well that millions of unemployed workers would be unable to take advantage of it.

The Democrats and Republicans knew that many workers would not be able to get through to the antiquated systems in the state capitals across the country, which would be completely overwhelmed and unprepared for the number of people seeking to apply for benefits. They were counting on these systems being so backed up with delays and confusion that workers would give up and end up receiving little or nothing of the government money.

The banks, corporations and wealthiest individuals, on the other hand, were to get vast sums of money without delay.

In an example of the ease with which government money is flowing into the accounts of the largest corporations in America, the Washington Post reported on Monday that nearly half of the “payroll support fund” allocated to the airline and cargo industries had been disbursed. The Post report said:

“As of this week, $12.4 billion of the $29 billion in grants has been paid out to 93 carriers to keep front-line workers on the job, Treasury officials said. In all, airlines and air cargo carriers are eligible for more than $50 billion in grants and loans.”

Additionally, the Federal Reserve will shortly begin buying $500 billion in bonds issued by large US corporations. Although this cash is being provided officially as a “financial lifeline” that is to be paid back, there are no provisions in the Fed’s credit program requiring companies to maintain jobs or restrict the funds from being used for executive compensation, stock buybacks or shareholder dividends.

The EPI survey, starting with 24.4 million people who applied for unemployment benefits between March 15 and April 18, shows that the actual number of unemployed workers in the US is somewhere between 33.3 and 38.3 million people. This means that between one-quarter and one-third of the workers who have lost their jobs during the pandemic (8.9 to 13.9 million workers) have been blocked from applying for benefits.

EPI explained the methodology behind its study:

“To gauge how well the UI [unemployment insurance] system is handling the new caseloads, we used Google Surveys to ask 25,000 people, ‘Did you apply for unemployment benefits in the last 4 weeks?’”

EPI asked those who responded to this question which one of six different scenarios corresponded to their experience, such as, “I applied successfully,” “I tried but could not get through,” “I did not apply because it was too difficult.”

When added to the number of people who were officially without a job prior to the pandemic—7.1 million workers—the EPI survey results would put the jobless rate in the US at somewhere between 24 and 27 percent, eclipsing the highest rates of unemployment during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

In addition to jobless workers who have been prevented from applying for government assistance, a number of surveys have shown that substantial numbers of those who have successfully applied have not received any benefits.

A study by the Washington Post published on April 23 says that there is a backlog of three million unpaid jobless claims across the US, although “the true backlog is probably far greater.” A Pew Research Study showed that only 29 percent of the 7.37 million who filed for jobless assistance in March, or 2.1 million people, actually received the benefits.

Many states across the country are continuing to report “glitches” and “backlogs” in processing unemployment applications that have been successfully submitted. Among the states reporting delays in processing applications are:

• California: A report on Monday in the Los Angeles Times said that for Californians applying for unemployment assistance, “the last month has been a perfect storm of failures for a state government with a long history of technology problems.” Of the 3.2 million new unemployment claims filed in the last month, 76 percent of those applying have received benefits. This means that 768,000 applicants have not yet received an unemployment check.

• Florida: The state of Florida has published an online dashboard showing a total of 1.9 million applications for “reemployment insurance” since March 15. Because of confusion created by the state instructing applicants who had applied before April 5 to apply a second time, there are multiple applications in this total. Florida then reports 824,412 “Confirmed Unique Claims Submitted,” and of these, just 392,051 (47.6 percent) that have been paid any benefits.

• Oregon: A large percentage of the 300,000 unemployed in Oregon who have filed for government assistance have not received a check and cannot find out the status of their claim. The state’s antiquated systems have been overwhelmed by the volume of applications, and, according to a report in the Oregonian, thousands of workers have been given faulty information about their applications. “The department’s phone lines are overwhelmed, preventing callers from getting through,” the newspaper reports.

Amidst the dysfunction, chaos, incompetence and bureaucratic mismanagement of state unemployment programs in the US, there is a definite policy at work. The ruling class and both of its parties are intentionally withholding financial assistance from broad sections of the working class who are being devastated by the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, while offering up unlimited funds in the trillions of dollars to the corporate-financial oligarchy.

There is a deliberate policy of using mass unemployment and the prospect of destitution, homelessness and hunger to blackmail a section of workers into going back to work under unsafe conditions. This policy is, moreover, aimed at the imposition among all workers of a permanent restructuring of economic and class relations, such that full-time jobs, wages, health care, pensions and social services such as education are gutted.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the financial collapse of 2008 was a foretaste of the social and political assault on the working class that is now unfolding. At the same time, millions of workers all over the world are seeing the true reality of capitalism—the subordination of everything, including human life itself, to the ruthless drive of the parasitic elite to increase its wealth. The conditions are being created for revolutionary upheavals. The conclusion that must be drawn is the necessity for a unified international struggle of the working class to put an end to the capitalist system and establish socialism.

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Will China Replace Islam as the West’s New Enemy?

April 29th, 2020 by Peter Oborne

It’s just over a quarter of a century since the American political scientist Samuel Huntington wrote his famous essay on the Clash of Civilisations. It set the tone for a series of wars. 

Huntington was writing after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the end of the Cold War between Soviet Russia and the West. Rather than an era of peace, Huntingdon forecast a new struggle between what he viewed as irreconcilable enemies: Islam and the West.

Huntington asserted that identity, rather than ideology, lay at the heart of contemporary politics. “What are you?”, he asked, “and as we know, from Bosnia to the Caucasus to the Sudan, the wrong answer to that question can mean a bullet in the head.”

He added:”Islam has bloody borders.”

Western politicians like former US President George W Bush and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair followed Huntington’s lead. For the last quarter century, many Muslim countries have been the target of the US and its allies.

Meanwhile Muslims have often been portrayed in Western media as lawless, radical ideologues and an existential threat to the world. This has given rise to virulent Islamophobia in the West with the rise of far right political parties in Europe.

I will argue today that much of this noxious hostility may soon abate in the aftermath of the coronavirus tragedy. This is partly because (especially in Britain) the sacrifices made by Muslims are so obvious and have been so great that this may lead to a belated change in public attitudes. The first four medics to die from the outbreak were all Muslim.

But there is a second factor at work: the coronavirus pandemic is reshaping global geopolitics. The West likes, perhaps needs, an enemy and the latest target is China.

Targeting China

China is being presented as the new existential enemy, just as Islam was 20 years ago. And by the very same people. The same newspaper columnists, the same think tanks, the same political parties and the same intelligence agencies.

After Huntington’s famous essay that led the charge against Muslims – or what they often call radical Islam – now they have turned their attention to the Far East.

US President Donald Trump, the world’s Muslim-basher-in-chief, has now started to attack China, rather as Bush, his Republican predecessor, attacked Iraq in 2003 and the “axis of evil” 20 years ago. During his campaign in 2016 he accused China of “raping” the US economy.

However, since the outbreak of Covid-19, Trump’s attacks have gained speed and traction. He has accused China of covering up the virus and lying about its death toll.

Earlier this month, he even stopped US funds to the World Health Organization, calling it too “China-centric”. British newspapers, which have cut down entire forests to vent their spleen against Muslims, have pivoted to the Chinese menace.

The Sun – which banged the drum to invade Iraq in 2003 – ran a story on a report alleging the virus was developed deliberately by China to “prove it’s greater than the US at battling deadly diseases”. Britain’s foreign intelligence agency, MI6, helped to build the case for Blair’s calamitous attack on Iraq in the notorious dossier on Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Now it has China in its sights.

Speaking on BBC’s Today Programme, former MI6 chief Sir John Sawers greatly surprised me by showing sympathy for Trump’s removal of funding from the WHO. He said: “There’s deep anger in America over what they see as having been inflicted on us all by China, and China is evading a good deal of responsibility for the origin of the virus, for failing to deal with it initially.”

In Britain speeches by former spy chiefs are always seen as representing the current view inside the office.

Meanwhile Britain’s acting prime minister, Dominic Raabsaid that after coronavirus there is “no doubt” it will not be “business as usual” with China. Senior newspaper columnists Melanie Phillips, a long-time critic of so-called radical Islam, recently used her column in The Times to warn that the West can no longer “turn a blind eye” to China.

The cover-up

Of course, there are good reasons to criticise China. There is evidence to suggest that China has not been transparent over the early stages of the outbreak or its number of cases. On the other hand, plenty of other countries (including Britain) are guilty of cover-ups and deception too.

This is what makes the change of atmosphere around China so remarkable. Even the neoconservative think tanks, that have fulminated against manifestations of Islam for so long, have found a new opponent.

The Henry Jackson Society (HJS) has been one of most consistent critics of what it likes to describe as radical Islam or Islamism. Now it’s led the way with a series of recent reports and media appearances attacking China. Indeed their attacks on China in recent months have increased exponentially.

The latest was a poll conducted by HJS. It formed the basis of a Times article last week which found that “more than 80 percent of Britons want Boris Johnson to push for an international inquiry into China’s handling of the initial coronavirus outbreak”.

HJS associate Dr John Hemmings wrote in The Telegraph in support of Trump withdrawing WHO funding and warned of China’s growing “malign” influence. Matthew Henderson, director of Asia Studies Centre at HJS, launched a new series of videos with The Sun called “Hot Takes”.

The first episode asks “Is the coronavirus outbreak China’s Chernobyl?”

It was also an HJS report that provided the basis for a Mail on Sunday article suggesting Britain should pursue Beijing in the international courts for £351bn ($437bn) compensation over the outbreak. The Gatestone Institute has made the comparison between China and radical Islam most directly.

It ludicrously described the outbreak of coronavirus as “another 9/11 moment for the West”. My old friend Con Coughlin is the Telegraph’s defence and foreign affairs editor and distinguished senior fellow at the Gatestone Institute. He supported the Iraq war passionately. Now he has called on the WHO’s “pro-China” chief to resign.

MEE reached out to Henry Jackson Society for a comment but did not receive a response.

The new faultline

Some might say that since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the West has been in need of a replacement enemy.

Bear in mind that Huntington’s Clash of Civilisations warning that “the faultlines between civilisations will be the battle lines of the future” didn’t only concern Islamic civilisation. Huntington warned of a second “challenger” civilisation besides Islam.

China, according to Huntington, was the most powerful long-term threat to the West.

Not everything will change overnight. I sense that Iran will remain in the sights of the White House, such is the strength of the personal bond between Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

But we may now be reaching the end to the long period when the main “faultline” was Islam. It may well be that the West has now found itself a new enemy. If so, Muslims can breathe a little more freely.

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Peter Oborne won best commentary/blogging in 2017 and was named freelancer of the year in 2016 at the Online Media Awards for articles he wrote for Middle East Eye. He also was British Press Awards Columnist of the Year 2013. He resigned as chief political columnist of the Daily Telegraph in 2015. His books include The Triumph of the Political Class, The Rise of Political Lying, and Why the West is Wrong about Nuclear Iran.

Only 66% of the nations of the world safeguard people’s data and privacy, despite an 11 percentage point increase in the adoption of data protection and privacy legislation in the period 2015-2020, according to new UNCTAD data.

Results of a new survey on global cyberlaw adoption, released on 28 April during the UNCTAD eWeek, show that the share is even lower among least developed countries, at just 43%.

“Given the rise of cybercrime, scams and online fraud during the COVID-19 pandemic, the survey results are very worrying,” said Shamika N. Sirimanne, director of UNCTAD’s division on technology and logistics.

For e-commerce to effectively support development, she said, consumers and businesses must feel protected.

“This is especially true in these trying times, when digital tools are increasingly the only vehicle to access goods and services.”

More than legislation

For consumer confidence to pick up and people to trust e-commerce, more countries must have legal frameworks that adequately protect their citizens online.

The survey shows that another 10% of countries have draft legislations on data protection and privacy that are expected to become laws in 2020. They include Thailand and Brazil, which have based their legislation on the European General Data Protection Regulation issued in 2018 – similar to Australia, New Zealand, Korea and South Africa.

In Brazil, the new law would replace or supplement the 40 or so sector-based legal norms currently dealing with data and privacy that at times are inconsistent and non-compatible.

But protecting online consumers and businesses isn’t just a question of legislation. After the laws are in the books, they must be enforced, and developing countries often have insufficient resources for enforcement.

The survey shows that the evolving cybercrime landscape and resulting skills gaps are a significant challenge to law enforcement agencies and prosecutors, especially for cross-border enforcement.

UNCTAD recommends that when countries adopt new cyberlaws, they should opt for technology-neutral legislation when possible, to avoid the need for regular revisions and to ensure compatibility among different legal systems.

Main survey results

Launched in 2015, UNCTAD’s Cyberlaw Tracker provides a repository of relevant laws in four legal areas essential for building trust in e-commerce: e-transactions, cybercrime, consumer protection, as well as data and privacy protection.

The main results of the 2020 survey are:

  • Globally, 81% of countries have an e-transaction law. Europe has the highest share (98%), followed by the Americas (91%). The share is lowest in Africa (61%).
  • Although 79% of countries have cybercrime legislation, the share again varies widely by region: Europe has the highest (89%) and Africa the lowest (72%).
  • For consumer protection online, the global share is 56%. But the rate of adoption varies from 73% in Europe and 72% in the Americas to 46% in Africa.
  • Concerning data and privacy, 66% of countries have legislation. The share is 96% in Europe, 69% in the Americas, 57% in Asia and the Pacific and 50% in Africa.
  • In general, least developed countries are trailing behind. The share with relevant laws is particularly weak for data and privacy protection (43%) and consumer protection (40%). For e-transaction and cybercrime laws, the adoption rate is 64% and 66% respectively.

Cyberlaw adoption

Source: UNCTAD calculations

Evolution of the cyberlaw landscape, 2015 – 2020

Evolution of cyberlaw landscape

Source: UNCTAD calculations

UNCTAD conducted the cyberlaw adoption survey in February 2020. More than 60 countries took part. The UN body also consulted with international organizations and experts, including the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the Council of Europe and Dr. Graham Greenleaf, professor of law and information systems at the University of New South Wales in Australia.

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The Myth of V-Shape US Economic Recovery

April 29th, 2020 by Dr. Jack Rasmus

The spin is in! Trump administration economic ‘message bearers’, Steve Mnuchin, US Treasury Secretary, and Kevin Hasset, senior economic adviser to Trump, this past Sunday on the Washington TV talking heads circuit launched a coordinated effort to calm the growing public concern that the current economic contraction may be as bad (or worse) than the great depression of the 1930s.

Various big bank research departments predicting a GDP contraction in the first quarter (January-March 2020) anywhere from -4% to -7.5%, and for the current second quarter, a further contraction from -30% to -40%:  Morgan Stanley investment bank says 30%. The bond market investment behemoth, PIMCO, estimates a 30% fall in GDP. Even Congress’s Budget Office recently estimate the contraction in GDP could be as high as -40% in the 2nd quarter.

Mnuchin-Hassett’s New Old Normal

Despite the flashing red lights on the state of the US economy, the Trump administration’s key economic spokespersons are pushing the official line that the economy will soon quickly ‘snap back’. On the near horizon is a V-shape recovery coming in the 3rd quarter (July-September) or, at the latest, the following 4th quarter. The economy may be particularly bad, they admit, but be patient folks a return to normal is on the way before year end!

Speaking on Fox News Sunday Treasury Secretary, Mnuchin, declared the US economy is about to open up in May and June and “you’re going to see the economy really bounce back in July, August and September”. And Hassett echoed the same, just a barely less optimistic viewing the snap back in the 4th quarter. Getting ahead of the bad news coming this Wednesday when 1st quarter US GDP numbers are due for release, Hassett admitted a big shock is coming on Wednesday, to be followed by “A few months of negative news that’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen”. But not to worry, according to Hassett, the 4th quarter “Is going to be really strong and next year is going to be a tremendous year”.

Meanwhile, the administration’s big banker allies were also making their TV news show rounds, singing the same ‘happy days will soon be here again’ tune. Bank of America’s CEO, Moynihan, appearing on ‘Face the Nation’ show, predicted consumer spending had bottomed out and would soon rise nicely again in the 4th quarter, October-December, followed by double digit GDP growth in 2021!

The Trump administration is pressing hard to reopen the economy now! It knows if it doesn’t the contraction of the economy could settle in to a medium to long term stagnation and decline.  Business interests are pushing Trump and Republicans to reopen quickly, regardless of the likely consequences for a second wave of the virus devastating national health and death rates. There is a growing segment of US business interests desperate to see a return to sales and revenue, without which they face imminent defaults and bankruptcies after a decade of binging on corporate debt.  A growing wave of defaults and bankruptcies could very well provoke an eventual financial crisis which would exacerbate the collapse of the real economy even further.

The Fed’s $9 Trillion May Not Succeed 

So far the Federal Reserve central bank has committed to $9 trillion in loans and financial backstopping to the banks and non-banks, in an unprecedented historic experiment by the Fed. Not just the magnitude of the Fed bailout in dollar terms, already twice that the central bank employed in 2008-09 to bail out the banks in that prior crash, but the Fed this time is not waiting for the banks to fail. It’s pre-emptively bailing them out! Also new is the Fed is bailing out non-banks as well, trying to delay the defaults and bankruptcies at their origin, before the effects began hitting the banking system. Bailing out non-banks is new for the Fed as well, no less than the pre-emptive bank rescue and the $9 trillion—and rising—total free money being thrown at the system.  But it should not be assumed the Fed will succeed, despite its blank check to banks and businesses. Its historic, unprecedented experiment is not foreordained to succeed—for reasons explained below.

For the magnitude and rapidity of the shutdown of the real economy in the US is no less unprecedented.  Even during the great depression of the 1930s, the contraction of the real economy occurred over a period of several years—not months. It wasn’t until 1932-33 that unemployment had reached 25%.

As of late April 2020, that 25% unemployment rate was already a fact. The official government data indicated 26.5m workers had filed for unemployment benefits. That’s about 16.5% of the 165 million US civilian labor force.  Bank forecasts are 40 million jobless on benefits by the end of May. But respected research sources, like the Economic Policy Institute, recently estimated that as many as 13.9m more are actually out of work but have not yet been able to successfully file for unemployment benefits. So the 40 million jobless may already be here. And that’s roughly equivalent to a 25% unemployment rate. In other words, in just a couple months the US economy has collapsed to such an extent that the jobless ranks are at a level that took four years to attain during the great depression of the 1930s!

A contraction that fast and that deep likely has dynamics to it that are unknown. It may not respond to normal policy like enhanced unemployment benefits, emergency income checks, and even grants and loans to businesses on an unprecedented scale such as being provided by the Fed.  The psychology of consumers, workers, businesses, and certainly investors may be so shocked and wounded that the money injections—by Congress and by the Fed—may not quickly result in a return to spending and production.  The uncertainty of what the future may bring may be creating an equally unprecedented fear of spending the money. Economists sometimes call this a ‘liquidity trap’. But it may more accurately be called a ‘liquidity chasm’ out of which the climb back will prove very slow, very protracted, and the road strewn with economic landmines that could set the economy on a second or third collapse along the way.

Image on the right: Kevin Hasset (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

File:Kevin Hassett official photo.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

The V-shape argument is predicated on the assumption that the virus’s negative effect will dissipate this summer. Those supporting the argument assume, openly or indirectly, that the economic collapse today is largely, if not totally, due to the virus. It’s not really an economic crisis; it’s a health crisis. And when the latter is resolved, the economic crisis will fade as well as a consequence.

But this assumes two things: first that the virus will in fact ‘go away’ soon and not hang like a dead weight on the economy. Second, that there were not underlying economic causes that were slowing the US (and global) economy already before the virus’s impact. The virus is seen as the sole cause, in other words, and not as a precipitating factor that accelerated an already weak and fragile economy into a deep contraction.  But the virus may be best understood as an event that precipitated and then accelerated the contraction of an economy already headed for a slowdown and recession.

These latter possible ways to understand the current economic crisis are of course ignored by the advocates of a V-shape recovery. In their view, it’s just a health crisis. And the health crisis is about to end soon. And when it does, we’ll return to the old ‘normal’ and the economy will snap back. But the depth and rapidity of the decline into what is, at least, a ‘great recession 2.0’ and perhaps something more like the even deeper and longer great depression of the 1930s, strongly suggests that forces of decline have been unleashed in the US economy that have a dynamic of their own now. And that dynamic is independent of the precipitating cause of the virus which, in any event, is not going away soon either. In all cases of such virus contagion, there has always been a second and even third wave of infection and death. And Covid-19 appears the most aggressive and contagious.

It’s not just the 40 million and likely more unemployed that define the unprecedented severity of the current crisis.

Millions of small businesses have already shut down or gone out of business. More will soon follow. And many will never re-open again. The average number of days of cash on hand for small businesses before the virus impact was 27 days. Many small businesses are projected to run out of that by end of April. That’s why we are not witnessing growing protests and refusals to abide by a ‘sheltering in place’ order announced by various state governors. Small businesses and their workers, both on the brink of bankruptcy are taking to the streets—encouraged of course by radical right forces, conservative business interests, and political allies right up to the White House.

The millions of workers who haven’t been able to get through to successfully file and obtain unemployment benefits, and the millions of smallest businesses who have been squeezed out of the Small Business bailout program (called the Pay Protection Program) are fertile ground for right wing propaganda demanding the country reopen the economy immediately, even if it’s premature in terms of suspending virus mitigation efforts and almost sure to result in a second wave of infection that will debilitate the economy again later in the year.

And the flow of funding from recent small business legislation passed by Congress has been bottled up by big banks gaming the system—first using the crisis to extract concessions from the federal government on further bank deregulation, getting guarantees by the government on liability protection, ensuring they receive lucrative fees and charges from the lending, and requiring the government to reimburse them for loans that might later default and fail.

In addition to the slow distribution of the loans by the big banks, the same big banks began re-directing the small business program loan funds first to their own largest and best customers. Thus the first $350 billion in Congress funding for small business was directed to the banks’ best customers in less than two weeks. A second $320 billion supplement just added is reportedly already accounted for in less than half that time.

Despite the data on jobs, small business, and GDP much of the liberal economist establishment appear to be falling for the Trump administration official line and spin that there’ll soon be a V-shape recovery.

Liberal Economists Buy the Mnuchin-Hassett Line

The dean of liberal economists, Paul Krugman, in one of his columns recently, says it’s not an economic crisis but a disaster relief situation. Kind of like an economic hurricane, he added, that once it passes the sun will come out and shine again at the same economic intensity as before. And then there’s Larry Summers, Harvard economics professor and advisor to Barack Obama in 2009, who agreed with Krugman, saying “it’s possible to collapse and come back quite quickly.” Or Robert Reich, Cal Berkeley professor and former member of Bill Clinton’s cabinet, who declared in another TV interview recently, that the crisis wasn’t economic but a health crisis and as soon as the health problem was contained (presumably this summer) the economy would ‘snap back’.

Theirs is economic analysis by means of weather metaphors.  And the error they all make is assuming that the fundamental cause of the crisis is not economic but the virus. They don’t see the virus as only a precipitating cause, exacerbating and accelerating what was a basically weak US and global economy going into the crisis, but instead the virus is the sole, fundamental cause of the deep contraction.

Krugman and other proponents of the ‘snap back’ (V-shape recovery) thesis all deny the counter argument that the current deep and rapid economic decline is precipitated by the crisis and that there is an internal economic dynamic set in motion that is taking over that driving the economy into a downward spiral regardless of the initial health crisis effect.

As one partial example of that internal dynamic: once the contraction in the real economy accelerates and deepens, it inevitably leads to defaults and bankruptcies—among businesses, households, and even local governments. The defaults and bankruptcies then provoke a financial crisis that feeds back on the real economy, causing it to deteriorate still further.  Income losses by businesses, households and local government thereafter in turn cause a further decline. Once negative mutual feedback effects within the economy begin, it matters little if the health crisis is soon abated. The economic dynamic has been set in motion.  Krugman and friends should understand that but either don’t, or are cautioned by their employers and political friends not to tell the whole truth lest it cause further concern, lack of business and consumer confidence, or even panic.

When mainstream economists don’t understand what’s actually happening, they hide behind their metaphors as a way to obfuscate their lack of understanding and ability to forecast the future. Or they employ the same metaphors to avoid telling the truth. But the truth is this isn’t just a health crisis. And it won’t quickly disappear even if the health issue were resolved in a matter of weeks or months.

Instead of pacifying the public with nice metaphors, they might just look at the recent past.   No snap back economic recovery occurred after 2008-09, which was a contraction far weaker in relative terms than the present, with fewer job losses and a much smaller GDP decline.

2008-09 Recovery Was No V-Shape 

Even after the less severe 2008-09 contraction, bank lending after 2009 did not return immediately or even normally. Only the largest, best customers of the big banks and their offshore clients received new loans from them.  Bank lending to US small and medium businesses continued to decline for years after 2009. And jobs lost in 2008-09 did not recover to the levels of 2007 just before the recession began until 2015.  Wages of jobs recovered from 2008 to 2015 was much lower compared to wages of 2007 jobs that were lost. The ratio between full time jobs and part time/temp/contract work deteriorated after 2009, with more of the latter hired and the former not rehired.  Real wages still has not recovered to this day for tens of millions of workers at median income levels and below.

So one can only wonder what the Krugmans, Summers and Reichs are ‘smoking’ when they make ridiculous declarations about ‘snap back’ recovery. They should know better. All they had to do was look at the evidence of the historical record post-2009 that V-shape recoveries do not happen when there are deep and rapid contractions! And that’s true not only for 2009, but even for 1933 when the great depression finally bottomed out.

Between 1929 and 1933 the US economy continued to contract. Not all at once, but in a kind of ‘ratcheting down’ series of lower plateaus as banking crises erupted in 1930, 1931, 1932 and then again in early 1933. When Roosevelt came into office in March 1933 he introduced a program aimed at bailing out the banks first, and then assisting business to raise prices. It was called the National Recovery Act. That program stopped the collapse but generated only modest recovery, and by mid-1934 that recovery had dissipated. It was then, in the fall of 1934, that Roosevelt and the Democrats proposed what would be called the New Deal, which was launched in 1935 after the mid-term 1934 Congressional elections. The US economy began to recovery rapidly in 1935 to 1937.  In late 1937 Republicans and conservative Democrats in the South allied together and cut back New Deal social spending. The US economy relapsed back into depression in 1938 until Congress, fearful of the return to Depression, reinstated New Deal spending and the economy recovered again to where it was in 1937. The permanent recovery did not begin until 1940-41, as the US economy mobilized for war and government spending rose from 15%-17% of GDP to more than 40% in one year in 1942.

But mainstream economists are not very attentive to their own country’s economic history. If they were they would understand that deep and rapid economic contractions always result in slow, protracted, and often uneven recoveries. There never is a ‘snap back’ when depression levels of contraction occur—or even when ‘great recession’ levels occur, as in 2008-09. It takes a long time for both business and consumers to restore their ‘confidence’ levels in the economy and change ultra-cautious investing and purchasing behavior to more optimistic spending-investing patterns. Unemployment levels hang high and over the economy for some time. Many small businesses never re-open and when they do with fewer employees and often at lower wages. Larger companies hoard their cash. Banks typically are very slow to lend with their own money. Other businesses are reluctant to invest and expand, and thus rehire, given the cautious consumer spending, business hoarding, and banks’ conservative lending behavior. The Fed, the central bank, can make a mass of free money and cheap loans available, but businesses and households may be reluctant to borrow, preferring to hoard their cash—and the loans as well.

In other words, the deeper and faster the contraction, the more difficult and slower the recovery. That means the recovery is never a V-shape, but more like an extended U-shape.

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Dr. Rasmus is author of the just released book, The Scourge of Neoliberalism: US Economic Policy from Reagan to Trump’, Clarity Press, January 2020; and the preceding book, ‘Central Bankers at the End of Their Ropes: Monetary Policy and the Coming Depression’, Clarity Press, August 2017. He blogs at jackrasmus.com. His twitter handle is @drjackrasmus and his website: http://kyklosproductions.com. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image is from Shutterstock

The successful opening of Gwadar Port to Afghanistan lays the basis for expanding this trade network to Central Asia and Russia via N-CPEC+, which sets a positive example for how BRI-led regionalization can rejuvenate globalization after the coronavirus is finally defeated.

The speculative talk about the coronavirus supposedly signaling the impending end of globalization was thrown into doubt last week after Gwadar Port was opened to Afghanistan. That facility is the terminal point of the Belt & Road Initiative’s (BRI) flagship project of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and will be used to facilitate trade with the South Asian state’s landlocked neighbor, according to the announcement by Abdul Razak Dawood, the adviser for commerce and investment to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.

He also said that “16,000 MT of diamonium phosphate and World Food Programme cargo of 500,000 MT of wheat for Afghanistan will arrive next month” and that “Ships from China will also offload at Gwadar.” This development is remarkable in more ways than one and thus deserves to be analyzed a bit more in depth in order for the reader to better understand its grand strategic significance in the context of contemporary geopolitics.

First off, it’s especially important that war-torn Afghanistan will receive much-needed aid through this port. Those supplies will help its people better survive the hardships that they’ve been experiencing for decades already, and they come at a crucial time when the country is struggling to counter COVID-19. Not only could Gwadar become a humanitarian lifeline for Afghanistan, but also an economic one too since it opens up its trade to the rest of the world and can therefore help it rebuild after the war finally ends.

The very fact that CPEC is expanding along the northern vector suggests that a branch corridor prospectively called N-CPEC+ could enter into fruition in the future if the project expands into the Central Asian Republics and even further afield to Russia, thus creating a new North-South connectivity corridor in the Eurasian Heartland. Even in the event that the aforementioned scenario doesn’t unfold right way, it’s still noteworthy that BRI’s flagship project is strengthening regionalization between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

This objective observation powerfully refutes the rumors that globalization is destined to die due to the consequences of the world’s uncoordinated lockdowns in response to COVID-19. There will always be a need for countries to import whatever they can’t make at home and export the wares that they produce abroad, which in the Afghan context refers to agricultural imports and prospective mineral exports via CPEC. The present lockdowns will inevitably end, after which globalization will resume, bolstered by regionalization.

Regionalization and globalization are two sides of the same coin since they both involve international trade, albeit to differing geographic extents made obvious by their names. There’s some credence to the claims that regionalization will benefit more in the short term than globalization, though the success of regionalization would strengthen globalization through the creation of more consolidated economic spaces. In the present example, CPEC brings China, Pakistan, and Afghanistan closer together, thus boosting trade between all three.

The successful opening of Gwadar Port to Afghanistan lays the basis for expanding this trade network to Central Asia and Russia via N-CPEC+, as was earlier explained, which sets a positive example for how BRI-led regionalization can rejuvenate globalization after the coronavirus is finally defeated. Both interconnected trends are pivotal to the world’s economic recovery, and seeing as how they’re being championed by China, it can be said that the People’s Republic is taking the leading role in helping humanity return back to normal.

With all of this in mind, while casual observers might have dismissed the opening of Gwadar Port to Afghanistan as an unimportant event compared to everything else going on in the world nowadays (if they were even aware of it in the first place, that is), it’s actually one of the most significant non-health-related developments of the year. China showed that its desire to create a Community of Common Destiny through BRI hasn’t slowed down as a result of the virus, which speaks to its commitment to carry through with this noble vision no matter what.

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This article was originally published on OneWorld.

Andrew Korybko is an American Moscow-based political analyst specializing in the relationship between the US strategy in Afro-Eurasia, China’s One Belt One Road global vision of New Silk Road connectivity, and Hybrid Warfare. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

The launch Monday morning of the second round of the US “small business” Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was a debacle. Millions of family-owned entities, desperate for credit and tottering on the brink of permanent closure, were once again shut out from applying for, let alone receiving, government-backed forgivable loans.

As soon as the $310 billion program administered by the Small Business Administration (SBA) began taking loan applications at 10:30 am, its computer system, overwhelmed by the volume of requests, crashed.

Cynthia Blankenship, vice chair of Texas-based lender Bank of the West, told the Financial Times, “First the page would not load, and then it just showed us an error message.” The problems continued throughout the day. Blankenship said her bank was able to process only 15 applications.

TAB Bank in Ogden, Utah had prepared loan applications from 1,100 customers. Five hours after the start on Monday, the bank had gotten only seven loans processed.

The Washington Post quoted Paul Merski of the Independent Community Bankers of America as saying, “All of the reports I have around the country is that it’s been a disaster.”

The big Wall Street banks, which are making a killing off of the government loan program, having taken in $10 billion in fees in the first round, had warned the Treasury Department and the SBA that they had to prepare for a massive flood of loan requests, but nothing was done to avoid the logjam. The SBA said later on Monday that there were double the number of users accessing the system than one any day during the initial round of the program.

The banks have warned, moreover, that the $310 billion allotted for the restart of the program will likely be exhausted in less than a week.

The abortive start of the second round of the program immediately demonstrated that, like the first installment, part of the $2.2 trillion corporate bailout enacted in March, the vast majority of small businesses and their employees will receive little or nothing in relief from the economic collapse triggered by the coronavirus outbreak.

Big businesses were given top priority by the Wall Street banks administering program until the first allotment of funds ran out in less than two weeks. In round two, they will continue to grab a disproportionate share of the funds, while the vast majority of small firms, which employ 48 percent of the US labor force, will be left on their own.

The program, initially backed by $349 billion in taxpayer money, was presented by the media and both big business parties as a boon to businesses with fewer than 500 employees and their workers. Family-owned entities such as restaurants, beauty salons, barber shops, gas stations and small retail stores, as well as other small firms with little access to capital, could receive up to $10 million in government-backed loans that would be turned into grants if the businesses used 75 percent of the loans to rehire or retain their employees and spent the rest on rent and utilities.

Even if the reality lived up to the dishonest marketing spin, the program would do little to prevent a wave of small business bankruptcies and millions of job losses, since it is set to expire on June 30, many months before the economy can reasonably expected to recover from the steepest contraction since the Great Depression and the coronavirus pandemic is certain to continue causing death and sickness on a gigantic scale.

But even before the initial round of the program ran out of money on April 16, less than two weeks after it began, with only eight percent of small firms that applied for loans having received any money, it became clear that the entire operation was a corporate-government fraud.

Despite the fact that the CARES Act, passed last month with the unanimous support of the Democrats, did not require the SBA or the Treasury Department to disclose the identities of the firms receiving PPP loans, it emerged that billion-dollar publicly traded companies, including restaurant and hotel chains with thousands of employees, cruise ship lines, hedge funds, energy companies, medical device firms and other large businesses had received hundreds of millions of dollars in loans, while the vast bulk of genuine small businesses were shut out.

At his Monday press briefing, President Trump described the disastrous start of round two of the PPP as a “glitch,” and said the first round of the program had “worked out well.”

Indeed it had, for the banks and well-connected, large companies with hundreds of millions or billions in revenues and share values in the billions. Last week, press reports revealed that big restaurant chains such as Shake Shack, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Potbelly Sandwich Shop, and J. Alexander’s had received loans totaling between $15 million and $20 million.

A group of hotel companies chaired by Monty Bennett, a Dallas executive and major Trump donor, received $53 million in loans. The firms control 153 properties, including luxury hotels such as the Ritz Carlton Atlanta.

Over the weekend, more damning revelations emerged. More than 40 hotels, including numerous Marriott and Hilton properties, received loans. AutoNation, Inc., a Fortune 500 company valued at $3 billion, the nation’s largest car dealership chain with 81 locations and 26,000 employees, received nearly $80 million from the PPP program.

The Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association, valued at $4.4 billion, received a loan for $4.6 million.

A number of large firms that have run afoul of the law were granted loans. MiMedx Group, an Atlanta-based medical device company with 700 employees, was approved for a $10 million PPP loan. Earlier this month, MiMedx entered into a civil settlement with the Justice Department, agreeing to pay $6.5 million to resolve allegations that it knowingly overcharged the Department of Veterans Affairs. Two of its former top executives were indicted last year by federal prosecutors in Manhattan on charges of accounting fraud. It was sued separately by the Securities and Exchange Commission and settled the case for $1.5 million.

Treasury Secretary Mnuchin as well as prominent Democrats, including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, have feigned shock and horror over the insider dealing, corruption and lying in connection with the so-called “Paycheck Protection Program.” This is a fraud. They were perfectly aware from the outset that the program was designed, despite the deceptive marketing, to benefit big business and banks and shut down small business and their employees.

In fact, the provision in the CARES Act that allowed restaurant and hotel chains to evade the 500-employee limit, so long as none of their individual units employed 500 or more, was negotiated by Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, known informally as the “senator from Wall Street.”

And all but one Democrat in both chambers of Congress—including Sanders and Warren—voted for the second round of the PPP last week, despite the stench of corruption and lying surrounding the program. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hailed the bill’s passage as a “historic, bipartisan vote.”

That bill, with $174 billion in addition to the $310 billion for the PPP, did not allocate a penny to aid state and local governments facing massive deficits and preparing to carry out brutal social cuts. Nor did it provide any money for food stamps, under conditions where millions of laid off workers are running out of money for food and massive food lines are spreading across the country.

On the eve of the launch of phase two of the phony “small business” program, Mnuchin announced new guidelines that will supposedly exclude large publicly traded firms, as well as hedge funds and private equity firms, from participating going forward. He also called on big companies that received loans in round one to return the money, and a dozen or so businesses have complied. Among those who have refused to give back the money is Trump’s buddy Monty Bennett, the Dallas hotel magnate.

No one should be taken in by Mnuchin’s exercise in damage control. Behind the chaos and incompetence that abound in the PPP program is a deliberate policy, one that is shared by the entire ruling class and both of its political parties.

Under the cover of the pandemic, unlimited funds are being funneled to the corporate-financial oligarchy and the stock market, while unemployment benefits are withheld from laid-off workers and credit is denied to small businesses. The brutal aim is to use mass unemployment and the prospect of destitution, homelessness and hunger to force a section of workers back to work without any protection from the virus, while slashing wages, pensions and health coverage for the working class more broadly and eliminating millions of full-time jobs. Millions of small businesses are, in the process, to be driven to the wall while mega-companies gain an even greater stranglehold on the economy.

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Pandemic Diplomacy: “The Gum on China’s Shoe”

April 29th, 2020 by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

“Australia is always there, making trouble.  It is a bit like chewing gum stuck on the sole of China’s shoes.  Sometimes you have to find a stone to rub it off.” – Hu Xijin, Global Times editor, April 27, 2020. 

Disasters always invite blame – divine, natural, human – and the current calls of blame being directed with vengeful spleen have one target.  The People’s Republic of China is being accused for everything from having shoddy and irreverent diplomats to having dubious and duplicitous scientists wickedly unleashing viruses.  Australia, in China’s heavy debt for keeping its fossil fuel industry boosted and primed, is happy to be the stalking horse of powers keen to find the culpable and the guilty for the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The main thrust of the recent “target China” approach is the use of that mechanism any sovereign state will be suspicious over: an independent inquiry into the origins and ultimate transmission of COVID-19.  Such an inquiry serves two purposes: to identify the cause of the coronavirus and vest the relevant investigative body with powers akin to those of a weapons inspector.  Two parties end up being tarred in this: the World Health Organization, considered unreformable, and the PRC, considered recalcitrant. 

This seems to be an Australian brainchild as much as anything else, a provincial and parochial effort to shore up support and garner prominence on the international stage.  Australian politicians have seen such suggestions as benign and benevolent.  As Foreign Minister Senator Marise Payne described it, “Australia has made a principled call for an independent review of the COVID-19 outbreak, an unprecedented global crisis with severe health, economic and social impacts.” 

Labor’s foreign affairs spokeswoman Senator Penny Wong sees things similarly.  “We have to press for what is right,” she claims somewhat bombastically, “what we believe is right, for us and for the international community, and making sure that humanity understands how this virus started is the right thing to do.”  Canberra has ceased talking to China, and any sense of conviviality has dried up.  Support, instead, is being sought in France, Germany and the United States.

French President Emmanuel Macron has responded with diplomatic caution.  In the words of an Élysée official, he agreed that “there have been some issues at the start, but that the urgency is for cohesion, and that it is no time to talk about this, while reaffirming the need for transparency for all players, not only the WHO.” 

This is the language Beijing has hoovered up, with its envoy in Australia, Cheng Jingye, remarking that, “Resorting to suspicion, recrimination or division at such a critical time could only undermine global efforts to fight against this pandemic.”  China’s ministry of foreign affairs spokesman Geng Shuang put the point less severely.  “The urgent task for all countries is focusing on international cooperation rather than pointing fingers, demanding accountability and other non-constructive approaches.”

This is not a view taken in Australia.  Comments by Australia’s Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton this month suggest that unison and cohesion are not exactly on the briefing notes of ministers. As he claimed in an interview, it was “incumbent upon China to answer those questions [on COVID-19] and provide information, so that people can have clarity about exactly what happened because we don’t want it repeated.”  For good measure, he added that “we know that this is not the first instance of a virus being spread from the wildlife wet markets and we need to be honest about that.”  These remarks were made after an oblique reference to US State Department “documentation” supposedly detailing the spread of the coronavirus, something which Dutton personally had not read.

The Chinese embassy, ruffled, responded accordingly, using the Global Times as their platform.  In the view of a spokesperson, Dutton would surely have consulted the US documents before enthusiastically launching into an attack on China.  “Obviously he must have also received some instructions from Washington requiring him to cooperate with the US in its propaganda war against China.”  Cheng has not shied away from threats, suggesting that a boycott of Australian goods would be an appropriate response to any Australian-led inquiry. “Maybe the ordinary people will say, ‘Why should he drink Australian wine?  Eat Australian beef?’”

As with much in such spluttering accusation, kernels of truth are discernible in the foam.  Australia remains the unquestioned sentinel of US designs in the Asia-Pacific, and should never be confused with being with the angels of impartiality.  Any sense of that was killed off in the brief and dying days of the Whitlam government.  Washington sees Canberra as a natural front for Chinese containment, though such an effort requires gentle padding and coating to lend a certain plausible effect.  This involves, for instance, the avoidance of terms such as the “militarisation” of Northern Australia, or US “garrisons” operating on home soil.  Terms such as “rotation” and “friendship” are preferred.

Sentiment in Australia against Beijing is now almost militant, watered by claims of domestic interference from the PRC, cyberwarfare, and disputes in the South China Sea.  It is to be found in the usual pea-shot pugilists at Sky News to the otherwise more cautious assessments in Fairfax and The Guardian Australia.  “At the moment,” suggests Richard McGregor, “Beijing is like someone who lends you a book and urges you to skip the horrifying opening chapters and flip straight to the end, where the hero – in this case, the party-state – prevails, shining a path for the rest of the world to follow.”

An international investigation along the lines being proposed by Australia would also involve its own bit of chapter skipping, with China being found to be the villain at the yawn-inducing conclusion.  Such bodies of inquiry tend to suffer from an oxymoronic emphasis, since the investigators run the risk of already having their conclusions ahead of time.  In all of this, someone has to pay.  Partiality is lost in the zeal of getting a conviction, or finding a cause.

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Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research and Asia-Pacific Research. Email: [email protected]

Featured image: Chinese doctors in face masks deployed overseas. Photo: Facebook

Selected Articles: COVID-19 and Trump’s War on China

April 29th, 2020 by Global Research News

Your Freedoms Don’t Have to be Muzzled Just Because You’re Wearing a Mask

By John W. Whitehead, April 29, 2020

It was 4:30 a.m. on March 12, 2020, in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic that has most of the country under a partial lockdown and sheltering at home, when this masked SWAT team—deployed to execute a “high risk” search warrant for unauthorized firearms—stormed the suburban house where 21-year-old Duncan, a software engineer and Second Amendment advocate, lived with his parents and 19-year-old brother.

The entire household, including Lemp and his girlfriend, was reportedly asleep when the SWAT team directed flash bang grenades and gunfire through Lemp’s bedroom window.

Covid-19 Is the Perfect Catalyst for Trump’s War Against China

By Johanna Ross, April 28, 2020

It was just a matter of time before the blame game would begin. Donald Trump has long viewed China as an economic adversary. On the presidential campaign trail in 2016 he was accusing China of ‘raping’ the US and that the nation was responsible for the ‘the greatest theft in the history of the world’. The rhetoric has not changed much since then. Trump vigorously pursued his trade war with China in 2018 when he literally ‘ordered’ US companies to cease trading with the east asian nation. The President has attempted to influence policy beyond its borders too; pressurizing the UK not to embark on a deal with Huawei, the Chinese mobile phone network provider, to set up 5G across Britain. The US has never disguised its hatred of the firm, launching its own special vendetta against it, including the organisation of the arrest of the Huawei founder’s daughter and Chief Financial Officer in Canada in 2018.

The U.S. Wants to “Purchase” Greenland from Denmark

By Andrew Korybko, April 28, 2020

Greenland returned to the news late last week after an American official disclosed that his country will grant the world’s largest island $12.1 million in economic aid following reports last summer that the US was interested in purchasing this strategically positioned and energy-rich territory from Denmark. The author wrote about that at the time in his piece about how “Greenland Is Trump’s For The Taking If He Really Wants It“, which explained how the US could simply seize it from Denmark without suffering any serious consequences apart the negative press coverage that it would inevitably provoke across the world. Instead of undertaking that dramatic course of action, however, Trump is almost somewhat uncharacteristically opting for a much more subtle approach aimed at gradually swaying the island’s inhabitants and their local authorities to his country’s side through what can best be described as “economic diplomacy”.

Iraq: Official Warns of US Plot to Transfer ISIS Terrorists from Syria to Iraq’s Al-Anbar

By Drago Bosnic, April 28, 2020

The official warned of the US attempts to transfer a large number of ISIS terrorists from occupied regions of Syria to Iraq’s western desert province of al-Anbar. The terrorists pose a great danger to inhabitants of this area, as well as the bordering areas with Syria.

The aim of the US and its NATO and regional Wahhabi partners in crime is quite obviously fomenting tension and unrest in Iraq in the future, giving them an excuse to continue occupying Iraqi and Syrian territories, all under the pretext of “fighting terrorism”.

Is Trump Using the U.S. Military for Regime Change in Venezuela?

By Barbara Boland, April 28, 2020

U.S. policy towards Venezuela has been a head-spinning series of contradictions lately, with no end in sight. From placing a bounty on the heads of President Nicolas Maduro and a dozen current and former Venezuelan officials, to upping sanctions and sending the largest fleet ever to the Southern hemisphere to stop drug trafficking from Venezuela, the U.S. appears to be pursuing an inexorable path towards regime change.

Reports of North Korean Leader’s Death Greatly Exaggerated

By Stephen Lendman, April 28, 2020

CNN’s chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto claimed he was “told by a US official with direct knowledge that the US is monitoring intelligence that the North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un is in grave danger following a surgery.”

US Launches Campaign to Accuse Syria of Inability to Curtail Coronavirus, Claims Syrian-Russian Joint Statement

By Sputnik, April 25, 2020

The United States has launched a propaganda campaign by accusing Damascus of its inability to effectively combat the spread of COVID-19 in Syria, the Russian and Syrian coordination centres said in a joint statement.

According to the statement, the United States has influenced the development of a UN plan for sending a humanitarian medical mission to the camp.


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Last Wednesday, during the daily UK Government Coronavirus livestream, the head of the British Army, General Sir Nick Carter, bragged:

We’ve been involved with the Cabinet Office Rapid Response Unit, with our 77th Brigade helping to quash rumours from misinformation, but also to counter disinformation. Between three and four thousand of our people have been involved, with around twenty thousand available the whole time at high readiness.

To understand the implications of this statement, we have to go back to 2018, when Carter gave a speech to the Royal United Services Institute.

“In our 77th Brigade,” he said, “… we have got some remarkable talent when it comes to social media, production design, and indeed Arabic poetry. Those sorts of skills we can’t afford to retain in the Regular component but they are the means of us delivering capability in a much more imaginative way than we might have been able to do in the past.”

77th Brigade

Previously known as the ‘Security Assistance Group’, 77th Brigade was stood up in 2015 as part of ‘Army 2020’. The Security Assistance Group had been established following the amalgamation of the Media Operations Group, 15 Psychological Operations Group, Security Capacity Building Team, and the Military Stabilisation and Support Group.

77 Brigade website

77th Brigade is described on their website as being about ‘information and outreach’. But what does that mean? General Carter again:

We also, though, need to continue to improve our ability to fight on this new battlefield, and I think it’s important that we build on the excellent foundation we’ve created for Information Warfare through our 77th Brigade, which is now giving us the capability to compete in the war of narratives at the tactical level. [Emphasis mine]

It is in this context, then, that Carter’s words from last week’s livestream should be viewed. Carter has acknowledged that the British military is waging war on a section of its own population.

A Rapid Response

Carter mentioned working with the Cabinet Office’s ‘Rapid Response Unit’. Established in April 2018 and also known as the ‘fake news unit’, the Rapid Response Unit was given an initial six months’ funding. It brought together a “team of analysts, data scientists and media and digital experts,” armed with cutting-edge software, to “work round the clock to monitor online breaking news stories and social media discussion.”

According to the RRU’s head, Alex Aiken:

The unit’s round the clock monitoring service has identified several stories of concern during the pilot, ranging from the chemical weapons attack in Syria to domestic stories relating to the NHS and crime.

For example, following the Syria airstrikes, the unit identified that a number of false narratives from alternative news sources were gaining traction online. These “alt-news” sources are biased and rely on sensationalism rather than facts to pique readers’ interest.

Due to the way that search engine algorithms work, when people searched for information on the strikes, these unreliable sources were appearing above official UK government information. In fact, no government information was appearing on the first 15 pages of Google results. We know that search is an excellent indicator of intention. It can reflect bias in information received from elsewhere.

The unit therefore ensured those using search terms that indicated bias – such as ‘false flag’ – were presented with factual information on the UK’s response. The RRU improved the ranking from below 200 to number 1 within a matter of hours.

The Rapid Response Unit was given permanent funding in February 2019.

Three months following the establishment of the Rapid Response Unit, Theresa May attended the G7 summit in Quebec, Canada.

There she announced the establishment of “a new Rapid Response Mechanism“, following Britain’s proposal for “a new, more formalised approach to tackling foreign interference across the G7” at the G7 Foreign Minister’s meeting the previous month.

The agreement sends “a strong message that interference by Russia and other foreign states would not be tolerated,” she said.

“The Rapid Response Mechanism,” she continued, “will support preventative and protective cooperation between G7 countries, as well as post-incident responses”, including:

  • co-ordinated attribution of hostile activity
  • joint work to assert a common narrative and response

The UK government’s Rapid Response, then, is to create international agreement on a common narrative (via the ‘mechanism’), and then wage an information war on its own people to make sure that narrative is protected in the media (via the ‘unit’).

Fusion

During Carter’s 2018 RUSI speech, he explained the role of the mainstream press in “setting up a well-informed public debate”. He spoke about “political warfare” being war by other means, and he said that winning that war would require a “fusion” approach.

Here, he is referring to the Fusion Doctrine, which was launched during the Theresa May regime, as part of the 2015 National Security Capability Review.

“Many capabilities,” it said, “that can contribute to national security lie outside traditional national security departments and so we need stronger partnerships across government and with the private and third sectors.”

It should come as no surprise, then, that the Cabinet Office’s Rapid Response Unit is not only working with the military’s 77th Brigade, but is “leading on the ‘rebuttal of false narratives’ as part of the unit … [that also] involves the Home Office, DCMS, Number 10 and other agencies.”

The Corona-Narrative

General Carter said his 77th Brigade is “helping to quash rumours from misinformation, but also to counter disinformation.”

What misinformation and disinformation is 77th Brigade helping to quash? How much of the ‘disinformation’ originates from 77th Brigade in the first place?

Part of 77th Brigade’s role is:

Monitoring and evaluating the information environment within boundaries or operational area

They not only ‘counter’ disinformation, but also watch social media, analysing how disinformation, including their own, spreads; mapping the internet and the networks of people sharing content between each other.

And for that, they have thousands deployed, and tens of thousands in reserve, not only in 77th Brigade directly, but right across government and the third sector.

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“If 2019 was the year of the street protest, of tear gas and rubber bullets, 2020 might be the year the street protest died, or perhaps fell into a deep sleep, and went online.”—Journalist Christopher Miller

Despite all appearances to the contrary, martial law has not been declared in America.

We still have rights.

Technically, at least.

The government may act as if its police state powers suppress individual liberties during this COVID-19 pandemic, but for all intents and purposes, the Constitution—especially the battered, besieged Bill of Rights—still stands in theory, if not in practice.

Indeed, while federal and state governments have adopted specific restrictive measures in an effort to lockdown the nation and decelerate the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the current public health situation has not resulted in the suspension of fundamental constitutional rights such as freedom of speech and the right of assembly.

Mind you, that’s not to say that the government has not tried its best to weaponize this crisis as it has weaponized so many other crises in order to expand its powers and silence its critics.

All over the country, government officials are using COVID-19 restrictions to muzzle protesters.

It doesn’t matter what the protest is about (church assemblies, the right to work, the timing for re-opening the country, discontent over police brutality, etc.): this is activity the First Amendment protects vociferously with only one qualification—that it be peaceful.

Yet even peaceful protesters mindful of the need to adhere to social distancing guidelines because of this COVID-19 are being muzzled, arrested and fined.

For example, a Maryland family was reportedly threatened with up to a year in jail and a $5000 fine if they dared to publicly protest the injustice of their son’s execution by a SWAT team.

If anyone had a legitimate reason to get out in the streets and protest, it’s the Lemp family, whose 21-year-old son Duncan was gunned down in his bedroom during an early morning, no-knock SWAT team raid on his family’s home.

Imagine it.

It was 4:30 a.m. on March 12, 2020, in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic that has most of the country under a partial lockdown and sheltering at home, when this masked SWAT team—deployed to execute a “high risk” search warrant for unauthorized firearms—stormed the suburban house where 21-year-old Duncan, a software engineer and Second Amendment advocate, lived with his parents and 19-year-old brother.

The entire household, including Lemp and his girlfriend, was reportedly asleep when the SWAT team directed flash bang grenades and gunfire through Lemp’s bedroom window.

Lemp was killed and his girlfriend injured.

No one in the house that morning, including Lemp, had a criminal record.

No one in the house that morning, including Lemp, was considered an “imminent threat” to law enforcement or the public, at least not according to the search warrant.

Now what was so urgent that militarized police felt compelled to employ battlefield tactics in the pre-dawn hours of a day when most people are asleep in bed, not to mention stuck at home as part of a nationwide lockdown?

According to police, they were tipped off that Lemp was in possession of “firearms.”

So instead of approaching the house by the front door at a reasonable hour in order to investigate this complaint—which is what the Fourth Amendment requires—police instead strapped on their guns, loaded up their flash bang grenades and acted like battle-crazed warriors.

This is the blowback from all that military weaponry flowing to domestic police departments.

This is what happens when you use SWAT teams to carry out routine search warrants.

This is what happens when you adopt red flag gun laws, which Maryland did in 2018, painting anyone who might be in possession of a gun—legal or otherwise—as a threat that must be neutralized.

These red flag gun laws allow the police to remove guns from people merely suspected of being threats.

While in theory it appears perfectly reasonable to want to “stop dangerous people before they act,” where the problem arises is when you put the power to determine who is a potential danger in the hands of government agencies, the courts and the police.

Remember, this is the same government that uses the words “anti-government,” “extremist” and “terrorist” interchangeably.

This is the same government whose agents are spinning a sticky spider-web of threat assessments, behavioral sensing warnings, flagged “words,” and “suspicious” activity reports using automated eyes and ears, social media, behavior sensing software, and citizen spies to identify potential threats.

This is the same government that keeps re-upping the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which allows the military to arrest and detain American citizens with no access to friends, family or the courts if the government believes them to be a threat.

This is the same government that has a growing list—shared with fusion centers and law enforcement agencies—of ideologies, behaviors, affiliations and other characteristics that could flag someone as suspicious and result in their being labeled potential enemies of the state.

Let that sink in a moment.

If you believe in and exercise your rights under the Constitution (namely, your right to speak freely, worship freely, associate with like-minded individuals who share your political views, criticize the government, own a weapon, demand a warrant before being questioned or searched, or any other activity viewed as potentially anti-government, racist, bigoted, anarchic or sovereign), you are most likely at the top of the government’s terrorism watch list.

Moreover, as a New York Times editorial warns, you may be an anti-government extremist (a.k.a. domestic terrorist) in the eyes of the police if you are afraid that the government is plotting to confiscate your firearms, if you believe the economy is about to collapse and the government will soon declare martial law, or if you display an unusual number of political and/or ideological bumper stickers on your car.

Needless to say, if you happen to be passionate about the Constitution and a vocal critic of government corruption, you’ve already been flagged in a government database somewhere.

Likely, Lemp was, too.

Now Lemp is dead and his family is devastated, outraged and desperate to make sense of what appears to be an insensible act of violence resulting in an inexcusable loss of life.

As usual in these kinds of shootings, government officials have not been forthcoming with details about the shooting: police have refused to meet with family members, the contents of the warrant supporting the raid have not been revealed, and bodycam footage of the raid has not been disclosed.

So in order to voice their objections to police violence and demand answers about the shooting, Lemp’s family and friends planned to conduct an outdoor public demonstration—adhering to social distancing guidelines—only to be threatened with arrest, a year in jail and a $5000 fine for violating Maryland’s stay at home orders.

Yet here’s the thing: we don’t have to be muzzled and remain silent about government corruption, violence and misconduct just because we’re wearing masks and social distancing.

That’s not the point of this whole COVID-19 exercise, or is it?

While there is a moral responsibility to not endanger other lives with our actions, that does not mean relinquishing all of our freedoms.

Be responsible in how you exercise your freedoms, but don’t allow yourselves to be muzzled or your individual freedoms to be undermined.

Understandably, no one wants to talk about individual freedoms when tens of thousands of people the world over are dying, and yet we must.

The decisions we make right now—about freedom, commerce, free will, how we care for the least of these in our communities, what it means to provide individuals and businesses with a safety net, how far we allow the government to go in “protecting” us against this virus, etc.—will haunt us for a long time to come.

At times like these, when emotions are heightened, fear dominates, common sense is in short supply, liberty takes a backseat to public safety, and democratic societies approach the tipping point towards mob rule, there is a tendency to cast those who exercise their individual freedoms (to freely speak, associate, assemble, protest, pursue a living, engage in commerce, etc.) as foolishly reckless, criminally selfish, or outright villains.

Sometimes that is true, but not always.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, there is always a balancing test between individual freedoms and the communal good.

What we must figure out is how to strike a balance that allows us to protect those who need protecting without leaving us chained and in bondage to the police state.

We must find ways to mitigate against this contagion needlessly claiming any more lives and crippling any more communities, but let’s not lose our heads: blindly following the path of least resistance—acquiescing without question to whatever the government dictates—can only lead to more misery, suffering and the erection of a totalitarian regime in which there is no balance.

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This article was originally published on The Rutherford Institute.

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People  is available at www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at [email protected].

Featured image is from American Friends Service Committee

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It Can’t Happen Here? The Roots Run Deep!

April 29th, 2020 by Philip A Farruggio

Sinclair Lewis wrote an important novel in 1935, It Can’t Happen Here. In the fictitious book, based on the threats at the time of fascism taking root in the USA, we see how this virus spread.

As with Philip Roth’s 2004 novel The Plot Against America we see how Charles Lindbergh’s leadership in the America First movement of the 1930s planted the seed for what has NEVER  subsided. That being simply the growth  of a  Proto Fascist mindset that resonates well today in 2020 Make Amerika Great Again (for the super rich!) Sadly, nothing ever real changes in the minds of some people… only the faces.

In David Talbot’s 2007 study of the Kennedy brothers during JFK’s administration, aptly entitled Brothers, we see the forces of Proto Fascism at work.

JFK inherited the Joints Chiefs of Staff from the Eisenhower administration, with General Curtis LeMay and General Lemnitzer leading the way for a pre-emptive nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. History now tells us what those in the ‘ Know’ knew since our U-2 flights over the Soviet Union in the mid to late 1950s: The Soviets were much weaker than us when it came to missile strength. The Joint Chiefs unanimously recommended such a pre-emptive attack, knowing full well that some of our cities would be severely damaged as we totally destroyed their entire country. JFK is said to have walked out of that meeting, saying to someone with him “Those guys are really crazy!”

What was also going on during those less than three years of JFK’s presidency, was a far right wing movement to infiltrate our military. This revealed itself to the leadership in the field by many ‘Born Again Commie Haters’ like General Lucius Clay, hero of WW2 and the 1948-49 Berlin Blockade. In October of 1961, as Talbot tells us, General Clay precipitated a nerve wracking confrontation with the Soviets at the Berlin Wall. Our tanks and their tanks stood facing each other like the ‘Gunfight at the OK Corral’ of western lore. Right before the **** would hit the fan, JFK, through a back channel arrangement his brother Bob had with the Russians, got the other side to agree to a mutual withdrawal. Meanwhile, far right wing forces here at home, like the John Birch Society, had been calling Eisenhower, hero of WW2, a “Dedicated , conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy”. Men like ‘Off the reservation’ Major General Edwin Walker announced on many occasions that the JFK administration was stocked with “No win Ivy Leaguers and confirmed Communists”. Throughout our domestic and foreign US military bases leaflets and films were offered to our personnel on a regular basis, ALL sounding the trumpet for a final war with the godless Soviets. When Arkansas Senator Fulbright took to the Senate floor to contradict far right wing forces like South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond, the other side called for hearings when General Walker was relieved of his command in Europe. Things got testy, especially when Defense Sec. McNamara was called to testify. Dozens of white suburban housewives wearing Stop Communism tags swarmed him and joined 250 spectators in booing him.

Years before those aforementioned hearings, Senator Fulbright, in one of his speeches on the Senate floor, warned of a future ‘Military Coup’ … Isn’t that what happened in November of ’63? Hadn’t the French right wing generals attempted something like that earlier in 1961 against DeGalle’s plans to grant Algeria their independence? Few students of our jaded political history recall what happened a year later, in 1962, when Vice President Lyndon Johnson visited Dallas with his wife. He was there to support the Democratic Party candidates for the upcoming midterm elections. Johnson and his wife were attacked, once again by white suburban women, calling him and his wife, and JFK ‘Nigger Lovers and Commie Lovers’. It is said that Johnson and his wife had to be ‘spirited out’ of the hotel they were staying in, as if they were fugitives from a chain gang.

Now we are in the middle (beginning? I pray not) of a terrible pandemic. It threatens our economy along with the health of millions, especially the elderly and infirmed. What needs to be understood is what history reveals when right wing movements gain momentum during tough times, as with Germany during their terrible economic depression in the 1920s and early 30s. Why? Because right wing movements always find scapegoats to satisfy the rage of the many. We are already seeing this administration, and those who believe in Trump’s convoluted logic, pushing to reopen our nation’s businesses. Yet, because of the utter incompetence and ‘Pandemic denial’ by he and his administration, NOTHING EFFECTIVE  was begun during January, February and parts of March. No stocking or manufacturing of masks, ventilators, hand sanitizers;  NO sending of federal funds to strengthen our hospital systems and first providers; NO quarantine efforts and shutdowns in the early stages of this Pandemic USA. All of the above are reasons why this economy has NOT been reopened by now. Imagine if Trump acted as the Chinese did, and jumped all over the spread of this virus early on. He didn’t! So, his base, the ones demanding a totally OPEN economy, may very well march in lockstep as this Proto Fascist movement strengthens.

My fears, as a student of history, are REAL! We have a possible Army of citizens who may be easily influenced to join such a demagogue led movement. The anger and the frustration of many out of work and out of bread (the kind you eat AND the kind you spend) people can be the very fodder used by the actual super rich who helped create such movements. As with Germany in the late 1920s, and with Amerika just a few short years ago, frustrated and angry working stiffs got directed to go against their economic interests by propaganda masters. They blamed ‘Big Government’ and supported the super rich who controlled government for their own selfish interests. We who ‘Know better’ need to influence our fellow working stiffs about what we all not only need, but deserve! And it sure ain’t Fascism!

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Philip A Farruggio is a contributing editor for The Greanville Post. He is also frequently posted on Global Research, Nation of Change, Cross Currents and Off Guardian sites. He is the son and grandson of Brooklyn NYC longshoremen and a graduate of Brooklyn College, class of 1974. Since the 2000 election debacle Philip has written over 400 columns on the Military Industrial Empire and other facets of life in an upside down America. He is also host of the ‘It’s the Empire… Stupid‘ radio show, co produced by Chuck Gregory. Philip can be reached at [email protected]

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Brazil’s Supreme Federal Court (STF) on Monday ordered an investigation against President Jair Bolsonaro, due to accusations by former Justice Minister Sergio Moro

Moro, who resigned from his post at the Ministry of Justice last Friday, accused Bolsonaro of interfering in police investigations.

In response to these accusations, the STF established on Monday that the Federal Police must interrogate the former minister within 60 days.

Brazilian Federal Supreme Court Judge Celso de Mello also requested that the conclusions of the investigation are delivered to the Attorney General’s Office.

From the Prosecutor’s Office it will be possible to move forward with a request for a political trial against the president or an indictment for false testimony against Moro.

If the Supreme Court confirms Moro’s accusations, it will be up to Congress to initiate impeachment proceedings against Bolsonaro, which could lead to his dismissal from office.

This Monday, the Workers’ Party presented the STF with a criminal action against Bolsonaro and Moros on suspicion of prevarication, concussion and corruption.

These crimes were exposed after the war of accusations that took place between the two Brazilian officials last Friday.

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Water, water everywhere and hardly a drop is being protected by the Trump administration. In its latest act of abdication, the Environmental Protection Agency published its Navigable Waters Protection Rule in the Federal Register on April 21. The rule is scheduled to go into effect June 22, completing the elimination of the Obama administration’s Waters of the US Rule.

The original rule was designed to protect the majority of America’s water  based on hydrologic science, which clearly shows that water flows on many more surface and subsurface paths than just rivers and other obvious waterways. These many pathways in turn connect wetlands and tributaries with large lakes and wide rivers. Indeed, a 2015 EPA report that drew upon 1,200 peer-review studies found that all tributaries, even intermittent and ephemeral streams “are physically, chemically, and biologically connected to downstream rivers.”

The Trump administration rejected this indisputable science in favor of an eyeball test. The new rule essentially says that if you cannot see the connection between bodies of water, it does not exist.

On that basis, the Trump administration removed environmental protections from half of the nation’s wetlands and a fifth of streams and tributary headwaters. That makes them available for unregulated pollution from mine operators, chemical companies, fossil-fuel facilities, and pesticide-spewing factory farms. This is despite the fact that according to federal assessments, half of the nation’s rivers and streams, a third of our wetlands, and a fifth of our coastal waters and Great Lakes waters are in “poor biological condition.”

The EPA, run by former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler, made a mockery of the rule’s public comment period by claiming to listen to a “wide range” of stakeholders in “robust public outreach.” And yet the only “stakeholders” highlighted in EPA press releases were lobbyists for polluters, partisan Republicans, and right-wing think tanks that also happen to specialize in suppressing voter rights, renewable energy, and gun control. Groups behind Wheeler’s rule include the American Petroleum Institute, the National Mining Association, the US Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Farm Bureau, the Heritage Foundation, and American Legislative Exchange Council.

To help out polluters, Wheeler arbitrarily eliminated consideration of most of the economic benefits and co-benefits of clean water.

The Obama administration calculated that up to $465 million in clean water compliance costs were outweighed by up to $572 million of benefits for recreational fishing, hunting, flood control, and enforcement savings. New York University Law School’s Institute for Policy Integrity estimated that the value of wetland mitigation under Obama’s proposed protections was worth up to $1 billion. Indeed, by the Trump administration’s own reports, fishing, hunting, birdwatching, and other recreation associated with wildlife annually pumps $157 billion into the economy.

None of that factored into Wheeler’s dubious math, however, as he decided to ignore benefits and only focus on the purported costs to his industry cronies. But the problem is, the Clean Water Act doesn’t say anything about costs and benefits. It says: make our waters clean. So, no matter how Wheeler might want to fiddle with the numbers, his rule is a license to pollute—a  recipe for dirty water despite the law.

No science at the table

The blatant dismissal of the importance of clean water, from tap water to wildlife, caused scores of former federal scientists and environmental officials and the heads of virtually every major scientific society concerned with conservation to write Wheeler to emphatically protest the new rule. Wheeler did not listen to them or even to his own Science Advisory Board (SAB), which wrote Wheeler two months ago to say the agency did not incorporate the “best available science” to formulate Navigable Waters.

The SAB reminded Wheeler about the 2015 report emphasizing that “functional connectivity [in our water system] is more than a matter of surface geography.” In blunt wording, the board said the EPA, “offers no comparable body of peer reviewed evidence, and no scientific justification for disregarding the connectivity of waters accepted by current hydrological science.” By plowing ahead with a rule lacking scientific justification, the SAB said the EPA was “potentially introducing new risks to human and environmental health.”

Already derelict in enforcement

In reality, the Trump administration’s EPA has probably already introduced plenty of new risk into the water we drink and into the bodies of water we use for recreation. The day before the new rule was published, the Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC), a Chicago-based advocacy group focusing on natural resources in the Midwest, issued a report documenting a dramatic decline of state and federal clean water enforcement in the heavily-industrialized states sharing the Great Lakes.

The report quoted the Environmental Integrity Project’s recent findings that state pollution control budgets in Wisconsin, Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana dropped between 16 percent and 36 percent between 2008 and 2018. The staff at the state level responsible for environmental protection in Illinois dropped from 1,028 employees to 639; in Michigan it fell from 1,568 to 1,228.

The ELPC, in its own data, says this these realities are compounded by the Trump administration’s very public dismantling of the EPA, not to mention its recent suspension of environmental enforcement during the pandemic. Staffing in EPA’s Region 5, responsible for Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Minnesota, has dropped 25 percent since 2011. Just as the EPA has fallen to its lowest national staffing levels since the Reagan administration in the 1980s, Nicole Cantello, an EPA lawyer who heads the union representing most EPA career staff in Region 5, said the numbers in her region are the lowest she knows of.

Correspondingly, enforcement cases under the Clean Water Act have plummeted from 340 case initiations and 351 case closures in 2012 during the mid-point of the Obama administration to 208 initiations and 205 closures last year. In the same time span the number of major facilities in serious noncompliance with the Clean Water Act have nearly doubled, from 122 to 211 (not including Michigan because of recording problems). Yet penalties and industry compliance costs assessed by the EPA have dropped dramatically.

Cantello said the loss of enforcement staff is particularly devastating because it takes many months of training and experience “to know a violation when you see it.” Plus, many staff members who have remained at the EPA have found themselves subject to a reorganization that has often taken inspection and enforcement powers away from seasoned investigators. As one defanged EPA veteran told me for the American Prospect Magazine last year, she felt like a like “a glamorized customer service worker—for industry.”

Worse still, Trump appointees throughout the EPA have turned even the process of documenting violations into a morass. Overall EPA inspections in Region 5 have dropped by 80 percent, from 4,706 in 2012 to 840 last year according to Better Government Association, an Illinois non-partisan watchdog group.

The critical veins of water systems

“One reason the EPA made a lot of progress in cleanups over the years was because we could go after polluters big and small,” Cantello said. “We used to be able to go inspect a site and file a violation. Now, the process creates weeks of delays and makes it so you’re only going for the cases that are way over the bar on pollution. You’re not as likely to pursue garden variety cases, even though small cases can still add up to lots of pollution.”

For Loreen Targos, “garden variety” translates into tributaries, canals, groundwater, and wetlands that play a role in a Great Lakes system containing 84 percent of North America’s surface fresh water and 21 percent of the surface fresh water on Earth. She knows this intimately as a Great Lakes remediation officer who has worked on major oil cleanups and who is also a Region 5 union steward.

She rattled off several places throughout the Midwest where pollution does not simply billow straight out from a lakeshore, but instead is found more inland from active and defunct industries that leave a toxic soup in channels, creeks, and estuaries. “These are the little veins that funnel into the lakes,” Targos said. “We can’t stop protecting them. If you listen to the president, it’s like, we don’t know where groundwater goes so we can’t do anything about it. But we have decades of watershed science that does tell us where it goes, even if you don’t see it.”

With just two months remaining before the rule goes into effect, and lawsuits on the way from environmental groups, it is likely that actual implementation of the Navigable Waters Rule will depend on who wins the November presidential election. The decline of EPA enforcement that has already occurred should serve as a harbinger of what is to come if this new rule dictates which water the government chooses to protect. In the end, the science is clear: toxins in the veins can still poison the heart of our water systems.

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Derrick Z. Jackson is a UCS Fellow in climate and energy and the Center for Science and Democracy. He is an award-winning journalist and co-author and photographer of Project Puffin: The Improbable Quest to Bring a Beloved Seabird Back to Egg Rock, published by Yale University Press (2015).

Featured image is from UCS

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 Há alguns dias, Donald Trump acusou novamente a China de ser a “responsável” pela pandemia do novo coronavírus, afirmando que os Estados Unidos estão investigando se sua origem teria sido, não em um mercado de animais chinês, como aventado, mas em um laboratório de pesquisas médicas e virologia, em Wuhan.

O líder ultraconservador, no intuito de desviar as atenções globais da magnitude de suas próprias ações, volta a tentar incluir a pandemia na conta chinesa, em meio à crescente guerra econômica contra este seu principal oponente geopolítico da atualidade. 

Contudo, a “investigação” que os EUA efetivamente deveriam realizar para, não só descobrir os “responsáveis” pela pandemia, mas evitar outras similares no futuro, não precisaria ir muito além de seu próprio país – talvez até a Europa Ocidental. 

Se suas intenções de resolver o problema fossem sérias, bastaria observar o que já foi pesquisado e comprovado por infinidades de cientistas naturais e historiadores ao longo das últimas décadas, e inclusive está relatado como “principal causa” da atual calamidade sanitária pela própria ONU: a destruição acelerada do meio ambiente por um capitalismo em crise que, nos obstáculos do caminho, perdeu suas últimas rédeas éticas.

A origem “animal” do coronavírus

A Organização Mundial da Saúde (OMS) declarou – e ora reafirmou – que um animal é a provável fonte de transmissão do novo coronavírus. E cientistas de variadas partes do mundo têm confirmado tal hipótese; embora não haja ainda consenso. 

Já o relatório “Fronteiras 2016: sobre questões emergentes de preocupação ambiental”, elaborado pelo Programa das Nações Unidas para o Meio Ambiente (PNUMA), afirma que os recorrentes surtos de zoonoses (transmissíveis de animais para humanos, como é o caso dos variados coronavírus), são reflexos da degradação ambiental intensa. 

Tais enfermidades estão em significativa ascensão nesse novo século; cenário que só piora, na medida em que os habitats silvestres são cada vez mais destruídos pela atividade humana. Nos últimos anos, várias doenças similares à COVID-19 se tornaram preocupação global por sua capacidade de causar pandemias, tais como ébola, gripe aviária, febre do Vale do Rift, ou zika vírus.

De acordo com o PNUMA, as zoonoses têm se imposto crescentemente como ameaças contundentes ao “desenvolvimento econômico, ao bem-estar animal e humano, e à integridade do próprio ecossistema” – em que todos habitamos. Em duas décadas estas enfermidades tiveram “custos diretos” de “mais de 100 bilhões de dólares”, o que poderia ter-se multiplicado (“vários trilhões de dólares”), caso tivessem efetivamente se tornado pandemias. Como agora… 

Para se evitar que surjam tais zoonoses, afirma o órgão da ONU, seria fundamental que “o homem” (leia-se com menos imprecisão: “a indústria capitalista”) freie suas múltiplas ameaças aos ecossistemas e à vida silvestre, reduzindo a agressão e fragmentação dos habitats de animais selvagens, bem como a poluição generalizada, e sobretudo estancando as mudanças climáticas. 

Controvérsias sobre a origem “espacial” do novo vírus

Quanto à origem “espacial” deste coronavírus, há ainda controvérsias. Controvérsias que seriam tolas, se não fossem justamente destinadas a tirar o foco do cerne do problema: a devastadora concorrência capitalista por sempre mais territórios e recursos naturais. 

Ambas as hipóteses que vêm sendo consideradas – que o vírus tenha surgido primeiro nos EUA, ou na China –, ainda que plausíveis, não mudam muito a constatação predominante: a de que a grande responsabilidade pela pandemia (questão que vai muito além da simples “origem do coronavírus”) é um sistema de produção desgovernado e agressivo que, em época de agudização da crise econômica global (crise estrutural do capitalismo, que se aprofunda desde 2008), desregula  temerariamente o metabolismo entre o homem e a natureza. 

Em outras palavras: o desequilíbrio do ecossistema planetário está em situação-limite; rapidamente se aproxima de um ponto de não-retorno, e isto abre espaço para que venham a ser recorrentes tais tipos de catástrofes sanitárias.

Portanto, a questão que deve ser colocada e equacionada, prioritariamente, não é a de se este vírus, em si, é resultado de mutação genética ou de má segurança em laboratórios de virologia (hipóteses possíveis e já verificadas na história), mas sim: como a comunidade internacional poderia fazer um esforço conjunto para reorientar o desenvolvimento de um mundo que, durante séculos de “modernidade”, vem sendo refém de um “progresso instrumental”, meramente “tecnológico”; falso “progresso”, pois não visa o “desenvolvimento social” e a “emancipação humana”, mas pelo contrário, é francamente voltado ao “crescimento dos lucros” (corporativos), através do cada vez mais intenso controle do homem e da natureza.

Se há cinco séculos, o filósofo Francis Bacon, entusiasmado com os incipientes avanços científicos – que começavam a chegar a uma Europa ainda periférica, atrasada e pobre –, definiu a função da ciência como sendo a “vitória sobre a natureza”, durante todo este tempo somente piorou esta visão rasa, controladora e sem perspectiva da “totalidade” complexa que compõe a vida social e natural. 

Conspirações são possíveis na geopolítica do vale-tudo

No início da epidemia, enquanto o surto ainda estava localizado na China, um Trump bonachão, quase com um sorriso, desdenhava da calamidade em descuidadas mensagens por redes sociais; enquanto seu Secretário de Comércio, Wilbur Ross, sem nenhuma vergonha, explicitava publicamente seu otimismo com o problema “chinês”, que se agravava, chegando até a declarar (digamos, com “pouco humanismo”) que o novo coronavírus: “ajudará a acelerar o retorno de empregos nos Estados Unidos”! 

No mês passado, já menos alegre, Trump mostrou por fim preocupação com o surto de coronavírus, denominando-o provocativamente de “vírus chinês” – à medida que via desabar as perspectivas econômicas de seu país.

***

Ocorre que a pandemia, que já infectou mais de dois milhões de pessoas em todo o mundo e vem afetando violentamente a economia global (sobretudo a dos EUA, ameaçando sua posição geopolítica dominante desde a Segunda Guerra), tem a peculiaridade de ser em certo aspecto “democrática”, já que (apesar de ameaçar mais aos pobres e aos sem recursos, como toda doença) tem também atingido os ricos e poderosos. Este fato tem levado neoliberais convictos (mas com alguma racionalidade, o que não é o caso de terraplanistas e neofascistas afins) a se absterem de sua ambição por lucros velozes, optando pela paralisação econômica; não por sentimentos humanos, é claro, de que dispõem tão pouco, mas por projetarem prejuízos maiores em caso contrário. 

***

O gesto intempestivo e xenófobo de Trump logo recebeu resposta – contundente! – do porta-voz do Ministério de Relações Exteriores da China, Zhao Lijian: “Pode ter sido o Exército estadunidense que levou a epidemia a Wuhan”. 

Em sua alegação, Lijian fazia referência a alguns curiosos episódios, ainda hoje não investigados a fundo:

i) Em outubro de 2019, teve lugar em Wuhan, os Jogos Olímpicos Mundiais Militares, com a participação de mais de 100 países; em reportagem, o jornalista estadunidense George Webb afirma que o piloto e ciclista militar Maatje Benassi teria levado o vírus à China em sua participação na competição; publicação do Departamento de Defesa dos EUA confirma que este atleta realmente participou de prova ciclística em Wuhan, pouco antes do começo da epidemia;

ii) De acordo com matéria do jornal The New York Times, o Pentágono detectou, no mesmo período, casos de coronavírus entre seus militares (que a princípio estariam atuando na Coreia do Sul e na Itália);

iii) Outro fato a ser investigado é o fechamento – por “falta de segurança” – de laboratório de “armas biológicas” no Centro Médico Militar Fort Detrick, em Maryland (EUA), que se dedicava a pesquisas sobre vírus, germes e doenças infecciosas, e encerrou suas atividades, em julho de 2019, alegadamente devido a problemas com o “descarte de materiais biologicamente perigosos”, e que inclusive teriam vazado, de acordo com o Centro de Controle e Prevenção de Doenças dos EUA (CDC).

O porta-voz chinês, em sua resposta, citou ainda o próprio diretor do CDC, Robert Redfield, que, recentemente questionado sobre se foram descobertas, postumamente, mortes por coronavírus nos Estados Unidos, respondeu: “Alguns casos foram, agora, realmente diagnosticados desse modo nos EUA”.

Suscitados pelo debate, diversos pedidos foram feitos aos EUA para que expusessem os exames de saúde de Benassi à época e realizassem novas provas, tornando esses dados públicos, com vistas a dirimir possíveis especulações e facilitar as investigações sobre a pandemia. 

Mas o governo Trump desconsiderou os pedidos por transparência (“transparência” que agora “exige” aos chineses). 

O terrorismo biológico tem história

Junte-se as peças, e está aberta interessante margem para se pensar que o misterioso “paciente zero” poderia ter sido um estadunidense, como afirma o repórter; e que portanto poderiam ter sido, não animais silvestres de um mercado chinês, mas competidores militares dos EUA – previamente contaminados – os responsáveis por fazer o vírus chegar a Wuhan: propositalmente ou não! 

E de fato, há exemplos infelizes na história que comprovam a plausibilidade da hipótese “proposital”. 

Por exemplo, durante a Guerra da Coreia, no âmbito da Guerra Fria, a União Soviética e a China acusaram os Estados Unidos de usar agentes biológicos contra a Coreia Popular; Washington, mais tarde, admitiu que havia estudos para produzir tais armas (!), mas que não foram usadas. 

Já em 1963, de acordo com documentos ora desclassificados (divulgados pelo Arquivo de Segurança Nacional dos EUA), a CIA – com apoio da própria Casa Branca – tentou contaminar com bacilos de tuberculose Fidel Castro, através do advogado-espião James Donovan, que então negociava com o comandante cubano a libertação de alguns mercenários ianques (fato que aliás já rendeu livros e filmes). 

Outro caso ocorreu logo após o fracasso da invasão da Baía dos Porcos, em Cuba, quando, com aval do governo de R. Kennedy, a CIA aliada à máfia dos EUA (veja-se episódio recentemente abordado pelo próprio cinema hollywoodiano), pôs em prática a famosa “Operação Mangusto”, que incluía entre suas ações o uso de agentes biológicos e químicos para destruição de colheitas cubanas e contaminação de camponeses. 

Dentre tantos outros exemplos, vale lembrar ainda a confissão de Eduardo Arocena, em 1984; este agente da CIA de origem cubana, em julgamento realizado em Nova Iorque, declarou à corte que a missão do grupo que ele chefiava era a de obter organismos infecciosos (patogênicos) e introduzi-los em Cuba – documento que consta em ata pública, mas que jamais foi investigado pelas autoridades “competentes” dessa nação-império. 

Não sendo a intenção deste artigo enveredar por esses tantos casos de “guerra suja” – que mostram a que níveis de baixeza o homem-moderno foi e é capaz em sua busca por lucros e poder –, fecha-se o “capítulo”, mencionando que, em julho de 2001, George W. Bush vetou um protocolo da ONU que visava dar mais poderes à Convenção Internacional sobre Armas Biológicas, argumentando que isso poderia causar interferências em “pesquisas legítimas” dos EUA. Na ocasião, especialista entrevistado pela BBC (Nicholas Sims, da London School os Economics) considerou tal atitude como “isolacionista”, obviamente vista como “obstáculo ao fortalecimento da Convenção”. Gesto que, portanto, desde então facilitou a possível disseminação de “vírus” enquanto armas de exterminação humana.

Considerando-se, no caso desta específica calamidade, que (na melhor das hipóteses) o vírus tenha se originado “naturalmente”, ou antes “ao acaso provocado” (motivado pela destruição do meio ambiente), voltamos então ao afirmado no início: a responsabilidade pela atual pandemia deve ser investigada no chamado “progresso moderno”; em seu falso “desenvolvimento”, meramente técnico, espetaculoso e controlador; em um mundo desregulado entregue aos desígnios dos interesses corporativos (sobretudo após a consolidação neoliberal nos anos 1980), e cuja capacidade autodestrutiva é conhecida ao menos desde a catástrofe da Primeira Guerra Mundial. 

[Continua…]

Yuri Martins-Fontes

Referências

https://www.globalresearch.ca/covid-1-toda-a-verdade-tem-tres-etapas/5707017

https://rebelion.org/la-cia-la-conexion-italiano-francesa-y-el-trafico-de-drogas-en-cuba-y-sudamerica/#sdfootnote23sym

https://operamundi.uol.com.br/politica-e-economia/43352/cia-cogitou-matar-fidel-com-equipamento-de-mergulho-infectado-com-bacilo-da-tuberculose

https://super.abril.com.br/blog/contaoutra/a-cia-apelou-ate-para-a-mafia-para-matar-fidel-castro/ (em que se cita o livro: Legado de Cinzas: uma História da CIA (Record), do jornalista Tim Weiner)

  • Posted in Português
  • Comments Off on COVID-19 – Sobre a “origem” e as “responsabilidades” da pandemia (I)

Early on April 27, the Israeli Air Force carried out a series of airstrikes on alleged Iranian targets in the countryside of Damascus. As always, pro-Israeli sources claimed that the missile attack hit and destroyed weapon depots and HQs of Hezbollah and Iranian forces. Syrian state media reported that 3 civilians were killed and 4 others wounded in the villages of Hujaira and Adliya as a result of the strike.

Tensions between Idlib militants and their Turkish sponsors and protectors have been growing since the last weekend.

On April 26, the Turkish Army clashed with Idlib radicals near their camp blocking the M4 highway near the town of Nayrab. At least 7 people were killed or injured, when Turkish forces opened fire at protesters blocking their column in the area.

According to pro-militant sources, Turkish troops tried to remove the protest camp from the area in order to expand the chunk of the highway used for joint patrols with the Russian Military Police. Another reason is the hostile posture of Idlib protesters towards Turkish troops deployed in the de-escalation area. Earlier in April, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham militants deployed at the highway and recorded a video threatening to behead Turkish soldiers. Ankara likely opted to give a lesson to its restive proxies.

However, the situation went out of control.

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham militants shelled a Turkish observation post south of Nayrab with mortars injuring a Turkish soldier. He was evacuated by military helicopters to Turkey. The clashes continued with at least two drone strikes on Hayat Tahrir al-Sham positions near the village of San. Two militants were killed in the attack.

In response to Turkish actions, militants shelled Turkish MRAPs moving near Nayrab with heavy machine guns and reportedly launched anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) at a bulldozer and a battle tank of the Turkish Army. The impact of the ATGM strikes remains unclear.

These clashes became a visual demonstration that Idlib terrorists remain terrorists and are not ready to abandon their radical ideology and make concessions needed to propel Turkish interests. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and other al-Qaeda-linked groups receive funding, weapons and even direct military support, but put their own goals and plans first. So, all the while Turkey is pouring money and resources into the al-Qaeda-infested black hole.

The lack of loyalty among Idlib groups forces Turkey to extensively use its own troops to keep at least a semblance of control over the situation. Since the establishment of the new ceasefire regime in Idlib on March 5, the Turkish military has reportedly sent 2,810 military and logistical vehicles to the region. Pro-militant sources claim that approximately 10,000 Turkish troops are deployed in Greater Idlib.

The Syrian Army and security forces are conducting an extensive security operation in the province of al-Suwayda.

Government forces neutralized a criminal gang in the town of Salkhad seizing a large number of fire arms, ammunition, hand grenades and improvised explosive devices. Despite this, the gang leader, Nawras al-Eid, was able to flee. Pro-government sources claim that some local armed groups posing as the local self-defense forces are in fact criminal organizations.

The relative stabilization of the situation in southern and central Syria allowed the Damascus government to allocate additional resources to combat this organized crime. Nonetheless, if large-scale military hostilities once again resume in western or northeastern Syria, organized crime will have another chance to lift up its head in the relatively calm areas.

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The phrase ‘Yellow Peril’ – pertaining to the alleged threat of the Far East – was coined by Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany in the 1880s after he had a dream featuring a Buddha riding a dragon threatening to invade Europe. It’s unclear whether Donald Trump has experienced a similar premonition during his lifetime but one thing is certain: he leads an administration which has been intent on escalating tensions with China, even prior to the outbreak of coronavirus.

It was just a matter of time before the blame game would begin. Donald Trump has long viewed China as an economic adversary. On the presidential campaign trail in 2016 he was accusing China of ‘raping’ the US and that the nation was responsible for the ‘the greatest theft in the history of the world’. The rhetoric has not changed much since then. Trump vigorously pursued his trade war with China in 2018 when he literally ‘ordered’ US companies to cease trading with the east asian nation. The President has attempted to influence policy beyond its borders too; pressurizing the UK not to embark on a deal with Huawei, the Chinese mobile phone network provider, to set up 5G across Britain. The US has never disguised its hatred of the firm, launching its own special vendetta against it, including the organisation of the arrest of the Huawei founder’s daughter and Chief Financial Officer in Canada in 2018.

The coronavirus pandemic has therefore provided the perfect catalyst to a war which began much earlier against China (see John Pilger’s film The Coming War with China). The main difference before was that the US was pretty much on its own. The UK for its part had been courting China for years, trying to be its ‘best friend in the West’ so as to encourage inward investment. Not any more, the Tory hawks say now. According to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab there will be ‘no more business as usual with China’. He has promised a ‘deep dive review’ as to how coronavirus was able to spread from China. And he’s not alone.  Last week a new Conservative China Research Group was founded with the goal of reassessing Britain’s future relationship with the country. There’s to be a completely new approach.  A senior Conservative MP told the FT:

“The pressure from our MPs and the public to punish China is huge. They are going to be blamed for the worst effects of this pandemic and we will have to shift our foreign policy to be more aligned to [US president Donald] Trump’s’.

And therein lies the rub.  For Trump’s posse aren’t holding back when it comes to threats against China. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has already warned he will ‘make China pay’ for the Covid-19.

Trump lays full responsibility at Beijing’s door for the outbreak, despite how effectively the nation of 1.4 billion people has managed the crisis. (Through a range of measures, including strict quarantine and thorough testing it has drastically reduced the number of cases across the country, with the city of Wuhan, the official source of the virus, back open for business.)  The US needs a scapegoat now; more to the point Donald Trump needs a distraction if he is to have any chance of winning the next election.

But for the UK to go along with any such aggressive policy against China is ludicrous at a time like this when the world ought to be pulling together. The British security services announced last week they would begin their ‘investigation’ into precisely where the coronavirus originated, focusing on the laboratory in Wuhan, which, it has been speculated, the virus could have escaped from before appearing at the fish market (the location that was first publicised as being the source of the outbreak).

However the reality is we have no evidence that the virus has any connection with the Wuhan laboratory.  Further still, there is scientific evidence to indicate that the disease did not originate in Wuhan at all, but in southern China.

Cambridge scientists have carried out research suggesting that coronavirus may be months older than originally thought and did not come from the fish market. Peter Forster, a geneticist at the University of Cambridge said that the virus may have mutated into its final ‘human-efficient’ form months ago, but stayed inside a bat or other animal or even human for several months without infecting other individuals.’ Even more interestingly, Forster said that if pressed, he ‘would say the original spread started more likely in southern China than in Wuhan.’ The idea that Wuhan is not the original source  is backed up by Chinese reports which now state the first case of coronavirus can be traced back to Hubei province, not Wuhan, in December 2019.

‘I listen to the scientists’ UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson keeps saying. Well, surely this is the one time when our conclusions must be led by the scientific evidence. Or will we dance to the tune of President Trump, whose understanding of science begins and ends with the possibility of injecting people with disinfectant to treat Covid-19? We cannot allow this pandemic to be used as an excuse for waging a war, whether hot or cold, against China. Such thinking belongs, and should stay in the 19th century. Enough people have suffered as a consequence of this pandemic already. China as a nation, wants to be successful, wants to have a thriving economy and is extremely proud. If provoked, despite not having a history of invading other countries, one can be sure it will defend itself to the hilt.

‘Handle with care’ says the label on the package I just ordered from China. That says it all really, doesn’t it?…

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This article was originally published on InfoBrics.

Johanna Ross is a journalist based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Featured image is from FinanceTwitter

COVID-19 and the Rise of the Police State

April 28th, 2020 by David Skripac

In December 1917, Europe was immersed in the First World War—one of the most vicious, insane wars the world had ever witnessed. After learning about the high casualty toll and the horrific nature of trench warfare, which included the use of poison gas, Britain’s prime minister, David Lloyd George, confided in a private conversation to C. P. Scott, editor of the Manchester Guardian:

“If people really knew [the truth], the war would be stopped tomorrow. But of course, they don’t know, and can’t know.” 

Just over a century later, here we are, yet again, immersed in a global war. However, this war, which is ostensibly sold to all of us as a battle to “stop the spread of the coronavirus,” is in reality a war devised by “the powers-that-shouldn’t-be” to remove the last remnants of humanity’s inherent freedoms and liberties.

And, just like all of the previous criminal wars throughout human history—the First World War, the Second World War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and every other subsequent conflict—if people around the world knew the truth about this war, it would come to a screeching halt overnight.

Through all of my years of research in matters relating to war, I have come to understand one very important thing: When human societies lose their freedom, it’s usually not because the monarch, the state, or some dictator has overtly taken it away. Rather, it is lost because too many people willingly surrender their freedom in return for protection from some perceived (real or imagined) menace.

That menace is typically manufactured by the state and is designed to stir up such a torrent of fear in the mind of citizens that they pressure their politicians to implement measures against the fabricated threat.

Unfortunately, it rarely occurs to the public to ask:

Are we simply reacting to an orchestrated threat?

Will the protective measures we’re demanding of our leaders actually work?

Or will “the cure” being offered to us be worse than “the disease”?

Sadly, we seem to have not learned from history that, once the state is asked by the citizenry to respond to a danger, it will do so with a drastic course of action—with rights-restricting rules that will never be removed once imposed. This is exactly how societies become despotisms. 

To be sure, there is a seasonal influenza, a coronavirus, currently sweeping around the world, just as the flu does every year, like clockwork. And, yes, this particular coronavirus seems to pose a serious health hazard to the elderly and to anyone with underlying medical issues. However, one crucial question has being avoided by officials and the public alike: Is this outbreak of an infectious disease called COVID-19 serious enough to warrant the draconian countermeasures that all governments—with the exception of Sweden—have initiated?

Those counteractions have done a number on communities everywhere:

  • collapsing local economies and, in a ripple effect, the world economy
  • sending millions upon millions of people to the unemployment line
  • imprisoning millions of honest, hard-working citizens in their homes
  • bankrupting countless mid-size and small businesses (and destroying the dreams and livelihoods of their owners)
  • bringing out of the woodwork rules-obsessed busybodies who take delight in snitching on neighbours and strangers alike for not “social distancing”
  • unearthing every petty tyrant whose main mission in life is to ensure that every mask-less person is arrested and carted off to jail
  • policing quarantined areas with drones
  • tracking and surveilling all human beings who are ambulatory and have cell phones (if ants carried mobile phones into and out of their mounds, they’d doubtless be subject to  triangulation tracking)
  • increasing stress and the incidence of flaring tempers among the homebound, which has resulted in a sharp escalation of domestic violence
  • saddling future generations with massive debt that can lead debtors into deep depression, permanent homelessness, possible suicide 

Medical professionals are observing the entire state of affairs with increasing alarm. They are questioning the official coronavirus infection rates and noting the detrimental effects of the lockdown. Examples abound.

Take Dr. Erickson, co-owner of Accelerated Urgent Care in Kern County, California, who, with his partner, Dr. Massihi, has gone on record saying that, in contrast to the high numbers of people contracting this coronavirus, there has been only “a small amount of death . . . similar to what we have seen every year with the seasonal flu.”

Stanford University epidemiologist and professor of medicine John Ioannidis has made the same observation. In an April 17 interview, Dr. Ioannidis he claimed that “COVID-19 has an infection fatality rate that is in the same ballpark as seasonal influenza.” Moreover, he said, the devastation and deaths caused by the imposed lockdown on the entire world economy “can be far worse than anything the coronavirus can do.” Based on a study he conducted, Dr. Ioannides said that “the data collected so far on how many people are infected and how the epidemic is evolving are utterly unreliable.”

Indeed, we have seen ample evidence of this “utterly unreliable” data—less euphemistically known as manipulated data—coming out of Italy. Professor Walter Ricciardi, scientific advisor to Italy’s minister of health, referred to a report produced by the Italian COVID-19 Surveillance Group and observed that “only 12 per cent of death certificates have shown a direct causality from coronavirus, while 88 per cent of patients who have died have at least one pre-morbidity—many had two or three.” The report cited by Prof. Ricciardi pointed out that half of the patients who died had three or more other underlying diseases at the time of death.

In the United States, meanwhile, the death toll figures attributed to the virus are no more accurate. Doctors are being told to write on death certificates that the cause of death is “presumed” to be COVID-19 or that COVID-19 “contributed” to the death, when, in fact, there is absolutely no proof that COVID-19 caused the death, nor did any lab test indicate a COVID-19 positive.

The United Nations’ Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO), which has been entrusted to be an impartial global health guardian, has proven itself no better than national governments at truthfully disseminating critical information. WHO’s questionable statistics on COVID-19 only serve to cement its reputation as an organization that, since 2009, has been plagued by corruption, conflict-of-interest scandals linked to Big Pharma, and a lack of transparency. Few citizens are familiar with the WHO’s transgressions, and even fewer understand how it is financed.

So let me briefly explain the latter. The WHO’s principal advisory group for vaccines and immunization is called the Scientific Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE). This team of so-called “experts” is dominated by individuals who receive significant funding from either the major vaccine makers, from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, or from Wellcome Trust. In his informative article, “Can We Trust the WHO?” author F. William Engdahl writes that, in the latest posting by WHO:

“. . . of the 15 scientific members of SAGE, no fewer than 8 had declared interest, by law, of potential conflicts. In almost every case the significant financial funder of these 8 SAGE members included the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Merck & Co. (MSD), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance (a Gates-funded vaccine group), BMGF Global Health Scientific Advisory Committee, Pfizer, Novovax, GSK, Novartis, Gilead, and other leading pharma vaccine players.”

Moreover, unlike in its early years, when the WHO was primarily funded by UN member governments, today it receives funding from a “public-private partnership,” which vaccine companies dominate. The WHO’s financial audit for 2017 indicates that by “far the largest private or non-governmental funders of WHO are the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation together with the Gates-funded GAVI Vaccine Alliance, the Gates-initiated Global Fund to fight AIDS.” That year, the Gates Foundation alone donated a staggering $324,654,317 to the WHO, second only to the US government, which contributed $401 million. According to statistics posted in 2018, “the second-largest funder after the US government is still the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which provides 9.8 per cent of the WHO’s funds.” 

In light of these relationships, it is not surprising that WHO data on COVID-19 has been found to contain repeated errors—false positives—and inconsistencies, all of which it refuses to correct. As a result, Oxford University and various countries have ceased using WHO data on coronavirus infection rates.   

Because of the inaccurate and incomplete data that WHO has been collecting from around the world, we will never know exactly how many people have died from the virus. 

Of course, in order to successfully prosecute their war on our civil liberties, these global overlords must maintain a monopoly on the information that shapes their official narrative.

If they were to release videos of empty hospitals or reveal the very low mortality rates actually associated with the virus, they would not be able to foster the element of fear required to keep the public credulously accepting their every pronouncement and obeying their every edict. It is this single factor of fear, fomented by false information emanating from “trusted sources,” which is the vital element our health-state/police-state nannies rely upon as they deliberately, calculatingly fan the flames of the collective hysteria that has engulfed the world.

Why do I say “deliberately, calculatingly”? Because, by now, most readers have undoubtedly seen the smoking gun proof that the COVID-19 pandemic is in fact a plandemic. That smoking gun took the form of a simulation exercise called Event 201.

More aptly termed a drill, Event 201 was held in mid-October of last year, just weeks before the reports of the first recorded case of a contagious novel coronavirus disease starting seeping out of Wuhan, China. Sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the John Hopkins Center for Health, and the World Economic Forum, this tabletop exercise simulated “a series of dramatic, scenario-based facilitated discussions, confronting difficult, true-to-life dilemmas associated with response to a hypothetical, but scientifically plausible, pandemic.” That its sponsors have the gall to insist there is no connection between their exercise (I mean “drill”) and the near-simultaneous unrolling of the actual “live” event (dubbed COVID-19) speaks to their hubris—and their hypocrisy.

At best, maybe 10 percent of the entire simulation was devoted to actually helping people infected with the coronavirus. The remainder of the exercise was concerned with how officials would disseminate information and maintain all-important control of the official narrative—including the statistical narrative. Predictably, the participants discussed strategies for how to silence the misinformation and disinformation that would surely spread in the wake of this “hypothetical” pandemic. In other words, they were super-intent on shutting down any and all information, whether leaked or hacked or accidentally discovered, that was not sanctioned by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), by WHO officials, and by MSM corporate stenographers.

Key talking points included an elaborate plan of action for governments that would enable them to work in cooperation with social media giants like Facebook and Google and Twitter. Specifically, governments were told how they could troll social media sites and request that any voices countering the official narrative be removed; how they could silence independent journalists, while elevating their own so-called “authoritative voices”; and how they could join forces with Big Pharma companies like Johnson & Johnson to develop a vaccine to ward off the coronavirus .

What happened to the action plan when it was applied to the on-its-heels real-life scenario? Unsurprisingly, it was fully implemented and made fully operational. So, thanks to Event 201’s meticulous pandemic planning and WHO’s replication of it, the power of the police state is rising to unprecedented levels. Our global overlords and their CDC and WHO and MSM lackeys have succeeded in generating fear in the planet’s populace. This pandemic panic has, in turn, caused people to voluntarily, though unwittingly, surrender their hard-won freedoms. These freedoms are articulated in the constitutions of countries around the world, including the US Constitution, with its Bill of Rights—notably the First Amendment. These documents are now nothing more than meaningless pieces of paper. They may as well be blank.

A few for instances: Facebook is removing all voices that counter the official COVID-19 narrative from its platform. Google is monitoring (read: snooping) to check up on whether people are “social distancing.” The Clinton Global Initiative is promoting another Orwellian concept called “contact tracing” (read: total government surveillance grid), which involves monitoring, tracing, and, if need be, quarantining the entire US population. The plan is being sold to the American population as a critical component of a universal healthcare system, when, in reality, if implemented, it will be nothing more than a marketing ploy to disguise the arrival of George Orwell’s 1984.

Throughout the US, companies like VSBLTY and public-private partnerships are spreading a ubiquitous surveillance network of CCTV cameras with the ability to measure heartbeat and social distancing without any legal or legislative restraint—a true police state dystopia.

Power-grabbing governments the world over have locked down their societies and are dreaming up legislation to stop the spread of “dangerous misinformation” about the pandemic. British MP Damian Collins, for one, is calling for just such measures to silence free speech in the UK. In Canada, Privy Council President Dominic LeBlanc has admitted that the Canadian government is “considering introducing legislation to make it an offence to knowingly spread misinformation that could harm people.”

Not to be outdone, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has announced the creation of “a new United Nations Communication Response initiative to flood the Internet with facts and science while countering the growing scourge of misinformation.” In addition, the Secretary- General, like Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and various other leaders, is advising us precisely where to place our trust: in vaccines.

Vaccines are not the answer. If the mandatory vaccination agenda is ever implemented by these globalist kingpins, the coup against our fundamental rights and freedoms will be complete. Our governments—or, more likely, a one world government!—will force-vaccinate us with our own unique digital ID and chip that, once in place, will further heighten their surveillance of and tighten their control over all human beings. At that point, the police state will be complete and will be here to stay.

Contrary to what Trudeau believes, the way that governments have implemented oppressive edicts to combat the hyped virus is not the “new-normal.” Their actions are hardly normal, whether old or new.

Precisely the opposite is true: This is the forever abnormal.

Abnormal because, whether the virus was developed in a bioweapons lab or if it is the annual seasonal influenza, it is a manufactured crisis designed to infuse us with fear, induce us to willingly surrender our freedoms, and steer us away from seeing the ever-scarier, underlying agenda of a technocratic takeover by the New (or Flu!) World Order. (Think AI, 5G, Internet of Things, digital body chips, Data Fusion Centers, the NSA’s Project Prism, ad infinitum).

This collective insanity will come to an end only if we all leave behind the MSM nest of lies and seek out sources—independent online and in-print investigative journalists like James Corbett, F. William Engdahl, Derrick Broze, Ryan Cristián, Patrick Wood, Jon Rappoport, and countless others—who have been probing for (and finding and relaying) the truth about world events for anywhere from a decade to several dozen years. We must cease buying into propaganda and accept only provable facts from dependable sites—the ones that are called “fake news” by the real fakers and fearmongers.

To men like David Lloyd George and his ilk, we reply: Yes, we will learn the truth, and with this knowledge we will stop the war on our liberty and our lives!  

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David Skripac has a Bachelor of Technology degree in Aerospace Engineering. He served as a Captain in the Canadian Forces for nine years. During his two tours of duty in the Air Force he flew extensively in the former Yugoslavia as well as in Somalia, Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Djibouti. 

The 9/11 Consensus Panel mourns the loss of the great Italian journalist, Giulietto Chiesa, whose life was devoted to upholding the foundations of democracy, not just in his native Italy, but in Russia and worldwide.

The Consensus Panel was honoured to have Giulietto as a voluntary reviewing member of its evidence-based 9/11 research – from 2011 until its findings were published in 2018.

In 1999-2000 Chiesa had founded the association Megachip – Democracy in Communications, which presents critical analysis of how the mainstream media actually works. By April 2009 its website had over 60 million hits, and by 2010 it had reached 100 million.  On the website appeared the words:

A whisper was enough to create a wave.

A simple whisper,

Nothing compared to the incessant noise of the thousand media that surround us.

Yet it was enough.

From Megachip sprang the 2008 documentary Zero: An Investigation Into 9/11which challenged many assumptions surrounding the 9/11 attacks. Featuring such luminaries as Gore Vidal and Nobel Prize winner Dario Fo, it has been seen by millions of people.  The Italian daily newspaper, Il Corriere de da Sera, described the “sequence of contradictions, gaps, and omissions of stunning gravity” that it exposed in the official story.

In 2003, just before the American invasion of Iraq, he promoted – together with a large group of volunteering journalists – the experimental independent satellite TV project, NoWar TV.

From the late 1990s onwards Chiesa had covered issues related to globalization, in particular how they affect the world media system. This led to his involvement in the foundation of the global think tank, the World Political Forum, based in Turin and chaired by Mikhail Gorbachev.  In 2010 Gorbachev founded the New Policy Forum in Luxemburg, placing Chiesa on the Advisory Board.

Chiesa also served for 19 years as a Moscow correspondent, was a former member of the European Parliament, and was a Fellow of the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies.

He was the Chief Editor of the web TV, Pandora TV.  His Il Fatto Quotidiano blog was among the top ten political blogs in Italy. He was deeply mourned and honoured at Megachip.

Giulietto Chiesa was clearly a diverse man whose immense energy and compassion drove a lifelong quest for democracy.  In the words of 9/11 Consensus Panelist Dr. Graeme MacQueen, co-founder of the Centre for Peace Studies at McMaster University, “I found him to be extremely kind and generous…it was a great honour to have known him; we have lost a brave companion. What a loss.”

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Welcome to “Coronavirus in Context.”

Today we’re going to talk about whether we’re managing coronavirus correctly; do we need to think about a change in our treatment regiments?

My guest is Dr Cameron Kyle-Sidell. He’s a physician trained in emergency medicine and critical care, and he practices at Maimonides in Brooklyn, New York. Welcome, Dr Sidell.

Below is the full transcript.

John Whyte, MD, MPH: Hello. I’m Dr John Whyte, chief medical officer at WebMD. Welcome to “Coronavirus in Context.” Today we’re going to talk about whether we’re managing coronavirus correctly; do we need to think about a change in our treatment regiments? My guest is Dr Cameron Kyle-Sidell. He’s a physician trained in emergency medicine and critical care, and he practices at Maimonides in Brooklyn, New York. Welcome, Dr Sidell.

Cameron Kyle-Sidell, MD: Thank you very much. Thank you for inviting me.

Whyte: You’ve been talking a lot about the number of patients, the percentage of patients dying on ventilators. When did you first notice this trend?

Kyle-Sidell: In preparation of opening what became a full COVID-positive intensive care unit, we scoured the data just to see what was out there—those who have experienced it before us, primarily the Chinese and the Italians; it was hard to find exactly, like the rate of what we call successful extubation—meaning, someone was put on a ventilator and taken off. And that data are still hard to find. I imagine there are a lot of people still on ventilators. But from the data we have available, it appears to be somewhere between 50% and 90%. Most published data puts it around 70%. So, that’s a very, very high percentage in general, when one thinks of a medical disease.

Whyte: You’ve been talking on social media; you say you’ve seen things that you’ve never seen before. What are some of those things that you’re seeing?

Kyle-Sidell: When I initially started treating patients, I was under the impression, as most people were, that I was going to be treating acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), similar in substance to AIDS, which I saw as a fellow. And as I start to treat these patients, I witnessed things that are just unusual. And I’m sure doctors around the country are experiencing this. In the past, we haven’t seen patients who are talking in full sentences and not complaining of overt shortness of breath, with saturations in the high 70s. It’s just not something we typically see when we’re intubating some of these patients. That is to say, when we’re putting a breathing tube in, they tend to drop their saturations very quickly; we see saturations going down to 20 to 30. Typically, one would expect some kind of reflexive response from the heart rate, which is to say that usually we see tachycardia, and if patients go too low, then we see bradycardia. These are things that we just weren’t seeing. I’ve seen literally a saturation of zero on a monitor, which is not something we ever want and something we actively try to avoid. And yet we saw it, and many of my colleagues have similarly seen saturations of 10 and 20. We try to put breathing tubes in to avoid this very situation. Now, these patients tend to desaturate extremely quickly, so these situations have occurred. Still, what we’re seeing—that there was no change in the heart rate—is just unusual. It’s just something that we are not used to seeing.

Whyte: This is more like a high-altitude sickness. Is that right?

Kyle-Sidell: Yes. The patients in front of me are unlike any patients I’ve ever seen., and I’ve seen a great many patients and have treated many diseases. You get used to seeing certain patterns, and the patterns I was seeing did not make sense. This originally came to me when we had a patient who had hit what we call our trigger to put in a breathing tube, meaning she had displayed a level of hypoxia of low oxygen levels where we thought she would need a breathing tube. Most of the time, when patients hit that level of hypoxia, they’re in distress and they can barely talk; they can’t say complete sentences. She could do all of those and she did not want a breathing tube. So she asked that we put it in at the last minute possible. It was this perplexing clinical condition: When was I supposed to put the breathing tube in? When was the last minute possible? All the instincts as a physician—like looking to see if she tires out —none of those things occurred. It’s extremely perplexing. But I came to realize that this condition is nothing I’ve ever seen before. And so I started to read to try to figure it out, leaving aside the exact mechanism of how this disease is causing havoc on the body, but instead trying to figure out what the clinical syndrome looked like.

Whyte: You talked a little about the data from Italy.

Kyle-Sidell: Yes.

Whyte: [From Luciano] Gattinoni. Were you aware of what was going on in Italy before you noticed these observations or did that come after the fact?

Kyle-Sidell: That came a little bit after. And I wasn’t aware. I can’t even remember the exact timeline. But in my reading, I came upon decompression, pulmonary sickness, which is essentially the bends—when divers dive and come up too quickly—which seemed to mirror the clinical picture of these patients. And in discussions of other people, it came up that they do appear similar clinically. This is not to say that the pathophysiology underlying it is similar, but clinically they look a lot more like high-altitude sickness than they do pneumonia. Regarding, Gattinoni, he published something on March 20th, which was about 2 days before I opened the ICU. I don’t know that I read it then, but somehow it got passed around. In my mind, by the time I read what he was saying, I’d come under the impression that this just wasn’t what we were used to seeing. It was a high-compliance disease, which every pulmonologist had. Anyone managing a ventilator can see. That’s not a question. So when I read his stuff, where he is suggesting that the management strategy that we use is essentially somewhat flipped, at least in these high-compliant patients, it just became more clear that that if we operate under a paradigm whereby we are treating ARDS in these high-compliant patients, we may not be operating under the right paradigm.

Whyte: Have you changed your protocols, then?

Kyle-Sidell: To be honest, I’ve run into a great deal of resistance within my institution, which is not to say that anyone is trying to stymie the progress at all. These are the protocols that are in every major (and minor) hospital.

Whyte: You talked about in your videos.

Kyle-Sidell: Yeah.

Whyte: Against a long-standing dogma. So what’s been the response from your clinical colleagues as well as hospital administrators?

Kyle-Sidell: I started to try to not my own protocols, but to treat patients as I would have treated my family, with different goals—which is to say, ventilation. However, these didn’t fit the protocol, and the protocol is what the hospital runs on with the respiratory therapist, with the nurses; everyone is part of the team. We ran into an impasse where I could not morally, in a patient-doctor relationship, continue the current protocols which, again, are the protocols of the top hospitals in the country. I could not continue those. You can’t have one doctor just doing their own protocol. So I had to step down from my position in the ICU, and now I’m back in the ER where we are setting up slightly different ventilation strategies. Fortunately, we’ve been boosted by recent work by Gattinoni, which was formally published today and which does outline the best evidence, based on at least expert recommendations, for changes in our overall protocols. [Editor’s note: Dr Kyle-Sidell is referring to an unedited proof, soon to be published formally in Intensive Care Medicine.]

Whyte: Can you tell us what some of those changes are that you’re going to make?

Kyle-Sidell: First, I’ll describe what Gattinoni was saying, which is that really what we’re seeing in ARDS are two different phenotypes: one in which the lungs display what you call high compliance, low elastance; and one in which they have low compliance and high elastance. To say it simply for people who are not pulmonologists, if you think of the lungs as a balloon, typically when people have ARDS or pneumonia, the balloon gets thicker. So not only do you lack oxygen, but the pressure and the work to blow up the balloon becomes greater. So one’s respiratory muscles become tired as they struggle to breathe. And patients need pressure. What Gattinoni is saying is that there are essentially two different phenotypes, one in which the balloon is thicker, which is a low-compliance disease. But in the beginning they display high compliance. Imagine if the balloon is not actually thicker but thinner, so they’d suffer from a lack of oxygen. But it is not that they suffer from too much work to blow up the balloon. As far as how we’re going to switch, we’re going to take our approach differently from the traditional ARDSnet protocol in that we are going to do an oxygen-first strategy: We’re going to leave the oxygen levels as high as possible and we’re going to try to use the lowest pressures possible to try to keep the oxygen levels high. That’s the approach we’re going to do, so long as the patients continue to display the physiology of a low elastance, high-compliance disease.

Whyte: Do you feel that somewhere the world made a wrong turn in treating COVID-19?

Kyle-Sidell: I don’t know that they made a wrong turn. I mean, it came so fast. I think that one thing we benefit from is that the Chinese and the Italians were hit first and they were hit hard. New York is being hit so hard. It’s hard to switch tracks when the train is going a million miles an hour. In that sense, we’d benefit from their shared experience. And I think it’s important that we listen to that experience. But I do think that it starts out with knowing, or at least accepting the idea, that this may be an entirely new disease. Because once you do that, then you can accept the idea that perhaps all the studies on ARDS in the 2000s and 2010s, which were large, randomized, well-performed, well-funded studies, perhaps none of those patients in those studies had COVID-19 or something resembling it. It allows you to move away from a paradigm in which this disease may fit and, unfortunately, walk somewhat into the unknown.

Whyte: You’re advocating something a little different. What are the consequences of you being wrong, albeit well intentioned?

Kyle-Sidell: Right now we have some of the greatest experts in the world giving their opinions. By that, I mean the Italians and Dr Gattinoni. I certainly could be wrong. What I’m asking for is not even not an immediate change in the ventilation strategy, because I’m critical care trained, I’m not pulmonary trained and I’m not as experienced as many around the country and many in my own hospital. But what I would like to see is all of these great minds get together. If they can accept this notion that perhaps we need to switch paradigms, and they’re able to better create a path forward that fits the disease. I would gladly follow them. Really, what I’m asking and what I’m requesting is that all of the experts in the field get together and perhaps come up with some fresh recommendations.

Whyte: You’ve been active on social media, as I mentioned. Are you a whistleblower?

Kyle-Sidell: This is sort of my first foray into social media. I don’t know that I’m a whistleblower. I don’t know that anyone was trying to purposely do any harm. I think that, all of the physicians involved and all of the nurses and everyone writing protocols—everyone is working as fast and as hard as they can with good faith and pure intention. For me, I saw something clinically that didn’t make sense. And seeing that New York is about 10 days ahead of the rest of country, I just felt compelled to get that information out.

Whyte: Has speaking up impacted your professional career?

Kyle-Sidell: I don’t know yet. In one sense, I have not felt qualms about it. For whatever reason, I trained in critical care and I was an ER doctor, and I think part of that allowed me to see it a little bit better. Because if you just received these patients in the ICU on breathing tubes, it’s very hard to see this physiology. I was running around the hospital from the ER to the floors to the ICU, and I saw them in all stages of this disease. When you see them in all those different stages, you’re able to see that something physiologically doesn’t make sense. So, in a way, I do feel that somehow my training and my position, being in New York City, allowed me to see this. I have not felt any conflict about coming forward, per se. And I don’t know what it will do for my career, but I hope that people know that I’m not doing this with any kind of— I’m not trying to stymie anything. It’s really that I’m doing what I think is right.

Whyte: What are the two things that we need to be doing right now to really address the mortality?

Kyle-Sidell: That goes back to your question of “if I am wrong.” We are desperate now in the sense that everything we are doing does not seem to be working. So we’ve reached a point that most other diseases have not reached, where many physicians are willing to try anything that may help because so little seems to be helping. One of the reasons I speak up, and I hope people at the bedside speak up, is that I think there may be a disconnect between those who are seeing these patients directly, who are sensing that something is not quite right, and those brilliant people and researchers and administrators who are writing the protocols and working on finding answers. The first thing to do is see if we can admit that this is something new. I think it all starts from there. I think we have the kind of scientific technology and the human capital in this country to solve this or at least have a very good shot at it. I think the second thing is that whatever collaboration we can do with those who came before us—and by that, I mean the Chinese and the Italians and the Egyptians and whoever else has experienced this—if there’s anything we can learn from them, I think we need to open up and be ready to receive their help.

Whyte: Dr Kyle-Sidell, I want to thank you for speaking up and sharing your story with us.

Kyle-Sidell: Thank you very much. I appreciate you allowing me to speak.

Whyte: I want to thank you for watching “Coronavirus in Context.” I’m Dr John Whyte.

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British bank HSBC has told customers in the UK that it will stop processing standing order payments to the Palestinian aid charity Interpal from next month.

The bank sent out letters earlier this month to account holders who make regular donations in support of the London-based charity, informing them any payments would stop on 17 May. It gave no reason for taking the action.

The move from HSBC will come as a particularly heavy and bitter blow to Interpal because it has been announced during Ramadan, when traditionally Muslims give far more than at any other period of the year.

Muslims donated more than £100m during Ramadan of 2016 alone, according to the UK Charity Commission.

Ibrahim Hewitt, chairman of the board of trustees of Interpal, told Middle East Eye:

“It is disappointing that a major bank would do this during Ramadan, which is so important for donors and our beneficiaries. But also during the coronavirus pandemic. No reason has been given, neither to the donors nor the charity. That is quite astonishing.”

Founded 25 years ago, Interpal is described on the Charity Commission’s website as “one of the leading British charities focusing on providing relief and development aid to Palestinians” in the West Bank, Gaza, and in refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan.

Many of the vulnerable people who have benefited from Interpal’s work over the last quarter century seem certain to suffer if donations cannot reach the charity.

Hewitt told MEE:

“The people we help are ordinary people struggling under siege to find the basic necessities for ordinary life.”

He said that Interpal tried to bring “a semblance of normality to an abnormal situation”.

Bank accounts shut down

HSBC, which is one of the world’s largest banks, has a record of closing down accounts, including those of prominent Muslim customers, without explanation, withdrawing banking facilities from a number of organisations and community leaders in 2014 and 2015.

Those affected included the Finsbury Park Mosque in London and Anas Altikriti, founder and CEO of the Cordoba Foundation, a think tank which says that it devotes itself to building bridges between Islam and the west.

At the time, HSBC said that the account closures had taken place in the context of a global review of its businesses conducted after it agreed to pay a $1.9bn fine to US authorities for allowing Latin American drugs cartels to use its banks to launder hundreds of millions of dollars.

It denied that the closures were based on race or religion.

Last night the bank confirmed to MEE that it will be stopping any standing order payments to Interpal.

An HSBC UK spokesperson said: “As part of a global bank, sometimes we may decide to prevent certain transactions, even if they are allowed under local laws. We recognise that some people may be disappointed with this decision, and we’re sorry for any inconvenience it may cause.”

MEE asked HSBC what reasons it had for taking this action and whether Interpal had made any specific action that brought on this decision.

MEE also asked why this decision was being announced around the time of Ramadan.

These questions were met with no response.

Interpal targeted by pro-Israel lobbyists

This is the first time that HSBC is thought to have taken action against Interpal.

However, as MEE reported last year, the charity has had other banking or donation processing facilities withdrawn.

At that time, UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI), a pro-Israel lobbying group, claimed a role in the withdrawal of Interpal’s BT MyDonate and JustGiving services, and the withdrawal of credit card services.

UKLFI’s actions against Interpal were based on the US Treasury designation of Interpal as a terrorist organisation in 2003.

This followed charges that the group supported Hamas, the Palestinian resistance movement designated by the EU and US as a terrorist group.

While Canada and Australia follow the US terrorist designation of Interpal, many other countries and international organisations – including Britain and the United Nations – do not.

Interpal helps fund the UN Relief and Works Agency, which offers support to Palestinian refugees throughout the Middle East.

Investigations and libel cases

The UK Charity Commission investigated Interpal in the wake of the US designation and on two other occasions. Each time, it cleared the group of all allegations of illegal activity.

The third investigation insisted Interpal review their due diligence and monitoring processes as well as break off all ties with a group which the Charity Commission was concerned had links to Hamas.

The Charity Commission later confirmed that Interpal had complied.

Interpal has also won a series of libel cases. The first came against the Board of Deputies of British Jews in 2005 after it denounced Interpal as a terrorist organisation on its website.

The Jerusalem Post apologised to Interpal in 2006, while the Express newspaper paid damages to the charity in 2010 after claiming it was linked to Hamas.

Last year, the Daily Mail paid damages of £120,000 to Interpal and issued an apology which stated: “The Trustees assure us, and we accept, that neither Interpal, nor its Trustees, have ever been involved in or provided support for terrorist activity of any kind. We apologise to the Trustees for any distress caused.”

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The Use and Abuse of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT)

April 28th, 2020 by Prof Michael Hudson

Summary

After being attacked by monetarists and others for many decades, MMT and the idea that running government budget deficit is stabilizing instead of destabilizing are suddenly gaining applause from the parts of the political spectrum that long opposed MMT: the banking and financial sector, especially the Republicans. But what is applauded is in many ways something quite different than the leading MMT advocates have long supported.

Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) was developed to explain the logic of running government budget deficits to increase demand in the economy’s consumption and capital investment sectors so as to maintain full employment. But the enormous U.S. federal budget deficits from the Obama bank bailout after the 2008 crash through the Trump tax cuts and Coronavirus financial bailout have not pumped money into the economy to finance new direct investment, employment, rising wages and living standards. Instead, government money creation and Quantitative Easing have been directed to the finance, insurance and real estate (FIRE) sectors. The result is a travesty of MMT, not its original aim.

By subsidizing the financial sector and its debt overhead, this policy is deflationary instead of supporting the “real” economy. The effect has been to empower the banking sector, whose product is credit and debt creation that has taken an unproductive and indeed extractive form.

This can clearly be seen by dividing the private sector into two parts: The “real” economy of production and consumption is wrapped in a financial web of debt and rent extraction – real estate rent, monopoly rent and financial debt creation. Recognizing this breakdown is essential to distinguish between positive government deficit spending that helps maintain employment and rising living standards, as compared to “captured” government spending to subsidize the FIRE sector’s extraction and debt deflation leading to chronic austerity.

Origins and Policy Aims of MMT

MMT was developed to explain the monetary logic in running budget deficits to support aggregate demand. This logic was popularized in the 1930s by Keynes, based on his idea of a circular flow between employers and wage-earners. Deficit spending was seen as providing public employment and hence consumer spending to absorb enough production to enable the economy to keep producing at a profit. The policy goal was to maintain (or recover) reasonably full employment.

But production and consumption are not the entire economy. Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) was formally developed in the 1990s, with roots that can be traced by Abba Lerner’s theory of functional finance, and by Hyman Minsky and others seeking to integrate the financial sector into the overall economic system in a more realistic and functional way than the Chicago School’s monetarist approach on the right wing of the political spectrum. A key point in its revival was Warren Mosler’s insight that a currency-issuing country does not “tax to spend”, but instead must spend before its citizens can pay tax in that currency.

MMT was also Post-Keynesian in the sense of advocating government budget deficits as a means of pumping purchasing power into the economy to achieve full-employment. Elaboration of this approach showed how such deficits created stability instead of the instability that results from private-sector debt dynamics. At an extreme, this approach held that recessions could be cured simply by deficit spending. Yet despite the enormous deficit spending by the U.S. and Eurozone in the wake of the 2008 crash, the overall economy continued to stagnate; only the financial and real estate markets boomed.

At issue was the role of government in the economy. The major opponents of public enterprise and infrastructure, of budget deficits and market regulation, was the financial sector. “Austrian” and Chicago-style monetary theorists strongly opposed MMT, asserting that government budget deficits would be inflationary, citing Germany’s Weimar inflation of the 1920s, and Zimbabwe, and portraying government deficits (and indeed, active government programs and regulation) as “interference” with “free markets.”

MMTers pointed out that running a budget surplus, or even a balanced budget, absorbed income from the economy, thereby shrinking demand for goods and services and leading to unemployment. Without government deficits, the economy would be obliged to rely on private-sector banks for the credit needed to grow.

That occurred in the United States in the final years of the Clinton administration when it actually ran a budget surplus. But with a public sector surplus, there had to be a corresponding and indeed identical private sector deficit. So the effect of that policy was to leave either private debt financing or a trade surplus as the only ways in which economic growth could obtain the monetary support that was needed. This built in structural claims for interest and amortization that were deflationary, ultimately leading to the political imposition of debt deflation and economic austerity after the 2008 debt crisis.

Republican and Financial Sector Opposition to Budget Deficits and MMT

If governments do not provide enough purchasing power by running budget deficits to enable the economy to grow, the role of providing money and credit will have to be relinquished to banks – at interest, and for purposes that the banks decide on (mainly, loans to buy real estate, stocks and bonds). In this respect banks are competitors with government over who will provide the economy’s money and credit – and for what purposes.

Banks want the government out of the way – not only regarding money creation, but also for financial and price policies, tax policy and laws governing corporate behavior. Finance wants to appropriate public monopolies, by taking payment in natural resources or basic public infrastructure when governments are, by policy rather than necessity, short of their own money, or of foreign exchange. (In times past, this required warfare; today foreign debt is the main lever.)

To get into this position, banks need to block governments from creating their own money. The result is a conflict between private bank credit and public money creation. Public money is created for social purposes, primarily to maintain production and consumption growth. But bank credit nowadays is created largely to finance the transfer of property and financial assets – real estate, stocks and bonds.

Opposing the Logic for running Budget Deficits

The Reagan-Bush administration (1981-82) ran budget deficits not to pay for social spending, but as a result of tax cuts, above all for real estate.[1]  The resulting budget deficit led to proposed “cures” in the form of fiscal cutbacks in social spending, starting with Social Security, Medicare and education. This aim became explicit by the Clinton Administration (1993-2000), and President Obama convened the Simpson-Bowles “National Commission on Budget Responsibility and Reform” in 2010. Its name reflects its recommendation that “responsibility” meant a balanced budget, which in turn required that social spending programs be rolled back.

Opponents of public spending programs saw the rise in government debt resulting from budget deficits as providing a political leverage to enact fiscal cutbacks in spending. Many Republicans and “centrist” Democrats had long sought a reason to scale back Social Security. Austrian and Chicago-School monetarists urged that government shrink its activity, privatizing as many of its functions as possible to let “the market” allocate resources – a largely debt-financed market whose resource and monetary allocation would shift away from governments to financial centers – from Washington to Wall Street, and in other countries to the City of London, the Paris Bourse and Frankfurt. However, no such critique was levied against military spending, and the government responded to the 2000 dot.com and 2008 junk-mortgage financial crises by enormous monetary subsidy and bailouts of the economy’s credit and asset sector.

The Obama and Trump Financial Bailouts as a Travesty of MMT

To advocates of MMT, and indeed to most post-Keynesian economists, the positive function of budget deficits is to spend money and therefore income into the economy. And by “the economy” is meant the production-and-consumption sector, not the financial and property markets. That “real” economy could have been saved in a number of ways. One way would have been to scale back mortgage debts (and debt service) to realistic market prices and rent rates. Another would have been simply to create monetary grants and subsidies to enable debtors to remain in their homes. That would have kept the financial system solvent as well as employment and existing home ownership rates.

But Obama double-crossed his voters by not rolling out bad mortgage debts and other obligations to realistic market prices, and instead bailing out the banks for credit creation in the form of bad loans (“liars’ loans” to NINJA borrowers, and bad financial bets on derivatives by brokerage firms that were designated as “banks” in order to receive Federal Reserve credit and bailouts. With bank balance sheets impairing their ability to create new credit, the government stepped in by creating its own credit. This gave the banks, shadow banks and other non-bank financial institutions a bonanza of credit – replete with the opportunity to buy up foreclosed homes and create rental properties This policy was organized by Blackstone, and turned the crisis into an opportunity to make enormous rates of return for its participants. The effect was to intensify the economy’s polarization, as investors typically needed a minimum $5 million tranche to join.

The Federal Reserve’s $4.6 trillion in Quantitative Easing did not show up as money creation, because it was technically a swap of assets – like Aladdin’s “new lamps for old, in this case “good credit for junk.” The effect of this swap was much like a deposit inflow. It enabled banks to ride out the downturn while making a killing in the stock and bond markets, and to lend for takeover loans and related financial speculation.

Wall Street’s Financial Capture of MMT To Inflate Asset Prices, Not Revive the Economy

At issue is how to measure “the economy.” For the wealthy One Percent, and even the Ten Percent, “the economy” is “the market,” specifically the market value of the assets that they own: their real estate, stocks and bonds. This property and financial wrapping for the “real” production-and-consumption economy has steadily risen in proportion to wages and industrial profits. It has risen largely by government money and credit creation (and tax breaks for property and finance), along with its economic rent, interest and financial charges and service fees, which are counted as part of Gross Domestic Product [GDP], as if they were actual contributions to the “real” economy.

So we are dealing with two economic spheres: the means of production, tangible capital and labor on the one hand (what is supposed to be measured by GDP), and the market for financial and property assets, along with their rentier charges that are taken from the income earned by this labor and real capital.

Financial engineering replaces industrial engineering – along with political engineering by lobbyists seeking tax breaks, rent-extraction privileges, and government subsidy. To increase property and financial asset prices and corporate behavior, companies are drawing on credit and government subsidy not to increase their production and employment, but to bid up their stock prices by share buyback programs and high dividend payouts. Buybacks are called “repaying capital,” so literally this policy is one of disinvestment, not investment. It is favored by tax laws (taxing “capital” gains at a lower rate or not at all, as compared to taxes on dividends).

The Blind Spot of Vulgarized MMT: The FIRE Sector vs. the “Real” Economy

Much superficial confusion between the FIRE sector and the production-and-consumption economy comes from repeating the over-simplification of classical monetary formula MV=PT, namely, dividing the economy into private and government sectors. Setting aside the balance of payments (the international sector), it follows that government spending will pump money into the domestic economy, and that conversely, budget surpluses will suck money out.

The problem is that this analysis, used by many MMTers, for instance, the Levy Institute’s typical chart, does not distinguish between government spending into the FIRE sector and asset markets as compared to spending into the “real” economy on employment and production (including the building of public infrastructure, for instance). Without this distinction it is not possible to see whether deficit spending is productive by aiming at supporting employment and output, or merely aims at supporting asset prices and making sure that creditors do not lose the value of their financial claims on debtors – claims that have become unpayable and thus are a bottomless pit of government deficit spending in the end.

Trying to keep the financial sector and its debt overhead afloat implies imposing austerity on the rest of the economy, IMF-style. So “MMT for Wall Street” is an oxymoron, and is the opposite of MMT for a full employment economy.

MMT, Public and Private Debt

Money is debt. Government money creation for public purposes – to pay for employment and output – spurs prosperity. But in its present form, private-sector debt creation has become largely extractive, and thus leads to the opposite effect: debt deflation.

Governments can pay public debt without defaulting, as long as this debt is denominated in their own domestic currency, because the governments can always print the money to pay. To the extent that public debt results from spending that supports output, employment and growth, this process is not inflationary. The government gives value to money by accepting it in payment of taxes. So the monetary system is inherently bound up with fiscal policy. The classical premise of such policy has been to minimize the economy’s cost structure by taxing mainly unearned income (economic rents), not wages and profits in the production-and-consumption sector.

The problem nowadays is private debt. Most such debt is created by banks. This bank credit – debts owed by bank customers – tends to increase faster than the ability of debtors to earn enough income to pay it. The reason is that most of private debt is not used for productive, income-generating purposes, but to finance the transfer property ownership (affecting asset prices in proportion to the rate of credit growth for such purposes). That use of credit – not associated with the production-and-consumption economy – leads to debt deflation. Instead of providing the economy with purchasing power (as in running government budget deficits), private debt works over time to extract interest and amortization from the economy, along with servicing fees.

The typical mortgage, including its interest charges ends up exceeding the value that the property seller received. As a result of compound interest, the mortgage debt is repaid several times to the bank. The effect is to make banks the main recipient of rental income (as mortgage debt service) and ultimately the main beneficiaries of “capital” gains (that is, asset-price gains).

What gives bank credit its monetary characteristics – and enables debt to be monetized as a means of payment – is the government’s willingness to treat banks as a public utility and guarantee bank deposits (up to a specified limit) and ultimately to guarantee bank solvency.

A budget deficit resulting from a financial bailout reflects the inability of the economy to carry its exponentially growing debt overhead. Because this overhead increases as a result of the mathematics of compound interest, the size of bailouts must increase – and with it, the budget deficit (plus swap agreements) to subsidize this debt overgrowth as an alternative to imposing losses by banks and financial investors.

That is what we have seen since the financial crisis of 2008, both in Europe and the United States. Led by the financial sector, much of the economic mainstream finally has come to embrace the idea of budget deficits – now that these deficits are benefiting primarily the financial and other parts of the FIRE sector, not the population at large, that is, not the “real” economy that was the focus of Keynesian economics and MMT.

This kind of endorsement for government money creation thus should not be considered an application of MMT, because its policy goal is almost diametrically opposite. Much as the Reagan-era budget deficits were used as the first part of a one-two punch to roll back social spending (Social Security, Medicare, education, etc.), so today’s Obama-Trump deficits are being used to warn that the economy must preserve fiscal “stability” by rolling back social programs in order to bail out the financial economy. Wall Street magically has become transmogrified into “the economy.” Labor and industry are viewed simply as deadweight expenditures on the financial sector and its attempted symbiosis with the central bank and Treasury.

The Financial Sector, Private Capital and Austerity and Central Planning

If Wall Street is bailed out once again at the expense of the “real” economy of production and consumption, America will have turned decisively away from democracy into a financial oligarchy. Ironically, the initial logic is the claim that an active state is inherently less efficient than the private sector, and thus should be shrunk (in the words of lobbyist Grover Norquist, “to a size so small that it can be drowned in a bathtub”). But relinquishing resource allocation to the financial sector leads to its product – that is, debt – creating a crisis that requires unprecedented government intervention to “restore order,” defined as saving banks and financial investors from loss. This can only be achieved by shifting the loss onto the economy at large.

Today, the financial sector – banks and financial investors – play the role that the landlord did in the 19thcentury. Its land rents made Britain and continental Europe high-cost economies, as prices exceeded cost-value. That is what classical economics was all about – to bring market prices in lines with actual, socially and economically necessary costs of production. Economic rent was defined as unnecessary costs, which were merely payments for privilege: hereditary landownership, and monopolies that creditors had carved out of the public domain or won as legal compensation for financing public war debts.

The rentierclass not only was the major income recipient of the economic surplus, it controlled government, via the upper house – the House of Lords in Britain, and similar houses across continental Europe. Today, the Donor Class controls electoral politics in the United States, via the Citizens United ruling. Political office has become privatized, and sold to the highest bidders. And these are from the financial sector – from Wall Street and financialized corporations.

The post-2008 stock market and bond-market boom raised the DJIA from 8500 to 30,000. This gain was engineered by central bank support far in excess of what a “free market” would have priced stock at. Before QE, U.S. shares had fallen only slightly below the market average for the previous century. QE drove it to its highest level outside the 1929 and 2000 bubbles. Even after the Coronacrash, shares are still overpriced compared to pre-“Greenspan Put” prices.

The result is best thought of as a blister, not a bubble. Its only hope of surviving without bursting is for the government to continue to support it in the face of a drastically shrinking post-coronavirus economy.

So the question is what will be saved: The economy’s means of livelihood, or an oligarchy of predators living in luxury off this shrinking livelihood?

All this was explained by classical economists in their labor theory of value, which was designed to isolate economic rent and other non-production overhead charges (perceived to be mainly services in the 18th and 19th century, especially by the wealthy classes).

The Hudson Paradox: Money, Prices and the Rentier Economy

Without distinguishing between the FIRE sector and the “real” economy there is no way to explain the effects of government budget deficits on asset-price inflation and commodity-price inflation

Here is a seeming paradox. Bank credit is created mainly against collateral being bought on credit – primarily real estate, stocks and bonds. The effect of increasing loans against these assets is to raise their prices – mainly for housing, and secondarily for financial securities. Higher housing costs require new home buyers to take on more and more debt in order to buy a home. Their higher debt service leaves less disposable income to spend on goods and services.[2]

The asset-price inflation effect of money creation by banks is thus to exert a downward impact on commodity prices, to the extent that the carrying cost on bank credit reduces the net purchasing power of debtors to buy goods and services. This deflationary effect of bank money ends in a bad-debt crash, to which the government responds by bailing out the financial sector with a combination of money creation and central bank swaps (which do not appear as money creation). This is just the reverse of the MV = PT tautology, which only measures the volume of new money (M) without considering its use– what it is spent on. By failing to distinguish the use of bank credit to buy assets (hence, adding to asset-price inflation) as compared to government deficit spending, both the old monetary formulae and the frequent MMT contrast between public and private sectors neglect the need to distinguish the FIRE sector’s “wealth and debt” transactions from how wages and profits are spent in the production-and-consumption economy.

The commercial banking system’s “endogenous” money creation takes the form of credit at interest. The volume of this interest-bearing debt grows exponentially, absorbing and extracting more and more income from industry and labor. The effect on the overall economy is debt deflation.

It may be epitomized as

Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day;

Teach him how to fish, and you lose a customer.

But give him a loan to buy a boat and net to fish, and he will end up paying you all the fishes he catches. You have a debt servant.

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Michael Hudson is a research professor of Economics at University of Missouri, Kansas City, and a research associate at the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College. His latest book is “and forgive them their debts”: Lending, Foreclosure and Redemption from Bronze Age Finance to the Jubilee Year

Dirk Bezemer is a Professor of Economics at the University of Groningen in The Netherlands..

Steve Keen is a Professor and  Distinguished Research Fellow at the Institute for Strategy, Resilience and Security of University College London (www.isrs.org.uk). He blogs at www.patreon.com/profstevekeen

Sabri Öncü ([email protected]) is an economist based in İstanbul, Turkey

Notes

[1] Real estate was given a fictitiously short accelerated depreciation allowance – as if a building lost its entire value in just 7½ years, providing all rental income to be charged as an expense and even to generate a fictitious tax-accounting tax loss. This catalyzed the great conversion of rental properties to co-ops. Landlords (called “developers”) took out a mortgage equal to the entire market price of the building, and then sold apartments at a price not only greater than zero, but typically equal to the entire mortgage. It was one of the great “wealth creation” ploys in modern history. And it was left out of the National Income and Product Accounts (NIPA), which used “realistic” depreciation – which still pretended that buildings were losing value, despite the maintenance and repair expenditures to prevent such loss.

[2] Higher stock and bond prices lower the yield of dividend income. (Most such income is spent on new financial assets, not goods and services, so the effect of lower yields probably is minimal, and may be offset by a “wealth effect” of higher asset prices and net worth.)

Last month Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey called for the bold and urgent launch of what he called “a Manhattan Project-type approach” to fight the coronavirus pandemic given the enormity of the health and economic impact, increasingly even harming US defense readiness.

Apparently there has been such a group operating behind the scenes, but very unlike the original Manhattan Project it’s a private sector initiative, funded by a tiny network of ultra-rich industry titans working closely with government contacts. Meet “the secret group of scientists and billionaires pushing Trump on a Covid-19 plan” profiled in a lengthy Wall Street Journal investigation Monday:

These scientists and their backers describe their work as a lockdown-era Manhattan Project, a nod to the World War II group of scientists who helped develop the atomic bomb. This time around, the scientists are marshaling brains and money to distill unorthodox ideas gleaned from around the globe.

They call themselves Scientists to Stop Covid-19, and they include chemical biologists, an immunobiologist, a neurobiologist, a chronobiologist, an oncologist, a gastroenterologist, an epidemiologist and a nuclear scientist. Of the scientists at the center of the project, biologist Michael Rosbash, a 2017 Nobel Prize winner, said, “There’s no question that I’m the least qualified.”

The until now secretive group is led by a 33-year-old physician-turned-venture capitalist, Tom Cahill, and is described as an elite go-between the pharmaceutical industry and Trump administration decision-makers, or an “ad hoc review board” of sorts pursuing cutting edge outside the box ideas.

The scientists include a dozen world renowned researchers, pathology experts and inventors closely networked at institutions ranging from The Scripps Research Lab in La Jolla, California, to Yale University School of Medicine to Harvard to MIT’s Laboratory for Nuclear Security and Policy to private companies and labs like Merck and others.

Recommendations and ideas floated by Scientists to Stop Covid-19 have already reportedly had far-reaching influence, including affecting policy inside FDA and the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the group is reportedly advising close Pence aide Nick Ayers.

Among other billionaire influencers and backers to the private initiative include Peter Thiel, Jim Palotta, Michael Milken, Brian Sheth, and Steve Pagliuca, among others.

The until now secretive group is led by a 33-year-old physician-turned-venture capitalist, Tom Cahill, and is described as an elite go-between the pharmaceutical industry and Trump administration decision-makers, or an “ad hoc review board” of sorts pursuing cutting edge outside the box ideas.

The scientists include a dozen world renowned researchers, pathology experts and inventors closely networked at institutions ranging from The Scripps Research Lab in La Jolla, California, to Yale University School of Medicine to Harvard to MIT’s Laboratory for Nuclear Security and Policy to private companies and labs like Merck and others.

Recommendations and ideas floated by Scientists to Stop Covid-19 have already reportedly had far-reaching influence, including affecting policy inside FDA and the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the group is reportedly advising close Pence aide Nick Ayers.

Among other billionaire influencers and backers to the private initiative include Peter Thiel, Jim Palotta, Michael Milken, Brian Sheth, and Steve Pagliuca, among others.

As an example of how the group was previously able to get a confidential 17-page report (since published by the WSJ) recommending various introductory unorthodox approaches to fighting and treating the pandemic, the WSJ details :

“Steve Pagliuca, co-owner of the Boston Celtics and the co-chairman of Bain Capital — as well as one of Dr. Cahill’s investors — helped copy edit drafts of their report, and he passed a version to Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Chief Executive David Solomon. Mr. Solomon got it to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.”

“Much of the early work involved divvying up hundreds of scientific papers on the crisis from around the world,” the report describes of the team’s daily communications.

“They separated promising ideas from dubious ones. Each member blazed through as many as 20 papers a day, around 10 times the pace they would in their day jobs. They gathered to debate via videoconference, text messages — ‘like a bunch of teenagers,’ Mr. Rosbash said — and phone calls.”

Among the ‘big ideas’ described by the network of researchers led by scientist-investor Dr. Cahill, who first gained the attention of aides within the Trump administration when they listened on an early March conference call tailored toward answering investors’ questions, include the following:

  • Experimenting with treatments utilizing powerful anti-Ebola drugs in heavier dosages.
  • The possibility of renaming the virus “SARS-2,” after the 2003 China animal virus, so that the connection is better made in the public mind with a deadly disease: “the name sounded scarier and might get more people to wear face masks. They dropped it.”
  • The group considers Hydroxychloroquine, long a focus of interest and debate in Trump administration circles, to be “a long shot at best”.
  • The team has looked negatively on recent efforts to push antibody testing and ‘immunity passports’ that show recovery from the virus.
  • They’ve sought to reduce FDA hurdles and red tape in order to get potential successful drugs out faster, especially to streamline hoped-for ‘miracle’ cures.
  • The WSJ emphasizes further: “The scientists had in their research identified monoclonal antibody drugs that latch onto virus cells as the most promising treatment.”
  • A saliva test which is easy to administer with ultra-fast results is being pursued, one that offices and companies could utilize to make sure employees come into work virus-free each day.
  • Tech like smartphone apps to help track and gauge symptoms is a major focus.
  • The scientists are also helping to craft state and national reopening strategies for the near and long-term.

Read a copy of the 17-page report drafted by the Scientists to Stop COVID-19 here.

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Featured image: Brian Sheth, co-founder of Vista Equity Partners (Photo via Bloomberg/WSJ)

For all the uncertainties the COVID-19 pandemic poses to the world, especially in the US, one thing seems evident.  Our neoliberal capitalist civilization has proven itself to be unprepared for unexpected crises and catastrophes. For decades, the US has been falling behind other developed nations to infuse economic resiliency in society. Not only has the American medical system and federal health agencies been shown to be naked, we are also discovering we cannot rely on epistemological statistics and computer modeling alone to account for our flawed health policies.

Aside from the pandemic’s toll on people’s lives, there is also its impact upon the national economies and the global economy at large that is barely being discussed in any depth. Rather, hopes and wishes are being directed towards life returning to normal. We are expected to believe that our addiction to unconscionable consumerism will return, employment will rise and the American dream can again be mentally photo-shopped on the horizon. In short, we are persuaded that the comfort of our illusions and denial of harsh realities will return.  However, if a past Nobel laureate of economics, Joseph Stiglitz, is correct, then “if you leave it to Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell we will have a Great Depression.” Likewise, former Federal Reserve chair Jenet Yellen has also warned that the 30% GDP decline is leading us towards Depression. In fact, we may already be there.

As of today, the federal government has guaranteed $5.2 trillion dollars to keep the economy afloat as a depression worse than 1932 looms overhead. Some economists believe that this massive bailout is insufficient and upwards to $10-15 trillion may be necessary.  In 2008, with one broad stroke the Obama administration rescued Wall Street.  What was believed to be just the TARP bailout of $700 billion was in fact over $4 trillion worth of outlays, including TARP and other FED and Treasury expenditures.  The Levy Institute at Bard College calculated the outlays may have been as high as $29 trillion, a number the Sanders’ campaign had quoted.

Obama’s bailout was to assist the incompetency and corruption of Wall Street and the financial industry. Today it is a submicroscopic organism, approximately 120 nanometers (one nanometer is one billionth of a meter or about 20 oxygen atoms lined up), that threatens the financial well being of most Americans.

However before the COVID-19 reached our shores, the US was already in a horrible debt crisis.

Fiscal conservatives are angered that the US National Debt has reached $24.5 trillion while at the same time adamantly ignoring that the US Total Debt now hovers above $77 trillion. Neither party shows concern about Americans’ increasing personal debt (mortgage, credit card, auto, student loans, etc), nor the rise in corporate, state and city debts.

When we take into consideration $144.6 trillion in US Unfunded Liabilities, $20.4 trillion in Social Security Liability, and $31.6 trillion in Medicare liability, the nation lingers on the precipice a total collapse.

Before the pandemic, Trump boasted an unemployment level as low as 3.6 percent. But in the US, there are different ways to calculate unemployment figures. There is the official figure (U-3) that Wall Street and presidential administrations rely upon and then a more realistic statistic or U-6 that includes those underemployed and those only marginally attached to the work force.

Before the pandemic the “real” or U-6 employment was 6.9 percent.  Finally there is the shadow statistic, which adds the millions of Americans who have dropped out of the work force because their benefits ceased or because they are homeless or unaccounted for by the Labor Bureau.  When those adjustments are made, the shadow unemployment is likely around 23 percent.

Now, unemployment is skyrocketing.  The most recent estimate is that over 26 million people lost work during the past month and, according to Fortune magazine, the official unemployment rate may be as high 18 percent. 

Consequently a more accurate unemployment figure would be approximately 32 percent or almost a third of population. This is far worse than at the height of the Great Depression when unemployment stood at 25 percent.

The dark side of American jobs has been decades of large layoffs, workers being replaced by automation, downsizing, corporate consolidation due to equity partnerships, mergers and off shoring of manufacturing. In addition, tens of thousands of foreign professionals have received work visas and are eager to take the place of middle seniority positions in firms for lower salaries and without full benefits.  The system is so corrupt that the millions of people who work full time for less than a living wage are completely ignored. Hence most Americans are deep in debt and frequently live paycheck to paycheck. The fact of the matter is that there is no security whatsoever for millions of people who may not find work for a very long time.

Even if the lockdown were to end tomorrow, the lights would not immediately switch back on.

Throughout the financial news, we are reading headlines of companies eyeing bankruptcy as credit ratings are being rapidly downgraded.  Retail stores are being especially hit badly. According to Global Data Retail, over 190,000 retail stores have closed, accounting for nearly 50 percent of the nation’s retail square footage. Forbes has listed Dillards, JC Penny, Kohl’s, Levi Strauss, Macy’s, Nordstrom, and Signet to likely go under.  Others include Pier 1 Imports, Rite Aid, J Crew that is loaded up with private equity debt, Fairway supermarkets, and niche organic grocer Lucky’s. Macy’s capital alone dropped from $6 billion to $1.5 billion since February. This trend had already been rising since Trump came to office with large chain companies increasingly closing outlets including Walgreens, Gap, GNC, H&M and Victoria’s Secret. For sure, when and if the pandemic ends, there will be far less retail stores. The New York Times predicts very few are likely to survive. And we are not even looking at the hundreds of their vendors that are also being affected.

With 60 percent of Americans eating regularly outside the home, the restaurant industry is also being hit fiercely. Restaurants employ more minority managers than any other industry — approximately 60% — and employs almost 16 million people. Between 2010 and 2018, it represented the largest number of low middle class jobs ($45,000 to $75,000), 300 percent more than the overall economy. Now a restaurant apocalypse is underway, with an estimated 20 percent of restaurant operations going under. Larger chains are far better equipped. They are simply closing down dining room facilities and only offering carryout, pickup, delivery or drive-thru. Smaller independent restaurants are at the greatest risk.

Then there are the farms, the concentrated agriculture feeding organizations (CAFOs) and food chain suppliers. In the past it was very rare to enter a large grocery store and find empty shelves. Now it is a common sight because the food supply chain has been upended.

Pork and other meat suppliers such as Smithfield Foods, Tyson and Cargill are forced to close plants. Due to Trump’s draconian position on immigration of foreign workers, farm produce will not be harvested.

Niv Ellis at The Hill reports that “some $5 billion of fresh fruit and vegetables have already gone to waste.”  The pandemic, therefore, is contributing to rising food insecurity throughout the nation. Before the pandemic, Ellis notes, 37 million Americans were already food insecure.  The additional 26 million unemployed will increase that number, and it is sure to continue to climb. Finally, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization expects that the frantic efforts underway by countries to import basic staple foods may launch global food inflation.

We are also facing “the quickest and deepest oil demand crash in history,” says Richard Heinberg from the Post Carbon Institute. Oil prices plunged to an inconceivable negative minus $37 a barrel last week as global fossil fuel demand dropped roughly 30 percent. “The entire petroleum industry,” writes Heinberg, “is teetering.”  Natural gas producers relying on hydrofracking shale, which had already been burdened with high debt from private equity, are scrambling for bankruptcy protection. According to Reuters, “numerous midstream companies [in the energy sector] backed by private equity are in danger of bankruptcy.” With the collapse of hydrofracking companies, the pipeline firms have also entered troubled waters. The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City predicts that 40 percent of energy producers may be insolvent “if oil prices remain around $30 a barrel” for the year. Then consider the larger picture of the impact this has on the 6.4 million people working in the energy sector.

Also we might consider the future of 15 million Americans who work in the tourism industry, including hotels, entertainment, parks, museums, etc. It is estimated that 96 percent of global tourism has vanished in the blink of an eye.

State and local city governments are also “staring at budget shortfalls that will substantially exceed what they faced during the great recession.” States are reporting significant gaps in their capacity to remain fiscally afloat. The Republican Senate led by Mitch McConnell seems determined to withhold $150 billion of emergency funds to the states in the CARES Act before Congress — less than half of the $300 billion to $1 trillion state legislators are demanding. Consequently, states are staring into a deep abyss.

Americans who will either return to a job or seek work when the pandemic slows will be further imprisoned by an economy buried in greater debt.

  • Downsizing will accelerate along with borrowed money to continue operations while the White House refuses to pass a rent holiday, forgive student loans and other debts, cease payday loans, reduce interest rates on credit nor provide free healthcare for those infected with COVID-19;
  • The average person without a steady paycheck is living off savings and credit cards. Therefore, when the economy reopens, large numbers of people will be unable to return to the marketplace to circulate dollars;
  • As corporate debt mounts, the most insidious truth are the vultures of capitalism who will profit. These are the great white sharks in the finance industry that smell blood. For the trillions of dollars Trump is dishing out to the 1 percent, these are the first to get the lion’s share of the quarry.

Nobody in the mainstream media has properly criticized the huge monetary allocations being made for the pandemic. The FED is buying corporate debt in order for companies to off load their mistakes and receive fresh, new money. But the average small business receives the left over pennies.  The virus is teaching us the harsh reality about Washington pervasive culture of corruption. On this account both parties have no empathic regard for average citizens and small business owners.  Even the money from Trump’s and Mnuchin’s stimulus package given to citizens can be confiscated by debt collectors.

Imagine if you are an average citizen, not an insider, at the conference table with executives from Facebook, Google, the major banks and mega-corporate industries. You have no income or savings and no health insurance. If you are hungry, where do you get money for food? Where do you get money if you are sick or gas for your car? The unintended consequences of Trump’s and the Congress’ irresponsible and inhumane policies are literally bankrupting the nation.

By extension the millennial and iGen generations are the victimized recipients of this debt bequeathed to them by older generations. They are further compromised with the inability to secure jobs equal to their educational level nor secure a satisfying living wage. They are burdened with high interest student loans. They also are far more aware of the impact climate change will have on their futurs. Therefore, millions of young adults are rapidly losing faith in America’s neoliberal capitalist system and our self-centered culture of predation.

Similar to waking up the day following September 11, 2001, we will be emerging into a new world after the COVID19 pandemic subsides. It is now being called the “shut-in economy.” The pandemic is not solely a health crisis; it is equally an existential crisis, an impasse in the global civilization that is forcing us to realize that our over dependence and perverse reliance upon natural resources, such as fuel, energy, food and corrupt banking and healthcare services, is fragile. We are learning that at every level there are numerous cracks in our structures of governance and our economic and social bases.  Yet the virus did not break the nation; it has been broken for a long time. Only now more people are waking up from their dream. Furthermore, few people, including the mainstream media, now believe there will ever be a return to the normalcy of life that ended after Wuhan had its first patient infected with the virus. It is time for every individual to reassess her or his priorities. A life full of well-being is more possible today if we realize the virus has also been our teacher. But it is living a life that is founded upon simplicity, insight and wisdom, and community rather than consumption and competitive power.

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Richard Gale and Dr. Gary Null co-direct Progressive Radio Network. They are frequent contributor to Global Research.

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The U.S. Wants to “Purchase” Greenland from Denmark

April 28th, 2020 by Andrew Korybko

The US’ plan to leverage economic aid to Greenland for strategic ends is exactly the same thing that it accuses China of doing in Africa, suggesting that its infowar against Beijing’s Belt & Road Initiative is driven more by jealousy than anything else since Washington is now emulating its rival’s strategically effective policy.

Grants For Greenland

Greenland returned to the news late last week after an American official disclosed that his country will grant the world’s largest island $12.1 million in economic aid following reports last summer that the US was interested in purchasing this strategically positioned and energy-rich territory from Denmark. The author wrote about that at the time in his piece about how “Greenland Is Trump’s For The Taking If He Really Wants It“, which explained how the US could simply seize it from Denmark without suffering any serious consequences apart the negative press coverage that it would inevitably provoke across the world. Instead of undertaking that dramatic course of action, however, Trump is almost somewhat uncharacteristically opting for a much more subtle approach aimed at gradually swaying the island’s inhabitants and their local authorities to his country’s side through what can best be described as “economic diplomacy”.

“Economic Diplomacy”

Just like China is accused of doing in Africa, so too does the US seemingly intend to leverage economic aid for strategic ends, which in this case relate to its military and resource (energy and mineral) interests in Greenland. There’s nothing wrong with that either, and it can actually be argued that economic competition between states is less destabilizing than its other forms. China has been wildly successful practicing “economic diplomacy” across the Global South through its Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) of New Silk Road connectivity which relies on a combination of grants and loans in order to construct large-scale infrastructure projects that deliver jobs and development to its partners. The US has long been jealous of China’s achievements because it was unable to compete with its rival in this respect, hence why it launched an ongoing infowar campaign against those practices in order to fearmonger about Beijing’s alleged long-term intentions.

Infowar Insight

Ironically, the US is now emulating its rival’s strategically effective policy, and in the territory of one of its NATO allies, no less, showing that it was never really all that sincere about the speculative risks of this approach whenever China practiced it since they were evidently just waiting for the right opportunity to do the exact same thing. This “politically inconvenient” observation therefore debunks the fearmongering narratives that have been propagated about China’s international development policies, and in fact can actually be interpreted as a tacit endorsement of them. Nevertheless, it’s not expected that the US’ infowar will abate anytime soon since its underlying narrative feeds off of speculation about China’s intentions, the same as can be said about the US’ own vis-a-vis Greenland and wherever else it eventually practices this policy. Just like one can speculate about the US’ motives, so too can they speculate about China’s, and vice-versa.

The New Norm

What’s for certain, though, is that “economic diplomacy” is fast becoming the norm for Great Powers in the New Cold War after the world’s two most powerful ones are now actively practicing it. Other players have been doing something similar for a while now too, such as Russia in the former Soviet space and the EU in the formerly communist countries of the continent for example, but it was the US-provoked infowar controversy over China’s comparatively grander and more visibly successful practice of this form of diplomacy that brought it into the global mainstream. This narrative is politically appealing because it’s rife with speculation, which can rarely be proven or debunked given the nature of strategic forecasting, thus making it easier for dramatic claims to propagate through the global information space such as those about China supposedly wanting to convert deep water commercial ports into naval bases sometime in the future.

Alt-Media = Mainstream Media

Once again, the same can also be said of the US’ own intentions, and the Alt-Media Community routinely performs the same speculative analyses about America as the Mainstream Media does about China. This isn’t to condemn such practices in and of themselves since strategic forecasting is arguably an integral component of any quality analysis, though the resultant information product might be motivated by a desire to manipulate the target audience, as is frequently the case whenever the Mainstream Media reports on China’s alleged long-term intentions with BRI. Instead of considering the much more likely scenario that China simply wants to enhance its partners’ economic capabilities so that they can all maximize their mutual benefits from one another, they’re more prone to imagining that the country’s military wants to expand across the world simply for the sake of it despite there being no evidence that it could even maintain such a speculative reach.

“Reverse Psychology”

The US, however, certainly has the military capability to do so and has proven as much over the decades, meaning that it’s much more likely that America will leverage its “economic diplomacy” with Greenland and other prospective partners to such ends instead of China doing the same in Africa or wherever else. As such, strategic forecasts about the US’ interconnected military and economic interests in the New Cold War are much more realistic than those being written about China’s, making them comparatively less speculative and therefore by default more probable. With this understanding in mind, the US is interestingly doing exactly what it accuses China of, not just in form, but in substance as well. This realization makes one wonder whether its infowar against BRI is “reverse psychology” intended to proactively shape the narrative so that the targeted global audience is less likely to accuse it of what it’s long planned to do, solely blaming China instead.

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This article was originally published on OneWorld.

Andrew Korybko is an American Moscow-based political analyst specializing in the relationship between the US strategy in Afro-Eurasia, China’s One Belt One Road global vision of New Silk Road connectivity, and Hybrid Warfare. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

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Pandemic Delays: Postponing the Assange Extradition Hearing

April 28th, 2020 by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

“Mr Assange will be facing a David and Goliath battle with his hands tied behind his back.” – Edward Fitzgerald QC, lawyer for Julian Assange, April 27, 2020

Julian Assange must have had time amidst cramped and hostile surrounds, paper work, pleas and applications, to ponder what circle of Dante’s Hell he finds himself in.  Ailing but still battling, the WikiLeaks publisher, through his lawyers, made another vicarious appearance at the Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Monday to delay the next stage of extradition proceedings slated for May 18.  He would have appeared via video link, but medical advice suggested it would be unsafe for him to do so at Belmarsh prison. 

Assange, one of the most conspicuously wanted individuals by US authorities for fancifully broad claims of espionage and computer intrusion, had a range of eminently sensible reasons for seeking the delay.  The defence continued in relentless fashion, making arguments they have done throughout.  The feeling for the observer is that, at some point, the District Judge Vanessa Baraitser might bite, or at least shift ever so slightly. 

Assange’s legal team, spearheaded by Edward Fitzgerald QC, noted that adequate case preparations were, in the current circumstances, impossible.  There had been the briefest of phone calls with their client; the defence team had been unable to speak to Assange for over a month.  The case, claimed Fitzgerald, had gone “from difficult to impossible”.  There were “no person-to-person meetings.  The alternative of video conferences is medically dangerous.”  A meeting that was due to take place last week in the holding cells of Woolwich Crown Court never transpired, as prison authorities refused to permit it.

According to the written submission, “It is not possible to take Mr Assange’s instructions in order to respond to the recently served declarations of Mr Kromberg, the US Attorney representing the case for the US.”  Those representing the publisher were “unable to fulfil their professional obligations to him in the circumstances and he is deprived of equality of arms with the prosecution”.

The second ground followed from the first: no full extradition could take place in May that would enable Assange to “participate effectively in the hearing”.  Abiding by principles of open justice would also be improbable given the ongoing pandemic restrictions that would prevent the press and public “to attend and follow proceedings”.  The fourth ground focused on Assange’s own vulnerable constitution, already ravaged by stress and pressure occasioned by his confinement at HMP Belmarsh.  The sum of this was that “he could not fairly be expected to participate in a full evidentiary hearing in May.”

The ever unsympathetic Baraitser, usually unmoved by any defence application that might suggest favour to Assange, accepted the argument that the May 18 date be vacated, and an administrative hearing scheduled for May 4, enabling lawyers on all sides to consider a new date for the full hearing.  The measure was granted, in no small part because of lack of protest from the prosecution.  As James Lewis QC, putting the case for the United States, submitted, “In this extraordinary time, we would support the application.”  Given the circumstances (the judge finally acknowledged the obvious: that Britain was in a coronavirus lockdown), it was unlikely that Assange and his lawyers would be able to physically attend the scheduled May 18 hearing. “Remote attendance by the parties in this case will not be appropriate.  It is now appropriate to vacate that hearing and fix it to a later date.”  At the earliest, a three-week block from November 2 can be made available.

On other points, Baraitser remained cold and tenaciously blind.  She could not see how the lockdown itself had any evident impact on case preparation, nor affect the proper attendance of witnesses.  “I have been given no reason to believe that pre-hearing discussion with expert witnesses can’t take place remotely.”  The issue of Assange’s safety in being transported to a video conference room was a matter for the prison to make.  Nor would press reporting be impaired, despite witnessing, in her own court, the distinctly shonky coverage for media offered by the teleconference facility.

As the UK Bureau Director of Reporters Without Borders Rebecca Vincent would comment, reflecting upon the day’s technical challenges, “resuming the full extradition hearing in such conditions would not allow for open justice.  This case is of tremendous public interest, and the press and NGO observers must be able to scrutinise proceedings.”

Assange supporters and case watchers were relieved by the change of heart shown from the bench.  Kevin Gosztola of Shadowproof opined that a May 18 hearing during the COVID-19 pandemic “would’ve significantly undermined due process rights of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange”.

Then came the next question, a spectre over the stuttered court proceedings: Would Assange be able to obtain bail?  His father, John Shipton, certainly thought so, as obtaining such relief would alleviate the danger of contracting COVID-19 in a “prison where two people have died of the disease”.  According to Renata Avila, a key human rights lawyer and board member for Creative Commons, such a delay would surely entitle Assange to the measure.  “Under current conditions, he cannot prepare his legal defence and he is risking his life.” 

The hope for legal, and compassionate sense to prevail, remains admirably optimistic.  Assange is bound in a cruel legal purgatory, a shackled David facing the Goliath of the US imperium.  But even with his hands tied, Assange is still putting up a most resolute fight.

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Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research and Asia-Pacific Research. Email: [email protected]

Featured image: Julian Assange court sketch, October 21, 2019, supplied by Julia Quenzler.

Rahm Emanuel, up until recently the mayor of Chicago and before that a top advisor to the president in the Bill Clinton and Barack Obama White Houses and still earlier a volunteer in the Israeli Army, famously once commented that a good crisis should never be allowed to go to waste. He meant, of course, that a crisis can be exploited to provide cover for other shenanigans involving politicians. It was an observation that was particularly true when one was working for a sexual predator like Bill, who once attacked a “terrorist” pharmaceutical factory in Sudan to divert attention away from the breaking Monica Lewinski scandal.

To be sure, the United States government is focusing its attention on the coronavirus while also using the cover afforded to heighten the pressure on “enemies” near and far. As the coronavirus continues to spread, the Trump White House and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have increased the ferocity of their sabre rattling, apparently in part to deter Russia, China, Iran and Venezuela. Ironically, of course, none of the countries being intimidated are actually threatening the United States, but we Americans have long since learned that perceptions are more important than facts when it comes to the current occupant of the oval office and his two predecessors.

The latest bit of mendacity coming out of the White House was a presidential tweet targeting the usual punching bag, Iran. Based on an incident that occurred two weeks ago, Trump threatened “I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea.” Iran’s flying gunboats are clearly a formidable force but it is certainly reassuring to note that naval anti-aircraft fire has been directed to deal with them. The U.S. Navy ships in question are, one might also observe, in a body of water generally referred to as the Persian Gulf, where they are carrying out maneuvers right off of the Iranian coast. Meanwhile, Iranian flying gunboats have not yet been observed off of New Jersey, but they are probably waiting to be transported to the Eastern Seaboard by those huge trans-oceanic gliders that once upon a time were allegedly being constructed by Saddam Hussein.

Given the cover provided by the virus, it should surprise no one that Israel is also playing the same game. The Jewish state has been continuing its lethal bombings of Syria, with hardly any notice in the international media. In a recent missile attack, nine people were killed near the historic city of Palmyra. Three of the dead were Syrians while six others were presumed to be Lebanese Shi’ites supporting the Damascus government. Israel de facto regards any Shi’ite as an “Iranian” or an “Iranian proxy” and therefore a “terrorist” eligible to be killed on sight.

But the bigger coronavirus story has to do with Israel’s domestic politics. Benjamin Netanyahu and his principle opponent Benny Gantz have come to an agreement to form a national government, ostensibly to deal with the health crisis. The wily Netanyahu, who will continue to be prime minister in the deal, has thereby retained his power over the government while also putting a halt to bids from the judiciary to try and sentence him on corruption charges. As part of the deal with Gantz, Netanyahu will have veto power over the naming of the new government’s attorney general and state prosecutor, guaranteeing the appointment of individuals who will dismiss the charges.

And more will be coming, with the acquiescence of Washington. U.S. elections are little more than six months away and Donald Trump clearly believes that he needs the political support of Netanyahu to energize his rabid Christian Zionist supporters, as well as the cash coming from Jewish oligarchs Sheldon Adelson, Bernard Marcus and Paul Singer. So, it is time to establish a quid pro quo, which will be Israeli government behind the scenes approaches to powerful and wealthy American Jews on behalf of Trump while the White House will look the other way while Israel annexes most of the remaining Palestinian West Bank. Pompeo has welcomed the new Israeli government and has confirmed that the annexation of the Palestinian land will be “ultimately Israel’s decision to make,” which amounts to a green light for Netanyahu to go ahead.

A vote on West Bank annexation will reportedly be taken by the Knesset at the beginning of July followed immediately by steps to incorporate Jewish settlements into Israel proper. According to the Israeli liberal newspaper Haaretz, the planned annexation has raised some concerns among a few liberal American Jewish organizations because it will convince many progressives in the U.S. that Israel has truly become an apartheid state. J Street warned that annexation “would severely imperil Israel’s future as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people, along with the future of the U.S.-Israel relationship” and has even suggested cutting U.S. aid if that step is actually taken. Most other ostensibly liberal groups have adopted the usual Zionist two-step, i.e. condemning the move but not advocating any effective steps to prevent it. And it should also be noted that the largest and most powerful Jewish organizations like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) have not raised any objections at all.

Unaffiliated individual liberal Jews, to include those who consider themselves Zionists, have generally been concerned about the move, though their argument is quite hypocritical, based on their belief that annexation would pari passu destroy any possible two-state solution, damaging both Palestinian rights and “Jewish democracy.” Some have even welcomed the change, noting that it would create a single state de facto which eventually would have to evolve into a modern democracy with equal rights for all. Such thinking is, however, nonsense. Israel under Netanyahu and whichever fascist retread that eventually succeeds him regards itself as a Jewish state and will do whatever it takes to maintain that, even including dispossessing remaining Arabs of their land and possessions, stripping them of their legal status, and forcing them to leave as refugees. That is something that might be referred to as ethnic cleansing, or even genocide.

And those Americans of conscience who are hoping for some change if someone named Joe Biden defeats Trump can also forget about that option. Biden has told the New York Times that “I believe a two-state solution remains the only way to ensure Israel’s long-term security while sustaining its Jewish and democratic identity. It is also the only way to ensure Palestinian dignity and their legitimate interest in national self-determination. And it is a necessary condition to take full advantage of the opening that exists for greater cooperation between Israel and its Arab neighbors. For all these reasons, encouraging a two-state solution remains in the critical interest of the United States.”

Unfortunately, someone should tell Joe that that particular train has already left the station due to the expansion of the Jewish state’s settlements. Nice words from the man who would be president aside, Biden is bound to the Israel Lobby for its political support and the money it provides as tightly as can be and he will fold before AIPAC and company like a cheap suit. He has famously declared that “You don’t have to be a Jew to be a Zionist – I am a Zionist” and “My Name is Joe Biden, and Everybody Knows I Love Israel.” His vice-presidential candidates’ debate with Sarah Palin in 2008 turned embarrassing when he and Palin both engaged in long soliloquys about how much they cherish Israel. Indeed they do. Every politician on the make loves Israel.

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This article was originally published on The Unz Review.

Philip M. Giraldi, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a 501(c)3 tax deductible educational foundation (Federal ID Number #52-1739023) that seeks a more interests-based U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Website is councilforthenationalinterest.org, address is P.O. Box 2157, Purcellville VA 20134 and its email is [email protected]. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

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A senior official in Iraq’s al-Anbar province warned of the increasing presence of the ISIS terrorists in the desert areas of the province which are controlled by the US forces.

“These areas are controlled by the US military men and are a safe haven for the terrorists,” the official was quoted as saying by the Arabic-language al-Ma’aloumeh news agency on Saturday.

He added that the Americans are supplying the ISIS terrorists with the necessary weapons and logistical equipment.

The official warned of the US attempts to transfer a large number of ISIS terrorists from occupied regions of Syria to Iraq’s western desert province of al-Anbar. The terrorists pose a great danger to inhabitants of this area, as well as the bordering areas with Syria.

The aim of the US and its NATO and regional Wahhabi partners in crime is quite obviously fomenting tension and unrest in Iraq in the future, giving them an excuse to continue occupying Iraqi and Syrian territories, all under the pretext of “fighting terrorism”.

In relevant remarks in March, another Iraqi official had also warned that the ISIS terrorists were being supported by the US in the western desert areas of the al-Anbar province along the border with occupied parts of Syria.

“The US is increasing its forces in al-Anbar and monitors the bordering line between Iraq and Syria,” Head of Badr Organization’s Office in al-Anbar Qusai al-Anbari said.

He added that the US is attempting to transfer the largest-ever number of ISIS terrorists into Iraq, adding that they are supported by the US in the desert areas of al-Anbar after arriving from Syria through US heliborne operations. Al-Anbari warned that “certain Iraqis” are also attempting to facilitate the ISIS traffic into Iraq’s western deserts in support of terrorism following a clandestine agreement with the Americans.

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The Brazilian government was shaken by a new controversy on Friday after the General Director of the Federal Police, Maurício Valeixo, was sacked by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Following threats made on Thursday, the Minister of Justice and Public Security, Sergio Moro, responsible for the appointment of Valeixo, decided to leave the administration of Bolsonaro, giving a controversial farewell speech with serious accusations against the president.

According to Moro, Bolsonaro’s desire to change the command of the Federal Police was motivated by a desire to interfere politically in the institution, and to gain access to confidential content of investigations about the president’s allies and family members, including his own sons. The accusations made by Bolsonaro had a great impact on the local media, but none-the-less the Brazilian president denied the allegations later that day.

Speaking a little longer than usual, Bolsonaro tried to defend himself against Moro’s accusations by talking about several different issues, but, when he spoke about his former minister, he concentrated on damaging his image before the electorate, placing him as the new enemy of his government. This is a usual tactic by the Brazilian president who always seeks an enemy to legitimize his policies and popularity.

Bolsonaro who modelled himself as the “Tropical Trump” continuously took aim against local Leftists, Venezuela, Cuba, China and anybody else that U.S. President Donald Trump also did not like. By casting an enemy, he could galvanize the Brazilian people behind him. As expected, the president’s main strategy in his speech in response to Moro was to find a new enemy.

Bolsonaro’s statements to the press were divided into three parts: focused attacks on the reputation of his former minister, describing him as an egocentric person with electoral interests; highlighting the presidential prerogative of appointing the commander of the Federal Police; and, trying to focus on valuing his own profile, talking about the assassination attempt he suffered, resources he failed to spend and the importance of his position. So, what we perceive from the speech, essentially, is what was already expected – the attempted polarization to put public opinion against Moro, while at the same time minimizing his decision to interfere with the Federal Police.

A dichotomy between Moro and Bolsonaro is emerging on social media, and it appears that Moro is winning this battle on the internet. Even before Moro’s resignations, tens of thousands went to Bolsonaro’s Twitter and Facebook accounts to tell the president that they voted for him but will not support him anymore if Moro resigns.

Earlier this month, the popularity of Bolsonaro had dropped to 33% because of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which he described as a “fantasy” and a “minor flu.” Earlier this month it was also revealed that the military, in which Bolsonaro is a former Captain of and strongly advocated for during his election campaign, has now shifted their support and backing for Vice President Hamilton Mourao, a former general.

Everything indicates that Bolsonaro may fall in a matter of months, and it appears this scenario can come to fruition sooner with the resignation of the highly popular Moro who was a key player in prosecuting Brazil’s Leftist former President, Lula. It certainly means that the 33% approval rating has dropped significantly after the fall out with Moro.

In an investigation by the Supreme Court, the Federal police identified councillor Carlos Bolsonaro, son of Jair Bolsonaro, as one of the articulators of a criminal fake news scheme. According to Folha, Bolsonaro wanted Valeixo removed because he knew of the criminal acts Carlos was involved in. It is not reduced to just Carlos though, and rather all three of Bolsonaro’s politically active sons, along with his wife Michelle, have been implicated in corruption scandals.

One of the main appeals of Bolsonaro was his strong rhetoric of being against corruption, which is why he brought Moro into his administration because of his popularity after putting some Brazilian politicians behind bars because of their corruption. However, this has been proven to be a scam as not only are their major questions whether those prosecuted had engaged in corruption, but there are endless scandals and accusations of corruption levelled against the Bolsonaro family.

Bolsonaro modelled himself on Trump and followed him in nearly every major foreign policy agenda regarding not only Latin America, but also China and Israel. Despite Bolsonaro being the greatest advocate for American and Israeli relations the continent has seen in decades, it is highly unlikely that either Trump or Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will come out in support of Bolsonaro as he faces a very real impeachment. It now appears that all this time of pandering to the U.S. and its interests is beginning to crash down on Bolsonaro. Rather than serve the interests of his country in this new multipolar world, he wanted to maintain the hegemonic status of the U.S. and get away with corruption – now where is Trump?

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This article was originally published on InfoBrics.

Paul Antonopoulos is an independent geopolitical analyst.

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U.S. policy towards Venezuela has been a head-spinning series of contradictions lately, with no end in sight. From placing a bounty on the heads of President Nicolas Maduro and a dozen current and former Venezuelan officials, to upping sanctions and sending the largest fleet ever to the Southern hemisphere to stop drug trafficking from Venezuela, the U.S. appears to be pursuing an inexorable path towards regime change.

But at the same time, U.S. officials have announced they don’t seek a “coup” against Maduro, that the U.S. Naval deployment doesn’t seek his ouster, and that the United States wants Maduro to agree to a power-sharing deal, despite the bounty they’ve placed on his head.

An examination of the timeline reveals the last month of U.S. policy towards Venezuela has been nothing if not chaotic.

At the end of March, the United States indicted Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro and a dozen former and current officials on corruption, narco-terrorism and drug trafficking charges. The State Department announced that the U.S. will pay $15 million for information leading to Maduro’s arrest and conviction.

A day later, Elliot Abrams, reportedly chosen as the U.S. Special Envoy for Venezuela by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for his expertise on coups, announced the “Democratic Transition Framework for Venezuela.” The framework calls on Maduro’s government to embrace a power-sharing deal. The plan doesn’t explain how Venezuelan leaders with bounties on their heads could come to the table and negotiate with Juan Guaido, whom the U.S. recognizes as Venezuela’s legitimate leader.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration increased sanctions on Venezuela and announced with much fanfare that U.S. Naval warships were on their way to the Caribbean to prevent “corrupt actors” and drug cartels from smuggling narcotics into the U.S.

“The goal is to replace [President Nicolas] Maduro’s illegitimate dictatorship with a legitimate transitional government that can hold free and fair elections to represent all Venezuelans. It is time for Maduro to go,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

A few days after that, and eighteen years after the U.S. supported a coup against Hugo Chavez, Abrams warned that if Maduro resisted the organization of a “transitional government” his departure would be far more “dangerous and abrupt.” Yes, this is the same Abrams who only days earlier had recommended a power-sharing arrangement. To many, Abrams’ aggressive rhetoric looked a lot like the U.S. “effectively threatening him with another assassination attempt” like the one the U.S. “tacitly supported in 2018.”

But then, the head of U.S. Southern Command Admiral Craig Faller rhetorically reversed course four days ago.

Faller said the U.S. buildup in the Caribbean is not aimed at ousting Maduro. The decision to double anti-narcotics assets in Latin America was not directly tied to Maduro’s indictment, and “economic and diplomatic pressure — not the use of military force — remain the U.S.’s” preferred tools for removing Maduro from power, said Faller.

Despite the fact that he’s leading the largest ever U.S. Naval deployment in the Southern hemisphere, and the biggest deployment since the invasion to remove Gen. Manuel Noriega of Panama, Faller contends that his operation is “not an indication of some sort of new militarization in the Caribbean” and that “this is not a shift in U.S. government policy.”

So, the Trump administration’s real aims in Venezuela remain elusive, if not confusing.

“Certainly the timing of the deployment, coming as it does on the heels of the DOJ’s indictment of Maduro on narco-terrorism charges and the placement of a bounty on his head, looks suspicious,” said Dr. Alejandro Velasco, associate professor of Modern Latin America at New York University, in an interview with TAC. “While there may not be a causal relationship between the deployment and the administration’s regime-change policy, there is a strong correlation between the two.”

“To the extent that DOJ has indicted Maduro et al on narco-terrorism charges, and the Navy operation is geared at disrupting drug cartels, then it follows that, at the very least, the aim of the deployment is to squeeze Maduro,” said Velasco. “The issue is that Maduro’s primary (or even secondary or tertiary) source of revenue isn’t narcotics, it’s minerals like oil and gold.”

“The fact is, there is a government in Venezuela that the U.S. government does not like, and the U.S. has been citing and bolstering [Maduro’s rival] the interim president Juan Guaido, funding him and spearheading an effort to get him to either—initially it was to take office, now it’s to negotiate,” said Dr. Eduardo Gamarra, a professor and expert on Latin American politics at Florida International University, in an interview with TAC.

“It’s curious, because on the one hand, our government has indicted Maduro and set a bounty on his head… we’ve labelled Maduro a drug trafficker whom we want to extradite, but then the following week, we said we want to negotiate with him.”

One thing is for certain—the Trump administration’s stated intention, of deploying the U.S. Navy to interdict narco-trafficking, is nonsensical, said Gamarra.

“Most of my research has been on drug trafficking trends, and if you look at those, and the U.S. has done these kinds of anti-trafficking exercises many times in the past, we’ve had very little impact on the flow of drugs northward,” said Gamarra. “There’s a balloon effect, where if we squeeze the Caribbean, then most drugs come through Mexico … Eighty three percent of cocaine that comes into the U.S. enters through Mexico, currently aided by Mexican cartels.”

Drug traffickers don’t need to transport drugs through the Caribbean when there’s a relatively unguarded land route via the U.S. southern border, he said. Of course, as coronavirus ravages the globe, the flow of all goods have declined, so “we will probably see a decline in drugs too.” But the fact is that the majority of drugs that enter the U.S. do so through the Pacific, not the Atlantic coast.

The Trump administration may have its eyes on domestic political prizes rather than long-term foreign policy goals, suggests Velasco. There are big pockets of Venezuelan and Cuban Americans in swing-state Florida that eagerly greeted the news of the U.S. deployment, only to be let down by the subsequent lack of action and contradictory administration statements, Gamarra points out.

“As time passes, they get the sense that they’ve again been duped,” said Gamarra. “How long has it been since this administration told Venezuelans ‘all options are on the table?’ Maduro is still there, not weaker but stronger. [On Thursday] in at least four states, there were massive lootings, the state has essentially collapsed, but still the government doesn’t fall, and the virus has actually helped strengthen its position … what is the U.S. waiting for?”

Roger Noriega, AEI fellow and former ambassador, said the mobilization of assets off the coast of Venezuela “is a very tangible sign that the U.S. is losing its patience” with Maduro, who agrees with the administration’s aggressive approach.

“The costs are getting rather high, right on our doorstep,” he said. “Maduro’s regime is destabilizing the rest of the region, including our key ally Colombia, and aiding and abetting narco-trafficking and presiding over a humanitarian disaster.”

“Sooner rather than later, I think Trump’s going to have to consider being much more forceful in dealing with this. That could mean carving out a no-fly zone, territory for humanitarian aid, or getting authority from Congress to conduct clandestine operations against bad guys at the head of the regime. So far, they have been far from creative in dealing with this threat, which has been worsening on their watch.”

Noriega doesn’t think “too many people would blame” Trump “if he went in with a small force to take care of this festering criminal regime in the way we did with Noriega” in the ’80s, but if it comes to that, it will be because “there’s been a real failure here of U.S. intelligence, and a complete and utter lack of creative thinking from the career diplomats. They’re the ones who wrote the ridiculous framework for a diplomatic transition.”

“The State Department’s approach is completely out of sync with what the president ostensibly wants to do,” he said. “When his DOJ indicts these guys, when the DoD deploys these additional forces to deal with the criminal threat, when the Treasury Department is heaping on sanctions, and then the State Department comes out with this rather surrealistic plan that essentially blesses a narco-trafficking framework to stay in power, it shows a profound lack of understanding about the dynamics within the region.”

Not everyone would agree with Noriega, who has been a hawk on the region since his days as Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs under George W. Bush. With a pandemic competing for the full attention (and resources) of the federal government it may be likely that Trump’s anti-interventionist instincts win over. One thing is clear: the administration’s muddy policy in the region, and the resulting confusion it kicks up, may be the worst of both worlds, setting both countries on a collision course towards regime change.

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Barbara Boland is TAC’s foreign policy and national security reporter. Previously, she worked as an editor for the Washington Examiner and for CNS News. She is the author of Patton Uncovered, a book about General George Patton in World War II, and her work has appeared on Fox News, The Hill,  UK Spectator, and elsewhere. Boland is a graduate from Immaculata University in Pennsylvania.  Follow her on Twitter @BBatDC.

Featured image: Activists gather in front of the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC in March, 2019.

Americans awaiting their COVID-19 stimulus and unemployment checks will be thrilled to know their taxes continue to be spent via Netanyahu bombing and murdering Syrians in their homes. Israel remains the US’ most voracious welfare state queen, subsidized at more than four billion USD, annually. Netanyahu’s criminal and cowardly pre-dawn bombings murdered three civilians and injured three others.

The Netanyahu regime’s murderous war crimes against Syrians, today, involved another breach of International Law, Israel’s aggressive and illegal entry into Lebanon’s airspace. In 2014, Obama’s one billion guaranteed loan bribe to Abdullah was grounded in Jordan giving legal access to its airspace to Israel. The Netanyahu regime prefers to flout its chutzpah when murdering Syrians, and the NATO klan running the UN ignore all legitimate complaints from Lebanon.

In al Hujaira, Damascus’s southeastern countryside, one home bombed by the Netanyahu regime forces resulted in the murders of a husband and wife, in addition to injuries of two other adults and one child. This family had been displaced from al Quneitra city, by NATO-backed and armed moderate terrorists.

Another woman was murdered by Israeli bombing, in al Adliya.

Unindicted war criminal Netanyahu air force targeted people’s homes, including ones under construction, identified by the steel rope lay in this photograph.

Given the timing of the war criminal bombings, and Syria’s curfews to prevent the spread of COVID-19, these murder victims were killed in their homes, and likely while sleeping.

Netanyahu regime media have pulled out all the stops in hasbara fake headlines. Beyond Kafka and beyond chutzpah, they continue to ridiculously cite British owned and funded SOHR, fake founded by a thrice convicted on felony charges criminal, who jumped bail more than one decade ago — to avoid his fourth trial, leaving his pals holding the bag — who sought refuge in England, courtesy of the British taxpayers.

More housing under construction, bombed by Netanyahu regime forces.

Syria News reminds our readers that mere hours before Israel criminally bombed Tadmor on 20 April, Madman Netanyahu had barked that COVID-19 would not diminish his war crimes.

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All images in this article are from SANA

Black Alliance for Peace National Organizer Ajamu Baraka discussed the role of U.S. activists in stopping the U.S. war machine during “An Inside View of Resistance to US Imperialism in Venezuela and How to Build International Solidarity,” a webinar co-hosted by the Black Alliance for Peace, Alliance For Global Justice, CODEPINK: Women For Peace, International Action Center, Sanctions Kill and United National Antiwar Coalition.

Featuring speakers from the Venezuelan government, U.S. Peace Council and Popular Resistance.

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Featured image is from Alliance for Global Justice

Giulietto Chiesa on the Front Line Until the End

April 28th, 2020 by Manlio Dinucci

Giulietto Chiesa died a few hours after concluding the April 25th International Conference “Let’s Get Rid of War Virus”  on the 75th Anniversary of Italian Liberation and the End of World War II. The streaming conference was organized by the No War No Nato Committee – Giulietto was one of its founders – and GlobalResearch (Canada), the Centre for Research on Globalization directed by Professor Michel Chossudovsky.

Several speakers – from Italy to other European countries, from the United States to Russia, from Canada to Australia – examined the fundamental reasons why war has never ended since 1945: the Second World conflict was followed by the Cold War, then by an uninterrupted series of wars and the return to a situation similar to that of the Cold War, with increased risk of nuclear conflict.

Economists Michel Chossudovsky (Canada), Peter Koenig (Switzerland) and Guido Grossi  explained  how powerful economic and financial forces are exploiting the coronavirus crisis to take over national economies, and what to do to thwart this plan.

David Swanson (director of World Beyond War, USA), economist Tim Anderson (Australia), photojournalist Giorgio Bianchi and historian Franco Cardini talked about past and current wars, functional to the interests of the same powerful forces.

Political-military expert Vladimir Kozin (Russia), essayist Diana Johnstone (USA), Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament Kate Hudson (UK) examined the mechanisms increasing the chance of a catastrophic nuclear conflict.

John Shipton (Australia), – father of Julian Assange, and Ann Wright (USA) – former US Army colonel, illustrated the dramatic situation of journalist Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder detained in London at risk of being extradited to the United States where a life or death sentence awaits him.

Giulietto Chiesa’s participation focused on this issue. In summary, these are some passages of what he said:

Someone wants to destroy Julian Assange: this fact means that we too, all of us will be fooled, obscured, threatened, unable to understand what is going on at home and in the world. This is not our future; it is our present.

In Italy the government is organizing a team of censors officially charged with cleaning up all news differing from the official news. It is State censorship, how else can it be called?

Rai, public Television, is also setting up a task force against “fake news” to erase the traces of their everyday lies, flooding all their television screens.

And then there is even worse, mysterious courts far more powerful than these fake news hunters: they are Google, Facebook, who manipulate news and censure without appeal with their algorithms and secret tricks.

We are already surrounded by new Courts that cancel our rights. Do you remember Article 21 of the Italian Constitution? It says “everyone has the right to freely express its thought.” But 60 million Italians are forced to listen to a single megaphone that screams from all 7 Television channels of the Power. That’s why Julian Assange is a symbol, a flag, an invitation to rescue, to wake up before it’s too late.

It is essential to join all forces we have, which are not so small but have a fundamental flaw: that of being divided, unable to speak with a single voice. We need an instrument to speak to the millions of citizens who want to know.”

This was Giulietto Chiesa’s last appeal. His words were confirmed by the fact that, immediately after the streaming, the on line conference was obscured because “the following content has been identified by the YouTube community as inappropriate or offensive to some audiences.”

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This article appeared on the Italian web newspaper, Il Manifesto.

Manlio Dinucci is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization.

Once again, the good old reliable US major media proved unreliable again — time and again delivering fake news to readers, viewers and listeners.

On April 20, the NYT reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “was receiving treatment after undergoing heart surgery.”

Days later, the Times asked: “Where in Kim-Jong-un? Rumors are swirling about Kim Jong-un’s location and health.”

On Sunday, the Washington Post asked is Kim “dead after heart surgery? Is he lying in a vegetative state in a hospital bed?”

After being out of public view in 2014, there were false rumors of his death or a military coup.

The Wall Street Journal quoted Wilson Center public policy fellow Jean Lee, saying rumors about Kim’s health “could impact his ability to lead the country.”

Market Watch.com reported that Kim was either dead or in a “vegetative state,” citing Hong Kong and Japanese media.

MSNBC’s Katy Tur reported that Kim was “brain dead,” citing unnamed US officials, adding:

“He recently had cardiac surgery and slipped into a coma.”

So-called media analyst Mark Dice claimed the above information is “confirmed.”

The Washington Examiner claimed that Kim is in “grave danger” after surgery, adding:

“A US official with direct knowledge of the matter told CNN” that the US was “monitoring intelligence of” his conditions.

South Korean-based Daily NK cited unnamed sources, claiming that Kim had a “cardiovascular surgical procedure.”

CNN’s chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto claimed he was “told by a US official with direct knowledge that the US is monitoring intelligence that the North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un is in grave danger following a surgery.”

RT mocked CNN with the following headline:

“No confirmation needed? CNN fans rumors about Kim Jong-un’s alleged health issues, reports he’s in ‘grave danger’ after ‘surgery.’ ”

Screenshot from RT News

Bloomberg News got it wrong with a similar report, claiming Kim was in “critical condition.”

Senator Lindsey Graham was quoted, saying “’I’ll Be Shocked If He’s Not Dead.”

An unnamed Trump regime official said it’s unclear if Kim is alive or dead.

Former CIA deputy division chief for North Korea Bruce Klinger noted numerous earlier “rumors about Kim’s health,” adding:

“(O)ver the years, there have been a number of false health rumors about Kim Jong-Un (and) his father.”

A spokesman for South Korea’s Blue House (its White House equivalent) said the following:

“We have no information to confirm regarding rumors about Chairman Kim Jong Un’s health issue that have been reported by some media outlets. Also, no unusual developments have been detected inside North Korea.”

Britain’s Express said Kim hadn’t been seen in public since April 11, adding:

“Reports suggest his sister, Kim Yo Jon…could be set to take over.”

On Sunday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s senior policy adviser Moon Chung-in said Kim was “alive and well,” claims otherwise false.

Western media rumors, speculation, and reports got it all wrong.

On Monday, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency quoted Pyongyang’s Rodong Sinmun, the DPRK’s main broadsheet, saying Kim thanked builders in the country’s port city of Wonsan, the report saying:

Kim “sent his appreciation to the workers who devoted themselves to building the Wonsan-Kalma tourist zone.”

Satellite imagery reportedly showed his train in the area last week.

Rumors about his death or serious illness circulated when he wasn’t at a birthday ceremony for his late grandfather, Kim Il-sung, North Korea’s founder.

On Monday, RT mocked Western media, headlining: “Not dead anymore?”

“(M)edia (now) downplay death rumors after Seoul adviser sa(id) (Kim) is ‘alive and well.’ ”

Reports of his death, grave danger, vegetative state, being brain dead in a coma were greatly exaggerated.

They were fake news all along, no credible information supporting them.

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Award-winning author Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected]. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG)

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

Paranoia and Hybris Syndrome in Donald Trump

April 28th, 2020 by Germán Gorraiz López

Among the “losers of globalization” in the US, in addition to African-Americans and Latinos, indebted university students and white adults over 45 years of age without university studies and with jobs with low added value appear for the first time, after being enrolled in the ranks of the unemployed. , they would have ended up plunged into an explosive circle of depression, alcoholism, drug addiction and suicide after seeing the blackbird of the “American dream” disappear, which would have had as a collateral effect the disaffection of these segments of the white population with respect to the traditional Democratic and Republican establishment.

Thus, according to an NBC survey, 54% of the white population would be “angry with the system,” compared to 43% of Latinos and 33% of African Americans who continue to trust the American dream, which would have led White voters to support politically incorrect positions and refractory to the dictates of Donald Trump’s traditional republican establishment, symbolized by the support of outraged whites over 45 years of age for Trump and of the neo-Nazi and white supremacist parties that continue to control the spheres of power of “deep America”.

Paranoia and hybris syndrome in Donald Trump

The Spanish psychiatrist Enrique González Duro in his book La paranoia (1991 *), affirms that

“the triggers of this disease are very active in individuals who present a pronounced narcissism and who have been exposed to serious frustrations, consequently being endowed with low self-esteem ”.

Donald Trump’s personality would fit fully into the medical description of the disorder known as paranoid psychosis because his thinking is rigid and incorrigible: he does not take into account the opposite reasons, he only collects data or signs that confirm the prejudice to turn him into conviction and even if he is afflicted with such delusional disorder it would be quite functional and does not tend to show strange behavior except as a direct result of the delusional idea (read the construction of the Wall with Mexico).

In the specific case of Trump, we would be facing a typical case of megalomaniac paranoia, delusion of greatness that causes the individual to create himself endowed with extraordinary talent and power because the deities have chosen him for a high mission (restoring the White Power in a society in which demographic evolution will cause the white population to be a minority in the 2,043 scenario).

Trump’s paranoia would have been aggravated by being affected by the so-called “hydris syndrome” cited by the English doctor and politician David Owen in his work “The Hybris Syndrome: Busch, Blair ant the Intoxication of Power”. This term comes from the Greek word “hybris” which means excess and in his work, Owen defines it as “the exaggerated self-confidence of politicians when they reach power brings with it the Subject’s excessive self-confidence, exacerbated pride and rebuff before others, and may lead to abuse of power (autocracy) and the temptation to harm the lives of others. ” Another trait would be histrionics that impels him to “attract public attention and be reckless in his statements without caring about the opinion of others due to his evident lack of morality”, which would be his advice to use disinfectant to cure the coronavirus.

Can COVID-19 end Trump’s dystopia?

The theory of the Black Swan was developed by Nicholas Taleb in his book “The Black Swan (2010) in which he tries to explain” the psychological biases that make people individually and collectively blind to uncertainty and unaware of the massive role of the strange event in the historical issues ”, which would explain Trump’s frivolization of the coronavirus and his delay in adopting surgical measures in the main centers of transmission of the coronavirus in the USA. This would have exacerbated the effects of the pandemic in the United States in the form of a trickle of the dead, the collapse of medical services, the paralysis of productive activity and the recession of the United States economy.

Likewise, the collapse of the oil price would have caused nearly 200 bankruptcy declarations of companies dedicated to shale with an accumulated debt of nearly $ 120 billion that will subsequently affect the income statement of large banks such as JP Morgan, Bank of America, Citigroup and Wells Fargo and that could lead to a new financial crisis in the future. On the other hand, the inaction of the companies would have triggered a stratospheric increase in unemployment (26 million unemployed), which together with the Wall Street stock market crash could dilute the beneficial effects of Donald Trump’s economic policy and cause the disaffection of the population segment of its voters (40% of the electorate) in the next Presidential elections in November.

Thus, the traumatic shock that the coronavirus pandemic will generate in American society and the subsequent recession of its economy will force a profound catharsis and metanoia of society as a whole, which will cause the fundamentals that underpin it to be revised. The metanoia would be to transform the mind to adopt a new way of thinking, with new ideas, new knowledge and an entirely new attitude in the face of the emergence of the new pandemic scenario, which will imply the double connotation of physical movement (retracing the path followed) and psychological ( change of mentality after discarding the old prevailing stereotypes). This will have as beneficial effects the rediscovery of values such as respect for the environment, solidarity and equal rights in a new stage that will lead to the implementation of new renewable energy, basic income, unemployment benefits as well as healthcare Universal Public, a stage that will symbolize the end of the Trump dystopia and the reissue of the Rooseveltian “New Deal”.

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Germán Gorraiz López is an analyst.

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In my first week in the House of Representatives in 1976, I cast one of the two votes against legislation appropriating funds for a swine flu vaccination program. A swine flu outbreak was then dominating headlines, so most in DC were frantic to “do something” about the virus.

Unfortunately, the hastily developed and rushed-into-production swine flu vaccine was not only ineffective, it was dangerous. Approximately 50 people who received the vaccine subsequently contracted Guillain-Barré syndrome, a potentially fatal form of paralysis. According to an expert with the Centers for Disease Control, the incidence of Guillain-Barré was four times higher among those who received the swine flu vaccine than in the general population.

That sad history may soon repeat itself. Right now, governments and private industries are working to rapidly develop and deploy a coronavirus vaccine. Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who is a major funder of these efforts, has suggested everyone who receives a vaccine be issued a “digital certificate” proving he has been vaccinated. Dr. Anthony Fauci, whose record of wrong predictions makes him the Bill Kristol of epidemiology, also wants individuals to carry some proof they have been vaccinated.

Another authoritarian proposal floated to deal with coronavirus is to force everyone to download a phone app that will track their movements. This would allow government officials to identify those who may have been near anyone who may have had coronavirus. Such mandatory “contact tracing” is an assault on our privacy and liberty.

Vaccines can improve health. For example, vaccines helped reduce the incidence of diseases like polio. But not all vaccines are safe and effective for all people. Furthermore, certain modern practices, such as giving infants multiple vaccines at one time, may cause health problems. The fact that vaccines may benefit some people, or even most people, does not justify government forcing individuals to be vaccinated. It also does not justify vaccinating children against their parents’ wishes. And it certainly does not justify keeping individuals and families in involuntary quarantine because they do not have “digital certificates” proving they have had their shots.

If government can force individuals to receive medical treatment against their will, then there is no reason why government cannot force individuals to buy medical insurance, prohibit them from owning firearms, dictate their terms of employment, and prevent them from taking arguably harmful actions like smoking marijuana or drinking raw milk. Similarly, if government can override parents’ wishes regarding medical treatment for their children, then there is no reason why government cannot usurp parental authority in other areas, such as education.

Proponents of mandatory vaccines and enhanced surveillance are trying to blackmail the American people by arguing that the lockdown cannot end unless we create a healthcare surveillance state and make vaccination mandatory. The growing number of Americans who are tired of not being able to go to work, school, or church, or even to take their children to a park because of government mandates should reject this “deal.” Instead, they should demand an immediate end to the lockdowns and the restoration of individual responsibility for deciding how best to protect their health.

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Featured image is from Children’s Health Defense

The First Casualty of War Is Truth. The Role of Propaganda

April 28th, 2020 by Dr. Gary G. Kohls

When Edward Bernays (the nephew of Sigmund Freud) wrote his famous 1928 book, Propaganda, he titled the first chapter of the book “Organizing Chaos”. The quotes below are taken directly from that chapter.

What was strikingly obvious to me in reading the book is that Bernays – in the year before the Great Wall Street Crash of 1929 – wasn’t making any effort to sugar-coat the fact that he actually believes that propaganda is an essential and desirable fact of modern life.

(Propaganda, by the way, is the way the ruling classes get the working classes to march off to war and how the billionaire CEOs of the multinational Big Pharma, Big Medicine corporations (and Bill Gates, the CDC, the WHO, etc, etc) gets parents to willingly over-vaccinate their vulnerable, immune-compromised infants with vaccines that have never been subjected to FDA-approved, double-blind clinical trials to establish safety or efficacy, especially long-term!)

I suspect that every corrupt crony capitalist that was responsible for the soon-to-occur 1929 Stock Market Crash and subsequent Great Depression heartily agreed with him in 1928.

There has always been an endless series of periodic, often orchestrated, economic crashes that have always harmed workers and destroyed small businesses and the middle class. Prior to the economic crises, the elite, wealthy propagandists (recall that well-done propaganda is very expensive to do) have consistently convinced the gullible public that prosperity is going to last forever and so they should invest heavily in the stock market. Then, just before the crash, the elite propagandists short-sell the market and profit while everybody else loses.

Propaganda has been widely used throughout history, long before Bernays wrote the book, but the propagandists usually don’t identify it as such. Propagandists prefer to use terms like “public relations”, “promotions”, “publicity”, “salesmanship”, “marketing”, and “press conferences” (in order to indoctrinate journalists), when” hype”, “image management” and “manufacturing consent“ is what is being sold to the propagandees.

Propaganda has been long used, over-used and abused in the advertising, public relations, political “science”, medical, pharmaceutical and war industries. The first overlord in ancient history eventually realized that, in order to get his obedient subjects to do what he wanted then to do – without having to resort to torture, public crucifixions, the guillotine, fines, imprisonment or various police state tactics – propaganda could be effective in getting his subjects to even ruin their lives forever by marching off to war.

Having learned the lessons about how to rule from the first overlord, every king, dictator, president or Joint Chiefs of Staff could get their propagandized subjects to willingly send their sons off to war or at least pay the taxes required to fund the fighting. And the corrupt crony capitalist classes, the robber barons, the vulture capitalists, the Big Pharma, Big Medicine CEOs on Wall Street have found out how easy it is to freak out their potential customers over whatever ruse they can come up with so that they will willingly purchase their products and ideas.

I hope that readers will read the following Bernays quotes and then apply them whenever there is a war threatened, whenever a politician or president is proposing new legislation or there is an possibly manufactured pandemic crisis to capitalize on:

Probably the most telling admission from Bernays appears in the tenth paragraph of the first chapter:

“…the manipulation of news, the inflation of personality, and the general ballyhoo by which politicians and commercial products and social ideas are brought to the consciousness of the masses. The instruments by which public opinion is organized and focused may be misused. But such organization and focusing are necessary to orderly life.”

And here are more quotes from Bernays:

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.

“We are governed, our minds molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society.”

“Our invisible governors are, in many cases, unaware of the identity other fellow members in the inner cabinet.”

“They govern us by their qualities of natural leadership, their ability to supply needed ideas and by their key position in the social structure. … in almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons – a trifling fraction of our hundred and twenty million – who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind…”

“It is not usually realized how necessary these invisible governors are to the orderly functioning of our group life. In theory, every citizen may vote for whom he pleases. Our Constitution does not envisage political parties as part of the mechanism of government … But the American voters soon found that without organization and direction their individual votes, cast, perhaps, for dozens of hundreds of candidates, would produce nothing but confusion.”

Invisible government, in the shape of rudimentary political parties, arose almost overnight. Ever since then we have agreed, for the sake of simplicity and practicality, that arty machines should narrow down the field of choice to two candidates, or at most three or four.”

“In theory, every citizen makes up his mind on public questions and matters of private conduct. In practice, if all men had to study for themselves the abstruse economic, political and ethical data involved in every question, they would find it impossible to come to a conclusion about anything. We have voluntarily agreed to let an invisible government sift the data and high-spot the outstanding issues so that our field of choice shall be narrowed to practical proportions.”

“From our leaders and the media they use to reach the public, we accept the evidence and the demarcation of issues bearing upon public questions; from some ethical teacher, be it a minister, a favorite essayist, or merely prevailing opinion, we accept a standardized code of social conduct to which we conform most of the time.” 

“It might be better to have, instead of propaganda and special pleading, committees of wise men who would choose our rulers, dictate our conduct, private and public, and decide upon the best types of clothes for us to wear and the best kinds of food for us to eat. But we have chosen the opposite method, that of open competition. We must find a way to make free competition function with reasonable smoothness; To achieve this society has consented to permit free competition to be organized by leadership and propaganda.”

“As civilization has become more complex, and as the need for invisible government has been increasingly demonstrated, the technical means have been invented and developed by which opinion may be regimented.”

“With the printing press and the newspaper, the railroad, the telephone, telegraph, radio and airplanes, ideas can be spread rapidly and even instantaneously all over the whole of America.”

“It is the purpose of this book to explain the structure of the mechanism which controls the public mind, and to tell how it is manipulated by the special pleader who seeks to create public acceptance for a particular idea or commodity.”

In 1965, Jacques Ellul, French author, philosopher, theologian, legal scholar, and sociologist published Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes (1965).

In the preface to that book, Konrad Kellen writes:

Most people are easy prey for propaganda …But modern propaganda has long disdained the ridiculous lies of past and outmoded forms of propaganda. It operates instead with many different kinds of truth – half truth, limited truth, truth out of contest. Even Josef Goebbels (the Nazi Party’s Minister of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment) always insisted that the Wehrmacht communiques be as accurate as possible.”

In the introduction of his book, Ellul writes:

“In the midst of increasing mechanization and technological organization, propaganda is simply the means used … to persuade man to submit with good grace. When man … will end by obeying with enthusiasm, convinced of the excellence of what he is forced to do, the constraint of the organizations will no longer be felt by him; the truth is, it will no longer be a constraint, and the police will have nothing to do. The civic and technological good will and the enthusiasm for the right social myths – both created by propaganda – will finally have solved the problem of man.”

In the body of the book, Ellul writes:

“To make the organization of propaganda possible, the media must be concentrated, the number of news agencies reduced, the press brought under single control, and radio and film monopolies established. The effect will be still greater if the various media are concentrated in the same hands. When a newspaper trust (ie, monopoly) also extends its control over films and radio, propaganda can be directed at the masses and the individual can be caught in the wide net of media.”

“Only through concentration in a few hands of a large number of media can one attain a true orchestration, a continuity, and an application of scientific methods of influencing individuals. A state monopoly, or a private (corporate) monopoly, is equally effective. Such a situation is in the making in the United States, France, and Germany – the fact is well known.”

“The number of newspapers decreases while the number of readers increases. Production costs constantly increase and necessitate greater concentration; all statistics converge on that. This concentration itself keeps accelerating, thus making the situation increasingly favorable to propaganda. Of course, one must not conclude from this that the concentration of mass media inevitably produces propaganda. Such concentration is merely a prerequisite for it. But that the media be concentrated is not enough; it is also necessary that the individual will listen to them. This seems to be a truism: ‘Why produce a propaganda paper if nobody will buy it?’”

“In reality, propaganda is at work here, for what is involved is a progression from vague, diffuse opinion on the part of the reader to rigorous, exciting, active expression of that opinion. A feeling or an impression is transformed into a motive for action.Confused thoughts are crystallized. Myths and the reader’s conditioned reflexes are reinforced if he reads that paper. All this is characteristic of propaganda. The reader is really subject to propaganda, even though it be propaganda of his choice. Propaganda is a means of reinforcing opinions, of transforming them into action. The reader himself offers his throat to the knife of the propaganda he chooses.“

Under the section of the book, titled The Need of an Average Standard of Living, Ellul writes:

“More advanced propaganda can influence only a man who is not completely haunted by poverty, a man who can view things from a certain distance and be reasonably unconcerned about his daily bread, and who therefore can take an interest in more general matters and mobilize his actions for purposes other than merely earning a living. It is well known that in Western countries propaganda is particularly effective in the upper segment of the working class and in the middle classes. It faces much greater problems with the proletariat or the peasantry.”

Then, in another of my handful of books that deal with propaganda, “Weapons of Mass Deception: The Uses of Propaganda in Bush’s War on Iraq”, (2003), authors Sheldon Rampton & John Stauber write:

“Propagandists view communications as a set of techniques for indoctrinating ‘target audiences’ whereas the democratic concept of communication defines it as an ongoing process of dialogue among diverse voices. Of course, the propaganda approach becomes more attractive during wartime, when each side (of the issue) becomes preoccupied with manipulating and coercing the thinking of their enemy or domestic population (including was on viruses, perhaps). The propagandist wants to promote his or her own interests or those of an organization – sometimes at the expense of the recipients, sometimes not. The point is that the propagandist does not regard the well-being of the audience as a primary concern. Propagandists also tend to have a low regard for the rationality and intelligence of their audience.”

“The audience that thinks critically and is prepared to challenge (the propagandist’s) message becomes a problem that must be overcome. Whereas democracy is built upon the assumption that ‘the people’ are capable of rational self-governance, propagandists regard rationality as an obstacle to efficient indoctrination. Since propaganda is often aimed at persuading people to do things that are not in their own best interests, it frequently seeks to bypass the rational brain altogether and manipulate us on a more primitive level, appealing to emotional symbolism.”

“Fear is one of the most primitive emotions in the human psyche, and it definitely keeps us watching (television).”

Then Rampton and Stauber quotes Hermann Goering just before he commits suicide during the Nuremberg Trials of Nazi war criminals in 1946:

“Why of course the people don’t want war. Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.” — Hermann Goering, head of the Nazi army’s equivalent of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff – April 18, 1946. Committed suicide during Nuremberg trials.

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Dr Kohls is a retired rural family physician from Duluth, Minnesota who has written a weekly column for the Reader Weekly, Duluth’s alternative newsweekly magazine since his retirement in 2008. His column, titled Duty to Warn, is re-published around the world. 

He practiced holistic mental health care in Duluth for the last decade of his family practice career prior to his retirement in 2008, primarily helping psychiatric patients who had become addicted to their cocktails of psychiatric drugs to safely go through the complex withdrawal process. His Duty to Warn columns often deals with various unappreciated health issues, including those caused by Big Pharma’s over-drugging, Big Vaccine’s over-vaccinating, Big Medicine’s over-screening, over-diagnosing and over-treating agendas and Big Food’s malnourishing food industry. Those four entities can combine to even more adversely affect the physical, mental, spiritual and economic health of the recipients of the medical treatments and the eaters of the tasty and ubiquitous “FrankenFoods” – particularly when they are consumed in combinations, doses and potencies that have never been tested for safety or long-term effectiveness.

Dr Kohls’ Duty to Warn columns are archived at: 

http://duluthreader.com/search?search_term=Duty+to+Warn&p=2;

http://www.globalresearch.ca/author/gary-g-kohls;

http://freepress.org/geographic-scope/national; https://www.lewrockwell.com/author/gary-g-kohls/; and 

https://www.transcend.org/tms/search/?q=gary+kohls+articles

Featured image is from SHTFplan.com

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Giulietto Chiesa na linha da frente até ao fim

April 28th, 2020 by Manlio Dinucci

Giulietto Chiesa morreu algumas horas depois de concluir, no 75º Aniversário da Libertação e do fim da Segunda Guerra Mundial, a Conferência Internacional de 25 de Abril, “Libertemo-nos do Vírus da Guerra”. Uma conferência de transmissão ao vivo, organizada pelo Comitato No War No NATO, do qual era um dos fundadores, e pela Global Research (Canadá), o centro de pesquisa sobre a globalização, dirigido pelo Professor Michel Chossudovsky.

Vários oradores – da Itália e de outros países europeus, dos Estados Unidos à Rússia, do Canadá à Austrália – examinaram as razões subentendidas devido às quais a guerra nunca terminou desde 1945: a Segunda Guerra Mundial foi seguida pela Guerra Fria, depois houve uma série ininterrupta de guerras e o regresso a uma situação análoga à da Guerra Fria, que aumenta o risco de um conflito nuclear.

Os economistas, Michel Chossudovsky (Canadá), Peter Koenig (Suíça) e Guido Grossi (Itália), explicaram como é que as forças económicas e financeiras poderosas exploram a crise do coronavírus para dominar as economias nacionais e o que devemos fazer para impedir esse plano.

David Swanson (Director do World Beyond War, USA), o economista Tim Anderson (Australia), o fotojornalista Giorgio Bianchi e o historiador Franco Cardini, falaram sobre as guerras passadas e presentes, ligadas aos interesses dessas mesmas forças poderosas.

O perito em questões politico-militares, Vladimir Kozin (Russia), a ensaísta Diana Johnstone (Usa),  a secretária da Campanha para o Desarmamento Nuclear, Kate Hudson (Reino Unido), analisaram os mecanismos que aumentam a probabilidade de um conflito nuclear catastrófico.

John Shipton (Austrália), pai de Julian Assange e Ann Wright (USA), antiga Coronel do US Army, retrataram a situação dramática de Julian Assange, o jornalista fundador do WikiLeaks, detido em Londres, com o risco de ser extraditado para os Estados Unidos, onde o aguarda a sentença de prisão perpétua ou a pena de morte.

Giulietto Chiesa direccionou a sua intervenção sobre esse tema. Em resumo, estas são algumas passagens:

“O facto de que se queira destruir Julian Assange significa que, também nós, todos nós, seremos amordaçados, obscurecidos, ameaçados, incapazes de compreender o que está a acontecer no nosso país e no mundo. Isto não é o futuro, é o presente. Em Itália, o Governo organiza uma comissão de censuradores encarregados, oficialmente,  de ‘limpar’ todas as notícias que se afastem das notícias oficiais. É a censura do Estado, como é que pode ser chamado de outra maneira? Também a RAI, a televisão pública, institui uma ‘task-force’ contra as “fake news” para apagar o rasto das suas mentiras diárias, que inundam todos os seus écrans de televisão.

E há, ainda pior, os misteriosos tribunais muito mais poderosos do que esses caçadores de ‘fake news’: são o Google e o Facebook, que manipulam as notícias e, com seus algoritmos e truques secretos, censuram sem apelação. Já estamos cercados de novos tribunais, que apagam os nossos direitos.

Recordam-se do artigo 21 da Constituição Italiana?

Está escrito: “Todos têm o direito de manifestar livremente o seu pensamento”.

Mas 60 milhões de italianos são forçados a ouvir um único altifalante, que grita através dos sete canais televisivos do poder.

Por esse motivo é que Julian Assange é um símbolo, uma bandeira, um convite para a reconquista dos direitos civis, políticos e económicos, para nos acordar antes que seja tarde demais.

É indispensável unir as forças que temos, que não são assim tão pequenas, mas têm um defeito crucial: o de estar divididas, incapazes de falar a uma só voz. Precisamos de um instrumento que fale aos milhões de cidadãos que querem saber”.

Estas são as últimas palavras de Giulietto Chiesa. Confirmadas pelo facto de que, imediatamente após a transmissão, o vídeo da Conferência ficou obscurecido, porque “o seu conteúdo foi identificado pela comunidade do YouTube, como sendo inapropriado ou ofensivo para certos tipos de público”.

Manlio Dinucci

Artigo original em italiano :

Giulietto Chiesa in prima linea fino all’ultimo

ilmanifesto.it


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US policymakers from both right wings of the one-party state want China’s rise on the world stage as an economic, industrial, and technological power undermined.

A undeclared Cold War between both countries rages. There’s always risk of things turning hot by accident or design when US imperialists choose this option.

Much like US propaganda war and unacceptable policies against Russia, Iran, Venezuela, and other sovereign states free from US control, hostile anti-China venom rages in Washington.

It’s notably at a fever pitch, a tactic by Trump regime hardliners to falsely blame Beijing for DJT’s failed and wrongheaded policies to contain COVID-19 outbreaks.

No credible evidence suggests that the virus was produced in a Chinese biolab.

One or more outbreaks first occurred in Hawaii late last summer, not China. Nothing suggests the virus is bat or other wildlife-related.

Is COVID-19 a US-created bioweapon — unleashed on humanity with diabolical aims in mind?

It wouldn’t be the first time US policymakers used chemical, biological, radiological, and other banned weapons against adversaries and its own people.

It happened time and again throughout US history. Are COVID-19 outbreaks the latest example of US Machiavellian tactics against humanity for greater wealth and power at the expense of public health and welfare?

The fullness of time will tell whether diabolical US objectives are behind what’s going on. If past is prologue, it’s clearly possible.

Blaming others for its high crimes and malfeasance is longstanding US policy.

China is falsely blamed for the Trump regime’s failure to prepare for and properly address COVID-19 outbreaks when occurred — even though the threat of what’s ongoing was known about years ago.

Establishment media operate as mouthpieces for the imperial state, publishing and reporting material hostile to other countries that reads and sounds like intelligence community, state and war department press releases.

The NYT slammed China’s Red Cross this week. Because it receives state funding, the Times accused it of being “an arm of the state” instead of praising its human health mission.

Citing no evidence, the Times claimed “the group’s goal of helping people (is pitted) against the party’s interests in maintaining control over society.”

Far and away, China leads the world in addressing and containing COVID-19 outbreaks — in contrast to Trump regime blunders and indifference to public health and welfare.

The Times falsely accused China of letting “protective gear s(it) in a sprawling warehouse as desperate health workers battled the virus without it.”

China widely distributes personal protective equipment (PPE) internally, along with exporting it to scores of countries worldwide.

Months after US COVID-19 outbreaks occurred, National Nurses United continue to complain about lack of enough PPE — despite the Trump regime’s Department of Health and Human Services having declared virus outbreaks to be a national emergency on January 30.

Through mid-April, over 9,000 US healthcare professionals contracted COVID-19. Lack of enough proper PPE leaves them vulnerable, the Trump regime doing little to help states address an issue that should be prioritized.

The Times is a lying machine. The same goes for other US establishment media.

The neocon/CIA-connected Washington Post falsely blamed China for “spread(ing) the coronavirus by covering up initial reports about it (and) tr(ing) to use the pandemic to advance its authoritarian political model globally at the expense of democracy (sic).”

Separately, WaPo accused China of waging a “disinformation” campaign about the virus through “fake social media accounts (sic).”

On Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Trump regime “is tightening…export-control restrictions to prevent US companies from sending (high-tech) products abroad that could strengthen China’s military.”

The same policy applies to Russia, Venezuela and other invented US adversaries.

China’s Global Times (GT) said the Trump regime “is driving the US to failed state status,” the country already thirdworldized by its hostility to social justice.

Days earlier, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said through April 20, Beijing “provided the US with over 2.46 billion masks, meaning seven masks for each (person) in the US, plus nearly 5,000 ventilators and many other types of medical equipment.”

Yet PPE and other supplies needed to combat COVID-19 haven’t been sent to states, Dem governors notably complaining about lack of federal help in dealing with a public health emergency.

GT: “China does need to take a lesson from the US and examine why (its ruling authorities) failed to protect (their) people, (let the country fall) into political division (at a critical time, and is) stunned by corruption and unparalleled social divide?”

China won’t play “scapegoat” to US indifference toward its own people, to its botched handling of COVID-19 outbreaks.

An internal GOP document obtained by Politico shows “Republicans have indicated they plan to make China a centerpiece of the 2020 campaign,” according to the broadsheet.

The Trump regime succeeded in alienating countless millions of people worldwide.

A Morning Consult poll conducted from April 24 – 26 showed Trump with a 41% approval rating, 54% disapproving of his performance as president.

Other polls earlier in April showed similar results, Trump’s disapproval exceeding 50% in nearly all conducted, 56% in a Global Strategy Group/GBAO survey.

The latest Gallup poll conducted in mid-April showed Trump’s approval at 43%, disapproval at 54%.

He’s an embarrassment to the office he holds. The option for US voters in November is no better.

Both right wings of the US war party operate the same way at the expense of ordinary people at home and abroad.

Whatever the outcome of dealing with COVID-19, the worst of times likely lies ahead in the US.

Voting achieves nothing, a popular revolution the only solution for possible responsible change.

Power yields nothing without strong resistance, the only sensible option looking ahead.

*

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Award-winning author Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected]. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG)

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

Giulietto Chiesa in prima linea fino all’ultimo

April 28th, 2020 by Manlio Dinucci

Giulietto Chiesa è morto poche ore dopo aver concluso, nel 75° Anniversario della Liberazione e della fine della Seconda guerra mondiale, il Convegno internazionale del 25 Aprile «Liberiamoci dal virus della guerra». Un convegno in diretta streaming, organizzato dal Comitato No Guerra No Nato, di cui era uno dei fondatori, e da Global Research (Canada), il Centro di ricerca sulla globalizzazione diretto dal professor Michel Chossudovsky.

Diversi relatori – dall’Italia ad altri paesi europei, dagli Stati uniti alla Russia, dal Canada all’Australia – hanno esaminato le ragioni di fondo per cui dal 1945 ad oggi la guerra non è mai terminata: al Secondo conflitto mondiale ha fatto seguito la Guerra fredda, quindi una serie ininterrotta di guerre e il ritorno a una situazione analoga a quella della Guerra fredda che accresce il rischio di un conflitto nucleare.

Gli economisti Michel Chossudovsky (Canada), Peter Koenig (Svizzera) e Guido Grossi hanno spiegato come potenti forze economiche e finanziarie sfruttano la crisi del coronavirus per impadronirsi delle economie nazionali e cosa dovremmo fare per sventare tale piano.

David Swanson (direttore di World Beyond War, Usa), l’economista Tim Anderson (Australia), il fotogiornalista Giorgio Bianchi e lo storico Franco Cardini hanno parlato delle guerre passate e attuali, funzionali agli interessi delle stesse potenti forze.

L’esperto di questioni politico-militari Vladimir Kozin (Russia), la saggista Diana Johnstone (Usa),  la segretaria della Campagna per il disarmo nucleare Kate Hudson (Regno Unito) hanno esaminato i meccanismi che accrescono la probabilità di un catastrofico conflitto nucleare.

John Shipton (Australia), padre di Julian Assange, e Ann Wright (Usa), già colonnello dello US Army, hanno illustrato la drammatica situazione di Julian Assange, il giornalista fondatore di WikiLeaks detenuto a Londra, col rischio di essere estradato negli Stati Uniti dove lo attende la pena dell’ergastolo o quella di morte.

Su tale tema ha incentrato il suo intervento Giulietto Chiesa. Questi, in sintesi, alcuni brani:

«Il fatto che si voglia distruggere Julian Assange  vuol dire che anche noi, noi tutti, saremo imbavagliati, oscurati, minacciati, impossibilitati a capire cosa succede a casa nostra e nel mondo. Questo non è il futuro, è il presente. In Italia il governo organizza una squadra di censori ufficialmente incaricata di fare pulizia di tutte le notizie che divergono da quelle ufficiali. E’ la censura di stato, come altrimenti si può chiamare? Anche la Rai, la televisione pubblica, istituisce una task force contro le “fake news” per cancellare le tracce delle loro bugie quotidiane che inondano tutti i loro teleschermi.

E poi ci sono, ancor peggio, i tribunali misteriosi di gran lunga più potenti di quanto non siano questi cacciatori di fake news: sono Google, Facebook, che manipolano le notizie e, con i loro algoritmi e i loro trucchi segreti, censurano senza appello. Siamo già circondati da nuovi tribunali che cancellano i nostri diritti.

Vi ricordate l’articolo 21 della Costituzione italiana?

C’è scritto “tutti hanno diritto di manifestare liberamente il proprio pensiero”.

Ma 60 milioni di italiani sono costretti ad ascoltare un solo megafono che urla da tutti i 7 canali televisivi del potere.

Ecco perché Julian Assange è un simbolo, una bandiera, un invito alla riscossa, al risveglio prima che sia troppo tardi.

È indispensabile unire le forze che abbiamo, che non sono tanto piccole ma hanno un difetto fondamentale: quello di essere divise, incapaci di parlare con una voce unica.

Occorre uno strumento che parli ai milioni di cittadini che vogliono sapere».

Queste le ultime parole di Giulietto Chiesa. Confermate dal fatto che, subito dopo lo streaming, il video del Convegno è stato oscurato perché «il suo contenuto è stato identificato dalla Comunità YouTube inappropriato o offensivo per alcuni tipi di pubblico».

Manlio Dinucci

 

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New Anti-China Propaganda Uses Russiagate Playbook

April 28th, 2020 by Dave DeCamp

A rabid anti-China propaganda campaign has spread through the media since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The hysteria seems to be just as contagious as the virus, as Americans are bombarded with anti-China stories from the pages of The New York Times to segments on Fox News. Both Republicans and Democrats are arguing the other side is not tough enough on China as they gear up for the 2020 election.

Since Donald Trump was elected president, the unfounded claim that Russia meddled in the 2016 election was spread far and wide by intelligence officials and liberal media outlets.

A common tactic used to promote the Russiagate narrative was unnamed officials making statements to the press without providing evidence or any factual basis to their claims. Another common tactic was frequent media appearances by former intelligence officials, like James Clapper and John Brennan, usually making wild accusations about Trump and Russia. These tactics are being repeated to promote an anti-China narrative.

The New York Times ran a story on April 22nd titled, “Chinese Agents Helped Spread Messages That Sowed Virus Panic in US, Officials Say.” The article says rumors that were spread through text messages and social media posts in mid-March that claimed the Trump administration was going to lock down the entire country to combat coronavirus were boosted by “Chinese operatives.” The authors’ sources are “six American officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to publicly discuss intelligence matters.”

The story is lacking in detail and provides no evidence for the officials’ claims. “The origin of the messages remains murky. American officials declined to reveal details of the intelligence linking Chinese agents to the dissemination of the disinformation, citing the need to protect their sources and methods for monitoring Beijing’s activities,” the story reads. Two of the officials told the Times that “they did not believe Chinese operatives created the lockdown messages, but rather amplified existing ones.”

Sensationalized reporting in the Times would not be complete without mentioning the Russians. “American officials said the operatives had adopted some of the techniques mastered by Russia-backed trolls, such as creating fake social media accounts to push messages to sympathetic Americans, who in turn unwittingly help spread them.”

Ironically, the story recognizes the danger of US officials making selective leaks to the media. “Foreign policy analysts are worried that the Trump administration may politicize intelligence work or make selective leaks to promote an anti-China narrative … American officials in the past have selectively passed intelligence to reporters to shape the domestic political landscape.” The Times uses the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq as an example of the dangers of selective leaks, ignoring the past four years of Russiagate stories that plagued its pages.

On April 17th, Fox News Host Tucker Carlson had former CIA officer Bryan Dean Wright on his show to deliver some wild accusations about US politicians and the Chinese government. Wright insinuated that some members of Congress might be agents of China’s intelligence service, the Ministry of State Security (MSS). Carlson explained to Wright that the show reached out to Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and other elected officials to ask if they’ve had contact with any Chinese officials since the coronavirus outbreak began. Carlson said they did not respond and asked Wright, “What do you think we should infer from that?”

Wright responded, “I think that they’re nervous. I think there are a bunch of people who, because they’re either useful idiots or they have some degree of knowledge and relationships behind the scenes with the Chinese government. Some of them in fact could be Chinese agents of the MSS.” Wright’s language comes straight from the Russiagate playbook. Intelligence officials and media pundits often referred to Trump as a “useful idiot” for Moscow, and some even speculated that the president is a “Russian agent.”

Trump’s anti-Russia policies show that he is not working in the White House on behalf of Vladimir Putin. Similarly, anti-China legislation that has recently passed through the House and Senate makes it unlikely any MSS agents are working in the halls of Congress.

The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act passed unanimously through the Senate last year and had one lone nay vote in the House from Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY). The act, which was signed into law by President Trump, requires the State Department to prepare an annual report on the autonomy of Hong Kong from mainland China. The act also requires the Commerce Department to report on “China’s efforts to use Hong Kong to evade US export controls.” The bill says the president shall present Congress with a list of any individuals that violate human rights in Hong Kong. Any findings that are unsatisfactory to the US could result in sanctions.

The Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act was also passed unanimously through the Senate, and again, Rep. Massie was the only one to vote against the bill in the House. This bill, which has not made it to President Trump’s desk, would require the US to impose sanctions and export restrictions over China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims in the western autonomous region of Xinjiang.

Rep. Massie, the sole dissenting voice in Congress, did not vote against these bills because of any loyalty to Beijing or Xi Jinping. “When our government meddles in the internal affairs of foreign countries, it invites those governments to meddle in our affairs,” Massie wrote on Twitter, explaining his votes.

The Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative (TAIPEI) Act, which was signed into law by President Trump in March, passed unanimously through both the House and Senate, with Rep. Massie finally falling in line with his colleague’s anti-China policy. The TAIPEI Act says the US should “help strengthen Taiwan’s diplomatic relationships and partnerships around the world.”

Taiwan remains the most sensitive issue between the US and China, since Beijing considers the island to be a part of China. Although the US does not formally recognize Taiwan as an independent nation, Washington supplies the island with arms and frequently sails warships through the Taiwan strait, drawing the ire of Beijing. No members of Congress speak out against these provocations. Like the accusations about Trump and Russia, the idea that Congress is crawling with agents of Beijing is easily disproven by actual policy.

Tucker Carlson did not challenge any of Wright’s outrageous claims but instead nodded along. Since the start of the outbreak, Carlson’s show has focused on putting all the blame for the coronavirus pandemic on Beijing. Carlson’s recent content reflects the strategy of the White House. The Daily Beast obtained internal White House documents in March that showed the administration was pushing US officials to blame China for a “cover-up” in the early days of the outbreak. The strategy has proven useful as many pro-Trump media outlets put Beijing’s response to the pandemic under a microscope, and largely ignore the US government’s early missteps.

Politico obtained a memo sent by the National Republican Senatorial Committee to GOP campaigns. The memo outlines an anti-China strategy for Republicans running for office in 2020. The document advises candidates to blame the pandemic on China, say Democratic opponents are too soft on China, and advocate for sanctions against Beijing. The memo is full of strong rhetoric like, “China is not an ally, and they’re not just a rival — they are an adversary and the Chinese Communist Party is our enemy.”

The GOP guidelines are similar to the rhetoric coming from China hardlinerslike former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon. In March 2019, Bannon and neoconservative Frank Gaffney founded the Committee on Present Danger: China, a think-tank that identifies China as the greatest “existential threat” to the United States. In his almost-daily podcast, Bannon rails against Beijing and pins all the blame for the pandemic on China. “The Chinese Communist Party is at war with their people, they’re at war with the world, and they’re at war with you … You may not have an interest in the Chinese Communist Party but its destroyed your life. OK? Your economic life, your spiritual life, your social life. The destruction is from Beijing,” Bannon said in a recent episode.

Republicans and right-wingers are not the only ones looking to attack China this election season. The Biden campaign released an ad on April 18th that attacked Trump for his response to the virus. The ad said, “Trump rolled over for the Chinese” and criticized how much the president praised China’s handling of the pandemic early on. “Trump praised the Chinese 15 times in January and February as the coronavirus spread across the world,” the ad said.

The anti-China propaganda seems to be turning public opinion against Beijing. A new poll from the Pew Research Center that surveyed 1,000 adults throughout March found that 66 percent have an unfavorable view of China, an increase of 14 percent since Pew last asked the question in 2018. Nine out of 10 adults surveyed view China as a threat, including 62 percent who see China as a major threat.

China may have made some mistakes in its early response to the virus, but that does not excuse the US government’s lack of preparedness, and treating the pandemic as an attack sets a dangerous precedent for future outbreaks. The strategy could backfire on Washington if any future pandemics originate in the US.

Like Russiagate, the anti-China propaganda will serve as a useful tool for a national security state that is looking to focus more on great power competition. The Pentagon identifies China as its number one priority and is looking to increase its footprint in the Indo-Pacific region. The constant propaganda will make that increased presence more palatable to the American people. But that increased presence will bring more confrontation between the US and China, and bring the region and the world closer to nuclear war.

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Dave DeCamp is assistant editor at Antiwar.com and a freelance journalist based in Brooklyn NY, focusing on US foreign policy and wars. He is on Twitter at @decampdave.

What passes for US-style “democracy” would make some despots blush. 

It’s more fanciful than real, an illusion of what doesn’t exist.

The nation was created to be run by its rich, well-born, and able, John Adams explained.

John Jay, the first US Supreme Court chief justice, said owners of the country should run it.

When US elections are held, outcomes are predictable, continuity assured every time,

Names and faces change, results always the same.

Privileged interests are served at the expense of most others under one-party rule with two extremist right wings.

The nation’s bipartisan criminal class runs things for monied interests and themselves alone — at the expense of world peace, equity, social justice, and the rule of law they disdain.

When so-called elections are held, US voters get to choose between GOP and Dem presidential and congressional candidates for key posts who resemble an FBI most wanted list, not legitimate seekers of high office.

The race for the White House gets most attention for obvious reasons.

In November, US voters will choose between mentally unstable, narcissistic, congenital liar, disturbingly unhinged Trump, a person whose brain doesn’t work like normal people.

According to criminal psychology expert Robert Hare, he and hardliners surrounding him like Pompeo currently and Bolton earlier fit the definition of psychopathological derangement.

They exhibit the following disturbing traits: “coldheartedness,” a “callous unconcern for the feelings of others,” a lack of remorse, shame or guilt, irresponsibility, an extremely high threshold for disgust, impulsiveness, emotional shallowness, “pathological lying,” a “grandiose sense of self-worth,” an incapacity for love, a “parasitic lifestyle,” among other “dissocial personality” abnormalities.

They “con others for personal profit…pleasure,” and power over other people they seek to dominate.

They operate like recklessly dangerous sociopaths and psychopaths, blaming others for their own failures and wrongdoing.

They turn truth on its head for self-aggrandizement and malevolent aims, indifferent to the human toll.

Trump’s consistent dissembling suggests an inability to distinguish between facts and fiction.

His misleading, deceptive, and falsified remarks on key issues show profound ignorance and an aversion to truth-telling.

His callous indifference toward public health and welfare is polar opposite what responsible leadership is supposed to be all about.

In September 2017, thousands of mental health professionals said they believe that he “manifests a serious mental illness that renders him psychologically incapable of competently discharging the duties of president of the” US, adding:

“(W)e respectfully request he be removed from office, according to article 4 of the 25th amendment to the Constitution, which states that the president will be replaced if he is ‘unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.’ ”

As president and commander-in-chief with his finger on the nuclear trigger he’s able to squeeze against one of more nations on the US target for regime change, he represents a clear and present danger to everyone everywhere.

What about Joe Biden, the presumptive Dem presidential nominee? Does he represent a safe alternative to Trump?

He and DJT are two-sides of the same coin, differing only in style and party label.

They’re both unapologetically pro-war, pro-Wall Street, pro-the military/industrial/security/media complex, pro-corporatism over the general welfare, pro-police state control, and anti-what just societies cherish.

Biden is Hillary with a gender difference, assuring continuation of Obama’s disturbing record if elected — notably endless wars against invented enemies, force-fed neoliberal harshness on ordinary Americans, and police state crackdowns on nonbelievers.

Ahead of formally announcing his candidacy for president, he said:

“I’m Joe Biden and I work for you (sic)…Are you with us (sic)?”

Throughout his near half-century political career as US senator, vice president, and presidential aspirant, Biden’s agenda has been all about serving privileged interests exclusively at the expense of public rights, needs and welfare.

He never met a sovereign independent nation he didn’t want forcefully transformed into a US client state by wars or other hostile actions.

His Senate record alone revealed the measure of the man, supporting wars of aggression, police state laws, the racist war on drugs, mass incarceration, and other harmful policies to ordinary people, notably affecting people of color.

He opposes Net Neutrality, the last frontier of free and open expression, a fundamental right too vital to lose.

He and Trump have been accused of sexual misconduct numerous times.

Since the 1970s, many women accused Trump of assaulting them sexually.

As a private citizen, he earlier boasted about groping women. As a presidential candidate, he claimed many “women…got paid a lot of money to make up stories about me,” no evidence presented backing his claim.

One accuser said “(h)e was like an octopus. His hands were everywhere.”

Biden’s accusers are coming forth with lurid tales about him — from inappropriate touching to sexual assaults.

Psychology Today calls sexual assault “any sexual activity that occurs without consent,” adding:

It’s “a pervasive problem. In America, one in three women and one in four men experience sexual violence in their lifetimes, according to the National Institutes of Health.”

“And those numbers are likely an underestimate due to the shame and fear that prevent many survivors from reporting abuse.”

“Sex and violence are closely linked,” notably by “dominant men forcing themselves on women.”

“(S)exual assault is more about power than…sex…motivation stem(ming) from the perpetrator’s need for dominance and control.”

Sex is used by one person to exert power over another. Children and adolescents are affected like adults.

Men most often are perpetrators in male-dominant societies like the US. Trump long ago bragged that he could do what he pleased with women, saying:

“When you’re a star, they let you do it.”

Women in all walks of life tell horror stories of rape, assault, harassment, and abuse by powerful men, including politicians, celebrities, and the clergy.

Based on what’s know about Trump and Biden, neither figure is fit to hold any public office, notably not the highest in the land.

The choice for US voters in November is none at all.

It’s nearly always this way, notably since the neoliberal 90s — especially in Trump v. Hillary and incumbent DJT v. Biden.

Whoever is inaugurated US president in January 2021 will represent continuity like earlier, most likely in harsher form based on what’s ongoing.

It’s the American way. Democracy in the country is pure fantasy, never the real thing, notably not now and what’s coming ahead.

*

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Award-winning author Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected]. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG)

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

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April 27th, 2020 by The Global Research Team

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We are in a world that is globally flabbergasted today.

In other words, stunned, panicked.

Our brains are in a state of excessive, inordinate paranoia.

Our paranoia switches have been activated!

Martha Stout, an American psychologist, describes this in her book, “The Paranoia Switch“, published in 2007.

Our paranoia switch had already been activated on September 11, 2001.

Remember June 18, 2001? What you did, what you ate, the people you met, the TV program?

Not unless you were married that day. And again.

On the other hand, everyone remembers what they were doing on September 11, 2001, and especially what happened that day.

Not because everyone has a great memory or got married that day.

Because their paranoia switch has been turned to maximum.

I’m not going to lecture you on neuroscience or brain anatomy or brain amygdala or limbic system.

Those who want to, listen to the author [1] or read Martha Stout‘s book (photo on the right) [2], edifying, instructive, or this review article translated into French on the website fr.sott.net :

Limbic Warfare and Martha Stout’s “Paranoia Switch”

In summary, the stronger a traumatic event is, especially visual, the more the cerebral amygdala, the centre of fear and aggressiveness, is stimulated and, above all, the less the hippocampus (centre of factual memory) and its relays with the higher centres of the brain (reflection) are operational and intact.

This means ?

After the traumatic event, even years later, any image, sound, word closely or remotely related to this event plunges us back into the same state of fear by activating the amygdala and depressing the hippocampus and our upper brain centres.

Basically, the “panicker”, freed from the control of the “analyst”, takes over the reins of our brain, and that’s not nice, that’s not good.

For example, the sound of a car horn in the street can immediately awaken intense paranoia in a war veteran that is completely disproportionate or even irrelevant, escaping reason.

Martha Stout points out that among all traumatic experiences, the ones that will cause the most astonishment and terror are those intentionally caused by our fellow human beings, such as rape, kidnapping, aggression or a terrorist attack, far ahead of those caused by accidents (explosion, car accident…) or natural disasters (earthquake…).

The important thing to remember is that once stunned in this way, the human brain no longer thinks, or thinks badly [with difficulty]. A bit like a short circuit in an electrical installation.

As a result, despite all its intelligence, its possible knowledge or its reflexes of critical analysis of a situation, the human brain becomes as if frozen.

It is mature, ready to submit.

Primary emotions such as fear, anger and aggression take control.

Such humans become very malleable, very suggestible and feel a strong urge to calm this fear by preferring simplistic speeches, ready-made solutions, even if they are irrational, impossible, illogical, by thinking it over.

But precisely!

Once the paranoia switch is turned on, people’s brains stop thinking.

The citizens are told all the official authorities’ lies that seem to them to be the providential solution, in this climate of extreme fear.

Could the powers that be, well aware of these psychological weaknesses of human beings, use our paranoia switches to keep their power and commit their misdeeds?

Martha Stout, in her excellent book, says:

“Agents of fear maintain their power by exploiting human weaknesses. »

History shows how those in power have always used fear to commit their misdeeds, often using a scapegoat of that fear to exonerate themselves and give the brain a bone to gnaw in the brain amygdala of the deceived populations.

  • Hitler used the anarchists, the Jews, the communists, accusing the latter of the burning of the Reichstag [3], to pass his freedom-destroying laws and establish Nazi rule.
  • Successive American administrations have always used the fear of the other, from Native Americans to the Russians, and now the Chinese.
  • Bush Junior used the fear of terrorists and Muslims by using the Osama Bin Laden lie, then the Fake news of weapons of mass destruction to invade Iraq, a new demonized enemy, used to activate the switch of paranoia of Western civilian populations.
  • The New World Order (a transnational entity that now wants to establish a world government), uses a virus, COVID-19, to scare people, to stifle their paranoia switch, and this time, the enemy is represented by anyone who opposes their freedom-destroying laws presented as laws for the common good. Theirs above all!Always the same means for the same goal:

    Create a powerful paranoia switch and use it to dumbfound people’s thinking abilities, demonize opponents of the authorities and make them accept anything, as long as the fear is calmed.

    For September 11, 2001, the image of the collapsing twin towers and the cloud of dust, of people jumping into the void or scurrying like mad rabbits through the soot-blackened streets, served as a hook, a detonator for our cerebral amygdala.

    For the COVID-19 pandemic, all that was needed were these convoys of deaths in Italy, a few news stories about young people who died [6] and these daily macabre counts, these truncated statistics that our media inflict on us every day.

    The WHO of 2009, whose corruption has been officially brought to light [5-6-7], has remained and remains the patented organizer of this organized panic.

    The same gang of criminals has simply done it again, exploiting the psychological weaknesses well known to humanity.

    This time, it was done at a level never seen before, on a world level.

    And for many so-called civilized, “free” countries, it works.

    For me, this is what is most frightening, much more frightening than COVID-19, that all these countries, including mine, Belgium, have submitted so quickly to this evil New World Order.

    Martha Stout’s book not only describes how terror rewires our brains and reshapes our behaviour, it also describes how we can restore our dignity and freedom of thought.

    Dr. Pascal Sacré

    Photo: pixabay.com

    Author’s note : A Healthy Human Society:

  •  Would have in all areas of life, first and foremost that of health, boards and committees made up of experts independent of merchants, vendors, industry which is not scientific, which is mercantile especially in a capitalist society.
  • Would have “official” media at least neutral, at best critical of the executive power.
  • Would have courses in its national education program on the functioning of the human brain and its weaknesses through the limbic system, the cerebral amygdala and the construction of memories, and popularized courses on how psychological trauma affects all these functions.
  • Would have in the wake of these explanatory courses, courses of intellectual and emotional self-defense, with courses to be taken from among the many disciplines that have proven their effectiveness in managing stress and its emotional balance (meditation, self-hypnosis in particular).
  • Would have control bodies made up of individuals with no ties of any kind to vendors, merchants, the industry mentioned above. Wise men” who proved this by their deeds and not only by their words, such as Professor Henri Joyeux, Professor Philippe Even, Doctor Michel de Lorgeril or the late Sylvie Simon in France.
  • Would have in its medical and public health system a lobby that would put as much energy, if not more, into prevention and into the promotion of natural medicines, in particular the promotion of a healthy diet, if not more, than into the promotion of vaccination.
  • Would have in its national education programme courses which would value pacifism and all the individuals who embodied it by their actions, rather than this endless series of admiring courses on the greatest mass murderers of History (Napoleon, Alexander the Great, Churchill*, Julius Caesar…).
  • Would value bloodthirsty oppression resisters such as Powhatan, Opechancanough, Sir William Wallace and Arnold Winkler, rather than their oppressors.* “Winston Churchill was a patent-pending imperialist, a man who had no intention of ending domination over India, the African colonies and other British possessions.” [8]

Ingrained racism, brutality, warlike exaltation, and Churchill’s responsibility – whether in the military or while in power – for the brutal suppression of numerous revolts (in India, Sudan, South Africa as an army officer, in Ireland, Malaysia, Kenya as Secretary of State or as British Prime Minister), and for the abandonment to death of millions during the Bengal famine of 1943.

See:

Churchill’s Empire. The World That Made Him and The World He Made. Richard Toyle. London. Macmillan, 2010

Churchill’s Secret War. The British Empire and the Ravaging of India During World War II, New York, Madhusree Mukerjee, Basic Books, 2010 (English

The Crime of Bengal.

La Part d’Ombre de Winston Churchill, Paris, Les Nuits Rouges, 2015.

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Notes
1] The Paranoia Switch, YouTube video, interview with the author, in English

2] The book, The Paranoia Switch, by Martha Stout, PhD.

[3] Reichstagsbrandverordnung, Reichstag Fire Decree
http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reichstagsbrandverordnung

4] COVID-19 – The choice of media: fear!

[5] Politics and corruption at WHO

6] Vaccination and the 2009 viral pandemic: do you trust SAGE?

[7] COVID-19 – Check your sources. War against… corruption?

8] Christopher Columbus and other cannibals, Jack D. Forbes, Le Passager Clandestin, 2018, pp 23-24.

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It has yet to become clear just how harmful the coronavirus (Covid-19) will prove to be, with case figures and deaths continuing to evolve. As was anticipated, this highly contagious disease is causing havoc once it enters hospitals, nursing homes and other care facilities – where the virus is spreading forth at ease and infecting thousands of vulnerable people.

To make matters worse, in the neoliberal era, hospitals and care centres have been under-funded and stripped of staff due to cuts or privatisation. For elderly people with underlying conditions like cancer or diabetes, the coronavirus has provided a death knell to an already depleted constitution. On these occasions the impression is often given, by mainstream media and politicians, that Covid-19 resulted solely in the patient’s death. It is more likely that, in many cases, the virus was a contributory factor in the loss of life, rather than the single cause.

Yet this virus should certainly not be written off as a mild disease, as analysis later on here may demonstrate. In some instances Covid-19 has been unwisely and recklessly dismissed, downplayed or even blamed on other countries.

Unlike heart disease or cancer, the coronavirus is of course infectious; it can spread quickly, unseen and, crucially, there is no vaccine or immunity to it. Therein lie some of the legitimate core concerns relating to this illness.

Covid-19’s emergence was most likely as a combination of the following factors, bolstered by scientific opinion and research: Industrial meat production which is massively reliant on the administering of antibiotics (1). Dangerous, mutant bacteria resistant to drugs have been developing as a result of overuse of antibiotics fed to livestock. America and China, the world’s strongest economies, are among the largest utilisers of antibiotics in meat processing and agriculture.

Tellingly, antibiotic resistance in domestic animals has almost tripled since the year 2000, as antibiotic usage has exploded this century (2). The abuse of antibiotics, in which both livestock and humans are becoming resistant to treatment, has many worrying repercussions, among them the likely spawning of various illnesses, including viruses. Another major factor in disease development is ongoing human encroachment into the natural world, like rainforests and grasslands. Habitat destruction across the globe has increased greatly over the past 70 years. This has resulted in regular interaction between billions of people, their livestock and wild creatures, all possible carriers of diseases, new or old.

It is irrelevant as to which country Covid-19 sprang forth from, whether it was China or some other state. For political or ideological reasons, a great deal of energy has been wasted in directing fingers of blame towards a particular nation, pertaining to the virus’s emergence. A viral outbreak is a world issue in which global corporate power, greed and the pursuit of profits are largely accountable – not a specific country or race.

About four months after the coronavirus was first reportedly identified, it has at least partly contributed so far to an official death toll of about 200,000 people, with global cases at present approaching three million. (3)

The above figures consist of a very small fraction of 1% of the planet’s human population. However, Covid-19 is in its early stages, and worldwide infections are increasing daily by the tens of thousands through statistics relayed to the public. There could be a considerable rise in cases to come, particularly if there are outbreaks of the virus among broader communities. It continues to spread relentlessly in hospitals, care facilities, etc., contributing to hundreds of deaths each day. In addition, the official coronavirus numbers are only the cases reported. The real Covid-19 figures are quite probably higher, due to inadequate testing and misdiagnoses, problems which have already come to the fore.

Early symptoms in patients with Covid-19 and influenza (flu) can be similar. The resemblance soon ends there. Every year, flu epidemics affect from 5% to 10% of the world’s human populace, up to 780 million people. Out of this, the flu is responsible for killing between 290,000 to 650,000 people globally per annum (4). Therefore the death rate worldwide from the flu each year, though slightly increasing in recent times, amounts to well below 1%.

Regarding Covid-19, official figures currently portray a death rate of around 7%: that is, 200,000 deaths out of 2.9 million cases. These statistics will, as stated, change over time but it indicates that Covid-19 is far more harmful than influenza – and likewise relating to the swine flu pandemic of a decade ago. These observations are supported by medical experts on the ground. Dr. Randell Wexler, a family physician working in various hospitals in the Ohio area, wrote earlier this month that, “What makes Covid-19 so much more dangerous than the flu, is that there’s no vaccine and no natural immunity in the world, meaning everybody is susceptible”. (5)

Indeed, and as of yet there is no evidence that recovered Covid-19 patients will thereafter develop immunity to the virus. They could catch it again and spread the disease about. Official figures from countries with some of the world’s highest coronavirus infection levels – such as Italy, France, Spain, Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands and Sweden – show that in each of these nations the death rate, from those infected with Covid-19, is presently at 10% or over (6). Bearing in mind that these are wealthy countries just mentioned, with more resources at their disposal than the vast majority of nations. The UN Human Development Index (HDI) places the above seven European states listed near the top of the “Very High Human Development” bracket. (7)

To provide one example, Italy, over 25,000 people there have died at least partially due to Covid-19, out of fewer than 200,000 cases recorded at present. This comprises a current death rate of 13.5% in Italy. There are indications that the disease is being contained in the country, mostly due to the necessary clampdown on Italian society announced in early March, it can be noted. The daily Covid-19 figures in Italy are gradually declining, but the Italians are not out of the woods by any means. Further outbreaks or clusters could occur, as in any affected country, and caution will need to be applied in the time ahead.

The coronavirus was first identified on Italian soil during 31 January 2020. In the 12 weeks or so directly prior to this, there were at least three million confirmed flu infections recorded in Italy by medical experts, up to 23 January 2020. Out of these approximately three million flu cases, just 240 people are thought to have died. (8)

Research conducted by scientists at separate universities in Britain, has outlined that those most vulnerable to the coronavirus are not only the elderly, but rivalling them are the obese (9). Medics have been struck by the influx of obese patients admitted to British hospitals with Covid-19. Obesity is a worsening problem in Britain, with almost 30% of the adult population considered obese, and many of them are not elderly. The insidious connection between obesity and Covid-19 has been under-reported by the media, and is presumably little know among the public.

America has easily the world’s highest level of reported coronavirus infections. By now, over 50,000 Americans are said to have succumbed to the virus, out of more than 900,000 official detections and counting. During the winter of 2018-2019, an estimated 35.5 million people contracted the flu in America, with 34,200 people dying, a death rate of a fraction of 1% (10). Studies have shown that obesity is a leading factor in coronavirus hospitalisations in New York City for example, the worst affected area of the US. Just over 40% of the American adult population is obese (11). Another one third of American adults are classed as overweight, below the level of obesity, but we will stick with the latter phenomenon which has more severe health ramifications.

Most of those enduring obesity are again far from advanced in years – 17% of American children are obese. Dr. Nivedita Lakhera, working in an intensive care unit in San Jose, California, noticed the large numbers of young and obese with coronavirus entering O’Connor Hospital, where she is mainly based. Dr. Lakhera revealed last week that, “They are young and coming to ER [Emergency Room] and just dropping dead” (12). Some of the patients who died of Covid-19 had no other known health problems, other than being that of morbidly obese.

America’s national public health institute, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has listed those afflicted with obesity among the high risk patients (13). This term, obesity, is defined by medical professionals as people who have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or above. Dr. Jennifer Lighter, an epidemiologist at New York University Langone, noted recently that, “BMI is the achilles’ heel for American patients. In China it was smoking and pollution, and Italy had a larger older population, and many grandparents lived with extended families. Here, it’s BMI that’s the issue”.

Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London, warned last week, “Obesity and poor diet is emerging as one of the biggest risk factors for a severe response to Covid-19 infection that can no longer be ignored”. (14)

The food industry is amassing huge profits in churning out cheap, low quality processed foods that fill supermarket shelves, and which is a cause behind disturbing obesity levels. Furthermore, those who are severely overweight are more likely to have embedded health issues, such as diabetes or cancer. Considering the high rate of obesity in America, it would not at all be accurate to suggest that a minority of the US population are potentially vulnerable, should they contract the virus. On obesity figures alone, more than a third of the American adult population could face health complications should they become infected with Covid-19.

Such a prospect is a low possibility, and it is not to suggest that millions will die due to the virus in America, or badly affected countries elsewhere – but every precaution must be taken to prevent it from spreading at will among the public. A World Health Organisation (WHO) account expounded that 80% of patients “experienced mild illness” when infected with Covid-19, before recovering quickly. The WHO was referring here primarily to cases in China (15). This WHO report was published almost two months ago, when China then had the world’s highest infection numbers. The virus was swiftly contained in China following strict lockdown measures enacted by the authorities.

Not mentioned once in the WHO report in question is the threat of obesity. Only between 5% to 6% of China’s population is obese. In Hubei province, where the city of Wuhan is located, 7.8% of its inhabitants are obese (16). By comparison, more than three times that percentage suffer from obesity in New York state, encompassing New York City. In the UK to date, three-quarters of critically ill coronavirus patients have either been overweight or obese. The official death rate from Covid-19 infections in Britain is 13.5%, with around 20,000 reported to have died, but this does not include those who passed away in care homes. The actual British death toll from the disease is likely to be 40% higher than the figures released by the government, which relate just to hospital deaths.

Elsewhere it may be no coincidence that, in South Korea, with one of the lowest obesity rates worldwide, that nation has experienced a very mild coronavirus death rate. Although there may be other factors involved in South Korea’s low fatality count, the country with the planet’s lowest obesity level, Vietnam, has so far recorded no deaths from Covid-19 – despite the fact that the first virus patient was noted in Vietnam just three days after the first American case.

Recent scientific studies highlight that more than 10% of the global human population is obese, around 800 million people (17). Dr. Samuel Kline, a gastroenterologist at Washington University School of Medicine, said that obesity sufferers “already have lower oxygen levels, they are predisposed to pulmonary dysfunction, and they have decreased chest function because of the weight on their chest. And many have sleep apnea. So they’re at pulmonary risk already”.

As the coronavirus is a respiratory disease that attacks the lungs, obese patients become yet more vulnerable. It could explain Dr. Lakhera’s poignant remarks about how some obese patients in California are “just dropping dead” after contracting Covid-19. In the age of neoliberal globalisation especially, one is well advised to treat government actions with suspicion. Nevertheless regarding the coronavirus epidemic, governments are undoubtedly correct in ordering lockdowns of the public so as to suppress this disease; providing it is done professionally, with proper notice and explanation given to the public, the opposite to which took place in India last month.

It must be stressed that governments have no other alternative but to call for lockdowns of societies for a certain period of time, and to promote social distancing initiatives. To suggest by now that governments should not implement these policies is irresponsible, to put it mildly. Were the public free to pursue their lives as before, this dangerous virus would clearly spread at a much quicker rate. As general populations of all ages are in overall poor physical shape, and with many having underlying illnesses, a lack of restrictions could have serious consequences.

Bucking the trend in Europe, the Swedish government has so far withheld implementing a complete lockdown, and precautions in the country have been light. The authorities may well be advised to alter their policies, as the official Covid-19 death rate in Sweden now stands at around 12%. On per capita terms Sweden, with a modest 10 million population, is among the world’s worst affected nations. Other Scandinavian countries also have much lower Covid-19 figures than Sweden.

It remains to be seen if the planet’s ultra-rich sectors will emerge in an even stronger position, when the virus is finally quelled. The signs may not be encouraging, even for the absolute elite. From late January to late March 2020, the richest 100 billionaires lost over $400 billion of their wealth, a painful dose of medicine by any measure (18). Almost all of the wealthiest people have seen their grotesquely bloated incomes fall appreciably during this period, coinciding with the virus outbreak. US president Donald Trump himself lost a billion dollars over the course of a month.

The reality is that the top 1% around the world, and more specifically the top 0.1%, were managing very nicely prior to the virus spread. Covid-19’s emergence was not desired by much of those in de facto control of the world. Corporations that will benefit are primarily the large pharmaceutical and drug companies, but this is just one segment of the big business sphere. The masses are unsurprisingly bearing the brunt of suffering once more, from highly unequal and impoverished countries like India, to the world’s richest nation, America.

Global spread of coronavirus could in fact have been prevented from the start (19). A growing likelihood of a virus epidemic was well known to scientists and other experts, and also by governments. Nothing was done, however. The crisis was compounded by the perfidy of our political systems. The reaction to Covid-19 was particularly sluggish and shambolic in America and Britain, where the warning signs had previously become so obvious. Thousands have since needlessly died.

While Covid-19 is having disastrous economic and social consequences, two greater challenges loom on the horizon which are scarcely mentioned: rising threat of nuclear war and climate change, both of which are being largely driven by a combination of Trump administration policies and neoliberalism. A major nuclear war or rampant climate change will make Covid-19 seem like child’s play in comparison. Mass media coverage of these bigger threats is either inadequate (climate change) or almost non-existent (nuclear war). Yet the media have directed enormous attention towards the coronavirus.

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Shane Quinn obtained an honors journalism degree. He is interested in writing primarily on foreign affairs, having been inspired by authors like Noam Chomsky. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Notes

1 Al Jazeera News, “Noam Chomsky: ‘Coronavirus pandemic could have been prevented’”, Al Jazeera, 3 April 2020

2 ScienceDaily, “Antibiotic resistance in food animals nearly tripled since 2000”, Princeton University, 9 October 2019

3 Max Roser, Hannah Ritchie, Esteban Ortiz-Ospina and Joe Hasell, “Statistics and Research Coronavirus Disease (Covid-19)”, Our World in Data, 26 April 2020

4 World Health Organisation, “Up to 650,000 people die of respiratory diseases linked to seasonal flu each year”, 13 December 2017

5 Randell Wexler, MD, “How Covid-19 is different and worse than the flu”, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, 15 April 2020

6 Statista, “Coronavirus (Covid-19) death rates in countries with confirmed deaths and over 1,000 cases as of 26 April 2020, by country”

7 Human Development Reports, “Table 1: Human Development Index andits components”, United Nations Development Programme

8 The Local, “Flu outbreak in Italy peaking as half a million people struck down in a week”, 23 January 2020

9 Oli Smith, “Scientists discover ‘single biggest coronavirus risk factor’ – and 3 out of 5 Brits have it”, Daily Express, 20 April 2020

10 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Estimated Influenza Illnesses, Medical Visits, Hospitalisations, and Deaths in the United States – 2018 – 2019 season”

11 Gaby Galvin, “The U.S. obesity rate now tops 40%”, U.S. News, 27 February 2020

12 Dawn Fallik, “Covid-19 is hitting some patients with obesity particularly hard”, ScienceNews, 22 April 2020

13 Hannah Osborne, “Obesity one of the biggest risk factors in Covid-19 hospitalisations, study finds”, 14 April 2020

14 Oliver Morrison, “Coronavirus and obesity: Doctors take aim at food industry over poor diets”, Food Navigator, 22 April 2020

15 World Health Organisation, “Coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) Situation Report – 41”, 1 March 2020

16 Lina Su, Long Sun, Lingzhong Xu, “Review on the prevalence, risk factors and disease Management of Hypertension among floating population in China during 1990–2016”, SpringerLink, 23 July 2018

17 AFP News Agency, “Obesity ‘epidemic’ affects one in 10 peopleworldwide – study”, TheJournal.ie, 12 June 2017

18 Tanner Brown, “Only 9 of the world’s top 100 billionaires have gotten richer during the coronavirus pandemic”, MarketWatch, 11 April 2020

19 The Real News Network, Marc Steiner, “Noam Chomsky On Covid-19 And His New Book: Internationalism Or Extinction”, 13 April 2020

Featured image is from CODEPink

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Giulietto Chiesa (1940-2020): An Intellectual of Action

April 27th, 2020 by Dimitris Konstantakopoulos

It is with great sorrow that we learned yesterday, April 26th, that Giulietto Chiesa has passed away. One of the most remarkable European intellectuals – activists of our times, deeply enshrined in the “Leninist” tradition of action before anything else, even if he would not claim it, Giulietto participated in the Delphi initiative which was born out of the Delphi Conference in 2015. It was from this center of the ancient World that he delivered a passionate warning on the danger of a new world war and an equally passionate appeal to stop both the coming war and NATO.

Giullietto believed strongly that the “extremist”, Neocon forces inside the Western establishment had no other choice than war in order to try to keep the dominant position of the West confronted with the challenge of the rising Russia, BRIICS and China. This is why he wanted to create a front of all forces in Europe, Leftist or Right-wing, provided they agree to fight against the war and NATO.  His predictions seemed very much to come true with the rise of nuclear tensions with Korea, the dismantling of the arms control treaties, the tensions with China and in the Middle East. Even if we did not always agree about the nature of the forces behind Trump and their real agenda.

Giulietto Chiesa was a leader of the Italian Communist Youth before becoming Moscow correspondent for Unita, the newspaper of the PCI, during perestroika. He worked for twenty years for “L’Unità” and “La Stampa” in Moscow. Also a correspondent in Moscow at that time, I still remember the shock he caused his Soviet TV guests when he told them, during one program, that he had not met any Communist in the USSR.

 He also worked with all major Italian television channels, from the TG1 to TG3 and TG5 and, as a political analyst, for major Russian television channels. He was the only Italian journalist to be repeatedly mentioned in the autobiography of Mikhail Gorbachev, whom he had repeatedly interviewed. He wrote a blog for “Il Fatto Quotidiano” and he had his own blog. He was the founder and director of Pandoratv.it web tv. An expert in international politics and communications scholar, he founded the political-cultural movement “Alternativa”. Among his credits there are some best-sellers such as “Endless War”, “Superclan” (with Marcello Villari), “Barack Obush” (with Pino Cabras) and the movie “Zero, an inquiry into 9/11”. His latest book was “Putinophobia”. One of the initiators of the Sofia Club and of the Delphi Initiative, he was also an MEP between 2004 and 2009. We hope we will have again the opportunity to return to the work and life of this remarkable personality.

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South Yemen’s Southern Transitional Council declared self-rule over the vast regions of the country that they claim as their own in response to the Saudi-backed Hadi government’s repeated violations of last year’s Riyadh Agreement that was aimed at de-escalating tensions between the nominally allied sides, thus representing the next step towards independence and one which couldn’t have been made at a more strategically opportune moment.

Self-Rule As A Stepping Stone Towards Independence

Yemen is once again making headlines across the world after the Southern Transitional Council (STC) declared self-rule over the vast regions of the country that they claim as their own per their quest to restore sovereignty to the Old Cold War-era state of South Yemen. The separatist group stopped short of outright declaring independence, but few are under any illusions that this step isn’t a means towards that eventual end. That scenario could have been avoided, however, had the Saudi-backed Hadi government not repeatedly violated last year’s Riyadh Agreement that was aimed at de-escalating tensions between the nominally allied sides following the STC’s liberation of Aden over the summer, which the author analyzed at the time in his piece about how “South Yemen Is Already Functionally Independent Even If It’s Not Recognized As Such“. The accord was supposed to have been a de-facto power-sharing agreement that would have seen the separatists incorporated into the state’s official framework in order to satisfy most of their political demands for fairer representation of their home region that’s been subjugated by the North since the South’s defeat during the brief 1994 civil war.

Rubbishing The Riyadh Agreement

Hadi — and by extrapolation, his Saudi backers — had other plans, however, which were likely motivated by the desire to eliminate his only credible rivals under the cover of the Riyadh Agreement, naively hoping that they’d let their guard down during this time so that the government could take maximum advantage of the fragile peace. That was a terrible miscalculation in hindsight since it rested on the assumptions that Saudi Arabia would fully support Hadi’s forces no matter the circumstances and that his representatives are popular enough to replace the STC in the aftermath of their planned power struggle, both of which couldn’t have been more wrong. The STC is extremely popular among native Southerners and regarded by them as a government-in-waiting whose legitimacy is absolute, unlike the questionable domestic legitimacy of Hadi’s internationally recognized authorities. The only conceivable scenario in which Hadi’s Saudi-backed forces could retain control over South Yemen would be through the imposition of a brutal dictatorship that rules through state terror, which is unsustainable for both practical and cost-related (financial, military, and humanitarian) reasons.

Perfect Timing

The very fact that it was attempted in spite of the obviousness of its inevitable failure speaks to just how desperate Hadi and his patrons have become. They received their comeuppance over the weekend after the STC declared self-rule and immediately began reasserting its authority over Aden, which couldn’t have come at a more strategically opportune moment. Saudi Arabia is mired in uncertainty over its future following the disastrous oil price war that it launched against Russia in early March and which runs the risk of bankrupting the Kingdom. In fact, the Saudi Finance Minister recently announced that his country might take on close to $60 billion in debt by the end of the year in order to cover budget shortfalls from this crisis, which is a far cry from its formerly comfortable position of posting yearly surpluses. Under these conditions, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) might understandably think twice about getting further caught in the quagmire of “mission creep” in Yemen by expanding his military campaign there to fully support Hadi’s forces against the STC, especially considering just how badly he’s already failed in this respect and also in terms of his original mission of dislodging the Ansarullah (“Houthis”) from North Yemen despite half a decade of trying.

MBZ & MBS, Mentor & Mentee

Another factor for observers to keep in mind is that MBS is mentored by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed (MBZ), his coalition ally in Yemen whose country also sponsors the STC. This adds an interesting angle to the context in which the STC’s self-rule declaration was made. It can’t be known for certain, but it’s highly likely that the group coordinated this move with the UAE, which strongly suggests that MBZ is taking advantage of MBS’ domestic difficulties in order to assert his smaller country as the real “big brother” in their bilateral relationship just like the role that he already fulfills for MBS on a personal level. Should MBZ be successful with this strategic coup by convincing his mentee that it’s better for him to order Hadi to immediately begin Yemen’s federal bifurcation instead of bearing the tremendous costs associated with militantly opposing the STC (provided of course that the group has firm security guarantees from the UAE in the event of a Saudi-backed counterattack), then the UAE would have in effect replaced Saudi Arabia as the most powerful Arab nation in the world.

Concluding Thoughts

It’ll of course remain to be seen exactly how Saudi Arabia reacts to the latest developments in South Yemen, but there are convincing reasons to predict that it’ll eschew a costly proxy war with the UAE in favor of working to promote a so-called “political solution” instead, which would have to result in the federal bifurcation of the country along North-South lines instead of just rehashing the Riyadh Agreement if it’s to stand any chance of being accepted by the STC. The separatists crossed the Rubicon over the weekend but wouldn’t have done so had their Emirati patrons opposed their dramatic move to declare self-rule over the regions of the country that they claim as their own, so it should be assumed that MBZ is in support of their declaration despite it obviously being disadvantageous to his Saudi mentee’s geostrategic interests. MBS is therefore in a bind since both options available to him inevitably result in losing some degree of “face”, so he’s basically forced to choose between the “lesser of two evils”, which in this case is submitting to the new on-the-ground political reality created by the STC despite it greatly undermining the reason why he launched his war in the first place instead of fighting the Emirati-backed group and risking an irreconcilable rift with his mentor.

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This article was originally published on OneWorld.

Andrew Korybko is an American Moscow-based political analyst specializing in the relationship between the US strategy in Afro-Eurasia, China’s One Belt One Road global vision of New Silk Road connectivity, and Hybrid Warfare. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image is from OneWorld

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The 25th of April is an important date in Italy’s history. It commemorates the 75th anniversary of  Liberation, which is also the Anniversary of the Resistance.

On April 25, 2020, Commemorating the Liberation of Italy. We express our solidarity with the people of Italy. At the same time we express our concern regarding the US military bases established in Italy immediately established after World WarII.  

Italy like many other countries is currently experiencing the COVID-19 crisis. This year on the 25th of April which commemorates Italy’s Liberation, we were  not able to meet in Firenze to debate and discuss the “coronavirus crisis” which is affecting millions of people Worldwide.

Below is the transcript of the interview with Peter Koenig

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QuestionAfter the Corona virus lockdown that stopped the economy in a large part of the world, what do you think will happen with the economically weaker countries and how can they be defended?

Peter Koenig: First, I must tell you, it is virtually impossible to predict what might happen and in what time. We are quite possibly experiencing a huge paradigm shift. That means that nothing will – or almost nothing – will remain the way it was before.  This is a well-concocted plan -emanating from the infamous 2010 Rockefeller Report. We are right now living the beginning of the first phase, called the “Lock Step” scenario.

What we can see already after barely 3 months of this “pandemic” lockdown – there is massive unemployment. In the US already more than 23 million people are claiming for unemployment benefits. That does not take into account, all those that have given up….

FED and GS (Goldman Sachs) predict unemployment to reach between 32% and 40% in the next quarter.

And there will be massive bankruptcies- over the next few months, spinning out of control- triggering more unemployment. Hardest hit are the small and medium size enterprises

The situation in Europe will be similar- if not worse.

So far, we have barely seen the tiny tip of the iceberg.

The countries most affected will be the debt dependant – i.e. highly indebted countries. And I’m talking about enslaving foreign debt.

This evil plan COVID-19 /2010 Rockefeller Report – contains many very people-unfriendly elements. It would be too long, to explain them here. But let’s list the most important ones – and how they may impact us and the economy:

  • A massive vaccination program
  • population reduction through vaccination – and other means, like induced famine, man-induced climate change, GMOs, 5G (strong electromagnetic fields – EMF) – and so on….
  • digitized ID
  • digitized money – no more cash
  • rolling out 5G – to control all and every move we take – plus our digitized bank accounts – what is commonly called and misleadingly called “the internet of things”
  • 5G is a weapon when used at its full strength – which is not yet the case. 5G is weaponized and can kill.

The Plan foresees massive repression through – what has already been called before the end of the last Century – the NEW WORLD ORDER, often also referred to as the ONE WORLD ORDER. A small elite of super powerful and super rich people would control us all.

The principal of the “Lock Step” arrangement. All we have left is marching in Lock Step to the orders from above.

But we do not have to allow this to happen. If we are aware of the Plan, we can take control – I suggest that you all read the 2010 Rockefeller Report – it’s probably still to be found on Internet. So, you realize that I’m not talking “conspiracy theory” – but that this Conspiracy is REAL.

For example, tell your governments with urgency to Stop Rolling Out 5G -the health impact has not been studied, except for individual scientist- 180 of whom have written to the EU Commission in Brussels, asking for a moratorium and independent study.

WHO has suspiciously remained silent about 5G.

Mr. Putin, for example, so far has refrained from rolling out 5G in Russia.

 

This may not answer the original question. But it is important to know the Plan to find the answers on how to save our local – not globalized – economies:

So – Deglobalize –

  • Do not belong to a monetary or a political union that has no common constitution, no common interests, and no common goals- and especially no solidarity.
  • Italy knows best about abject lack of solidarity within the EU – recent events with COVID-19 are a living testimony to the sham of the European Union.
  • Greece also knows what it means to be in a union without solidarity
  • So – get out of the EU and the Euro-prison. Yes, a Euro-prison, because the Euro, the way it has been injected into Europe, does not allow your countries economic and monetary sovereignty.
  • What happened for example to Greece could never have happened if Greece would have had her economic and monetary sovereignty -i.e. her own currency
  • Countries do need to regain their economic and monetary sovereignty – and
  • be able to restart their local economy for local consumption with local money, with local public banks and with a publicly-owned central bank, that works for the local economy.

At the beginning, until a country achieves a high degree of auto-sufficiency, international trade is of lesser importance.

Then – trade with friendly nations, with countries and people that share the same or similar values. Make your own trading agreements – you do not need WTO.

And once you take back your country’s economic and monetary autonomy, you do not need international loans – from – I call them indebting organizations, like the World Bank and the IMF and regional development banks.

You can create your own internal debt and resolve that internal debt according to your own economic pace and strength. No need to pay a foreign institution interest for a foreign currency.

As to a recovery, poorer – or less industrialized – countries may be better suited to recover quickly, because they have a much bigger informal sector. Informality is creative and can adapt and adjust usually much faster than strictly and often rigidly structured economies.

A Prominent example is China – China grew out of the ashes in 1948 – internally independent, no foreign debt to speak of, with the principal goal of becoming auto-sufficient in food, education and health. When these goals were nearly reached, China started opening up for international trade and relations – in the 1980s.

Granted, China is not Italy – China is a huge country with 1.4 billion people. But the principal applies to every nation that wants to become her sovereign self again.

QuestionAfter this long Covid-19 economic stagnation, can Europe recover? and by what means?

PK: Yes, Europe can recover. It depends how.

Remember, there is going to be a great paradigm shift in socioeconomic terms, as I mentioned before – of values, of customs, of our behaviour vis-à-vis each other – and likely in relations between countries. It is difficult – or rather impossible to predict – which way the wheels will be turning.

But what we can say now, is that our world will not be the same again – at least for a long-long time.

What happened during this almost total lock-down – not only of people, but of the world economy, lives have been destroyed, not by COVID-19, but by the shrieking unprepared halt of the economy around the world, and the multiple consequences that nobody with a sane mind could have foreseen.

People who have caused that were and are of an insane mind. It looks like a wanton destruction of the world’s assets, savings, incomes – the entire societal livelihood has been annihilated. At will. None of this would have been necessary to come to grips with the COVID-19 pandemic.

But that is another subject.

What to do now?

This is the moment for US, the people to take over and create a new economic system, one of peace, equality and solidarity.

What first must go – in order to foster peace and to use available resources for the benefit of the people – we Europeans have to get out of NATO.

Imagine the trillions of dollars or Euros saved by abandoning this war-mongering apparatus that has only hostile and negative effectives on our closest neighbour, Russia – and a bit farther away – China?

These are our normal partners, they have been for centuries, if not millennia before the onset of the Anglo-American Empire – as they are on the same huge landmass, called EURASIA – no need to look and listen and being sanctioned left and right by the Masters across the Atlantic. No need at all. Europe and her Eastern Partners don’t need NATO.

There is no aggression whatso ever coming from either Russia or China. These people are friendly and want to enter into social and economic relationships.

None of these countries have a history of invading and interfering in other countries, not like the west – with at the forefront the US of A.

We are being indoctrinated on a daily basis that these are our enemies. That is a huge LIE. – A lie, the west, or the United States needs to maintain its power base, its military industrial complex that produces about half of the US GDP.

So, the silver lining of this crisis is that it gives us the opportunities to rethink Europe’s priorities, who are our true alliances – peaceful alliances. – And we do not need NATO.

Again – imagine what we, Europe, could be doing with the trillions saved from not belonging to the most destructive war-machine of this planet.

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This was livestreamed by BYOBLU and Pandora TV.

Peter Koenig is an economist and geopolitical analyst. He is also a water resources and environmental specialist. He worked for over 30 years with the World Bank and the World Health Organization around the world in the fields of environment and water. He lectures at universities in the US, Europe and South America. He writes regularly for Global Research; ICH; RT; Sputnik; PressTV; The 21st Century; Greanville Post; Defend Democracy Press, TeleSUR; The Saker Blog, the New Eastern Outlook (NEO); and other internet sites. He is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed – fiction based on facts and on 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe. He is also a co-author of The World Order and Revolution! – Essays from the Resistance. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization.

Climate Change: The Fatal Road to 4 Degrees Celsius

April 27th, 2020 by Dr. Andrew Glikson

Global CO₂ rise and warming rates have reached a large factor to an order of magnitude higher than those of the past geological and mass extinction events, with major implications for the shift in climate zones and the nature and speed of current extreme weather events. Given the abrupt change in state of the atmosphere-ocean-cryosphere-land system, accelerating since the mid-20ᵗʰ century, the terms climate change and global warming no longer reflect the nature of the climate extremes consequent on this shift. Further to NASA’s reported mean land-ocean temperature rise to +1.18°C for March 2020, relative to the 1951-1980 baseline, large parts of the continents, including Siberia, central Asia, Canada, parts of west Africa, eastern South America and Australia are warming toward mean temperatures of +2°C and higher.

The rate exceeds that of the Last Glacial Termination (LGT) (21–8 kyr), the Paleocene-Eocene hyperthermal event (PETM) (55.9 Ma) and the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary (K-T) (64.98 Ma) impact event. A principal question arises regarding the relationships between the warming rate and the nature and progression of the current migration climate zones toward the poles, including changes in the atmosphere and ocean current systems. Significant transient cooling pauses, or stadials, are projected as a consequence of the flow of cold ice melt water from Greenland and Antarctica into the oceans.

Figure 1. Global temperature distribution in March 2020, relative to a 1951-1980 baseline. NASA GISS.

The K-T impact and subsequent warming

According to Beerling et al. (2002) the CO₂ change triggered by the K-T impact event 65 Ma years ago involved a rise from about 400-500 ppm to 2300 ppm over 10.000 years from the impact (Fig. 2) at a rate of 0.18 ppm/year. This is less than the mean Anthropocene CO₂ rise rate of 0.415 ppm/year and an order of magnitude less than the 2 to 3 ppm/year rise rate in the 21ˢᵗ century. Likewise the Anthropocene temperature rise rate of ~ 0.0074°C/year is high by an order of magnitude as compared to the K-T impact event rate of~ 0.00075°C/year (Table 1) reported by Beerling et al. (2002).

Beerling et al.’s (2002) estimate, based on fossil fern proxies, implies an initial injection of at least 6,400 GtCO₂  and possibly as high as 13,000 GtCO₂ into the atmosphere, significantly higher than values derived by Pope et al. (1997). This would increase climate forcing by +12 Wm⁻² and mean warming of ~7.5°C, which would have strongly stressed ecosystems already affected by cold temperatures and the blockage of sunlight during the impact winter and associated mass extinction at the KT boundary (O’Keefe et al. 1989).

Figure 2. Reconstructed atmospheric CO₂ variations during the Late Cretaceous–Early Tertiary derived from the SI (Stomata index) of fossil leaf cuticles calibrated by using inverse regression and stomatal ratios. Beerling et al. (2002).

The PETM hyperthermal event

The Palaeocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum, about 55.9 Ma, triggered the release of a large mass of light ¹³C-depleted carbon suggestive of an organic source, likely methane, has led to a global surface temperature rise of 5 – 9°C within a few thousand years (Table 1; Fig. 3). Deep-sea carbonate dissolution indices and stable carbon isotope composition were used to estimate the initial carbon pulse to a magnitude of 3,000 PgC or less. As a result, atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations increased during the main event by up to 70% compared with pre-event levels, leading to a global surface temperatures rose by 5–9°C within a few thousand years.

Figure 3. Simulated atmospheric CO2 at and after the Palaeocene-Eocene boundary (after Zeebe et al. (2009).

The last glacial termination

Paleoclimate indices based on ice cores and isotopic evidence suggest temperature rise generally correlates with CO₂ during the Last Glacial Termination between 17.5 kyr to 10 kyr. Whereas the rise rates of CO₂ and temperature are broadly parallel the temperature somewhat lags behind CO₂ (Figure 2), including changes of CO₂ (186 – 265 ppm) and of temperature (T°C -3.3°C – +0.2°C) (Fig. 4). A rise rate of ~0.010 ppm CO₂/year and of temperature ~0.00046°C/year are indicated (Table 1) (Shakun et al., 2012). Differences between temperature changes of the Northern Hemisphere and Southern Hemisphere correspond to variations in the strength of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation.

Figure 4. Global CO₂ and temperature during the last glacial termination (After Shakun et al. 2012).(LGM – Last Glacial Maximum; OD – Older Dryas; B-A – Bølling–Allerød; YD Younger Dryas).

Trajectories and rates of global CO₂ rise and warming

The rates at which atmospheric composition and climate changes occur constitute major control over the survival versus extinction of species. Based on paleo-proxy estimates of greenhouse gas levels and of mean temperatures, using oxygen and carbon isotopes, fossil plants, fossil organic matter, trace elements, the rate of CO₂ rise since ~1750 (Anthropocene) (CO₂ ᴀɴᴛʜ) exceeds that of the last glacial termination (CO₂ ʟɢᴛ) by an order of magnitude (CO₂ ᴀɴᴛʜ/CO₂ ʟɢᴛ = 41) and that of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (CO₂ ᴘᴇᴛᴍ) by a high factor (CO₂ ᴀɴᴛʜ/CO₂ ᴘᴇᴛᴍ ~ 3.8–6.9)(Table 1). The rise rate of mean global temperature exceeds that of the LGT and the PETM by a large factor to an order of magnitude (Table 1; Figs 5 and 6). It can be expected that such extreme rates of change will be manifest in real time by observed shifts in state of global and regional climates and the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events, including the following observations:

Figure 5. Cenozoic and Anthropocene CO₂ and temperature rise rates.

Figure 6. A comparison between rates of mean global temperature rise during:

(1) the last Glacial Termination (after Shakun et al. 2012);

(2) the PETM (Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, after Kump 2011);

(3) the late Anthropocene (1750–2019), and

(4) an asteroid impact. In the latter instance, temperature associated with CO₂ rise would lag by some weeks or months behind aerosol-induced cooling.

Figure 7. Migration of the subtropical Sahara climate zone (red spots) northward into the Mediterranean climate zone leads to warming, drying and fires over extensive parts of Spain, Portugal, southern France, Italy, Greece and Turkey, and to melting of glaciers in the Alps. Migration, Environment and Climate Change, International Organization for Migration, Geneva, Switzerland. With permission of the IOM UN Migration. The regional impacts of climate change map extracted from The Atlas of Environmental Migration (Ionesco D., Mokhnacheva D. and Gemenne F., Routledge, Abingdon, 2017), p. 63 © IOM (Mokhnacheva, Ionesco), Gemenne, Zoï Environment Network, 2015. Sources: IPCC (2013, 2014)

By contrast to linear IPCC climate projections for 2100-2300, climate modelling for the 21st century by Hansen et al. 2016 suggests major effects of ice melt water flow into the oceans from the ice sheets, leading to stadial cooling of parts of the oceans, changing the global temperature pattern from that of the early 21ˢᵗ century (Figs 8, 9a) to the late 21ˢᵗ century (Fig. 9b).

Figure 8. Global temperature patterns during El Nino and La Nina events. NASA GISS

Figure 9. (a) An A1B model of surface-air temperature change for 2055-2060 relative to 1880-1920 (+1 meters sea level rise) for modified forcing (Hansen et al. 2016);
(b) A1B model surface-air temperatures in 2096 relative to 1880-1920 (+5 meters sea level rise) for 10 years ice melt doubling time in the southern hemisphere and partial global cooling of -0.33°C (Hansen et al. 2016).

Summary and conclusions

  1. Late 20th century to early 21asrt century global greenhouse gas levels and regional warming rates have reached a high factor to an order of magnitude faster than those of past geological and mass extinction events, with major implications for the nature and speed of extreme weather events.
  2. The Anthropocene CO₂ rise and warming rates exceed that of the Last Glacial Termination (LGT) (21–8kyr), the Paleocene-Eocene hyperthermal event (PETM) (55.9 Ma) and the post-impact Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary (K-T) (64.98 Ma).
  3. Further to NASA’s reported mean land-ocean temperature rise of +1.18°C in March 2020, relative to the 1951-1980 baseline, large parts of the continents, including central Asia, west Africa eastern South America and Australia are warming toward mean temperatures of +2°C and higher.
  4. Major consequences of the current shift in state of the climate system pertain to the weakening of the polar boundaries and the migration of climate zones toward the poles. Transient cooling pauses are projected as a result of the flow of cold ice melt water from Greenland and Antarctica into the oceans, leading to stadial cooling intervals.
  5. Given the abrupt shift in state of the atmosphere-ocean-cryosphere-land system, the current trend signifies an abrupt shift in state of the atmosphere, accelerating since the mid-20th century. Terms such as climate change and global warming no longer reflect the extreme nature of the climate events consequent on this shift, amounting to a climate catastrophe on a geological scale.

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Dr Andrew Glikson, Earth and climate scientist, ANU Planetary Science Institute, ANU Climate Change Institute. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

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For many years, we in the alternative media have been warning that when a new crises emerges, a future of social engineering and control would bring us closer to George Orwell’s predictions right to our doorstep.  Since the start of the Corona Virus Pandemic (Covid-19) the destruction of the world’s economy with the US in an already fragile state of affairs taking the biggest hit with its lock downs and an estimated 26 million people so far who are now unemployed.  It has crippled the social fabric of society, basically forever and as a result, more invasive technologies are being introduced to the world now more than ever before. Recently, the US mainstream media has been reporting on the new technologies that can be implemented by governments to track the potential carriers of Covid-19 from drones that will be able to check your temperature and determine that you may or may not carry the virus to a program that can track individuals Smart phones through a mapping tool which was created by an Israeli company looking to have a footprint in the US market.

When it comes to the surveillance of the public’s health from the sky, drone manufacturer Draganfly comes to mind as it made recent headlines with claims that their drone technology can monitor the public’s health in real time which brings us to the town of Westport, Connecticut. The Westport local police department had originally agreed to monitor and track its citizens for fevers or coughs but had decided to reverse its course and not to roll out the drone program due to its citizens privacy concerns according to NBC news:

A Connecticut police force is grounding its plans to test a “pandemic drone” that would detect a person with a fever or cough, after privacy concerns were raised. The town of Westport has chosen to opt out of the ‘“Flatten the Curve Pilot Program” from drone manufacturer Draganfly, according to NBC Connecticut. Westport Police Chief Foti Koskinas said Thursday that while he was thankful for the opportunity to participate, he also wanted to be responsive to citizens’ concerns.

“We thank Draganfly for offering the pilot program to Westport and sincerely hope to be included in future innovations once we are convinced the program is appropriate for Westport,” Koskinas said, according to NBC Connecticut

Why Westport residents were concerned with Draganfly’s drone capabilities? Watch their introductory video:

This is just one of the technologies that happens to be floating around, giving those in power new ideas that can be used in any future outbreak or any other crisis. What if there is another outbreak in the late fall or winter season? 

Another not so great idea that is not drone related is currently being used around the world is a program called Fleming created by an Israeli technology firm called the NSO Group based in Herzliva, Israel, a firm that was founded by Omri Lavie and Shalev Hulio who happens to employ former IDF soldiers.  An article from Australia’s online news site www.news.com.au from 2016 ‘Everything we know about NSO Group: The cyberarms dealer responsible for the iPhone hack’ describes who the founders are linked to which should not be a surprise to anyone at this point:

According the LinkedIn pages of Mr Lavie and Mr Hulio, both men are self-proclaimed serial entrepreneurs, with a string of Israeli start-ups attributed on their profiles.  Despite the plethora of tech companies the pair has founded, both men also have ties to the Israeli government. 

Mr Lavia’s profile shows he was an “employee” of the Israeli Government from July 2005-October 2007, while Mr Hulio’s claims he was a Company Commander (Search and Rescue) for the Israeli Defence Force from August 1999-November 2004.  The company also boasts to have employees from Unit 8200 — the signal intelligence and code deciphering arm of the Israel Defence Force

The NSO group is known worldwide for a highly-controversial spyware program called Pegasus which enabled remote surveillance of individuals smartphones. The NSO Group’s history has been controversial since its introduction of the Pegasus program to the world, for example, in a 2019 article from fastcompany.com, ‘Israeli cyberattack firm woos investors amid a human rights firestorm’ explains one particular controversy that targeted numerous activists and journalists worldwide:

NSO makes Pegasus, a sophisticated tool that can hack into smartphones and is intended, the company says, to help governments stop criminals and terrorists.  But Pegasus has also been implicated in attacks on members of civil society. Targets of the software have included at least two dozen activists, journalists, and lawyers in the Middle East, Mexico, Asia, and Europe, according to extensive analysis by Citizen Lab, a digital watchdog at the University of Toronto

NSO Group has many other scandals, one of them is with Saudi dissident, Omar Abdelaziz who filed a lawsuit claiming that his conversations with Jamal Khashoogi, the Washington Post journalist from Saudi Arabia who was murdered in the Saudi embassy in Istanbul, Turkey in 2018 were intercepted by Pegasus. Now, the NSO Group is rolling out a new program called Fleming. According to the NSO group,

“Fleming features an advanced mapping tool that identifies the spread of coronavirus in real-time, empowering health and other government officials to make informed decisions, backed by data, to quickly mitigate the pandemic.”

They say that they will empower healthcare workers and “other government officials” which is pretty vague. “By utilizing this technology, decision makers can more effectively deploy resources, including critical supplies and medical personnel, and implement public health protocols that help contain the spread”, resources can be taken out of proportion because the government will decide what “resources” they will use. What if they decided to use a drone strike as a resource?

In an opinion piece published by Ynetnews of Israel ‘ The truth about digital tracking to fight coronavirus’ by Shalev Hulio, the CEO of the NSO Group who of course takes a defensive approach for his firm’s new program “It is important to appreciate that the historical information for each mobile subscription is already and routinely available to the cellular companies” so, since it is already in use, Hulio is suggesting that we can go a little further.

“This information only includes cellular locations for that subscription and does not require any collection of information from the device itself”

which is something they cannot guarantee. He continues

“In other words, with the exception of retrieving the historical location of the device, there is no listening in on calls and no data, personal information or messages that exist on the device can be gathered.”

This is the same tech firm that has been implicated in violating the privacy concerns of journalists, activists and lawyers around the world. Hulio says that “through mapping the path of the patient, we can see the people around them and they can be directly alerted” and then he asks the question, “So how does all this not violate privacy?”

He claims that the data is analyzed with no verifiable information that can identify you, “In fact, not even a phone number is collected: The analysis is based on the SIM card number that exists on the device.” Then once all the information is collected then they can send a message to the person infected and request they go into self-isolation “This will allow the authorities to build a “tree of infection.”

These are just two of many Orwellian ideas being floated around as potential tools to monitor and control the corona virus outbreak. If we allow these technologies to be implemented into our daily lives, whatever remaining freedoms you may still have, will slowly be taken away.

It does not have to be this way, we can resist this type of invasive technology as the people of Westport, Connecticut proved. They had privacy concerns and voiced their concerns to the local authorities about using ‘Draganfly’s drones that would have initiated the ‘Flatten the Curve Pilot Program’ which is a victory in itself, but this fight has only begun, and will continue well into the future as George Orwell’s warning becomes a reality day by day as the lock downs continue.

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Timothy Alexander Guzman writes on his blog, Silent Crow News, where this article was originally published. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image is from the author

Beijing is not back to normal but there is an air of normality. The Beijing Subway has 23 lines but only one runs on a north-south axis. This is Line 5, the busiest. In February and March its carriages were almost empty. Now it is running at about 75 per cent of its pre-outbreak capacity.

The capital’s parks are filling up again as families take advantage of the warmer weather. The May day holiday is approaching and picnic spaces are being prepared.   Restaurants are opening tentatively with social distancing enforced for diners. Primary schools are also reopening but most secondary schools and universities remain closed until September. The capital was never under lockdown but all residents must have a pass to enter their compound. If you lose it, a new one must be issued before admittance is granted.

And everyone, without exception, is wearing face masks. You cannot use public transport, go into a shop or go to work without one. Temperature checks are ubiquitous. They are carried out swiftly at the entrances to subways, work places, shops or any public gathering.  The masks serve another purpose. This is the time of year when millions of catkins take to the air, and pedestrians have to protect their eyes, noses and throats from them. There are pockets of Beijing where COVID-19 has appeared but generally the capital seems to be controlling the outbreak.

Anyone re-entering the city limits must undergo a 14-day quarantine. If this is permitted to be carried out at home, a sticker is put on the apartment door asking neighbors to inform the authorities if quarantine has been broken.

Supermarkets in the capital have remained well-stocked. More than 300,000 tons of pork from the strategic pork reserves were released for the capital’s residents and trucks have been requisitioned to deliver vegetables. As the capital, food shortages for its residents were unthinkable.

The blame game? From China’s point of view, the narrative is clear cut. It made catastrophic mistakes initially. It was slow to recognize the danger posed by COVID-19. It hassled and arrested doctors for warning about it in early January. That same month it allowed a massive Lunar new year’s public banquet for 40,000 families to take place. And as it became clear that an epidemic was raging, politics took precedence as the local party congresses in Wuhan and in Hubei province were being held in January prior to the (postponed) national congress in March.

Even when it announced the Wuhan lockdown, it did not implement it until five hours later allowing people, many presumably infected, to leave the city. But then it acted with resolve. Locking down Wuhan, a city of 11 million people, telling most of the country’s workers to stay at home, shutting schools and universities, cutting air links, introducing national temperature checks, and home passes. These and other measures allowed it to find a route to recovery and gave the rest of the world a precious window of opportunity. This, again, in China’s view, was squandered. Despite the evidence from China, the rest of the world seemed reluctant to face reality.  Italy, Span and Germany seemed to understand the peril but Japan, Britain and the United States adopted an almost laissez-faire mentality. And US President Donald Trump’s remark that COVID-19 could be treated by people injecting disinfectant seemed to confirm China’s worst fears: The lessons it painfully learned were being willfully ignored.

Even if a vaccine is developed relative quickly, say by September, COVID-19 will change the world.

There will be political consequences. Mutual mistrust between China and the West is the new norm. And in China, the unwritten law that has shaped that country’s and the world’s fortune over the last 30 years seems to have been broken. That law states that China will deliver its citizens economic growth at the cost of political rights. Before COVID-19 the Chinese economy, according to Beijing, was growing at about 6 per cent per annum. This year it is estimated to grow at about 2.5 per cent. Pre-COVID, any growth less that 5 percent was considered a recipe for massive social upheaval. The consequences of this outbreak will be felt long after the face masks in Beijing are discarded and the temperature checks stopped.

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Reporting from Beijing Tom Clifford is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image is from Wikimedia Commons

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