Given that some major U.S. media and politicians made groundless claims that the novel coronavirus originates in China, blamed and slandered China, even asked for an apology from China, I  am presenting below 10 questions I have every reason to ask: 10 questions for the United States about its origin too. Better still, unlike the U.S., I did a lot homework and will base my questions on international media coverage of COVID-19.

Question 1

Since the director of the U.S. Centers of Disease Control, Robert Redfield admitted that some Americans seemingly dying from flu were tested positive for the novel coronavirus, can I conclude that those people actually died from the novel coronavirus? Among the 34 million influenza patients, with a death toll of 20,000, how many were misdiagnosed?

When did the misdiagnoses start? And did it actually start from August 2019? These questions are so vital that the world is waiting for an explanation from the United States.

Question 2

When there were some misdiagnoses admitted by U.S. CDC, I’m scratching my head – isn’t the U.S. that owns the best medical technologies in the world? Why did that happen?

As the ground glass opacity (white patches) can be easily seen in CT scans of the lungs of patients with the novel coronavirus-infected pneumonia, it should have been an easy thing to separate the cases of COVID-19 and H1N1 flu. But why were there so many misdiagnoses?

Well, that reminds me of the U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s request of controlling all messaging regard to the coronavirus. Why does the White House call for messaging control? Does the U.S. need to hide something? Are they plotting some conspiracy?

Director of the U.S. CDC Robert Redfield (front) speaks during a press conference on the coronavirus at the White House in Washington D.C., U.S., March 4, 2020. /Xinhua

Question 3

Why did the U.S. withdraw from the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) in 2001? Why did it try to prevent a monitoring mechanism for the execution of the Convention? Is it standing in the way of developing biological weapon for the U.S.?

If not, why are there new biological laboratories in Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan? Are those labs for biochemical warfare? It’s impossible that they are keeping viruses as pets. If the U.S. is aiming at provoking a biochemical war, who would be the first target then?

Also, how about the swine flu outbreak in China last year? The odd thing is that it broke out in different places simultaneously instead of breaking out separately. Why were drones used to poison the pigs? Was the U.S. behind all that? I heard that it was the pork speculators. But that theory makes no sense – since the swine flu killed millions of pigs in China during the same period of time, pork speculators would suffer great loss instead of profits.

The best possible answer to that was foreign meddling. I was among those who wondered if the U.S. had anything to do with that and hoped for an explanation.

Question 4

The U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, located on Fort Detrick, Maryland, was shut down in July 2019. Was it because there was a virus leakage incident?

Just one month later, there was an influenza outbreak across the country. Were those two things related in any way?

Were the misdiagnoses simply cooked up to cover up such secrets? Did that also become a motive for the U.S. to shift the blame to other countries by labeling them as the origin of the novel coronavirus?

Was that an epic coincidence or a dirty secret in disguise? Why did the U.S. erase huge number of English news reports on the internet covering the shutdown in March 2020? Is there anything to hide, or is there anything to worry about?

Question 5

At the 7th Military World Games (October 18-27, 2019) held in Wuhan, why did the U.S. team (369 members) win ZERO gold medal? Did that even look like a reasonable record for the world’s leading military power? Did your government do it on purpose?

Was anyone among the 369 participants ever (mis)diagnosed with influenza? Was it possible they were carriers of the novel coronavirus?

The best thing for the U.S. now is to stop burying its head in the sand and give the 369 people PCT tests to see if they are infected.

Question 6

Why did the U.S. hold Event 201, a global pandemic exercise in October 2019? Why was the CIA deputy director participating it? Is it because the U.S. has foreseen a highly-infectious virus is about to cause a pandemic? One month later, cases of pneumonia of unknown cause were detected in China and there was a pandemic three months later. Probably, it’s not just a coincidence.

Question 7

Japan, South Korea, Italy and Iran all reported that many of their first COVID-19 confirmed cases had no exposure history with China but showed connection with the United States. How come?

Genetic research shows that the type of novel coronavirus found in China belongs to Group C, but Group A and Group B viruses – Group C’s parental and grand parental viruses – are both found in the United States. Why? A Japanese patient was diagnosed with influenza in Hawaii but was tested positive for COVID-19 when he returned to Japan. How to explain that?

Some COVID-19 cases in the U.S. had no connection with China whatsoever. So where does it come from?

Question 8

You’ve got no reason to deny that the 1918 Pandemic originated within your territory. But you let Spain bear the blame for as long as a century. Don’t you feel shame on that?

History seems to repeat itself. So, is the U.S. playing the trick again and attempting to label the novel coronavirus as the “Chinese Virus”?

Question 9

The 1918 Pandemic, causing 1 billion infections, with a death toll “estimated to have been anywhere from 17 million to 50 million, and possibly as high as 100 million… one of the deadliest epidemics in human history,” according to wikipedia, was proven originating in the U.S., but the U.S. has never apologized to the world.

So far, the origin of the novel coronavirus is still unknown, but the United States is requiring China for an apology, how ridiculous is that! Just to remind the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic killing 300,000 people also originated in the U.S., and also the same for HIV AIDS. So why not confess to the world?

Question 10

In movies, the U.S. is fond of playing the role of the world savior. The image of Captain America is one of its most popular symbols. However, in reality, in the face of a disaster like COVID-19, where is Captain America?

The U.S. is not doing enough to protect its citizens at home or on the Diamond Princess cruise ship. It even attempted to make Japan responsible for Americans on Diamond Princess. How does the U.S. have the brass to do all these and accuse China of being irresponsible?

While China bought the world valuable time to battle COVID-19, the U.S. accused China of being passive and lacking transparency. Well, when the White House instructed the CDC to stop tallying the people tested for novel coronavirus, did that count as transparency?

When the U.S. government advised its people not to wear masks, was it not being passive? Just too many questions call for the U.S.’s explanations.

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Featured image is from Xinhua

Netanyahu’s Power Grab

March 22nd, 2020 by Stephen Lendman

Netanyahu’s main aims are staying in power and out of prison — no matter how grievously he breaches the rule of law or harms ordinary Israelis and Palestinians by his increasingly dictatorial policies.

On the phony pretext of tracking COVID-19 carriers, he extrajudicially ordered mass surveillance without Knesset or judicial approval.

On Thursday carrying banners with his image saying “CRIME MINISTER” and “No to dictatorship,” hundreds of Israelis protested outside the Knesset, defying his ban on large gatherings.

He virtually shut down judicial proceedings to delay his scheduled March trial for bribery, fraud and breach of trust to May, perhaps another delay to follow — a power grab stunt to avoid trial altogether.

New emergency orders were issued by his regime, mandating a near-national lockdown other than for essential services and activities, effective Thursday, a statement saying:

“(C)itizens of Israel are required to stay home. It is no longer a request. It is no longer a recommendation. It is a binding directive that will be enforced by the enforcement authorities.”

On Thursday evening, Israel’s Supreme Court issued a temporary injunction that limits electronic surveillance by Shin Bet, Israel’s security service.

While COVID-19 patients can still be monitored, if a parliamentary oversight committee is not established to monitor the practice by March 24, tracking will be banned, according to the Supreme Court ruling.

It came in response to petitions against police state mass surveillance by the Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, the Joint (Arab) List party, and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI).

Adalah responded as follows to the ruling, saying:

“We applaud the Israeli Supreme Court’s decision, which stresses that the government is not allowed to act without oversight.”

“Nevertheless, even parliamentary oversight cannot legitimize such a serious violation of human rights.”

“Public health emergencies must not be exploited to grant additional powers to the Shin Bet security service and the Israeli police.”

Likudnik/Netanyahu loyalist speaker Yuli Edelstein dismissed the Knesset on the phony pretext of obeying a Netanyahu diktat that limits public gatherings to no more than 10 people — a fear-mongering/survival as prime minister tactic when Israel only had a few hundred COVID-19 infected people and no deaths.

The real reason for suspending proceedings is to prevent adoption of legislation that could end his tenure as prime minister.

By recorded message, main opposition Blue and White party member Yair Lapid slammed the Netanyahu regime, saying:

“There is no judicial branch in Israel. There is no legislative branch in Israel. There is only an unelected government that is headed by a person who lost the election.”

You can call that by a lot of names” — dictatorship most appropriate.

On Thursday, Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz said he won’t out unity government with Netanyahu, reversing a campaign promise otherwise, adding:

“At the moment, all options need to be on the table. It wouldn’t be responsible on my part not to consider any alternative.”

“Citizens (want) a solution to the political crisis.” Slamming Edelstein, he said:

“It can’t be that we need to turn to the High Court of Justice to jumpstart the Knesset. The…speaker is acting in service of Netanyahu and hindering developments.”

Shortly after the above remarks, he said talks with Likud “were stopped…(T)here are no agreements.”

“What we have seen throughout the day is cynical spin during a great and difficult crisis for Israeli citizens.”

According to Channel 12 news, Gantz supported unity government with Likud. Because key Blue and White party members expressed opposition, it’s off the table, at least for now.

Haartz editors slammed the idea, calling it “capitulation” by Gantz if agreed on with Netanyahu to let him remain prime minister for up to another two years, adding:

“(U)nity government led by a criminal defendant” could hand Netanyahu a stay-out-of-prison pass.

Gantz’s main campaign promise was “Anyone but Bibi.”

Strongly opposing him, Haaretz editors called for “(l)iberating Israel from the clutches of the defendant in the prime minister’s office, and putting an end to his corrupt and corrupting reign.”

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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.

Following a closed-door briefing on the threat of spreading COVID-19 infections — before markets began crashing — at least five US senators cashed in based on inside information unavailable to the public.

The quintet includes Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Byrd, James Inhofe, Kelly Loeffler, Ron Johnson, and Diane Feinstein.

Most likely, other insiders in Washington and elsewhere sold equity holdings before public information about spreading COVID-19 infections caused financial, commodity, and other market turmoil.

Loeffler’s husband is chairman and CEO of the New York Stock Exchange — both co-owners of stocks they dumped, reportedly up to $3.1 million in late January and early February.

Reportedly with a net worth of around $500 million, Loeffler is the wealthiest US senator, a body known as a millionaires club.

In early March, she publicly lied claiming “the consumer is strong. The economy is strong, (and) jobs are growing, which puts us in the best economic position to tackle” COVID-19.

A February 27 audiotape of Burr’s address at a Capitol Hill Club luncheon included the following remark:

“There’s one thing that I can tell you about this: It is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history. It’s probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic.”

A week before his large-scale stock dump (reportedly between $628,000 and $1.72 million), two weeks after his above private remarks, he said the following in a Fox News op-ed:

“(T)he United States today is better prepared than ever before to face emerging public health threats, like the coronavirus” — a Big Lie.

On March 20, he falsely said the following:

“I relied solely on public news reports to guide my decision regarding the sale of stocks on February 13.”

“I followed CNBC’s daily health and science reporting out of its Asia bureaus at the time.”

“Understanding the assumption many could make in hindsight…I spoke this morning with the chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee and asked hi to open a complete review of the matter with full transparency.”

On February 12, one day before Burr’s stock dump, US financial markets reached an all-time high.

He had inside information about what likely lay ahead and took full advantage, likely selling all or most of his equity holdings to avoid large financial losses.

The same is true for at least four other US senators.

Market transactions based on inside information unknown to the public are illegal.

If five US senators profited from inside information, did others in both houses benefit the same way?

Will action be taken to hold them accountable? Calls for Burr and perhaps other outed senators to resign aren’t good enough.

Lawbreakers should be prosecuted for their offenses. In America and most other countries, ordinary people alone are punished for wrongdoing.

Privileged ones most often get off scot-free no matter their offenses. Rare exceptions prove the rule.

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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.

No government that had to bow to the power of a financial institution like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) knows the harsh consequences to which it will have to submit. That includes the Venezuelan government. And yet last March 15 president Nicolas Maduro filed a formal request to the IMF for a financing facility of US$5 billion from the emergency fund of the Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI) with the following words in a letter sent to the IMF director Kristalina Georgieva and that Arreaza published on his Twitter account:

“Only under the spirit of solidarity, brotherhood, and social discipline, we will be able to overcome the situation that comes our way, and we will know how to protect the life and wellbeing of our peoples.”

To no avail. The IMF took the decision to reject the requested loan to combat the COVID-19 pandemic in Venezuela. Although predictable, it is shocking. (We make the side note that while we trust the source of the information, we have not been able to confirm it officially from Venezuela nor have we been able to find the information on the IMF website.)

What makes the IMF decision particularly disgraceful is the fact that the special RFI fund was set up precisely to respond to the current pandemic. Instead the IMF made a politicised decision totally contrary to its purported intentions and Venezuela’s legitimate request.

The Washington-based institution rejected the request with the unprincipled excuse:

“Unfortunately, the Fund is not in a position to consider this request,” claiming that there is “no clarity” on international recognition of the country’s government. “As we have mentioned before, IMF engagement with member countries is predicated on official government recognition by the international community, as reflected in the IMF’s membership. There is no clarity on recognition at this time”.

The IMF has a membership of 189 countries. Venezuela has been a member since 1946 despite its intentions to withdraw in 2007. Only about 50 countries are reported to recognise self-appointed unelected “interim president” Juan Guaidó. The majority of IMF countries have recognised elected president Maduro. This leaves no doubt that the IMF decision responds to political pressure from dominant powers like the US, Canada, and several EU countries.

Iran had recently made a similar  request to the IMF for the same amount. At the time of writing we do not know the decision. A recent  analysis suggests that it will be very unlikely that the IMF will grant a loan to Iran as the IMF is seen as a “soft power tool” of the US. However, the analysis continues,

“This is great PR for the Iranian government, specifically the hardliners. It allows the government to tell the general population that they tried to reach out for help, but that the international community turned their back on them.”

What makes the request for IMF special funding particularly crucial at this time is that these two countries have been forced into an economic situation similar to war time or a siege – despite their wealth in resources – is the fact that they are under severe US unilateral coercive measures (sanctions) that prevent them from purchasing medication and medical supplies ever more necessary in a situation of pandemic. Following the just announced drop of oil price below $25 a barrel, both countries can only expect the situation to get worse even if they were able to freely export oil without US intervention.

Venezuela, has been the object of escalating threats as well as financial and economic blockade by the US since 2017. Despite that, it has been able to confront the crisis with a series of internal policies and the solidarity of countries such as Cuba, China and Russia. Venezuela does not have a critical health situation due to CODIV-19 virus with only 42 confirmed cases to date. All standard prevention programs and recommendation are in place but things can quickly change for the worst.

Venezuela’s heavy reliance on loans would be unnecessary if the government could have access to the financial resources it owns but have been blocked. US has imposed an oil blockade that has blocked the purchase of oil from Venezuela’s state oil company, PDVSA. It has also confiscated Venezuela’s US subsidiary CITGO, worth $8 billion. This is a huge blow for Venezuela, which receives around 90% of government revenue from the oil industry. The US government has also frozen $5.5 billion of Venezuelan funds in international accounts in at least 50 banks and financial institutions.

We must conclude that the IMF shamefully abandons Venezuelans to the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic on a political decision. However, we also must recognise that the US has typically either created national crises or taken advantage of natural crises for its unrelenting regime change goal. There is no other explanation for the additional “sanctions” imposed on Iran at this time.

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This article was originally published on OneWorld.

Nino Pagliccia is an activist and freelance writer based in Vancouver. He is a retired researcher from the University of British Columbia, Canada. He is a Venezuelan-Canadian who follows and writes about international relations with a focus on the Americas. He is the editor of the book “Cuba Solidarity in Canada – Five Decades of People-to-People Foreign Relations” (2014). He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

COVID-19: Welcome to the New Dark Ages

March 22nd, 2020 by Kurt Nimmo

The response by the government to COVID-19 will turn America into a third world country in short order. Destroying the economy, throwing millions of people out of work, creating air money and thus inflation, and draconian measures to head off a virus that kills far less than the ordinary flu will have serious and unprecedented ramifications. 

The veneer of civilization will dissolve in short order. If practically everyone is ordered by the state to “shelter in place,” there will be few people left to deliver—let alone produce—food and other necessities. Within the first few days of this exaggerated “new plague,” frantic citizens besieged the stores, striping the shelves of toilet paper, canned goods, and bread. This is happening as a result of the corporate media hammering out an apocalyptic message nonstop. 

Fast-forward to next month, or the one after. Millions of people, thrown out of work and confronting poverty, will react in the way humanity always reacts when faced with scarcity and hunger—with food riots, looting, and violence. 

New York City and Baltimore now have troops on the street. We’re told they are being deployed to establish field hospitals and turn commandeered hotels into ICUs to care for the infected.

Behind this noble effort, however, is a plan to enforce an unnecessary lockdown and confront with deadly force rioters, looters, as well as folks outraged over the systematic dismantling of civilization, many whom see this viral outbreak (natural or manmade) for what it is—a cover for an economic reset and the establishment of an elitist-driven totalitarian global authority. 

Posting analysis such as this will likely become a dangerous practice in the months ahead. It is already vividly apparent that the state—and indeed, much of a propagandized population—will not tolerate deviation from the absurd exaggerations and outright lies now foisted upon us. 

The state has long planned for this scenario. It realizes the asset bubble and Ponzi scheme economy cannot be sustained and the crash will be catastrophic. The plan is to blame COVID-19 for the crash. This will not only allow the real culprits—central banks, the Federal Reserve, investment firms, and other scam artists and economic criminals—off the hook but flood them with trillions of bailout dollars.

Trump’s impending bailout of the airline industry, for instance, does not take into consideration the industry squandering billions on stock buybacks instead of protecting themselves from predictable economic headwinds. 

“The Big Four airlines—Delta Airlines Inc, Southwest Airlines Co., American Airlines Group Inc., and United Airlines Holdings Inc.—together repurchased $39 billion worth of stock over the past five years, according to Seeking Alpha, much of it since passage of massive corporate tax cuts in 2017 pushed through by President Donald Trump and Republicans,” reports Benzinga. 

Trump the crony capitalist will spend billions in nonexistent money to prop up transnational corporations and banks while sending small checks of a few hundred dollars to citizens as a token gesture. This will only temporarily mollify Americans and will not buy their loyalty in the long run. Two checks for a thousand dollars or less spread over a couple months will not keep the wolves from the door. 

The plan to exploit what appears to be an average virus in order to re-engineer economies and impose a global totalitarian super-state will usher in a New Dark Age of subservience and privation. The ruling elite considers us little more than serfs and useless eaters, especially the elderly and the underclass. 

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Kurt Nimmo writes on his blog, Another Day in the Empire, where this article was originally published.

Rex 84: FEMA’s Blueprint for Martial Law in America

March 21st, 2020 by Allen L Roland

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This incisive article on the repeal of civil liberties and freedom of speech in America was first published by Global Research in August 2006,

It brings to forefront of debate the ongoing road map towards Police State in America.

It is of particular significance with regard to the appointment of William Barr to the position of Attorney General, not to mention the publication of an  FBI document which states that “conspiracy theories” can motivate “domestic extremists to  commit criminal and sometimes violent activity”

(M.Ch, GR Editor)

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We are dangerously close to a situation where ~ if the American people took to the streets in righteous indignation or if there were another 9/11 ~ a mechanism for martial law could be quickly implemented and carried out under REX 84.  

The Cheney/Bush administration has a plan which would accommodate the detention of large numbers of American citizens during times of emergency.

The plan is called REX 84, short for Readiness Exercise 1984. Through Rex-84 an undisclosed number of concentration camps were set in operation throughout the United States, for internment of dissidents and others potentially harmful to the state.

The Rex 84 Program was originally established on the reasoning that if a “mass exodus” of illegal aliens crossed the Mexican/US border, they would be quickly rounded up and detained in detention centers by FEMA.

Existence of the Rex 84 plan was first revealed during the Iran-Contra Hearings in 1987, and subsequently  reported by the Miami Herald on July 5, 1987

” These camps are to be operated by FEMA should martial law need to be implemented in the United States and all it would take is a presidential signature on a proclamation and the attorney general’s signature on a warrant to which a list of names is attached.”

And there you have it ~ the real purpose of FEMA is to not only protect the government but to be its principal vehicle for martial law.

This is why FEMA could not respond immediately to the Hurricane Katrina disaster ~ humanitarian efforts were no longer part of its job description under the Department of Homeland Security.

It appears Hurricane Katrina also provided FEMA with an excuse to “dry run” its unconstitutional powers in New Orleans, rounding up “refugees” (now called “evacuees”) and “relocating” them in various camps. “Some evacuees are being treated as ‘internees’ by FEMA,” writes former NSA employee Wayne Madsen.

Reports continue to come into WMR that evacuees from New Orleans and Acadiana [the traditional twenty-two parish Cajun homeland] who have been scattered across the United States are being treated as ‘internees’ and not dislocated American citizens from a catastrophe

We are dangerously close to a situation where ~ if the American people took to the streets in righteous indignation or if there were another 9/11 ~ a mechanism for martial law could be quickly implemented and carried out under REX 84.

Be forewarned ~ the Cheney/Bush administration will stop at nothing to preserve their power and their ongoing neocon mis-adventure and they have currently proposed having executive control over all the states National Guard troops  in a national emergency.

Governor Tom Vilsack of Iowa, called the proposal ” one step away from a complete takeover of the National Guard, the end of the Guard as a dual-function force that can respond to both state and national needs.”

The provision was tucked into the House version of the defense bill without notice to the states, something Vilsack said he resented as much as the proposal itself.

Under the provision, the president would have authority to take control of the Guard in case of  ” a serious natural or manmade disaster, accident or catastrophe” in the United States.

Do remember, to the Cheney/Bush administration ~ the Mob at the Gates that they truly fear is not terrorists but, instead, the people demanding the truth.

REX 84 AND FEMA

http://www.mindfully.org/Reform/2004/FEMA-Concentration-Camps3sep04.htm

MINDFULLY, 2004 – There over 800 prison camps in the United States, all fully operational and ready to receive prisoners. They are all staffed and even surrounded by full-time guards, but they are all empty. These camps are to be operated by FEMA should martial law need to be implemented in the United States and all it would take is a presidential signature on a proclamation and the attorney general’s signature on a warrant to which a list of names is attached. . . The Rex 84 Program was established on the reasoning that if a “mass exodus” of illegal aliens crossed the Mexican/US border, they would be quickly rounded up and detained in detention centers by FEMA.

Rex 84 allowed many military bases to be closed down and to be turned into prisons.

Operation Cable Splicer and Garden Plot are the two sub programs which will be implemented once the Rex 84 program is initiated for its proper purpose. Garden Plot is the program to control the population. Cable Splicer is the program for an orderly takeover of the state and local governments by the federal government.

FEMA is the executive arm of the coming police state and thus will head up all operations. The Presidential Executive Orders already listed on the Federal Register also are part of the legal framework for this operation.

The camps all have railroad facilities as well as roads leading to and from the detention facilities. Many also have an airport nearby. The majority of the camps can house a population of 20,000 prisoners.

Currently, the largest of these facilities is just outside of Fairbanks, Alaska. The Alaskan facility is a massive mental health facility and can hold thousands of  people.

A high-level Italian virologist, Giuseppe Remuzzi, has published papers in the Lancet and other articles in which he states facts not hitherto known. (1)

The doctor stated that Italian physicians now recall having seen:
.
“a very strange and very severe pneumonia, particularly in old people in December and even November [2019]. This suggests that the virus was circulating, at least in Lombardy, and before we were aware of this outbreak occurring in China.“(2)
 .
Chinese medical authorities have determined the same underlying phenomenon, that the virus had been circulating among the population for perhaps two months before it finally broke out into the open.
.
Further, according to the Italian National Health Service (ISS):
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“It is not possible to reconstruct, for all patients, the chain of transmission of infection. Most cases reported in Italy report an epidemiological link with other cases diagnosed in Lombardy, Emilia Romagna and Veneto, the areas most affected by the epidemic.” [translation from Italian] (3)
.
The above statement is of crucial importance since it supports in itself the assertion of several simultaneous infection clusters and several ‘patients zero’. There are cases in Lombardy that could not be placed in an infection chain, and this must also be true for other areas. (see below) Given that the virus broke out separately in disparate regions of Italy, we can expect the identification of independent infectious clusters in those regions as well. That would mean Italy was hit by at least several individual ‘seedings’ of the virus.
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China’s outbreak of consequence was primarily in the city of Wuhan but with multiple sources in the city and multiple patients zero, with a minor outbreak in Guangdong that was easily contained. China had multiple clusters in Wuhan.  There was no single source, and no patient zero has been identified which is similar to those of Italy.
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The mystery of Italy’s “Patient No. 4”

Was the Italian outbreak caused by infections from China? Yes, and no.
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Before February 20, 2020, there were only three cases of coronavirus infection in Italy, two tourists from Wuhan, China, confirmed on January 30th, and an Italian man who returned to Rome from Wuhan on February 6th. These were clearly imported cases with Italy experiencing no new infections during the next two weeks.

Then suddenly there appeared new infections that were unrelated to China. On February 19, the Lombardy Health Region issued a statement that a 38-year-old Italian man was diagnosed with the new coronavirus, becoming the fourth confirmed case in Italy. The man had never traveled to China and had no contact with the confirmed Chinese patients.

Immediately after this patient was diagnosed, Italy experienced a major outbreak. In one day, the number of confirmed cases increased to 20 and, after little more than three weeks, Italy had 17,660 confirmed cases.

The Italians were not idle in searching for their patient zero. They renamed the “patient 4” “Italian No. 1”, and attempted to learn how he became infected. The search was apparently fruitless, the article stating that “America’s pandemic of the century has become the subject of suspicion by Italians“.(4)

The mystery of South Korea’s “Patient No. 31”

South Korea’s experience was eerily similar to that of Italy, and also to that of China. The country had experienced 30 imported cases which began on January 20, I believe all of which were traceable to contact with Hubei and/or Wuhan.

But then South Korea discovered a “Patient No. 31”, a 61 year-old South Korean woman diagnosed with the new coronavirus on February 18. This ‘local’ patient had no ties to China, had had no contact with any Chinese, and no contact whatever with any of the infected South Koreans. Her infection was a South Korean source.

Just as with Italy, the outbreak in South Korea exploded rapidly after the discovery of Patient 31. By the next day, February 19 (Italy was February 21, for comparison), there were 58 confirmed cases in South Korea, reaching 1,000 in less than a week. After little more than three weeks, South Korea had 8,086 confirmed cases. It would now seem likely (yet to corroborated) that South Korea and Italy could have been ‘seeded’ at approximately the same time.

Like the Italians, South Korea performed a massive hunt for the source of the infection of their “Korean No. 1”, combing the country for evidence, but without success. They discovered the confirmed cases in South Korea were mainly concentrated in two separate clusters in Daegu and Gyeongsang North Road, most of which – but not all – could be related to “Patient 31”. As with Italy, multiple clusters and multiple simultaneous infections spreading like wildfire – and without the assistance of a seafood market selling bats and pangolins.

For both Italy and South Korea, I could also add that there is no supposed “bio-weapons lab” anywhere within reach (as was claimed for China), but that wouldn’t be accurate. There are indeed bio-weapons labs easily within reach of the stricken areas in both Italy and South Korea – but they belong to the US Military.

Korea is particularly notable in this regard because it was proven likely that MERS resulted from a leak at the American military base at Osan. The official Western narrative for the MERS outbreak in South Korea was that a Korean businessman became infected in the Middle East then returned to his home in Gyeonggi Province and spread the infection. But there was never any documentation or evidence to support that claim, and to my best knowledge it was never verified by the South Korean Government.

Pertinent to this story is that according to the Korean Yonhap News Service, at the onset of the outbreak about 100 South Korean military personnel were suddenly quarantined at the USAF Osan Air Base. The Osan base is home to the JUPITR ATD military biological program that is closely related to the lab at Fort Detrick, MD, both being US military bio-weapons research labs.
.
There is also a (very secretive) WHO-sponsored International Vaccine Institute nearby, which is (or at least was) managed by US military biological weapons personnel. At the time, and given the quarantine mentioned above, the event sequence accepted as most likely was that of a leak from a JUPITR biowarfare project. (5) (6)
.
The Korean path is similar with that of Italy. If we look at a map of the virus-stricken areas of Italy, there is a US military base within almost a stone’s throw of all of them. This is of course merely a case of circumstance arousing suspicion, and by no means constitutes proof of anything at all.

However, there is a major point here which cannot be overlooked, namely the fact of simultaneous eruptions of a new virus in three different countries, and in all three cases no clear epidemiology, and an inability to identify either the original source or a patient zero

Multiple experts on biological weapons are in unanimous agreement that eruptions in a human population of a new and unusual pathogen in multiple locations simultaneously, with no clear idea of source and cases with no proven links, is virtually prima facie evidence of a pathogen deliberately released, since natural outbreaks can almost always be resolved to one location and one patient zero. The possibility of a deliberate leak is as strong in Italy and South Korea as in China, all three nations apparently sharing the same suspicions.

Larry Romanoff is a retired management consultant and businessman. He has held senior executive positions in international consulting firms, and owned an international import-export business. He has been a visiting professor at Shanghai’s Fudan University, presenting case studies in international affairs to senior EMBA classes. Mr. Romanoff lives in Shanghai and is currently writing a series of ten books generally related to China and the West.
He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG).
He can be contacted at: [email protected]

Notes

(A) This is an aside, but Italy has experienced a fatality rate nearly twice that of Wuhan, but there may be an external contributing factor. Observations were made that, in most cases especially among the elderly in Italy, ibuprophen was widely used as a painkiller. The Lancet published an article demonstrating that the use of ibuprophen can markedly facilitate the ability of the virus to infect and therefore to increase the risk of serious and fatal infection. (YY)

(B) “The mean age of those who died in Italy was 81 years and more than two-thirds of these patients had . . . underlying health conditions, but it is also worth noting that they had acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) caused by . . . SARS-CoV-2 pneumonia, needed respiratory support, and “would not have died otherwise.”
 
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Twenty-one years ago, March 24th 1999, marks the commencement of NATO’s  aerial bombardment of Yugoslavia. The bombings which lasted for almost three months, were followed by the military invasion (under a bogus UN mandate) and illegal occupation of  the province of Kosovo.

The following article was written and published in April 1999.

Michel Chossudovsky, March 21, 2020

***
Heralded by the global media as a humanitarian peace-keeping mission, NATO’s ruthless bombing of Belgrade and Pristina goes far beyond the breach of international law. While Slobodan Milosevic is demonised, portrayed as a remorseless dictator, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) is upheld as a self-respecting nationalist movement struggling for the rights of ethnic Albanians. The truth of the matter is that the KLA is sustained by organised crime with the tacit approval of the United States and its allies.

Following a pattern set during the War in Bosnia, public opinion has been carefully misled. The multibillion dollar Balkans narcotics trade has played a crucial role in “financing the conflict” in Kosovo in accordance with Western economic, strategic and military objectives. Amply documented by European police files, acknowledged by numerous studies, the links of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) to criminal syndicates in Albania, Turkey and the European Union have been known to Western governments and intelligence agencies since the mid-1990s.

“…The financing of the Kosovo guerilla war poses critical questions and it sorely test claims of an “ethical” foreign policy. Should the West back a guerilla army that appears to partly financed by organised crime.” 1

While KLA leaders were shaking hands with US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at Rambouillet, Europol (the European Police Organization based in the Hague) was “preparing a report for European interior and justice ministers on a connection between the KLA and Albanian drug gangs.”2 In the meantime, the rebel army has been skilfully heralded by the global media (in the months preceding the NATO bombings) as broadly representative of the interests of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

With KLA leader Hashim Thaci (a 29 year “freedom fighter”) appointed as chief negotiator at Rambouillet, the KLA has become the de facto helmsman of the peace process on behalf of the ethnic Albanian majority and this despite its links to the drug trade. The West was relying on its KLA puppets to rubber-stamp an agreement which would have transformed Kosovo into an occupied territory under Western Administration.

Ironically Robert Gelbard, America’s special envoy to Bosnia, had described the KLA last year as “terrorists”. Christopher Hill, America’s chief negotiator and architect of the Rambouillet agreement “has also been a strong critic of the KLA for its alleged dealings in drugs.”3 Moreover, barely a few two months before Rambouillet, the US State Department had acknowledged (based on reports from the US Observer Mission) the role of the KLA in terrorising and uprooting ethnic Albanians:

“…the KLA harass or kidnap anyone who comes to the police, … KLA representatives had threatened to kill villagers and burn their homes if they did not join the KLA [a process which has continued since the NATO bombings]… [T]he KLA harassment has reached such intensity that residents of six villages in the Stimlje region are “ready to flee.” 4

While backing a “freedom movement” with links to the drug trade, the West seems also intent in bypassing the civilian Kosovo Democratic League and its leader Ibrahim Rugova who has called for an end to the bombings and expressed his desire to negotiate a peaceful settlement with the Yugoslav authorities.5 It is worth recalling that a few days before his March 31st Press Conference, Rugova had been reported by the KLA (alongside three other leaders including Fehmi Agani) to have been killed by the Serbs.

Covert Financing of “Freedom Fighters”

Remember Oliver North and the Contras? The pattern in Kosovo is similar to other CIA covert operations in Central America, Haiti and Afghanistan where “freedom fighters” were financed through the laundering of drug money. Since the onslaught of the Cold War, Western intelligence agencies have developed a complex relationship to the illegal narcotics trade. In case after case, drug money laundered in the international banking system has financed covert operations.

According to author Alfred McCoy, the pattern of covert financing was established in the Indochina war. In the 1960s, the Meo army in Laos was funded by the narcotics trade as part of Washington’s military strategy against the combined forces of the neutralist government of Prince Souvanna Phouma and the Pathet Lao.6

The pattern of drug politics set in Indochina has since been replicated in Central America and the Caribbean. “The rising curve of cocaine imports to the US”, wrote journalist John Dinges “followed almost exactly the flow of US arms and military advisers to Central America”.7

The military in Guatemala and Haiti, to which the CIA provided covert support, were known to be involved in the trade of narcotics into Southern Florida. And as revealed in the Iran-Contra and Bank of Commerce and Credit International (BCCI) scandals, there was strong evidence that covert operations were funded through the laundering of drug money. “Dirty money” recycled through the banking system–often through an anonymous shell company– became “covert money,” used to finance various rebel groups and guerilla movements including the Nicaraguan Contras and the Afghan Mujahadeen. According to a 1991 Time Magazine report:

“Because the US wanted to supply the mujehadeen rebels in Afghanistan with stinger missiles and other military hardware it needed the full cooperation of Pakistan. By the mid-1980s, the CIA operation in Islamabad was one of the largest US intelligence stations in the World. `If BCCI is such an embarrassment to the US that forthright investigations are not being pursued it has a lot to do with the blind eye the US turned to the heroin trafficking in Pakistan’, said a US intelligence officer.”8

America and Germany join Hands

Since the early 1990s, Bonn and Washington have joined hands in establishing their respective spheres of influence in the Balkans. Their intelligence agencies have also collaborated. According to intelligence analyst John Whitley, covert support to the Kosovo rebel army was established as a joint endeavour between the CIA and Germany’s Bundes Nachrichten Dienst (BND) (which previously played a key role in installing a right wing nationalist government under Franjo Tudjman in Croatia).9 The task to create and finance the KLA was initially given to Germany: “They used German uniforms, East German weapons and were financed, in part, with drug money”.10 According to Whitley, the CIA was, subsequently instrumental in training and equipping the KLA in Albania.11

The covert activities of Germany’s BND were consistent with Bonn’s intent to expand its “Lebensraum” into the Balkans. Prior to the onset of the civil war in Bosnia, Germany and its Foreign Minister Hans Dietrich Genscher had actively supported secession; it had “forced the pace of international diplomacy” and pressured its Western allies to recognize Slovenia and Croatia. According to the Geopolitical Drug Watch, both Germany and the US favoured (although not officially) the formation of a “Greater Albania” encompassing Albania, Kosovo and parts of Macedonia.12 According to Sean Gervasi, Germany was seeking a free hand among its allies “to pursue economic dominance in the whole of Mitteleuropa.”13

Islamic Fundamentalism in Support of the KLA

Bonn and Washington’s “hidden agenda” consisted in triggering nationalist liberation movements in Bosnia and Kosovo with the ultimate purpose of destabilising Yugoslavia. The latter objective was also carried out “by turning a blind eye” to the influx of mercenaries and financial support from Islamic fundamentalist organisations.14

Mercenaries financed by Saudi Arabia and Koweit had been fighting in Bosnia.15 And the Bosnian pattern was replicated in Kosovo: Mujahadeen mercenaries from various Islamic countries are reported to be fighting alongside the KLA in Kosovo. German, Turkish and Afghan instructors were reported to be training the KLA in guerilla and diversion tactics.16

According to a Deutsche Press-Agentur report, financial support from Islamic countries to the KLA had been channelled through the former Albanian chief of the National Information Service (NIS), Bashkim Gazidede.17 “Gazidede, reportedly a devout Moslem who fled Albania in March of last year [1997], is presently [1998] being investigated for his contacts with Islamic terrorist organizations.”18

The supply route for arming KLA “freedom fighters” are the rugged mountainous borders of Albania with Kosovo and Macedonia. Albania is also a key point of transit of the Balkans drug route which supplies Western Europe with grade four heroin. 75% of the heroin entering Western Europe is from Turkey. And a large part of drug shipments originating in Turkey transits through the Balkans. According to the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), “it is estimated that 4-6 metric tons of heroin leave each month from Turkey having [through the Balkans] as destination Western Europe.”19 A recent intelligence report by Germany’s Federal Criminal Agency suggests that: “Ethnic Albanians are now the most prominent group in the distribution of heroin in Western consumer countries.”20

The Laundering of Dirty Money

In order to thrive, the criminal syndicates involved in the Balkans narcotics trade need friends in high places. Smuggling rings with alleged links to the Turkish State are said to control the trafficking of heroin through the Balkans “cooperating closely with other groups with which they have political or religious ties” including criminal groups in Albanian and Kosovo.21 In this new global financial environment, powerful undercover political lobbies connected to organized crime cultivate links to prominent political figures and officials of the military and intelligence establishment.

The narcotics trade nonetheless uses respectable banks to launder large amounts of dirty money. While comfortably removed from the smuggling operations per se, powerful banking interests in Turkey but mainly those in financial centres in Western Europe discretely collect fat commissions in a multibillion dollar money laundering operation. These interests have high stakes in ensuring a safe passage of drug shipments into Western European markets.

The Albanian Connection

Arms smuggling from Albania into Kosovo and Macedonia started at the beginning of 1992, when the Democratic Party came to power, headed by President Sali Berisha. An expansive underground economy and cross border trade had unfolded. A triangular trade in oil, arms and narcotics had developed largely as a result of the embargo imposed by the international community on Serbia and Montenegro and the blockade enforced by Greece against Macedonia.

Industry and agriculture in Kosovo were spearheaded into bankruptcy following the IMF’s lethal “economic medicine” imposed on Belgrade in 1990. The embargo was imposed on Yugoslavia. Ethnic Albanians and Serbs were driven into abysmal poverty. Economic collapse created an environment which fostered the progress of illicit trade. In Kosovo, the rate of unemployment increased to a staggering 70 percent (according to Western sources).

Poverty and economic collapse served to exacerbate simmering ethnic tensions. Thousands of unemployed youths “barely out of their Teens” from an impoverished population, were drafted into the ranks of the KLA…22

In neighbouring Albania, the free market reforms adopted since 1992 had created conditions which favoured the criminalisation of State institutions. Drug money was also laundered in the Albanian pyramids (ponzi schemes) which mushroomed during the government of former President Sali Berisha (1992-1997).23 These shady investment funds were an integral part of the economic reforms inflicted by Western creditors on Albania.

Drug barons in Kosovo, Albania and Macedonia (with links to the Italian mafia) had become the new economic elites, often associated with Western business interests. In turn the financial proceeds of the trade in drugs and arms were recycled towards other illicit activities (and vice versa) including a vast prostitution racket between Albania and Italy. Albanian criminal groups operating in Milan, “have become so powerful running prostitution rackets that they have even taken over the Calabrians in strength and influence.”24

The application of “strong economic medicine” under the guidance of the Washington based Bretton Woods institutions had contributed to wrecking Albania’s banking system and precipitating the collapse of the Albanian economy. The resulting chaos enabled American and European transnationals to carefully position themselves. Several Western oil companies including Occidental, Shell and British Petroleum had their eyes rivetted on Albania’s abundant and unexplored oil-deposits. Western investors were also gawking Albania’s extensive reserves of chrome, copper, gold, nickel and platinum… The Adenauer Foundation had been lobbying in the background on behalf of German mining interests. 25

Berisha’s Minister of Defence Safet Zoulali (alleged to have been involved in the illegal oil and narcotics trade) was the architect of the agreement with Germany’s Preussag (handing over control over Albania’s chrome mines) against the competing bid of the US led consortium of Macalloy Inc. in association with Rio Tinto Zimbabwe (RTZ).26

Large amounts of narco-dollars had also been recycled into the privatisation programmes leading to the acquisition of State assets by the mafias. In Albania, the privatisation programme had led virtually overnight to the development of a property owning class firmly committed to the “free market”. In Northern Albania, this class was associated with the Guegue “families” linked to the Democratic Party.

Controlled by the Democratic Party under the presidency of Sali Berisha (1992-97), Albania’s largest financial “pyramid” VEFA Holdings had been set up by the Guegue “families” of Northern Albania with the support of Western banking interests. VEFA was under investigation in Italy in 1997 for its ties to the Mafia which allegedly used VEFA to launder large amounts of dirty money.27

According to one press report (based on intelligence sources), senior members of the Albanian government during the Presidency of Sali Berisha including cabinet members and members of the secret police SHIK were alleged to be involved in drugs trafficking and illegal arms trading into Kosovo:

(…) The allegations are very serious. Drugs, arms, contraband cigarettes all are believed to have been handled by a company run openly by Albania’s ruling Democratic Party, Shqiponja (…). In the course of 1996 Defence Minister, Safet Zhulali [was alleged] to had used his office to facilitate the transport of arms, oil and contraband cigarettes. (…) Drugs barons from Kosovo (…) operate in Albania with impunity, and much of the transportation of heroin and other drugs across Albania, from Macedonia and Greece en route to Italy, is believed to be organised by Shik, the state security police (…). Intelligence agents are convinced the chain of command in the rackets goes all the way to the top and have had no hesitation in naming ministers in their reports.28

The trade in narcotics and weapons was allowed to prosper despite the presence since 1993 of a large contingent of American troops at the Albanian-Macedonian border with a mandate to enforce the embargo. The West had turned a blind eye. The revenues from oil and narcotics were used to finance the purchase of arms (often in terms of direct barter): “Deliveries of oil to Macedonia (skirting the Greek embargo [in 1993-4] can be used to cover heroin, as do deliveries of kalachnikov rifles to Albanian `brothers’ in Kosovo”.29

The Northern tribal clans or “fares” had also developed links with Italy’s crime syndicates.30 In turn, the latter played a key role in smuggling arms across the Adriatic into the Albanian ports of Dures and Valona. At the outset in 1992, the weapons channelled into Kosovo were largely small arms including Kalashnikov AK-47 rifles, RPK and PPK machine-guns, 12.7 calibre heavy machine-guns, etc.

The proceeds of the narcotics trade has enabled the KLA to rapidly develop a force of some 30,000 men. More recently, the KLA has acquired more sophisticated weaponry including anti-aircraft and antiarmor rockets. According to Belgrade, some of the funds have come directly from the CIA “funnelled through a so-called “Government of Kosovo” based in Geneva, Switzerland. Its Washington office employs the public-relations firm of Ruder Finn–notorious for its slanders of the Belgrade government”.31

The KLA has also acquired electronic surveillance equipment which enables it to receive NATO satellite information concerning the movement of the Yugoslav Army. The KLA training camp in Albania is said to “concentrate on heavy weapons training – rocket propelled grenades, medium caliber cannons, tanks and transporter use, as well as on communications, and command and control”. (According to Yugoslav government sources.32

These extensive deliveries of weapons to the Kosovo rebel army were consistent with Western geopolitical objectives. Not surprisingly, there has been a “deafening silence” of the international media regarding the Kosovo arms-drugs trade. In the words of a 1994 Report of the Geopolitical Drug Watch: “the trafficking [of drugs and arms] is basically being judged on its geostrategic implications (…) In Kosovo, drugs and weapons trafficking is fuelling geopolitical hopes and fears”…33

The fate of Kosovo had already been carefully laid out prior to the signing of the 1995 Dayton agreement. NATO had entered an unwholesome “marriage of convenience” with the mafia. “Freedom fighters” were put in place, the narcotics trade enabled Washington and Bonn to “finance the Kosovo conflict” with the ultimate objective of destabilising the Belgrade government and fully recolonising the Balkans. The destruction of an entire country is the outcome. Western governments which participated in the NATO operation bear a heavy burden of responsibility in the deaths of civilians, the impoverishment of both the ethnic Albanian and Serbian populations and the plight of those who were brutally uprooted from towns and villages in Kosovo as a result of the bombings.

NOTES

1. Roger Boyes and Eske Wright, Drugs Money Linked to the Kosovo Rebels The Times, London, Monday, March 24, 1999.

2. Ibid.

3. Philip Smucker and Tim Butcher, “Shifting stance over KLA has betrayed’ Albanians”, Daily Telegraph, London, 6 April 1999

4. KDOM Daily Report, released by the Bureau of European and Canadian Affairs, Office of South Central European Affairs, U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC, December 21, 1998; Compiled by EUR/SCE (202-647-4850) from daily reports of the U.S. element of the Kosovo Diplomatic Observer Mission, December 21, 1998.

5. “Rugova, sous protection serbe appelle a l’arret des raides”, Le Devoir, Montreal, 1 April 1999.

6. See Alfred W. McCoy, The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia Harper and Row, New York, 1972.

7. See John Dinges, Our Man in Panama, The Shrewd Rise and Brutal Fall of Manuel Noriega, Times Books, New York, 1991.

8. “The Dirtiest Bank of All,” Time, July 29, 1991, p. 22.

9. Truth in Media, Phoenix, 2 April, 1999; see also Michel Collon, Poker Menteur, editions EPO, Brussels, 1997.

10. Quoted in Truth in Media, Phoenix, 2 April, 1999).

11. Ibid.

12. Geopolitical Drug Watch, No 32, June 1994, p. 4

13. Sean Gervasi, “Germany, US and the Yugoslav Crisis”, Covert Action Quarterly, No. 43, Winter 1992-93).

14. See Daily Telegraph, 29 December 1993.

15. For further details see Michel Collon, Poker Menteur, editions EPO, Brussels, 1997, p. 288.

16. Truth in Media, Kosovo in Crisis, Phoenix, 2 April 1999.

17. Deutsche Presse-Agentur, March 13, 1998.

18. Ibid.

19. Daily News, Ankara, 5 March 1997.

20. Quoted in Boyes and Wright, op cit.

21. ANA, Athens, 28 January 1997, see also Turkish Daily News, 29 January 1997.

22. Brian Murphy, KLA Volunteers Lack Experience, The Associated Press, 5 April 1999.

23. See Geopolitical Drug Watch, No. 35, 1994, p. 3, see also Barry James, In Balkans, Arms for Drugs, The International Herald Tribune Paris, June 6, 1994.

24. The Guardian, 25 March 1997.

25. For further details see Michel Chossudovsky, La crisi albanese, Edizioni Gruppo Abele, Torino, 1998.

26. Ibid.

27. Andrew Gumbel, The Gangster Regime We Fund, The Independent, February 14, 1997, p. 15.

28. Ibid.

29. Geopolitical Drug Watch, No. 35, 1994, p. 3.

30. Geopolitical Drug Watch, No 66, p. 4.

31. Quoted in Workers’ World, May 7, 1998.

32. See Government of Yugoslavia at http://www.gov.yu/terrorism/terroristcamps.html.

33. Geopolitical Drug Watch, No 32, June 1994, p. 4.

CGTN Editor’s note: The article is an edited version of an article which was first published on a WeChat official account named Gong Yi Kan Shi Jie. The article reflects the author’s opinions and does not necessarily reflect the views of CGTN.
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Given that some major U.S. media and politicians made groundless claims that the novel coronavirus originates in China, blamed and slandered China, even asked for an apology from China, then I have every reason to ask 10 questions for the United States about its origin too. Better still, unlike the U.S., I did a lot of homework and will base my questions on international media coverage of COVID-19.

emphasis added

Question 1

Since the director of the U.S. Centers of Disease Control, Robert Redfield admitted that some Americans seemingly dying from flu were tested positive for the novel coronavirus, can I conclude that those people actually died from the novel coronavirus? Among the 34 million influenza patients, with a death toll of 20,000, how many were misdiagnosed?

When did the misdiagnoses start? And did it actually start from August 2019? These questions are so vital that the world is waiting for an explanation from the United States.

Question 2

When there were some misdiagnoses admitted by U.S. CDC, I’m scratching my head – isn’t the U.S. that owns the best medical technologies in the world? Why did that happen?

As the ground glass opacity (white patches) can be easily seen in CT scans of the lungs of patients with the novel coronavirus-infected pneumonia, it should have been an easy thing to separate the cases of COVID-19 and H1N1 flu. But why were there so many misdiagnoses?

Well, that reminds me of the U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s request of controlling all messaging regard to the coronavirus. Why does the White House call for messaging control? Does the U.S. need to hide something? Are they plotting some conspiracy?

Director of the U.S. CDC Robert Redfield (front) speaks during a press conference on the coronavirus at the White House in Washington D.C., U.S., March 4, 2020. /Xinhua

Question 3

Why did the U.S. withdraw from the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) in 2001? Why did it try to prevent a monitoring mechanism for the execution of the Convention? Is it standing in the way of developing biological weapon for the U.S.?

If not, why are there new biological laboratories in Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan? Are those labs for biochemical warfare? It’s impossible that they are keeping viruses as pets. If the U.S. is aiming at provoking a biochemical war, who would be the first target then?

Also, how about the swine flu outbreak in China last year? The odd thing is that it broke out in different places simultaneously instead of breaking out separately. Why were drones used to poison the pigs? Was the U.S. behind all that? I heard that it was the pork speculators. But that theory makes no sense – since the swine flu killed millions of pigs in China during the same period of time, pork speculators would suffer great loss instead of profits.

The best possible answer to that was foreign meddling. I was among those who wondered if the U.S. had anything to do with that and hoped for an explanation.

Question 4

The U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, located on Fort Detrick, Maryland, was shut down in July 2019. Was it because there was a virus leakage incident?

Just one month later, there was an influenza outbreak across the country. Were those two things related in any way?

Were the misdiagnoses simply cooked up to cover up such secrets? Did that also become a motive for the U.S. to shift the blame to other countries by labeling them as the origin of the novel coronavirus?

Was that an epic coincidence or a dirty secret in disguise? Why did the U.S. erase huge number of English news reports on the internet covering the shutdown in March 2020? Is there anything to hide, or is there anything to worry about?

Question 5

At the 7th Military World Games (October 18-27, 2019) held in Wuhan, why did the U.S. team (369 members) win ZERO gold medal? Did that even look like a reasonable record for the world’s leading military power? Did your government do it on purpose?

Was anyone among the 369 participants ever (mis)diagnosed with influenza? Was it possible they were carriers of the novel coronavirus?

The best thing for the U.S. now is to stop burying its head in the sand and give the 369 people PCT tests to see if they are infected.

Question 6

Why did the U.S. hold Event 201, a global pandemic exercise in October 2019? Why was the CIA deputy director participating it? Is it because the U.S. has foreseen a highly-infectious virus is about to cause a pandemic? One month later, cases of pneumonia of unknown cause were detected in China and there was a pandemic three months later. Probably, it’s not just a coincidence.

Question 7

Japan, South Korea, Italy and Iran all reported that many of their first COVID-19 confirmed cases had no exposure history with China but showed connection with the United States. How come?

Genetic research shows that the type of novel coronavirus found in China belongs to Group C, but Group A and Group B viruses – Group C’s parental and grand parental viruses – are both found in the United States. Why? A Japanese patient was diagnosed with influenza in Hawaii but was tested positive for COVID-19 when he returned to Japan. How to explain that?

Some COVID-19 cases in the U.S. had no connection with China whatsoever. So where does it come from?

Question 8

You’ve got no reason to deny that the 1918 Pandemic originated within your territory. But you let Spain bear the blame for as long as a century. Don’t you feel shame on that?

History seems to repeat itself. So, is the U.S. playing the trick again and attempting to label the novel coronavirus as the “Chinese Virus”?

Question 9

The 1918 Pandemic, causing 1 billion infections, with a death toll “estimated to have been anywhere from 17 million to 50 million, and possibly as high as 100 million… one of the deadliest epidemics in human history,” according to wikipedia, was proven originating in the U.S., but the U.S. has never apologized to the world.

So far, the origin of the novel coronavirus is still unknown, but the United States is requiring China for an apology, how ridiculous is that! Just to remind the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic killing 300,000 people also originated in the U.S., and also the same for HIV AIDS. So why not confess to the world?

Question 10

In movies, the U.S. is fond of playing the role of the world savior. The image of Captain America is one of its most popular symbols. However, in reality, in the face of a disaster like COVID-19, where is Captain America?

The U.S. is not doing enough to protect its citizens at home or on the Diamond Princess cruise ship. It even attempted to make Japan responsible for Americans on Diamond Princess. How does the U.S. have the brass to do all these and accuse China of being irresponsible?

While China bought the world valuable time to battle COVID-19, the U.S. accused China of being passive and lacking transparency. Well, when the White House instructed the CDC to stop tallying the people tested for novel coronavirus, did that count as transparency?

When the U.S. government advised its people not to wear masks, was it not being passive? Just too many questions call for the U.S.’s explanations.

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Fifty five years ago, March 8 1965 marks the commencement of the Vietnam war.

April 1975 marks the official end of the Vietnam War. 

Yet today, almost 44 year later Vietnam is an impoverished country.  The Hanoi government is a US proxy regime. Vietnam has become a new cheap labor frontier of the global economy. Neoliberalism prevails.

In a bitter irony, Vietnam which was a victim of US war crimes has become a staunch military ally of the US under Washington’s  “Pivot to Asia” which threatens China. 

And now The Trump administration has been pressuring North Korea to adopt the “Vietnam Model” as a prerequisite to “normalization” and the lifting of economic sanctions.

The Vietnam Model is not a Solution for North Korea.

In 2019, the minimum hourly wage in Vietnam’s export manufacturing sector is of the order 20 cents an hour.

Health services have in large part been privatized. Education is grossly underfunded. Poverty is rampant.

Al Jazeera, April 17, 2013 

In 1994 following the lifting of US sanctions, I undertook field research in Vietnam with the support of Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture, which enabled me to visit and conduct interviews in rural areas in both the North and the South. 

This article was written twenty five years ago, initially published on April 30th 1995 in the context of the 20th anniversary of the Liberation of Saigon. A more in-depth analysis focusing on Hanoi’s neoliberal reforms was subsequently published as a chapter in my book, The Globalization of Poverty, first edition 1997, second edition, 2003.

Michel Chossudovsky, March 21, 2020

***

Who Won the Vietnam War

by Michel Chossudovsky

Peace Magazine, July 15,  1994

On April 30, 1975, the Vietnam War ended with the capture of Saigon by Communist forces and the surrender of General Duong Vanh Minh and his cabinet in the Presidential palace. As troops of the People’s Army of Vietnam marched into Saigon, U.S. personnel and the last American marines were hastily evacuated from the roof of the U.S. embassy. Twenty years later a fundamental question still remains unanswered: Who won the Vietnam War?

Vietnam never received war reparations payments from the U.S. for the massive loss of life and destruction, yet an agreement reached in Paris in 1993 required Hanoi to recognize the debts of the defunct Saigon regime of General Thieu. This agreement is in many regards tantamount to obliging Vietnam to compensate Washington for the costs of war.

Moreover, the adoption of sweeping macro-economic reforms under the supervision of the Bretton Woods institutions was also a condition for the lifting of the U.S. embargo. These free market reforms now constitute the Communist Party’s official doctrine. With the normalization of diplomatic relations with Washington in 1994, reference to America’s brutal role in the war is increasingly considered untimely and improper. Not surprisingly, Hanoi had decided to tone down the commemoration of the Saigon surrender so as not to offend its former wartime enemy. The Communist Party leadership has recently underscored the “historic role” of the United States in “liberating” Vietnam from Vichy regime and Japanese occupation during World War II.

On September 2, 1945 at the Declaration of Independence of Ba Dinh Square in Hanoi proclaiming the founding of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, American agents of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS, the predecessor of today’s CIA) were present at the side of Ho Chi Minh. While Washington had provided the Viet Minh resistance with weapons and token financial support, this strategy had largely been designed to weaken Japan in the final stages of World War II without committing large numbers of U.S. ground troops.

In contrast to the subdued and restrained atmosphere of the commemoration marking the end of the Vietnam War, the 50th anniversary of independence is to be amply celebrated in a series of official ceremonies and activities commencing in September and extending to the Chinese NewYear.

Vietnam Pays War Reparations

Prior to the “normalization” of relations with Washington, Hanoi was compelled to foot the bill of the bad debts incurred by the U.S.-backed Saigon regime. At the donor conference held in Paris in November 1993, a total of nearly $2 billion of loans and aid money was generously pledged in support of Vietnam’s free market reforms.

Yet immediately after the conference, a secret meeting was held under the auspices of the Paris Club. Present at this meeting were representatives of Western governments. On the Vietnamese side, Dr. Nguyen Xian Oanh, economic advisor to the prime minister, played a key role in the negotiations. Dr. Oanh, a former IMF official, had been Minister of Finance and later Acting Prime Minister in the military government of General Duong Van Minh, which the U.S. installed 1963 after the assassination of President Ngo Dinh Diem and his brother(f.2). Dr. Oanh, while formally mediating on behalf of the Communist government, was nonetheless responsive to the demands of Western creditors.

The deal signed with the IMF (which was made public) was largely symbolic. The amount was not substantial: Hanoi was obliged to pay the IMF $140 million (owned by the defunct Saigon regime) as a condition for the resumption of new loans. Japan and France, Vietnam’s former colonial masters of the Vichy period, formed a so-called “Friends of Vietnam” committee to lend to Hanoi” the money needed to reimburse the IMF.

The substantive arrangement on the rescheduling of bilateral debts (with the Saigon regime), however, was never revealed. Yet it was ultimately this secret agreement (reached under the auspices of the Paris Club) which was instrumental in Washington’s decision to lift the embargo and normalize diplomatic relations. This arrangement was also decisive in the release of the loans pledged at the 1993 donor conference, thereby bringing Vietnam under the trusteeship of Japanese and Western creditors. Thus twenty years after the war, Vietnam had surrendered its economic sovereignty.

By fully recognizing the legitimacy of these debts, Hanoi had agreed to repay loans that had supported the U.S. war effort. Moreover, the government of Mr. Vo Van Kiet had also accepted to comply fully with the usual conditions (devaluation, trade liberalization, privatization, etc.) of an IMF-sponsored structural adjustment program.

These economic reforms, launched in the mid-1980s with the Bretton Woods institutions, had initiated, in the war’s brutal aftermath, a new phase of economic and social devastation: Inflation had resulted from the repeated devaluations that began in 1973 under the Saigon regime the year after the withdrawal of American combat troops(f.3). Today Vietnam is once again inundated with U.S. dollar notes, which have largely replaced the Vietnamese dong. With soaring prices, real earnings have dropped to abysmally low levels.

In turn, the reforms have massively reduced productive capacity. More than 5,000 out of 12,300 state-owned enterprises were closed or steered into bankruptcy. The credit cooperatives were eliminated, all medium and long term credit to industry and agriculture was frozen. Only short-term credit was available at an interest rate of 35 percent per annum (1994). Moreover, the IMF agreement prohibited the state from providing budget support either to the state-owned economy or to an incipient private sector.

The reforms’ hidden agenda consisted in destabilizing Vietnam’s industrial base. Heavy industry, oil and gas, natural resources and mining, cement and steel production are to be reorganized and taken over by foreign capital. The most valuable state assets will be transferred to reinforce and preserve its industrial base, or to develop a capitalist economy owned and controlled by Nationals.

In the process of economic restructuring, more than a million workers and over 20,000 public employees (of whom the majority were health workers and teachers) have been laid off(f.5). In turn, local famines have erupted, affecting at least a quarter of the country’s population(f.6). These famines are not limited to the food deficit areas. In the Mekong delta, Vietnam’s rice basket, 25% of the adult population consumes less than 1800 calories per day(f.7). In the cities, the devaluation of the dong together with the elimination of subsidies and price controls has led to soaring prices of rice and other food staples.

The reforms have led to drastic cuts in social programs. With the imposition of school fees, three quarters of a million children dropped out from the school system in a matter of a few years (1987-90)(f.8). Health clinics and hospitals collapsed, the resurgence of a number of infectious diseases including malaria, tuberculosis and diarrhea is acknowledged by the Ministry of Health and the donors. A World Health Organization study confirmed that the number of malaria deaths increased three-fold in the first four years of the reforms alongside the collapse of health care and soaring prices of antimalarial drugs(f.9). The government (under the guidance of the international donor community) has also discontinued budget support to the provision of medical equipment and maintenance leading to the virtual paralysis of the entire public health system. Real salaries of medical personnel and working conditions have declined dramatically: the monthly wage of medical doctors in a district hospital is as low as $15 a month(f.10).

Although the U.S. was defeated on the battlefield, two decades later Vietnam appears to have surrendered its economic sovereignty to its former Wartime enemy.

No orange or steel pellet bombs, no napalm, no toxic chemicals: a new phase of economic and social destruction has unfolded. The achievements of past struggles and the aspirations of an entire nation are undone and erased almost with a stroke of the pen.

Debt conditionality and structural adjustment under the trusteeship of international creditors constitute in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, an equally effective and formally nonviolent instrument of recolonization and impoverishment affecting the livelihood of millions of people.

Michel Chossudovsky is professor of economics at the University of Ottawa and Director of the Center for Research on Globalization

Zhao Lijian, the spokesman of the ministry of foreign affairs in China quite knowledgeably alleged that the US was behind the spread of Corona virus through its military personnel in Wuhan during Wuhan military games late last autumn, 2019. If that be true, then China has just begun the war of challenging the false US narratives on global affairs.

It seems that 2020 will be a year of two phenomena; uncovering conspiracies, less theory and more facts. If so, then it is understandable that Italy may be punished because of defying American orders against joining Belt & Road (BRI). Iran is ever guilty of wrong doing, hence more Corona density, so on and so forth. The purpose of this argument is not to discover the origins of Corona virus but to argue that the US is dead set on subverting the BRI, no matter what means need to be adopted to blackmail and bludgeon China into submission for the sake of its own world domination. With Zhao Lijian’s statement, it seems obvious that China is not likely to capitulate on BRI, rather China is likely to confront the US in conventional and non-conventional ways and to follow through ever more assertively its BRI plans.

Now we turn to Afghanistan. Afghanistan is key to world peace. If the US is beaten out of Afghanistan successfully, it will leave India, Daesh/ISIS, Afghan National Army (ANA) which the Taliban with regional help can easily eliminate. Main regional actors that are likely to do that are Pakistan, China and Russia. But even Iran and Turkey are interested in doing the same.

Pakistanis know very well that after the signing of the so-called peace deal between the US and the Taliban, Afghanistan is entering a very dangerous period of war in which its neighbors must not sit quietly. Islamabad knows too well that the Taliban are about to form a government in Kabul as the Americans leave, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah fight over power and India seeks Daesh/ISIS support to keep Pakistan away from helping the Kashmiri people. Hence, Islamabad only has ONE choice: Support the Taliban’s return to power once again.

Pakistani PM should not have congratulated Ashraf Ghani government under the American pressure because it would mean ill will towards the Taliban. The Taliban on the other hand seek the recognition of their government not Ghani’s puppet government. In all likelihood, the Pakistanis did what they have done before. Most likely, they placated the Americans on the surface but alerted the Taliban that this is only surface level diplomacy. Taliban have given a clear message to Americans. The US was supposed to release 5,000 prisoners. India forbade Ghani government to release prisoners to which Mike Pompeo asserted that Ghani must release prisoners otherwise the Taliban will begin to shoot the retreating American forces. Just in the last two days, the Taliban staged over a hundred attacks on the ANA in ten different provinces. Their deal is only with the US for safe withdrawal of American troops, but the Taliban will show no clemency to Ghani-Abdullah government(s).

The old remnants of so-called al-qaeda’s salafi groups have done a baiyah (oath of allegiance) at the hands of Mullah Haibatullah, the head of the Taliban’s main group, the Mullah Omar group. The salafi group has also promised that they will fight against US and India supported Daesh/ISIS fighters by submitting to the Taliban. The Taliban have declared that their next step is conquest of Kabul. Pakistanis are in full support of that underneath the surface because they still fear America. But at the sub-diplomatic level, Pakistan is in full support for the Afghan Taliban, because without securing the Western borders, it cannot give adequate response to Indian aggression in Kashmir and butchery of Muslims inside India. If America doesn’t keep its promise and fights the Taliban then they will begin a strong offensive against the Americans. While the latter is not likely to happen, but American support for unleashing Daesh/ISIS has happened before and will certainly happen again.

China should consider doing the following to ensure its best interest in the long run:

1. Recognize the Taliban government at its earliest so that the post-Civil war dealings with the Post Ghani-Abdullah Afghan government take place between China and the Taliban government in a medium of support and trust.

2. Consider giving the US a bloody nose for its misdeed in Wuhan and avenge the life of its citizens by supporting anti-American forces in Afghanistan.

3. Consider giving Taliban heavier weapons for their last offensive against Kabul

4. China and Russia should help Taliban weed out the Indians and Daesh/ISIS from the region entirely. This cannot be done without Pakistan.

5. After Taliban’s consolidation of power in Kabul, provide the SCO platform to achieve Intra-Afghan understanding, rebuilt trust so that civil war doesn’t erupt again and propose “one country-multiple system” notion of development for Afghanistan to prevent future polarity within the country while keeping the Afghanistan sovereignty intact.

6. China must continue to cultivate and deepen relations with all its immediate Western neighborhood, i.e., countries of the Muslim world.

Pakistan is still dedicated to BRI and it is committed to continue to do so in the decades to come. However, BRI requires a secure environment for Chinese workers, which requires stampeding the forces that are against BRI (i.e., India, US and its lackeys). Afghan situation is not complex and very easy to understand if one’s narrative is based on truth. The battle is between builders (China) and destroyers (the US), those who promote connectivity (China) and those who disconnect people, families, countries and regions (the US). If Zhao Lijian is right (which all of the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan believe to be so), then the Corona virus deadly mischief by America has really disconnected the world from each other. No connectivity even within families, friends, workers, factories, sports, universities, and more. This move by the US has really isolated, disconnected and atomized the world. Not only that the economic loss to China and all economies of the world has been tremendous, it has led to a mutually divorced humanity instilled with fear of future rather than hope.

For Pakistan, peace in Afghanistan is existential. For China success of CPEC in Pakistan existential. In sum, for both China and Pakistan there are no other viable options of peace except for helping the Taliban into power through any means possible. India is the spoiler of peace in Afghanistan and igniter of violence inside its own borders. If China increases its involvement in Afghanistan, the Indians may be misguided to monkey around with China along its border areas. If Indians do make such a mistake, China should be prepared to take an assertive stand against India.

What seems clear in the days to come is that there will be lesser room for diplomacy and an increase in kinetic and non-kinetic warfare. The world is becoming black and white with less grey area, which means that the domain of diplomacy may gradually be shrinking.

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Scotland Announces School Closures Due to Covid-19

March 20th, 2020 by Johanna Ross

And so we have it. The much-awaited announcement regarding school closures in Scotland has taken place, and once again Nicola Sturgeon has beaten her Westminster counterpart by addressing the nation in relation to Covid-19. Schools are to be shut from Friday onwards, with no guarantee they will re-open prior to the summer break at the beginning of July. Exams will be postponed as young people’s lives are put on hold.

There was huge outcry last week when Sturgeon briefed the nation ahead of Boris Johnson on the next steps to be taken after Thursday’s Cobra meeting. Journalists and commentators were aghast – how could she have abandoned protocol by ‘announcing Johnson’s plan for him’ – it was said. The reality was however that Sturgeon was addressing the Scottish nation, and outlining Scotland’s individual approach to the coronavirus pandemic.  She announced a ban on mass gatherings of more than 500 people – something which Johnson did not – much to the concern of some experts. The government later succumbed to pressure and buckled on this issue over the weekend, stating that mass gatherings would be banned.

There is political significance in Sturgeon not wanting to hang around waiting for Boris Johnson. By being pro-active and making announcements first, it shows that she takes the public health crisis seriously, and wants to inform the public as soon as possible.  It sends a signal that the Scottish government is managing the crisis. But more importantly, by Sturgeon announcing key measures ahead of Johnston, such as closing schools, she implies that Scotland is one step ahead of Westminster.  It’s a clever strategy; if you want to become an independent country then the first stage is to start acting like one.  Sturgeon is sending a subtle message to the nation that her government is ahead of the game.

For Covid-19 has the potential to unite Britain in a way that we haven’t seen since the Second World War. Independence for Scotland now will surely be put on the back burner. With the death toll now standing at over 100, and predictions that we could see at least 20,000 deaths from the outbreak in the UK alone, the gravity of the situation is really starting to be felt here. Life is already changing dramatically.  Streets are deserted in Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh, with only a handful of people travelling on public transport. Many people are now working for home and keeping children off school. The busiest places at the moment are supermarkets, as the panic buying continues and shelves lie empty. Tesco has already announced it will have to close 24-hour stores for a few hours each day to try to replenish stock and keep up with demand.

People will have to adapt to a totally new way of life. It’s like someone has pressed the ‘pause’ button on the remote. Social distancing means that normal routines and ways of life for the young and old alike will be completely interrupted. Children will have to be amused and entertained at home, while the many elderly people who live on their own could feel increasingly isolated. Thankfully, I’ve heard that local businesses are taking the initiative to offer home deliveries of groceries to the elderly or infirm forced to stay indoors. Neighbours are also playing an important role, offering assistance to those less able. On a positive note, we could see our communities pulling together over this crisis and people helping each other in a way not seen since the war.

And when it’s all over, when we can finally breathe again, we’re sure to start asking if anything could have been done differently. Boris Johnson has assured us that the ‘timing is crucial’ as he has tentatively rolled out his plan. However, criticism has already begun of his approach, with some medical professionals saying his strategy of aiming to generate ‘herd immunity’ is flawed, and will swamp the NHS. Richard Horton, Editor of the Lancet journal, has written a scathing review of it, saying Johnson has taken far too long to react to the Covid-19 outbreak, given the warnings that came thick and fast from China and Italy earlier in the year.  Ominously he believes it is now ‘too little, too late.’

Indeed, with nothing short of a catastrophe unfolding in Italy, the prospects for the UK don’t look good. NHS staff are already complaining that there is a lack of testing for coronavirus amongst health workers, leading to unnecessary staff shortages as some self-isolate at home if they display symptoms. Current efforts to test around 4000 people a day are dwarfed by those in, for example, South Korea, where they manage around 10,000 tests daily. And although the Prime Minister has said he is aiming for 25,000 tests carried out per day, it’s still not clear how soon Britain would be able to achieve this.

We are indeed in unprecedented territory, with each day bringing more questions and fewer answers as to how we can fight the coronavirus…

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This article was originally published on InfoBrics.

Johanna Ross is a journalist based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

U.S. sanctions against Iran, cruelly strengthened in March of 2018, continue a collective punishment of extremely vulnerable people. Presently, the U.S. “maximum pressure” policy severely undermines Iranian efforts to cope with the ravages of COVID-19, causing hardship and tragedy while contributing to the global spread of the pandemic. On March 12, 2020, Iran’s Foreign Minister Jawad Zarif urged member states of the UN to end the United States’ unconscionable and lethal economic warfare.  

Addressing UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Zarif detailed how U.S. economic sanctions prevent Iranians from importing necessary medicine and medical equipment.

For over two years, while the U.S. bullied other countries to refrain from purchasing Iranian oil, Iranians have coped with crippling economic decline.

The devastated economy and worsening coronavirus outbreak now drive migrants and refugees, who number in the millions, back to Afghanistan at dramatically increased rates.

In the past two weeks alone, more than 50,000 Afghans returned from Iran, increasing the likelihood that cases of coronavirus will surge in Afghanistan. Decades of war, including U.S. invasion and occupation, have decimated Afghanistan’s health care and food distribution systems.

Jawad Zarif asks the UN to prevent the use of hunger and disease as a weapon of war. His letter demonstrates the  wreckage caused by many decades of United States imperialism and suggests revolutionary steps toward dismantling the United States war machine.

During the United States’ 1991 “Desert Storm” war against Iraq, I was part of the Gulf Peace Team, – at first, living at in a “peace camp” set up near the Iraq-Saudi border and later, following our removal by Iraqi troops, in a Baghdad hotel which formerly housed many journalists.

Finding an abandoned typewriter, we melted a candle onto its rim, (the U.S. had destroyed Iraq’s electrical stations, and most of the hotel rooms were pitch black). We compensated for an absent typewriter ribbon by placing a sheet of red carbon paper over our stationery. When Iraqi authorities realized we managed to type our document, they asked if we would type their letter to the Secretary General of the UN. (Iraq was so beleaguered even cabinet level officials lacked typewriter ribbons.) The letter to Javier Perez de Cuellar implored the UN to prevent the U.S. from bombing a road between Iraq and Jordan, the only way out for refugees and the only way in for humanitarian relief. Devastated by bombing and already bereft of supplies, Iraq was, in 1991, only one year into a deadly sanctions regime that lasted for thirteen years before the U.S. began its full-scale invasion and occupation in 2003. Now, in 2020, Iraqis still suffering from impoverishment, displacement and war earnestly want the U.S. to practice self-distancing and leave their country.

Are we now living in a watershed time? An unstoppable, deadly virus ignores any borders the U.S. tries to reinforce or redraw.

The United States military-industrial complex, with its massive arsenals and cruel capacity for siege, isn’t relevant to “security” needs. Why should the U.S., at this crucial juncture, approach other countries with threat and force and presume a right to preserve global inequities? Such arrogance doesn’t even ensure security for the United States military. If the U.S. further isolates and batters Iran, conditions will worsen in Afghanistan and United States troops stationed there will ultimately be at risk. The simple observation, “We are all part of one another,” becomes acutely evident.

It’s helpful to think of guidance from past leaders who faced wars and pandemics. The Spanish flu pandemic in 1918-19, coupled with the atrocities of World War I,  killed 50 million worldwide, 675,000 in the U.S. Thousands of female nurses were on the “front lines,” delivering health care. Among them were black nurses who not only risked their lives to practice the works of mercy but also fought discrimination and racism in their determination to serve. These brave women arduously paved a way for the first 18 black nurses to serve in the Army Nurse Corps and they provided “a small turning point in the continuing movement for health equity.”

In the spring of 1919, Jane Addams and Alice Hamilton witnessed the effects of sanctions against Germany imposed by Allied forces after World War I. They observed “critical shortages of food, soap and medical supplies” and wrote indignantly about how children were being punished with starvation for “the sins of statesmen.”

Starvation continued even after the blockade was finally lifted, that summer, with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. Hamilton and Addams reported how the flu epidemic, exacerbated in its spread by starvation and post-war devastation, in turn disrupted the food supply. The two women argued a policy of sensible food distribution was necessary for both  humanitarian and strategic reasons. “What was to be gained by starving more children?” bewildered German parents asked them.

Jonathan Whitall directs Humanitarian Analysis for Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors without Borders. His most recent analysis poses agonizing questions:

How are you supposed to wash your hands regularly if you have no running water or soap? How are you supposed to implement ‘social distancing’ if you live in a slum or a refugee or containment camp? How are you supposed to stay at home if your work pays by the hour and requires you to show up? How are you supposed to stop crossing borders if you are fleeing from war? How are you supposed to get tested for #COVID19 if the health system is privatized and you can’t afford it? How are those with pre-existing health conditions supposed to take extra precautions when they already can’t even access the treatment they need?

I expect many people worldwide, during the spread of COVID – 19,  are thinking hard about the glaring, deadly inequalities in our societies, wonder how best to extend proverbial hands of friendship to people in need while urged to accept isolation and social distancing. One way to help others survive is to insist the United States lift sanctions against Iran and instead support acts of practical care. Jointly confront the coronavirus while constructing a humane future for the world without wasting  time or resources on the continuation of brutal wars.

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Kathy Kelly ([email protected]) co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence. (www.vcnv.org)

Featured image: Protester’s sign decries sanctions, “a silent war”. Photo: Campaign for Peace and Democracy, 2013

For the past three years the new narrative of Russian interference in U.S. elections has bound corporate news media more tightly than ever to the interests of the national security state. And no outlet has pushed that narrative more aggressively – and with more violence to the relevant facts — than The New York Times.

Times reporters have produced a series of stories that loudly proclaim the Russian election meddling narrative but offer no real facts in the body of the story supporting its most sensational claims.

The Times service to the narrative was introduced by its February 2017 story  headlined, “Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts with Russian Intelligence.” We now know from Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report on the FBI investigation of the Trump campaign that the only campaign aide who had contacts with Russian intelligence officials was Carter Page, and those had taken place years before in the context of Page’s reporting them to the CIA. The Horowitz report revealed that FBI officials had hidden that fact from the FISA Court to justify its request for surveillance of Page.

But the Times coverage of the Horowitz report in December 2019 failed to acknowledge that the calumny about Page’s Russian intelligence contacts, which it had published without question in 2017, had been an FBI deception.

Two more Times Russiagate stories in 2018 and 2019 featured spectacular claims that proved on closer examination to be grotesque distortions of fact.  In September 2018 a 10,000-word story by Scott Shane and Mark Mazzetti sought to convince readers that the Russian Internet Research Agency (IRA) had successfully swayed U.S. opinion during the 2016 election with 80,000 Facebook posts that they said had reached 126 million Americans.

But that turned to be an outrageously deceptive claim, because Shane and Mazzetti failed to mention the fact that those 80,000 IRA posts (from early 2015 through 2017), had been engulfed in a vast ocean of more than 33 trillion Facebook posts in people’s news feeds – 413 million times more than the IRA posts.

In December 2019, senior national security correspondent David Sanger wrote a story headlined, “Russia Targeted Election Systems in All 50 States, Report Finds,”and Sanger’s lede said the Senate Intelligence Committee had “concluded” that all 50 states had been targeted.  But the Committee report actually reaches no such conclusion.  It quoted President Barack Obama’s cyber-security adviser Michael Daniel as recalling that he had “personally” reached that conclusion, but shows the only basis for his conclusion was remarkably lame: the “randomness of the attempts” and his conviction that Russian intelligence was “thorough.”

The Committee reported that some intelligence “developed” in 2018 had “bolstered” the subjective judgment by Daniel.  But all but one of the eight paragraphs in the report describing that intelligence were redacted, and the one unredacted paragraph suggests that the redacted paragraphs provided no conclusive evidence that Russian intelligence had scanned any state election websites, much less those of all 50 states.  The paragraph said, “However, IP addresses associated with the August 16, 2016 FLASH provided some indicators the activity might be attributable to the Russian government….[emphasis added].”

The Committee report also contained summary statements from six states that the Department of Homeland Security has continued to include among the 21 states it insists were hacked by the Russians in 2016, denying any cyber threat to their systems.  Another 13 states reported only that there was “scanning and probing” by inconclusive IP addresses the FBI and DHS had sent them.  Sanger did not report any of those troublesome details.

In January 2020 the Times began its coverage of the theme of Russian interference in the 2020 election with a story headlined, “Chaos is the Point: Russian Hackers and Trolls Grow Stealthier in 2020.”  The story, written by Sanger, Matthew Rosenberg and Nicole Perlroth, sought to heighten the existing U.S. climate of paranoia about a Russian attack in regard to the 2020 elections.  Once again, however, nothing in the story supports the sinister tone of the headline.

It reported Department of Homeland Security officials’ anxiety about the ransom-ware attacks on 100 American towns, cities and federal offices during 2019, which are clearly criminal operations aimed at large-scale payoffs by cities.  The story informed readers that DHS was investigating “whether Russian intelligence was involved in any of the attacks,” on the apparent theory that the criminals were being used by the Russians.

Since those ransom-ware attacks had been going on for years, the obvious question would have been why DHS would have waited until 2020 to reveal that it was investigating Russian involvement.  Thus, the only fact underlying the story was the DHS desire to find evidence to support its accusations of Russian election hacking.

Still at it in 2020

The Times continued its advocacy journalism in a Feb. 26 report that U.S. intelligence officials had “warned” in a briefing for the House Intelligence Committee on Feb. 13 that “Russia was interfering in the 2020 campaign to get President Trump elected,” citing five people “familiar with the matter.”

The Times’ team of four writers proceeded to declare, “The Russians have been preparing – and experimenting – for the 2020 election…aware that they needed a new playbook of as-yet undetectable methods, United States officials said.”  But instead of reporting actual evidence of any Russian action or decision for action, the Times writers again cited what their sources suspected could be done.

“Some officials,” they wrote, “believe that foreign powers, possibly including Russia, could use ransom-ware attacks…to damage or interfere with voting systems or registration databases.”  The Times’ sources thus had no actual intelligence on the question and were merely speculating on what any foreign government might do to disrupt the election.

Three days after that report, moreover, the Times backed away from its previous lede after intelligence sources disputed its claim that Russia was intervening to reelect Trump, suggesting that the briefing officer, Shelby Pierson, had overstated the assessment. Sanger sought to limit the damage with a story labeling the problem one of “dueling narratives” in the intelligence community.

Then Sanger admitted, “It is probably too early for the Russians to begin any significant moves to bolster a specific candidate,” which obviously invalidated the Times’ previous speculation on the subject.  But after The Washington Post published a story that the FBI had informed Senator Bernie Sanders that Russia had sought to help his campaign, Sanger quickly returned to the same narrative of Russian interference to advance its favorite candidates.

On the Times’ podcast “The Daily,” Sanger opined that the Russians were now supporting both Trump and Sanders – because Sanders, “like Donald Trump,” has “got a real aversion to interventions around the world.”

The most recent entry in the Times’ campaign to create anxiety about Russian interference in the election focused on race relations.  On March 10, the Times headlined its story, “Russia Trying to Stoke U.S. Racial Tension before Elections, Officials Say.”  In their lede Julian Barnes and Adam Goldman announced, “The Russian government has stepped up efforts to influence racial tensions in the United States as part of its bid to influence November’s presidential election, including trying to incite violence by white supremacist groups and stoke anger among Afro-Americans, according to seven American officials briefed on recent intelligence.”

But true to the modus operandi used routinely to push the Russian election threat narrative, the writers did not offer a single fact supporting such a story line. They even admitted that the officials who were making the claims provided “few details” about white supremacists and “did not detail how” blacks were being encouraged to use violence.

It turns out, in fact, that U.S. officials have found nothing indicating Russian support for violent white supremacists in America. The only fact that they could cite — based on a single source — was that the FBI is “scrutinizing any ties” between Russian intelligence and Rinaldo Nazzaro, the American founder of a “neo-Nazi group,” who lives with his Russian wife in St. Petersburg, Russia, but owns property in the United States. So, the Times’ single source had nothing but a suspicion for which the FBI was trying to find evidence.

The final touch in the piece was the accusation that RT had “fanned divisions” on race by running a story about a video of New York policemen attacking and detaining a young black man that Barnes and Goldman write “sparked outrage” and had also “posted tweets aimed at stirring white animosity.” But the RT article on the video merely reported accurately that the video depicted unprovoked police brutality and that it had already gone viral.  The Times itself had published a much more detailed Associated Press story on the same incident that went into a discussion of the history of police brutality in New York City.  By the Times’ own criterion, the AP was doing far more to stoke racial animosity than RT.

The opinion pieces that RT published attacking The New York Times for its coverage of a video at the University of Wisconsin that offended non-whites and for a Times opinion piece critical of the Apu character on “The Simpsons” echoed views on race and culture that most Americans find offensive. The idea that they were part of a Russian plot to generate racial animosity, however, is a very long stretch.

The descent of The New York Times into this unprecedented level of propagandizing for the narrative of Russia’s threat to U.S. democracy is dramatic evidence of a broader problem of abuses by corporate media of their socio-political power. Greater awareness of the dishonesty at the heart of the Times‘ coverage of that issue is a key to leveraging media reform and political change.

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Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and historian and winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for Journalism. His latest book, with John Kiriakou, is “The CIA Insider’s Guide to the Iran Crisis: From CIA Coup to the Brink of War.”

Featured image is from Pixabay

The Baltic States Align Themselves with US-NATO against Russia ?

March 20th, 2020 by Lucas Leiroz de Almeida

In 2017, RAND Corporation published in its associated media Small Wars Journal an article by the researchers Marta Kepe and Jan Osburg, outlining a strategic defense plan for the Baltic countries in the event of a Russian invasion. The authors claim that Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia will manage their weaknesses to face the Russians, overcoming their population and military deficit through the participation of civilians in the conflicts, working with the armed forces to create a “total defense” plan that would make the invasion too costly and laborious for Russia.

Subsequently, the RAND Corporation article was mentioned in a paper by the National Interest magazine, authored by Michael Peck, in which the author studies the Baltic defense strategy, speculating about “total defense” and its efficiency in a possible case of Russian invasion. The researcher, finally, takes a pessimistic conclusion, stating that, despite all efforts, nothing will change the fact that Russia is a large country and the Baltic States are small and weak.

 

In March last year, the renowned American magazine Foreign Policy published an article by Mikheil Saakashvili, former president of Georgia, claiming that Russia’s next “targets” would be European nations. In the text, Saakashvili considers the possibility of a Russian attack on the Baltic countries, saying that President Vladimir Putin sees them as real threats because they are “functional democracies on the Russian border”. After developing his reasoning, the author comes to the conclusion that this invasion will not occur, pointing other countries as future “targets” of Russia. However, even though Saakashvili does not believe in the possibility of a Russian invasion, rumors about a Russian plan to invade and annex the Baltic nations have generated unfounded tensions in the region.

The height of media alarmism regarding relations between Russia and the Baltic countries was, however, an article published by the American expert Hall Brands on Japan Times website, whose title is “How Russia could force a nuclear war in the Baltics”. Referring again to the studies of the RAND Corporation, the author considers the possibility of a nuclear escalation on the frictions between Moscow and NATO in the Baltics, concluding that the geographic condition of these states would hinder rapid action by the West in the event of Russian action, raising the risks of forced annexation.

Apparently, media agencies aligned with the liberal establishment are working together to spread the idea that there is a Russian interest in invading and annexing the Baltics. For these agencies, the interest is so great that it would even justify a nuclear action. However, when we investigate the reasons for such despair, we found no concrete argument to justify such speculations. The great Western think tanks, such as the RAND Corporation, are spreading this myth with the specific purpose of instilling fear and tension in the Baltic States, so that, in the face of “Russian terror”, they will increasingly align themselves with Washington and NATO.

The concrete data indicate exactly the opposite of the rumors spread by RAND analysts. In January last year, Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas publicly expressed an interest in improving relations between his country and Russia, with a view to pacifying bilateral tensions and envisioning a future of peace and cooperation, despite divergent interests. Also, Latvia remains the only member country of the European Union that is totally dependent on Russian gas – a situation Lithuania has only recently withdrawn from. So why Moscow would be interested in invading and annexing such countries, when the threat they pose to the Russian political structure is absolutely null? In a way, it is much more logical to think that for the Baltic countries it is more profitable and interesting to maintain good relations with Russia than to embark on unfounded conspiracies by Western experts who are extremely ideologically involved. However, there is a second hypothesis.

It is still likely that the Baltic States are simply acting in the interest of increasing their role on the international scene. Unable to form a solid political, military and economic force, even if united, capable of facing the great world powers, these States may be anchoring themselves in NATO’s military apparatus to seek the affirmation of their own interests in Europe and in the world. By this logic, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia would be voluntarily adopting the alarmist discourse of the West and reaffirming it in order to, increasing the western military presence on its borders, try to increase its regional and global influence, moving from being small European States to becoming potencies in the global geopolitical game.

Indeed, the Baltic countries are making a big mistake in adopting either of these two stances. Unlike Moscow, for whom the interest in “invading” the Baltic is null, Washington has clear interests in occupying the region, so as to face Russia. That is the main reason for the presence of NATO troops in the Baltic expected for the Defender Europe 2020 drills – now canceled by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Baltic States are adhering to the discourse of Western think tanks, however, under no perspective this opposition to Russia can be profitable for them. Following the interests of Washington, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have too much to lose.

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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.

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Thousands of Israeli Soldiers Quarantined Due to Coronavirus

March 20th, 2020 by Middle East Monitor

Israeli security officials said on Tuesday that they expect the operational efficiency of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) to decline with thousands of troops quarantined due to the coronavirus crisis, Arab48.com has reported.

According to Wallah news website, 4,267 Israeli soldiers are in quarantine by order of the Ministry of Health. Many have tested positive for the virus, Covid-19. Although some officials denied that operational efficiency has been affected, others expressed their concerns because many senior officers are among those in quarantine.

As of Tuesday, said Arab 48.com, the IDF has imposed a curfew on military bases for 30 days in order to reduce the opportunities for soldiers to associate with others. Furthermore, several security procedures have been suspended as part of precautionary measures against the spread of the virus.

The IDF is worried about relocating troops as this might take the virus from one brigade or unit to another.

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Featured image: Israel fights with coronavirus fears – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Selected Articles: Coronavirus Pandemic and Vaccines

March 20th, 2020 by Global Research News

Lying is a money making activity and lies are commodities. There is a profitable global market for media and public figures committed to spreading disinformation.

Needless to say, “Telling the Truth”, on the other hand, Is Not a Money-Making Proposition. The monthly deficit we have been faced with over the past year is proof of this concept.

With this in mind, can you spare a dollar a day to keep disinformation away? Your support could make the difference and ensure that GlobalResearch.ca is here for a long time to come!

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Sanctions: Unilateral Coercive Measures for Regime Change in Venezuela

By Nino Pagliccia, March 20, 2020

In discussing the issue of “sanctions” there are two main points that need to be made. One is the use of the correct terminology when referring to the government actions that the US, Canada and the EU take in order to achieve regime change. The second is of course the impact that those actions have.

The blame of imposing “sanctions” falls fully on the US government as it currently applies them to 39 countries! However, throughout, when I refer to the US “sanctions”, particularly in the Venezuelan context, I also mean to include Canada as well as the EU as willing accomplices and accountable perpetrators.

The Coronavirus Is Not “The Plague”: It Is the U.S.

By Edward Curtin, March 20, 2020

Now it is all about us and the coronavirus panic.  It is about how many of us might die. It is about stocking toilet paper.  For the rich, it is about getting to their second or third houses where they can isolate themselves in splendor. As I write, 150 or so Americans are said to have died of Covid-19, and by the time you will read this the number will have climbed, but the number will be minuscule compared to the number of people in the U.S.A. and those numbers will be full of contradictions that few comprehend unless, rather than reacting in fear, they did some comprehensive research.

15 Among Brazilian Delegation that Met with Trump Now Have Coronavirus

By Zero Hedge, March 20, 2020

It’s been eleven days since the Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and his delegation met with Trump and many White House staffers at Mar-a-Lago on March 7. First it was Nestor Forster, Brazil’s Chargé d’Affaires in Washington, and Nelsinho Trad, who both tested positive for Covid-19, and as of early this week it was further announced Brazilian Foreign Trade Secretary Marcos Troyjo has been confirmed for the virus.

As the US Blames China for the Coronavirus Pandemic, the Rest of the World Asks China for Help

By Joe Penney, March 20, 2020

Western Europe and the U.S. are struggling under the weight of the crisis, with cases rising exponentially every day and higher death rates in Italy than anywhere else. China’s private and public sectors are filling in gaps in equipment where other states are failing, although the spread of the disease is such that demand for those materials might quickly outpace China’s supply. The government and Jack Ma, a Chinese billionaire and co-founder of the Alibaba Group, have already sent doctors and medical supplies to FranceSpain, ItalyBelgiumIranIraqthe Philippines, and the United States. Chinese citizens living abroad are flying home in large numbers to avoid catastrophic health failures elsewhere. In Massachusetts, a Chinese woman tried and failed to be tested three times for Covid-19 before flying back home to be tested and treated.

Washington Post Photographer Spots Crossed-Out ‘Coronavirus’ in Favor of ‘Chinese Virus’ in Trump Notes

By Eoin Higgins, March 20, 2020

The president’s own handwriting scrawling the term across his notes at a press conference drew outrage on social media as observers like Daily Beast reporter Sam Stein noted the “obvious attempts to start a debate over political correctness” rather than Trump’s mishandling of the pandemic, which threatens the lives of thousands if not millions of Americans.

Workers and the Virus: Radical Lessons from Italy in the Age of COVID-19

By Alessandro Delfanti, Beatrice Busi, and Erika Biddle, March 20, 2020

In the face of the mounting coronavirus crisis, we need to start asking a crucial question: who pays for the lockdown? The last three weeks have taught some hard lessons to Italian workers. Indeed, workers have been shouldering the bulk of the crisis. This applies to workers in all sectors, and even more intensely with activities related to care. If the right to work safely cannot be guaranteed, all nonessential activities must be shut down.

A Tale of Two Foreign Policies: The Train-Wreck Abroad Is Bipartisan

By Philip Giraldi, March 20, 2020

Now that the Democratic Party has apparently succeeded in getting rid of the only two voices among its presidential candidates that actually deviated from the establishment consensus, it appears that Joe Biden will be running against Donald Trump in November. To be sure, Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard are still hanging on, but the fix was in and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) made sure that Sanders would be given the death blow on Super Tuesday while Gabbard would be blocked from participating in any of the late term debates.

Coronavirus, Vaccines and the Gates Foundation

By F. William Engdahl, March 20, 2020

We must admit that at the very least Bill Gates is prophetic. He has claimed for years that a global killer pandemic will come and that we are not prepared for it. On March 18, 2015 Gates gave a TED talk on epidemics in Vancouver. That day he wrote on his blog, “I just gave a brief talk on a subject that I’ve been learning a lot about lately—epidemics. The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is a tragedy—as I write this, more than 10,000 people have died.” Gates then added, “As awful as this epidemic has been, the next one could be much worse. The world is simply not prepared to deal with a disease—an especially virulent flu, for example—that infects large numbers of people very quickly. Of all the things that could kill 10 million people or more, by far the most likely is an epidemic.”

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Spinning Fear and Panic Across America. Analysis of COVID-19 Data

March 20th, 2020 by Prof Michel Chossudovsky

The US media is relentlessly spinning fear, panic and despair, with the endorsement of “authoritative” American scientists. “The new coronavirus could kill millions across the United States”, according to Dr. Kathleen Neuzil a specialist in vaccines at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. (CNBC, March 18). 

The media routinely exaggerate the health impacts as part of their fear and panic discourse.

Lets look at the figures.  The latest  coronavirus data in the U.S released by the CDC on March 18, 2020 are as follows:

  • Total cases: 10,442
  • Total deaths: 150
  • Jurisdictions reporting cases: 54 (50 states, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and US Virgin Islands)

UPDATE: Since the publication of this article, the reported CDC total cases and total deaths have increased substantially.

  • Total cases: 15,219
  • Total deaths: 201

March 20 figures


According to latest media hype, citing and often distorting scientific opinion (CNBC)

Statistical Models by Washington think tanks predict a scenario of devastation suggesting that “more than a million Americans could die if the nation does not take swift action to stop its spread as quickly as possible”.

One model from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggested that between 160 million and 210 million Americans could contract the disease over as long as a year. Based on mortality data and current hospital capacity, the number of deaths under the CDC’s scenarios ranged from 200,000 to as many as 1.7 million. (The Hill, March 13, 2020)

 

This kind of “scientific fear” “analysis” coupled with statistical models is outright propaganda: a preamble to the implementation of a multibillion dollar (global) compulsory vaccination program, agreed behind closed at the Davos World Economic Forum (WEF) on 21-24 January. It was endorsed by the Director General of the WHO in mid-February.
The scenario is how to produce millions of vaccine shots on the assumption that the pandemic will spread. The Big Pharma vaccine conglomerates have already planned their investments on the presumption that the global Worldwide health emergency will continue.

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Who to Believe? 

 .
According to a report of the WHO pertaining to China’s epidemic (which has currently been resolved):
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The most commonly reported symptoms [of COVID-19] included fever, dry cough, and shortness of breath, and most patients (80%) experienced mild illness. Approximately 14% experienced severe disease and 5% were critically ill. Early reports suggest that illness severity is associated with age (>60 years old) and co-morbid disease. (largely basing on WHO’s assessment of COVID-19 in China)

 The Hill, March 19, 2020

And then these “mild symptoms” of COVID-19 are used as a public health justification for the closing down of entire countries, precipitating large sectors of the World population into unemployment, poverty and despair.

Bear in mind that, the COVID-19 hits the 60 years+ elderly (most of whom are not part of the labor force), particularly those who do not have adequate health coverage. In the US the COVID-19 deaths are largely recorded in the 70 years + range. The confirmed death rate from COVID-19 is 1.4% of total “confirmed” and “presumed” cases (CDC data).

Compare “the Mild Illness and Recover in Two Weeks” of COVID-19 (barely acknowledged by the media) to the devastating social and economic consequences of the lockdowns ordered by powerful financial interests.

Millions of Americans have lost their jobs, thousands of small enterprises across the land have been spearheaded into bankruptcy. Millions of families have lost their lifelong savings as a result of the collapse of stock markets. Precipitated into a debt trap, they may lose their homes.

And that scenario will not “recover” in two weeks. It’s a long term depression. What we are dealing with is the destabilization of the US economy and an engineered transfer of billions of dollars of money wealth. 

COVID-19 Recovery Rates

The CDC Data tabulates  both “confirmed” and “presumptive” positive cases since January 21, 2020. Yet what it fails to mention is that among the confirmed and presumptive cases, a large number of Americans have recovered. But nobody talks about recovery. It does not make the headlines.

In China, there is a distinction in the data between “confirmed cases infected” and “confirmed cases recovered”. The  recorded recovery rate in China is of the order of 80% since the outbreak of the epidemic in Wuhan in early January. (See Xinhua, March 19 2020)

In the US,  the hike in “confirmed and presumptive cases” started in late February to early March (see graph below).

Applying recommended medication, the recovery rate –according to the WHO report cited above– would be of the order of two weeks for most patients under 60 (a longer period of recovery for the population group over  60).

What this suggests is that the COVID-19 public health crisis in America could be brought under control in a matter of months. But if that were to happen, it would undermine the implementation of Big Pharma’s Vaccination project.

There are serious difficulties in the testing process. Reliable test kits are “in short supply”.

Presumptive vs. Confirmed Cases

According to the CDC the data presented for the United States 10,442 cases“include both confirmed and presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 reported to CDC or tested at CDC since January 21, 2020″.

The presumptive positive data does not confirm coronavirus infection: Presumptive testing involves “chemical analysis of a sample that establishes the possibility that a substance [COVID-19] is present“(emphasis added). But it does not confirm the coronavirus infection. The presumptive test must then be sent for confirmation to an accredited government health lab. A confirmatory testing implies “identification of the specific substance [coronvirus] through further chemical analysis.”

It is worth noting that the WHO does not tabulate presumptive data. Its total confirmed cases figure is significantly lower than the total “confirmed and presumptive” cases presented by the CDC.

WHO figures for the US: 3586 total confirmed cases plus 1822 new confirmed cases. (March 16, 2020)

(discrepancies with CDC data may also be due to delays in data processing).

State and local data are at odds with the figures published by both the WHO and the CDC, they are invariably much higher.

There are flaws in the process of of COV-19 testing and data collection by local, State and CDC.

The CDC data does not include “testing results for persons repatriated to the United States from Wuhan, China and Japan”. Why?  

The above statement suggests discrepancies in the overall assessment of confirmed cases. Why is the publication of the data pertaining to persons repatriated from China and Japan withheld by the CDC? Is that data classified?

Officially, according to the WHO and the CDC the coronavirus takes its origin from China which suggests that all the cases in the US took their origin in China. Why then are these estimates not included?

The White House ordered meetings where officials discussed the coronavirus to be classified, …  Federal health officials were directed to keep dozens of meetings that started in mid-January, including discussions on the scope of infections, quarantines and travel restrictions confidential, … According to the sources, those without security clearances were not permitted in the high-security room, typically used for military and intelligence operations, at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), where the meetings took place. (The Hill)

And what do the pathology reports of the lab tests pertaining to imported China viruses reveal? What strains? Classified.

Trump call it the “Chinese virus”: Are the COVID-19 “confirmed case” of imported “foreign” infections from China/Japan the source of “transmission” to those COVID-19 cases recorded across the United States?  There is no available evidence to that effect.

Seattle, “America’s Wuhan”? 

Examine the CDC Map below (March 19). The largest concentrations of confirmed and presumptive positive cases are in New York State (NYC Metropolitan area) and the State of Washington (Seattle).

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Data problem, causality? The State of Washington accounts for more than ten percent of the cases.

44.7% of the recorded COVID-19 deaths in the United States have been recorded in Washington State. Most of the cases and deaths are concentrated in Seattle.

The population of Washington State is 7.5 million, barely 2.2% of total US population (330 million).

We will not speculate on the data issue. It is a matter which has to be carefully investigated.

As of March 15,  67 deaths from COVID-19 have been reported in Washington State. (total for USA; 150, according to CDC)

According to Washington state data,  there are 1,187 confirmed cases of COVID-19. (Not including presumptive cases).

“And King County officials said there are now 562 confirmed cases just in King” (March 18). Most of the deaths are elderly (70s to 90s), many of whom mysteriously died at Life Care Center. Out of 67 deaths, 30 were recorded at the Life Care Center.

What is significant is that none of the recent CDC and state level reports intimate that U.S. cases of COVID-19 infection have been transmitted from China directly or indirectly.

Note

Bear in mind the methodology of CDC estimates is defined as follows: State and local public health departments are involved is testing and data collection independently of the CDC. “In the event of a discrepancy between CDC cases and cases reported by state and local public health officials, data reported by states should be considered the most up to date.” (CDC, March 18, 2020)

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COVID-1: Toda a verdade tem três etapas

March 20th, 2020 by Larry Romanoff

A primeira, é ignorada.

A segunda, é amplamente ridicularizada.

A terceira, é aceite como evidente por si mesma.

Com o COVID-19, entramos agora na etapa 2. Inicialmente, a comunicação mediática ignorou as alegações e as análises de que o vírus poderia ter sido  originado nos EUA. Mas a propagação de informações e as reestruturações de provas de todos os lados, inclusive nos EUA, tornou-se demasiado intensa e agora as reivindicações estão a ser abertamente ridicularizadas pela comunicação mediática ocidental.

Resumidamente, os virologistas chineses descobriram, taxativamente,  que a fonte original do vírus não era a China, nem Wuhan, nem o mercado de marisco, mas tinha sido localizada nos EUA, sendo um  cenário possível, que o vírus possa ter sido originado no Laboratório de Armas Biológicas das Forças Armadas dos EUA, em Fort Detrick (que foi fechado pelo CDC em Julho, devido a surtos) e levado para a China durante os Jogos Militares Mundiais, em Outubro de 2019.

Além do mais, os virologistas japoneses e taiwaneses chegaram independentemente à conclusão de que o vírus poderia ter sido originado nos EUA.

Os americanos fizeram o seu melhor desde o início para evitar a culpabilidade, criando histórias de morcegos, cobras, pangolins, o mercado de marisco, a Universidade Wuhancomo sendo uma instalação de armas biológicas (que não é) e o conto da CIA espalhado através da VOA (Voice of America) e da Radio Free Asia, de que o vírus vazou daquela universidade. Eles declararam (documentadamente) que, pesquisadores chineses haviam participado (há 7 anos) em pesquisas semelhantes sobre o vírus, financiadas peloS NIH dos EUA, insinuando, até certo ponto, a culpabilidade chinesa e ignorando que a pesquisa anterior era insignificante para os acontecimentos actuais.

Devo dizer que os americanos provaram ser muito hábeis ao pegar no microfone primeiro, a fim de criar uma narrativa “oficial” de um acontecimento actual enquanto inundavam a comunicação mediática com o dedo apontado o bastante,  a fim de impedir que um público crédulo tivesse tempo de juntar as peças de maneira lógica.

Eles desprezaram o facto muito real de que poucas nações iriam criar ou libertar uma arma biológica que atacaria, em primeiro lugar, a sua própria nação. Também descartaram a probabilidade geopolítica de um “end game” – que um vírus é uma poderosa arma de guerra económica, capaz de provocar à economia da China o que uma guerra comercial não poderia fazer.

Os leitores ocasionais tendem a ignorar o facto de que, na mentalidade americana, existem muitas razões geopolíticas sólidas para atacar a China, o Irão e a Itália e que os países restantes são, apenas, danos colaterais que tiveram azar.

Muitos artigos sobre o vírus, que contêm estas e outras informações semelhantes, foram publicados em sites de notícias de segunda linha, na Internet, alguns obtendo um enorme número de leitores com centenas de milhares de downloads e novas publicações dos mesmos. Muitos desses artigos foram traduzidos em 6 ou 7 línguas e publicados em sites em todo o mundo. Simultaneamente, foram feitas muitas postagens nas redes sociais chinesas, especulando sobre as circunstâncias estranhas e sobre a longa cadeia de coincidências fora do comum, que conduziram ao surto do vírus em Wuhan.

Um dos artigos mencionados acima foi traduzido e publicado numa rede social chinesa e reuniu 76.000 comentários, nas primeiras 8 horas. Por fim, os principais meios de comunicação mediática chineses fizeram as mesmas considerações – que o vírus poderia ter se originado nos EUA e que os americanos estavam envolvidos num grande acobertamento desse facto.

Depois, Zhao LiJian, porta-voz do Ministério dos Negócios Estrangeiros da China, oficializou esta narrativa, através de várias publicações nas redes sociais dos EUA. Um artigo importante da comunicação mediática, no New York Times, referiu que “as observações de Zhao foram espalhadas na plataforma da rede social mais destacada da China, o Weibo. . . [e] foram vistas mais de 160 milhões de vezes, junto com as imagens das publicações originais no Twitter.

Aparentemente, as postagens de LiJian no Twitter, sendo essencialmente uma fonte oficial que não pode ser facilmente ignorada, a alegar que o vírus foi trazido para a China dos EUA durante os Jogos Militares e exigindo uma explicação dos EUA, estavam a receber demasiada atenção do público para serem ignoradas. Tudo o que foi acima mencionado, criou pressão política suficiente para forçar a comunicação mediática ocidental a responder. E, claro, eles responderam ignorando os factos da mensagem e destruindo o mensageiro.

Em 12 de Março, o Guardian, do Reino Unido, publicou um artigo alegando que a China estava “a pressionar propaganda” sobre o vírus, vindo dos EUA. (1) Em 13 de Março, o New York Times publicou um texto semelhante de uma “conspiração do coronavírus da China”, de falsas alegações sobre a origem do vírus. (2) Depois, em 14 de Março, a ABC News publicou uma matéria intitulada “Falsas alegações sobre as origens do coronavírus provocam fricções entre os EUA e a China”, na qual ridicularizavam a China e as reivindicações de um vírus americano. (3)

O Seattle Times publicou uma versão da história, afirmando: “A China está a lançar uma nova teoria sobre as origens do coronavírus: É uma doença americana. . . introduzida por membros do Exército dos EUA que visitaram Wuhan, em Outubro. Não há um pingo de evidência a apoiá-la, mas este parecer recebeu a aprovação oficial do Ministério dos Negócios Estrangeiros da China, cujo porta-voz acusou as autoridades americanas de não manifestarem o que sabem sobre a doença.” (4) O UK Independent publicou a sua própria versão da “teoria da conspiração da China” (5), assim como a CNN (6).

O artigo do ABC afirmava que “o Secretário Adjunto, David Stilwell, deu ao Embaixador [chinês] Cui Tiankai, uma “exposição muito firme dos factos”, alegando que Cui estava “muito na defesa” diante desse ataque “oficial” americano. O Departamento de Estado dos EUA é citado como tendo dito: “Queríamos avisar o governo [chinês] de que não toleraremos [teorias da conspiração] para o bem do povo chinês e do mundo”.

A seguir, o Washington Post, a Bloomberg e meia dúzia de outros meios de comunicação mediática entraram em contacto com este autor para entrevistas, ansiosos por uma oportunidade de descartar esta ‘teoria da conspiração’, na sua origem. A Embaixada dos EUA em Pequim também “procurou” o autor “para falar sobre este assunto”.

Se a campanha de informação pública e a pressão política resultante puderem continuar, entraremos na fase três, onde a comunicação mediática começará a admitir: primeiro a possibilidade, depois a probabilidade, e a seguir, o facto dos EUA serem a origem do vírus da “China”.

Larry Romanoff

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Artigo original em inglês :

COVID-19: All Truth Has Three Stages
Tradutora: Maria Luísa de Vasconcellos 

Notas

(1) https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/12/conspiracy-theory-that-coronavirus-originated-in-us-gaining-traction-in-china

(2) https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/13/world/asia/coronavirus-china-conspiracy-theory.html

(3) https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/false-claims-sources-coronavirus-spat-us-china/story?id=69580990

(4) https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/china-spins-tale-that-the-u-s-army-started-the-coronavirus-epidemic/
https://www.ccn.com/did-coronavirus-originate-in-america-chinese-media-pushes-conspiracy/

(5) https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/coronavirus-start-originate-conspiracy-china-us-wuhan-cdc-robert-redfield-a9398711.html

(6) https://www.ccn.com/did-coronavirus-originate-in-america-chinese-media-pushes-conspiracy/

 

Larry Romanoff, consultor de administração e empresário aposentado. Ocupou cargos executivos especializados em empresas de consultoria internacionais e possuía uma empresa internacional de importação e exportação. Professor Visitante da Universidade Fudan de Shangai, apresenta estudos de casos em assuntos internacionais a executivos especializados. Romanoff reside em Shangai e, actualmente, está a escrever uma série de dez livros, de um modo geral, relacionados com a China e com o Ocidente. Pode ser contactado através do email: [email protected]”.

 

 

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Following Iraqi president Barham Saleh’s nomination of Adnan al-Zarfi (Zurufi or Zurfi) as the new Prime Minister, Iraq has entered a critical stage.  The Shia block is divided. The 30 days given to al-Zarfi to nominate his cabinet will lead either to a quorum of the parliament recognising his new cabinet and in consequences to a bloody future that could lead to unrest and even partition of Iraq or absence of a quorum. Why did President Saleh nominate al-Zarfi?

In 2018 Speaker Mohamad Halbousi proposed Barham Saleh as President. The proposal was adopted by “Al-Fateh”, the largest Shia coalition, with the agreement of the Sunni. Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani and US presidential envoy Brett McGurk were against the nomination of Saleh. It was Iranian IRGC Major General Qassem Soleimani who pushed for Barham Saleh to become president. Saleh, upon his nomination, promised Soleimani to be “better than Mam Jalal” (Uncle Jalal Talibani, one of Iran’s closest allies). Once Saleh was elected, he was asked by the “Al-Fateh” coalition, to nominate Adel Abdel Mahdi as prime minister, and he complied.  One year later, Abdel Mahdi was asked by the Marjaiya in Najaf to resign in response to street demonstrations demanding reforms, necessary infrastructure and better job opportunities.

Soleimani met with Shia leaders who all agreed– with the exception of Hadi al-Ameri, who wanted to be the Prime Minister of Iraq – to nominate Qusay al-Suheil. Al-Fateh forwarded the name to President Barham Salih who refused to appoint al-Suheil and went to Erbil for a few days, enough time for the street to reject the nomination. It was Sayyed Moqtada al Sadr – who rejected the nomination of al Suheil – who then contacted President Saleh and informed him that he represented the largest coalition, called “Sairoon”. Saleh, who feared Moqtada’s reaction, sent a letter to the parliament and the constitutional court asking them to define the “largest coalition”. None managed to respond clearly to this request.

The Iraqi constitution’s definition of the “largest coalition” is elastic and subject to interpretation. President Barham Saleh maliciously threw this apple of discord between the parliament and the constitutional court. It was Nuri al-Maliki who in 2010 introduced a new definition of “large coalition” to beat Ayad Allawi, who had managed to gather 91 MPs and was eligible to form a government. Al-Maliki formed a broad coalition after the MPs took their oaths and established that he was leading the largest coalition, as defined by the final alliances formed after the parliamentary elections, rather than by the poll results.

President Salih told Soleimani that the Shia coalition was divided and that he was not in a position to decide. At the same time, Salih accommodated the Americans who saw that Soleimani’s candidates were failing to win consensual approval. Iran’s Shia allies were effectively contributing to the failure of Soleimani’s efforts to reach an agreement among Shia over a PM nominee.

By forwarding his resignation on November 29, 2019, to President Salih, Adil Abdel Mahdi made it clear he no longer wished return to power. On February 1, Salih nominated Mohamad Allawi on Moqtada al-Sadr’s demand. Moqtada was given the leading role in choosing a candidate following the US assassination of Soleimani at Baghdad’s airport. This leadership was agreed to in Tehran by General Ismail Qaaani, who believed Moqtada should lead all groups because he was the main instigator of the protests. Even if the people in the street no longer welcomed Moqtada, he remained the only one capable of clearing the road and allowing the formation of a new government. Iran’s priority was for the parliament and the government to concentrate on the withdrawal of all foreign forces, led by the US.

Mohammad Allawi failed to achieve a parliamentary quorum because he behaved condescendingly towards some of the Shia, the Sunni and the Kurds. Allawi believed that Moqtada’s support was sufficient and that all the other groups and ethnicities would have to accept his choice of ministers. Allawi presented his resignation to Salih on March 2.

According to article 73/3 of the Iraqi constitution, the sole authority for nominating a prime minister belongs to the president, who has 15 days to select a candidate. However, President Salih gave the Shia 15 days to choose a candidate. A coalition of seven members representing all Shia groups was formed—they presented 17 candidates. Three names were offered: Naim al-Suheil, Mohamad al-Soudani and Adnan al-Zarfi. Naim al-Suheil received the most votes but was rejected by Faleh al-Fayad.

Although al-Zarfi is a member of the al-Nasr party led by former PM Haidar Abadi (al-Nasr was formed in 2018), Nuri al-Maliki pushed hard for al-Zarfi (also a member of al-Da’wa party) and sent him to Beirut to convince the Lebanese to bless his nomination. Iran was against the designation of a US national (al-Zarfi holds a US passport). Confronted by Iran’s rejection, Al-Maliki managed to convince Moqtada al-Sadr to nominate al-Zarfi. Al-Maliki managed even if al-Zarfi was the one who fought against Jaish al-Mahdi – with US support – in Najaf in 2004, persecuted Moqtada in the city and expelled him to Baghdad. Moqtada al-Sadr – who recently refused any prime minister holding dual nationality – put his signature on the agreed paper offered to Salih along with Nuri al-Maliki, Haidar Abadi and Sayyed Ammar al-Hakim as per the newly claimed “largest coalition”.

It was a golden opportunity for Salih, with the absence of Soleimani, to please the Americans, the Kurds, the Sunni and a large group of Shia. Salih used his constitutional authority to nominate al-Zarfi as a prime minister. It will be a blow to Iran if al-Zarfi manages to form his government and present it to the parliament.  With the support of such a large coalition of Shia-Sunni-Kurdish MPs, he will no doubt reach the necessary quorum.

One of the main reasons Moqtada al-Sadr supported al-Zarif (apart from al-Zarif’s promise to satisfy Moqtada’s requests in the new cabinet) is the birth of a new group called “Osbat al-Thaereen” (the “Movement of the Revolutionary Association” – MRA). This group claimed twice its responsibility for bombing al-Taji military base where the US and other members of the coalition have a permanent presence. Sayyed Moqtada rejects any attacks on US forces and prefers acting through diplomatic channels (via the parliament). Many Iraqi groups close to Iran swore to seek the withdrawal of the US forces mainly due to the Pentagon’s refusal to discuss a full removal of troops. The US is only willing to relocate troops. Moreover, the US is reinforcing its presence in crucial bases in Iraq (K1, Ayn al-Assad and Erbil) and is about to bring the Patriot interception missile system to its bases in Iraq, without Iraqi government consent.

If al-Zarfi manages to get parliament approval, he may seek to avoid any withdrawal negotiations with the US. He would also merge Hashd al-Shaabi and attempt to disarm the Iraqi groups close to Iran. But al-Zarfi is not in a position to seek a change of the parliament’s decision related to the US withdrawal. That issue will concern the newly elected parliament. However, al-Zarfi, like any new prime minister, is expected to gather a large number of MPs in the forthcoming parliamentary elections, enough to seek the prolonged presence of the US forces in Iraq.

Osbat al-Thaereen warned the US forces in Iraq.

This scenario is only applicable if al-Zarfi manages to reach the parliament in 30 days with a new cabinet and to retain his allies, notably the Shia. Iran will do everything possible to make things difficult for al-Zarfi. The ex-governor of Najaf was accused of burning the two Iranian consulates in Karbala and Najaf last year and is expected to follow the path of his al-Nasr coalition leader (former PM Abadi) in respecting US sanctions on Iran. That would be devastating to Iran’s economy, already suffering from the harshest US sanctions ever.

Al-Zarfi as prime minister will be a major blow to Iran and to those who support its objectives and ideology in Iraq. The coronavirus will not keep Iran away from the Iraqi theatre; Iran will not allow Iraq to fall under US control. If al-Zarfi comes to power, the stability of Iraq will be shaken, and partition will be back on the table. An era of instability can be expected in Mesopotamia under an Iraqi prime minister considered to be an ally of the US, particularly following the assassination of Qassem Soleimani.

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ISIS cells are once again active in eastern Syria. Late on March 17, the Syrian Army and the National Defense Forces repelled an ISIS attack in the area between the town of al-Sukhna and the T3 station. The attack involved over two dozen ISIS members supported by at least 6 vehicles equipped with heavy weapons. Pro-opposition sources claim that at least 20 Syrian soldiers were killed in the clashes. Pro-government sources deny casualties and say that terrorists were forced to retreat after they had been targeted by artillery and mortar fire.

The ISIS presence in the desert area of eastern Syria had been slowly decreasing over the past year. Additionally, government forces carried out several security operations cracking down on the remaining ISIS cells in southeastern Deir Ezzor and eastern Homs. However, the terrorist threat was not removed. Syria and Russia say that ISIS members use the US-controlled zone of al-Tanf as a safe haven to hide from Syrian Army operations.

Five civilians were reportedly killed and 15 others injured in a rocket strike on the city of Afrin on March 18. Pro-Turkish sources say that the rockets were launched by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) or affiliated rebels. The YPG created the brand of the Afrin Liberation Forces in December 2018 in order to distance themselves from regular attacks on the Turkish-controlled part of northwestern Syria. In this way, the YPG, which is the core of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, was seeking to distance itself from operations against Turkish forces. The goal was to continue receiving military and financial support from the United States, while simultaneously using the same resources to carry out attacks on the formal ally of the US under another brandname.

Alaa al-Omar, a commander of one of the largest units in the Turkish-backed Ahrar al-Sham Movement, was assassinated near Jisr al-Shughur in the southwestern part of Greater Idlib. Al-Omar was among commanders of Turkish proxy groups involved in sabotaging joint Russian-Turkish patrols along the M4 highway. Pro-government sources claim that his assassination is a result of the contradiction between al-Omar’s unit and the al-Qaeda-affiliated Turkistan Islamic Party, which controls Jisr al-Shughur. According to this theory, al-Omar was not active enough in organizing protests against the safe zone deal.

Regardless of the contradictions among the Idlib armed groups, the M4 highway remains closed and the Turkish-Russian agreement on the safe zone in the area is not being implemented.

Meanwhile, the US joined al-Qaeda-led efforts to kill the deal on Idlib. US Secretary Mike Pompeo accused Russia of killing “dozens of Turkish military personnel” and promised “additional measures” to support Turkey in the Idlib question. Apparently, somebody in Washington is very sad that no new Russian-Turkish war has yet taken place in early 2020.

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Biden v. Trump in November, Tulsi and Bernie Drop Out…

March 20th, 2020 by Stephen Lendman

Tulsi and Bernie dropped out. 

On March 19, she made it official, shaming herself and disappointing supporters by endorsing Biden. See below. 

***

So will Sanders officially in the coming days (dropping out and endorsing Biden).

He likely privately informed his family and key campaign staff of his decision to end his race for the White House.

Like virtually always before, the choice for US voters this November is between death by hanging or firing squad — in other words, no choice at all.

America’s one-party system with two right wing shuts out independents and others not representing continuity.

Big money controls things. Secrecy and backroom deals substitute for a free, fair and open process.

Key election results are pre-determined. Horse race reporting substitutes for discussing vital issues mattering most.

Voters have little reliable information to guide them from establishment sources, just independent ones largely online if make the effort to follow them.

Voter disenfranchisement is rife — millions of Americans left out because of past criminal records, including innocent people wrongfully imprisoned, others for political reasons or offenses too minor to matter.

Half or more of eligible voters opt out because their needs and welfare aren’t addressed.

Monied interests running things manipulate the process with electronic ease to assure things always turn out the same way — while presenting the illusion of a free and open system.

The US process is what Adam Smith called “the defense of the rich against the poor.”

Democracy is pure fantasy. None whatever exists. Monied interests alone are served, the vast majority of Americans and others abroad exploited to benefit the nation’s ruling class.

In dropping out of the race on Thursday, Gabbard tried having things both ways, saying:

“(T)he best way (she) can be of service at this time is to continue to work for the health and wellbeing of the people of Hawaii and our country in Congress, and to stand ready to serve in uniform should the Hawaii National Guard be activated,” adding:

Biden is Dem party choice to face Trump in November. “Although (she doesn’t) agree with (him) on every issue,” her further remarks left supporters hugely disappointed, saying:

“I know that he has a good heart and is motivated by his love for our country and the American people (sic).”

“I’m confident that he will lead our country guided by the spirit of aloha — respect and compassion — and thus help heal the divisiveness that has been tearing our country apart (sic).”

“…I’m suspending my presidential campaign, and offering my full support to…Biden in his quest to bring our country together (sic).”

Gabbard added that she’ll continue pursuing policies for peace, “mutual respect and cooperation…combatting terrorism, and removing the existential threat of nuclear war which hangs over the heads of all of us.”

She’ll support policies aiming “bring an end to the new Cold War and nuclear arms race, and end regime change wars, which are costing us trillions of dollars, so we can invest these precious resources in the needs of the American people — health care, rebuilding our infrastructure, education, and so much more.”

Why then is she supporting Biden whose agenda is polar opposite what the above remarks say she stands for?

For nearly half a century as US senator, vice president, and presidential aspirant, he supported and still supports US wars of aggression against nonthreatening states.

He’s militantly hostile to people of color, opposes human and civil rights for everyone, backs the worst of Israeli high crimes, champions the humanly destructive war on drugs, is anti-social justice, and has been hostile to the rule of law and other democratic values throughout his years in Washington.

Earlier Gabbard said she won’t seek reelection as House representative for Hawaii’s 2nd district.

Her Thursday remarks left open what avenues she’ll pursue after the 117th Congress is sworn into office without her in January 2021.

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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.

The combination of crippling American sanctions, the compliance with the aforesaid by the US’ “comprehensive global strategic partner” India (formerly one of Tehran’s top energy partners) out of fear of so-called “secondary sanctions”, the uncontrollable outbreak of COVID-19 in the Islamic Republic, and the authorities’ mismanaged response to all of this has put Iran on the brink of collapse and made it desperate enough to appeal to the IMF for a $5 billion emergency loan for the first time in six decades.

Requesting an IMF loan usually doesn’t mean that a country is on the brink of collapse, but the situation is altogether different in Iran’s case after the Islamic Republic asked for $5 billion worth of emergency assistance to help it deal with a series of interconnected and increasingly cascading crises that threaten to totally upend everything that it’s achieved since 1979. The combination of crippling American sanctions, the compliance with the aforesaid by the US’ “comprehensive global strategic partner” India (formerly one of Tehran’s top energy partners) out of fear of so-called “secondary sanctions”, the uncontrollable outbreak of COVID-19 in the Islamic Republic, and the authorities’ mismanaged response to all of this has putting the country on the path to regime change, as the author warned in his earlier analysis titled “Iran: Regime Change By Coronavirus?“, with the global pandemic serving as the catalyst for possibly bringing this dark scenario into fruition.

It’s important to draw attention to the fact that Iran didn’t publicly request any emergency aid from its Chinese or Russian strategic partners, which suggests that it either might have done so behind the scenes and was rebuffed (whether for political reasons possibly related to Russia’s “balancing” strategy in Moscow’s case or simply because both of them might just really need every spare dollar to support their own economies) or didn’t even think that it could rely on either of them at all to make it worth asking in the first place. Whatever the case may be, one thing is certain, and it’s that the talk of a so-called “multipolar alliance” between Russia, China, and Iran was a premature forecast about a possible scenario that hasn’t yet arrived, nor might it ever if the situation continues to worsen in Iran as a result of its potential failure to secure the emergency economic aid that it’s urgently requesting (and if China doesn’t make an offer at the last minute to save it).

On the topic of China, the author feels obligated to remind the reader about the viral fake newslast September alleging that China will invest a whopping $120 billion in Iranian connectivity projects, which caused a collective psychosis in the Alt-Media Community at the time. The author warned everyone to “Be Skeptical, The Latest Report About China & Iran Is Likely False“, but that didn’t stop delusional “wishful thinkers” from imagining that their “dreams” came true and that the People’s Republic inexplicably decided to invest what would be equivalent to two CPEC’s worth of funds into mysterious projects that were never publicly announced nor hitherto leaked. It clearly didn’t make any sense for anyone to believe those false claims, yet nevertheless, the Alt-Media Community didn’t defy the expectations held of it in falling for this fake news ruse. The very fact that Iran is now requesting emergency IMF aid proves beyond any doubt that China never invested the $120 billion.

Whether the Alt-Media Community as a whole accepts this “politically inconvenient” reality is another matter entirely, but it’ll also be interesting to see whether they’ll be critical of Iran for asking the IMF for help considering the far-reaching economic strings usually attached to its loans.

The Alt-Media Community has been at the forefront of global awareness efforts exposing the means through which the IMF is exploited by Western countries as an instrument of control over its loan recipients’ economies, after which they usually make unrealistic “structural reform” demands that more often than not end up causing the same economic crises that their “assistance” was supposed to prevent in the first place, all in pursuit of geostrategic goals. Iran is at risk of being victimized by this scheme, but it might not have any options left.

All in all, the news that Iran is requesting $5 billion worth of emergency assistance from the IMF proves how desperate it’s become after mishandling several interconnected and increasingly cascading crises that have quickly brought it to the brink of collapse. Neither Russia nor China were publicly approached, and it’s unlikely that either of them will help Iran since they would have already done so had they intended to instead of letting their strategic partner all but humiliate itself by basically begging the international financial structure largely run by its Western enemies for urgent aid. The future of Iran is therefore dimmer than it’s ever been since the Islamic Revolution, though that doesn’t mean that regime change is imminent. Its people’s praiseworthy resistance might very well thwart this dark scenario from materializing, though it seems all but inevitable that far-reaching socio-political and economic changes will still occur as the country struggles to survive these crises.

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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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In discussing the issue of “sanctions” there are two main points that need to be made. One is the use of the correct terminology when referring to the government actions that the US, Canada and the EU take in order to achieve regime change. The second is of course the impact that those actions have.

The blame of imposing “sanctions” falls fully on the US government as it currently applies them to 39 countries! However, throughout, when I refer to the US “sanctions”, particularly in the Venezuelan context, I also mean to include Canada as well as the EU as willing accomplices and accountable perpetrators.

First of all I would like to correct the terminology that is used. We often are coopted into the use of the language of the empire but we have to be alerted to the fact that empires write history based on their “vision” of the world as conquerors.

When the empire and the colonial powers to which we have referred above put words in our mouths, they also aim to put thoughts in our minds. This will certainly mislead our perception of the facts.

For example, it is almost inevitable to see references to Cuba in the corporate media as “communist-run Cuba”. But there is never a reference to the US as “capitalist-run United States”. While both statements are correct, the former needs to be emphasised to imply something “wrong”, the latter is ignored as the acceptable norm.

Another example is the use of “regime” to imply an authoritarian or illegitimate government, whereas the term “democracies” is used to describe governments that are close to the neoliberal dominant ideology.

Our first revolutionary act is to be aware and resist any attempt at brainwashing and weakening of our anti-imperialist outlook.

The dominant use of the word “sanctions” for the criminal actions that are being committed under that label is a euphemism. It hides the fact that the so-called sanctions are a crime, are an act of war, are illegal, break all established international laws, and are inhuman, be it in Venezuela or anywhere else.

This is the dictionary meaning of sanctions: “provisions of a law enacting a penalty for disobedience or a reward for obedience”.

“Penalty”! Penalty for what? For not submitting? For resisting domination? Where is the court case? Who is the judge? Where is the evidence that justifies the “penalty”?

“Disobedience”! “Obedience”! To whom? The US? Canada? The EU? The so-called Lima Group?

In the context of US and other powers application of the terminology is simply an outrageous abuse of power. Only the sovereign people can be the judges of their own governments and will “penalise or reward” using their democratic norms. Everybody else should stay out of it.

The use of this language in the geopolitical context is simply old colonial language. It is inconceivable in the 21st century! As it has been inconceivable for the last 500 years of colonialism in this continent.

That can only be interpreted as a demand for submission and surrendering of sovereignty.

If we accept that, we are accepting submission and domination by the dominant powers. Because that’s what “sanctions” imply.

What they call “sanctions” we call them by their proper name: Unilateral coercive measures.

They are “unilateral” because they do not imply a relationship with another as in bilateral or multilateral relations. It is a one-sided decision. There is no negotiation between two or more parties before an action is taken. The bully unilaterally strikes the victim. To give it an appearance of legality both the US and the neo-colonial countries have created their own laws as tools of aggression against the imaginary enemy. They have created enemies to justify their laws. To further justify the untenable position the bully dominant powers join in agreements like in the cases of the US-Canada agreement or the “Lima Group” to ostracise the victim, Venezuela.

And they apply “coercive measures” of their choice to force individuals, governments and institutions to follow their diktat. None of them are the real enemies, except in their own ideologically confused imagination.

More abusively, their laws are applied extraterritorially. And this is against any norm of international relations. Just recently, the US has applied extraterritorial unilateral coercive measures against the Russian oil company Rosneft for buying and shipping Venezuelan oil. The US has also imposed fines against a Swiss company associated with Rosneft.

We have witnessed for almost 60 years one of the longest unilateral coercive measures against any country in the case of the blockade of Cuba. Now the imperial history is repeated in Venezuela and other countries like Nicaragua. US coercive measures have been imposed on Nicaragua police force over ‘violent repression’.

A few days ago we read that the “US House of Representatives pushed through a Nicaragua regime-change bill with zero opposition”. This is a bill sponsored by hardliners that ramps up US economic warfare and regime-change measures against Nicaragua’s elected government.

All seems to indicate that Latin America is still the victim of the US Monroe Doctrine.

Referring specifically to Venezuela. What is the economic impact of US coercive measures on Venezuela?

US has imposed an oil blockade that has blocked the purchase of oil from Venezuela’s state oil company, PDVSA. It has also confiscated Venezuela’s US subsidiary CITGO, worth $8 billion. This is a huge blow for Venezuela, which received 90% of government revenue from the oil industry.

The U.S. government has also frozen $5.5 billion of Venezuelan funds in international accounts in at least 50 banks and financial institutions.

All sources of international borrowing options like the IMF and World Bank are also out of reach due to the financial blockade. Even if Venezuela could borrow money abroad, the United States has long blocked international trade by threatening “sanctions” on foreign companies for doing business with the country.

What is the human cost to Venezuelans, the ultimate victims?

According to a recent report by authors Weisbrot and Sachs of the Washington-based Center for Economic and Policy Research, more than 300,000 people are estimated to be at risk because of lack of access to medicines or treatment. That includes 16,000 people who need dialysis, 16,000 cancer patients, and roughly 80,000 people with HIV.

More dramatically, the same authors, in their 2019 paper titled “Economic sanctions as collective punishment: The case of Venezuela”, also claim that “sanctions” have inflicted […] very serious harm to human life and health, including an estimated more than 40,000 deaths from 2017-2018. But the US has imposed escalating measures since 2015.

The authors conclude that “sanctions reduced the public’s caloric intake, increased disease and mortality (for both adults and infants), and displaced millions of Venezuelans who fled the country as a result of the worsening economic depression and hyperinflation.”

Further, about 15%-20% of Venezuelans have limited access to drinking water in their homes, because the government cannot acquire new foreign-built parts to fix broken pumps and pipes. Water is shipped by trucks weekly to needy communities. But the blockade, and the lack of parts for vehicles, is also impacting the number of water trucks that can be kept running. In some cases the fleet of trucks has been reduced by 75% over the last 3-4 years, to now only a handful of trucks.

The situation is getting worse with the increasing economic and financial blockade that the “sanctions” enforce reaching a limit that borders cruelty and even criminality. In the current circumstances Venezuela’s Attorney General Tarek William Saab denounced a few days ago that coercive and unilateral measures imposed by the United States prevent the purchase of drugs and supplies to confront the health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

When foreign minister Jorge Arreaza called on the International Criminal Court last February to open an investigation into coercive measures imposed on Venezuela by the Trump administration he said, “With punishing ‘sanctions’, the Trump administration has given “a death sentence to tens of thousands of Venezuelans per year.”

He also said, “We are convinced that the consequences of the unilateral measures constitute crimes against humanity, against the civilian population.” And the US has violated “international law and human rights”.

In conclusion, we agree and we will continue accusing the empire and all neo-colonial powers.

  • “Sanctions” are unilateral coercive measures.
  • “Sanctions” kill.
  • “Sanctions” are a crime.
  • “Sanctions” are an act of war.
  • “Sanctions” are a tool of hybrid war on Venezuela and other sovereign countries.

Socialism is NOT hurting Venezuela, the so-called sanctions are.

In fact, if it were not for Venezuela’s determination to implement socialism, Venezuelans would suffer tremendously more. Venezuelans are protected by the policies of the Nicolas Maduro government and the Bolivarian Revolution.

 

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This is based on a speech delivered at a rally against “sanctions” delivered in Vancouver, March 13, 2020

Nino Pagliccia is an activist and freelance writer based in Vancouver. He is a retired researcher from the University of British Columbia, Canada. He is a Venezuelan-Canadian who follows and writes about international relations with a focus on the Americas. He is the editor of the book “Cuba Solidarity in Canada – Five Decades of People-to-People Foreign Relations” (2014). He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

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 “Two categories of propaganda must be distinguished.  The first strives to create a permanent disposition in its objects and constantly needs to be reinforced.  Its goal is to make the masses ‘available,’ by working spells upon them and exercising a kind of fascination.  The second category involves the creation of a sort of temporary impulsiveness in its objects.  It operates by simple pressure and is often contradictory (since contradictory mass movement are sometimes necessary).”  – Jacques Ellul, The Technological Society

The French-Algerian writer Albert Camus’ great 1947 novel, The Plague, is a warning to us today, but a warning in disguise.  When he died sixty years ago at the young age of forty-six, he had already written The Stranger, The Fall, and The Plague, and had won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

The outward story of The Plague revolves around a malignant disease that breaks out in a town that is quarantined when the authorities issue a state of emergency. After first denying that they have a problem, the people gradually panic and feel painfully isolated.  Death fear runs rampant, much like today with the coronavirus. The authorities declare martial law as they warn that the situation is dire, people must be careful of associating, especially in groups, and they better obey orders or very many will die.  So the town is cordoned off.

Before this happens and the first signs that something is amiss emerge, the citizens of the town of Oran, Algeria remain oblivious, for they “work hard, but solely with the object of getting rich.”  Bored by their habits, heavily drugging themselves with drink, and watching many movies to distract themselves, they failed to grasp the significance of “the squelchy roundness of a still-warm body” of the plague-bearing rats that emerge from their underworld to die in their streets.  “It was as if the earth on which our houses stood were being purged of their secret humors; thrusting up to the surface the abscesses and pus-clots that had been forming in its entrails.”  To them the plague is “unthinkable,” an abstraction, until all their denials are swept aside as the truth emerges from the sewers and their neighbors and families die from the disease.

“Stupidity has a way of getting its way;” the narrator, Dr. Rieux tells us, “as we should see if we were not always so wrapped up in ourselves …. plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.”

The American people are wrapped up in themselves.  Nor do they recognize the true rats.  They are easily surprised; fooled would be a better word.

Camus uses a physical plague to disguise his real subject, which is the way people react when they are physically trapped by human rats who demand they obey orders and stay physically and mentally compliant as their freedom is taken from them.

The Plague is an allegorical depiction of the German occupation of France during World War II.  Camus had lived through that experience as a member of the French Resistance.  He was a writer and editor of the underground Resistance newspaper Combat, and with his artist’s touch he later made The Plague a revelatory read for today, especially for citizens of the United States, the greatest purveyor of the plague of violence in the world.

We are all infected with the soul-destroying evil that our leaders have loosed upon the world, a plague of killing that is now hidden behind the coronavirus fear that is being used to institute tight government controls that many will come to rue in the months ahead, just as happened after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Coronavirus is a perfect cover-story for the occupation of the public’s mind by a propaganda apparatus that has grown even more devious over the past 19 years.

Ask yourself: Where is the news about U.S. military operations in Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, eastern Europe, Africa, Latin America, Asia, etc.?  There is none in the corporate mainstream media, and little in the alternative media as well.  Have those operations ceased?  Of course not.  It’s just that the news about them, little that it was, has disappeared.

Now it is all about us and the coronavirus panic.  It is about how many of us might die. It is about stocking toilet paper.  For the rich, it is about getting to their second or third houses where they can isolate themselves in splendor. As I write, 150 or so Americans are said to have died of Covid-19, and by the time you will read this the number will have climbed, but the number will be minuscule compared to the number of people in the U.S.A. and those numbers will be full of contradictions that few comprehend unless, rather than reacting in fear, they did some comprehensive research.

But arguments are quite useless in a time of panic when people are consumed with fear and just react.

For we live in plague time, and the plague lives in us. But to most Americans, Covid-19 is the plague, because the government and media have said it is.  Like the inhabitants of Oran, the United States is “peopled with sleep walkers,” pseudo-innocents, who are “chiefly aware of what ruffled the normal tenor of their lives or affected their interests.”  That their own government, no matter what political party is in power (both working for “deep-state,” elite interests led by the organized criminals of the CIA), is the disseminator of a world-wide plague of virulent violence, must be denied and divorced from consensus reality.

That these same forces would use the fear of disease to cow the population should be no surprise for those who have come to realize the truth of the attacks of September 11, 2001 and the anthrax attacks that followed, both of which were used to justify the endless “wars on terror” that have killed so many around the world. It is a shock for so many people who can’t countenance the thought that their own government could possibly be implicated in the death of thousands of U.S. citizens and the release of the deadly anthrax, which we know came from a U.S. lab and was carried out by a group of inside government perpetrators.

When it comes to the plague-stricken deaths visited on millions around the world for decades by the American government, this must be denied by diverting attention to partisan presidential politics, and now the coronavirus that engenders fear, loathing, and a child-like tendency to believe Big Brother.  The true plague, the bedrock of a nation continually waging wars through various means – i.e. bombs and economic and medical sanctions, etc. – against the world, disappears from consciousness.  As U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said to 60 Minutes Lesley Stahl in 1996 when Stahl asked her if the U.S. sanctions on Iraq that had resulted in the death of 500,000 Iraqi children were worth it: “We think the price is worth it.”

For “decent folks must be allowed to sleep at night,” says the character Tarrou sarcastically; he is a man who has lost his ability to “sleep well” since he witnessed a man’s execution where the “bullets make a hole into which you could thrust your fist.” He awakens to the realization that he “had an indirect hand in the deaths of thousands of people.”  He loses any peace he had and vows to resist the plague in every way he can.  “For many years I’ve been ashamed,” he says, “mortally ashamed, of having been, even with the best intentions, even at many removes, a murderer in my turn.”

The rats are dying in the streets. They are our rats, diseased by us. They have emerged from the underworld of a nation plagued by its denial.  Unconscious evil bubbles up.  We are an infected people. Worry and irritation – “these are not feelings with which to confront plague.” But we don’t seem ashamed of our complicity in our government’s crimes around the world.  For decades we have elected leaders who have killed millions, while business went on as usual. The killing didn’t touch us. As Camus said, “We fornicated and read the papers.”  He knew better. He warned us:

It’s a wearying business being plague-stricken.  But it’s still more wearying to refuse to be it. That’s why everybody in the world looks so tired; everyone is more or less sick of plague. But that is why some of us, those who want to get the plague out of their systems, feel such desperate weariness.

Yet the fight against the plague must go on.  Tarrou puts it thus:

All I maintain is that on this earth there are pestilences and there are victims, and it’s up to us, as far possible, not to join forces with the pestilences. That may sound simple to the point of childishness; I can’t judge if it’s simple, but I know it’s true. You see, I’d heard such quantities of arguments, which very nearly turned my head, and turned other people’s heads enough to make them approve of murder; and I’d come to realize that all our troubles spring from our failure to use plain, clear-cut language.  So I resolved always to speak – and to act – quite clearly, as this was the only way of setting myself on the right track.

These days, I keep thinking of an incident that occurred when I was a young investigator of sexually transmitted diseases, working for the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare through the Public Health Service as an epidemiologist.  My job was to track down sexually transmitted diseases by finding links of sexual contacts. One day I went to interview and take a blood sample from a poor woman who had been named as a sexual contact. I knocked on her door on the third or fourth floor of a walkup apartment building.  She looked through the peep-hole and asked who it was and I told her my name and what government agency I represented. I could tell she was very wary, but she opened the door. She stood there naked, a very heavy woman of perhaps 300 pounds. She nonchalantly welcomed me in and I followed her as she padded down the hall where she took a housecoat off a hook and put it on.

There is, as you know, an old tale by Hans Christian Anderson called “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” Although the emperor parades around naked, the adults make-believe he is clothed. Only a child sees the obvious. I was 23-years-old naïve young man at the time of this unforgettable incident, but it echoes in my mind as a reminder to myself that perhaps that woman was unconsciously teaching me a lesson in disguise.  The year was 1967, and when I went out to get into my government car with federal license plates, a white man in a white shirt in a white car in a poor black neighborhood, a hail of bricks rained down toward me and the car from the roof opposite.  I quickly jumped in and fled as the ghettos were exploding. Soon the National Guard would be called out to occupy them.

Intuition tells me that although the emperor has no clothes and a vast PSYOPS occupation is now underway, too many are too grown-up to see it.

It’s an old story continually updated.  Like The Plague.

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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.

Featured image: Protesters take to the streets of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, for a million-man rally to call for an end to the military presence of the United States in their country. Photo | Mehr

Why Is the U.S. Bombing Iraq During a Pandemic?

March 20th, 2020 by Nina DeMeo

Even as coronavirus spreads rapidly across the globe, causing a health crisis of historic proportions, the U.S. military is engaging in new military attacks in the Middle East. The U.S. must cease all military interventions and redirect its military budget to combat the pandemic.

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Amidst the unprecedented crisis that the world is currently facing as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. military is continuing to carry out airstrikes abroad. On March 12th, the U.S. launched several rockets, hitting five targets in southern Iraq, which Iraqi military officials say damaged an unfinished civilian airport and killed three Iraqi soldiers, two police officers, and a civilian worker. The attack was one in a series of retaliations against Iran, begun back in December, which escalated after the killing of Iran’s commander of the elite military Quds Force, Qasim Solemani. Thursday’s strike was in direct retaliation for an attack made the previous day by an Iran-backed militia that killed one British soldier and two American troops.

Even as nearly 4,300 cases of coronavirus (a modest projection due to insufficient distribution of test kits) have already appeared in the U.S. and with deaths projected to be more than 2.2 million, the U.S. continues to redirect funds that could be used for aid to combat the public health crisis towards military intervention. The U.S. military is currently taking extra steps to bolster its bases in the Middle East by sending Patriot antimissile batteries and other weapons to Iraq in the coming weeks. As a result, hundreds of new troops will head into the country to man the missile-defense batteries, despite Iraq’s demand to remove troops from the region. While the U.S. continues to shore up its military strength against Iran, the people of Iran are desperately suffering not only from one of the world’s most severe outbreaks of the coronavirus, but also from crippling drug and food sanctions that have hindered the government’s ability to effectively respond to the pandemic.

Until recently, President Trump referred to the coronavirus as nothing more than the flu, belittling the potentially deadly outcomes for those who contract the virus. The federal government has been incredibly slow to respond to the coronavirus crisis within the United States. Not only does the coronavirus present a serious health crisis, exacerbated by the U.S.’s inadequate healthcare system, but it has also catalyzed a severe economic crisis for workers. As many fear the ramifications of the virus, more than 27 million Americans remain uninsured and could potentially face crippling medical debt. Further, despite Trump’s assertion during his State of the Union address in January that the United States is currently boasting its lowest unemployment numbers in years, many of those jobs are low-paying jobs within the gig economy; they provide little security and no benefits to precarious workers. As a result, 18% of U.S. workers have lost their jobs or are working significantly reduced hours since the coronavirus hit. Meanwhile, the military’s retaliatory response to the attacks were swift and followed by precise action. Despite the many already suffering as a result of the coronavirus, the U.S. continues to bolster its war machine.

The U.S. should not be spending money on setting up new Patriot missile systems on American bases around the world, deploying droves of new troops, or fortifying aircraft carriers in the Middle East. The U.S. must redirect all military funds to an emergency public health response. Rather than occupying, bombing, and oppressing people in other countries, this year’s military budget of $738 billion should be used to build hundreds of makeshift hospitals and provide thousands of ICU beds across the country. Further, the U.S. must close all military bases abroad, cease all military aid, and end economic sanctions. By continuing military interventions, the U.S. is also detracting from Iraq’s ability to combat its own coronavirus crisis, which it is attempting to contain, but is on the rise. The U.S. must get out of Iraq also so that Iraq, and all other countries suffering as a result of U.S. military intervention, can focus on their own public health responses.

A health crisis of this scale and magnitude requires an immediate and tactical response in order to effectively combat the outbreak. The scarcity of products like ventilators, masks, hand-sanitizers, gloves, and other materials needed to stop the spread of the virus only highlights the irrationality of the U.S.’s continued military spending and efforts abroad. If the U.S. has the resources to bomb Iraq, then it has the resources to combat the pandemic.

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Featured image is from Syria News

Over the course of nearly three-and-a-half months, the novel coronavirus outbreak has infected over 127,000 and left over 4,700 dead. While this has sparked global panic and a WHO-declaration of a pandemic, then death toll is still a far cry from that of starvation, Malaria and war.

This was the point made by BAFTA-award winning journalist and documentary filmmaker John Pilger who took to Facebook on Thursday, to highlight how, despite the fact that 24,600 people died each day from starvation and 3,000 children from preventable Malaria, no pandemic has been declared for them.

“A pandemic has been declared, but not for the 24,600 who die every day from unnecessary starvation, and not for 3,000 children who die every day from preventable malaria, and not for the 10,000 people who die every day because they are denied publicly-funded healthcare, and not for the hundreds of Venezuelans and Iranians who die every day because America’s blockade denies them life-saving medicines, and not for the hundreds of mostly children bombed or starved to death every day in Yemen, in a war supplied and kept going, profitably, by America and Britain. Before you panic, consider them,” Pilger posted on Facebook.

He also tweeted the same in shorter form.

Pilger’s post attracted a storm of comments on both platforms.

He has been a staunch critic of interventionist US and UK foreign policy. His documentaries have looked at the rebellions within the US army during the Vietnam war, at the atrocities committed by the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia and how the US bombing of the country enabled this, as well as films on the devastating impact of US wars and interventions across the world, as well as that of neoliberal globalisation.

He had earlier tweeted that the coronavirus was being used as an excuse by the US and its allies to wage war against China.

“Under cover of coronavirus, the US and its ‘allies’ are waging war against China. The racist travel bans and media hysteria are not approved by WHO. China’s response to the emergency has been a model -unlike the US whose current flu epidemic has killed 10,000 and isn’t news,: he tweeted on February 3.

He tweeted a few days later decrying the growing isolation of China on the international stage.

In 2016, Pilger produced the documentary The Coming War on China warning that the US was increasingly mobilising its forces and allies across Asia for a war with China.

More recently, in 2019, he produced the documentary, The Dirty War on the National Health Service, where he talked about how Britain’s National Health Service was steadily and secretly privatised over the year, with deadly consequences for the country’s poor and working classes.

He received the Richard Dimbleby Award from BAFTA in 1991, wherein he was described as a “man who in the best sense bears witness”.

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It’s been eleven days since the Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and his delegation met with Trump and many White House staffers at Mar-a-Lago on March 7. First it was Nestor Forster, Brazil’s Chargé d’Affaires in Washington, and Nelsinho Trad, who both tested positive for Covid-19, and as of early this week it was further announced Brazilian Foreign Trade Secretary Marcos Troyjo has been confirmed for the virus. 

President Bolsonaro reportedly tested negative, and so did Trump; but Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, who had shaken hands with many among the Brazilian delegation members during their Florida trip, tested positive last last week and went into quarantine. Senior White House correspondent for Bloomberg Jennifer Jacobs now says at least 15 among the Brazilian delegation that had met with Trump’s team has now been confirmed for coronavirus, citing Brazil’s Globo.

“General Heleno, 72, confirms he has coronavirus… In recent days, the minister went to into quarantine and has kept in touch with staff and authorities,” Globo reports.

And Bloomberg elsewhere confirms “Brazil’s top security official is the 15th member of President Jair Bolsonaro’s recent delegation to the U.S. to test positive for coronavirus.”

“General Augusto Heleno, 72, said he’s undergoing additional testing to confirm the result. He joined Bolsonaro at a dinner with U.S. President Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago on March 7 and has since maintained a normal work schedule, including meetings at the presidential palace,” the report adds.

Newsweek reports the list among the Bolsonaro delegation that have tested positive so far as follows:

In addition to Helano, the other Brazilian delegates that tested positive for the virus include, Federal Deputy Daniel Freitas, the President of the Federation of Industries of Minas Gerais Flavio Roscoe, Special Secretary for Foreign Trade and International Affairs Marcos Troyjo, President of the National Confederation of Industry Robson Braga de Andrade, Bolsonaro’s press secretary Fabio Wajngarten, Brazilian Senator Nelsinho Trad, Brazilian Diplomat Nestor Forster, Bolsonaro’s Special Secretary for Social Communication Samy Liberman, Bolsonaro’s publicist Sergio Lima, Bolsonaro’s lawyer Karina Kufa and four other members of Bolsonaro’s support team.

Some members of the White House staff are already self-quarantining and working from home, including White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, after she came into contact with members of the Brazilian delegation.

Outgoing chief of staff Mick Mulvaney has also been voluntarily self-isolating in South Carolina, awaiting his test results.

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Featured image: Trump and Bolsonaro meeting in Florida on the weekend of March 7, via EPA

As the number of coronavirus infections spirals out of control, the U.S. and countries around the world have reported major shortages of ventilators, respirators, test kits, surgical masks, and other essential health equipment for dealing with the pandemic. On Wednesday, President Donald Trump continued to blame China and doubled down on his use of the racist term “Chinese virus.”

Yet now that the situation in China appears to have stabilized, the country is positioning itself at the head of the global response to Covid-19, adopting a unique leadership position that may alter global power relations, despite the biggest shock to its industrial output and economy in recent history and its coverup in Wuhan at the beginning of the crisis.

Western Europe and the U.S. are struggling under the weight of the crisis, with cases rising exponentially every day and higher death rates in Italy than anywhere else. China’s private and public sectors are filling in gaps in equipment where other states are failing, although the spread of the disease is such that demand for those materials might quickly outpace China’s supply. The government and Jack Ma, a Chinese billionaire and co-founder of the Alibaba Group, have already sent doctors and medical supplies to FranceSpain, ItalyBelgiumIranIraqthe Philippines, and the United States. Chinese citizens living abroad are flying home in large numbers to avoid catastrophic health failures elsewhere. In Massachusetts, a Chinese woman tried and failed to be tested three times for Covid-19 before flying back home to be tested and treated.

“The Chinese government has been trying to project Chinese state power beyond its borders and establish China as a global leader, not dissimilar to what the U.S. government has been doing for the better part of a century, and the distribution of medical aid is part of this mission,” said Dr. Yangyang Cheng, a postdoctoral research associate at Cornell University who writes the science and China column for SupChina.

The most effective responses to the pandemic thus far have involved very high levels of Covid-19 testing. South Korea’s case is the most notable. The country has conducted roughly 300,000 tests and is able to do 15,000 a day, while flattening its curve and managing to avoid the draconian lockdowns implemented by China that are now taking hold in Western Europe and some American cities. The World Health Organization’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom, underlined South Korea’s strategy on Monday. “Our key message is: test, test, test,” he said.

The U.S. has failed to catch on to that message, as only about 60,000 tests have been conducted overall despite a population more than six times that of South Korea’s, according to government officials at a presidential press briefing on Tuesday. Trump called the WHO’s test “a very bad test” at the same briefing. In the meantime, intensive care units at many American hospitals could be overrun with sick patients in a matter of days. Memorial Sloan Kettering hospital in New York City, one of the nation’s top cancer facilities, has only a week’s supply of masks and limited supplies of ventilators and personal protective equipment, according to BuzzFeed News.

Even though American laboratories are beginning to produce larger quantities of Covid-19 tests, they are behind China’s capacity to do so and are unlikely to be able to provide much medical aid to other countries in the short term. In contrast, the Jack Ma Foundation has sent 500,000 testing kits and 1 million masks to the U.S., which will be distributed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Urgent medical supplies had been blocked by Trump’s trade war with China, and an exemption wasn’t granted until March 6.

China is now in a growing dispute with the U.S. after Chinese and American officials traded accusations over who was responsible for the virus, with Asian-Americans in the U.S. facing greater racism and prejudice as a result. China expelled American journalists on Tuesday following new restrictions on Chinese journalists in the U.S. and a tweet from Trump calling Covid-19 “the Chinese virus.” At a press briefing on Wednesday, Trump said “we’ll see what happens” when asked if he was considering “punishing China.”

U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar told reporters on Sunday that he would not divulge the number of ventilators in the country for security reasons, but it is clear that the U.S. has a shortage of equipment that the federal government cannot hide. “Respirators, ventilators, all of the equipment — try getting it yourselves,” Trump reportedly told American governors on a conference call Monday, before igniting a Twitter spat with Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York. Even though the U.S. needs ventilators, Italy and Germany were the ones scrambling to purchase them from major producers Dräegerwerk and Hamilton Medical, while other firms indicated that they haven’t received an influx of new orders.

Elsewhere in the world, China’s ability to provide much-needed medical aid stood in contrast to the lack of help from Western nations struggling with the virus themselves. “European solidarity does not exist. It was a fairy tale on paper,” Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic told reporters at a press conference on Sunday. Vucic announced that he had sent a letter to his “brother and friend” Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, asking for medical aid, stating that “the only country that can help us is China. For the rest of them, thanks for nothing.” The first test kits from China landed in Belgrade late Monday night.

The Jack Ma Foundation also announced that it would send “20,000 testing kits, 100,000 masks and 1,000 protective suits and face shields” to every country in Africa, and added that Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed would “take the lead in managing the logistics and distribution of these supplies to other African countries.” A senior Ethiopian health official told The Intercept that he hoped the tests provided by Ma would be sufficient and that “as the technology gets better,” Ethiopia also hoped to source them from multiple other countries as well. Ethiopia has a shortage of ventilators, however, and so far, “no one is providing” them, he said.

It’s unclear just how big an impact China will have on containing the global spread of the virus. While governments and private companies around the world have ramped up their testing manufacturing, the lack of ventilators will be a more difficult challenge to solve. The U.K., for example, called on all industries to support the production of 20,000 ventilators to supplement the 5,000 that its National Health Service currently has, but critics said the government should focus on boosting production from health companies that already make ventilators.

Howard French, journalist and author of “Everything Under the Heavens: How the Past Helps Shape China’s Push for Global Power,” cast doubt on China’s ability to save the day. “If this becomes generalized, I have a very hard time imagining China has on hand, or even has the ability to crank up, production of quantities of ventilators sufficient to address the urgent care needs of large numbers of people like this in many, many countries all at once,” he said.

Although “medical aid during a pandemic is an objectively good thing,” Cheng said, “China has, in more recently weeks, been rewriting the narrative of the outbreak from a scandal, one of Chinese government coverup and mismanagement, to a story of triumph, of Chinese strength and generosity, or even superiority of its governing system. The dysfunction in the White House, and perhaps to an extent 10 Downing Street, has certainly helped the Chinese government establish that narrative.”

“We have seen how the Chinese government uses foreign aid and investment to whitewash its human rights abuses, and how countries at the receiving end become less willing to criticize or hold China accountable,” he added. “That perspective should not be lost even in the crisis of a global pandemic.”

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Featured image: Staff load medical materials bound for Italy at Zhejiang Provincial People’s Hospital in Hangzhou, east China’s Zhejiang Province, March 17, 2020. Photo: Xinhua/Zheng Mengyu via Getty Images

The Coronavirus, Fear, and Elitist Driven Market Insanity

March 20th, 2020 by William J Murray

Fear is contagious: Fear is more contagious than any virus could ever be, and the media has really fed the fear factor when it comes to the coronavirus.

I am by no means playing down the deadly Covid-19 coronavirus. It is a killer. Depending on the reporting nation, it appears that on average 3.4 percent of every 100 who catch the coronavirus die. Those are not good odds.

Adding to the problem, the Center for Disease Control allowed the virus to spread in the United States out of an act of pure stupidity. The CDC refused to allow testing of those with coronavirus symptoms unless they had visited certain areas of China. And what about those who were exposed at airports, restaurants and stores? People died of the coronavirus in the United States before the CDC diagnosed a single case.

Because most of those infected are asymptomatic the scope of the spread of Covid-19 could only have been accurately measured by random testing. But months after the first actual warning from China there were not even enough test kits produced in the United States to test those with symptoms. Random testing still is impossible. Even citizens returning from hotspots in the first half of March were not tested at airports.

The headlines about seven dead in Seattle the first week of March emptied out stores and brought commerce to a standstill in that city. Shops and restaurants emptied out. With no guidance from federal, state of local officials the panic buying spread throughout the United States endangering the lives of millions of people as they coughed, sneezed and fought each other over toilet paper in Costco stores nationwide.

When the CDC began to test those with symptoms who had not been to China, the numbers exploded. As President Trump pointed out in his announcement most of those coronavirus cases came from Europe. But the CDC did not test anyone coming from Europe with the symptoms of the coronavirus despite the headline news of the virus outbreak there. Why?

Elitism: The problem at every level of the federal, state and local governments is elitism. All the bureaucrats think they are far smarter and superior to those they serve, and as a result they come to very intellectually stupid conclusions. Romans 1:22 describes the government, business and academic elites well: “Professing to be wise, they became fools.” (KJV)

Stock market reactions were bizarre even for that fantasy world. The DOW was down over 1,000 one day, back up over a 1,000 the next, and then on Monday, March 16th down 12 percent, the worst day since 1987. The White House and the Federal Reserve announced the coronavirus would be fought with interest rate cuts.

Interest rates went to zero and the Federal Reserve pumped in $1.5 trillion before March 16th and then another $700 billion the day after.

WHAT? Using interest rate cuts and QE (Quantitative Easing) from the Fed to fight a killer virus?    NO … an interest rate hike to save the stock market from the coronavirus fear factor. The Federal Reserve also doubled down on overnight loans to help banks cover cash shortfall. The markets crashed anyway.

The bank liquidity problem predated the coronavirus. The bank bailout has been going on since last September. The Federal Reserve printed half a trillion dollars to save banks over the last six months. Does that make sense? Most of that money went to cover loans for more stock buybacks and operations of big corporations. The market plunge now requires even more Federal Reserve money printing to cover losses.

The Fed money could not bring the Markets back up because corporations had stopped “buybacks.” It was the buyback of their own stocks by corporations that drove the market up over the last decade or so, not value. Corporations like Exxon – all the big ones – bought back hundreds of billions a dollars a year of their own stock to drive up the share price for investors, and I might add, to increase the bonuses by millions of dollars a year of the CEO’s of those companies.

The collective corporations in the S&P bought back more than 100 percent of their total free cash flow in 2019 and for many years before that. Some companies, even in the DOW, paid out more to buy back stock than they made in profit. They borrowed money to buy back stock and drive up the markets.
Total buybacks in 2018 were $806 billion and in 2019 an estimated $710 billion. All down the tubes now, lost in a few days of panic selling. Not enough left of it to buy a coffee at 7-11.

Remember Boeing Aircraft and the 737 Max problem of two crashes that grounded the planes worldwide? Over a period of six years (2013-2019) Boeing paid out $17 billion in dividends and bought back $43 billion of its own stock to drive up the stock price. That $60 billion came to 140 percent of profit for those years.

The CEO of Boeing received tens of millions of dollars for raising Boeing stock value! When he was finally forced out because of the 737 Max crashes he was given $18 million to leave as a reward for cutting production corners and artificially driving up the cost of the stock.

Corporations, like Netflix, that have never made a profit had shares trading at hundreds of dollars.

The markets are so important to the elites that President Trump along with the House Democrats and Republican Senate will do anything to get people buying and cash flowing so the big corporations can restart the buybacks they had to stop because of Covid-19 loss of business.

United Airlines used over 80 percent of its free cash flow in 2019 to buy back stock and now has gone begging for money from President Trump and the Congress to continue operations.

The elites who run the businesses and the bureaucracies are worried about their status and will do anything to keep the markets flying high. Their wealth is based on a fantasy bubble that something like the coronavirus could pop. The elites were so fearful they pretended there was no problem until the problem was too big to hide. Now the public must suffer.

Some final numbers: As of March 17th, the Fed has tossed $2.2 trillion into the whirlpool sewer of the American stock markets. The money could have gone to rebuild the entire rail network in the United States or to relieve the roads of congestion. The money could have been used to repair and replace the thousands of bridges in the United States that are deficient.

OR … That $2.2 trillion could have been used to increase the number of hospitals beds per 1,000 persons in the United States up to Chinese or Russian numbers. Yes, the United States has just 2.5 or so hospital beds per 1,000 population in the United States, less than even Turkey. The United States ranks 32nd and for the Covid-19 pandemic the tents are starting to go up.

“Greatest nation in the world.” Agreed. We have an unequaled military that can go anywhere and do anything. It should be able to — the government prints nearly a trillion dollars a year to pay for it. “Greatest nation in the world” starts to sound flat when the roads, bridges, rail system and patched together hospital systems are examined under strain.

The Elites, the top 10 percent that own or control 80 percent of the wealth of the nation, have failed us. That includes not just the billionaires, but the Donald Trumps, Joe Bidens, Nancy Pelosis, Mitch McConnells along with the bankers, brokers, CEO’s and academic leaders who have produced so many college graduates who now work at convenience stores.

They built the system to do what it does … Create false value in stocks because capital gain is taxed at a far lower rate than dividend income. The tax system was designed to do what the CEO’s did to raise the value of their stock at the expense of quality, safety and jobs.

The political, financial and educational systems have been broken by blood sucking elites and the time for true populism is now. The nation belongs to the people, not to the elites, and now is the time for the people to take back their nation.

Libertarian populism, the fundamentals as taught by Frederick Hayek in Constitution of Liberty must finally be turned to for the true freedom the people want and deserve.

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William J Murray is the president of the Washington, DC based Religious Freedom Coalition and author of several books, his last, Utopian Road to Hell, details the historic pitfalls of collectivism.

Featured image is from TRPIPP

President Donald Trump’s use of the racist term “Chinese virus” when describing the global coronavirus outbreak is apparently counter to how his aides are presenting information to him to read to the public according to a photo taken Thursday by Washington Post photographer Jabin Botsford. 

“When someone you know dies of this thing, you can find solace in the fact that when the president was supposed to be leading the nation through this pandemic, he was busy making hand edits to speeches so that the Chinese would be adequately scapegoated,” tweeted political journalist Brian Tyler Cohen.

As Common Dreams reported Wednesday, Trump’s insistence on using the term “Chinese virus” is part of an American history of using racist tropes about disease.

The president’s own handwriting scrawling the term across his notes at a press conference drew outrage on social media as observers like Daily Beast reporter Sam Stein noted the “obvious attempts to start a debate over political correctness” rather than Trump’s mishandling of the pandemic, which threatens the lives of thousands if not millions of Americans.

“Aggressively, purposefully, maniacally, loathsomely racist,” tweeted astronomer Phil Plait.

Press Watch editor Dan Froomkin said Trump’s latest embrace of racist hate is another indication the president should be ignored as much as possible.

“This is the extent of Trump’s contribution to the debate,” said Froomkin. “He needs to be routed around, not heeded.”

At his Thursday press briefing on the coronavirus, Trump in response to a question on holding China accountable for the outbreak suggested there would be “repercussions” for Beijing.

“We’re working on that right now,” said Trump.

From Common Dreams: Our work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Feel free to republish and share widely.

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In the face of the mounting coronavirus crisis, we need to start asking a crucial question: who pays for the lockdown? The last three weeks have taught some hard lessons to Italian workers. Indeed, workers have been shouldering the bulk of the crisis. This applies to workers in all sectors, and even more intensely with activities related to care. If the right to work safely cannot be guaranteed, all nonessential activities must be shut down.

Workers should not be forced to choose between their health and their livelihood. Yet Italian workers are losing their jobs, putting their loved ones at risk, protesting workplace health and safety conditions, and even self-organizing to make up for the lack of state intervention. In this article, we try to document the main takeaways from the early weeks of the Italian crisis, hoping these will be useful resources for workers in other countries currently moving toward an intensified crisis.

Keeping Your Job

Workers need to ensure they will not lose their paycheques. First and foremost, this requires that all workers have the ability to decide to stay at home when they show symptoms or feel unsafe. The immediate introduction of policies granting workers fourteen sick days at full pay – with no doctor’s note requirement – must happen now at a mass scale. In Italy, the crisis exposed the most vulnerable workers to the loss of their jobs: precarious workers in sectors such as social work or restaurants lost their jobs overnight. This has worsened the danger generated by the attriting of sick pay rights for Europe’s workers since the financial crisis. There are simply no safety nets for freelancers, contract workers and casual employees.

The decree issued by the government on March 16 allocates a one-time €600 to freelancers who lost their income due to the crisis. This is not enough. Self-employed workers have achieved a suspension of income taxes, a measure that will also apply to big and small companies. Italian workers are demanding a moratorium for layoffs. Italian social movements are asking for an extension of basic income to all temporary workers and freelancers. In Canada, for example, this would translate into an immediate extension of employment insurance across the board for all workers.

The mandate to work from home has been easy to implement. Companies tend to dislike it, assuming workers will use it to slack off, however its massive application during this crisis has shown this is not the case, as companies have managed to shift to online work without major problems. But online work has its dark sides. There is a class dimension to it, as blue-collar factory workers and pink-collar care workers cannot work from home like white-collar office workers and professionals. Furthermore, freelancers and workers in the creative industries have known for years that digital technology has the potential to extend the workplace to one’s home and to make us work around the clock. Italian workers have reported that some employers use remote work to ask employees to carry out tasks overnight or on weekends. And a person working from home may have others’ care needs to attend to, especially if they are responsible for children who are also home due to school closures or if their circumstances require they provide primary care for elderly or people with disabilities

Caring for Each Other

Closing schools generates the obvious problem of care for children at home. In Italy, grandparents have been mobilized to step in for parents who had to keep working. This increased the risk of exposure to the virus in the most problematic demographic: the country’s seniors. In many other cases, a parent (the mother in virtually all cases) has to make a tough call: could they renounce their part-time or casual low-income jobs to provide care for their children? The disabled, non-autonomous elderly, immunosuppressed people or those who require routine care for pre-existing conditions need augmented support at home too. Working families have demanded special parental leaves and increased support for those who employ personal caregivers. Workers cannot be asked to simply use their vacations to take care of their families. Undocumented labourers and no-income communities are just unable to choose.

Women are disproportionally impacted by the crisis. Care workers, at least in the most-affected areas in Italy, tend to be mostly female people of colour and migrants. Their jobs put them at higher risk than the general population, and many have care responsibilities at home too. Furthermore, care workers are under extreme stress: babysitters, home healthcare providers, domestic workers, tend to be employed casually and may not have access to paid sick leave despite being placed at greater risk by their work. For another example of a high-risk population, social workers are especially overexposed to the virus. According to local social cooperatives in Lombardy (the hardest hit region), up to 30% of social workers are currently sick or quarantined. This directly impacts not only the workers’ lives, but also the vulnerable beneficiaries they serve, which in turn increases pressure on their families or leaves them with no care at all. In the long run, this puts the entire social system under stress, above and beyond a welfare system already weakened by austerity measures.

Mitigating Risk

The need to mitigate risk for those who must keep working is paramount. This means adopting measures for social distancing in workplaces whenever possible. In the event it is not, personal protection such as face masks, hand sanitizer, disinfectant, hand soap and paper towel must be made widely available to workers. But this is not a viable strategy in all workplaces. For instance, cleaners tend to work for small companies that provide services to bigger organizations, like public offices, firms and hospitals. In addition, the intensification of their use of detergents and disinfectants, coupled with the lack of protective equipment and the increased hours they are working with harmful inhalants and large amounts of other toxic chemicals, are putting these workers at much greater risk.

Worker power has proven key in fighting such situations. Italy is currently shaken by a wave of wildcat strikes in factories, warehouses, supermarkets, and ports. Workers in industries that have not been shut down, such as manufacturing or logistics, are protesting the impossibility to maintain social distancing in the workplace or the reckless disinterest shown by their employers. This is particularly crucial in sectors that may increase business in the event of a widespread lockdown, such as e-commerce or home-delivery services. Italian metalworkers, organized by unions such as USB and FIOM, are at the forefront of these struggles. In some cases, stoppings or protests have bypassed unions, as workers have decided not to wait for bargaining procedures to take place.

For example, Amazon workers report tensions. For them, work rhythms have not decreased, as self-isolated customers ramp up their online shopping. Amazon fulfillment centres are some of the most densely crowded workplaces in the Western hemisphere. The company’s warehouses employ hundreds of workers per shift and require continuous physical co-presence and proximity to operate. A petition launched in a New York fulfillment centre has quickly spread to Italy, while unions have been questioning the need for Amazon to keep operating at full capacity. This raises the question of what constitutes an essential economic activity? In a viral video circulating via WhatsApp, a delivery worker for Amazon wearing surgical gloves and face mask says, “Don’t worry, you will still receive your fucking Hello Kitty iPhone cover!” Should manufacturing plants and e-commerce warehouses shut down or at least dramatically reduce their activities? Thus far, this decision has been left to individual companies. The largest Amazon warehouse in the country is in the COVID-19 hotspot of Piacenza. On March 17, unions launched a strike under the banner “No Safety, No Work,” denouncing the company’s lack of compliance with the safety measures imposed by the government.

Self-Organizing

Workers have not been waiting for the state to respond to their needs or for unions to win concessions. Both individual refusal of unsafe work and collective self-organizing are resurging at a level the country has not seen in decades. This includes absenteeism, tactical use of sick leaves, new forms of organizing and grassroots social interventions. The scale of these phenomena has been increasing rapidly, especially in reaction to a number of government measures geared toward helping corporations rather than people. Several unions and workers report increased worker desertion, as people exploit any avenue they have to reduce their exposure to unsafe environments. Amazon warehouses in Italy and other European countries are seeing hundreds of workers using sick leave to avoid walking into an unsafe workplace.

These forms of individual resistance are not the only self-organized response. In Piacenza, one of the main coronavirus hotspots, the radical union SiCobas has swiftly launched a concerted effort to make up for the state’s inability to provide health and safety to workers in specific critical areas. SiCobas organizes the vast majority of warehouse workers in the massive local logistics sector. This organization is purchasing, stockpiling, and distributing personal protection equipment, such as face masks, to Red Cross volunteers and workers in private care facilities who are dealing with shortages. Squats are offering grassroots care-work services, such as babysitting, tutoring, grocery shopping and delivery. Others have opened helplines to provide legal support to workers who have lost their jobs or are confronting health and safety issues at work. A number of grassroots organizations have popped up in Milan and other affected cities to help elderly, immunosuppressed or quarantined people deal with the lockdown by providing basic home care and delivering groceries or drugs.

The Future is Unwritten

We do not know what the outcome of this crisis will be. COVID-19 infections are still mounting in Italy and many other countries are currently entering the phase Italy experienced only three weeks ago. Timeliness and organization seem to be paramount if workers elsewhere want to avoid going through all the same dramatic problems experienced in Italy. But such a troubled situation has given workers a chance to renegotiate power relations. This applies across the board, from workplace democracy to wages, welfare, and obviously health and safety measures.

Workers have been imagining universal solutions based on the radical redistribution of time, resources, money and power. This is the opposite of the temporary, partial and often unjust measures the state has patched up the crisis with. The right to a safe workplace, which is clearly key in the current state of emergency, should become a permanent condition of work everywhere. The future is unwritten, but many Italian workers hope that some of the radical imaginative solutions they have been forced to experiment with are here to stay.

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Alessandro Delfanti is an associate professor of Culture and New Media at the University of Toronto, with appointments at the Institute of Communication, Culture, Information and Technology and the Faculty of Information. He researches digital labour, hacking and digital countercultures, and the political economy of technology.

Beatrice Busi is an independent researcher and freelance journalist.

Erika Biddle is a PhD Candidate, Communication and Culture, York University. Follow her at @erika_biddle.

Now that the Democratic Party has apparently succeeded in getting rid of the only two voices among its presidential candidates that actually deviated from the establishment consensus, it appears that Joe Biden will be running against Donald Trump in November. To be sure, Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard are still hanging on, but the fix was in and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) made sure that Sanders would be given the death blow on Super Tuesday while Gabbard would be blocked from participating in any of the late term debates.

It is widely believed that the abrupt withdrawal of candidates Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg on the eve of Super Tuesday that targeted Sanders was arranged through an intervention by ex-President Barack Obama who made a plea in support of “party unity,” offering the two a significant quid pro quo down the road if they were willing to leave the race and throw their support to Biden, which they dutifully did.  Rumor has it that Klobuchar might well wind up as Biden’s vice president. An alternative tale is that it was a much more threatening “offer that couldn’t be refused” coming from the Clintons.

Tulsi meanwhile was marginalized after being smeared by Hillary Clinton’s claim that she was a “Russian asset” being “groomed” by the Kremlin. She was then denied her rightful place in the March 15th debate by a sudden and unexpected rules change in the format which was deliberately designed to exclude her. So much for the internal democracy of the so-called Democratic Party.

Now that the line-up for November seems set, the discussion has moved to specific policy issues. Foreign policy did not play much of a part in the Democratic Party debates, but it is expected to be more visible in the presidential race, particularly in light of some of the more visible blunders committed by Donald Trump and his associates.

The latest mistake by the White House, the January 3rd airstrike in Iraq that killed Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani and eight Iraqi associates is still resonating, having just last week produced an attack on a U.S. base that killed two American and one British soldiers, followed by a retaliatory bombing by U.S. forces directed against Iraqi militia Kataib Hezbollah, which is reported to be supported by Iran but has also been integrated into the Iraqi armed forces. The U.S. unilateral action is taking place without Baghdad’s consent and in spite of Iraqi government demands that Washington close its bases and withdraw its remaining troops, numbering approximately 5,000.

Ironically, killing Soleimani and the consequences is unlikely to be a theme picked up on by the genial but muddled Biden as both major parties are firmly in the grip of the Israel Lobby and are unlikely to complain about killing a senior Iranian official. Nor will the next president, whoever he is, reverse the disastrous Trump decision and rejoin the JCPOA agreement of 2015 which was intended to monitor Iran’s civilian use nuclear program.

Both Trump and Biden might reasonably described as Zionists, Trump by virtue of the made-in-Israel foreign policy positions he has delivered on since his election, and Biden by word and deed during his entire time in politics. When Biden encountered Sarah Palin in 2008 in the vice-presidential debate, he and Palin sought to outdo each other in enthusing over how much they love the Jewish state. Biden has said that “I am a Zionist. You don’t have to be a Jew to be a Zionist” and also, ridiculously, “Were there not an Israel, the U.S. would have to invent one. We will never abandon Israel — out of our own self-interest. [It] is the best $3 billion investment we make.” Biden has been a regular feature speaker at the annual AIPAC summit in Washington.

Trump might be described as both paranoid and narcissistic, meaning that he sees himself as surrounded by enemies and that the enemies are out to get him personally. When he is criticized, he either ridicules the source or does something impulsive to deflect what is being said. He attacked Syria twice based on false claims about the use of chemical weapons when a consensus developed in the media and in congress that he was being “weak” in the Middle East. Those attacks were war crimes as Syria was not threatening the United States.

Trump similarly reversed himself on withdrawing from Syria when he ran into criticism of the move and his plan to extricate the United States from Afghanistan, if it develops at all, could easily be subjected to similar revision. Trump is not really the man who as a candidate indicated that he was seriously looking for a way out of America’s endless and pointless wars, no matter what his supporters continue to assert.

Biden is on a different track in that he is an establishment hawk. As head of the Senate Foreign Affairs committee back in 2002-2003 he green lighted George W. Bush’s plan to attack Iraq. Beyond that, he cheer-leaded the effort from the Democratic Party benches, helping to create a consensus both in Washington and in the media that Saddam Hussein was a threat that had to be dealt with. He should have known better as he was privy to intelligence that was suggesting that the Iraqis were no threat at all. He did not moderate his tune on Iraq until after 2005, when the expected slam-dunk quick victory got very messy.

Biden was also certainly privy to the decision making by President Barack Obama, which include the destruction of Libya and the killing of American citizens by drone. Whether he actively supported those policies is unknown, but he has never been challenged on them. What is clear is that he did not object to them, another sign of his willingness to go along with the establishment, a tendency which will undoubtedly continue if he is elected president.

And Biden’s foreign policy reminiscences are is subject to what appear to be memory losses or inability to articulate, illustrated by a whole series of faux pas during the campaign. He has a number of times told a tale of his heroism in Afghanistan that is complete fiction, similar to Hillary Clinton’s lying claims of courage under fire in Bosnia.

So, we have a president in place who takes foreign policy personally in that his first thoughts are “how does it make me look?” and a prospective challenger who appears to be suffering from initial stages of dementia and who has always been relied upon to support the establishment line, whatever it might be. Though Trump is the more dangerous of the two as he is both unpredictable and irrational, the likelihood is that Biden will be guided by the Clintons and Obamas. To put it another way, no matter who is president the likelihood that the United States will change direction to get away from its interventionism and bullying on a global scale is virtually nonexistent. At least until the money runs out. Or to express it as a friend of mine does, “No matter who is elected we Americans wind up getting John McCain.” Goodnight America!

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Philip M. Giraldi is a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer who served nineteen years overseas in Turkey, Italy, Germany, and Spain. He was the CIA Chief of Base for the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 and was one of the first Americans to enter Afghanistan in December 2001. Phil is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a Washington-based advocacy group that seeks to encourage and promote a U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East that is consistent with American values and interests. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Coronavirus, Vaccines and the Gates Foundation

March 20th, 2020 by F. William Engdahl

Arguably, no one has been more active in promoting and funding research on vaccines aimed at dealing with coronavirus than Bill Gates and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. From sponsoring a simulation of a coronavirus global pandemic, just weeks before the Wuhan outbreak was announced, to funding numerous corporate efforts to come up with a novel vaccine for the apparently novel virus, the Gates presence is there. What does it actually entail?

We must admit that at the very least Bill Gates is prophetic. He has claimed for years that a global killer pandemic will come and that we are not prepared for it. On March 18, 2015 Gates gave a TED talk on epidemics in Vancouver. That day he wrote on his blog, “I just gave a brief talk on a subject that I’ve been learning a lot about lately—epidemics. The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is a tragedy—as I write this, more than 10,000 people have died.” Gates then added, “As awful as this epidemic has been, the next one could be much worse. The world is simply not prepared to deal with a disease—an especially virulent flu, for example—that infects large numbers of people very quickly. Of all the things that could kill 10 million people or more, by far the most likely is an epidemic.”

That same year, 2015, Bill Gates wrote an article for the New England Journal of Medicine titled, “The Next Epidemic: Lessons from Ebola.” There he spoke of a special class of drugs that “involves giving patients a set of particular RNA-based constructs that enables them to produce specific proteins(including antibodies).Although this is a very new area, it is promising because it is possible that a safe therapy could be designed and put into large-scale manufacture fairly rapidly. More basic research as well as the progress of companies like Moderna and CureVac could eventually make this approach a key tool for stopping epidemics.” Moderna and CureVac both today receive funds from the Gates Foundation and are leading the race to develop an approved COVID-19 vaccine based on mRNA.

2017 and Founding of CEPI

A global flu-like pandemic in fact is something that Gates and his well-endowed foundation have spent years preparing for. In 2017 during the Davos World Economic Forum, Gates initiated something called CEPI, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, together with the governments of Norway, India, Japan, and Germany, along with the Wellcome Trust of the UK. Its stated purpose is to “accelerate the development of vaccines we’ll need to contain outbreaks” of future epidemics. He noted at the time that “One promising area of vaccine development research is using advances in genomics to map the DNA and RNA of pathogens and make vaccines.” We will return to that.

Event 201

By 2019 Bill Gates and the foundation were going full-tilt boogie with their pandemic scenarios. He made a Netflix video which made an eerie imaginary scenario. The video, part of the “Explained” series, imagined a wet market in China where live and dead animals are stacked and a highly deadly virus erupts that spreads globally. Gates appears as an expert in the video to warn, “If you think of anything that could come along that would kill millions of people, a pandemic is our greatest risk.” He said if nothing was done to better prepare for pandemics, the time would come when the world would look back and wish it had invested more into potential vaccines. That was weeks before the world heard about bats and a live wet market in Wuhan China.

In October, 2019 the Gates Foundation teamed up with the World Economic Forum and the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security to enact what they called a “fictional” scenario simulation involving some of the world’s leading figures in public health. It was titled Event 201.

As their website describes it, Event 201 simulated an “outbreak of a novel zoonotic coronavirus transmitted from bats to pigs to people that eventually becomes efficiently transmissible from person to person, leading to a severe pandemic. The pathogen and the disease it causes are modeled largely on SARS, but it is more transmissible in the community setting by people with mild symptoms.”

In the Event 201 scenario the disease originates at a pig farm in Brazil, spreading through low-income regions and ultimately explodes into an epidemic. The disease is carried by air travel to Portugal, the USA and China and beyond to the point no country can control it. The scenario posits no possible vaccine being available in the first year. “Since the whole human population is susceptible, during the initial months of the pandemic, the cumulative number of cases increases exponentially, doubling every week.”

The scenario then ends after 18 months when the fictional coronavirus has caused 65 million deaths. “The pandemic is beginning to slow due to the decreasing number of susceptible people. The pandemic will continue at some rate until there is an effective vaccine or until 80-90 % of the global population has been exposed.”

Event 201 Players

As interesting as the prescient Gates-Johns Hopkins Event 201 fictional scenario of October, 2019 may be, the list of panelists who were invited to participate in the imaginary global response is equally interesting.

Among the selected “players” as they were called, was George Fu Gao. Notably, Prof. Gao is director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention since 2017. His specialization includes research on “influenza virus interspecies transmission (host jump)… He is also interested in virus ecology, especially the relationship between influenza virus and migratory birds or live poultry markets and the bat-derived virus ecology and molecular biology.” Bat-derived virus ecology…

Prof. Gao was joined among others at the panel by the former Deputy Director of the CIA during the Obama term, Avril Haines. She also served as Obama’s Assistant to the President and Principal Deputy National Security Advisor. Another of the players at the Gates event was Rear Admiral Stephen C. Redd, Director of the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The same CDC is at the center of a huge scandal for not having adequate functioning tests available for testing cases of COVID-19 in the USA. Their preparedness was anything but laudable.

Rounding out the group was Adrian Thomas, the Vice President of scandal-ridden Johnson & Johnson, the giant medical and pharmaceutical company. Thomas is responsible for pandemic preparedness at J&J including developing vaccines for Ebola, Dengue Fever, HIV. And there was Martin Knuchel, Head of Crisis, Emergency & Business Continuity Management, for Lufthansa Group Airlines. Lufthansa has been one of the major airlines dramatically cutting flights during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis.

All this shows that Bill Gates has had a remarkable preoccupation with the possibility of a global pandemic outbreak he said could be even larger than the alleged deaths from the mysterious 1918 Spanish Flu, and has been warning for at least the past five years or more. What the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation also has been involved in is funding development of new vaccines using bleeding-edge CRISPR gene-editing and other technologies.

The Coronavirus Vaccines

Gates Foundation money is backing vaccine development on every front. Inovio Pharmaceuticals of Pennsylvania received $9 million from the Gates-backed CEPI, Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, to develop a vaccine, INO-4800, which is about to test on humans in April, a suspiciously rapid time frame. In addition Gates Foundation just gave the company an added $5 million to develop a proprietary smart device for intradermal delivery of the new vaccine.

In addition Gates Foundation monies via CEPI are financing development of a radical new vaccine method known as messengerRNA or mRNA.

They are co-funding the Cambridge, Massachusetts biotech company, Moderna Inc., to develop a vaccine against the Wuhan novel coronavirus, now called SARS-CoV-2. Moderna’s other partner is the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Head of NIAID is Dr Anthony Fauci, the person at the center of the Trump Administration virus emergency response. Notable about the Fauci-Gates Moderna coronavirus vaccine, mRNA-1273, is that it has been rolled out in a matter of weeks, not years, and on February 24 went directly to Fauci’s NIH for tests on human guinea pigs, not on mice as normal. Moderna’s chief medical adviser, Tal Zaks, argued, “I don’t think proving this in an animal model is on the critical path to getting this to a clinical trial.”

Another notable admission by Moderna on its website is the legal disclaimer, “Special Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements: …These risks, uncertainties, and other factors include, among others: … the fact that there has never been a commercial product utilizing mRNA technology approved for use.” In other words, completely unproven for human health and safety.

Another biotech company working with unproven mRNA technology to develop a vaccine for the COVID-19 is a German company, CureVac. Since 2015 CureVac has received money from the Gates Foundation to develop its own mRNA technology. In January the Gates-backed CEPI granted more than $8 million to develop a mRNA vaccine for the novel coronavirus.

Add to this the fact that the Gates Foundation and related entities such as CEPI constitute the largest funders of the public-private entity known as WHO, and that its current director, Tedros Adhanom, the first WHO director in history who is not a medical doctor, worked for years on HIV with the Gates Foundation when Tedros was a government minister in Ethiopia, and we see that there is practically no area of the current coronavirus pandemic where the footprints of the omnipresent Gates are not to be found. If that is to the good of mankind or grounds to be worried, time will tell.

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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.


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.

The Fed Reopens Its Landfill for Distressed Assets

March 20th, 2020 by Mike Whitney

The Fed is reopening its most controversial and despised crisis-era bailout facility, the Primary Dealer Credit Facility. The Wall Street Journal describes the PDCF as “an overnight loan facility for primary dealers (that) provides round-the-clock backup source of funding to banks.” The WSJ’s description grossly understates the facility’s real purpose which is to transfer the toxic bonds and securities from failing financial institutions and corporations (through an intermediary) onto the Fed’s balance sheet.

The objective of this sleight of hand is to recapitalize big investors who, through their own bad bets, are now either underwater or in deep trouble.

Just like 2008, the Fed is now doing everything in its power to save its friends and mop up the ocean of red ink that was generated during the 10-year orgy of speculation that has ended in crashing markets and a wave of deflation. Check out this excerpt from an article at Wall Street on Parade. Here’s an excerpt:

“Veterans on Wall Street think of the PDCF as the cash-for-trash facility, where Wall Street’s toxic waste from a decade of irresponsible trading and lending, will be purged from the balance sheets of the Wall Street firms and handed over to the balance sheet of the Federal Reserve – just as it was during the last financial crisis on Wall Street.” (“Fed Announces Program for Wall Street Banks to Pledge Plunging Stocks to Get Trillions in Loans at ¼ Percent Interest” Wall Street on Parade)

In other words, the PDCF is a landfill for distressed assets that have lost much of their value and for which there is little or no demand. And, as bad as that sounds, the details about the resuscitated PDCF are much worse.

First, the Fed is going to provide the 24 Primary Dealers (The Fed’s exclusive trading partners) with unlimited zero-rate loans. (0.25 percent)

Second, the loans will be issued for a period of up to 90 days after which they will be rolled over for as long as needed. (which basically transforms a collateralized loan into a permanent cash transfer.)

Third, (and this is from the text of the Fed’s March 17 announcement):

“Collateral eligible for pledge under the PDCF includes all collateral eligible for pledge in open market operations (OMO); plus investment grade corporate debt securities, international agency securities, commercial paper, municipal securities, mortgage-backed securities, and asset-backed securities; plus equity securities.

“Equity securities”? You mean the Fed is going to buy stocks???

Indeed, that is precisely what it means. The Fed is going to load up on stocks during the biggest crash of the decade. That’s what you call a “bailout”, a multi-trillion dollar welfare check gifted to the crooked Wall Street banks in exchange for their dodgy toxic assets. It’s infuriating.

And the Fed plans to load up on other discarded offal too, such as “corporate debt securities… commercial paper… mortgage-backed securities”.

Of course there’s no market for any of this effluvia currently, but that’s not going to stop the Fed. Oh no. The Fed is generously offering infinite-duration loans at whatever amount is requested to preserve the illusion that these corporate and financial zombies are still solvent, which they certainly are not.

It’s worth noting, that the corporate debt market has been frozen for nearly two weeks which means there are no buyers and no new issuance. The market is a ghost-town devoid of anything but the chirping of birds, and yet, the Fed wants to buy debt in this wasteland, trading boatloads of cash for B-rated corporate sludge that may be worth just pennies on the dollar. The Fed has no idea of how it will get rid of these bonds since the market is not likely to rebound in the near future, but, even so, it is willing to accept the loss, even if it undermines its own credibility, even if it adds trillions more to its already-bloated balance sheet, and even if it assumes the credit risk these sketchy securities pose, after all, many of these poorly-managed corporations are likely to go bust in the very near future leaving the Fed with a pile of dreck it will never be able to unload. None of this seems to bother to the Fed who is determined to buy anything that isn’t bolted to the floor. It’s madness.

The Fed has known for more than 3 years that the corporations have been ripping off investors by selling them garbage bonds from which the proceeds would be used –not to develop new products or train workers or build factories or increase productivity— but to boost executive compensation via stock buybacks. That was the whole deal in a nutshell, more loot for greedy CEOs. It was a swindle from the get go. The Fed knew that, because everyone knew that. Now the Fed wants to make these hucksters ‘whole again’ because their bunco scheme blew up in their faces and they can’t tap into the credit markets like they did before. Too freaking bad.

Many of these corporations need to be euthanized which undoubtedly would be their fate if Sugar Daddy Powell didn’t intervene. But that’s why he set up the PDCF, to prevent the market from imposing its own rough justice on these charlatans by thinning the herd.

Why doesn’t the Fed try to find out which corporations are just struggling (due to the coronavirus) and which ones are actually insolvent? Wouldn’t that be the sensible thing to do? Why doesn’t the Fed try to determine which corporations put their money to good use and which ones blew it on stock buybacks? Isn’t that something you’d want to know before you buy their bonds?

And why didn’t the Fed use its regulatory powers to stop the debt-market chicanery before the whole thing went pear-shaped?

The Fed is not going to answer any of these questions, and no one in Congress is even going to ask. Instead, the Fed will simply issue a press release in the media, rev up the printing presses, and flood the system with another 4 or 5 trillion dollars. That’s what they did in ’08 and that’s what they’re going to do now. Here’s more from Wall Street on Parade:

We learned from the GAO audit that the Primary Dealer Credit Facility was the largest Wall Street bailout program during the financial crisis. It issued 1,376 loans that cumulatively totaled $8.95 trillion. Just as is happening this time around, the Fed spun the story that the program would help American workers and businesses. It did no such thing. It went to bail out the trading and derivative operations of sinking ships on Wall Street as those same firms paid out millions of dollars in bonuses to their derelict executives and traders….
(“Fed Announces Program for Wall Street Banks to Pledge Plunging Stocks to Get Trillions in Loans at ¼ Percent Interest” Wall Street on Parade)

Let’s summarize:

The Primary Dealer Credit Facility is not “an overnight loan facility…that provides a… backup source of funding to banks”, as the Wall Street Journal says. That’s baloney. The PDCF “was the largest Wall Street bailout program during the financial crisis” which issued roughly $9 trillion to underwater banks for their low-grade-dogsh** collateral. The facility was used to bail out the banks casino operations (“trading and derivatives”) while providing lavish multi-million dollar bonuses to voracious, thieving executives.

And, remember, the PDCF is just one of the many bailout facilities the Fed is currently reviving to prevent the market from clearing and to save the gangsters who have the country by the short-hairs. There will be plenty more to come.

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This article was originally published on The Unz Review.

Mike Whitney is a frequent contributor of Global Research

Featured image is from The Unz Review

What’s ongoing worldwide suggests that a redefinition of global depression is in order.

According to classical economics, it’s a protracted economic downturn that lasts several years or longer, domestic or global GDP declining at least 10%.

While ongoing, consumer sentiment and normal business activity plunge, including investments.

According to Investopedia, economic depressions include high unemployment, a credit crunch, diminishing output, rising bankruptcies, sovereign debt defaults, marked slowdowns in trade and commerce, along with sustained volatility in financial and commodity markets, as well wide swings in currency valuations.

Officially, the US experienced depression conditions one time alone in the 1930s.

Unofficially, a protracted main street depression, affecting most Americans, has been ongoing since 2008.

In response to the 2008-09 Wall Street created financial crisis, major banks and other corporate favorites got bailed out.

Ordinary Americans got forced-fed austerity when vital high-level economic stimulus was needed — now more than ever in US history as the nation, the West, and most other countries face potentially unprecedented hard times for an unknown duration a a time of manufactured mass hysteria over spreading COVID-19 when calm and sound government policies are needed.

In US history, there have been 33 recessions — by definition a contraction in economic activity lasting at least two quarters, on average lasting 22 months.

Since 1900, the average US recession lasted 15 months.

The (official) US Great Depression) lasted from late October 1929 to 1939 when buildup at the onset of WW II began — around 10 years of hard times for most people.

The (unofficial) 2nd US depression began in late 2007, remains ongoing, and heads toward potentially unprecedented depths and human deprivation if all-out state-sponsored measures aren’t taken and sustained to help all Americans in need.

Unprecedented times call for unprecedented actions.

If US governance was like in colonial America long ago, things likely never would have evolved to their current critical stage.

Ellen Brown explained it in her marvelous book titled “Web of Debt,” saying:

“Readily available credit made America ‘the land of opportunity’ ever since the days of the American colonists.”

“What transformed this credit system into a Ponzi scheme, that must continually be propped up with bailout money, is that the credit power has been turned over to private bankers who always require more money back than they create” — manipulating markets for maximum profits.

When federal, state or local governments lend their own money, it’s not done with profit-making in mind.

Publicly-controlled money isn’t beholden to bankers, markets, or shareholders.

Throughout US history, no state ever went out of business, and except for Arkansas during the Great Depression, none ever defaulted on their debt obligations.

As long as money created produces goods and services, not speculative excess like the current system, inflation and deflation are at least largely prevented.

Economic stability is virtually assured like for a generation in colonial America — along with no taxation and no interest paid to bankers.

Lincoln did the same thing with government-created/interest free money during the Civil War.

What followed turned America into an industrial giant by launching the steel industry, a continental railroad system, a new era of farm machinery and cheap tools, along with much more.

Free higher education was established that long ago disappeared nationwide.

Government controlled money frees economies from private bankers and other corporate predators.

Public banking in the US could free federal, state, and local governments from burdensome debt.

Federal income and payroll taxes could be eliminated. America’s manufacturing base could be rebuilt if incentives were provided business to create jobs at home and penalties imposed for offshoring facilities to low-labor cost countries.

Social Security, Medicare for all, and other vital social programs could be funded inflation-free, including tuition-free higher education.

America’s crumbling infrastructure could be rebuilt.

Millions of new good-paying jobs could be created, ending unemployment for everyone able work.

For those willing but unable, guaranteed income and other aid could be provided.

Booms and busts that characterize US history could end. So could economic warfare for private gain.

Government surpluses could replace unsustainable deficits and burgeoning debt.

As in colonial America, sustained prosperity could become reality. It’s not wishful thinking. It happened before in the US and could happen again.

Dismal times like now call for creative solutions, not half-way measures for ordinary people, all-out efforts for corporate favorites and other privileged interests alone — how the US, West, and most other countries operate.

The alternative is likely human wreckage on an unprecedented scale if economic crisis conditions are protracted.

What’s unfolding is testimony to the failure of unfettered capitalism.

Free-wheeling market fundamentalists like Milton Friedman were and remain dead wrong.

He and likeminded ideologues falsely believe markets work best unfettered of rules, regulations, onerous taxes, trade barriers,  and other government interference.

Other than policies relating to national defense and preserving law and order, they believe anything government does private business does better so let it.

Chicago School free market fundamentalism prioritizes unrestrained profit-making and wealth accumulation by privileged interests at the expense of most others — a sink or swim world unsafe and unfit to live in for ordinary people.

Inside the bubble is paradise. Outside is Big Brother surveillance, mass incarceration, loss of human and civil rights, ruler/serf societies, harsh crackdowns on nonbelievers, and forever wars against invented enemies.

In the US, West, and most other countries, a partnership between government and privileged interests runs things for their own benefit exclusively.

According to economist Michael Hudson, “neo-feudal system(s) (worldwide) on the verge of collapse.”

Arguably the most destructive US Supreme Court ruling was granting corporations personhood under the 14th Amendment with all rights and privileges accrued but none of the obligations  — Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad (1886).

Over a century of financial terrorism followed enactment of the 1913 Federal Reserve Act (FSA) in America.

Ahead of its enactment, the 1913 Revenue Act became law — creating a federal income tax, mandating Americans to pay bankers interest on the nation’s money.

Ellen Brown explained that the FSA lets the Wall Street owned and controlled Fed “create money out of nothing” in unlimited amounts.

It lets major banks on the Street control the nation’s money — the supreme power over all others.

For over 100 years, they exploited the system for their own interests at the expense of the public welfare.

In cahoots with supportive government in Washington, they bear full responsibility for today’s dire economic conditions that may get far worse for ordinary people and vulnerable businesses before abating.

Hard times arrived swiftly, getting harder as mass layoffs leave millions of workers on their own with little safety net protections at a time when Washington is beholden to monied interests exclusively, not them.

Effective midnight Thursday because of spreading COVID-19 in the state, California Governor Newsome “issu(ed) a statewide, mandatory STAY AT HOME order” — critical work sectors excluded.

On Wednesday, New York City Major de Blasio said “New Yorkers should be prepared right now for the possibility of a shelter-in-place order…definitely a possibility,” (perhaps) in the next 48 hours” because of spreading COVID-19 outbreaks in the city.

Will other cities and states adopt similar policies for an indefinite period?

Mass shutdown of normal activities nationwide will cause an unprecedented economic collapse in US history — ordinary people hit hardest.

We’re in uncharted waters with no guidance on how bad things may get for how long.

A Final Comment

I yield the last word to Dr. Gabe Mirkin, my boyhood/longtime friend now retired, from his daily Fitness, Health, and Nutrition newsletter available online to everyone.

In dealing with COVID-19, he recommends the following:

  • Try to avoid contact with sick people, but if you are exposed to someone with fever or respiratory symptoms, wash your hands and face with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • If you develop symptoms that may be COVID-19, check with your doctor or health care provider. Sick people should stay at home (e.g., from work, school or social activities).
  • Coughs and sneezes should be covered with a tissue, followed by disposal of the tissue.
  • Frequently touched objects and surfaces should be cleaned regularly with an alcohol-based disinfectant.
  • Face masks are almost useless for preventing infection, but if you are infected, a mask may decrease spread of the virus to others.
  • Hard surfaces such as metal, glass or plastic can remain contagious for about 10 days at normal room temperatures, and at near-freezing temperatures they can remain contagious for about 18 days.”

New information when available is published on his website: https://www.drmirkin.com/health/morehealth/the-current-coronavirus-epidemic.html

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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.

Sun Yang is an Olympic Gold medalist and world record holding swimmer. He was recently ruled to be guilty of an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV) and banned from competing for eight years. Unless his appeal to overturn the decision is successful, this will end the swimming career of the 28 year old athlete.

The decision was met with shock and anger among his many fans in China; glee and gloating by some western media and swimming competitors. What lies behind this important decision? Was it upholding ‘fair sport’ or a travesty of justice?  Has it advanced or undermined the cause of anti-doping?  The following article outlines the Sun Yang case and context.

Sun Yang’s first anti doping rule violation

Sun Yang has been punished with an eight year ban because this is his second ADRV. The circumstances of that first offence are important.

Beginning in 2008, Sun Yang’s doctor prescribed a heart medication (trimetazidine) to treat incidents where the athlete had heart palpitations and dizziness. The medication was not prohibited.  In January 2014, trimetazidine was added to WADA’s prohibited ‘In competition’ list.  Sun Yang and his doctor were unaware of the change. If they had been aware, they would have either continued the medication with a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) or discontinued it. They were unaware and thus, four months later, Sun Yang tested positive for trimetazidine.

Authorities agreed that the violation was unintentional and Sun Yang was given a mild three month sanction. But that ruling still counts as a full ADRV.

Accusations by western swimmers

Despite the violation being ruled unintentional, and the medication generally considered notperformance enhancing, the incident was taken by some swimming competitors as proof of Sun Yang’s guilt. At the Rio 2016 Olympics, Australian swimmer Mack Horton refused to shake hands with Yang after the 400 metre freestyle. Horton went on to imply Yang was a “drug cheat” in the press conference.

Chad le Clos 2013 3.jpg

More recently, South African swimmer Chad LeClos condemned Sun Yang and commented on his loss to Yang in the Rio Olympics 200 metre freestyle. “We’ve all known that he’s a dirty swimmer…. I was ahead by a long way with 50m to go in that race, but Sun Yang came past me. He was the only man who did that, and that says it all really. …Sun passed me like I was standing still in the last 25m , which is unheard of.”

The video of the 200 metre freestyle shows what really happened. As the race commentators remarks, Chad LeClos dove too deep in the final turnaround and “had used up much of his energy already”.  Le Clos’s accusations are baseless. He barely hung on to win second place, with Conor Dwyer just three hundredths of a second behind.

Sun Yang’s swimming has been remarkably consistent. For example, his 200 metre freestyle times at world competitions are:

  • 2010 Asia Games – 1:46:25;
  • 2012 London Olympics  – 1:44:93;
  • 2014 Asia Games – 1:45:23;
  • 2016 Rio Olympics – 1:44:65;
  • 2018 Asia Games – 1:45:43;
  • 2019 World Athletics – 1:44:93

Horton has no evidence, but somehow “knows” that Sun Yang is doping. He claims his stance is not personal or due to national prejudice. Yet when it’s an Australian accused, his attitude is very different. . As described here, “Horton was far quieter after Australian swimmer Shayna Jack failed a drugs test on the eve of the World Championships last year”. As shown in the video, Mack walks away when asked about it.

SunYang’s second anti doping rule violation

Although the court ruling has just been released, the incident which it revolves around happened in 2018. At around 10 pm on 4 September 2018, a three person team from International Doping Tests & Management (IDTM) arrived at Sun Yang’s home. Their mission was to collect Out of Competition blood and urine samples from the athlete.

Sun Yang recognised the Doping Control Officer (DCO) from a similar test the year before. That test had been so abnormal that Sun Yang filed a written complaint about the officer. But they proceeded and it was going normally until Sun Yang observed the assistant surreptitiously photographing him during the blood collection. Considering this to be very unprofessional conduct, he asked to review their documentation.

The assistant had no credentials, just a Chinese identity card. The nurse who drew the blood had a junior nursing certificate but nothing to identify her with IDTM or another official agency.

Sun Yang phoned his doctor and swim team captain for advice. They agreed the documentation was inadequate. After hours of debate and argument, it was agreed the test was aborted but what to do about the existing blood sample? The Doping Control Officer said they could not leave without the equipment. Sun Yang and his advisors said they could not allow the blood sample to go to unauthorised persons. So the bottle holding the blood sample container was broken, as the only way for Sun’s advisors to keep the blood sample.

There are conflicting accounts whether the doping control team conveyed the seriousness of the situation and possible consequences. What is clear is that Sun Yang was following the instructions of his doctor (who arrived on site) and the doctor was following the advice of a senior Chinese doctor and doping control expert. Sun Yang believed he was in the right and, moreover, he thought he had agreement from the Doping Control Officer that it was an aborted test.

FINA Doping Panel says Sun Yang did not commit a doping offence

After the incident there were conflicting reports from the collection agency (IDTM) and Sun Yang about what happened. The world swimming federation (FINA) convened a Doping Panel to consider the case.

On 3 January 2019, the world swimming federation FINA (Federation Internationale de Natation) Doping Panel issued its Decision. It agreed that the IDTM team did not have proper documentation and that Sun Yang had NOT been given sufficient warning that his actions could be considered a refusal to comply. The FINA Doping Panel ruled, ‘There is no room for ambiguity’ and determined that Sun Yang had not committed an anti-doping rule violation.

WADA decides to appeal the decision

The World Anti Doping Agency (WADA)  was reportedly ‘furious’ over the FINA Doping Panel decision to absolve Sun Yang. They decided to file a costly appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). The goal was to overturn the FINA Doping Panel decision, and the Agency sought to impose a harsher penalty on Sun Yang.

Why would WADA do that? The headquarters are in Montreal Canada and its officers are predominately European, Canadian and Australian. Is this a factor? Possibly. They also are subject to media pressure. At the 2019 Swimming World Championship, Australian swimmer Mack Horton refused to stand on the podium alongside Sun Yang.  Podium protests and unproved accusations about “cheating” get a lot of press and very little criticism.

Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) Decision

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) is based in Switzerland. In the Sun Yang case, there was one judge from Italy and two from the UK.

CAS announced its decision on 28 February 2020: ‘Sun Yang is found guilty of a doping offense and sanctioned with an 8-year period of ineligibility’. The following week, it published the 78 page explanation. On the critical areas where FINA determined Sun Yang was notguilty, they said he was.

They said the IDTM documentation was sufficient, the blood sample was valid and by breaking the enclosure to keep the blood container, he ‘tampered’ with it. Furthermore, they said Sun Yang was given adequate warning about the consequences.

They acknowledged the eight year ban is ‘harsh’, but suggested WADA rule changes in 2021 will allow other athletes facing a similar situation to benefit from a reduction in the penalty.

Was the Decision fair? 

This case comes down to the question of whether or not Sun Yang had legitimate cause to interrupt the test. The following are important factors:

1) Sun Yang is one of the swimming world’s most tested athletes. On average, he has been tested every two weeks for the past eight years: 180 times in total. He had negative doping tests shortly before and after the aborted test; he was tested on 15, 19, 20, 21 and 24 August plus 28 September in 2018. The incident on 4 September 2018 is the ONLY time he stopped the test. If he had something to hide, he could have avoided the test and recorded a whereabouts violation (three are allowed in a 12 month period).

2) Sun Yang did not question the team’s authority until the problems began. He began to suspect the test team was not legitimate when the assistant began photographing him. That was proof that the assistant had not been properly trained. Then Sun Yang discovered the assistant had no IDTM documentation and neither did the nurse.

3) There is good reason to require that an entire test team be properly trained and certified. An athlete’s blood sample is precious. A test could be falsified or a blood sample spiked with a prohibited substance. A faulty or manipulated doping test could destroy a career.

4) Sun Yang offered to complete the test with a properly accredited doping control assistant (DCA) . This was an easy way to solve the standoff, but the Doping Control Officer refused, presumably at the instruction of the IDTM supervisor in Sweden.

5) The Doping Control Officer  was a key player in this controversy. Given that Sun Yang had previously complained about this individual, she may have been antagonistic and motivated against Sun Yang. Why did IDTM send the same person?

6) In an era where international sports involve huge amounts of money and politics, there is need for strict regulation of private contractors who are managing the testing. There is possibility of corruption and malfeasance. IDTM is a private Swedish company that merged with a private US company (Drug Free Sport) in 2018. The testimony of a WADA official at the hearing indicates there is little supervision of the testers and little protection of athletes’ rights. They argued that testers do not need to show authorisation for the test of a certain athlete during a certain time period. Theoretically, any of the 500 IDTM Doping Control Officers could show up any time and conduct a test without needing to show anything more. This private company even manages Therapeutic Use Exemptions with “quick turnaround times of less than 48 hours.” The potential for corruption is obvious.

7)  The sensational reports of the blood vessel being smashed are misleading. It was the bottle enclosing the blood container. The blood containers with Sun Yang’s blood from that night are undamaged and still stored under hospital refrigeration. They have been preserved so that they could be tested by appropriate authorities.

8) The CAS panel appeared to make presumptions about Sun Yang. This is evidenced by their gratuitous speculation about his personality. They say, ‘The Athlete appears to have a forceful personality, and seems to have an expectation that his views should be allowed to prevail’. They say, ‘At no point did the Athlete express any regret as to his actions, or indicate that, with the benefit of hindsight, it might have been preferable for him to have acted differently’. Yet Sun Yang was never asked this question. Instead, he was asked why he acted as he did. Finally, the panel accuses Sun Yang of ‘shifting blame’ instead of acknowledging that he was following the advice of  the swim team captain and doctor. Cultural factors may be involved.

9) Sun Yang’s testimony and statement were unclear because of poor translation. Here again, it appears that the CAS panel was unfairly critical of the 28 year old swimmer. The CAS panel castigates Sun Yang for his effort to bring a better translator during his closing remarks. As shown in the video part 4, at 2:29:00, when the translator was struggling with the translation, Sun Yang signalled and a man came forward and said “I was requested by Sun Yang’s team to play a supportive role in translation”. The panel chair says “I hope the parties will not object if you support a better translation. You can go ahead please.”But then there is disagreement and in its Decision, the CAS panel accuses Sun Yang of not respecting ‘the authority of others or established procedures’. In contrast with this wild accusation, Sun Yang’s demeanour appears respectful and sincere.

10) One of the most important witnesses was the WADA staff member who interpreted the Standards. It could be argued he had a conflict of interest, because WADA was the appellant in the case. He stated that it would be “too onerous” to require testers to have documentation specifying the name of the athlete to be tested, the time and the responsible Doping Control Officer. This makes no logical or practical sense. It should be easy to create an appropriate document that also would serve as a receipt for the athlete. The WADA staff member made excuses and confused the situation, pretending that there could not be separate forms depending on whether it is In Competition (when testing is performed on winners not known in advance) or Out of Competition (when the testers go to an athlete’s house or workplace).

Conclusions

There should not be ambiguity regarding the requirements for a collection team. Currently the requirements in the  International Standards for Testing and Investigation (ISTI), written by WADA, are different than those set out in the WADA Guidelines. There is debate and confusion over the semantics in the ISTI. The CAS determined that the accreditation and documentation for the test team was sufficient, while the FINA Doping Panel concluded the opposite. It was not just Sun Yang and his team that believed the test team did not have proper credentials; the FINA Doping Panel agreed with them.

There should not be ambiguity whether an athlete has been warned about a ‘failure to comply’. The CAS determined that the Doping Control Officer issued an adequate verbal warning to Sun Yang. The FINA Panel determined the opposite. It is clear from the proceedings that Sun Yang did not realise this. The FINA panel raised the important point that there is no room for ambiguity on this issue and that is why it is essential to have a written ‘refusal to comply’ form. The Blood Sample Collection Guidelines indicate that a written notice is required. ‘The DCO shall endeavor to obtain Witness signatures to confirm the Athlete’s refusal’, they read. These Guidelines have ISTI on the title page and the introduction says they ‘expand upon’ the ISTI. This confirms it is already a requirement, in contradiction of the CAS ruling.

All test personnel visiting an athlete’s private residence should be trained and certified with appropriate proof. They should also be required to show the mission order including the DCO, the athlete’s name and time period. The idea that a generic letter of certification should be sufficient opens the door to malfeasance.

IDTM has 500 Doping Control Officers with certifications. Without this requirement, any of these DCO’s could go to Sun Yang’s house any time. The test team is on a mission costing thousands of dollars involving the invasion of an athlete’s privacy. The WADA officer statement that it is “too onerous” for test contractors to provide this documentation is not credible.

The ambiguities and unclear requirements specified above played a huge part in this case. The result is that Sun Yang has been unfairly convicted of an anti doping rule violation. This is a travesty of justice that damages the anti-doping movement and Olympic spirit.

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Rick Sterling is an independent journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He can be reached at [email protected]

In September 2018 I wrote an article predicting the next economic crisis would occur in 2-3 years. I was wrong. It’s taken only 18 months. What follows are excerpts from that article, then entitled ‘Comparing 1929 with 2008 and the Next’. It is important to understand how the now three great economic crises of the last century are in many ways similar, marked by a joint collapse of financial markets and the real economy, the one determining the other, and vice versa, in a downward general spiral. In other words, how financial cycles and crises precipitate and enable real ‘great’ contractions (not normal recessions) and how, in turn, real economic collapse exacerbates financial collapse as well. It’s not that one causes the other; both cause each other.

What follows is the verbatim reproduction of that article (minus some comments on the then upcoming 2018 midterm elections. For the full article, go to my website)

PART 1

The business and mainstream press this month, September 2018, has been publishing numerous accounts of the 2008 financial crash on its tenth anniversary. This month attention has been focused on the Lehman Brothers investment bank crash that accelerated the general financial system implosion in the US, and worldwide, ten years ago. Next month, October, we’ll no doubt hear more about the crash as it spread to the giant insurance company, AIG, and beyond that to other brokerages (Merrill Lynch), mid-sized banks (Washington Mutual), to the finance arms of the auto companies (GMAC) and big conglomerates (GE Credit), to the ‘too big to fail’ banks like Bank of America and Citigroup and beyond. These ‘reports’ are typically narrative in nature, however, and provide little in the way of deeper historical and theoretical analysis.

Parallels & Comparisons 1929 & 2008

It is often said that the initial months of the 2008-09 crash set the US economy on a trajectory of collapse eerily similar to that of 1929-30. Job losses were occurring at a rate of 1 million a month on average from October 2008 through March 2009. One might therefore think that mainstream economists would look closely at the two time periods—i.e. 1929-30 and 2008-09—to determine with patterns or similar causes were occurring. Or to a deep analysis of the periods immediately preceding 1929 and 2008 to see what similarities prevailed. But they haven’t.

What we got post-2009 from the economic establishment was a declaration simply that the 2008-09 crash was a ‘great recession’, and not a ‘normal’ recession as had been occurring from 1947 to 2007 in the US. But they provide no clarification quantitatively or qualitatively as to what distinguished a ‘great’ from ‘normal’ recession was provided. Paul Krugman coined the term, ‘great’, but then failed to explain how great was different than normal. It was somehow just worse than a normal recession and not as bad as a bona-fide depression. But that’s just economic analysis by adverbs.

It would be important to provide a better, more detailed explanation of 1929 vs. 2008, since the 1929-30 crash eventually led to a bona fide great depression as the US economy continued to descend further and deeper from October 1929 through the summer of 1933, driven by a series of four banking crashes from late 1930 through spring 1933 after the initial stock market crash of October 1929. In contrast, the 2008-09 financial crash leveled off after mid-2009.

Another similarity between 1929 and 2008 was the US economy stagnated 1933-34—neither robustly recovering nor collapsing further—and the US economy stagnated as well 2009-12. Upon assuming office in March 1933 President Roosevelt introduced a pro-business recovery program, 1933-34, focused on raising business prices, plus initiated a massive bank bailout. That bailout stopped further financial collapse but didn’t generate much real economic recovery. Similarly, Obama bailed out the banks (actually the Federal Reserve did) in 2009 but his recovery program of 2009-10, much like Roosevelt’s 1933-34, didn’t generate real economic recovery much as well.

After the failed business-focused recoveries, the differences between Roosevelt and Obama begin to show. Roosevelt during the 1934 midterm elections shifted policies to promising, then introducing, the New Deal programs. The economy thereafter sharply recovered 1935-37. In contrast, Obama stayed the course and doubled down on his business focused recovery program in 2010. He provided $800 billion more business tax cuts, paid for by $1 trillion in austerity programs for the rest of us in August 2011.

Not surprising, unlike Roosevelt’s ‘New Deal’, which boosted the economy significantly starting in 1935 after the midterms, Obama’s ‘Phony Deal’ recovery of 2009-11 resulted in the US real economy continuing to stagnate after 2009.

The historical comparisons suggest that both the great depression of 1929-33 (a phase of continuous collapse) and the so-called ‘great’ recession of 2008-09 share interesting similarities. Both the initial period of the 1930s depression—October 1929 through fall of 1930—and the roughly nine month period of October September 2008 through May 2009 appear very similar: A financial crash led in both cases to a dramatic follow on collapse of the real economy and employment.

But the 1929 event continues on, deepening for another four years, while the latter post 2009 event levels off in terms of economic decline. Thereafter, similar pro-business subsidy policies (1933-34) and (2009-11) lead to a similar period of stagnation. Obama continues the pro-business policies and stagnation, while Roosevelt breaks from the business policies and focuses on the New Deal to restore jobs, wages, and family incomes and recovery accelerates. Unlike Roosevelt who stimulates fiscal spending targeting household incomes, Obama focuses on further business tax cutting—i.e. another $1.7 trillion ($800 billion December 2010 plus another $900 billion in extending George W. Bush’s tax cuts for another two years—thereafter cutting social programs by $1 trillion in August 2011 to pay for the business tax cuts of 2010-11.

The policy comparisons associated with the recovery and non-recovery are clearly determinative of the comparative outcomes of 1935-37 and 2010-11, as are the comparisons of the business-focused strategies 1933-34 and 2009-10 that resulted in stagnant recoveries. But the political outcomes of the policy differences are especially divergent and interesting.

No less interesting are the political consequences for the Democratic Party. Roosevelt’s 1934 campaigning on the promise of a New Deal resulted in the Democrats sweeping Congress further than they did even in 1932. They gained seats in 1934 so that by 1935 they could push through the New Deal that Roosevelt proposed despite Republican opposition. In contrast, Obama retained, and even deepened, his pro-business programs before the 2010 midterms which resulted in the Democrats experiencing a massive loss in Congress in the 2010 midterm elections. Thereafter, the Democrats were stymied by a Republican House and Senate that blocked everything. Obama nonetheless kept reaching out and asking for a compromise with Republicans, but the Republican dog bit his hand with every overture.

Obama pleaded with American voters for one more chance in 2012 and they gave it to him. The outcome was more of the same of naïve requests for compromise, rejection, and a continued stagnation of the US economy. Republicans meanwhile also deepened their control of state and local level governorships, legislatures, and local judiciary throughout the Obama period.

The final consequence of all this was Trump in 2016 as the Obama Democrats promised more of the same in the 2016 presidential election. We know what happened after that.

PART 3: The Next Crisis

The next financial crisis—and subsequent severe contraction of the real economy once again—is inevitable. And it is closer than many think, mesmerized by all the talk of a robust US economy that is benefiting the top 10% and not the rest. Why so soon?

The answer to that question will not be provided by mainstream economics. They are too busy heralding the current US economic expansion—which is being grossly over-estimated by GDP and other data and which fails to capture the fundamental forces underlying the US and global economy today, a global economy that is growing more fragile and thus prone to another major financial instability event.

The forces which led to the 2008 banking crash were associated with property bubbles (US and global) and the derivatives markets which allowed the bubbles to expand to unsustainable levels, derivatives which then propagated and accelerated the contagion across financial markets in general once the property bubbles began to collapse.

The 2008 crash was thus not simply a subprime housing crisis, as most economists declare. It was just as much, perhaps more so, a derivatives financial asset (MBS, CMBs, CDOs, CDSs, etc.) crisis.

More fundamentally than the appearance of a collapse in prices of subprime mortgages, and even derivatives thereafter, 2008 was a crisis of excess credit and debt that enabled the boom in subprimes and derivatives to escalate to bubble proportions.

But subprimes and derivatives were still the appearance, the symptoms of the crisis. Even more fundamentally causative, the 2008 crash had its most basic origins in the massive liquidity injections by the central banks, led by the US Fed, that has occurred from the mid-1980s to the present. The massive liquidity provided the cheap credit that fueled the excess debt that flowed into subprimes and derivatives by 2008. (And before than into tech stocks in 1998-2000, and before that into Asian currencies (1996-97), and into Japanese banks and financial markets and US junk bonds and savings & loans in the 1980s, and so forth).

Excessive debt accumulation is not the sole cause of financial crises, however. It is an enabling precondition. Enabling the debt in the first place is the excess liquidity and credit. That liquidity-credit-debt buildup is what occurred in the 1920s decade leading up to the October 1929 stock crash. It’s what occurred in the decades preceding 2008, especially accelerating after the escalation of financial derivatives in the 1990s.

Excessive debt creates the preconditions for the crisis, but the collapse of financial asset prices is what precipitates the crisis, as the excessive debt built up cannot be repaid (i.e. principal and interest payments ‘serviced). So if liquidity provides the debt fuel for the crisis, what sets off the conflagration is the collapse of prices that lights the flame.

The collapse of stock prices in October 1929 precipitated the subsequent four banking crashes of 1930-33. The collapse of property prices (residential subprime and also commercial) in 2006-07 precipitated the collapse of investment banks in 2008, thereafter quickly spilling over to other financial institutions (brokerages, insurance companies, mutual funds, auto finance companies, etc.) after the collapse of Lehman Brothers investment bank in September 2008.

Today in 2018 we have had a continued debt acceleration since 2008. As estimated by the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) in Geneva, Switzerland, total US debt has risen from roughly $50 trillion in 2008 to $70 trillion at end of 2017. The majority of this is business debt, and especially non-financial business debt. That’s different from 2008 when it was centered on mortgage debt. It is also potentially more dangerous.

The US government since 2008 has also increased its federal debt by trillions, as it continued to borrow from investors worldwide in order to ‘finance’ and cut business-investor taxes and continue escalation of war spending since 2008. US household debt also rose further after 2008, as the lack of real wage and income growth over the post-2008 decade has resulted in $1.5 trillion student debt, $1 trillion plus in auto and in credit card debt, and $7-$8 trillion more in mortgage debt. Globally, according to the BIS, non-financial business debt has also been the major element responsible for accelerating global debt levels—especially borrowing in dollars from US banks and investors (i.e. dollarized debt) by emerging market economies, as well as business debt in China issued to maintain state owned enterprises and to finance local building construction.

So the debt driver has continued unabated as a problem since 2008, and has even accelerated. Financial asset bubbles have appeared worldwide as a result—not least of which is the current bubble in US stocks. This time it’s not real estate mortgages. It’s non-financial business and corporate debt that is the likely locus of the next crisis, whether in the US or globally or both.

Since 2008 US and global debt bubbles have been fueled once again—as in the 1920s and after 1985 by the excess liquidity provided by the US central bank, and other advanced economy central banks. The central bank, the Fed, alone has subsidized US banks and investors to the tune of $6 trillion from 2009 to 2016, as a consequence of its QE and near zero interest rate policies.

Since 2008, excessive and sustained low interest rates for investors and business have resulted in at least $1 trillion a year in corporate debt buildup, as corporate bond issues have accelerated due to ultra cheap Fed money. The easy money has allowed countless ‘junk’ grade US companies to survive the past decade, as they piled debt on debt to service old debt. Cheap money has also fueled corporate stock buybacks and dividend payouts to investors, which have been re-funneled back into stock prices and bubbles. So has the doubling and tripling of corporate profits from 2008 to 2017 enabled record buybacks and dividend distributions to shareholders.

Most recently, in 2017-18 the subsidization locus has shifted to Trump tax cuts that have artificially boosted US profits by a further 20% and more. As data has begun showing in 2018, most of that is now being re-plowed back into stock buybacks and dividend payouts—this year totaling more than $1.4 trillion, after six years of already $1 trillion a year in buybacks and payouts. That’s more than $7 trillion in distribution by corporate America in buybacks and dividends to its wealthy shareholders.

Where’s the mountain of money provided investors all gone? Certainly not in raising wages for workers. Certainly not in paying more taxes to government. It’s been diverted into financial markets in the US and globally—stocks, bonds, derivatives, currency, property, etc.—into mergers & acquisitions in the US, or just hoarded on balance sheets in anticipation of the next crisis approaching. Or sent into emerging markets (financial markets, mergers & acquisitions, joint ventures, expanding production, etc.) when they were booming 2010-2016.

So where will the financial asset prices start collapsing in the many bubbles that have been created globally and in the US so far—and thus precipitating once again the next financial crisis? The BIS has been warning to watch US corporate junk bonds and leveraged loan markets. Watch out for the new derivatives replacing the old ‘subprimes’ and CDSs—i.e. the Exchange Traded Funds, ETFs, passive index funds, dark pools, etc. Watch also the US stock markets responding to US political events, to a real trade war with China perhaps in 2019, a continuing collapse of emerging market economies and currencies, to a crisis in repayment of non-performing bank loans in Italy, India and elsewhere, or a tanking of the British economy in the wake of a ‘hard’ Brexit next spring, or Asian economies contracting in response to China slowing or its currency devaluing, or to any yet unseen development. Collapsing prices in any of the above may be the origin of the next financial asset contraction that will spread by contagion of derivatives across global markets. And the even larger debt magnitudes built up since 2008 may make the eventual price deflation even more rapid and deeper. And the new derivatives may accelerate the contagion across markets even faster.

The financial kindling is there. All it now takes is a spark to set it off. The next financial crisis is coming. The last decade, 2008-18, is eerily similar to the periods 1921-1929 and 1996-2007.

Only now it will come with the US challenging foreign competitors and former allies alike as it tries to retain its share of slowing global trade; with a US economy having devastated households economically for a decade; with a massive US federal debt now $21 trillion and going to $33 trillion due to Trump tax cuts; with a US crisis in retirement income, healthcare access and costs, and a crumbling education system; with an economy having created only low pay and mostly contingent service jobs; with a virtually destroyed union movement; with a big Pharma initiated opioid crisis killing more Americans per year than lost during the entire 9 year Vietnam war; with a culture allowing 40,000 of its citizens a year killed by guns and doing nothing; with an internal transformation and retreat of the two established political parties; and with a Trump and right wing radical movement ascendant and poised to move to the streets to defend itself.

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This article was originally published on the author’s blog site, Jack Rasmus.

Dr. Rasmus is author of the forthcoming book ‘The Scourge of Neoliberalism: US Policy from Reagan to Trump’, Clarity Press, 2020. He blogs at jackrasmus.com and his twitter handle is @drjackrasmus. (For a more detailed analysis of the similarities and differences between 1929 and 2008, and how Roosevelt and Obama treated the crisis differently, read the except from Dr. Rasmus’s 2010 book, ‘Epic Recession: Prelude to Global Depression’, Plutobooks, now posted on his website, http://kyklosproductions.com). He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

COVID-19 Will Devastate Gaza Unless the Blockade Is Lifted Now

March 20th, 2020 by Jewish Voice for Peace

It’s difficult enough to be in the U.S. during the COVID-19 outbreak. And when I think about the conditions in Gaza, I’m absolutely terrified for the Palestinians trapped there.

As of today, Israeli officials have only allowed 200 testing kits into Gaza. [1]

Gaza remains COVID-19 free for now. But after 13 years of embargo, war, and bombings by Israel, Palestinians in Gaza face a severe shortage of resources and medical personnel. Health officials warn that if the virus enters Gaza, containment and treatment under the Israeli blockade will be nearly impossible.

This is an unprecedented moment, and solidarity is more critical than ever. From our homes, we can still act together. Can you take a moment to tell Congress to END THE BLOCKADE?

This crisis is many years in the making. Seven years ago, the United Nations predicted that the Gaza Strip would be uninhabitable by 2020. Today, 95% of the population of Gaza lacks direct access to clean water. A million people rely on food aid to survive. 70% of young people are unable to find employment. And because of the blockade, Gaza’s hospitals and clinics lack 42% of essential drugs and medicines.

These conditions mean that if and when there is a Coronavirus breakout, Gaza’s healthcare system will be rapidly overwhelmed and unable to provide even basic care. And because Gaza is effectively an open-air prison, no one will be able to leave.

We have no more time to waste. Can you take 15 seconds to tell Congress to take action and end the blockade of Gaza NOW?

Instead of rallying to the UN’s urgent call to fix a foreseen man-made crisis, the world – and the U.S. in particular – has neglected Gaza. The Trump administration’s decision to completely gut the UN agencies providing desperately needed aid has added cruelty above and beyond U.S. inaction.

Gaza is a humanitarian catastrophe of imprisonment and despair for almost two million people simply because they are Palestinian. It’s so important that we speak the truth about Gaza and lift up the voices of the incredible activists – most of whom are refugees – as they take on Israeli oppression. Please join us and let us speak powerfully together.

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No new infections of the novel coronavirus were reported on Wednesday in Wuhan, the epicenter of the epidemic, marking a notable first in the city’s months-long battle with the deadly virus and sending a message of hope to the world gripped by the pandemic.

The Health Commission of Hubei Province, where Wuhan is the capital, said the virus’ death toll climbed by eight in the province, but the total confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Wuhan and Hubei remained at 50,005 and 67,800 on Wednesday.

No increase was observed in the province’s number of suspected cases, which fell to zero on Tuesday, in another indication that large-scale transmissions have been suppressed at the epidemic ground zero after a slew of strict measures.

Previously, the central Chinese province had reported single-digit increases of new infections, all of which were from Wuhan, for a week in a row since last Wednesday. A month ago, the figure was several thousand a day.

The province also saw 795 patients discharged from hospital after recovery on Wednesday, reducing its caseload of hospitalized patients to 6,636, including 1,809 in severe condition and 465 in critical condition.

With no new cases in Wuhan, the Chinese mainland on Wednesday reduced the increase in domestic transmissions to zero, according to the National Health Commission. The country now faces a greater threat of infections imported from overseas, which jumped by 34 on Wednesday.

“The clearing of new infections in Wuhan came earlier than predicted, but it is still too early to let down our guard,” said Zhang Boli, one of the leading experts advising on the epidemic fight in Hubei.

Arduous work still lies ahead as China strengthens its defence against imported cases from abroad, treats thousands of patients still in serious or critical condition and rehabilitates those discharged from hospitals, said Zhang, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

“Cunning Virus”

The novel coronavirus was first identified in Wuhan in December as a new pathogen facing mankind. Before its traits were fully understood, the virus had cut a swath of infections among Wuhan’s unsuspecting public, before jumping from the transportation hub to other parts of China via the largest seasonal human migration ahead of the Spring Festival.

The Chinese leadership has described the COVID-19 outbreak as the most difficult to contain since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 and “a big test” for the country.

Medical experts said the virus is more contagious, though less deadly, than the SARS virus that belongs to the same coronavirus family. Globally, the SARS virus infected 8,422 people and killed 919 between 2002 and 2003.

“We still have insufficient knowledge of the novel coronavirus. What we already know is it’s a very cunning virus with a long incubation period,” said Wang Daowen, a cardiologist at Tongji Hospital in Wuhan.

“We still found the virus from the anus, if not from the lungs, of one patient after he was hospitalized for 50 days,” said Wang, who was among the first medical experts joining the treatment of COVID-19. “Usually, a virus should vanish from one’s body in two weeks.”

Turning Tide

China began to see a drop in the number of COVID-19 patients on Feb. 18, after the number of recovered patients surged and new cases declined. By late February, the virus had withdrawn from most territories on the Chinese mainland, with only single-digit daily increases of infections in areas outside Wuhan.

On March 6, the epidemic epicenter Wuhan slashed the daily increase of confirmed cases to below 100, down from a peak of more than 14,000 in early February. Bruce Aylward, who led the China-WHO joint mission on COVID-19, said the outbreak in China had come down “faster than would have been expected.”

On March 11, the daily increase of locally transmitted infections dropped to single digits for the first time on the Chinese mainland. The virus has so far caused a total of 80,928 infections and 3,245 fatalities, defying earlier predictions by foreign researchers of a more extensive national outbreak.

Behind the downward trends were a raft of strong measures taken by the Chinese government, including canceling mass events, closing scenic attractions, suspending long-distance buses and asking hundreds of millions of Chinese to stay indoors to break transmission chain.

On Jan. 23, Wuhan declared unprecedented traffic restrictions, including suspending the city’s public transport and all outbound flights and trains, in an attempt to contain the epidemic within its territory.

The situation in Wuhan and its nearby cities was grim. Officials said more than 3,000 medics in Hubei contracted the virus at the early stage of the outbreak due to limited knowledge of the virus. Many families lost multiple loved ones.

Following reports of overloaded local hospitals, more than 42,000 medical staff, including those from the military, were dispatched to Hubei from across the country. At the peak of the fight, one in 10 intensive care medics in China were working in Wuhan.

Fleets of trucks carrying aid goods and displaying banners of “Wuhan be strong!” rushed to the city from all corners of the country. Under a “pairing-up support” system, each city in Hubei is taken care of by at least one provincial-level region.

To ensure the timely admission of patients, two hospitals with a total of 2,600 beds were built from scratch in Wuhan within a few days, and 16 temporary hospitals were converted from gyms and exhibition centers to add 13,000 beds. Nucleic acid testing (NAT) capacity in Wuhan reached 24,000 people a day. Testing is made free and treatment fees are covered by China’s basic medical insurance.

Huang Juan, 38, witnessed the first few days of chaos and despair at local hospitals before calm and order gradually set in amid the influx of support.

Huang recalled the hospitals were packed with patients — over 100 patients were waiting for the injection but only one nurse was around. Every day, her mother who had a fever on the eve of the Spring Festival in late January waited 10 hours to be injected.

After a week of imploration, Huang finally found a hospital willing to admit her mother. Ten days later, her mother was discharged upon negative NAT results. “She still had symptoms, but there was no choice, as many patients were waiting for beds,” Huang said.

The situation improved when her father, also diagnosed with the disease, was hospitalized on Feb. 19.

“He was discharged after the doctor confirmed his recovery on March 11. It was apparent that the standards for discharge were raised as Wuhan got sufficient beds,” Huang said.

Cui Cui (pseudonym), 57, also testified to the improving situation. The Wuhan resident was transferred to the newly built Huoshenshan (Fire God Mountain) Hospital as her sickness worsened on Feb. 10.

The military-run hospital that treats severe cases impressed her with a calm ambiance. “Doctors and nurses there called me ‘auntie’ instead of ‘patient’ and spent time chatting with me to ease my anxiety,” said Cui, who was discharged after recovering on Feb. 26.

Community Control

Outside Hubei, the battle against the epidemic has tested the mobilization capacity of China’s big cities and remote villages alike as they scrambled to prevent sporadic imported cases from evolving into community outbreaks.

Earlier this month, Beijing said about 827,000 people who returned to the capital city after the Spring Festival holiday were placed in two-week home observation. Around 161,000 property management staff and security guards were on duty to enforce the quarantine rules.

Shanghai, a metropolis in eastern China, has demanded its over 13,000 residential communities to guard their gates and take temperatures of residents upon entrance, according to Zeng Qun, deputy head of the Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau.

Quyi Community was among the first Shanghai neighborhoods to adopt closed-off management. Since late January, it has been disinfecting public areas, introducing contactless deliveries and ensuring residents returning from severely affected regions are placed in quarantine.

“For those who are under self-quarantine at home, health workers will provide door-to-door visits every day, and services from grocery shopping to psychological counseling are offered,” said Huang Ying, an official with Hongkou District where the community is located.

Shanghai, with a population of 24 million, is among China’s most populous cities and a commercial hub. It was once predicted as the most susceptible to a coronavirus outbreak.

Mathematical models estimated that without prevention and control measures, Shanghai’s infection numbers would exceed 100,000. Even with some interventions, the figure could still reach tens of thousands, according to Zhang Wenhong, who heads Shanghai’s medical team to fight the epidemic.

“But now, the infection number is just over 300. This means the measures taken by Shanghai over the past month are effective,” Zhang said, describing the city as an epitome of China’s battle against the epidemic.

New Battlegrounds

China’s economy became a new battleground as the war against the virus wore on, delaying the reopening of plants after the Spring Festival holiday and causing a shortage of workers with the nationwide traffic restrictions in place.

China has about 170 million rural migrant workers employed away from their hometowns, many of whom could not return to work as enterprises across the country began to resume production on Feb. 10.

In response, local governments have arranged chartered flights and trains to take workers directly to the factories while issuing subsidies to tide companies over difficulties. By early March, the southern manufacturing heartland Guangdong Province had seen 91.2 percent of firms resume operation.

Almost every sector of Chinese society has chipped in on the anti-virus fight, from barbers offering medics free haircuts to factories revamping their assembly lines to produce medical masks.

According to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, China’s output of protective clothing has surged to 500,000 pieces per day from fewer than 20,000 pieces at the beginning of the outbreak. The daily output of N95-rated medical masks rose from 200,000 to 1.6 million, while that of regular masks reached 100 million.

“China’s economic and social development over the past decade has laid a sound foundation for the fight against the epidemic and enabled the society to mobilize more quickly,” said Tang Bei, an international public health researcher at Shanghai International Studies University.

China’s tech boom also made contributions — tech companies rolled out disinfecting robots, thermal camera-equipped drones and AI-powered temperature measurement equipment, which have been rapidly deployed to reduce the risks of cross-infection.

The outbreak has led to what is being called “the world’s largest work-from-home experiment.” The number of online meetings supported by Tencent Meeting on Feb. 10, when most enterprises started resuming work, was 100 times that of its previous average daily use.

Lu Chuanying, a researcher with Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, said digital technologies have risen to the fore, not only in the country’s anti-virus efforts but also in the recovery of the virus-hit economy.

“Remote consultations, artificial intelligence and big data were used to contain the epidemic, while telecommuting, online education and online vegetable markets have kept our lives in quarantine going,” Lu said.

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Featured image: People enjoy sunset on a plank road at the Donghu Lake in Wuhan, capital of central China’s Hubei Province, March 18, 2020. No new infections of the novel coronavirus were reported on Wednesday in Wuhan, the epicenter of the epidemic, marking a notable first in the city’s months-long battle with the microscopic foe. (Xinhua/Shen Bohan)

A right-wing Israeli parliamentarian submitted two bills to the Knesset on Wednesday seeking to permanently annex the Jordan Valley, the northern Dead Sea and the Hebron desert in the occupied West Bank to Israel, as well as impose the death penalty on Palestinian political prisoners.

Miki Zohar, the head of the Likud faction in the Knesset, said that the two bills he submitted would “embarrass” former army general Benny Gantz of the Blue and White party and Avigdor Lieberman of Yisrael Beitenu.

Gantz is currently speaking with Israeli parties to form a coalition government after receiving a thin majority last week from Israeli Knesset members.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of Likud party, is maintaining contact with Gantz in a bid to form a national unity government, though the chances are slim that the two rivals will find common ground.

Netanyahu is facing corruption charges and he could be sentenced to up to ten years in prison if convicted. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the first court hearing for Netanyahu’s case was postponed this week to May.

Gantz is still examining the possibility to enter an alliance with Lieberman and the Arab Joint List, a political coalition of parties representing Palestinian citizens of Israel, in order to form a government.

Lieberman has long depicted the Palestinian community inside Israel as a “fifth column” and called them “enemies”. Nonetheless, he agreed with Gantz for the Joint List to provide parliamentary support to the coalition but not participate in the government.

The Joint List opposes the annexation of occupied Palestinian lands and the death penalty.

Newspaper Israel Hayom quoted Zohar as saying that his aim was to weaken Gantz’s bloc.

“Let’s see this wonderful cooperation between the Joint List, Yisrael Beiteinu and Blue and White. We will see how they will work together [with] those who work against the state,” Zohar said. “Shall we see [Gantz and Lieberman] oppose these legislations in order to please their new friends from the Joint List?”

In December 2017, Lieberman – who then served as defence minister – introduced a bill allowing the use of the death penalty against Palestinian prisoners. The bill did not go through the Knesset.

Israel has not carried out any executions since 1962, when Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann was hanged.

Israel abolished the use of capital punishment for murder in civil courts in 1954, though it can still in theory be applied for war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, treason and crimes against the Jewish people.

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Not one member of the House of Representatives spoke up against a bipartisan bill sponsored by hardliners that ramps up US economic warfare and regime-change measures against Nicaragua’s elected government.

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As the Donald Trump administration’s year-long coup attempt against Venezuela spirals out in failure, the US government has taken aim at Nicaragua with increasing ferocity, in a bid to topple its democratically elected, leftist Sandinista government.

Washington’s pressure escalated further on March 9 when the US House of Representatives passed a bipartisan resolution in a voice vote without any opposition that demanded more sanctions and aggressive actions against the Nicaraguan government of President Daniel Ortega.

This bill — which received no coverage in the English-language corporate media — refers to Nicaragua’s elected government as the “Ortega regime,” echoing the bellicose rhetoric of the right-wing opposition.

Video of the congressional session, which is embedded at the end of this article, shows that the resolution was pushed through on a voice vote in just around eight minutes. There was no debate of the resolution, and a grand total of zero members of Congress spoke in opposition to it.

The regime-change action in the House followed numerous rounds of suffocating US sanctions on Nicaragua, a small Central American country of just around 6 million people.

In fact, the behavior of US legislators in the latest vote mirrored one in December 2018, when not one member of Congress spoke up against the passage of the Nicaraguan Investment and Conditionality Act (NICA). That bill hit Nicaragua with crippling economic restrictions, preventing international financial institutions from providing loans or  assistance to the country’s government.

US sanctions have already caused the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians in Venezuela and Iran. Now that Nicaragua is in the crosshairs, the damage of Washington’s economic warfare has only just begun.

Calling for US and international economic war on Nicaragua

The latest regime-change bill passed against Nicaragua, H.Res.754, was introduced in December 2019 by Representative Albio Sires, a Cuban-American Democrat from New Jersey.

His resolution was co-sponsored by 28 members of Congress, 19 Democrats and nine Republicans. These included Florida Democratic Representatives Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Donna Shalala and California Democrats Jim Costa and Tony Cardenas.

The bill “urges the United States Government to continue to apply pressure on the Ortega government and consider additional sanctions against those Nicaraguan officials” accused by Washington of human rights abuses or corruption.

The resolution goes on to “urge the international community to hold the Ortega government accountable” and “restrict its access to foreign financing.”

Included in the bill is language demanding the Nicaraguan government “immediately release all political prisoners without conditions.”

However, the Sandinista government has already released hundreds of people on its so-called “political prisoner” list, acceding to pressure from the Nicaraguan opposition and its sponsors in the US and OAS. As The Grayzone reported, this list contained the names of numerous violent criminals who had previously carried out murders and rapes, and resulted in the release of an opposition hooligan who went on to stab his own pregnant girlfriend to death.

The US congressional resolution also expressed support for right-wing Nicaraguan opposition organizations, media outlets, and civil society groups, many of which are funded by the US government.

The House’s unanimous approval of this regime-change legislation arrived just four days after the Trump administration imposed another round of sanctions targeting Nicaraguan state institutions.

On March 5, the US embassy ramped up the pressure with a security alert in Nicaragua, imposing travel restrictions on embassy personnel and advising them to stay away from demonstrations and “large groups or barricades.”

The alert was both a tacit admission that the barricades the opposition had erected around the country posed a threat to the safety of all people, including US citizens, as well as a portent of the chaos and violence that Washington apparently aimed to resuscitate in its bid to topple Nicaragua’s government.

Regime-change bill sponsored by neoconservative Cuban-American Republican-turned-Democrat

The main sponsor of the new sanctions bill against Nicaragua, Albio Sires, is a former Republican who previously ran for Congress as a member of the GOP. He changed his party affiliation and went on to fill the former seat of Democratic Cuban-American hardliner Bob Menendez when he entered the Senate.

Like many elite Cuban-Americans, Sires’ family fled to the US after the Cuban revolution, which removed Cuba’s right-wing, US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista from power.

In Congress, Sires has been a stalwart opponent of Latin America’s leftist governments, teaming up with Republican hawks from Marco Rubio to Ted Cruz to Ileana Ros-Lehtinen to destabilize them.

Sires has relentlessly clamored for regime change in Cuba. He staunchly opposed the Barack Obama administration’s partial normalization of relations with Cuba, describing his “plans for a loosening of sanctions” as “naïve and disrespectful to the millions of Cubans that have lived under the Castro’s repressive regime.”

Early on in the Trump administration’s coup attempt against the leftist Chavista government in Caracas, Sires recognized unelected coup leader Juan Guaidó as “the constitutionally legitimate Interim President of Venezuela.” Soon after, Sires met with Guaidó’s wife, describing her as “Venezuelan First Lady Fabiana Rosales.” Meanwhile, he proclaims on official social media accounts, “Maduro and his thugs must go.”

Since the failure of a violent US-backed coup attempt in Nicaragua in 2018, Sires has been one of the main figures in Congress pushing for aggressive measures to topple the Sandinista government. He was a co-sponsor of the Nica Act, and took the lead in the latest regime-change resolution.

Zero opposition to the Nicaragua regime-change resolution

After Albio Sires introduced the bill, it was referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, where it was very slightly amended and then discussed on the House floor on March 9.

On the floor, Sires moved to suspend the rules. The speaker pro tempore, filling in for incumbent House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, agreed to suspend the rules, opening up a period of 40 minutes of debate.

But no debate ensued. The only other member of Congress who spoke during the allotted period was right-wing Florida Republican Ted Yoho, who expressed his staunch support for the resolution.

After tirades against the Nicaraguan “regime” by Sires and Yoho, the House speaker pro tempore quickly moved on to a voice vote. A small handful of Congressmembers declared “Aye” in support. Not one representative said no. It was all over in eight minutes.

In a triumphant statement from his office, Sires declared that the resolution “sent a strong, bipartisan message.”

Once again, potentially lethal sanctions on an impoverished nation fighting to develop itself and provide for its people were passed in broad daylight, on a Monday afternoon, and not one member of Congress spoke up against it.

You can watch video of the Congressional proceedings here:

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Ben Norton is a journalist, writer, and filmmaker. He is the assistant editor of The Grayzone, and the producer of the Moderate Rebels podcast, which he co-hosts with editor Max Blumenthal. His website is BenNorton.com and he tweets at @BenjaminNorton.

Sanders Capitulates to Biden

March 20th, 2020 by Stephen Lendman

Sanders capitulated before the race began. He’s yet to formally announce what’s coming, a repeat of 2016. 

It’s just a matter of days or weeks before he officially concedes, ends his campaign, and endorses dirty business as usual advocate Biden — showing he supports what he falsely claims to oppose.

Biden and Trump are two sides of the same coin, supporters of special interests exclusively, dismissive of public health, welfare, fundamental rights for everyone, the rule of law, and world peace — notions they abhor and don’t tolerate.

Too far behind to catch up in the race to be Dem standard bearer rigged for Biden against him, Sanders faces the near-impossible task of winning around 70% of remaining delegates to be selected before the July Dems nominating convention.

Following Tuesday primaries in Florida, Illinois and Arizona, swept by Biden, giving him an overwhelming delegate count lead, Sanders’ campaign manager Faiz Shakir said the following:

“The next primary contest is at least three weeks away…Sanders is going to be having conversations with supporters to assess his campaign.”

“In the immediate term, however, he is focused on the government response to the coronavirus outbreak and ensuring that we take care of working people and the most vulnerable.”

In or out of the race, he can publicly address the issue and others, calling for policy actions he claims to support.

In 2016 and throughout his current campaign, he knew and now knows that Hillary and Biden would be Dem standard bearers, not him.

So he’s gone through the motions, enjoying his so-called 15 minutes of fame four years ago and now.

For 30 years in Congress, he’s been an undemocratic Dem party loyalist, pretending to be a democratic socialist. His voting record most often along party lines shows otherwise.

If he continues in the race weeks longer, it’ll be for further self-aggrandizement, perhaps another 7-figure book deal, and other benefits accruing to party loyalists — unrelated to upsetting Biden in a race he can’t win because manipulative party bosses won’t permit it.

That’s how the debauched US political process works, voting a waste of time when so-called elections are held.

Outcomes are pre-determined to assure no divergence from continuity. Governance serves privileged interests exclusively at the expense of most others.

Sander wasn’t in the 2016 and 2020 races to change things, only to give the appearance of seeking radical change, what a grassroots revolution alone could possibly achieve — never a US election that always turns out the same way.

Throughout the history of the republic it’s been this way. Until the mid-19th century, Black Americans were considered property, not people with equal rights.

By the end of the century, Native Americans were nearly exterminated, their culture and heritage erased from mainstream textbooks and classroom instruction to the highest levels.

Class divisions to this day show the US is a racist society. Until the 19th Amendment (1920), women were denied suffrage, considered homemakers and childrearers alone.

It took 144 years of struggle after the nation’s founding for gender-free enfranchisement to become the law of the land in a nation where women are still largely treated as inferior in a male chauvinist society.

From the nation’s founding to today, “We the People of the United States,” the Constitution’s opening phrase, meant America’s white male privileged class, not its ordinary people of any race, creed, color, or gender — things much the same today.

Earlier free-wheeling/self-serving politicians reflect how today’s political class operates for much greater stakes globally than when America was founded.

The US political system is structured to prevent radical change.

It’s why when so-called elections are held, things always turn out the same way. Later this year will be no different than earlier.

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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.

Featured image is from Wikimedia Commons

China Retaliates Against Hostile Trump Regime Actions

March 20th, 2020 by Stephen Lendman

Last month, the Trump regime designated five state-run Chinese media in the US as “foreign missions (sic).”

The hostile action requires them to register their locations, properties and staff, including US citizens if among them. 

Affected media include Xinhua, China Global Television Network, China Radio International, China Daily Distribution Corporation, and Hai Tian Development USA.

The move is similar to Trump’s hostile actions against RT America in 2017, requiring the news organization to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

At the time, an FBI probe of Sputnik News was initiated to check for FARA violations.

Enacted in 1938 one year before WW II began, it requires agents representing foreign powers politically or quasi-politically to disclose their relationship with other governments, along with information about their activities and finances.

Originally administered by the State Department, FARA later came under Justice Department jurisdiction.

Since 1966, FARA focused on foreign lobbying instead of propaganda. From then to now, no one was convicted of violating the law.

Targeting Russian and now Chinese news organizations may be prelude to censoring or banning them at a future time for truth-telling journalism, notably reports that expose US imperial high crimes.

Pompeo falsely called Trump regime actions against Chinese news agencies retaliation for Beijing’s “increasingly harsh surveillance, harassment and intimidation” of US reporters (sic).

In response to hostile Trump regime actions, China’s Foreign Ministry retaliated against NYT, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal reporters in the country, revoking their press passes and expelling them, including from Hong Kong and Macau. They have 10 days to leave.

Beijing also designated the Times, WaPo, WSJ, Time magazine, and official US propaganda agency Voice of America as foreign functionaries.

Their staff is required to report their personal, financial, and property information to Chinese authorities.

A Foreign Ministry statement said the following:

“These measures are entirely necessary and reciprocal countermeasures that China is compelled to take in response to the unreasonable oppression the Chinese media organizations experienced in the US. They are legitimate and justified self-defense in every sense,” adding:

“What the US has done is exclusively targeting Chinese media organizations.”

“The US approach to the Chinese media is based on a Cold War mentality and ideological bias, which has seriously tarnished the reputation and image of Chinese media organizations.”

“The US has been massively ‘deporting’ Chinese journalists in a disguised way.”

On Tuesday, Trump falsely slammed what he called the “Chinese Virus” in the US. Pompeo called it the “Wuhan coronavirus.”

China believes a US virus was introduced in the country, likely so along with other nations, notably Iran.

Maybe major outbreaks are planned for other countries on the US target list for regime change.

Global Research editor Michel Chossudovsky explained that “the unspoken objective (of COVID-19 aims) to bring the Chinese economy to its knees,” adding:

“It was an act of ‘economic warfare,’ which has contributed to undermining both China’s  economy as well as that of most Western countries (allies of the US), leading to a wave of bankruptcies, not to mention unemployment, collapse of the tourist industry, etc.”

Beginning last week, the Trump regime also launched “economic war” on Western Europe, banning air traffic from the continent, Britain, and Ireland to the US, “using COVID-19 as a justification,” said Chossudovsky.

He stressed that reverberating economic damage was “made in America,” deliberate actions “by powerful financial interests” — ones that engineered the 2008-09 financial crisis.

It’s a scheme for greater consolidation of affected business sectors, along with transferring wealth from ordinary people to privileged ones.

When crises like what’s ongoing now occur, powerful manipulative hands most often are behind them.

The US is at war on humanity at home and abroad, against allies and adversaries alike — an attempt to more greatly enhance its global power, no matter the human, economic, and financial cost.

Manipulation is behind today’s highly volatile financial, commodity, and other markets that will likely continue until dark forces behind them accomplish their objectives.

It includes greater consolidation of targeted industry sectors, along with a massive transfer of wealth from ordinary people to dark forces.

It’s about making the US and other countries ruler-serf societies, eliminating the middle class.

It’s a financial coup d’etat against the public welfare. A government/business partnership facilitates it.

Market manipulators are enriching themselves as valuations fluctuate up and down — while ordinary Americans and nations on the US target list for regime change get trampled.

Powerful ones like China and Russia are in the best position to protect themselves and retaliate.

Beijing blames US dark forces for the COVID-19 outbreak and spread. Last month, I wrote the following:

Law Professor Francis Boyle drafted the US Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989 — signed into law by GHW Bush, revoked by Bush/Cheney on the pretext of rebuilding America’s defenses at a time when the nation’s only enemies are invented. No real ones exist.

Boyle believes the potentially deadly coronavirus is a biowarfare weapon, genetically modified for this purpose.

His assessment contradicts claims about the virus originating from a Wuhan seafood market or being connected to coronaviruses found in bats.

The US has had an active biological warfare program since at least the 1940s.

The Pentagon uses chemical, biological, radiological, and other banned weapons in its wars of aggression against nonthreatening states.

Calling it “An Act of War,” Chossudovsky stressed that COVID-19 is a “pretext (for) economic and social crisis.”

Fueled by media-proliferated fear-mongering, ordinary people and vulnerable businesses are being trampled so manipulators can benefit.

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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.

Featured image is from Flickr

US Economic Relief Measure Enacted, Much More Needed

March 20th, 2020 by Stephen Lendman

Temporary, longer-term, or permanent closure of business enterprises and mass cancellations of public events in cities and towns across the US is unprecedented — with little guidance on how long things may last.

“As of Wednesday morning, only a few national apparel retailers remained open” in New York City, the NYT reported.

Growing numbers of retail stores are closing nationwide until further notice. Ones still open have few customers.

Chicago’s usually bustling upscale Magnificent Mile shopping district is relatively quiet.

On Wednesday, Trump signed into law House and Senate-passed/Orwellian named Families First Coronavirus Response Act — authorizing $1.3 trillion in economic relief.

It includes the following:

  • $500 billion in direct payments to US households for sick leave and food aid when multiples this amount is needed as long as economic crisis conditions exist;
  • $50 billion in loans to the airline sector that squandered its cash reserves by stock buybacks to artificially inflate their value; and
  • $150 billion to undefined “severely distressed (economic) sectors.”

Boeing seeks $60 billion in bailout funding, the company a victim of its own mismanagement, prioritizing profits over air safety, wanting taxpayers to save it from bankruptcy.

A nation without Boeing and other weapons makers would be a boon to world peace at a time of endless wars, vast destruction, human slaughter and misery.

Family and sick leave enacted into law is woefully inadequate. It provides up to 12 weeks of benefits for workers of companies with less than 500 and more than 50 employees — at a time when helping all US households is vitally needed, including workers and the unemployed.

Something is better than nothing. Much more is needed, especially for jobless and low-income Americans — including enough income to get by and government guaranteed healthcare for the sick, injured and disabled.

Follow-up legislation is being considered. Key is inclusion of direct cash payments to ordinary Americans in amounts enough for essentials to life and welfare.

House Speaker Pelosi opposes the idea unless means tested — at a time when legislation helping all US households is needed quickly — the longer delayed, the worse things can get.

There’s no excuse for the world’s richest nation not going all-out at a time of economic and financial duress.

Large-scale aid is needed in regular tranches as long as economic crisis conditions exist — especially for ordinary Americans.

A White House proposal calls for disbursing around $500 billion in means tested financial aid in April to households, a way too inadequate amount — another $500 billion in loans for business perhaps forgiven for favored ones.

The US/Canada border was closed to all nonessential traffic, the scale of economic disruption unprecedented, its duration unknown.

Citing unnamed economists, the NYT said they “fear that by the time the coronavirus pandemic subsides and (normal) economic activity resumes, entire industries could be wiped out, proprietors across the country could lose their businesses, and millions of workers could find themselves jobless.”

The centerpiece of a days earlier proposed White House $850 billion economic relief package is suspension of business and individual payroll taxes through around yearend.

The money is used to fund Social Security and Medicare, the Trump regime’s proposal a way to weaken and hasten the demise of both vital programs, why it’s crucial to prevent enactment of the scheme into law.

Instead of putting vitally needed cash in the pockets of ordinary Americans, Pelosi called for refundable tax credits and expanded unemployment benefits.

Bernie Sanders proposed a $2 trillion package, featuring direct cash payments to US households, along with free COVID-19 testing and treatment, expanding the nation’s healthcare capacity, and using the Defense Production Act to increase production and distribution of essential healthcare supplies.

He also urged the establishment of an emergency economic crisis finance agency and related actions — similar to steps taken during the Great Depression.

Unemployment is increasing exponentially, Q II US GDP projected to be minus 5%, according to some economists, hard times likely to continue for some time.

Has the onset of a second Great Depression begun? Main street Americans endured over a decade of protracted Depression conditions since the 2008-09 Wall Street engineered financial crisis.

Economic and market manipulation adversely changed the dynamic for ordinary Americans and others elsewhere to increase the wealth and power of special interests over the public welfare.

That’s the disturbing reality of what goes on at all times in the US, West, and most other countries, including now looking ahead — governance of, by, and for their privilege class, most others getting crumbs alone.

During the 2008-09 financial crisis, bankers got bailed out, ordinary people sold out — things unfolding in similar fashion today.

Note: The reported number of COVID-19 cases in the US through Wednesday rose to 9,400, including 147 deaths — New York state with 2,382, NYC with 1,339 — 20 deaths in the state, these numbers the highest in the nation.

Unknown is how many infected Americans have yet to be diagnosed because of inadequate testing.

It should be federally funded and available to all Americans seeking it to contain the spread of the virus that’s highly contagious.

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Note to readers: please click the share buttons below. Forward this article to your email lists. Crosspost on your blog site, internet forums. etc.

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.

Australia Willing to be the U.S. Policeman in the Pacific

March 20th, 2020 by Paul Antonopoulos

The U.S. is ramping up pressure on Australia to support hostilities against China in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific. Last week in Sydney, the U.S. Ambassador to Australia, Arthur Culvahouse, said that “We’ll be pushing Australia to expand its step-up from the Pacific islands region to south-east Asia and to look north as well.” The U.S., Australia and like-minded countries need to win in this strategic competition, the diplomat said. The Ambassador emphasized that in consultations between American and Australian foreign and defense ministers, the two sides will focus their efforts to further strengthen the Pacific step-up strategy.

The US Ambassador told the gathering of business leaders last Tuesday that Australia “sits on the frontline of the great strategic competition of our time.” “If the security and prosperity enjoyed by our countries and the region is to continue, this is a competition that we must win,” he said in indirect reference to China being the competition that must lose.

Australia’s Pacific strategy was adopted in 2016 under Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to assert Australia’s position as the policeman for the U.S. in the South Pacific and Southeast Asia. The Pacific step-up strategy defines the Australian government’s approach to economic and strategic interaction with Pacific Island nations. However, this is just the friendly face of the strategy and rather it is primarily aimed at maintaining regional balance to counter China’s growing influence in the region. China signed an Action Program with eight Pacific Island nations at the October 2019 3rd China Economic Development Cooperation Forum and Pacific Islands held in Samoa. These countries’ support for China’s Belt and Road Initiative was confirmed.

As the U.S. is dealing with the growing influence of China and attempting to counter it all over the globe, Washington is relying on Australia to serve as a counterbalance to China in the South Pacific and Southeast Asia. However, as the coronavirus continues to grow out of control in the U.S., it is likely that Washington is going to take its focus off the South Pacific for a long while. This will give Australia autonomy to act on Washington’s behalf and it appears that U.S. President Donald Trump immensely trusts the Australians in this role, so-much-so that  he honored the fellow Anglo-settler state by naming a new navy ship the USS Canberra, the only U.S. Navy warship named after a foreign city.

Australia wilfully wants to play a role that the U.S. assigned to them in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific so that it can more strongly assert its power on the region. Australia considers the small island countries of the South Pacific as an area within its sphere of influence. Canberra has a need to expand its weight in Southeast Asia, but finds this challenging as the region includes countries of larger populations and economies, such as Thailand and Indonesia.

Although Canberra wants to serve Washington’s interests in the region, Australia is a completely deindustrialized neoliberal country that does not have the means or capacity to challenge rising Southeast Asian countries and rather serves as a raw resource marketplace for the world. The U.S. is losing influence in Southeast Asia to China, and therefore Washington is relying on Australian support, hedging its bet on a common Anglo colonial-settler history to make Canberra receptive.

In this situation, Australia faces a very difficult choice as there is a clear divide between the economic community and the political class in regards to China policy. China is Australia’s most important economic partner, while the U.S. is Canberra’s most important security partner, so-much-so that Australia followed the U.S. to adventurist wars of aggression in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. China and Australia have established free trade areas and this agreement allows them to quickly increase the volume of bilateral trade. Therefore, the political will of Canberra is certain to face resistance from capitalist interests in the country as it wholly relies on China and other Southeast Asian countries for trade.

However, Australia is bound by the U.S. Indo-Pacific Strategy that aims to use American allies like Australia, Japan, India and others, to counter China’s increasing influence. This is done by enhancing military cooperation between these countries and does not serve any economic role like the Belt and Road Initiative.  As China finds the Indo-Pacific Strategy as an aggressive force aimed against it, it is likely that under economic pressure, Australia will try to balance relations, despite the political will and determination of Canberra to act as the U.S’ policeman in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific.

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This article was originally published on InfoBrics.

Paul Antonopoulos is a Research Fellow at the Center for Syncretic Studies.

COVID-19: All Truth Has Three Stages

March 19th, 2020 by Larry Romanoff

First, it is ignored.

Second, it is widely ridiculed.

Third, it is accepted as self-evident.

With COVID-19, we have now entered Stage 2. At first, the media ignored the claims and the analysis that the virus could have originated in the US. But the spread of information and restatements of evidence from all sides, including in the US itself, has become too intense and now the claims are being openly ridiculed in the Western media.

Briefly, Chinese virologists discovered conclusively that the original source of the virus was not China, nor Wuhan, nor the seafood market, but had been traced to the US, a possible scenario being that the virus might have originated at the US Military’s bio-weapons lab at Fort Detrick (which was shut down by the CDC in July, because of outbreaks), and brought to China during the World Military Games in October 2019.

Also, Japanese and Taiwanese virologists arrived independently at the conclusion that the virus could have originated in the US.

The Americans did their best from before the beginning to deflect culpability by crafting tales of bats, snakes, pangolins, the seafood market, the Wuhan University being a bio-weapons facility (which it is not), and the CIA tale leaked through the VOA and Radio Free Asia that the virus leaked from that university. They stated (factually) that Chinese researchers had participated (7 years ago) in similar virus research funded by the US NIH, thus somehow insinuating Chinese culpability, ignoring that the prior research was irrelevant to current events.

I must say the Americans have proven to be very skillful in grabbing the microphone first, to create an “official” narrative of a current event while flooding the media with sufficient finger-pointing to preclude a gullible public the time to logically assemble the pieces on their own.

They ignored the very real fact that few nations would either create or release a biological weapon that attacks primarily itself. They ignored too, the geopolitical likelihood of an ”end game” – that a virus is a powerful weapon of economic warfare, able to do to China’s economy what a trade war could not do.

Casual readers tend to ignore the fact that, in the American mentality, there are many solid geopolitical reasons to attack China, Iran, and Italy, the remaining countries merely constituting unfortunate collateral damage.

Many virus articles containing this and similar information had been published by second-tier internet news sites, some articles gaining enormous readership with hundreds of thousands of downloads and much re-posting. Many of these articles have been translated into 6 or 7 languages and published on websites all around the world. Simultaneously, many posts were made on Chinese social media speculating on the odd circumstances and long chain of unusual coincidences that led to the virus outbreak in Wuhan.

One of the articles referred to above, was translated and posted on Chinese social media and gathered 76,000 comments in the first 8 hours. Eventually, the major Chinese media outlets made the same claims – that the virus could have originated in the US and that the Americans were engaging in a massive cover-up.

Then, Zhao LiJian, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, made the story official, through a number of posts on US social media. One major media article, this in the NYT, noted that “Zhao’s remarks were spread on China’s most prominent social media platform, Weibo . . . [and] had been viewed more than 160 million times, along with screenshots of the original Twitter posts.

It seems LiJian’s Twitter posts, being essentially an official source that could not easily be ignored, claiming the virus was brought to China from the US during the Military Games, and demanding an explanation from the US, were receiving too much public attention to be ignored. All of the above created sufficient political pressure to force the Western media to respond. And of course they responded by ignoring the facts of the message and trashing the messenger.

On March 12, the UK Guardian ran a story claiming China was “pushing propaganda” about the virus coming from the US. (1) On March 13, the New York Times ran a similar story of a “China coronavirus conspiracy” of false claims about the source of the virus. (2) Then, on March 14, ABC News ran a story titled “False claims about sources of coronavirus cause spat between the US, China”, in which it ridiculed China and the claims of a US-virus. (3)

The Seattle Times published a version of the story, stating, “China is pushing a new theory about the origins of the coronavirus: It is an American disease . . . introduced by members of the U.S. Army who visited Wuhan in October. There is not a shred of evidence to support that, but the notion received an official endorsement from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, whose spokesman accused American officials of not coming clean about what they know about the disease.” (4) The UK Independent published their own version of “China’s conspiracy theory” (5), as did CNN (6).

The ABC article claimed that “Assistant Secretary David Stilwell gave [Chinese] Ambassador Cui Tiankai a “very stern representation of the facts,” claiming Cui was “very defensive” in the face of this “official” American assault. The US State Department is quoted as having said, “We wanted to put the [Chinese] government on notice we won’t tolerate [conspiracy theories] for the good of the Chinese people and the world.”

Following that, the Washington Post, Bloomberg, and half a dozen other press wires and media outlets have contacted this author for interviews, eager for an opportunity to trash this ‘conspiracy theory’ at its source. The US Embassy in Beijing also “reached out” to the author “to talk about it”.

If the public information campaign and the resulting political pressure can continue, we will eventually enter stage three where the media will begin admitting first the possibility, then the likelihood, then the fact, of the US being the source of the “China” virus.

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Larry Romanoff is a retired management consultant and businessman. He has held senior executive positions in international consulting firms, and owned an international import-export business. He has been a visiting professor at Shanghai’s Fudan University, presenting case studies in international affairs to senior EMBA classes. Mr. Romanoff lives in Shanghai and is currently writing a series of ten books generally related to China and the West. He can be contacted at: [email protected]. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG) 

Notes

(1) https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/12/conspiracy-theory-that-coronavirus-originated-in-us-gaining-traction-in-china

(2) https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/13/world/asia/coronavirus-china-conspiracy-theory.html

(3) https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/false-claims-sources-coronavirus-spat-us-china/story?id=69580990

(4) https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/china-spins-tale-that-the-u-s-army-started-the-coronavirus-epidemic/
https://www.ccn.com/did-coronavirus-originate-in-america-chinese-media-pushes-conspiracy/

(5) https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/coronavirus-start-originate-conspiracy-china-us-wuhan-cdc-robert-redfield-a9398711.html

(6) https://www.ccn.com/did-coronavirus-originate-in-america-chinese-media-pushes-conspiracy/

“Our fundamental responsibility is to protect the American people, the homeland, and the American way of life.” National Security Strategy of the United States, 2017 (President Donald Trump

The United States government has no greater responsibility than protecting the American people.” National Security Strategy, 2015 (President Barack Obama)

At home our most important priority is to protect the homeland for the American people.” The National Security Strategy of the United States of Americas, 2002 (President George W. Bush)

The United States’ National Security Strategy is based on foundational Instruments of National Power (INP). The INP consists of Diplomacy, Informational, Military, Economic, Financial, Law Enforcement, Information. Combined with the INP’s support, they combine to protect an economy and society that has an annual Gross Domestic Product of nearly $20 trillion (USD) and a per capita income of almost $60 thousand according to the CIA’s World Factbook. In that publication, the CIA notes that

“US firms are at or near the forefront in technological advances, especially in computers, pharmaceuticals, and medical, aerospace, and military equipment…”

This incredible wealth and power, and the mythical status of America’s technologies, could not stop three disastrous events; two of which could have been prevented (911 and great recession), and the third mitigated (COVID-19).

9/11 2001 Events, 2008 Brutal Recession, COVID-19, 2020

Over the last 19 years, the American people have been exposed to a deadly virus (COVID-19), a brutal economic recession in 2008, and terrorist attacks in 2001 on two symbols of American power. And in each case, the response of the US government was to first pump trillions of dollars into Wall Street’s coffers through bailouts and quantitative easing, while, in comparison, main street got billions of pennies tossed their way.

The national security strategies pushed out by three American presidents (two Republicans and one Democrat) claim the number one priority of the US government is to protect the American people. But as the three shock and awe events of the last 19 years demonstrate, the American people that are protected by the national security strategy are the wealthy and powerful classes and institutions that run the country from their perches on Wall Street, in the White House and Congress, and the Pentagon.

The middle and lower class workers are an afterthought.

Wall Street Mafia

Wall Street is, in fact, a threat to the country. Its focus on increasing return on investment for shareholders has crippled investment in the real economy (infrastructure, retooling, etc.). A better description of Wall Street would be the Wall Street Mafia. An extortion racket if there ever was one. Consider Harvard Business Review’s, The Price of Wall Street’s Power:

“Scholars and executives alike have criticized Wall Street not only for promoting short-term thinking but for sacrificing the interests of employees and customers to benefit shareholders and for encouraging dishonesty from executives who feel they’re being asked to meet impossible demands. The financial sector’s influence on management has become so powerful that a recent survey of chief financial officers showed that 78% would “give up economic value” and 55% would cancel a project with a positive net present value—that is, willingly harm their companies—to meet Wall Street’s targets and fulfill its desire for “smooth” earnings.

Executives often explain their deference to Wall Street by saying they have a “fiduciary duty” to maximize shareholder returns. That’s been an article of faith since 1970, when Milton Friedman wrote in the New York Times that executives’ only responsibility was maximizing profits. The problem, however, is that it’s not true. Whatever your beliefs about the moral responsibilities of executives, a fiduciary duty is a specific legal obligation, and law professor Lynn Stout has shown that as a matter of law American executives simply do not face any such requirement.

From 1998 through 2013 the finance, insurance, and real estate industries spent almost $6 billion on lobbying; the only sector to spend more was health care. In the wake of the 2008 crisis, the financial sector actually intensified its pressure on the government. Look at the 2013–2014 election cycle: As of March 2014 finance, insurance, and real estate had spent almost $485 million on lobbying—more than any other industry—and had donated almost $149 million to the campaigns of federal candidates, nearly three times as much as health care had donated.

Representatives and lobbyists of the financial sector are so entwined with the agencies that are supposed to regulate it that Washingtonians collectively refer to them as “ The Blob.” This is reflected in the résumés of current and former government officials.

The White House and Congress: Self-Quarantine for 10 Years, Please

President Trump’s la-dee-da attitude during the initial spread of COVID-19 should have come as no surprise. A virus himself, Trump’s preference would probably have been to let COVID-19 cull the human herd by not instituting mass testing of the American populace. A dark reading of that thinking being that people infected would continue to travel around the United States passing along COVID-19 to others.

Vox reported that

Politico reporter Dan Diamond told NPR [National Public Radio] host Terry Gross that, based on his own reporting, Trump “did not push to do aggressive additional testing in recent weeks, and that’s partly because more testing might have led to more cases being discovered of coronavirus outbreak, and the president had made clear — the lower the numbers on coronavirus, the better for the president, the better for his potential re-election this fall.

Trump’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic brings to mind a scene in the movie classic Total Recall (1990 version) where the sinister character Victor Cohagen (played by Ronnie Cox) is told by an engineer that if he cuts off oxygen supply to one of the city sectors, inhabitants there will die.

Cohagen: Yes, what is it?

Underling: Sir, the oxygen level is bottoming out in sector G – what do you want me to do about it?

Cohagen: Don’t do anything.

Underling: But they won’t last an hour sir.

Cohagen: Fuck ’em.

In the US senate, conservative ideology takes precedent over the suffering of the American people. The plebes are being slow-rolled. According to USA Today 

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who chairs the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, objected to fast-tracking the legislation. He acknowledged workers are struggling but said businesses are also struggling and that an expensive federal mandate wouldn’t help them.”

The general public might have the impression that the US government had no plan of action for the invasion of the COVID-19 organism. In 2006, President George W. Bush laid down a template for dealing with a pandemic that should have been implemented as China (fast forward to 2020), and subsequently, the rest of the world, coped with the spread of COVID-19. Though the Bush strategy was focused on influenza, all the core steps the US government had to take immediately were well articulated.

“The Strategy provides a high-level overview of the approach that the Federal Government will take to prepare for and respond to a pandemic, and articulates expectations of non-Federal entities to prepare themselves and their communities. The Strategy contains three pillars: (1) preparedness and communication; (2) surveillance and detection; and (3) response and containment. Preparedness for a pandemic requires the establishment of infrastructure and capacity, a process that can take years. For this reason, significant steps must be taken now. The Strategy affirms that the Federal Government will use all instruments of national power to address the pandemic threat.

Up, Up and Away, in My Beautiful Military-Intelligence Balloon

The combined US National Security budget (uniform services, contractors, nuclear weapons development at the Department of Energy, operations, etc.) is roughly $1.25 trillion per year, according to an analysis by the Project for Government Oversight (POGO) and the Center for Defense Information conducted in 2019. 

That is a staggering $1.25 trillion in 2019 and you can bet that going forward that yearly figure is likely to rise. It is the White House and US Congress that sign off on that amount year after year.

Our final annual tally for war, preparations for war, and the impact of war comes to more than $1.25 trillion—more than double the Pentagon’s base budget. If the average taxpayer were aware that this amount was being spent in the name of national defense—with much of it wasted, misguided, or simply counterproductive—it might be far harder for the national security state to consume ever-growing sums with minimal public pushback. For now, however, the gravy train is running full speed ahead and its main beneficiaries—Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and their cohorts—are laughing all the way to the bank.

And what about the costs for wars on terror, Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan and its effects on America’s economy? 

According to the The Balance:

The War on Terror is a military campaign launched by President George W. Bush in response to the al-Qaida 9/11 terrorist attacks. The War on Terror includes the Afghanistan War and the War in Iraq. It added $2.4 trillion to the debt as of the FY 2020 budget.

The War in Afghanistan has lasted longer than the Vietnam War.The War in Iraq killed 4,419 U.S. soldiers and wounded 31,994 more. 59Taxpayers have spent more than $1.52 trillion on the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.

The real cost of the War on Terror is not just what it has added to the debt. It’s also the lost jobs that those funds could have created. By some estimates, every $1 billion spent on defense creates 8,555 jobs and adds $565 million to the economy.61That same $1 billion given to you as a tax cut would have stimulated enough demand to create 10,779 jobs and put $505 million into the economy as retail spending. And $1 billion in education spending adds $1.3 billion to the economy and creates 17,687 jobs.

Using this model, the $2.4 trillion spent on the War on Terror created 20 million jobs and added $1.4 trillion to the economy. But if it had gone toward education instead, it would have created almost 42 million jobs. It would have added $3.1 trillion to the economy. That may have helped end the recession sooner.

Trump’s Stimulus Package

Trump has proposed about $850 billion in economic stimulus (in addition to the billions in the House of Representatives aid package lingering in the Senate). So that’s a one time shot of about $1 trillion for America’s suffering plebeians.

Sounds good until you realize that one of Trump’s proposals in his stimulus package is to suspend the payroll tax which funds Social Security. Even in the face of a national health and economic emergency, opportunistic Trump seeks to cripple Social Security.

According to the Motley Fool,

Social Security collected more than $885 billion in payroll tax contributions in 2018, the most recent year for which the Social Security trustees have made information available. That represented the vast majority of the roughly $1 trillion in revenue that Social Security received, and it was enough to pay almost 90% of all the benefits that Social Security recipients got that year.If Social Security stopped receiving that $885 billion, the impact would be immediate. Benefits would have to get funded almost entirely by trust fund balances. With asset levels of about $2.9 trillion, the program could only go for four years before using up its entire savings. Even if a payroll tax cut lasted only for the last nine months of 2020, the roughly $660 billion hit would dramatically accelerate the time at which the trust funds would be empty.”

In 1972, President Richard Nixon compared the average American to a young child in a family. Nothing has changed in 2020. Wall Street, the White House, the US Congress and the Pentagon treat the American people as children.

The lyrics to Woody Guthrie’s song, This Land is Your Land ring true in 2020 just as they did in the original version in 1940:

“As I went walking, I saw a sign there,

And on the sign there, it said “Private Property.”

But on the other side, it didn’t say nothing!

That side was made for you and me.

In the squares of the city, in the shadow of a steeple,

By the relief office, I’d seen my people.

As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking,

Is this land made for you and me? (Woody Guthrie)

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John Stanton can be reached at jstantonarchangel.com. His most recent book is America 2020: A Nation in Turmoil. It is free on Kindle.

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Having paved over the science on pandemics, the Trump administration puts up parking lots. Literally.

It wasn’t enough that President Trump’s Rose Garden declaration of a national coronavirus emergency on Friday disintegrated into a self-congratulatory monologue. It wasn’t enough that he trashed reporters who dared ask him if he bore any responsibility for one of the worst responses to a pandemic by a wealthy country in modern times, driving the United States toward a double collapse of human and economic health and the indefinite shutdown of normal life and movements.

The finishing touch was that Trump was flanked not by a wall of dedicated infectious disease experts, epidemiologists, triage managers, and heads of public university research labs but rather mostly by Fortune 500 CEOs whose hands he shook as they paraded to the podium—violating a primary public health directive to blunt the spread of infection.

The heads of Walmart, Walgreens, Target, and CVS, with a combined 2019 net income of $20 billion, stepped forward to proclaim that they would each do their part in this emergency. But their pledges were glaringly short of vital particulars such as how they planned to protect their workers or what kind of extended sick leave they might offer. Rather, they said they will reserve parts of parking lots for drive-in virus testing.

Dimming the laboratory lights

To be clear, glossing over the fact that access to COVID-19 tests remains woefully limited in the United States, the idea of drive-in testing itself is good. But it was hard to watch some of the wealthiest companies in the country boast on national television as though they were suddenly carrying the torch of Florence Nightingale, such as when Walgreens’ president, Richard Ashworth, said, “When we have natural disasters, our stores are a beacon in the community.”

It is a key part of the Trump administration agenda to be the lighthouse keeper for these corporate beacons, as it dims the laboratory lights of federally funded climate, pollution, food, and health science. Fifty years ago, Joni Mitchell sang about the madness of paving over the environment.

In 2020, we have a White House that has disbanded or paved over scientific advisory panels, disregarded and disparaged its own scientists, and shuttered the pandemic office in the National Security Council. The administration’s appointments of industry lobbyists and political ideologues to top-level positions has driven out thousands of career scientists across several agencies. As recently reported, the administration held classified meetings on the coronavirus during which theyessentially  cut out input from experts who could have helped shape a more orderly response.

Brusque and heartless answers

Beyond the dearth of hard science and the corporate glad handing, Trump’s brusque, heartless answers to reporters were once again on full display. To one of them he refused to take any responsibility for the precious time lost to protect citizens from botched testing. The debacle has been marked by the still-mysterious reluctance of the United States to be among the 60 nations to adopt test kits from the World Health Organization, the defective early test kits  distributed by the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, and lack of flexible thinking to greenlight test kit production at university and state medical centers and private labs. For all that, Trump blamed, “rules, regulations and specifications from a different time.”

When Yamiche Alcindor of PBS brought up the elimination of the pandemic office and whether the administration lost valuable time because of that, Trump snapped that she had asked a “nasty question.”

Trump’s nastiness to Alcindor was flagrant on two levels. One is that Trump once more attempted to humiliate a black female journalist as he has done previously by calling their questions nasty, stupid, or—almost laughably—racist. The other is that he knew that the question cut to the core of his administration’s inexcusable dismissal of science.

Alcindor was the only reporter to directly interrogate the president on the White House’s 2018 disbanding of the National Security Council pandemic preparedness office. By extension, the question brought into stark relief the administration’s relentless dismantling of our overall federal public health science infrastructure.

Trump knew if he owned up to that even his most fervent followers would recognize that his White House was responsible for hampering preparedness and enabling the spread of the lethal virus in the United States. In an answer to Alcindor that was either a lie or a bald admission of ignorance and incompetence, Trump told her, “I don’t know anything about it.”

In this life-and-death crisis where we need not just a commander-in-chief, but also a compassionate national consoler, it is noteworthy that Trump did not utter a single sentence of condolence to the families of any of the people who have died so far, nor offer a single best wish or prayer for recovery for the ill as the number of confirmed cases continues to climb.

Exaggerated claims

In a Washington Post guest column that ran the same day of the Rose Garden fiasco, Beth Cameron, a former director of the disbanded pandemic preparedness panel—the White House’s National Security Council Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense—wrote that its purpose was to “rally the government at the highest levels” to avoid a six-alarm blaze of viruses that know no borders. She wrote that the absence of the panel now “is all too evident.”

Without scientific evidence to rally the American people, the White House was reduced to showcasing corporate cheerleaders. And there was far less substance to this show of Fortune 500 generosity than even what President Trump proclaimed. He said Google had 1,700 engineers working on a website to direct Americans to the drive-in testing sites. Claiming that the engineers have “made tremendous progress,” Trump promised Americans that the website will be “very quickly done.” Coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx held up a poster showing how the site would work to bring quality testing “to the American people at unprecedented speed.”

Google itself quickly squashed that promise, saying that a subsidiary with only 1,000 employees was merely working on a pilot website for the San Francisco Bay Area, with no timetable for launch. And, so far, none of the companies have yet offered any concrete information on when, where, or how drive-in testing will be done.

Richard Ashworth of Walgreens told those assembled at the Rose Garden event, “These are extraordinary times that call for extraordinary measures.” He’s right on that to be sure. But it will surely take more than pledges of corporate parking lots as a naturally occurring crisis is morphing into a humanmade disaster in the United States because of the Trump administration’s sidelining of science and scientists.

To borrow again from Joni Mitchell, you don’t know what you’ve got until the pandemic panel is gone.

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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).

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The present status quo of the world reflects neither calm nor confidence. It has become highly charged and the natural human hegemonic tendencies have kicked into high gear for the final battle between the ‘uni’ and ‘multi-polarists’.

The world is already in an undeclared war, both kinetic and economic, pitting the behemoths of the West against those of the East. The smaller nations are being induced by hook or crook to side with one or the other and no one is allowed to sit on the fence.

Politically, there are running wars in Syria, Ukraine, Libya, Yemen Somalia, Afghanistan, etc., all of which can escalate to encompass a wider array of opponents. There are increasingly belligerent threats of war against North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, etc., all of which can easily get out of control. And lastly, the rising adversarial tensions between the USA, Russia, China, Turkey, Greece, NATO, Ethiopia, Egypt, etc. are becoming more dangerous by the day.

Economically, there is a running trade war between the USA and China, economic sanctions on Russia and others and everyone is overloaded with unpayable debt flimsily supported by inflated assets and stock markets – verily an unstable house of cards. Now, the threat of economic and financial collapse and/or recession is becoming evident everywhere.

But wars are expensive and consume a lot of treasure, which necessitates the propping up of economies to generate more taxes, increase public borrowing and inflate assets creating dangerous bubbles. Governments can get away with such chicanery by lulling their citizens into a false sense of prosperity and comfort; encouraging them to happily continue their exuberant consumption with total disregard for their governments’ deeds.

What Happened?

The chickens have finally come home to roost, and the only thing missing was a “Black Swan” event (or two), which providence duly supplied.

The first event was the Corona Virus epidemic COVID-19 erupting in China and upsetting the smooth running of the world’s primary workshop and exposing the impracticality of the presently envisaged concept of Globalism. COVID-19 is now making its rounds amongst the nations of the world and its final outcome and the extent of damage to societies and economies appear gloomy.

The second event was the supposed disagreement between Russia and Saudi Arabia on how to tackle the foundering oil prices.

Saudi, already unhappy with the persistent decline in global oil demand, realized that the COVID-19 was rapidly aggravating this decline. It had two options; either to decrease OPEC+ oil production beyond the cuts that were are already in place, or increase production to flood the market and crash prices to drive out US Shale Oil production and dramatically reduce world supply. But as it had tried this tactic in 2014/15 and was badly burned, it opted for the less risky option of reducing its own supplies and those of the OPEC+ members.

Russia, on the other hand, viewed cutting OPEC+ supplies as ineffective especially beyond the very short term as well as contradicts its strategic priorities. Also, it had seen how the previous attempts to cut production only resulted in the loss of its market share to the US Shale producers and thus had no intention of repeating that mistake. Additionally, it assessed that the Shale producers were not only financially weak, but many were literally bankrupt, or close to it, which makes it an opportune time to deal them the crippling blow that Saudi attempted a few years earlier, especially in light of the current financially turbulent and economically weaker US and Western economies.

Saudi retorted by reversing its policy and went beyond Russia’s vision. It began flooding the oil market by cutting prices and threatening to increase its production from approx. 9.8 million barrels per day to approx. 12-13 million barrels.

While this has been interpreted as a disagreement with and a rebuff to Russia, it actually seems to be in line with Russia’s stance of undermining the Shale producers but in a more acute manner.

In fact, this aggressive approach could have a greater impact and dramatically shorten the time for Shale’s partial or full demise and thus, reduce the risk of extended economic damage to both Russia and Saudi.

Of course, the US government may attempt to counter such moves by throwing cheap credit/money at the Shale producers and there are rumors of a US$ 1 – 1.5 Trillion lifeline for all sectors negatively affected. Alternatively, it can pressure Saudi to stand-down and return to a policy of restricting OPEC’s oil production. As a last resort, the US could block all oil imports into the US to keep local US prices sufficiently high for the Shale producers’ survival, but this would be reckless and would generate a lot of internal American ill-will towards the government, especially in an election year. Of course, it can always use its well-tested bag of tricks and sanction specific oil producers (guess who?).

Possible Outcomes

The Russian/Saudi foray has already depressed oil prices and is likely to lower them further in the hope of knocking out Shale and raising prices. But this will take some time and the interim dangerous time lag could trigger total turmoil in the financial markets (equities, derivatives, debt, currencies, etc.) and pop one bubble after the other. The ensuing collapse would be global and would be difficult to rebuild.

Where would the enormous funding needed for rebuilding come from? Everybody is up to their eyeballs in debt, which leaves the money printing presses and helicopter money as the only tools available – other than global war.

And assuming that we are spared by providence from a global war, rebuilding ‘the rise from the ashes’ is unlikely to replicate the existing unfettered predatory capitalistic model. The collapse would have inflicted so much pain and destruction on people, societies, and institutions that they are unlikely to remain quiet if the elites attempt to follow the same blueprint.

We may be on the threshold of a new era and a different sociopolitical model; Capitalism v2.0, Socialism v2.0 or even Soc-Cap v.1.5. Accordingly, the weaker and/or poorer people and nations should be aware (woke) so as not to be beguiled again and, if necessary, be ready to stand up and speak their minds despite the likelihood of being trampled by the elephants.

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Marwan Salamah is a Kuwaiti economic consultant and publishes articles on his blog: marsalpost.com

It is indeed a “people’s war” against the epidemic, which demonstrates China’s ability to mobilize huge resources and its sheer national strength while relying on its people to win.

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China has stabilized the COVID-19 epidemic situation in a short period of time. It could not have been achieved without the practice of collectivism by the Chinese people.

Under the leadership of Chinese President Xi Jinping, the whole nation has been mobilized in the fight against the virus. People from all walks of life made concerted efforts and fought in unity.

Medical workers, in particular, are devoted to the fighting of the epidemic on the front line, some even sacrificing their own lives. They fully demonstrated the strength of the collectivist spirit.

Facing an epidemic that has proved to be the most difficult to contain in the country since the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the country has applied unprecedented quarantine and isolation measures including the lockdown of Wuhan, a city of more than 10 million at the center of the outbreak. These measures have proved effective as the peak of the epidemic has passed, and new infections have dwindled, from thousands of cases a day, to only a few in the outbreak epicenter.

It is indeed a “people’s war” against the epidemic, which demonstrates China’s ability to mobilize huge resources and its sheer national strength while relying on its people to win.

With the full practice of collectivism and patriotism, the Chinese people have shown national unity and cohesion.

A volunteer disinfects a makeshift hospital in Wuhan, central China’s Hubei Province, March 8, 2020. The makeshift hospital converted from a sports venue was closed after its last batch of cured COVID-19 patients were discharged. (Xinhua/Xiao Yijiu)

The collectivism embodied by the Chinese people has earned the praise of multinational agencies. Experts with the World Health Organization (WHO) appreciated China’s phenomenal collective action after they concluded a field investigation in the country.

Bruce Aylward, who led a China-WHO joint mission, said every person he talked to in China has a sense that they are mobilized and organized like in a war against the virus, and it is never easy to get the kind of passion, commitment, interest and individual sense of duty that have helped stop the virus.

When commenting on China’s anti-virus efforts, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he had never seen this kind of mobilization.

The Chinese nation has experienced many ordeals in its history, but it has never been overwhelmed. Instead, it has become more and more courageous, growing and rising up from hardships. Collectivism played a key role in Chinese society in the past, has proved effective today and will continue to be a core component of Chinese society in the future.

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Coronavirus Shock Doctrine

March 19th, 2020 by Mark Taliano

Supranational polities, including the World Health Organization (WHO), have created the perception that the coronavirus is a significant global threat — despite evidence to the contrary. (1)

“National” governments have turned the perception into a “consensus”, a “truth”, and have taken extreme precautionary measures.

A global Shock has been fabricated. Such Shocks, as Naomi Klein demonstrated in The Shock Doctrine, create opportunities that wouldn’t normally exist, to impose pre-planned agendas.

The 911 (2) controlled demolitions created the necessary public shock for policymakers to impose a fake “War on Terror” against us all. It was the necessary “Pearl Harbour” referenced by the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) group.

Additionally, according to PNAC’s Rebuilding America’s Defenses (RAD) (3) document,  “… advanced forms of biological warfare that can ‘target’ specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool.”

Waging a fake war on terror provides opportunities for imperialists to destroy countries and their peoples, so imperialists can control, loot, plunder, and even rebuild.

“Natural” Disasters such as in New Orleans, Puerto Rico, and beyond, also create shocks, and in the aforementioned places, opened the door to neoliberal privatization schemes. (4)

Underfunding education and healthcare also create the needed “shocks” to impose fake solutions such as neoliberal privatization schemes. (5)

The West has a long and sordid history of using bioweapons.  Western sanctions willfully targeted Iraqi water systems with the intended objective to create unsafe, biologically-contaminated drinking water. The result?  The West murdered almost two million Iraqis, including 600,000 children under five. (6)

As for NATO terrorists in Syria, one of the first things they and their masters do is destroy water plants and water sources.(7) Likewise for Libya. NATO bombed the famous water infrastructure.

The West has been using biowarfare for ages. Americans used it against indigenous peoples, centuries ago. In fact, many First Nations communities in Canada right now do not have clean drinking water.

Imperial wars of aggression, criminal economic blockades, and neoliberal political economies are real threats to humanity, but they are largely unnoticed by vast swathes of humanity — by design.

The coronavirus shock will close some doors and open others. Who created the virus? Who is implementing the response? Who will pay the biggest price?

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Mark Taliano is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG) and the author of Voices from Syria, Global Research Publishers, 2017. Visit the author’s website at https://www.marktaliano.net where this article was originally published.

Notes

(1)Prof. Michel Chossudovsky, “Coronavirus: What the Western Media Doesn’t Tell You: High Recovery Rates in China. Most Recent Figures.” Global Research, 04 March, 2020. (https://www.globalresearch.ca/coronavirus-high-recovery-rates-in-china-most-recent-figures/5705570) Accessed 14 March, 2020.

(2) Mark Taliano, “The ‘Toxic Mythology’ of 9/11 is Destroying Humanity.” Global Research, 11 February, 2019.
(https://www.globalresearch.ca/the-toxic-mythology-of-911-is-destroying-humanity/5668201) Accessed 14 March, 2019.

(3) Elliott D. Cohen, “John McCain’s Chilling Project for America.” truthdig, 13 June, 2008.
(https://www.truthdig.com/articles/john-mccains-chilling-project-for-america/) Accessed 14 March, 2020.

(4) Mike Wold, “A case study for disaster capitalism: Puerto Rico.” streetrootsnews, 28 September, 2018.
(https://news.streetroots.org/2018/09/28/case-study-disaster-capitalism-puerto-rico ) Accessed 14 March, 2020.

(5) Mark Taliano, “Privatization Is the Problem, Not the Solution.” Rabble.ca. 16 May, 2014.
(https://www.commondreams.org/views/2014/05/16/privatization-problem-not-solution?fbclid=IwAR0PuEztTFdwlh5OFQQnSrvtCwkHHofygrZJ4Xn4ftxVbbmENMpzkBvebok ) Accessed 14 March, 2020.

(6) Mark Taliano, “Western-Imposed Holocaust.” 12 January, 2020. marktaliano.net.
(https://www.marktaliano.net/western-imposed-holocaust/?fbclid=IwAR1-mc6WmAsX7NMvyIEjvHjN3_wBe7fujG7EJLAYvC_euWcBu9t0y2nFgvA ) Accessed 14 March, 2020.

(7) Mark Taliano, “NATO Warfare in Syria: Creating and Exploiting Desperation.” Global Research, 15 June, 2019.
(https://www.globalresearch.ca/nato-warfare-creating-exploiting-desperation/5680681) Accessed 14 March, 2020.


Order Mark Taliano’s Book “Voices from Syria” directly from Global Research.

Mark Taliano combines years of research with on-the-ground observations to present an informed and well-documented analysis that refutes  the mainstream media narratives on Syria. 

Voices from Syria 

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Author: Mark Taliano

Year: 2017

Pages: 128 (Expanded edition: 1 new chapter)

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There’s no doubt that the coronavirus has completely changed life as everyone knows it, but many people are divided over whether this outbreak has become the crown jewel celebrating the commencement of the “New World Order” (NWO) or the long-awaited crippling blow to globalization that so many have been eagerly hoping for.

The COVID-19 Game-Changer

The world has never experienced anything like the current COVID-19 containment measures that were first implemented in China then eventually spread all across the West earlier this month.

Not even in wartime were people sequestered in their homes for at least two weeks under what’s for all intents and purposes the de-facto imposition of martial law for community health reasons, allowed only to leave to purchase essentials such as groceries and medicine or use basic services such as banking ones.

These historically unprecedented moves have devastated more national economies quicker than any kinetic conflict ever has, started a trend of nationalizations and bailouts, and made the citizenry more dependent on their government than ever before. It’s little wonder then that most Westerners are still in shock at how suddenly all of this happened, with their lives changed in the course of just a few days or sometimes literally overnight. Some have started to collect themselves are now thinking real critically about these powerful processes at play, with the two main schools of thought being that the coronavirus has either become the crown jewel celebrating the commencement of the “New World Order” (NWO) or the long-awaited crippling blow to globalization that so many have been eagerly hoping for.

NWO vs. Anti-Globalization

Each side has valid points in their favor. The NWO one points to Western governments seizing control of large sectors of the economy or threatening to do so, with there being a further division between those who regard this as either being socialist or fascist in nature (with differing attitudes towards each).

They also generally think that the uncoordinated but almost identical response that almost each Western government has had to this outbreak strongly suggests that they’ll eventually pool their efforts together sometime in the future to form a joint plan of action within this geopolitical sphere or perhaps more globally, which would thus represent major progress towards the formation of a “global government” that could then spread its power throughout all other aspects of society on the basis of this emergency health crisis. The anti-globalists, meanwhile, are delighted that Trump and some other Western leaders want to immediately shift the supply chains for certain strategic industries such as medicine and medical devices away from abroad and back home, which they’re convinced will see this economic trend repeated in the social and political spheres in order to make the world “less flat” in the coming future. Open borders, free trade, and the UN might become relics of the past replaced with the supercharged nationalist zeitgeist of strong borders, fair trade, and less political multilateralism.

The Death Of The “Old World Order”

At this point, it’s difficult to say which of these two visions of the future will enter into fruition or if they’ll blend together into a hybrid scenario, but it’s all but certain that the “Old World Order” (OWO) will never return. The previous system — irrespective of whenever it was bipolar, unipolar, or multipolar — was characterized by the creeping trend of a “united world”, whether through the models of American, Soviet, or Chinese globalization and despite their competitive interplay.

It was only through Trump that this began to be reversed somewhat, but only in terms of trade for the most part, and less so when it came to the free movement of people across international borders. Interestingly, it can now be seen that Trump was far ahead of the trend that recently set in whereby almost every nation instinctively clung to their own national interests as they understood them when responding to the COVID-19 outbreak despite a coordinated response being much more effective in hindsight. This largely discredits the Neo-Liberal school of International Relations thought which teaches that countries with similar values and interests essentially behave the same, which was just disproven in practice. Rather, for all the pomp, circumstance, glitz, and glamour surrounding the global elite, they ended up being much less united than many people thought, quickly abandoning their Neo-Liberalism for Neo-Realism.

The NWO

That might very well change as an outcome of this global crisis, though, at least if the NWO theory enters into being. The seemingly “natural” solution to this uncoordinated chaos is to focus on more coordination in response, beginning with emergency health measures and possibly expanding into the economy and politics through joint “reconstruction” funds between newly nationalized economies (especially in the EU) and possibly regular multilateral “martial law” containment drills. The Schengen Zone, however, might not survive this crisis, at least not in its prior form, owing to the prevailing interests that each state (even if only nominal in the sense of their possibly accelerated absorption into the bloc’s supranational structures after this crisis) still has as proven by how they responded during these past two weeks’ chain reaction of containment responses. It might come to make more “sense” to immediately — or possibly even proactively — shut down a state (or EU “federal region“) in the event of a similar crisis, meaning that each one might have to become more self-sufficient in order to survive, which would ironically carry with it strong hints of the anti-globalist school of thought despite representing the opposite in practical terms since it would be coordinated through a central command.

Anti-Globalism

Seguing more towards the actual anti-globalist scenario, this self-sufficiency trend would “organically” come from the state itself instead of through a supranational structure like the EU, with states exercising much more sovereignty than ever before as much as is realistically possible given the very strong legacy of globalization that they’d still be fighting to leave behind in the past. This would embody what the author described a year and a half ago as the trend of “Trumpism“, which might be coordinated between like-minded states sharing the same values and interests in an ironic Neo-Realist twist to Neo-Liberalism. The end of the old globalization model would be more advantageous to those few states that earlier embraced Trumpism than to the many that joined China’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) since the latter stands to lose the most from these global systemic changes in that scenario unless its advantage of recovering from COVID-19 two months earlier than its economic rivals (provided that a second major outbreak doesn’t materialize there) enables it to disproportionately shape the outcome of the emerging global order more along the lines of the NWO per the application of “Chaos Theory and Strategic Thought” in order to best advance its grand strategic interests. In other words, the US under Trumpism favors the anti-globalism model whereas China supports the NWO one.

Predictable Constants

Whichever of the two scenarios or hybrids thereof ends up materializing, there are a few constants that will likely remain within each outcome. The first is that the “social globalization” of the free movement of people will probably be greatly reduced pending a global vaccination campaign, and states will probably retain the unprecedented powers that they assumed for themselves at the expense of what were once described by the West as “freedoms”.

One realistic social change might be that all citizens under a certain age will be required to perform mandatory healthcare service just like military service in order to function as replacement hospital staff in the event of another health emergency (or with this training being “voluntary” in exchange for becoming eligible for emergency government assistance in such a scenario or social benefits more broadly), and social media censorship might increase too. As for economic changes, governments might be unwilling to reduce their control over the economy (whether for socialist or fascist ends) and will keep the average person more dependent on them through the aforementioned promised social benefits. These changes will greatly shape the way that most people live, so the main difference between the NWO and anti-globalization models are pretty much just the relationship between states, which will either cooperate more closely on the global level (NWO), eschew cooperation (anti-globalism), or concentrate on regionalism (hybrid).

Concluding Thoughts

It’s too early to tell whether the coronavirus is the crown jewel of the NWO or a crippling blow to globalization, but whatever it ends up being, there’s no question that it’s the black swan event that the world’s been fearing for years already.

The consequences of the uncoordinated containment measures that are currently in place and growing ever stricter in many countries by the day will fundamentally change life as everyone knows it for an indefinite amount of time prior to gradually taking on the contours of the emerging world order, whether the “new”, anti-globalization, or hybrid one. It’s presently uncertain what time frame is most appropriate for anticipating further clarity on this pressing question, but one of the most important variables to monitor is the competition between China and the US as the torchbearers of the NWO and anti-globalization models respectively when it comes to helping other states recover from this crisis. As it stands, China seems to be ahead all across the world, assisted as it is by its earlier recovery, but that could prospectively change depending on whatever else Trump might eventually do in this regard. Either way, there will be losers and winners, those that are unhappy and those that are happy, but all three likely scenarios (NWO, anti-globalization, and hybrid) will completely change the world for better or for worse.

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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

Viral Reactions: The Smugness of Celebrity Self-Isolation

March 19th, 2020 by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

The rush to elevate self-isolation to Olympian heights as a way to combat the spread of COVID-19 has gotten to the celebrities.  Sports figures are proudly tweeting and taking pictures from hotel rooms (Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton being a case in point).  Comics are doing their shows from home.  Thespians are extolling the merits of such isolation and the dangers of the contagion.  All speak from the summit of comfort, the podium of pampered wealth: embrace social distancing; embrace self-isolation.  Bonds of imagined solidarity are forged. If we can do it, so can you. 

The message of warning varies in tones of condescension and encouragement. Taylor Swift prefers to focus on her cat.  “For Meredith, self-quarantining is a way of life,” she posted on Instagram.  “Be like Meredith.”  Meredith, of course, had little choice in the matter.  John Legend delivered a concert on Instagram, wife Chrissy Teigen beside towelled and quaffing wine.  “Social distancing is important, but that doesn’t mean it has to be boring. I did a little at-home performance to help lift your spirits.”  Then there was Arnold Schwarzenegger, who actually boasted two miniature ponies.  “We will get through this together.”  So good of him to let us know.

Others, like model Naomi Campbell, can barely hide their revelations, moments of acute self-awakening amidst crisis.  “I’m learning what it means to put my busy or complicated life on hold and just to be still for a while, in one place, with hyper awareness of the people and spaces directly around me and the moment to moment actions I am making.”  A long dormant, cerebral world, awoken by a virus. 

Similarly, singer Lady Gaga has found that within that deodorised, heavily marketed form of celebrity is the heart of a human.  “This is reminding me I think a lot of us,” she reflected on Instagram “what it is to both feel like and be like a human being.”

Self-isolation has seen the rich with their entourages making an escape for holiday homes and vast retreats.  Then come the eccentric and the slightly ludicrous options: the well-stocked and equipped bunker; the safe room.  Such an approach is far more representative of the estrangement between haves and have-nots.  “One of the best options is in Middle America,” comes the recommendation from Adam Popescu in Vanity Fair.  “If you’re part of the 1%, why wait or sluggish government support when you can burrow 175 feet underground in a refurbished Air Force missile silo in rural Kansas that markets itself as a survival condo?”

The condo in question, the brainchild of developer Larry Hall, sports nine-foot think concrete walls, epoxy-hardened for good measure.  Their purpose, ostensibly, is to withstand nuclear blasts.  Current interest, however, is over a possible occupancy to ride out the coronavirus pandemic. 

Florida entrepreneur Tyler Allen has already reserved his spot.  While he has “other fortified locations”, he has a preference for the Kansas condo project. “Some of my hard facilities have a bunker but it doesn’t have protection for biological infection, doesn’t have protection for radiation.  The survival condo has layering; it has it all.  I’m protected from everything.”  His advice is not cloying and congratulatory. It is more of the self-preservation school of thinking.  Let the idiots watch the disaster unfold on phones, screens and social media while I go about arming myself for doom. 

All this excitement about upright behaviour provides a noisy distraction from those who are simply in no position to isolate themselves.  Food from increasingly bare counters must still be put on the table.  Doctors and nurses must still perform their dangerous tasks in increasingly overwhelmed health systems.  The menial jobs where contact with the public inevitably continue.

Then come those who have been in isolation well before the term came into vogue: the forgotten elderly, the impoverished, the vulnerable.  But even here, the celebrities lurk with message and instructions, waiting to pounce.  Never let chances to do the good deed, and talk about it, go by.  At the very least, it has presented opportunities to tell others to do good works for the poor.  For actor Ryan Reynolds, “COVID-19 has brutally impacted older adults and low income families … If you can give, these orgs need your help.” 

Reynolds and his wife Blake Lively have donated $1 million to be divided by Feeding America and Food Banks Canada.  Lively, for her part, has a lesson. “Though we must be distancing ourselves to protect those who don’t have the opportunity to self-quarantine, we can stay connected,” she suggested in an Instagram post.  “Remember the lonely and the isolated. Facetime, Skype, make a video.”

As with other forms of life, combating disease comes with its hierarchies.  Luxuries and miseries are unevenly distributed.  The allocation of resources is skewed.  But valiant efforts are made to suggest that the well moneyed celebrity shares the lot with the proles and the hoi polloi. An Esquire contribution does just that, though the effort is risibly unconvincing.  “Celebrities, they’re just like us!” it cheekily proclaims.  “Self-isolating in their cavernous houses, dancing up their marble stairs, pouring themselves a crystal tumbler of citrus-scented tequila and sauntering into the home-cinema to wait for all this to blow over.”    

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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: For Meredith, self quarantining is a way of life. Be like Meredith. (Source: Taylor Swift’s instagram)

Late on March 17, at least three rockets struck the area near the US embassy in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone. This was the fourth such attack in the span of a week. A day earlier, a pair of rockets struck the Besmaya base south of Baghdad. This military facility is the second largest military base operated by the US-led coalition in Iraq after Camp Taji.

The threat of rocket attacks already forced the US military to announce that it is evacuating some of its bases in the country. The al-Qaim base, near the Syrian-Iraqi border, is among them. The al-Qaim facility has been an important logistical and operational hub employed by US forces for operations in western Iraq and eastern Syria. Its presence there, as well as in Syria’s al-Tanf, has allowed the US to project its power along the Syrian-Iraqi border more effectively and to support Israeli military actions against Iranian-backed forces in the area.

Al-Qaim is located on the highway between the Iraqi capital of Baghdad and the Syrian city of Deir Ezzor. The town of al-Bukamal, which Israeli and US media often label as a stronghold of Iranian-backed forces, is located on the Syrian side of the border.

The withdrawal from al-Qaim is a signal that the US has been forced to admit that its attempts to cut off the land link between Syria, Iraq and Iran have failed. Washington was seeking to prevent a free movement of troops, weapons and other supplies from one country to another.

Meanwhile in Syria, the Idlib zone remains the main focus of tensions. Idlib armed groups and their supporters continue blocking efforts to create a security zone along the M4 highway in southern Idlib, as had been agreed by Turkey and Russia. These actions are accompanied by a fierce war propaganda campaign against the Damascus government, Iran and Russia. If the situation develops in this direction and further, the only remaining option to implement the new de-escalation deal and neutralize the terrorist threat will be a new military operation.

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Long, productive, rewarding, and also sad, day in Aleppo. The sad–tragic–part was meeting a man, Abdel Aziz, who was held in the terrorists’ underground prison in the Eye/Children’s Hospital complex, occupied by terrorist factions until liberation of eastern Aleppo areas in late 2016. 

Held for over a year, he said, in solitary confinement most of that time, he said.

In mid 2017, I saw an underground prison in that terrorist-occupied hospital complex, and saw the cells he would have been held in  …also in Lairamoun, Aleppo.

Solitary confinement there was a narrow, suffocating, cement and metal cell just wide enough for an adult to fit in. At best he could probably sit, knees to chest… but not lie down.

He was one of many civilians kept in such horrific circumstances. He started to cry when I asked him questions about this unjust incarceration, so I didn’t push much beyond asking the very basics.

This man is traumatized, probably for life.

These terrorism was done by terrorists backed by the West, who still dare to call them “rebels”.

When interviewing others today, on a variety of issues, including rebuilding in Aleppo, whenever the matter of the terrorists came up they were clear that all of the terrorists, whatever name they go by (Free Syrian Army, etc) are the same, something I’ve heard over and over again around Syria.  And it’s logical, because these thieves and criminals all commit acts of terrorism, whether shelling and sniping civilian areas, holding civilians hostage, starving them, torturing them, beheading them…

From my article on liberated Aleppo:

“…in the Eye Hospital complex, I passed a building marked as the headquarters of the Tawhid Brigade, and a building marked on an outside wall with the writing, “The Sharia court in Aleppo and its countryside,” before entering and descending to another underground prison.

It contained the same tight solitary confinement cells as in Lairamoun, as well as many dank, windowless, concrete rooms serving as mass cells for the unfortunate Aleppo residents imprisoned by the terrorists.

Many of the cement room-cells contained religious texts, in boxes and plastic crates, and on the main level two rooms had been used as classrooms, segregated by sex, for teaching the extremists’ beliefs to Aleppo’s mostly-Sunni Muslims.

Prisoners’ writings, with dates, on the walls showed that at least some of them were held in this dungeon for over a year. The fate of some prisoners was execution, depending on the perverted rulings of terrorist judges.

Western media played down the militarization of hospitals in Aleppo by al-Qaeda affiliates.

Independent British journalist Vanessa Beeley visited the hospital complex-turned-prison in April 2017 and interviewed a man who had been imprisoned for seven weeks by Jabhat al-Shamiya (the Levant Front coalition of al-Qaeda and Salafi terrorists) because he talked about how bad conditions were in East Aleppo, under the terrorists.

Beeley told me some of what the man, Ahmad Aldayh, a shopkeeper, had told her:

“I was eyewitness to one execution: A young man, the only child in his family, was arrested because the terrorists found on his mobile phone a photo of his friend holding the Syrian flag. They tortured him for more than four hours and then executed him.

We were all treated very badly. One woman begged three times for food and said she was starving. The warden ordered the prison guards to torture her for three hours as punishment for complaining. Just before the SAA fully liberated the area and the Eye Hospital on the 4th December 2016, 22 other prisoners were executed. They were all shot. They were also about to throw another prisoner off the roof of the building but the SAA advance was so fast they fled without killing him.”…”

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Moratorium on Water Shut-offs in Detroit Long Overdue

March 19th, 2020 by Abayomi Azikiwe

Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced a halt to the ongoing water shut-offs in the state of Michigan in the midst of a global healthcare crisis spawned by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Detroit the suspension of all terminations of water services to thousands of households under threat is important as well as restoring those previously shut-off at the cost of $25 per month.

This was welcome news to millions throughout the state in light of an announcement just days before from Whitmer saying that there was no correlation between the lack of running water and public health. Such a statement represents the years-long denial perpetuated by elected officials and bureaucrats in an attempt to justify policies which do not guarantee basic amenities such as housing, heat, electricity, water services, education, healthcare and transportation.

Several community organizations including the Moratorium NOW! Coalition had signed an appeal to Whitmer calling for a policy shift which would recognize water as a human right. The appeal was by no means the first attempt to place a halt to water shut-offs.

During the period of a bank-engineered Emergency Management and Bankruptcy over the City of Detroit, an integral part of the “restructuring” of the municipality was the implementation of thousands of water shut-offs beginning in the spring and summer of 2014.

The policy mandated by the-then Republican Governor Rick Snyder was implemented by the corporate-imposed Mayor Mike Duggan and Emergency Manager Kevin Orr. These shutoffs were ostensibly due to delinquent bills over more than $150 per household. As a conditionality of the declaration of a financial emergency in Detroit during April 2012, the City was obligated to turn over $537 million stemming from credit default swaps mandated by some of the leading financial institutions in the world.

Nonetheless, there are large businesses and public entities which owe hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department (DWSD) yet their services remain functional. This disparate treatment has been mirrored by other unfair practices such as tax captures by corporations for prestige projects at the expense of several billion in public revenue.

Detroit demonstration against water shutoffs downtown on July 18, 2014 which won the first moratorium during the bankruptcy

Civil Rights organizations and concerned legal professionals noted in their statement released on January 20, the federally-recognized holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that:

“After years of fighting Detroit water shutoffs through litigation and advocacy, a coalition of civil rights lawyers and organizations publicly calls on Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer to order a moratorium on the interruption of water service to thousands of Detroit households to end a public health emergency. The coalition privately asked the Governor to end the water crisis in a letter nearly three months ago, but yet Detroit water shutoffs continue. The coalition approached the Governor because of years of Detroit city and state officials’ inaction, apathy or disregard.” (See this)

It is important to reflect on the timeliness of this appeal even prior to the current concern over the spread of COVID-19 in the state of Michigan and throughout the U.S. The proliferation of diseases such as Hepatitis A which reached epidemic levels in the state during 2018 has been traced by some experts to the problems associated with water service terminations and contamination. (See this)

This same January 20 statement goes on to emphasize:

“The DWSD has disconnected water to more than 112,000 households between 2014 and October 2018. After years of litigation, research, and advocacy, coalition partners continue to assess the physical and mental illnesses and distress caused and heightened by residents’ lack of access to running water in their homes.”

Between the period of this appeal and the declaration of a state of public health emergency during the second week of March by Governor Whitmer, the nexus between the spread of infectious diseases and the denial of water services had been officially denied. Although the orders issued by Whitmer are significant and a positive development for working people, the poor, children, seniors and the disabled, it is only a first step in the necessary struggle to guarantee a minimum standard of living for all residents of the state of Michigan.

Extending the Moratorium During the Present Emergency

Various reports from healthcare professionals and research scientists indicate that the community spread of COVID-19 represents a significant threat to the well-being of people residing within U.S. society. Many nations such as the People’s Republic of China, Italy, Spain, France, South Africa, Kenya, Cuba, among others have enacted policies designed to identify and eliminate the source of the infections within their geo-political regions.

On March 18 the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Tedros Adhanom, issued a statement updating the international community on the status of the spread of COVID-19. The DG recognized the advances made in combatting the pandemic in Asia and Europe, however, he stressed that the crisis is still unfolding.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom said in his report:

“More than 200,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported to WHO, and more than 8000 people have lost their lives. More than 80% of all cases are from two regions – the Western Pacific and Europe. We know that many countries now face escalating epidemics and are feeling overwhelmed. We hear you. We know the tremendous difficulties you face and the enormous burden you’re under. We understand the heart-wrenching choices you are having to make. We understand that different countries and communities are in different situations, with different levels of transmission. Every day, WHO is talking to ministers of health, heads of state, health workers, hospital managers, industry leaders, CEOs and more – to help them prepare and prioritize, according to their specific situation. Don’t assume your community won’t be affected. Prepare as if it will be. Don’t assume you won’t be infected. Prepare as if you will be.”

In preparation for the coming weeks and months, it will be essential for the interests of the masses to be upheld. The package approved by the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate on March 18 is largely designed to reassure the owners of the capitalist multi-national corporations and financial institutions that Washington will provide the much-needed liquidity being lost daily on Wall Street.

Trump’s appeal to the CEOs of corporations sends a grim message to working and oppressed peoples in the U.S. and internationally. The declaration of an emergency by the White House and Congress only came in the aftermath of the turmoil in the stock market and the threatened lay-offs due to the spread of COVID-19.

In Detroit all K-12 schools have been closed along with higher educational institutions for the next three weeks at minimum. Several universities have announced that classes will be offered online until the end of the present semester. Public libraries have shut down as well while restaurants and bars are prohibited from serving customers inside their establishments.

Nevertheless, a significant and growing segment of the workforce does not have the ability to carry out their employment task from home. Inevitably many service and production workers will lose their jobs.

Detroit demonstration against water shutoff on July 18, 2014

Members of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 26, representing bus drivers in Detroit, staged a one-day strike on March 17 saying that the City government had not taken the necessary measures to guarantee the health and safety of the workers and passengers. Immediately the administration of Mike Duggan suspended bus fares and ordered all riders to enter the vehicles at the rear door. Bus services resumed the following day on March 18 at 3:00am.

This labor action represented the first of its kind in the entire U.S. where workers took direct action on the question of implementing guidelines to protect the health of its members. A report on the Detroit general strike organized by bus drivers noted:

“Over 90 percent of Detroit bus drivers called out of work en masse today after they said the overcrowded Detroit Department of Transit buses were not adhering to Center for Disease Control guidelines for prevention of spreading Coronavirus, as the state shut down all schools, bars, and restaurants. Detroit public transit was hanging on by a thread during easier times, but now that the world has been turned upside down, the overstressed service has given way.” (See this)

The President of the UAW Rory Gamble issued a statement on March 17 requesting the closing of production for two weeks. This letter was undoubtedly a result of the protests launched against the company by several union locals. At the FCA Warren Truck Plant some workers walked off the job on March 17 due to safety concerns. Several employees at General Motors, FCA and Ford have been diagnosed with COVID-19. The auto companies relented on March 18 saying that they would conduct an assembly line shutdown to ensure safety concerns. Some of the European operations such as in Italy have been closed as a result of the magnitude of the crisis.

In response to the crisis as well, the 36th District Court in Detroit has announced a moratorium on all evictions. In the same vein, the Wayne County Treasurer’s Office declared a moratorium on property tax foreclosures which have been a major issue in the city of Detroit for the last four years.

On a community level, the Moratorium NOW! Coalition held its weekly organizing meeting via conference call on March 16. A wide-ranging discussion on how to respond to the current situation is resulting in the development of a comprehensive political program geared towards preparing people for the coming challenges.

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Abayomi Azikiwe is the editor of Pan-African News Wire. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image: Detroit demonstration against water shutoffs during the summer of 2014 outside the DWSD; all images in this article are from the author

There are no signed documents. The agreement, or grand bargain, was not recorded in any physical form. But it shaped China, and through it the world. It was the cornerstone of Deng Xiaoping’s post-Mao Zedong reforms. Stay out of politics, the Chinese people were told, and the party will enrich you.

The Chinese Communist Party kept their side of the bargain, ensuring that the people had greater economic freedom and rising standards of living. It worked, beyond the party’s wildest dreams. More people benefitted over a shorter period than ever before in human history.

But President Xi Jinping, when he came to power in November 2012, believed that the party was getting soft. Too many cadres were used to the high life, had lost their moral bearing.  The behavior, he realized, was costing the party credibility. He wanted to place the party back to front and center of every aspect of daily life. To make it more relevant, even more intrusively so. He consolidated his authority. As president for life, party head, and top military commander, Xi has centralized decision-making, abolished presidential term limits. The trouble is people expect Xi, China’s “chairman of everything,” to fix everything when it goes wrong. And it has gone wrong.

The most powerful Chinese leader since Mao, must achieve two contradictory goals. Xi’s raisons d’etre now are to eradicate coronavirus from China and bring the economy back to life.

The problem is the self-isolation that people are, it must be said, so far at least, willingly, constrained by. Quarantine can obviously curtail the spread of the virus but it damages economic output. There are signs of a sort of normality returning to Beijing but at least 90 percent of businesses and shops remain closed. People will recover from COVID-19, or the fear of getting it, long before economies do.

Then there was the initial inept response to the outbreak in Hubei province. It was astounding, almost comical. The denial, the lack of transparency, the outright lying and the bullying and silencing of whistleblowers. The use of drastic measures to cut off millions of people. The problem was it was actually implemented five hours after it had been announced that people would not be allowed to leave. This sparked an exodus, many people unknowingly carrying the virus into other provinces. In January officials in Hubei downplayed the public health threat so they could preside over two party meetings and a Lunar New Year gala for some 40,000 families.

Once the outbreak is dealt with, that response will linger in the collective memory.

Since then, draconian measures including the lockdown of close to 60 million people in Hubei, now being replicated in Europe, were introduced. But the damage was done.

Global commerce depends, relies, is addicted to the fix of China’s $14.55 trillion economy. China had a great sales pitch. Single-party rule could deal with both short-term issues and long-term challenges more efficiently than democracies, hindered as they are by inquisitive legislatures. And of course, the size of the market was eye-watering. By 2022, 550 million Chinese will be able to call themselves middle class. This was meant to be the Chinese century.

Before the outbreak China’s economy was growing, officially, at 6 percent but heading south.  Introducing quarantine measures can help buy time. But it is a brief respite, weeks, at most a month or two.  It can give governments time to seek solutions but they aren’t lasting solutions in and of themselves. What will growth in China be after the virus? Can the deal that shaped modern China be resuscitated? Or is the bargain that changed China and the world as useless as a discarded face mask?

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A Lesson Coronavirus Is About to Teach the World

March 19th, 2020 by Jonathan Cook

If a disease can teach wisdom beyond our understanding of how precarious and precious life is, the coronavirus has offered two lessons.

The first is that in a globalised world our lives are so intertwined that the idea of viewing ourselves as islands – whether as individuals, communities, nations, or a uniquely privileged species – should be understood as evidence of false consciousness. In truth, we were always bound together, part of a miraculous web of life on our planet and, beyond it, stardust in an unfathomably large and complex universe. 

It is only an arrogance cultivated in us by those narcissists who have risen to power through their own destructive egotism that blinded us to the necessary mix of humility and awe we ought to feel as we watch a drop of rain on a leaf, or a baby struggle to crawl, or the night sky revealed in all its myriad glories away from city lights.

And now, as we start to enter periods of quarantine and self-isolation – as nations, communities and individuals – all that should be so much clearer. It has taken a virus to show us that only together are we at our strongest, most alive and most human.

In being stripped of what we need most by the threat of contagion, we are reminded of how much we have taken community for granted, abused it, hollowed it out. We are afraid because the services we need in times of collective difficulty and trauma have been turned into commodities that require payment, or treated as privileges to which access is now means-tested, rationed or is simply gone. That insecurity is at the root of the current urge to hoard.

When death stalks us it is not bankers we turn to, or corporate executives, or hedge fund managers. Nonetheless, those are the people our societies have best rewarded. They are the people who, if salaries are a measure of value, are the most prized.

But they are not the people we need, as individuals, as societies, as nations. Rather, it will be doctors, nurses, public health workers, care-givers and social workers who will be battling to save lives by risking their own.

During this health crisis we may indeed notice who and what is most important. But will we remember the sacrifice, their value after the virus is no longer headline news? Or will we go back to business as usual – until the next crisis – rewarding the arms manufacturers, the billionaire owners of the media, the fossil fuel company bosses, and the financial-services parasites feeding off other people’s money? 

‘Take it on the chin’ 

The second lesson follows from the first. Despite everything we have been told for four decades or more, western capitalist societies are far from the most efficient ways of organising ourselves. That will be laid bare as the coronavirus crisis deepens.

We are still very much immersed in the ideological universe of Thatcherism and Reaganism, when we were told quite literally: “There is no such thing as society.” How will that political mantra stand the test of the coming weeks and months? How much can we survive as individuals, even in quarantine, rather than as part of communities that care for all of us?

Western leaders who champion neoliberalism, as they are required to do nowadays, have two choices to cope with coronavirus – and both will require a great deal of misdirection if we are not to see through their hypocrisy and deceptions.

Our leaders can let us “take it on the chin”, as the British prime minister Boris Johnson has phrased it. In practice, that will mean allowing what is effectively a cull of many of the poor and elderly – one that will relieve governments of the financial burden of underfunded pension schemes and welfare payments.

Such leaders will claim they are powerless to intervene or to ameliorate the crisis. Confronted with the contradictions inherent in their worldview, they will suddenly become fatalists, abandoning their belief in the efficacy and righteousness of the free market. They will say the virus was too contagious to contain, too robust for health services to cope, too lethal to save lives. They will evade all blame for the decades of health cuts and privatisations that made those services inefficient, inadequate, cumbersome and inflexible.

Or, by contrast, politicians will use their spin doctors and allies in the corporate media to obscure the fact that they are quietly and temporarily becoming socialists to deal with the emergency. They will change the welfare rules so that all those in the gig economy they created – employed on zero-hours contracts – do not spread the virus because they cannot afford to self-quarantine or take days’ off sick.

Or most likely our leaders will pursue both options.

Permanent crisis 

If acknowledged at all, the conclusion to be draw from the crisis – that we all matter equally, that we need to look after one another, that we sink or swim together – will be treated as no more than an isolated, fleeting lesson specific to this crisis. Our leaders will refuse to draw more general lessons – ones that might highlight their own culpability – about how sane, humane societies should function all the time. 

In fact, there is nothing unique about the coronavirus crisis. It is simply a heightened version of the less visible crisis we are now permanently mired in. As Britain sinks under floods each winter, as Australia burns each summer, as the southern states of the US are wrecked by hurricanes and its great plains become dustbowls, as the climate emergency becomes ever more tangible, we will learn this truth slowly and painfully. 

Those deeply invested in the current system – and those so brainwashed they cannot see its flaws – will defend it to the bitter end. They will learn nothing from the virus. They will point to authoritarian states and warn that things could be far worse. 

They will point a finger at Iran’s high death toll as confirmation that our profit-driven societies are better, while ignoring the terrible damage we have inflicted on Iran’s health services after years of sabotaging its economy through ferocious sanctions. We left Iran all the more vulnerable to coronavirus  because we wanted to engineer “regime change” – to interfere under the pretence of “humanitarian” concern – as we have sought to do in other countries whose resources we wished to control, from Iraq to Syria and Libya.

Iran will be held responsible for a crisis we willed, that our politicians intended (even if the speed and means came as a surprise), to overthrow its leaders. Iran’s failures will be cited as proof of our superior way of life, as we wail self-righteously about the outrage of a “Russian interference” whose contours we can barely articulate. 

Valuing the common good 

Those who defend our system, even as its internal logic collapses in the face of coronavirus and a climate emergency, will tell us how lucky we are to live in free societies where some – Amazon executives, home delivery services, pharmacies, toilet-paper manufacturers – can still make a quick buck from our panic and fear. As long as someone is exploiting us, as long as someone is growing fat and rich, we will be told the system works – and works better than anything else imaginable. 

But in fact, late-stage capitalist societies like the US and the UK will struggle to claim even the limited successes against coronavirus of authoritarian governments. Is Trump in the US or Johnson in the UK – exemplars of “the market knows best” capitalism – likely to do better than China at containing and dealing with the virus?

This lesson is not about authoritarian versus “free” societies. This is about societies that treasure the common wealth, that value the common good, above private greed and profit, above protecting the privileges of a wealth-elite.

In 2008, after decades of giving the banks what they wanted – free rein to make money by trading in hot air – the western economies all but imploded as an inflated bubble of empty liquidity burst. The banks and financial services were saved only by public bail-outs – tax payers’ money. We were given no choice: the banks, we were told, were “too big to fail”.

We bought the banks with our common wealth. But because private wealth is our era’s guiding star, the public were not allowed to own the banks they bought. And once the banks had been bailed out by us – a perverse socialism for the rich – the banks went right back to making private money, enriching a tiny elite until the next crash.

Nowhere to fly to 

The naive may think this was a one-off. But the failings of capitalism are inherent and structural, as the virus is already demonstrating and the climate emergency will drive home with alarming ferocity in the coming years.

The shut-down of borders means the airlines are quickly going bust. They didn’t put money away for a rainy day, of course. They didn’t save, they weren’t prudent. They are in a cut-throat world where they need to compete with rivals, to drive them out of business and make as much money as they can for shareholders.

Now there is nowhere for the airlines to fly to – and they will have no visible means to make money for months on end. Like the banks, they are too big to fail – and like the banks they are demanding public money be spent to tide them over until they can once again rapaciously make profits for their shareholders. There will be many other corporations queuing up behind the airlines. 

Sooner or later the public will be strong-armed once again to bail out these profit-driven corporations whose only efficiency is the central part they play in fuelling global warming and eradicating life on the planet. The airlines will be resuscitated until the inevitable next crisis arrives – one in which they are key players.

A boot stamping on a face

Capitalism is an efficient system for a tiny elite to make money at a terrible cost, and an increasingly untenable one, to wider society – and only until that system shows itself to be no longer efficient. Then wider society has to pick up the tab, and assist the wealth-elite so the cycle can be begun all over again. Like a boot stamping on a human face – forever, as George Orwell warned long ago.

But it is not just that capitalism is economically self-destructive; it is morally vacant too. Again, we should study the exemplars of neoliberal orthodoxy: the UK and the US.

In Britain, the National Health Service – once the envy of the world – is in terminal decline after decades of privatising and outsourcing its services. Now the same Conservative party that began the cannibalising of the NHS is pleading with businesses such as car makers to address a severe shortage of ventilators, which will soon be needed to assist coronavirus patients.

Once, in an emergency, western governments would have been able to direct resources, both public and private, to save lives. Factories could have been repurposed for the common good. Today, the government behaves as if all it can do is incentivise business, pinning hopes on the profit motive and selfishness driving these firms to enter the ventilator market, or to provide beds, in ways beneficial to public health.

The flaws in this approach should be glaring if we examine how a car manufacturer might respond to the request to adapt its factories to make ventilators.

If it is not persuaded that it can make easy money or if it thinks there are quicker or bigger profits to be made by continuing to make cars at a time when the public is frightened to use public transport, patients will die. If it holds back, waiting to see if there will be enough demand for ventilators to justify adapting its factories, patients will die. If it delays in the hope that ventilator shortages will drive up subsidies from a government fearful of the public backlash, patients will die. And if it makes ventilators on the cheap, to boost profits, without ensuring medical personnel oversee quality control, patients will die.

Survival rates will depend not on the common good, on our rallying to help those in need, on planning for the best outcome, but on the vagaries of the market. And not only on the market, but on faulty, human perceptions of what constitute market forces.

Survival of the fittest 

If this were not bad enough, Trump – in all his inflated vanity – is showing how that profit-motive can be extended from the business world he knows so intimately to the cynical political one he has been gradually mastering. According to reports, behind the scenes he has been chasing after a silver bullet. He is speaking to international pharmaceutical companies to find one close to developing a vaccine so the United States can buy exclusive rights to it.

Reports suggest that he wants to offer the vaccine exclusively to the US public, in what would amount to the ultimate vote-winner in a re-election year. This would be the nadir of the dog-eat-dog philosophy – the survival of the fittest, the market decides worldview – we have been encouraged to worship over the past four decades. It is how people behave when they are denied a wider society to which they are responsible and which is responsible for them.

But even should Trump eventually deign to let other countries enjoy the benefits of his privatised vaccine, this will not be about helping mankind, about the greater good. It will be about Trump the businessman-president turning a tidy profit for the US on the back of other’s desperation and suffering, as well as marketing himself a political hero on the global stage.

Or, more likely, it will be yet another chance for the US to demonstrate its “humanitarian” credentials, rewarding “good” countries by giving them access to the vaccine, while denying “bad” countries like Russia the right to protect their citizens.

Obscenely stunted worldview

It will be a perfect illustration on the global stage – and in bold technicolour – of how the American way of marketing health works. This is what happens when health is treated not as a public good but as a commodity to be bought, as a privilege to incentivise the workforce, as a measure of who is successful and who is unsuccessful.

The US, by far the richest country on the planet, has a dysfunctional health care system not because it cannot afford a good one, but because its political worldview is so obscenely stunted by the worship of wealth that it refuses to acknowledge the communal good, to respect the common wealth of a healthy society.

The US health system is by far the most expensive in the world, but also the most inefficient. The vast bulk of “health spending” does not contribute to healing the sick but enriches a health industry of pharmaceutical corporations and health insurance companies.

Analysts describe a third of all US health spending – $765 billion a year – as “wasted”. But “waste” is a euphemism. In fact, it is money stuffed into the pockets of corporations calling themselves the health industry as they defraud the common wealth of US citizens. And the fraudulence is all the greater because despite this enormous expenditure more than one in 10 US citizens has no meaningful health cover.

As never before, coronavirus will bring into focus the depraved inefficiency of this system – the model of profit-driven health care, of market forces that look out for the short-term interests of business, not the long-term interests of us all.

There are alternatives. Right now, Americans are being offered a choice between a democratic socialist, Bernie Sanders, who champions health care as a right because it is a common good, and a Democratic party boss, Joe Biden, who champions the business lobbies he depends on for funding and his political success. One is being marginalised and vilified as a threat to the American way of life by a handful of corporations that own the US media, while the other is being propelled towards the Democratic nomination by those same corporations.

Coronavirus has an important, urgent lesson to teach us. The question is: are we ready yet to listen?

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This essay first appeared on the author’s blog site, Jonathan Cook’s 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. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image is from Health.mil

AFP is reporting that the US military is withdrawing US troops from 3 Iraqi bases. They are al-Qa’im in the far north on the Syrian border, Qayyarah near Mosul, and Kirkuk.

AFP quotes Coalition spokesman Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Col. Myles B. Caggins III as saying “A transfer ceremony is taking place today to hand over the facilities to Iraqi forces, and the intent is that all coalition troops will be leaving Qaim … It’s historic.”

The Coalition tweeted,

Although the US-led coalition portrayed this withdrawal as coming upon the completion of a mission, in fact ISIL operatives are still active in northern Iraq, and Qa’im is a key transit point to Syria.

The actual reason is that the base at al-Qa’im and the one at Kirkuk have come under rocket fire in recent months. The US Department of Defense believes that they have been attacked by the Kata’ib Hizbullah (Brigades of the Party of God), a Shiite militia. In late December, US fighter jets abruptly attacked a Kata’ib Hizbullah base at al-Qa’im, killing two dozen fighters. Then on Jan. 3, Trump had the leader of the group assassinated, along with Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani.

I can guarantee you that the Shiite militiamen are celebrating today, that the US is out of al-Qa’im and they are not.

There is still a small contingent of US troops in southeast Syria, which Trump was persuaded to keep there to “take the oil” (they aren’t actually taking any oil). The withdrawal from al-Qa’im leaves that base in Syria more isolated than ever. A few of the US troops who left al-Qa’im on Tuesday will be sent to Syria, while others will go to other, less exposed bases in Iraq, and some will come home to the United States.

Col. Caggins called this move historic because if we read between the lines, it is the beginning of the Second Great US Withdrawal from Iraq, the first having come in 2011.

Last week on Wednesday, two American servicemen (Gunnery Sgt. Diego Pogo and Capt. Moises Navas) and one British servicewoman were killed and several more Coalition personnel were wounded in rocket attacks on al-Taji Base north of Baghdad, attacks in which the Shiite Kata’ib Hizbullah militia was suspected. The US Air Force hit an Iraqi base at Jurf al-Sakhr in the south in retaliation on Friday, killing five Iraqi soldiers and one civilian, apparently unaware that the Kata’ib Hizbullah militiamen had departed that base some time ago. On Saturday, al-Taji took more rocket fire, with three US servicemen wounded, two seriously. Alarmed, the Iraqi officers in the anti-ISIL Joint Operations Command urgently called for a US withdrawal from the country. They were echoing the Iraqi parliament, which mandated such a withdrawal in January. On Tuesday, rockets slammed into the Green Zone near the US Embassy. The US command denied reports that al-Taji was hit again.

The Qayyarah Airfield West was recaptured from ISIL in 2016 and about 500 servicemen from the 1101st Airborne Division were based there during the reconquest of Mosul.

Attacks on US personnel at the Kirkuk base kicked off the tensions and violence between Iraqis and the United States. Last fall, one such attack killed a civilian American contractor. Trump blamed Kata’ib Hizbullah, but the Iraqi military believes that this was an error and that the attacks were carried out by ISIL.

The Kata’ib Hizbullah and other Shiite militias were recognized by the Iraqi parliament in 2018 as a sort of National Guard and integrated into the Iraqi military. Trump therefore attacked an element of the Iraqi Army when he bombed KH bases at al-Qa’im in December and killed the KH head in January 3. The militias are also political parties and their coalition, Fath, has 40 seats in parliament, making them a force to reckon with. They had given the Iraqi government a respite to expel the US troops, but said that they would take matters into their own hands if the government did not act.

Action has been postponed by gridlock in Baghdad, with mass rallies having forced PM Adel Abdelmahdi to resign last fall, but with a succession of potential prime ministers failing to gain the acceptance of both ongoing street crowds and the political elite.

On Tuesday, Adnan al-Zurfi was put forward without consultation by president Barham Salih, a pro-American Iraqi of Kurdish heritage. Al-Zurfi had been named governor of Najaf by US viceroy Paul Bremer in 2003, and his close ties to the US make it unlikely that the Shiite dominated parliament will accept him. It is unclear if the youth street crowds, who want less foreign influence in Iraq, will have a vote on al-Zurfi, since the coronavirus threat may disperse them and sap their energy.

The protection of allied foreign troops in a country is the responsibility of the host government and its military. Since Trump started a feud with a part of the Iraqi military, it seems a little unlikely that the host can fulfill its obligations, and I suspect that the rest of the US troops will follow those at al-Qa’im who departed for home on Tuesday.

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Featured image: Protesters take to the streets of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, for a million-man rally to call for an end to the military presence of the United States in their country. Photo | Mehr