Category Archives: Far East

Whitney Webb’s Dark Winter’s tale of smallpox, Amerithrax and Covid-19

Is the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 a naturally occurring variant or was it deliberately engineered? The question is straightforward and finally there can only be one answer. However, governments in the West and the media seem determined to have it both ways. On the one hand they have repeatedly denounced reports that Covid-19 may be a bioweapon as “fake news”, discrediting sources as “conspiracy theorists”, while on the other hand, they are slowly planting the idea that the virus may indeed have escaped from a top level biosafety (BSL-4) lab in Wuhan.

As far back as April 7th, Sky News Australia was already muddying the waters with a news story entitled “Evidence mounts COVID-19 came from a lab in Wuhan”. The evidence it presents is scant to say the least and the supposed “revelation” that “bat was never a food source in Wuhan” was not a revelation at all, but an established fact. Host of the show, Andrew Bolt, leaps from here, however, to the conclusion that “‘a nearby laboratory just 300 metres from the market’ was more likely responsible for the outbreak.” While “another nearby lab, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, bragged about discovering and identifying ‘a large number of new bat and rodent viruses’”

Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps… But it’s not only Sky News Australia that can change their tune and legitimise the bioweapon theory of Covid-19, although only ever to point an accusing finger at China. Here is a report from yesterday’s BBC news:

This is disturbing. When two accounts of a single event are mutually contradictory, the alternating dissemination of both involves the audience in an act of doublethink. As Orwell, who coined the term, understood perfectly well: doublethink is a corrosive process of indoctrination that attacks and undermines one’s own memories and sense of reality. In short, it is a powerful method for mind control.

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Background: foreknowledge and the war of words

In a report from April, investigative journalist Pepe Escobar asks, “what U.S. intel really knew then about what would later be identified as Sars-Cov-2”?

He continues:

The gold standard remains the ABC News report according to which intel collected in November 2019 by the National Center for Medical Intelligence (NCMI), a subsidiary of the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), was already warning about a new virulent contagion getting out of hand in Wuhan, based on “detailed analysis of intercepted communications and satellite imagery”.

An unnamed source told ABC, “analysts concluded it could be a cataclysmic event”, adding the intel was “briefed multiple times” to the DIA, the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, and even the White House.

The Pentagon then issued a retraction of sorts which you can read in Escobar’s article and as a footnote below 1. However, the original story is substantiated in another way, as Escobar explains:

[V]alidating the ABC News report, Israel steps in. Israeli intel confirms U.S. intel did in fact warn them in November about a potentially catastrophic pandemic in Wuhan (once again: how could they possibly know that on the second week of November, so early in the game?) And NATO allies were warned – in November – as well. 2

Click here to read Pepe Escobar’s full article entitled “What Did U.S. Intel Really Know About the ‘Chinese’ Virus?”

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Beijing is carefully, incrementally shaping the narrative that, from the beginning of the coronovirus attack, the leadership knew it was under a hybrid war attack. Xi’s terminology is a major clue. He said, on the record, that this was war. And, as a counter-attack, a “people’s war” had to be launched.

Moreover, he described the virus as a demon or devil. Xi is a Confucianist. Unlike some other ancient Chinese thinkers, Confucius was loath to discuss supernatural forces and judgment in the afterlife. However, in a Chinese cultural context, devil means “white devils” or “foreign devils”: guailo in Mandarin, gweilo in Cantonese. This was Xi delivering a powerful statement in code.

When Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, voiced in an incandescent tweet the possibility that “it might be US Army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan” – the first blast to this effect to come from a top official – Beijing was sending up a trial balloon signalling that the gloves were finally off. 3

Click here to read more from an earlier piece by Pepe Escobar entitled “China locked in hybrid war with US”

In the same article Escobar goes on the discuss how Chinese media are now openly asking questions about a remarkable chain of coincidences involving the World Military Games attended by 300 US military personnel that took place in late October in Wuhan on the eve of the coronavirus outbreak. This includes “the shutting down in August last year of the ‘unsafe’ military bioweapon lab at Fort Detrick” and the prefigured modelling of a worldwide pandemic that took place the very day of the opening of the Wuhan military games during Event 201 held in New York on October 18th (more below).

On March 26th, ‘Moderate Rebels’, Max Blumenthal and Ben Norton spoke with independent geopolitical analyst Pepe Escobar about the new US cold war with China; potential origins of the Covid-19 virus; anti-China corporate media narratives; putting all this in the context of Beijing’s strategy to build a new silk road:

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Engineering Contagion

The leaders of two controversial pandemic simulations that took place just months before the Coronavirus crisis – Event 201 and Crimson Contagion – share a common history, the 2001 biowarfare simulation Dark Winter. Dark Winter not only predicted the 2001 anthrax attacks, but some of its participants had clear foreknowledge of those attacks.

Writes independent journalist Whitney Webb in the lead paragraph of the first of her latest series of investigative reports entitled “Engineering Contagion: Amerithrax, Coronavirus and the Rise of the Biotech-Industrial Complex”.

Webb continues:

During the presidency of George H.W. Bush in the early 1990s, something disturbing unfolded at the U.S.’ top biological warfare research facility at Fort Detrick, Maryland. Specimens of highly contagious and deadly pathogens – anthrax and ebola among them – had disappeared from the lab, at a time when lab workers and rival scientists had been accused of targeted sexual and ethnic harassment and several disgruntled researchers had left as a result.

In addition to missing samples of anthrax, ebola, hanta virus and a variant of AIDS, two of the missing specimens had been labelled “unknown” – “an Army euphemism for classified research whose subject was secret,” according to reports. The vast majority of the specimens lost were never found and an Army spokesperson would later claim that it was “likely some were simply thrown out with the trash.”

An internal Army inquiry in 1992 would reveal that one employee, Lt. Col. Philip Zack, had been caught on camera secretly entering the lab to conduct “unauthorized research, apparently involving anthrax,” the Hartford Courant would later report. Despite this, Zack would continue to do infectious disease research for pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and would collaborate with the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) throughout the 1990s.

The Courant had also noted that: “A numerical counter on a piece of lab equipment had been rolled back to hide work done by the mystery researcher [later revealed to be Zack], who left the misspelled label ‘antrax’ in the machine’s electronic memory.” The Courant’s report further detailed the extremely lax security controls and chaotic disorganization that then characterized the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) lab in Fort Detrick.

This same lab would, a decade later, be officially labeled as the source of the anthrax spores responsible for the 2001 anthrax attacks, attacks which are also officially said to have been the work of a “deranged” USAMRIID researcher, despite initially having been blamed on Saddam Hussein and Iraq by top government officials and mainstream media. Those attacks killed 5 Americans and sickened 17.

Yet, as the investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks unfolded, accusations from major U.S. newspapers soon emerged that the FBI was deliberately sabotaging the probe to protect the Anthrax attacker and that the CIA and U.S. military intelligence had refused to cooperate with the investigation. The FBI did not officially close their investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks, nicknamed “Amerithrax,” until 2010 and aspects of that investigation still remain classified.

To learn more about how “the FBI was deliberately sabotaging the probe to protect the Anthrax attacker” you must read Whitney Webb’s articles in full, and I very strongly encourage readers to follow the link to her website Unlimited Hangout. The evidence of a cover up is absolutely compelling and Webb documents all of that evidence meticulously.

My aim here is to provide a summary that helps to usefully condense Webb’s assiduous research in order to get to the heart of what she describes as the “common history” that runs through the three aforementioned simulations: Operation Dark Winter (June 2001); the very recent ‘Event 201’ (mid-Oct 2019) “a high-level pandemic exercise” led by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in partnership with the World Economic Forum and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that simulated the worldwide spread of a novel coronavirus; and the lesser known multi-part series of pandemic simulations, called ‘Crimson Contagion’, which ran between January to August 2019 and tested the capacity of the US federal government and 12 states – including New York state – to respond to a severe influenza pandemic originating in China.

Returning to Whitney Webb’s outstanding series of articles (and continuing with Part I):

Upon further investigation, key leaders of both Event 201 and Crimson Contagion, not only have deep and longstanding ties to U.S. Intelligence and the U.S. Department of Defense, they were all previously involved in that same June 2001 exercise, Dark Winter. Some of these same individuals would also play a role in the FBI’s “sabotaged” investigation into the subsequent Anthrax attacks and are now handling major aspects of the U.S. government’s response to the Covid-19 crisis. One of those individuals, Robert Kadlec, was recently put in charge of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) entire Covid-19 response efforts, despite the fact that he was recently and directly responsible for actions that needlessly infected Americans with Covid-19.

I shall return to the career of Robert Kadlec and other notable participants in the Dark Winter exercise in fuller detail in the indicated sections below.

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Operation Dark Winter

Webb launches her own investigation on the basis of events that unfolded shortly after the 9/11 attacks with the targeted release of anthrax spores to Senators Tom Daschle, Russ Feingold and Patrick Leahy:

all of whom were – at the time – preventing the US Patriot Act from quickly passing through the Senate and who were resisting administration attempts to ram the legislation through with little to no debate.

Webb also reminds us:

Several of the letters included the date “9-11-01” and the phrases “Death to America, Death to Israel, Allah is great” in neatly-printed block letters.

She continues:

Soon after, a suspicious letter was found in the office of then-Congressman and current Vice President Mike Pence. Media Roots noted the following about Pence’s subsequent press conference in a 2018 podcast that examined the timeline of the 2001 anthrax attacks:

…Mike Pence, who once hosted an AM talk show describing himself as ‘Rush Limbaugh on decaf,’ conducts a press conference outside the Capitol proclaiming revenge and biblical style justice to whoever conducted the anthrax attacks. His family–with news cameras in tow–gets tested for anthrax at the hospital after it is allegedly found in his office.

No news outlets questioned his grandstanding or odd performance of going to the hospital with his family, and unlike Senators Daschle and Leahy in their press appearances, Mike Pence alluded to the anthrax letters being connected to the larger ‘war on terror.’”

As public panic swelled, more letters continued to be found, not just in the United States but around the world, with anthrax and/or hoax letters being found in Japan, Kenya, Israel, China and Australia, among others. Simultaneously, efforts to link the anthrax attacks to Saddam Hussein and Iraq began to emerge and quickly grew in intensity and number.

The media push to link the attacks to Iraq began first with The Guardian and then was followed by U.S. media outlets like The Wall Street Journal. Those early reports cited unnamed “American investigators” and defense officials and largely centered on the false claim that alleged 9/11 mastermind Mohammad Atta had met with an Iraqi diplomat in Prague in late 2000 as well as similarly false allegations that members of Al Qaeda had recently obtained vials of anthrax in the Czech Republic.

Webb begins her piece, however, outlining the details to a high-level bio-attack simulation known as Operation Dark Winter that took place in June 2001 and foreshadowed the anthrax letters, placing Dark Winter in the context of contemporaneous geopolitical concerns with Pentagon crosshairs already hovering over Iraq. Three months later and in the aftermath of 9/11 and the subsequent ‘Amerithrax’ attacks, many in the cast of the Dark Winter exercise were performing similar parts in real life.

The Dark Winter exercise began with a briefing on the geopolitical context of the exercise, which included intelligence suggesting that China had intentionally introduced Foot and Mouth disease in Taiwan for economic and political advantage; that Al-Qaeda was seeking to purchase biological pathogens once weaponized by the Soviet Union; and that Saddam Hussein of Iraq had recruited former biowarfare specialists from the Soviet Union and was importing materials to create biological weapons. It further notes that a majority of Americans had opposed a planned deployment of U.S. soldiers to the Middle East, which was also opposed by Iraq, China and Russia. The script also asserts that the soldiers were being deployed to counter and potentially engage the Iraqi military. Later, as the exercise unfolds, many of those Americans once skeptical about this troop deployment soon begin calling for “revenge.”

Amid this backdrop, news suddenly breaks that smallpox, a disease long eradicated in the U.S. and globally, appears to have broken out in the state of Oklahoma. The participants in Dark Winter, representing the National Security Council, quickly deduce that smallpox has been deliberately introduced and that this is the result of a “bioterrorist attack on the United States.” The assumption is made that the attack is “related to decisions we may make to deploy troops to the Mid-East.”

Not unlike what is unfolding currently with the Covid-19 crisis, in Dark Winter, there is no means of rapid diagnosis for smallpox, no treatments available and no surge capacity in the healthcare system. The outbreak quickly spreads to numerous other U.S. states and throughout the world. Hospitals in the U.S. soon face “desperate situations” as “tens of thousands of ill or anxious persons seek care.” This is compounded by “grossly inadequate supplies” and “insufficient isolation rooms,” among other complications.

Since this exercise occurred in June 2001, the heavy hinting that Saddam Hussein-led Iraq and Al Qaeda are the main suspects is notable. Indeed, at one point in one of the fictional news reports used in the exercise, the reporter states that “Iraq might have provided the technology behind the attacks to terrorist groups based in Afghanistan.” Such claims that Iraq’s government was linked to Al Qaeda in Afghanistan would re-emerge months later in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, and would be heavily promoted by several Dark Winter participants such as former CIA Director James Woolsey, who would later swear under oath that Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11. It would, of course, later emerge that Iraq’s connections to Al Qaeda and the 9/11 attacks were nonexistent as well as the fact that Iraq did not possess biological weapons or other “weapons of mass destruction.”

A summary of Operation Dark Winter based around information gathered from current Wikipedia entries including an overview and partial list of participants can be found in Appendix A.

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Anthony Fauci

As a lead member as well as the de facto spokesman of Trump’s White House Coronavirus Task Force, Dr Anthony Fauci has recently become a household name in America. However Fauci first came into the public spotlight during the AIDS crisis as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a post he has held since 1984.

It was also under Fauci’s leadership and in response to the post-9/11 ‘Amerithrax’ attacks, that NIAID “markedly expanded, intensified and accelerated its ongoing research programs in biodefense”. A new initiative that Fauci personally outlined during his address to delegates at the 12th annual Joseph B. Brennan Lecture at Georgetown University in October 2002:

“Events of 2001 have had an impact not only on the nation but on the biomedical field which is now concerned with emerging diseases and defense… Eighteen cases and five deaths associated with anthrax has led to a total transformation in what the biomedical community would have to deal with. The anthrax scare has resulted in a situation unprecedented… and would be a new challenge for American medicine.”

In echoes of the Dark Winter scenario, Fauci also “discussed the possible threat of a resurgence of the smallpox disease” indicating “that smallpox is a possible weapon that could be used against the U. S. in the event of bioterrorism, which means that the vaccine may be needed again.” More controversially, he also “asked how the government would decide to make it mandatory if not enough people decided to get the vaccine voluntarily.” 4

Shortly afterward this address in November, the Canadian Medical Association Journal responded to these plans with a piece entitled “Bioterrorism becoming too dominant on public health agenda?”

The bioterrorism threat has led the US to commit $1.5 billion in new funding for research in this area in 2003. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, described the spending as “quite unprecedented,” calling it the “largest single increase of any discipline in any institute in the history of the [National Institutes of Health].” His institute must now decide how to spend US$1.75 billion next year on vaccines and treatments for problems such as smallpox.

The same piece continues:

Several people questioned the size of such budgets, arguing that the medical community is being unduly influenced by fears of terrorism. The remote chance of a bioterrorist attack means that there is little profit motive for private companies to invest in this kind of research. Fauci agreed that this poses a difficult challenge.

The discussion about how to convince companies to invest has already been marred by controversy. The US Department of Health and Human Services was recently criticized for holding closed-door meetings with the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America Emergency Preparedness Task Force. Sidney Wolfe of US Public Citizen, a legislative watchdog group, said that having pharmaceutical executives at the table was an inherent conflict of interest and that these executives have “powerful economic self-interests in shaping government policy on this topic.” 5

A few months on and Fauci was bolstering the same calls with a piece published in the esteemed journal Nature detailing his proposals for putting “Biodefence on the research agenda”. The levels of funding were already ballooning:

The US government is investing an unprecedented amount of money — $5.9 billion planned for fiscal year 2003 — to counter the threat of bioterrorism. Of that sum, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the lead government agency in biomedical research, will receive nearly $1.75 billion, almost eight times the fiscal year 2002 budget for biodefence research, and the largest single increase in resources for any initiative in the history of the NIH. With this largesse come enormous responsibilities. 6

Of course, words can sometimes be used to disguise the truth, and never more so than in the case of “defence”: the weaponisation of language is part and parcel of its armoury. For “biodefence research” then it is advisable to read instead “bioweapons research”. In short, Fauci was hereby announcing a vast transfer of public money away from healthcare and into the already overflowing coffers of the arms industry. And this was just the start:

The American legal authority who in 1989 drafted the law Congress enacted to comply with the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention says the U.S. today [October 11, 2015] is in flagrant violation of that Convention.

So begins an article based on an interview with Dr Francis Boyle, a human rights lawyer and Professor of International Law at the University of Illinois who drafted the US domestic implementing legislation for the Biological Weapons Convention, known as the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989. (A fact that is still listed although tucked away beneath the generic heading “Background and legal work” in the middle of his current Wikipedia entry.)

The same piece continues:

“Since Sept. 11, 2001, we have spent somewhere in the area of $100 billion” on offensive biological warfare, charges Professor Francis Boyle of the University of Illinois, Champaign.

Boyle said an estimated 13,000 “death scientists” in 400 laboratories in the U.S. and abroad, are employed making new strains of offensive killer germs that will be resistant to vaccines.

For example, Dr. Yoshihiro Kawaoka’s group at the University of Wisconsin has found a way to increase the toxicity of the flu virus by 200 times! Boyle says Kawaoka is “the same death scientist who resurrected the genocidal Spanish Flu virus for the Pentagon for offensive biowarfare purposes.”

As for fighting flu, the National Institutes of Health in 2006, a typical year, got only $120 million from Congress to fight flu, which kills an estimated 36,000 Americans annually. By contrast, Congress gave NIH $1.76 billion for “biodefense,” even though the anthrax outbreak in 2001 killed just five persons.

“These distorted budgetary allocations,” (spending 15 times as much for germ warfare as for fighting flu) “demonstrate that the priority here is not the promotion of the public health of American citizens but rather to further develop the U.S. offensive biowarfare industry that will someday ‘blowback’ upon the American people with a catastrophic pandemic,” Boyle said. 7

This story becomes more extraordinary, once we learn that some of this public money was “just last year” transferred via NIAID, the organization led by Dr. Fauci, to “fund[ed] scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and other institutions for work on gain-of-function research on bat coronaviruses.

The same Newsweek piece I have quoted above continues:

In 2019, with the backing of NIAID, the National Institutes of Health committed $3.7 million over six years for research that included some gain-of-function work. The program followed another $3.7 million, 5-year project for collecting and studying bat coronaviruses, which ended in 2019, bringing the total to $7.4 million.

Many scientists have criticized gain of function research, which involves manipulating viruses in the lab to explore their potential for infecting humans, because it creates a risk of starting a pandemic from accidental release.

The article then details the two phases of the NIH research project, and continues:

The project was run by EcoHealth Alliance, a non-profit research group, under the direction of President Peter Daszak, an expert on disease ecology. NIH canceled the project just this past Friday, April 24th, Politico reported. Daszak did not immediately respond to Newsweek requests for comment.

The project proposal states: “We will use S protein sequence data, infectious clone technology, in vitro and in vivo infection experiments and analysis of receptor binding to test the hypothesis that % divergence thresholds in S protein sequences predict spillover potential.”

In layman’s terms, “spillover potential” refers to the ability of a virus to jump from animals to humans, which requires that the virus be able to attach to receptors in the cells of humans. SARS-CoV-2, for instance, is adept at binding to the ACE2 receptor in human lungs and other organs.

According to Richard Ebright, an infectious disease expert at Rutgers University, the project description refers to experiments that would enhance the ability of bat coronavirus to infect human cells and laboratory animals using techniques of genetic engineering. In the wake of the pandemic, that is a noteworthy detail.

Adding:

A decade ago, during a controversy over gain-of-function research on bird-flu viruses, Dr. Fauci played an important role in promoting the work. He argued that the research was worth the risk it entailed because it enables scientists to make preparations, such as investigating possible anti-viral medications, that could be useful if and when a pandemic occurred.

The work in question was a type of gain-of-function research that involved taking wild viruses and passing them through live animals until they mutate into a form that could pose a pandemic threat. Scientists used it to take a virus that was poorly transmitted among humans and make it into one that was highly transmissible—a hallmark of a pandemic virus. This work was done by infecting a series of ferrets, allowing the virus to mutate until a ferret that hadn’t been deliberately infected contracted the disease.

The work entailed risks that worried even seasoned researchers. More than 200 scientists called for the work to be halted. The problem, they said, is that it increased the likelihood that a pandemic would occur through a laboratory accident. 8

Click here to read the full article entitled “Dr. Fauci Backed Controversial Wuhan Lab with U.S. Dollars for Risky Coronavirus Research”

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“Anthrax War” (2009) is investigative documentary by filmmaker Roberto Coen and Executive Producer Eric Nadler that examines the 2001 Anthrax Attacks and offers a frightening glimpse into today’s secret and dangerous world of germ weapons. Broadcast internationally, it was nominated for the 2009 Prix Europa for Outstanding Current Affairs Broadcast. DEAD SILENCE is the accompanying book that fills out the story of the global investigation that the documentary could only outline:

Click here to read more background on the official website. *

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Robert Kadlec

“If several kilograms of an agent like anthrax were disseminated in New York City today, conservative estimates put the number [of] deaths occurring in the first few days at 400,000. Thousands of others would be at risk of dying within several days if proper antibiotics and vaccination were not started immediately. Millions of others would be fearful of being exposed and seek or demand medical care as well. Beyond the immediate health implications of such an act, the potential panic and civil unrest would create an equally large response.”

— Robert Kadlec as quoted in a 1998 article from the Vancouver Sun.

The name of Robert Kadlec fails is notable by its absence from the current Wikipedia entry on Operation Dark Winter since as Whitney Webb reveals:

The name for the exercise derives from a statement made by Robert Kadlec, who participated in the script created for the exercise, when he states that the lack of smallpox vaccines for the U.S. populace means that “it could be a very dark winter for America.” Kadlec, a veteran of the George W. Bush administration and a former lobbyist for military intelligence/intelligence contractors, is now leading HHS’ Covid-19 response and led the Trump administration’s 2019 “Crimson Contagion” exercises, which simulated a crippling pandemic influenza outbreak in the U.S. that had first originated in China.

We also learn how Kadlec “who became an adviser on biological warfare to the Rumsfeld-led Pentagon in the days after 9/11” states in his official biography that he “contributed to the FBI investigation of the anthrax letter attacks”, although, as Webb writes:

[I]t’s unclear exactly what those contributions were, beyond having met at least once with scientists at Fort Detrick in November 2001. Whatever his contributions were, Kadlec has long been an emphatic supporter of the official narrative regarding Bruce Ivins, who he has referred to as a “deranged scientist” and the sole culprit behind the attacks. Kadlec has also used the official narrative about Ivins to assert that bioweapons have been “democratized,” which he argues means that weaponized pathogens can be wielded by essentially anyone with “a few thousand dollars” and enough time on their hands.

More recently, Robert Kadlec has been put in charge of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) entire Covid-19 response efforts, and he is not alone:

Notably, Kadlec isn’t the only key figure in the current U.S. government response to Covid-19 to have ties to the botched FBI investigation as current HHS Secretary Alex Azar was also involved in the FBI investigation. In addition, Azar stated at a White House press briefing in 2018 that he had been “personally involved in much of managing the response [to the anthrax attacks]” as then-General counsel to HHS.

Yet, given that the FBI investigation into the anthrax attacks and the government response to them were so disastrous and heavily criticized by independent and mainstream media alike, it is surprising that Azar and Kadlec would so proudly tout their involvement in that fiasco, especially considering that the scientific analyses used in that investigation were fatally flawed and, by all indications, led to the death of an innocent man.

[Bruce Ivins “apparently committed suicide just as the Justice Department was about to file criminal charges against him in the anthrax mailings that traumatized the nation in the weeks following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to a published report.” 9]

In the final instalment of her investigative trilogy “Engineering Contagion: Amerithrax, Coronavirus and the Rise of the Biotech-Industrial Complex “, Webb returns to “head of the hydra”, Robert Kadlec.

She writes:

Thanks to a long and deliberate process to introduce biodefense policy, driven by Robert Kadlec and his sponsors, $7 billion dollars-worth of federally-owned vaccines, antidotes and medicines – held in strategically arranged repositories across the country in case of a health emergency – are now in the hands of one single individual. Those repositories, which compose the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS), are the exclusive domain of HHS’ ASPR, a post created under Kadlec’s watchful eye and tailored over the years to meet his very specific requirements.

From this perch, Robert Kadlec has final say on where the stockpile’s contents are sourced, as well as how, when and where they are deployed. He is the sole source procurer of medical material and pharmaceuticals, making him the best friend of Big Pharma and other healthcare industry giants who have been in his ear every step of the way.

Kadlec assures us, however, that the fact that he now holds the very office he worked so long to create is merely a coincidence. “My participation in the ASPR project began at that time when I was working for the chairman of the Subcommittee on Bioterrorism and Public Health Preparedness…The bill was made law and the ASPR was created. It just was a coincidence that, 12 or 14 years later, I was asked to become the ASPR,” Kadlec stated in 2018.

It was all a random twist of fate, Kadlec asserts, that saw him occupy ASPR at this crucial moment in U.S. history. Indeed, with the country now in the middle of a WHO-declared coronavirus pandemic, Kadlec now has full control over the far-reaching “emergency” powers of that very office, bestowed upon him by the very law that he had written.

Webb also retraces the rise of Kadlec who “describes himself as having been an “accidental tourist” regarding his introduction to biological warfare”, which “began when he was assigned to be a special assistant for Chemical and Biological Warfare to the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), advising then-head of Special Operations Command Maj. Gen. Wayne Downing, on the eve of the first Gulf War”:

Kadlec would later state that he had witnessed firsthand how the military, immediately prior to the Gulf War, had “lacked the necessary protective equipment, detectors, and medical countermeasures including vaccines and antibiotics against the immediate threats posed by Iraq,” allegedly prompting him to want to better U.S. biodefense efforts.

While holding this post at JSOC, Kadlec was privy to the advice of William C. Patrick III, a veteran of the U.S.’ bioweapons program who had developed the U.S.’ method for weaponizing anthrax and held no less than five classified patents related to the toxin’s use in warfare. Patrick, who had left government service in 1986 to become a consultant, advised the Pentagon — then headed by Dick Cheney — that the risk of a biological weapons attack by Iraq, particularly anthrax, was high. Patrick’s warning prompted the U.S. military to vaccinate tens of thousands of its troops using the controversial anthrax vaccine “anthrax vaccine adsorbed (AVA).” Kadlec would personally inject AVA into around 800 members of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Note that: anthrax vaccine adsorbed (AVA) is still the only FDA-licensed human anthrax vaccine licensed for use in the United States. Today it is produced under the trade name BioThrax by the Emergent BioDefense Corporation (formerly known as BioPort Corporation) in Lansing, Michigan. I return to BioThrax and BioPort below.

The award-winning documentary ‘Direct Order (2003) is embedded below. Directed by Scott Miller and narrated by Michael Douglas, it tells the story of American military personnel who were ordered sometimes against their will to take the anthrax vaccine and who subsequently developed Gulf War Syndrome:

Webb continues:

Kadlec would later note in Congressional testimony that no definitive proof of an alleged Iraqi biological weapons program was found during the war or afterwards, but nevertheless claimed elsewhere that “the Iraqis later admitted they had procured large quantities of a biological agents-anthrax and botulism toxin,” suggesting that Patrick’s warnings had had some basis in reality.

However, Kadlec failed to point out that these anthrax and botulism samples had been sold, with the U.S. government’s full approval, to Iraq’s Ministry of Education by a U.S. private non-profit called the American Type Culture Collection. Donald Rumsfeld, who was then an envoy for the Reagan administration and running a pharmaceutical company later sold to Monsanto, would also be involved in the shipment of these samples to Iraq.

Following the war, American microbiologist Joshua Lederberg was tasked by the Pentagon to head the investigation into “Gulf War Syndrome,” a phenomenon that studies later linked to the adverse effects of the anthrax vaccine. Lederberg’s task force argued that evidence regarding an association between the symptomology and the anthrax vaccine was insufficient. However, he would later come under fire after it was reported that he sat on the board of the American Type Culture Collection, the very company that had shipped anthrax to Iraq’s government between 1985 and 1989 with the U.S. government’s blessing. Lederberg later admitted that the investigation he led had not spent enough “time and effort digging out the details”. The taskforce’s findings were later harshly criticized by the Government Accountability Office.

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Judith Miller

Over the past several years, the United States has embarked on a program of secret research on biological weapons that, some officials say, tests the limits of the global treaty banning such weapons.

So begins an article co-authored by New York Times reporter, Judith Miller, who, appropriately enough, had performed the part of a reporter working for the NYT in the simulation Dark Winter. The article entitled “U.S. Germ Warfare Research Pushes Treaty Limits” appeared in early September about a week prior to the 9/11 attacks and little more than two months since her role in the June exercise.

A few paragraphs down, she continues:

Earlier this year, administration officials said, the Pentagon drew up plans to engineer genetically a potentially more potent variant of the bacterium that causes anthrax, a deadly disease ideal for germ warfare.

The experiment has been devised to assess whether the vaccine now being given to millions of American soldiers is effective against such a superbug, which was first created by Russian scientists. A Bush administration official said the National Security Council is expected to give the final go-ahead later this month. 10

Webb picks up the story and writes:

The New York Times noted specifically that the genetically-modified anthrax experiments being performed by Battelle’s West Jefferson facility were a “significant reason” behind the Bush administration’s decision to reject the draft agreement and the U.S. government had argued at the time that “unlimited visits to pharmaceutical or defense installations by foreign inspectors could be used to gather strategic or commercial intelligence.” Of course, one of those “pharmaceutical or defense installations” was ultimately the source of the anthrax used in the [post-9/11 ‘Amerithrax’] attacks.

In a tribute (her word) to William C Patrick III, Miller describes her first meeting with “the government’s ‘go-to guy’ on biological weapons”, fondly reminiscing:

Then this seemingly cheerful father of two led us downstairs to his basement office, as he had legions of other students of the black bio-arts, to give us a PowerPoint tutorial on how germ weapons were made, stored, and distributed. He patiently answered our questions about how bacteria, viruses, and other deadly pathogens could be used as weapons of mass destruction. Near the end of our session, he pulled a garden sprayer out of a green duffel bag and vigorously pumped it several times, producing a large cloud of fine particles that hung in the air like fog. If this were anthrax, he told us, we would all soon be dead. Offering me a memento of our class, he put a vial of the simulated anthrax in my purse and scribbled his home number on the stationery of his one-man consulting firm, Biothreats Assessment. It was topped with an image of the Grim Reaper. A skull and crossbones were engraved on the business card he handed me. Call any time, he said merrily.

The year was 1997 and Miller’s momentary shock at being sprayed like a greenfly was really nothing; certainly when compared to the horror she must have felt just a handful of years later upon seeing an unknown white powder spilling from an envelope addressed to her.

Her own account continues:

And call we did. On countless occasions, Bill Patrick was an invaluable source of biological history, analysis, folklore, and wisdom. When I received a letter filled with powder during the anthrax letter attack after 9/11, Bill was on the phone to calm me down, assuring me that the powder that had tumbled out of the envelope onto my clothes and my desk, given my description of it, was most likely a hoax, not some of the real anthrax which wound up killing five and infecting 17. And when the FBI began to suspect him as a potential culprit in its hapless “Amerithrax” investigation of the anthrax attacks—a travesty that the Bureau eventually undid by naming another Fort Detrick veteran, Bruce Ivins, as the likely perpetrator—I tried comforting him as he had me. 11

Judith Miller would go on to ruin her reputation by promoting false intelligence claims about Iraq’s WMD programme both before and after the 2003 invasion. In her own self-defence, she afterwards confessed the unspeakable truth of so much so-called journalism:

“My job isn’t to assess the government’s information and be an independent intelligence analyst myself. My job is to tell readers of The New York Times what the government thought about Iraq’s arsenal.” 12

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Senator Sam Nunn and Margaret Hamburg

Created by media mogul Ted Turner and former Senator Sam Nunn in January 2001, NTI [Nuclear Threat Initiative] aimed not only to “reduce the threat” posed by nuclear weapons, but also chemical and biological weapons.

In announcing NTI’s formation on CNN, the network Turner had founded, Nunn stated that while “nuclear weapons pose the gigantic danger, but biological and chemical weapons are the most likely to be used. And there are thousands of scientists in the former Soviet Union that know how to make these weapons, including chemical, biological and nuclear, but don’t know how to feed their families.” Nunn continued, stating that NTI hoped “to begin to help, some hope for gainful employment for people that we don’t want to end up making chemical and biological and nuclear weapons in other parts of the world.” NTI’s mission in this regard likely came as welcome news to Joshua Lederberg, who had long advocated that the U.S. offer employment to bioweapons researchers from the former Soviet Union to prevent their employ by “rogue regimes.”

Alongside Nunn and Turner on NTI’s board was William Perry, a former Secretary of Defense; former Senator Dick Lugar, for whom the alleged U.S. bioweapons lab in Georgia is named; and Margaret Hamburg, who was NTI’s Vice President overseeing its work on biological weapons. Margaret Hamburg’s father, David Hamburg, a long-time president of the Carnegie Corporation, was also an advisor and “distinguished fellow” at NTI. David Hamburg was a longtime close advisor, associate, and friend of Joshua Lederberg.

Both Sam Nunn and Margaret Hamburg of NTI, as well as top officials from ANSER [aka Analytic Services, Inc.], would come together in June 2001 to participate in an exercise simulating a bioweapons attack called “Dark Winter.” Nunn would play the role of president in the exercise and Hamburg played the head of HHS in the fictional scenario. Jerome Hauer, then-managing director of the intelligence-linked outfit Kroll Inc. and a Vice President at the military-intelligence contractor Scientific Applications International Corporation (SAIC), played the head of FEMA.

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Jerome Hauer

In Part I of her series which is subtitled “All Roads Lead to Dark Winter”; Webb introduces us to Jerome Hauer, another one of the key participants of the Operation Dark Winter.

Webb tells us “[Hauer] had previously served for nearly 8 years at the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command (USAMRDC), which oversees the USAMRIID lab at Fort Detrick.” The same USAMRIID lab in Fort Detrick where the anthrax used in the Amerithrax attacks was allegedly produced and stolen from.

In Part I, we also learn that:

[Jerome] Hauer, on September 11, 2001, was the managing director of Kroll Inc., a private intelligence and security company informally known as the “CIA of Wall Street,” a company that French intelligence had accused of acting as a front for the actual CIA. Kroll Inc., at the time of the attacks was responsible for security at the World Trade Center complex, yet Hauer was conveniently not present at his World Trade Center office on the day of the attacks, instead appearing on cable news.

And there is a great deal more to Hauer’s “curious past”, as Webb reveals in Part II of the series entitled “A Killer Enterprise: How One of Big Pharma’s Most Corrupt Companies Plans to Corner the Covid-19 Cure Market”. Picking up where she left off, she writes:

As BioPort secured its control over the only licensed anthrax vaccine producer in the country in 1998, New York’s emergency crisis manager and bioterrorism expert, Jerome Hauer, was busy working and making doomsday contingency plans from his “bunker” on the 23rd floor of World Trade Center Building 7.

Put on the job by then-NY Mayor Rudy Giuliani in 1996, Hauer had previously managed worldwide emergency response for technology giant IBM. He also was an adviser to the Justice Department, had briefed President Clinton on bioterror threats and was known to “consult regularly with Scotland Yard and the Israeli military.” It was reportedly Hauer’s idea to locate the city’s emergency management office at Building 7, even though placing it there was considered controversial at the time due to the 1993 World Trade Center bombings, bombings that were later revealed to have disturbing links to the FBI.

In 1999, the New York Times would describe Hauer’s job as “sitting around all day thinking up horrifying ways for things to be destroyed and people to die.” It would also note that Hauer described his expertise regarding specific emergency situations as follows: “helicopter crash, subway fire, water main break, ice storm, heat wave, blackout, building collapse, building collapse, building collapse.” His obsession with building collapses even led him to house “trophies” of the building collapses he had overseen and responded to. How odd then that Hauer’s multi-million dollar “bunker” itself would later fall victim to building collapse, falling into its own footprint in 7 seconds on September 11, 2001.

The back-story to the rescue of biopharmaceutical company BioPort which had depended upon the timely occurrence of the 2001 anthrax attacks is detailed at great length in the article. For the purposes of this synopsis the part that you need to understand is that although Hauer was also a national security adviser to then-head of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Tommy Thompson, he soon became “one of their biggest proponents of expanding BioPort’s contracts”:

As the anthrax attacks unfolded, Hauer advised Secretary Thompson to establish a new office at HHS, the Office of Public Health Preparedness (OPHP), whose first acting director was Dr. D.A. Henderson, a former official with the World Health Organization and the original founder of the Johns Hopkins Working Group on Civilian Biodefense, which had sponsored Dark Winter and included Jerome Hauer as well as Dark Winter co-authors Tara O’Toole and Thomas Inglesby. In early 2002, Hauer himself would replace Henderson as head of the newly created OPHP.

In May 2002, Hauer — while leading OPHP —  co-authored a report with members of the Johns Hopkins Working Group, including O’Toole and Inglesby. In that paper, published in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Hauer, O’Toole, Inglesby and their co-authors argued that greater production and purchase of anthrax vaccine was necessary in light of the 2001 anthrax attacks and that government funding was also needed to research a new anthrax vaccine. They also asserted that the vaccine did not cause any significant adverse effects.

Notably, just months prior, O’Toole and Inglesby had come under scrutiny in their attempts to link the anthrax attacks to Al Qaeda, several months after that possibility had been ruled out completely by federal investigators and other independent scientists.

The paper authored by the Johns Hopkins Working Group would also come under scrutiny, particularly their recommendation that the government acquire more BioThrax. This was largely because the evidence from the attacks showed that antibiotics were much more effective and less expensive in responding to anthrax attacks, with subsequent studies claiming that calls for stockpiling more BioThrax “defy medical evidence and expert recommendations” based on lessons learned during the anthrax attacks.

Moreover:

Hauer would, months later, be appointed to a newly created position at HHS, one which oversaw the new biodefense stockpile from which BioPort would be a major beneficiary.

BioPort would be then renamed and repackaged as Emergent Biosolutions in 2004. It would then hire even more well-connected lobbyists and add several big names from government and the private sector to its board. One of these “big names” was none other than Jerome Hauer, who was added to Emergent’s board soon after leaving HHS. Hauer still remains a company director and sits on three of its corporate governance committees.

Returning to the immediate events surrounding the 9/11 attack, we also discover that:

[O]n the day of 9/11, Hauer had told top Bush administration officials to start taking the antibiotic Cipro to prevent infection via anthrax and Hauer would subsequently make public hints via mass media that foreign terrorists were working with Saddam Hussein to unleash an anthrax attack on the American public. All of this took place well before the first anthrax attack victim, photojournalist Robert Stevens, would even show symptoms.

Hauer had prepared for a scenario just like the anthrax attacks as part of the Dark Winter biowarfare simulation, which occurred just months prior and at a time when Hauer was a member of the Johns Hopkins Working Group on Civilian BioDefense, part of what is now the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, then led by Dark Winter co-author Tara O’Toole.

Webb adds:

Also of note is the fact that, while working for Kroll Inc. Hauer was also working for the Scientific Applications International Corporation (SAIC), a defense and intelligence contractor. There he became a co-worker of Stephen Hatfill, who Hauer had actually met years prior. At SAIC, Hatfill worked on developing protocols for handling “anthrax hoax letters,” a phenomenon present in Dark Winter and later during the actual 2001 anthrax attacks. Hatfill would later be accused of having committed those very attacks, but was later cleared of suspicion, winning a hefty multi-million dollar settlement from the government. 13

Click here to read Whitney Webb’s full article.

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John Rendon (knows too much)

Very few who read this story will know who John Rendon is. Back during the time of Nixon and Watergate, Rendon was one of the people working for George McGovern in his quest for the White House. Later, after cutting his teeth doing PR and propaganda for Washington’s top dogs dethroning enemy despots like Manuel Noreiga, and other CIA targets. In the early 2000s, Rendon would be referred to as “The man who sold the war,” because of a story by investigative journalist James Bamford. His report revealed how the Rendon Group PR firm fed journalists, like disgraced New York Times writer Judith Miller, stories to sell Bush’s “War on Terror” to the public. It was Rendon who was involved with the contrivance where a 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl named Nayirah told the world about the babies in incubators Saadam Hussein’s soldiers left to die. America went to war and killed hundreds of thousands, because of such lies.

Today, John Rendon proves how “involved” he is in current affairs. Invisible in the news cycle, Rendon’s activities can only be observed (ironically) by his Twitter feed, and through his Empower Peace platform and organizations like the Women2Women international leadership program. Not unlike billionaire George Soros, who uses the Open Society Foundation to “teach” doctrine and action to the world’s next leaders, Rendon operates at the grassroots level as well as the operations level. Brainwashing is the easy term for what Rendon Group is up to.

The extract above is drawn from a short piece entitled “Manufactured Perception and the COVID-19 Pandora’s Box” published by New Eastern Outlook on June 10th.

Political analyst Phil Butler continues:

Rendon’s talent, if you will, comes from an understanding of how digital/social media works. In the old days of public relations, clients expected PR firms to change the worldview via a series of press releases or televised interviews with American officials. Rendon and operators like him, understand that effective propaganda requires the gradual cultivation and propagation of an alternative worldview, which is the way the CIA practiced during the Cold War.

As intelligent (or lucky), and intuitive as John Rendon is, like most people he slips up in the slipstream of social media. His Twitter feed may not be revealing to the causal “Tweep” but set against a comparative timeline, Rendon just knows too much too soon. The tweet below is part 1 of 5 he shared January 31st, weeks before most people even understood what COVID-19 was.

“What should be known about contagions, is first, the psychological size of the contagion will be at least 5x greater than the contagion itself, thus timely, truthful and transparent reporting is essential-which is a challenge for Boys in #Beijing

The second tweet in the series foretold of collapsing medical infrastructure and the need for the military to step in. Third, Rendon uses his crystal ball to predict travel stoppage, infrastructure, and supply chain breakdown. Next, he predicts economic recovery will be 2x to 3x longer than when the contagion danger has passed. Finally, the PR spook nails exactly what has happened in the international response to the pandemic.

In my view, John Rendon is either a direct descendant of the soothsayer “Carnac the Magnificent” made famous by the late Johnny Carson, or he’s some knowledge of pre-planning and contingencies for this pandemic. The news cycle the average American sees contained no such in-depth analysis in the timeframe January 1st through 31st. Put another way, the New York Times was in reaction mode in January, and there was no mention of wide-reaching economic impacts like Rendon prophesied. 14

Phil Butler doesn’t reprint the contents of tweets #2–#5 in detail but they are still available and so I have included them in Appendix B.

Click here to read Phil Butler’s full article.

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Final thoughts

“Using DNA genetic engineering, U.S. death scientists are concocting new strains of lethal microbes for which there are no cures. Bacteria, for example, can be made resistant to vaccines, made more virulent, easier to spread, and harder to eradicate. Right now U.S. death scientists are scouring the biosphere around the world to locate any bioagent in nature that they can exploit and pervert into offensive biowarfare purposes.”

— Dr Francis Boyle. 15

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Whitney Webb’s latest investigative trilogy does a great deal to unravel the incestuous ties between US federal agencies, bioweapons establishments such as Fort Detrick, and sectors of the pharmaceutical industry. However, by shining a spotlight directly on the network of authors and participants involved in Operation Dark Winter that foreshadowed the Amerithrax attacks, she also achieves more than this. Webb shows us that careers were advanced and how many of the same actors have profited financially too. Did any of them have insider knowledge of what was about to be unleashed from Fort Detrick? She believes the circumstantial evidence overwhelming, although without a fully independent inquiry, it will always be impossible to divorce conspiracy from coincidence.

Today the world is locked down following the outbreak of a very different type of disease. Unlike Amerithrax, we do not as yet know the origins of Covid-19. The official view is that this new variant of coronavirus is of zoonotic origin: that is, an earlier form was spread from animals; specifically, from horseshoe bats to some as yet unknown intermediary creature, mutating in the process and finally becoming transmissible from human to human. Precisely when and where this happened is uncertain, although the earliest recorded cases in China indicate that patients were first infected in mid to late November.

The Trump administration has since told the world that it believes the virus “escaped a P4 Wuhan virology research center”, and asserts that “China hid its knowledge of a potential escape by using its time before notifying the world of the outbreak to vacuum up medical safety gear from Brazil, and elsewhere.” 16

Having made these accusations, Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, afterwards reiterated the claim that the US had evidence, if not certainty, that the virus had emerged from the Wuhan Institute of Virology:

“Every one of those statements is entirely consistent,” he said. “We are all trying to figure out the right answer. We are all trying to get the clarity.” 17

Not that Pompeo is isolated in his belief that the virus may have leaked from the Wuhan lab. As Forbes magazine reported in the wake of US government insinuations:

The new SARS mystery is entering its ACT III, and in this act, the U.S., Australia, and the United Kingdom all lash out at China for its lackluster biosafety features at one of its most secure virology labs. 18

Francis Boyle has made similar claims (see below), although here we must be careful to acknowledge the distinction that Boyle, unlike Pompeo, is in no way attempting to scapegoat the Chinese. For one thing, Boyle understands that the research carried out at the Wuhan lab was very much a joint venture involving the Americans (you can see him discussing this in a video embedded below).

Alarmingly, at the same time, all debate over the possibility that this virus was indeed manufactured in a Wuhan lab – a hypothesis that in fact cannot be ruled out on the basis of current knowledge and one that has been entertained by researchers and experts in the field of biowarfare other than Boyle (see Appendices C and D below) – is immediately discredited on the grounds that it is just another “conspiracy theory”, albeit one that not only the Trump administration, but their Australian and UK counterparts are all engaged in perpetuating. To accept both views absolutely demands doublethink.

However, there is a third possibility too. If the “Wuhan Flu” as Trump likes to call it, was produced in a lab then it might just as easily have been manufactured in America as in China. As Pepe Escobar discusses at the beginning of this piece, whether we like it or not, this would seem to be the prevailing view in China from the street all the way up to the Politburo. Covid-19 therefore represents an act of war, and all the false accusations combined with the ramping up of sanctions are secondary attacks.

If we admit this as a possible scenario then we must wonder why America would unleash an attack that was bound to blowback with devastating consequences for our own economies. As we are seeing, of course, a crisis of this magnitude provides a tremendous opportunity not only for a power grab but for looting – behind the scenes of smashed shop windows and kids running off with a pair of new trainers and a flat-screen TV, there has already been a transfer of trillions of dollars from the public purse into corporate coffers that is scarcely reported on. The same happened during the last financial crash of 2008, and to a lesser extent in the wake of 9/11 and the Amerithrax attacks. Moreover, the financial system was so fragile that the second crash was imminent and unstoppable (read this earlier post).

Which brings us back to Whitney Webb’s research, and the remarkable timing of the recent ‘Event 201’ (mid-Oct 2019) “a high-level pandemic exercise” led by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security that simulated the worldwide spread of a novel coronavirus; and the lesser known multi-part series of pandemic simulations, called ‘Crimson Contagion’, which ran between January to August 2019 and tested the capacity of the US federal government and 12 states – including New York state – to respond to a severe influenza pandemic originating in China. Coincidence or conspiracy?

Whitney Webb wisely avoids addressing the question head on. For one thing she lacks having sufficient expertise in the relevant fields of virology, genetics, or epidemiology; as I do. Likewise, I merely present the evidence for others to judge.

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Additional: on the origins of Covid-19

The following extract is drawn from an earlier post published on March 16th entitled “in search of the truth about this new coronavirus, Covid-19”.

The world has been given to believe that this novel form of coronavirus Covid-19 is an entirely accidental mutation. To begin with, at least in the West, we were also expected to swallow the unsubstantiated but widely publicised assertions that its occurrence was due to the bizarre eating habits of the Chinese and cross-contamination from a wet market. Unsettling images of ghastly bowls of bat soup were featured across the newsstands – pictures almost certainly not taken in China but never mind.

Beneath the frankly xenophobic headlines, there is another side to the story that has received considerably less attention: just how strikingly novel the new virus really is. This is from an article entitled “Why COVID-19 is more insidious than other coronaviruses” published by Salon magazine in late February:

While there are many known viruses in the same class of coronavirus as COVID-19, some of its peculiarities — including its infectivity — are perplexing researchers. Now, a recent research paper viewable on the Chinese research site Chinaxiv.org and previously reported on by the South China Morning Post notes that the new coronavirus has an “HIV-like mutation” that gives it novel properties.

“Because of this mutation, the packing mechanism of the 2019-nCoV may be changed to being more similar to those of MHV, HIV, Ebola virus (EBoV) and some avian influenza viruses,” the English abstract of the paper states.

The same article continues:

Though the paper is yet to be peer-reviewed, the scientists involved hail from Nankai University in Tianjin, one of the top universities in the world’s most populous nation.

The paper adds to the crucial body of research around COVID-19, which still includes more unknowns than knowns. Currently, scientists still do not know COVID-19’s origin, though suspect it is zoonotic, meaning it likely started in an animal before spreading to humans. As the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note on their website, COVID-19 is an “emerging disease,” and much of what we do know is “based on what is known about similar coronaviruses.” 19

Keeping this in mind, I recommend listening to a short interview with esteemed human rights lawyer and Professor of International Law at the University of Illinois, Francis Boyle.

Boyle is adamant that Covid-19 is a leaked bioweapons agent and given his standing, one might imagine that informed opinion of this kind with the submission of supporting evidence deserves a more public platform. Instead, as he says, no mainstream journalists have come forward to speak with him. I do not, of course, leap to the conclusion that his account is the correct one; only find it curious that most journalists, who for their part invariably have little to no expertise in this field, are so eager to either ignore him altogether or undermine his authority in hit-pieces that consistently dismiss Boyle merely as “a lawyer”.

Furthermore, there is an additional piece of evidence that appears to be in favour of Boyle’s claims. It appeared in an article published by the highly respected scientific journal Nature back in November 2015. Entitled “Engineered bat virus stirs debate over risky research”, the piece begins:

An experiment that created a hybrid version of a bat coronavirus — one related to the virus that causes SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) — has triggered renewed debate over whether engineering lab variants of viruses with possible pandemic potential is worth the risks. 20

For the record, the bats in question were Chinese horseshoe bats.

I shall not reproduce a larger extract because there is an ominous ‘rights & permissions’ caution, and so for the purposes of fair use I will also reprint in full the editors’ cautionary note prefacing the article:

Editors’ note, March 2020: We are aware that this story is being used as the basis for unverified theories that the novel coronavirus causing COVID-19 was engineered. There is no evidence that this is true; scientists believe that an animal is the most likely source of the coronavirus.

Click here to read the full Nature article.

And here and here to read articles published in 2013 about attempts by scientists based in The Netherlands to weaponise bird flu.

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There are a great many articles dedicated to the claim that SARS-Cov-2 (the virus that causes Covid-19) could not have been manufactured in a lab. I recently followed a link to one published by Science News magazine and it is a very interesting and informative piece, however, in spite of its emphatic title “No, the coronavirus wasn’t made in a lab. A genetic analysis show it’s from nature”, we find that this headline claim is in fact qualified throughout the piece, and a rather inconclusive refutation in the final summary reads:

Similarity of SARS-CoV-2 to bat and pangolin viruses is some of the best evidence that the virus is natural, [Emma Hodcroft, a molecular epidemiologist at the University of Basel in Switzerland] says. “This was just another animal spillover into humans,” she says. “It’s really the most simple explanation for what we see.” Researchers still aren’t sure exactly which animal was the source.

Moreover, another contributing expert, Kristian Andersen, an infectious disease researcher at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, highlights peculiarities with the virus that are hard to explain:

A couple of unexpected features of the virus caught the researchers’ eyes, Andersen says. In particular, the gene encoding the coronavirus’s spike protein has 12 extra RNA building blocks, or nucleotides, stuck in it.

This spike protein protrudes from the virus’ surface and allows the virus to latch onto and enter human cells. That insertion of RNA building blocks adds four amino acids to the spike protein, and creates a site in the protein for an enzyme called furin to cut. Furin is made in human cells, and cleaves proteins only at spots where a particular combination of amino acids is found, like the one created by the insertion. SARS and other SARS-like viruses don’t have those cutting sites.

The article continues:

Finding the furin cutting site was a surprise: “That was an aha moment and an uh-oh moment,” [Robert Garry, a virologist at Tulane University in New Orleans] says. When bird influenza viruses acquire the ability to be cut by furin, the viruses often become more easily transmissible. The insertion also created places where sugar molecules could be fastened to the spike protein, creating a shield to protect the virus from the immune system.

The COVID-19 virus’ spike protein also binds more tightly to a protein on human cells called ACE2 than SARS does (SN: 3/10/20). Tighter binding may allow SARS-CoV-2 to more easily infect cells. Together, those features may account for why COVID-19 is so contagious (SN: 3/13/20).

“It’s very peculiar, these two features,” Andersen says. “How do we explain how this came about?  I’ve got to be honest. I was skeptical [that it was natural]. This could have happened in tissue culture” in a lab, where viruses may acquire mutations as they replicate many times in lab dishes. In nature, viruses carrying some of those mutations might be weeded out by natural selection but might persist in lab dishes where even feeble viruses don’t have to fight hard for survival.

In fact this article is solely based upon a supporting paper published by Kristian Andersen et al in the journal Nature Medicine and entitled “The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2”. The abstract to this paper makes the emphatic claim that:

“Our analyses clearly show that SARS-CoV-2 is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus.”

But, once again, its conclusion is somewhat more equivocal:

The genomic features described here may explain in part the infectiousness and transmissibility of SARS-CoV-2 in humans. Although the evidence shows that SARS-CoV-2 is not a purposefully manipulated virus, it is currently impossible to prove or disprove the other theories of its origin described here. However, since we observed all notable SARS-CoV-2 features, including the optimized RBD and polybasic cleavage site, in related coronaviruses in nature, we do not believe that any type of laboratory-based scenario is plausible.

[bold emphasis added]

What puzzles me about the Science News article (and countless articles on this subject) is its laboured use of the distorting and highly charged pejorative “conspiracy theory” that is inserted merely to distract attention from the validity of all claims (including those made by experts) that the virus may indeed have man-made origins. After all, we know that there are dozens if not hundreds of labs dotted across the world where scientists are busily working on the perfection of germs in today’s bioweapons complex. A network of what Francis Boyle aptly calls “death factories” is not a theory but a conspiracy fact. Indeed, the New Science article even openly admits:

Accidental releases of viruses, including SARS, have happened from other labs in the past. So “this is not something you can just dismiss out of hand,” Andersen says. “That would be foolish.” 21

This singular admission of possibility hidden away in the midst of otherwise outright dismissal is again indicative of a process of doublethink (already discussed at the top of the post); a disturbing feature of so much of today’s journalism.

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The Cambridge phylogenetic study

Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, originated from bats. It has been found to share 96 per cent identical genes with a coronavirus isolated by Chinese scientists from bat droppings in the southwestern province of Yunnan in 2013.

But there were hundreds of mutations between Sars-CoV-2 and the one in Yunnan, and a coronavirus usually acquires one mutation per month. Some scientists have therefore suspected the virus may have been spreading quietly in host animals and humans for years to gradually evolve to a highly adaptive form that could infect humans.

The first outbreak could be a recent event involving the last few mutations that completed the leap from harmless strain to deadly pathogen, according to the Cambridge team.

This is according to a team led by geneticist Peter Forster who presented new findings in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [PNAS]:

The team analysed the strains using a phylogenetic network – a mathematical algorithm that can map the global movement of organisms through the mutation of their genes.

They were still trying to pinpoint the location of patient zero, and were hoping for help from scientists in China, but some early signs were prompting them to look into areas to the south of Wuhan, where coronavirus infections were first reported in December.

Peter Forster and the team at Cambridge identified three distinct strains of COVID-19 and traced the origins of the epidemic. They found that the strain in Wuhan (designated B) mutated from an earlier version A:

Arguably, the most intriguing finding is briefly discussed in the concluding paragraphs of the SCMP article:

The Cambridge study also raised some new questions. The first strain isolated and reported by Chinese scientists was actually younger than the original type that caused the outbreak. Why the US had more strains genetically closer to a bat virus than Wuhan has prompted heated debates in the research community.

One explanation, according to Forster, was that the original strain may have first emerged in China but was more adaptive to the American population and environment. 22

Click here to read more from this very recent article entitled “Coronavirus outbreak may have started in September, say British scientists” published by South China Morning Post.

The same article includes this embedded Youtube video to support some of the claims as well as to add additional information:

The important caveat in the scientific paper “The Proximal Origin of SARS-Cov-2” is again quoted in the upload although in a significantly altered form.

Where the current version reads (see above): “Although the evidence shows that SARS-CoV-2 is not a purposefully manipulated virus, it is currently impossible to prove or disprove the other theories of its origin described here.”

The old version read: “Although genomic evidence does not support the idea that SARS-CoV-2 is a laboratory construct, it is currently impossible to prove or disprove the other theories of its origin.” [at 2:15 mins]

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China’s Ambassador to Russia Zhang Hanhui has also weighed into the debate, pointing to additional evidence based on genetic sequencing drawn from “a global database covering 12 countries on four continents” that reveals an ancestry for the virus dating back two more generations:

“The research revealed that the earliest ‘ancestor’ of the virus is mv1, which evolved into haplotypes H13 and H38, and they, in turn, led to emergence of the second-generation haplotype — H3, which evolved into H1.”

For clarity, the ambassador used family ties to trace the virus’s development. Thus, the mv1 haplotype is “the grand-grandfather,” while H13 and H38 are “the grandma and grandpa,” H3 — is “the father” and H1 is “the child.”

“The virus that was discovered at Wuhan’s seafood market was of the H1 variety,” he continued. “Only the H3 haplotype was discovered in Wuhan earlier, but it had nothing to do with the seafood market.”

The previous gene sequences, H13 and H38, were never discovered in Wuhan.

“This suggests that the H1 specimen was brought to the seafood market by some infected person, which sparked the epidemic. The gene sequence cannot lie,” Zhang Hanhui asserted. 23

Click here to read the full report from Russian news agency TASS entitled “Ambassador says coronavirus imported to China, points to genetic sequence as proof”

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Appendix A: Operation Dark Winter

The following extracts are all taken from Wikipedia entries at the time of publishing with original footnotes retained:

Operation Dark Winter was the code name for a senior-level bio-terrorist attack simulation conducted from June 22–23, 2001.[1][2][3] It was designed to carry out a mock version of a covert and widespread smallpox attack on the United States. Tara O’Toole and Thomas Inglesby of the Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies (CCBS) / Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and Randy Larsen and Mark DeMier of Analytic Services were the principal designers, authors, and controllers of the Dark Winter project.

Dark Winter was focused on evaluating the inadequacies of a national emergency response during the use of a biological weapon against the American populace. The exercise was solely intended to establish preventive measures and response strategies by increasing governmental and public awareness of the magnitude and potential of such a threat posed by biological weapons.

Dark Winter’s simulated scenario involved an initial localized smallpox attack on Oklahoma City, Oklahoma with additional smallpox attack cases in Georgia and Pennsylvania. The simulation was then designed to spiral out of control. This would create a contingency in which the National Security Council struggles to determine both the origin of the attack as well as deal with containing the spreading virus. By not being able to keep pace with the disease’s rate of spread, a new catastrophic contingency emerges in which massive civilian casualties would overwhelm America’s emergency response capabilities.

The disastrous contingencies that would result in the massive loss of civilian life were used to exploit the weaknesses of the U.S. health care infrastructure and its inability to handle such a threat. The contingencies were also meant to address the widespread panic that would emerge and which would result in mass social breakdown and mob violence. Exploits would also include the many difficulties that the media would face when providing American citizens with the necessary information regarding safety procedures.

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Some of the key participants (complete list available on Wikipedia):

Samuel Augustus Nunn Jr.

Former Senator from Georgia (1972 – 1997), Sam Nunn is a member of the Democratic Party. Nunn played the part of the President in the Dark Winter exercise.

After leaving Congress, Nunn co-founded the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), a charitable organization working to prevent catastrophic attacks with nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, for which he was the co-chairman. His political experience and credentials on national defence reportedly earned him consideration as a potential running mate for presidential candidates John Kerry (2004) and Barack Obama (2008) after they became their party’s nominees.

James Woolsey, Jr

Former head of the CIA (1993–95) James Woolsey played the part of Director of Central Intelligence. In real life, Woolsey appeared on CNN on the morning after the September 11th attack to falsely lay the blame with Iraq and Saddam Hussein:

“I very much hope the Bush administration, unlike Clinton administration, will not set aside this possibility and assume that everything is just a terrorist group, even a terrorist group as major as bin Laden’s. It really needs to look carefully at the possibility there may be state sponsorship here, and I think the most likely, certainly not the only possibility is Iraq.” 24

Frank Wisner

Frank Wisner headed the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC), a clandestine intelligence unit, from 1948 to 1950. In 1950, the OPC was placed under the CIA and renamed the Directorate of Plans. Wisner became Deputy Director of Plans (DDP) in 1951 when Dulles was named Director of Central Intelligence. Wisner remained as DDP until September 1958, playing an important role in the early history of the CIA.

Jerome M. Hauer

Jerome Hauer is the chief executive officer of a consulting firm, The Hauer Group LLC. He was formerly the director of New York City’s Office of Emergency Management under mayor Rudy Giuliani from 1996 to 2000. Additionally, he was previously an employee of Kroll Inc. which studied biological terrorism attacks.

Judith Miller

Judith Miller (born January 2, 1948) is an American journalist and commentator known for her coverage of Iraq’s WMD programme both before and after the 2003 invasion, which was later discovered to have been based on inaccurate information from the intelligence community. She co-wrote a book Germs: Biological Weapons and America’s Secret War, which became a top New York Times best seller shortly after she became a victim of a hoax anthrax letter at the time of the 2001 anthrax attacks.

Margaret Ann Hamburg

Margaret Hamburg is an American physician and public health administrator, who is currently serving as the Chair of the Board of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). In March 2009, she had been nominated by President Obama to become Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, was unanimously confirmed in May 2009, and served as the 21st Commissioner until April 2015.

Hamburg currently sits on a number of Boards, including for the GAVI Alliance, Commonwealth Fund, She is also a member of the Harvard University Global Advisory Council and the Global Health Scientific Advisory Committee for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. She formerly served on the Boards of the Rockefeller Foundation and the Rockefeller University.

She is married to Peter Fitzhugh Brown, a computer scientist and artificial intelligence expert. Brown is the chief executive officer of Renaissance Technologies. Renaissance Technologies was the top donor to President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and the third largest donor to Hillary Clinton, giving $15.5 million and $16.5 million respectively.

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A few of the findings (fuller summary available on Wikipedia):

  • There is no surge capability in the U.S. healthcare and public health systems,[5] or in the pharmaceutical and vaccine industries.[4]

The exercise was designed to simulate a sudden and unexpected biowarfare event for which the United States healthcare system was unprepared. In the absence of sufficient preparation, Dark Winter revealed that the lack of sufficient vaccine or drugs to prevent the spread of disease severely limited management options.[5] Due to the institutionally limited “surge capacity” of the American healthcare system, hospitals quickly became overwhelmed and rendered effectively inoperable by the sudden and continued influx of new cases, exacerbated by patients with common illnesses who feared they might have smallpox,[5] and people who were otherwise healthy, but concerned about their possible exposure.[5]

  • Dealing with the media will be a major immediate challenge for all levels of government.[4]

Dark Winter revealed that information management and communication (e.g., dealing with the press effectively, communication with citizens, maintaining the information flows necessary for command and control at all institutional levels) will be a critical element in crisis/consequence management. For example, participants worried that it would not be possible to forcibly impose vaccination or travel restrictions on large groups of the population without their general cooperation.[5]

  • Should a contagious bioweapon pathogen be used, containing the spread of disease will present significant ethical, political, cultural, operational, and legal challenges.[4]

In Dark Winter, some members advised the imposition of geographic quarantines around affected areas, but the implications of these measures (e.g., interruption of the normal flow of medicines, food and energy supplies, and other critical needs) were not clearly understood at first.[5] In the end, it is not clear whether such draconian measures would have led to a more effective interruption of disease spread.[5] What’s more allocation of scarce resources necessitated some degree of rationing,[5] creating conflict and significant debate between participants representing competing interests.

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Appendix B: John Rendon’s tweets on January 31st

“What should be known about contagions, is first, the psychological size of the contagion will be at least 5x greater than the contagion itself, thus timely, truthful and transparent reporting is essential – which is a challenge for Boys in #Beijing

“Second, to the extent there is a functioning health care system in the country, it will collapse and military medical units will have to be activated, either from the country’s existing force structure or from the military of aligned partners;”

“Third, people stop traveling to and from the country of contagion, thus impacting the availability of food and other supplies and material necessary for economic sustainment;”

“Fourth, and equally significant the economic recovery may be between 2X and 3X longer than the existence of the very contagion.”

“COUNTRIES: begin procedures now, even if you don’t have signs, construct a mass contagion plan, modeled after a mass casualty event; conduct exercises immediately; then share what you learn with your neighbors whether one likes them or not.”

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Appendix C: Research paper by Indian scientists on coronavirus fuels bioweapon theories

The following article reprinted below was published by Indian new magazine The Week on February 1st. Note that a strapline to the article reads: “The research paper by IIT Delhi, DU scientists was uploaded on January 31 on bioRxiv”

Zero Hedge, a popular US news blog focussing on the capital markets, was suspended by Twitter on Friday shortly after it tweeted a post about an article on the novel coronavirus outbreak in China. The post alleged that the coronavirus was obtained by China and was being modified into a ‘bioweapon’.

Interestingly, the post also cited a research paper on the coronavirus by a group of Indian scientists from the school of biological sciences at IIT Delhi and Acharya Narendra Dev College of University of Delhi.

Earlier, Zero Hedge had uploaded contact details of a Chinese scientist, who it effectively held as being responsible for being behind the coronavirus outbreak. The revelation of personal details violates Twitter’s policies.

The research paper was uploaded on January 31 on bioRxiv, an open source initiative containing resources on biological research. The research paper claims the spike protein in novel coronavirus contained four “insertions” that “are not present in other coronaviruses”. The research paper notes, “amino acid residues in all the 4 inserts have identity or similarity to those in the HIV1 gp120 or HIV-1 Gag”. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS.

The scientists argue that similarity in amino acid identity was “not a random fortuitous finding”, hinting that it could have been engineered. However, the paper does not delve deeper into the possibility of virus being engineered deliberately.

However, the study by the Indian scientists has attracted some scepticism already. Dr Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist who has been associated with Harvard and Johns Hopkins, said the research work had not been peer reviewed in order for it to be verified or refuted.

Earlier this week, an Indian news portal, GreatGameIndia, claimed the origin of the coronavirus can be traced to Canada and two Chinese biological warfare program agents who smuggled it into China.

Click here to read the same article as it appears in The Week magazine

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Appendix D: Alternative hypothesis for the manufacture of a bioweapon like Covi-19

The following article is republished from the official website of Meryl Nass who identified Zimbabwe’s 1978 anthrax epidemic as an episode of biological warfare (1992) amongst other achievements. You can find her full CV here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1P-qoaVgEfmWiQDx8PbWrwBL0dbXD2DwUjf9l4o5uHJs/edit?usp=sharing

Why are some of the US’ top scientists making a specious argument about the natural origin of SARS-CoV-2?

  1.  I know about biological warfare/biodefense.  I am the first person in the world (according to publicly available literature) to have analyzed an epidemic and demonstrated that the epidemic was due to biological warfare. (1992 study of the 1978-81 Rhodesian anthrax outbreak).

https://www.ippnw.org/pdf/mgs/psr-2-4-nass.pdf

  1.  Prior to genetic engineering techniques being developed (1973) and widely used (since late 1970s), more ‘primitive’ means of causing mutations, with the intention of developing biological weapons, were employed.  Such methods were used by the Japanese beginning in the 1930s, by the US beginning in the 1940s, and by a number of other countries. They resulted in biological weapons that were tested, well-described, and in some cases, used. Such methods were also used subsequent to the 1970s.
  2.  These methods can result in biowarfare agents that lack the identifiable signature of a microbial agent constructed in a lab from known RNA or DNA sequences.  In fact, it would be desirable to produce such agents, since it would be difficult to prove they were deliberately constructed in a lab. Here are just a few possibilities for how one might create new, virulent mutants:
  3. a)  exposing microorganisms to chemical or radiological agents that cause high mutation rates and selecting for desired characteristics
  4. b)  passaging virus through a number of lab animals or tissue cultures
  5. c)  mixing viruses together and seeking recombinants with a new mix of virulence factors
  6.  Top scientists circled their wagons to protest against “conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin,” in a statement published in the Lancet March 7. (It was published earlier online.) Their reported aim was to “stand with” public health professionals and scientists in China. Many who signed the statement have worked in biodefense. Signers include Rita Colwell, former director of the National Science Foundation, and James Hughes, former director of CDC’s National Center for Infectious Diseases and former assistant Surgeon General.

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30418-9/fulltext

Five additional scientists soon provided the “scientific evidence” to back up the natural origin claim. These 5 scientists have been affiliated with signers of the statement above, they too have worked in biodefense, and their article was published in Nature Medicine (in the print version) on March 17, 2020.

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-020-0820-9

These scientists  set up a straw man to knock down:  they claimed that had the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2 is the official name of the virus) been created in a lab: “if genetic manipulation had been performed,” then a known coronavirus backbone would have been used.  But because no known backbone forms part of SARS-CoV-2, “the evidence shows that SARS-CoV-2 is not a purposefully manipulated virus.”

As USA Today summarized this:

“If someone were seeking to engineer a new coronavirus as a pathogen, they would have constructed it from the backbone of a virus known to cause illness,” the report said. “But the scientists found that the SARS-CoV-2 backbone differed substantially from those of already known coronaviruses and mostly resembled related viruses found in bats and pangolins.”

Their work was then discussed by Francis Collins, the current director of the NIH.

https://directorsblog.nih.gov/2020/03/26/genomic-research-points-to-natural-origin-of-covid-19/

Dr. Collins says,

“Some folks are even making outrageous claims that the new coronavirus causing the pandemic was engineered in a lab and deliberately released to make people sick. A new study debunks such claims by providing scientific evidence that this novel coronavirus arose naturally…

this study leaves little room to refute a natural origin for COVID-19…

Finally, next time you come across something about COVID-19 online that disturbs or puzzles you, I suggest going to FEMA’s new Coronavirus Rumor Control web site…”

I know that the groups of scientists who wrote these pieces in the Lancet and Nature Medicine, as well as NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins, know that you don’t need genetic engineering methods to create a bioweapon.  Like me, they are old, they recall a world before genetic engineering, they know the history of biowarfare, and they know the score.  Why then are they participating in this charade?

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The following information including contact details are available on Meryl Nass’ website:

Most-cited papers include one investigating Zimbabwe’s major anthrax epidemic and a review of anthrax vaccine’s usefulness in biological warfare. A November, 2001 Congressional testimony in response to the anthrax letters may also be of interest. She can be contacted at merylnass@gmail.com or 207 412-0004.

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1

No wonder the Pentagon was forced to issue the proverbial denial – in Pentagonese, via one Col. R. Shane Day, the director of the DIA’s NCMI: “In the interest of transparency during this current public health crisis, we can confirm that media reporting about the existence/release of a National Center for Medical Intelligence Coronavirus-related product/assessment in November of 2019 is not correct. No such NCMI product exists.”

Well, if such “product” existed, Pentagon head and former Raytheon lobbyist Mark Esper would be very much in the loop. He was duly questioned about it by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.

Question: “Did the Pentagon receive an intelligence assessment on COVID in China last November from the National Center for Medical Intelligence of DIA?”

Esper: “Oh, I can’t recall, George,” (…) “But, we have many people who watch this closely.”

Question: “This assessment was done in November, and it was briefed to the NSC in early December to assess the impact on military readiness, which, of course, would make it important to you, and the possible spread in the United States. So, you would have known if there was a brief to the National Security Council in December, wouldn’t you?”

Esper: “Yes (…) “I’m not aware of that.”

So “no such product exists” then? Is it a fake? Is it a Deep State/CIA concoction to trap Trump? Or are the usual suspects lying, trademark CIA style?

2 From an article entitled “What did U.S. Intel Really Know About the ‘Chinese’ Virus?” written by Pepe Escobar, published in Strategic Culture Foundation on April 21, 2020. https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2020/04/21/what-did-us-intel-really-know-about-chinese-virus/

3 From an article entitled “China locked in hybrid war with US” written by Pepe Escobar, published in the Asia Times on March 17, 2020. https://asiatimes.com/2020/03/china-locked-in-hybrid-war-with-us/

4 From a report entitled “Fauci Addresses Bioterrorism Threats” written by Tom Wigg attributed to  The Hoya (Georgetown University newspaper), republished on UCLA Dept of Epidemiology on October 18, 2002. http://www.ph.ucla.edu/epi/bioter/fauciaddbioterrorism.html

5 From an article entitled “Bioterrorism becoming too dominant on public health agenda?” written by Alan Cassels, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) on November 26, 2002. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC134156/

6 From an article entitled “Biodefence on the research agenda” written by Anthony S. Fauci, published in Nature on February 15, 2003. https://www.nature.com/articles/nature01480

7 From an article entitled “U.S. Biowarfare Programs Have 13,000 Death Scientists Hard At Work” written by Sherwood Ross, published by Scoop on February 26, 2020. https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL2002/S00184/us-biowarfare-programs-have-13000-death-scientists-hard-at-work.htm

8 From an article entitled entitled “Dr. Fauci Backed Controversial Wuhan Lab with U.S. Dollars for Risky Coronavirus Research” written by Fred Guterl, published in Newsweek magazine on April 28, 2020. https://www.newsweek.com/dr-fauci-backed-controversial-wuhan-lab-millions-us-dollars-risky-coronavirus-research-1500741

* Warning:

The film explores the horrific legacy of human experimentation, spanning decades and continents, in which germ weapons have been tested on unwitting members of armed forces and civilians alike.

Also probed are the mysterious deaths in recent years of several leading scientists working in this field. Bruce Ivins, David Kelly, Vladimir Pasechnik, Larry Ford and Frank Olson each died in violent or suspicious circumstances and have been linked to one of germ warfare’s darkest secrets, state programs developing new strains of anthrax.

The film reveals:

  1. Troubling questions about the FBI’s “solving” of the 2001 Anthrax Attacks. Many scientific experts are questioning the evidence presented that pins the blame on U.S. Army scientist Bruce Ivins who committed suicide.
  2. The FBI is withholding key information from the public about the attacks on national security grounds.
  3. New details about the suspicious deaths of five leading bio-weapons scientists, all working with anthrax.
  4. Links between secret programs in the U.S., U.K, the former Soviet Union and apartheid South Africa.
  5. Evidence that Doctor Death, who headed South Africa’s apartheid-era secret germ war program that developed agents for assassination and worked on a vaccine to sterilize blacks without their knowledge, received assistance from the U.S. and U.K. germ war establishments.
  6. The anthrax attacks have ushered a massive buildup of ‘bio-defense’ efforts worth more than $50 billion in U.S. Government contracts alone, much of which is flowing to politically connected bio-tech corporations.
  7. Hundreds of private labs and thousands of scientists are now handling the most dangerous pathogens with little effective oversight.
  8. The U.S. Government has put in place contingency plans to conduct biological warfare and that we may have entered a new dangerous biological arms race.

The filmmaker tracks down those directly involved: germ war experts, scientists, spies and assassins – to uncover one of the most frightening and untold stories of our time

9

A top U.S. biodefense researcher apparently committed suicide just as the Justice Department was about to file criminal charges against him in the anthrax mailings that traumatized the nation in the weeks following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to a published report.

The scientist, Bruce E. Ivins, 62, who worked for the past 18 years at the government’s biodefense labs at Fort Detrick, Md., had been told about the impending prosecution, the Los Angeles Times reported for Friday editions. The laboratory has been at the center of the FBI’s investigation of the anthrax attacks, which killed five people.

Ivins died Tuesday at Frederick Memorial Hospital in Maryland. The Times, quoting an unidentified colleague, said the scientist had taken a massive dose of a prescription Tylenol mixed with codeine.

From an Associated Press report entitled “ANTHRAX SCIENTIST a SUICIDE! FBI Was Moving On Fort Detrick Md., Researcher” written by Lara Jakes Jordan & David Dishneau, published on August 1, 2008. https://web.archive.org/web/20090913055147/http://www.omgili.com/newsgroups/sci/chem/7d281128-fa90-43e6-8af9-11e6916f0f5df63g2000hsfgooglegroupscom.html%26q%3DJake%2Bin%2BProgress

On the morning of July 27, 2008, Ivins was found unconscious at his home. He was taken to Frederick Memorial Hospital and died on July 29 from what was then called an overdose of Tylenol with codeine,[5][52] an apparent suicide. No autopsy was ordered following his death because, according to an officer in the local police department, the state medical examiner ‘determined that an autopsy wouldn’t be necessary’ based on laboratory test results of blood taken from the body.[53] A summary of the police report of his death, released in 2009, lists the cause of death as liver and kidney failure, citing his purchase of two bottles of Tylenol PM (containing diphenhydramine), contradicting earlier reports of Tylenol with codeine.[54]

From the current Wikipedia entry with all links preserved. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_Edwards_Ivins#Death

The Michigan Biologic Products Institute (MBPI) had been founded in 1926 by the State to serve the vaccination needs of its largely rural population, many of whom worked on farms and required inoculation against naturally occurring anthrax spores and rabies. By the 1980s, the Institute stood alone as the only anthrax vaccine manufacturer in the U.S. after 1970s-era regulations had driven most private vaccine manufacturers out of business. MBPI’s anthrax vaccine was known as Anthrax Vaccine Adsorbed (AVA) or BioThrax. […]

In September 1998, BioPort acquired the MBPI facility through a $25 million package of loans, cash and promises to pay Michigan state more for the company in the future, promises that were later broken.

From an article entitled “A Killer Enterprise: How One of Big Pharma’s Most Corrupt Companies Plans to Corner the Covid-19 Cure Market” written by Whitney Webb, published in Unlimited Hangout on April 9, 2020. https://unlimitedhangout.com/2020/04/09/a-killer-enterprise-how-one-of-big-pharmas-most-corrupt-companies-plans-to-corner-the-covid-19-cure-market/

10 From an article entitled “U.S. Germ Warfare Research Pushes Treaty Limits” written by Judith Miller, Stephen Engelberg & William J. Broad, published in The New York Times on September 4, 2001. https://www.nytimes.com/2001/09/04/world/us-germ-warfare-research-pushes-treaty-limits.html

11 From an article entitled “Mr Bio-Defence, William C. Patrick III: A Tribute” written by Judith Miller published in City Journal on October 5, 2010. https://www.city-journal.org/html/mr-bio-defense-10766.html

12 When the Press Fails. University of Chicago Press. 2008. p. 37.

13 From an article entitled “A Killer Enterprise: How One of Big Pharma’s Most Corrupt Companies Plans to Corner the COVID-19 Cure Market” written by Whitney Webb published in Unlimited Hangout on April 9, 2020. https://unlimitedhangout.com/2020/04/09/a-killer-enterprise-how-one-of-big-pharmas-most-corrupt-companies-plans-to-corner-the-covid-19-cure-market/

14 From an article entitled entitled “Manufactured Perception and the COVID-19 Pandora’s Box” written by Phil Butler, published by New Eastern Outlook on June 10, 2020. https://journal-neo.org/2020/06/10/manufactured-perception-and-the-covid-19-pandora-s-box/

15 From an article entitled “U.S. Biowarfare Programs Have 13,000 Death Scientists Hard At Work” written by Sherwood Ross, published by Scoop on February 26, 2020. https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL2002/S00184/us-biowarfare-programs-have-13000-death-scientists-hard-at-work.htm

16 From a report entitled “Pompeo blames China for hundreds of thousands of virus deaths, denies inconsistency” written by Humeyra Pamek & David Brunnstrom, published by Reuters on May 6, 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-china-pompeo/pompeo-blames-china-for-hundreds-of-thousands-of-virus-deaths-denies-inconsistency-idUSKBN22I27K

17 Ibid.

18 From an article entitled “‘Cover Up’ In Wuhan Mount As Pompeo Blames Cina For Pandemic” written by Kenneth Rapoza, published in Forbes magazine on May 4, 2020. https://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrapoza/2020/05/04/cover-up-in-wuhan-mounts-as-pompeo-blames-china-for-pandemic/

19 From an article entitled “Why COVID-19 is more insidious than other coronaviruses” written by Nicole Karlis, published by Salon magazine on February 28, 2020. https://www.salon.com/2020/02/27/why-covid-19-is-more-insidious-than-other-coronaviruses/

20 From an article entitled “Engineered bat virus stirs debate over risky research” written by Declan Butler, published in Nature on November 12, 2015. https://www.nature.com/news/engineered-bat-virus-stirs-debate-over-risky-research-1.18787

21 From an article entitled “No, coronavirus wasn’t made in a lab. A genetic analysis shows it’s from nature” written by Tina Hesman Saey, published in Science News magazine on March 26, 2020. https://www.sciencenews.org/article/coronavirus-covid-19-not-human-made-lab-genetic-analysis-nature

22 From an article entitled “Coronavirus outbreak may have started in September, say British Scientists” written by Stephen Chen, published in the South China Morning Post on April 17, 2020. https://www.scmp.com/news/china/science/article/3080380/coronavirus-outbreak-may-have-started-september-say-british

23 From an article entitled “Ambassador says coronavirus imported to China, points to genetic sequence as proof” published by TASS on April 17, 2020. https://tass.com/world/1146127

24 http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0109/12/ltm.13.html

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Filed under analysis & opinion, China, did you see?, September 11th, USA, Zimbabwe

a thinking person’s response to Peter Hitchens’ stance over Covid-19

A Library of Useful Links on the Virus Panic, for Thinking People

Here is a small library of useful links to various articles and websites. Their appearance here does not mean I fully endorse every word in them. I leave it to my readers to decide whether such things are useful or not, and to make their own minds up. Several of them express opinions I don’t fully share, but all, including government documents, will help in intelligent sceptical inquiry into the Virus Panic. They are in no particular order:

This is the title and introduction to Peter Hitchen’s latest blog post published by Mail Online and here is my response (an unedited version of which was posted as a comment):

As a thinking person (and one with scientific training) I feel compelled to draw attention to a deep flaw in Hitchen’s position that is illustrated by the very library of links he has just endorsed.

Of these links, only one connects to an actual scientific study determining a reliable estimate for the infection fatality rate (IFR) for Covid-19 – IFR is the most important factor here by far.

The link is this one:

Research on the IFR (Infection Fatality Rate)

https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.05.03.20089854v2

If you read the abstract to this paper you will see that the authors summarise their own findings as follows:

“Results After exclusions, there were 25 estimates of IFR included in the final meta-analysis, from a wide range of countries, published between February and May 2020. The meta-analysis demonstrated a point-estimate of IFR of 0.64% (0.50–0.78%) with high heterogeneity (p<0.001).”

The value quoted above corresponds very closely with other studies including the earliest one based on data from S Korea, another from New York and a more recent one in Spain.

All of these separate studies (and there are many others including those comprising the meta-study in question) have come up with IFRs in the range of 0.5% to 1%. This is well above seasonal flu rates of 0.1%.

If you do the simple maths and multiple their actual point-estimate of 0.64% (i.e., most likely value) by the herd immunity requirement (at minimum) of 60% infection spread across the UK population (66 million) you find the answer comes to 250,000 deaths. Try it – just multiple the 3 numbers together.

This number is precisely the one forecast by the UK govt scientific experts back in March when they were advocating herd immunity.

In short, I fail to see how the comparatively high figure of 0.64% (which I believe is likely to be a reliable estimate too) substantiates Peter Hitchen’s repeated claims that Covid-19 is low in severity. According to a study he actually links to, left to spread uncontrollably we should expect a quarter of a million extra deaths.

When you are cherry picking your facts, it is wise to cherry pick them carefully. Hitchens here is hoisted by his own petard.

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Please note: As many previous posts attest, I actually share Peter Hitchens’ outlook on a variety of separate issues and I greatly admire his courage and conviction in the defence of whistleblowers and in holding authority to account. His stance on this single issue does not diminish my respect for Hitchens in other regards.

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Filed under analysis & opinion, Britain, Korea (North and South), Spain

lions led by donkeys: heroes and villains in our war against Covid-19

Heroes

Heroic is a word that tends to be thrown around rather casually these days, with the unfortunate and inevitable consequence that it has become somewhat cheapened and degraded. There are times, however, when ‘heroic’, overworked as it is, becomes appropriate again. When searching for ways to describe acts of wholehearted self-sacrifice, it remains perhaps the only word that conveys this meaning with sufficient gravity.

The staff on the frontline in our hospitals, especially those working in intensive care, daily tending to the essential needs of critically ill patients, under extreme pressure because the wards they serve are already understaffed, are worthy of such a title even during ordinary times but it is during exceptional times of crisis when they truly earn the respect (if not the wage) that they fully deserve. Today’s sympathetic applause in countries and regions all throughout Europe is a spontaneous outpouring of gratitude and deep public support; even here in Britain, where a weekly ritual has been somewhat stage-managed, the applause is no less heartfelt.

Because even the everyday heroic commitment of our hospital workers, seldom remembered by most of us in ordinary times, is now exceeded each and every day, as those same doctors and nurses who continue to tend to the sick patients, do so at serious risk to their own lives.

The consequence of a long-term lack of investment and mismanagement of the NHS has become very apparent resulting in inadequate supplies of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that leaves staff highly vulnerable to infection. In response nurses and doctors are posting photographs of the sorts of makeshift alternatives they have been forced to rely on. In response to this, some have even received official gagging notices for reporting such vital information:

For example, A&E staff at Southend hospital in Essex have been warned that they could face disciplinary action if they raise the issue of PPE publicly.

In a memo on 26th March they were told: “The posting of inappropriate social media commentary or the posting of photographs of staff in uniform who are not complying with IPC [infection prevention and control] standards and social distancing requirements is unacceptable. Such behaviour will be considered under the disciplinary policy.

“Now, perhaps more than ever, NHS staff are in the public eye and we have a responsibility to convey a professional image and to role model positive messages about social distancing. It would be very sad for moments of inappropriate or unprofessional behaviour to undermine the respect that we and our colleagues have from the public.”

Others who speak out are being bullied with threatening emails or more formally threatened with disciplinary action:

  • An intensive care doctor who voiced unease about facemasks was told by their hospital that “if we hear of these concerns going outside these four walls your career and your position here will be untenable”.
  • Another intensive care specialist was called into a meeting with their bosses and disciplined after raising concerns.
  • A GP working at Chase Farm hospital in London was sent home for voicing unease.
  • A consultant paediatrician in Yorkshire was told in an email from their hospital that their social media output was being monitored and they should be careful.
  • A GP who appealed to her community on social media for more supplies of PPE was then barred by her local NHS clinical commissioning group from speaking out. “I was being warned I wasn’t toeing the party line,” she said. 1

Consecutive governments abandoned them, failing to supply essential equipment, or to even run systematic screening today, but in spite of this they have not abandoned us, carrying out their duties irrespective of the additional risks, and this again is why we pay tribute to their heroism.

On April 8th, RT’s ‘Going Underground’ featured an extended interview with journalist and film-maker John Pilger, who began by reminding us of the suppressed finding of Exercise Cygnus, a pandemic simulation run by the British government as recently as October 2016, which revealed the country’s health system to collapse from a lack of resources including “inadequate ventilation”. Pilger also speaks to the damage done to the NHS caused by underfunding and stealth privatisation of services and the shifting of blame for current government failures on to the Chinese:

Healthcare workers in America have also been left exposed to the risk of infection due to lack of essential equipment. Last Thursday [April 2nd], nurses and doctors at Montefiore medical center in the Bronx protested over the lack of PPE. “Every day when I go to work, I feel like a sheep going to slaughter,” said Dr Laura Ucik, a third-year resident at the centre:

*

In homage, I could now embed a whole sequence of video clips featuring medical professionals working on the frontline in Italy, Spain, America, and Britain’s NHS. They would all tell you how desperate the situation has already become; how unprepared their own health service is; and how fearful they are for the wellbeing of the patients and themselves. But there is little point in doing this, since the stories they tell are widely available across most media platforms. So I shall include just a single example: Dr David Hepburn, a Critical Care Consultant, who had been infected with Covid-19, but soon after recovering from the illness at home, returned to work – as countless other healthcare professionals have selflessly done.

Last week, Hepburn had told C4 News about how the intensive care wards at the Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport where he works had run out of space, so patients were moved into operating theatres. And, on April 3rd, Channel 4 News interviewed him again at length:

Asked to paint a picture of the current situation inside the critical care unit, Hepburn told us:

“It’s controlled chaos at the moment… the difference at the moment is that everybody is desperately unwell, everybody is on a ventilator, so the acuity or the severity of illness is very high”

Whilst regarding the demographics of the patient population, he says:

“There are a lot of people who are in work, there are a lot of people who are younger, the pattern of illness that we’ve seen in Gwent, and I can’t speak for anywhere else, is much younger patients that we were expecting; you know when the reports were coming out of Wuhan we were led to believe that this was something that was particularly dangerous for the more elderly patients, but I would say that all of the patients we have got on intensive care are in their 50s or younger at the moment.”

Hepburn’s account is now the repeated one. Please keep his testimony in mind as we come to the villains of the story in the next part, and not because it is extraordinary or exceptional, but because it is so very ordinary and fact-based. He has no reason to distort the truth and nor do any of the other healthcare professionals courageously struggling behind the scenes to save people like us.

On April 7th, John Campbell provided a summary of 4th April audit by Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre 9 (ICNARC) based on data collected from 210 ITUs in the U. The report shows that the median age for admission for critically ill patients is just 61 years old, and that the first quartile is 52 years old (coincidentally my own age), which means a quarter of those admitted are younger than I am. Three-quarters were men and 62.9 percent of all patients required mechanical ventilation in the first 24 hours:

Meanwhile, if the heroes of this pandemic are easy to see, they are also easy to support.

Founded by Cardiology Registrar, Dr Dominic Pimenta, you can offer support at HelpThemHelpUs, which is a independent forum for volunteering.

Novara Media welcomed Dominic Pimenta on to their March 31st broadcast to talk about the government’s plan and to outline the ideas behind his own HelpThemHelpUs initiative:

*

Villains

Whereas the heroes are few, the villains abound. Let’s begin with the idiots because these are the lesser villains, even though the media often likes to portray them as a more tremendous threat to our lives.

We have the daft ones who are hoarding all the toilet rolls (fighting off competitors in a raw Darwinian struggle for survival as they grab their stash), presumably in order to pile them high as a monument to their own craven stupidity. The still more selfish are those who bought so much perishable food that they have already discarded most of it in rubbish bins. If we want a law against stupidity then I would begin by charging these people first of all.

A special dishonourable mention must also go to those hiding behind online aliases and spreading a different kind of rubbish whether on social media platforms or within comment sections. Incendiary drivel to the effect that ‘China’s day of reckoning must come’; as if they committed a crime or an act of war, when we still don’t know for certain the origins of this virus – despite the repeated though wholly unsubstantiated claims that its origins must have been that Wuhan wet market. The underlying message is an old one: beware the yellow peril!

And I wonder how much of this dog-whistle warmongering might actually be the product of our own military or intelligence units; the output of Brigade 77 for instance, or other more clandestine psychological operations such as GCHQ’s Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG) with its remit that includes “posting negative information on internet forums” all paid for with British taxpayer money. (Obviously, if these were foreign agents we would call them ‘troll farms’ but those are all spewing out bad Russian disinformation, not the good dishonest British stuff!)

From this array of lesser fools, however, we must turn upwards to consider those above. And according to the original government strategy, based solidly on ‘the science’ (lots more on that as we continue), the nation required around 60% infection of the population, in accordance with Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty’s assessment, to ensure ‘herd immunity’. Herd immunity, which meant letting the spread of the virus continue unchecked, was now the answer to tackling Covid-19. Taking his hands off the wheel entirely being Johnson’s first big plan!

If this approach still sounds like it might have been scientifically informed (as it was obviously meant to), then unfortunately you are mistaken. Herd immunity certainly helps to protect a population from the spread of infectious disease, however, ordinarily, this is acquired through programmes of vaccination, which are presumed to be safe. By encouraging ‘herd immunity’ to tackle the spread of a novel pathogen on the other hand, requires the infection of millions with a disease of unknown severity – what are the lasting health effects; what is the lethality? Such a policy is clearly reckless in the extreme. In fact, we still do not even know for sure that immunity to Covid-19 will be lasting, so there is a chance that herd immunity cannot be achieved at all.

But we are slowly learning how the lights had been blinking red for months and Boris Johnson’s inability to lead a coordinated response was unravelling before it had even started:

In the medical and scientific world, there was growing concern about the threat of the virus to the UK. A report from Exeter University, published on February 12th, warned a UK outbreak could peak within four months and, without mitigation, infect 45 million people.

That worried Rahuldeb Sarkar, a consultant physician in respiratory medicine and critical care in the county of Kent, who foresaw that intensive care beds could be swamped. Even if disease transmission was reduced by half, he wrote in a report aimed at clinicians and actuaries in mid-February, a coronavirus outbreak in the UK would “have a chance of overwhelming the system.”

With Whitty stating in a BBC interview on February 13th that a UK outbreak was still an “if, not a when,” Richard Horton, a medical doctor and editor of the Lancet, said the government and public health service wasted an opportunity that month to prepare quarantine restriction measures and a programme of mass tests, and procure resources like ventilators and personal protective equipment for expanded intensive care.

Calling the lost chance a “national scandal” in a later editorial, he would testify to parliament about a mismatch between “the urgent warning that was coming from the frontline in China” and the “somewhat pedestrian evaluation” of the threat from the scientific advice to the government.

This same ‘special report’ from Reuters published on April 7th, also discloses why there was so little preparedness:

According to emails and more than a dozen scientists interviewed by Reuters, the government issued no requests to labs for assistance with staff or testing equipment until the middle of March, when many abruptly received requests to hand over nucleic acid extraction instruments, used in testing. An executive at the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine at the University of Oxford said he could have carried out up to 1,000 tests per day from February. But the call never came.

“You would have thought that they would be bashing down the door,” said the executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity. By April 5th, Britain had carried out 195,524 tests, in contrast to at least 918,000 completed a week earlier in Germany.

Nor was there an effective effort to expand the supply of ventilators. The Department of Health told Reuters in a statement that the government started talking to manufacturers of ventilators about procuring extra supplies in February. But it was not until March 16th, after it was clear supplies could run out, that Johnson launched an appeal to industry to help ramp up production.

Charles Bellm, managing director of Intersurgical, a global supplier of medical ventilation products based outside London, said he has been contacted by more than a dozen governments around the world, including France, New Zealand and Indonesia. But there had been no contact from the British government. “I find it somewhat surprising, I have spoken to a lot of other governments,” he said. 2

Click here to read the full article published by Reuters, which is apologetically entitled “Johnson listened to his scientists about coronavirus – but they were slow to sound the alarm”. (Pushing the blame from the government onto its scientific advisors won’t wash, however the report contains some valuable insights nonetheless.)

Notable by its absence from this Reuters’ account of events is the advice and guidance of the World Health Organisation (WHO). This is important because for a while Britain had stood entirely alone, having taken its decision to act in brazen defiance to the directives of WHO, whose chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus issued his starkest warning on March 13th: “do not just let this fire burn”.

One day earlier Prime Minister Johnson was still solemnly reminding us “many more families are going to lose loved ones” – my own father saying to me afterwards, I suddenly realised “that means me”. But then, at the eleventh hour, Johnson and his government embarked on an astonishing U-turn. And hallelujah for that!

The reason was the maths: 60% of 66 million is very nearly 40 million, and, assuming a case-fatality rate of 0.7% (the best estimate we had – based on S Korean figures), that makes 280,000 deaths. No need for sophisticated epidemiological modelling or a supercomputer, the back of any old envelope will do.

As the sheer scale of the predicted death toll began to dawn on Johnson and his advisors, out of the blue came a highly convenient “leak”. Seemingly it fell upon Dominic Cummings to assume the role of scapegoat as fresh justifications were sought for a swift and sudden change of policy, purportedly based on the findings of ‘new modelling’ – reading between the lines, someone had to take the bullet and quite frankly Cummings was already the most detested of the principle actors.

Here’s how that “leak” was reported by The Sunday Times:

Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s senior aide, became convinced that Britain would be better able to resist a lethal second wave of the disease next winter if Whitty’s prediction that 60% to 80% of the population became infected was right and the UK developed “herd immunity”.

At a private engagement at the end of February, Cummings outlined the government’s strategy. Those present say it was “herd immunity, protect the economy and if it means some pensioners die, too bad”.

At the Sage meeting on March 12th, a moment now dubbed the “Domoscene conversion”, Cummings changed his mind. In this “penny-drop moment”, he realised he had helped to set a course for catastrophe. Until this point, the rise in British infections had been below the European average. Now they were above it and on course to emulate Italy, where the picture was bleak. A minister said: “Seeing what was happening in Italy was the galvanising force across government.” 3

Click here to read the full article published by The Sunday Times on March 22nd.

(Or perhaps he really did have that “Domoscene conversion”! In which case, we must conclude that government policy was actually concocted more on the basis of Cummings’ whims, which is not exactly “following the science” either, is it?)

Incidentally, anyone who continues to deny the government’s rapid and complete U-turn (including Julia Hartley-Brewer, who I’ll come back to later), I direct to an article featured on Buzzfeed News from March 31st, which reads:

BuzzFeed News has spoken to health experts in the UK and across Europe to find out why [Britain has done comparatively little testing for coronavirus]. The answer, they said, stemmed from Britain’s controversial initial strategy of mitigation of the virus (rather than suppression), rendering testing a secondary concern — an approach which has also contributed to a lack of preparedness and the capacity to carry out tests at scale.

The UK’s mitigation approach was devised by England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty, and chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance. According to a person who has spoken to Whitty and [Chief Scientific Advisor, Sir Patrick] Vallance, they took the view that the UK should not attempt to suppress the outbreak entirely but rather prioritise protecting the elderly and vulnerable, and ensuring the NHS did not become overwhelmed, while allowing the rest of population to build up “herd immunity”.

This strategy meant that widespread testing of every coronavirus case was not a priority for the UK, the person said, since the government’s scientists were assuming that between 60% and 80% of the population would become infected.

Accordingly, no preparations were made to increase manufacturing or imports of testing kits, nor to expand the UK’s laboratory capacity. Imports of testing kits are now extremely difficult as other nations seek more than ever to keep them for their own use. 4

[Bold emphasis added]

Click here to read the full article entitled “Even The US Is Doing More Coronavirus Tests Than The UK. Here Are The Reasons Why.”

However, the government and its advisors, although nominally in charge of matters, and accordingly as reprehensible as they are, should not be too isolated once it comes to attributing responsibility. The media must take a considerable share of any blame too.

*

From the outset, the whole story surrounding coronavirus was completely politicised. For months it was all about Chinese mismanagement and repression, following which, after China slowly regained control of the situation in Wuhan, press attention and opprobrium switched to Iran.

Oh, how we all chortled when the Iranian Deputy Health Minister, Iraj Harirchi, was seen sweating out a fever as he tried to deliver a speech – in what sort of a tinpot regime does a Health Minister end up contracting the infection he is supposed to be fighting, hey? But shoe, other foot, media reframing… you get the picture:

Indeed, when Johnson himself was admitted to hospital and shortly afterwards moved to intensive care, a newspaper-led campaign encouraged people to gather outside again for a standing ovation to keep his spirits up. Of course, along with thousands of unfortunate victims still struggling for breath beside him, we wish him a full and speedy recovery, but this isn’t North Korea, and so, besides a handful of the party faithful, most of the country respectfully declined this nationwide call to lavish praise on the glorious leader.

On Good Friday, when another 980 deaths in hospitals alone were recorded – surpassing Spain and Italy’s worst recorded daily totals (figures for care homes are harder to establish), this was the headline in The Sun:

Only when Covid-19 gained a foothold in Europe was the tone adjusted, so that rather than peddling rumours about incompetence, due sensitivity was given instead to the suffering of the people – in this case, the Italian people.

Prior to the first European cases, there was also a lack of key information, and so it wasn’t until March that we first began to learn the full facts about the disease itself: how extremely virulent it is and not like flu at all, but SARS; how it doesn’t only attack the old and the vulnerable; how it is easily transmitted by asymptomatic spreaders and has a comparatively long incubation period; how between 5–10 percent of the victims require oxygen or mechanical ventilation, and many are left with irreparable lung damage. Suddenly China’s urgent need to construct new hospital facilities overnight became totally understandable.

Why were we left in the dark so long? Up until March Covid-19 still remained a blunt tool to beat the old enemies with, so presumably delving into cause of the crisis distracted too much from this propagandistic exercise. Yet this failure to fact-find – a routine matter for proper journalism – soon came back to haunt us.

Finally, a lack of widely available information accounts, at least in part, for why, three months on, Britain is desperately converting conference centres into thousand-bed hospitals: an impressive feat but one that also speaks to prior failures and a total lack of preparedness. China was our warning but the media was too sidetracked to stress this.

On April 5th, Sky News Australia released a “SPECIAL REPORT: China’s deadly coronavirus cover-up”, except that it isn’t and scarcely presents any evidence at all from China. Instead, it offers a montage of coverage from around the world, political talking heads, that are interspersed with images from a wet market (somewhere, presumably in South East Asia), overlaid with a breathless commentary and an ominous soundtrack. Today this passes for journalism apparently:

If the press instead had focussed more on the virulence of the disease, rather than always seeking a political angle, the public and governments of the West might have had greater cause to introduce tighter measures from the beginning, recognising the urgency of taking appropriate action to avoid suffering the same fate as the inhabitants of Wuhan. We could have closed our borders in time (yet they remain open even today) and made preparations for testing and contact tracing as they did in South Korea. But why take such drastic precautions if the problem is mostly one with the Chinese politburo and Iranian mullahs?

Indeed, as Rachel Shabi astutely reminds us in a more recent Guardian article, Britain is already blessed with teams of environmental health officers employed by local government who “have wide experience in contact tracing, a process used to prevent infections spreading and routinely carried out in outbreaks such as of norovirus, salmonella or legionnaires’ disease.”

As one of the environmental health workers she spoke to said, he was “struggling to figure out” why they hadn’t been given the go-ahead from the start. Another told her: “We are pretty good at infection control and contact tracing, it’s part of the job. We thought we’d be asked and were shelving other work.” In response, a spokesperson for Public Health England (PHE), said “the organisation did not call upon environmental health workers to carry out contact tracing for coronavirus, instead using its own local health protection teams.” 5

Hats off to Rachel Shabi for doing the legwork to expose this vital ‘missed opportunity’ by PHE and the government – examining the reasons behind this decision is now on the table for a public inquiry.

Unfortunately, much that passes for journalism today relies on scant research and little to no investigation at all. Instead it is informed by a diet of press conferences, press releases and press packs – all more or less pre-digested, all PR, and all oven-ready (as Johnson would say). Many reporters are the embedded and approved members of a press corps who grant their sources ‘quote approval’. Compounding this there is the groupthink and the self-censorship that has always existed.

In a well-known BBC interview with Noam Chomsky in 1996, Andrew Marr – who afterwards went on to become the BBC’s Political Editor – famously rebutted Chomsky’s accusation of a ubiquitous lack of media impartiality and journalistic integrity, demanding:

“How can you know that I’m self-censoring? How can you know that journalists are…”

Chomsky’s reply clearly rocks him: “I don’t say you’re self-censoring. I’m sure you believe everything you’re saying. But what I’m saying is, if you believed something different you wouldn’t be sitting where you’re sitting.” 6

It is understandable therefore (although not excusable) that those in the press and media have fallen into the easier habit of propagating and sanctioning accepted narratives, advocating official policy and being apologists for government mistakes and state crimes – after all, if you hold your nose, much of the job is done for you – readymade copy to cut and paste. And a climate of crisis furthers these temptations, cultivating this already indifferent attitude towards truth, and fostering journalistic practice that is non-confrontational on grounds of “national interest”.

By contrast, true journalism shares a lot in common with real science, which is similarly fact-based and objective. But to be fact-based and objective requires research and investigation, and this is tiresome and time consuming, so it’s easier not to bother.

Today, we see another consequence of this as the government shields itself behind ‘the science’, and the media once again provides it with cover. For instance, here is Sky News‘ Thomas Moore informing his audience as recently as March 27th that: “one of the government’s key advisors hazarded a guess this week that between half and two-thirds of those dying would probably have done so soon anyway.” [from 0:45 mins]:

How very Malthusian of him, you may think. How very: “herd immunity, protect the economy and if it means some pensioners die, too bad.”

It would be nice to stop right there. This kind of pseudoscientific validation for ideologically-informed policy is hardly worthy of closer examination. In this instance it is simply insulting, not only to the vulnerable and elderly whose existence Moore is quite literally attempting to delete but to anyone with an ear for propaganda. (And so for this secondary reason, let us parse his words just a little.)

Key advisor…? CMO for England, Chris Whitty; or former President of R&D of pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) recently appointed government CSA, Sir Patrick Vallance; or Chief Executive of NHS England and former senior executive of UnitedHealth Group, Sir Simon Stevens, or some otherwise anonymous, faceless, quite possibly, non-existent advisor: who knows? Perhaps it was Matt Hancock…? Or was this again, Dominic Cummings?

Hazarded a guess… Really, can you get any vaguer than this? On what distant planet could Moore’s statement be considered remotely journalistic?

Not to be outdone on April 2nd, the BBC issued a Twitter stream along very similar lines:

 

 

Such Malthusian talking points are also echoed throughout a wide range of publications but found most especially on the shelves reserved for opinions of the libertarian right. As an outstanding example of this, I refer readers to a column written by Dr John Lee that was published in The Spectator as recently as March 28th: the day after the Sky News broadcast above, and just a fortnight ago.

Dr Lee is one of those pundits who love to cherry pick statistics; a talent so honed that upon first reading anyone could be forgiven for thinking that not only have we all been dreadfully deceived by our lying eyes but also by all the hysterical staff working in our NHS hospitals who incessantly talk nonsense about a crisis.

“The moral debate is not lives vs money,” Lee decides on the basis of the numbers, adding emphatically, “It is lives vs lives.” In fact, boiling Dr Lee’s argument down more literally, he is balancing risk to the economy against number of deaths, although doubtless it sounds more reasonable and more dramatic too, when you say “lives vs lives”. Not that the economy doesn’t matter, but that evidently from Lee’s viewpoint it sits high above mere lives and behind a huge ‘greater than or equal to’ sign. That said, his main proposal is a fittingly modest one:

Unless we tighten criteria for recording death due only to the virus (as opposed to it being present in those who died from other conditions), the official figures may show a lot more deaths apparently caused by the virus than is actually the case. What then? How do we measure the health consequences of taking people’s lives, jobs, leisure and purpose away from them to protect them from an anticipated threat? Which causes least harm?

Incidentally, the ultimate question here – “Which causes the least harm?” – sheds interesting light on Dr Lee’s own personal morality, or at least the ideas that underpin and inform it. Those who have studied philosophy will indeed recognise his stance, and place it under the technical heading ‘Consequentialism’: that the ultimate basis for a moral judgment should be founded on whether any action (or inaction) will produce a good or bad outcome, or consequence. Another way of saying this is “the ends justify the means”.

Consequentialism is essentially a rerun and a quite fashionable version of Utilitarianism, where Utilitarianism, in turn, values human behaviour according to some measure of usefulness. Once you understand this, it becomes a lot easier to comprehend why someone with Dr Lee’s outlook might share Cummings’ preference to “protect the economy and if it means some pensioners die, too bad”. The sacrifice of a few “useless eaters” (a phrase rightly or wrongly attributed to Kissinger) for the sake of the greater good. If I am being unkind to Dr Lee, then forgive me, but his words turn my own thoughts to Thomas Malthus again, who so eloquently justified the economic need for poor people to starve.

But I have digressed. The vital point to understand and remember here, as the establishment gatekeepers and government stenographers all insist, is that Boris Johnson, Matt Hancock, Michael Gove, Iain Duncan-Smith and the rest of the Conservative crew have always acted in strict accordance with the best scientific advice available. And that never at any stage were decisions taken with callous indifference even when it came to their original decision to pursue a quasi-scientific policy of ‘herd immunity’ by letting a few of our loved ones die:

Governments everywhere say they are responding to the science. The policies in the UK are not the government’s fault. They are trying to act responsibly based on the scientific advice given. But governments must remember that rushed science is almost always bad science.

That’s also Dr John Lee’s opinion by the way, as he reaches for a conclusion to his piece. The case he makes fails throughout to acknowledge any government accountability whatsoever; not even when it comes to deciding which advice to listen to. A case that he set out as follows:

In announcing the most far-reaching restrictions on personal freedom in the history of our nation, Boris Johnson resolutely followed the scientific advice that he had been given. The advisers to the government seem calm and collected, with a solid consensus among them. In the face of a new viral threat, with numbers of cases surging daily, I’m not sure that any prime minister would have acted very differently. 7

It’s the science, stupid – just so you know.

By the way, I call Dr John Lee, Dr Lee because this is how his article is attributed. And I think he wants you to recognise his expertise because he describes himself as “a recently retired professor of pathology and a former NHS consultant pathologist”. There is nothing wrong, of course, in highlighting your own professional credentials. That said, the entire emphasis of his piece is that the government places trust in expertise as should you too. Thus, signing off in this fashion is a very effective way to pull rank on his readership. (Trust me on this, I’m a doctor too – I just don’t make a point of flaunting my PhD at every opportunity.)

If Dr John Lee wants you to get the message because he knows better, then for those who prefer to be browbeaten rather than condescended to, and as a quite different alternative, I offer the latest outpourings of small-‘c’ conservative rent-a-mouth Julia Hartley-Brewer.

Brewer is in fact the daughter of a GP, although happily she is otherwise as unqualified to proffer expert analysis on any subjects at all basically – unhappily, this doesn’t stop her and thanks to a public platform called Talkradio those unqualified and largely unsought opinions are broadcast across the nation on a weekly basis.

Recently she’s been doing a lot of Tweeting too, fulfilling her other obligation as a leading light amongst the commentariat. Here is one of her more recent efforts:

Yes, that’s right: the only thing that matters is whether Boris Johnson is following scientific advice. And he is – can’t you understand that? Now just shut up. I paraphrase, just a little; hardly at all really.

This brings me to reflect, finally and once again, on the dismal state of so much of today’s journalism and media more broadly, characterised, as it is, by wilful ignorance and woeful submissiveness to authority. Rigidly confined within an ever-tightening Overton Window, it speaks up for almost no-one, whether on the pressing question of how to fight coronavirus, or on most other vital issues of the day.

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1 From a report entitled “NHS staff ‘gagged’ over coronavirus shortages” written by Denis Campbell, published in the Guardian on March 31, 2020. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/mar/31/nhs-staff-gagged-over-coronavirus-protective-equipment-shortages

2 From a ‘Special Report’ entitled “Johnson listened to his scientists about coronavirus – but they were slow to sound the alarm” written by Stephen Grey and Andrew MacAskill, published in Reurters on April 7, 2020. https://uk.mobile.reuters.com/article/amp/idUKKBN21P1X8

3 From an article entitled “Coronavirus: ten days that shook Britain – and changed the nation forever” written by Tim Shipman and Caroline Wheeler, published in The Sunday Times on March 22, 2020. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/coronavirus-ten-days-that-shook-britain-and-changed-the-nation-for-ever-spz6sc9vb

4 From an article entitled “Even The US Is Doing More Coronavirus Tests Than The UK. Here Are The Reasons Why”, written by Alex Wickham, Alberto Nardelli, Katie J. M. Baker & Richard Holmes, published in Buzzfeed News on March 31, 2020. https://www.buzzfeed.com/alexwickham/uk-coronavirus-testing-explainer

5 From an article entitled “UK missed coronavirus contact tracing opportunity, experts say” written by Rachel Shabi, published in the Guardian on April 6, 2020. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/apr/06/uk-missed-coronavirus-contact-tracing-opportunity-experts-say

6 Interviewed for The Big Idea, BBC2, February 14, 1996. A complete transcript is available here: http://scratchindog.blogspot.com/2015/07/transcript-of-interview-between-noam.html

The broadcast has also been uploaded on Youtube in full and is embedded below:

7 From an article entitled “How deadly is the coronavirus? It’s still far from clear?” written by Dr John Lee, published in The Spectator on March 28, 2020. https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/The-evidence-on-Covid-19-is-not-as-clear-as-we-think

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Filed under analysis & opinion, Britain, China, Iran, John Pilger, Noam Chomsky

Covid-19 vs. freedom and democracy: let us not sacrifice one to defeat the other

A primer: ‘The clairvoyant ruling class’

“The ruling class exists, it’s not a conspiracy theory. They operate as a class, too. They share the same values, the same sensibility and in Europe and North America they are white. They act in accordance with their interests, which are very largely identical. The failure to understand this is the single greatest problem and defect in left discourse today.”

— John Steppling, Author, Playwright

“This report is crucial reading for anyone interested in creatively considering the multiple, divergent ways in which our world could evolve.”

— Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation

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Scenario planning for corporate strategy was pioneered by Royal Dutch Shell in the 1970s. [Further reading on scenario planning: The Art of the Long View] The following excerpts are highlights from the May 2010 “Scenarios for the Future of Technology & International Development” report produced by The Rockefeller Foundation & Global Business Network.

Please note: The excerpts below are from the “Lock Step” scenario, but excerpts from all four scenarios are available in the original article published by Wrong Kind of Green.

“In 2012, the pandemic that the world had been anticipating for years finally hit. Unlike 2009’s H1N1, this new influenza strain — originating from wild geese — was extremely virulent and deadly. Even the most pandemic-prepared nations were quickly overwhelmed when the virus streaked around the world, infecting nearly 20 percent of the global population and killing 8 million in just seven months, the majority of them healthy young adults. The pandemic also had a deadly effect on economies: international mobility of both people and goods screeched to a halt, debilitating industries like tourism and breaking global supply chains. Even locally, normally bustling shops and office buildings sat empty for months, devoid of both employees and customers.” […]

“The pandemic blanketed the planet — though disproportionate numbers died in Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central America, where the virus spread like wildfire in the absence of official containment protocols. But even in developed countries, containment was a challenge. The United States’s initial policy of “strongly discouraging” citizens from flying proved deadly in its leniency, accelerating the spread of the virus not just within the U.S. but across borders. However, a few countries did fare better — China in particular. The Chinese government’s quick imposition and enforcement of mandatory quarantine for all citizens, as well as its instant and near-hermetic sealing off of all borders, saved millions of lives, stopping the spread of the virus far earlier than in other countries and enabling a swifter postpandemic recovery. [p 18]

“China’s government was not the only one that took extreme measures to protect its citizens from risk and exposure.  During the pandemic, national leaders around the world flexed their authority and imposed airtight rules and restrictions, from the mandatory wearing of face masks to body-temperature checks at the entries to communal spaces like train stations and supermarkets. Even after the pandemic faded, this more authoritarian control and oversight of citizens and their activities stuck and even intensified. In order to protect themselves from the spread of increasingly global problems — from pandemics and transnational terrorism to environmental crises and rising poverty — leaders around the world took a firmer grip on power.” […]

“At first, the notion of a more controlled world gained wide acceptance and approval. Citizens willingly gave up some of their sovereignty — and their privacy — to more paternalistic states in exchange for greater safety and stability. Citizens were more tolerant, and even eager, for top-down direction and oversight, and national leaders had more latitude to impose order in the ways they saw fit. In developed countries, this heightened oversight took many forms: biometric IDs for all citizens, for example, and tighter regulation of key industries whose stability was deemed vital to national interests. In many developed countries, enforced cooperation with a suite of new regulations and agreements slowly but steadily restored both order and, importantly, economic growth.” [p 19]

Click here to read the full article entitled “The Clairvoyant Ruling Class” published by Wrong Kind of Green.

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Fighting the invisible enemy today

“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

Benjamin Franklin 1

In the fight against Covid-19, the government of South Korea has arguably shown a way for other democracies to follow. First and foremost it established a comprehensive system of testing to confirm positive cases. This was backed up by contact tracing, targeted isolation and quarantine. Imposing sensible restrictions on travel also helped to slow and limit the spread of the outbreak. By acting promptly and enacting the precise measures called for by the scientists at the World Health Organisation, the Koreans managed to swiftly and effectively control the spread of Covid-19 infection and thereby averted a developing crisis.

One criticism of the South Korean approach surrounds its intrusive use of mobile phone technology to track movement and contacts. Though understandable perhaps (given cultural differences), such an infringement of privacy was non-essential, and there is really no need or justification whatsoever for western democracies to follow a similar course. That GCHQ in Britain and the NSA in America are already able to access and record private digital information including personal communications, metadata and location is actually an open secret. Of course, the opportunity now presents itself for such covert practices to be rolled out very publicly and given full legal sanction; moves that ought to be opposed. In other regards, however, the Korean model is surely exemplary.

The graph below is a snapshot of an interactive chart that you can access here.

Snapshot taken on March 28th

In stark contrast to Korean efficiency that halted the spread of infection, government responses across the western world have been comparatively slow to act, muddled, and in some respects negligent. The unfolding situation in Italy tragically illustrates a clear lack of preparedness on the part of the authorities there, where in spite of several weeks advantage over the Koreans, an initially lax approach allowed community-spread of the infection. It was not until a full-blown public health crisis emerged that increasingly draconian and sometimes overnight emergency measures were put in place.

On this Sky News report from March 11th, which was recorded prior to the full lockdown, many Italians were already asking why so little, so late:

Virtually all other European countries have failed to learn the lessons from Italy.

A fortnight later on March 27th, Sky News reported from Spain, where once again action to prevent and slow the spread of the virus came too late:

In France and Britain, where the clampdown has been more gradual and less severe up to now, the implementation of restrictions has been similarly confused and inexplicably overdue. Who knows how many more people became infected in the days and weeks leading up to the eventual (and inevitable) closure of sporting events, entertainment venues, gyms and pubs, let alone during the time lost as schools, offices and building sites continued to operate; the government’s preference for business as usual.

On the other hand, the overreach shown by North Derbyshire police who decided to fly their drones over The Peak District last week in order to shame anyone out walking the dog or just taking a quiet stroll was not just unwarranted, but entirely counterproductive. In a time of national crisis, you have to ask why our news media chose to broadcast this footage and reinforce such a stark police state message:

The situation facing America is set to be worse, with its lack of social safety nets and a system of healthcare provision that makes it a privilege millions simply cannot afford. Compounding these problems, the response so far has been more complacent and shambolic than our own governments in Europe; Trump theatrical as ever, recently telling everyone that it’ll all be over by Easter. Meanwhile, after weeks of non-intervention and exponential rates of infection (a terrible spike in numbers in New York especially) with other states like Florida taking no actions at all to check the spread of disease, one indication of the growing desperation is the panic-buying not just of toilet rolls, but of firearms.

On March 26th, ‘Democracy Now!’ interviewed New York City emergency room doctor Craig Spencer, a survivor of Ebola, which he contracted while fighting its outbreak in Africa. He says: “I think, in a week, we will be Italy. At least here in New York City, we’re already seeing that” [at 15:30 mins]:

Behind the scenes, on the other hand, dramatic moves are now being taken to tackle the pandemic, including ones that will sideline constitutional rights altogether. Indeed, there are clear parallels with actions taken during immediate aftermath of 9/11, its shadow lengthened by the coincidentally mysterious anthrax attacks, which enabled then-Attorney General John Ashcroft to fast-track the Patriot Acts. Likewise, today’s Justice Department is in the process of launching a raft of new legislation that further undermines civil liberties and chips away at fundamental human rights:

Documents reviewed by POLITICO detail the department’s requests to lawmakers on a host of topics, including the statute of limitations, asylum and the way court hearings are conducted. POLITICO also reviewed and previously reported on documents seeking the authority to extend deadlines on merger reviews and prosecutions. […]

In one of the documents, the department proposed that Congress grant the attorney general power to ask the chief judge of any district court to pause court proceedings “whenever the district court is fully or partially closed by virtue of any natural disaster, civil disobedience, or other emergency situation.”

The proposal would also grant those top judges broad authority to pause court proceedings during emergencies. It would apply to “any statutes or rules of procedure otherwise affecting pre-arrest, post-arrest, pre-trial, trial, and post-trial procedures in criminal and juvenile proceedings and all civil process and proceedings,” according to draft legislative language the department shared with Congress. […]

The request raised eyebrows because of its potential implications for habeas corpus — the constitutional right to appear before a judge after arrest and seek release.

“Not only would it be a violation of that, but it says ‘affecting pre-arrest,’” said Norman L. Reimer, executive director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. “So that means you could be arrested and never brought before a judge until they decide that the emergency or the civil disobedience is over. I find it absolutely terrifying. Especially in a time of emergency, we should be very careful about granting new powers to the government.” 2

Click here to read the full article published by Politico.

In an article published by Mint Press News a few days later, Whitney Webb picked up where Politico left off, highlighting plans for ‘Continuity of Government’ (COG) and the use of a controversial database known simply as ‘Main Core’ that lists American dissidents and “potential troublemakers”:

Though Main Core was reportedly in use after September 11 to target “unfriendly” individuals for increased domestic surveillance, concern that COG plans in the age of coronavirus could take a more drastic turn and involve the detention of Americans included in that database now seems more plausible than ever. On Saturday, Politico reported that the Department of Justice has demanded new “emergency powers” during the current pandemic and these powers include being able to indefinitely detain Americans without trial. Politico also noted that the DOJ’s controversial new requests “span several stages of the legal process, from initial arrest to how cases are processed and investigated.” Per the DOJ’s requests, indefinite detention would emerge through a new ability whereby the Attorney General or a judge could pause court proceedings whenever courts are “fully or partially closed by virtue of any natural disaster, civil disobedience, or other emergency situation.”

What Politico did not include in its report is that current Attorney General William Barr has spent the past several months fine-tuning and implementing a “pre-crime” program. Officially known as the “National Disruption and Early Engagement Program” (DEEP), it aims to “identify, assess and engage” potentially violent individuals “before they strike.” Barr first announced this program last October in an official memorandum and therein stated that the program was to be implemented sometime over the course of 2020 and would involve “an efficient, effective and programmatic strategy to disrupt individuals who are mobilizing towards violence, by all lawful means.”

Whitney Webb continues:

In his memorandum, Barr further notes that the program’s “early engagement tactics” were “born of the posture we adopted with respect to terrorist threats” following the September 11 attacks, essentially stating that this pre-crime program will utilize methods from the “War on Terror” domestically and on a massive scale.

Adding:

Furthermore, with the FBI having recently flagged “conspiracy theorists” (and by extension those who distrust or question government narratives of both past and present) as a “domestic terror threat,” the DOJ could even make the case that failure to blindly trust government narratives presents a threat to the public order. Given that the Main Core database in its current form contains bulk surveillance gathered from social media, phone conversations/messaging apps and even financial information (i.e. purchasing history, etc.) on Americans deemed unfriendly “often for the slightest and most trivial reason,” this unprecedented power grab by the DOJ has an authoritarian and Orwellian potential to target legitimate dissent like never before. 3

Click here to read Whitney Webb’s full article entitled “Coronavirus: What Newsweek Failed to Mention About ‘Continuity of Government’”.

Moreover, under the pretext of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, Washington recently extended FISA (the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act), and specifically the three Patriot Act provisions:

With the nation’s attention fixed on the rapidly spreading coronavirus, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives on Wednesday passed legislation to extend FBI surveillance powers that were set to expire on March 15.

The bill, formally titled the USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act, cleared the House by a vote of 278 to 136, with 152 Democrats and 126 Republicans voting yes. View the full roll call here.

The legislation, strongly opposed by civil liberties groups and privacy advocates, is the product of bipartisan negotiations between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio.).

Attorney General William Barr voiced his support for the measure in a statement on Wednesday.

If passed by the Senate, advocacy group Free Press warned, legislation would “reauthorize abusive government surveillance powers.”

“The bill would reauthorize Section 215 powers Congress established under the USA Patriot Act in 2001,” Free Press noted. “Section 215 is the provision national security agencies cited in the past to support their unwarranted collection of phone records of hundreds of millions of people in the United States.” 4

Click here to read the full report published by Common Dreams.

There has been a terrible recent history when it comes to the emergency management of disasters in America. These legislative preparations and the tightening of lockdowns to tackle coronavirus recall not only the power grab after 9/11 but also, and just as alarmingly, the institution of de facto martial law when New Orleans was flooded by Hurricane Katrina.

When Hurricane Katrina forced New Orleans poet Shelton Alexander to evacuate his home, he took his truck and video camera to the Superdome. He escaped the chaotic shelter a few days later with a truckload of people and video documentation of history:

It is rather too easy to take our rights and democratically enshrined freedoms for granted, when in fact these are constantly under attack. And during times of crisis, when an opportunistic executive is able to avoid scrutiny, when lawmakers can retreat into the shadows to begin reshaping long-held constitutional rights, democracy is especially vulnerable. In abandoning its democracy principles, all in the name of protecting its citizens from this new invisible enemy, America seems to be trailing the way as it did after 9/11 (Israel too – see the video below), and the rest of the world would do well to pay attention.

On March 25th, Greg Wilpert, host of ‘The Real News Network’, spoke with Antony Loewenstein, author of ‘Disaster Capitalism: Making a Killing out of Catastrophe’, about how the Israeli government’s state of emergency over the coronavirus pandemic is being used to shut down political debate and the right to protest:

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Update: New coronavirus law ‘bestows unlimited powers’ on Orbán government

On the same day I posted this article [March 30th] Amnesty International issued the following press release:

Following a decision by the Hungarian parliament to pass a new law that will allow the Government to rule by decree – without a clear end date or periodic reviews – under an extended state of emergency, David Vig, Amnesty International’s Hungary Director, said:

“This bill creates an indefinite and uncontrolled state of emergency, and gives Viktor Orbán and his Government carte blanche to restrict human rights.

“This is not the way to address the very real crisis that has been caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We need strong safeguards to ensure that any measures to restrict human rights adopted under the state of emergency are strictly necessary and proportional in order to protect public health. This new law bestows unlimited powers to the government to rule by decree beyond the pandemic.

“During his years as Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán has overseen a rollback of human rights in Hungary, stoking up hostility towards marginalised groups and attempting to muzzle Hungary’s critical voices. Allowing his government to rule by decree is likely to speed up this rollback.”

Rule by decree

The new law will allow Hungary’s Government to rule by decree without a sunset clause or any other provision that would guarantee parliament can exercise proper oversight. It also creates two new crimes which would mean that anyone who publicises false or distorted facts that interfere with the “successful protection” of the public, or that “alarm or agitate” the public, could be punished by up to five years in prison. Anyone who interferes with the operation of a quarantine or isolation order could also face a prison sentence of up to five years, a punishment that increases to eight years if anyone dies as a result.

Amnesty is warning that these measures are inconsistent with international human rights law and standards. Plans for the new law were criticised last week by the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, the International Press Institute, and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Click here to read the same press release on the Amnesty International website.

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1 Quote originally used by Benjamin Franklin for the Pennsylvania Assembly in its “Reply to the Governor” (November 11, 1755).

2 From an article entitled “DOJ seeks new emergency powers amid coronavirus pandemic” written by Betsy Woodruff Swan, published in Politico on March 21, 2020. https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/21/doj-coronavirus-emergency-powers-140023

3 From an article entitled “Coronavirus: What Newsweek Failed to Mention About ‘Continuity of Government’” written by Whitney Webb, published in Mint Press News on March 23, 2020. https://www.mintpressnews.com/coronavirus-what-newsweek-failed-mention-continuity-government/265954/ 

4 From an article entitled “152 House Democrats Join GOP to Reuathorize ‘Abusive Government Surveillence Powers’” written by Jake Johnson, published by Common Dreams on March 12, 2020. https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/03/12/152-house-democrats-join-gop-reauthorize-abusive-government-surveillance-powers

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coping with corona: assessing the NHS, the UK govt and Eurogroup responses

Last night’s episode of Novara Media’s Tyskie Sour, with hosts Michael Walker and Aaron Bastani, who were joined by NHS doctor Rita Issa, was such an excellent broadcast that I have decided to post it without further description other than to say it covers all the relevant questions about the coming crisis, focussing on the NHS, but also considering the economic implications in the medium and longer term. Near the end of the show they compare the West’s inadequate response to what has been done in South Korea.

[Warning: strong language]

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To complement the analysis above, which very much centres around the situation facing Britain, I have decided to republish below the latest piece by Yanis Varoufakis (published today) in which he criticises the failures of the Eurogroup and offers his own solutions.

[All highlights are preserved as in the original.]

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The Eurogroup fails Europe once again. Brace for a hideous EU recession | Yanis Varoufakis

The Eurogroup met yesterday, Monday 16th March, to hammer out its coordinated fiscal response to the massive recession already in progress following the lockdown of much of Europe’s society. The task they faced is enormous: If sales, tourism, services etc. fall by 50% for just one month (which is certain), and then by 25% for only two more months (i.e. the best-case scenario), then annual growth will be -10%. Across Europe!

So, what was the Eurogroup’s duty to announce? An immediate massive fiscal boost, its purpose being to reassure people that they will not be poorer. E.g. the government of Hong Kong that ploughed $10 billion immediately into the economy by ordering the tax office to credit every household’s bank account with $1250 immediately.

Not expecting such swift action from the Eurogroup, the fact remains that nothing short of a 5% fiscal injection was needed to reduce the calamity from -10% of GDP to, say, -3% (assuming a very large multiplier effect).

So, what did the Eurogroup decide?

Here is their official communique, announcing some impressive numbers. Commentators spoke of a bazooka aimed at the recession. In reality, the bazooka was a pathetic water pistol. Once again, the Eurogroup proved itself to be, not just dysfunctional, but a clear and present danger for Europeans.

The first thing to note is what they did not do. As everyone knows, eurozone governments live in the straitjacket of the so-called fiscal compact that allows next to zero room for fiscal expansion. This fiscal compact does, however, contain a clause that can be activated in times of emergency that released, temporarily, governments and allows them to throw money at an unexpected crisis. Before yesterday’s meeting, almost everyone expected the Eurogroup to announce the triggering of this clause. THEY DID NOT!

What they did do was to announce two things:  First, a bevy of loans for the private sector. Secondly, they referred to the utilisation of the so-called automatic stabilisers and also on unspecified measures of 1% of GDP. Let’s take these two separately:

LOANS

  • The European Investment Bank will offer €8 billion of working capital lending for 100,000 European firms, promising to try to this sum to €20bn
  • The Eurogroup toyed with the idea of calling upon the bailout fund (the European Stability Mechanism) to use its unused lending capacity of €410 billion

Before losing ourselves in the detail of this €430 billions of potential loans, it is crucial that we stick to the important point: Loans are useless when the problem is, not illiquidity but, insolvency. It is a pointless gift to lend money to a firm whose customers have disappeared and which know that, when the customers return, it will be next to impossible to repay the new and old debts. What companies need now is either the government to act as a buyer of last resort or a haircut of their liabilitiesnot new loans.

Looking now at the particulars, the EIB loans are a drop in the ocean. Moreover, they fail the speed test, as anyone who has had to apply to the EIB loan knows. As for the ESM, this would be a joke if the situation were not so serious. Why a joke? Because any loan by the ESM comes with so-called ‘conditionalities’. What are these? The government receiving it will need to sign an MoU (like Greece did in 2010) that involves massive future austerity and, thus, become even more of a vasal state of Brussels. Can anyone seriously see the Italian government signing up to its own decapitation by signing such an MoU?

TAX DEFERMENTS plus a 1% of GDP FISCAL ADJUSTMENT

The headline number that newspapers today lead with is a 1% of EU GDP fiscal measures. But when we look at these measures, we find that they lack any detail. The only tangible thing they mention is tax deferments: letting businesses and households not pay VAT and other taxes until the end of the year. But this is also, like the loans to business, a failed policy. Even when the lockdown ends, and business-as-almost-usual returns, Europeans will not earn enough to pay belatedly the deferred taxes plus the new ones. Especially given that many businesses and jobs will have disappeared by then.

In short, Europeans needed a tax haircut. Instead they got a deferment, a kind of state loan by which to repay their taxes later. Yet more spectacular proof that the Eurogroup has not learned its lesson from the 2010 euro crisis: Loans to the bankrupt do not help!

DiEM25’s answer to: What should they have done?

At the very least, the Eurogroup should have recommended to the European Council that the European Investment Bank is given the green light to issue EIB bonds worth €600 billion with the stipulation that, as part of its ongoing and recently enhanced quantitative easing program, the European Central Bank will support the value of these bonds in the bond markets. That €600 billion should be spent directly to support national health services and also be invested in sectors of the economy badly hit by the lockdown – while also nudging our economy toward greener forms of transport, energy generation etc. Additionally, the fiscal compact should be immediately side-lined and governments should effect a tax haircut for small and medium sized firms, households etc.

The above would probably be enough not to avert but to contain the recession to something like between -1% and -2% of GDP. To avert it completely, the Eurogroup should have decided to mimic Hong Kong and have the European Central Bank mint an emergency fund from which every European household is given between €1000 and €2000.

SUMMARY

Those of us who know how the Eurogroup works were not holding much hope yesterday. Nevertheless, Europe’s finance ministers managed to do even less than what we feared: They failed to use the fiscal compact’s proviso for loosening up fiscal policy across the euro area. They continued with the tragic error of treating a crisis of insolvency as a crisis of liquidity. And they failed to recognise that some countries, in particular those savaged by the never-ending euro crisis, need a great deal more support than others.

In short, the Eurogroup’s bazooka is no more than a pathetic waterpistol. It is time that Europeans pushed for something better than this. It is time that we organise at a transnational, paneuropean level to replace this instrument of austerity-driven recession, the Eurogroup, with an institution that can work for a majority of Europeans everywhere.

APPENDIX: The Eurogroup’s telling reference to “automatic stabilisers”

The Eurogroup communique referred to the “full use of automatic stabilisers”. What did they mean?

Here is an example of an ‘automatic stabiliser’: When people lose their job, they go on unemployment benefit. This means a transfer of money from the better off to the worse off. As the worse off, who are now unemployed, save nothing and, therefore, more of the money of the better off enters the markets. That’s what economists refer to as an ‘automatic stabiliser’ (‘automatic’ because no government decision was needed to activate it – the loss of jobs does it automatically | and ‘stabiliser’ because the higher portion of spending relative to savings boosts GDP ).

Can you see dear reader what the Eurogroup are really saying when confessing to relying to the ‘automatic stabilisers’ in the absence of concerted fiscal expansion? They are saying: Don’t worry folks. While it is true we, the finance ministers, are doing almost nothing to avert the disaster, when the disaster comes your job losses and poverty will trigger some automatic mechanism that will break the economy’s fall. A little like consoling the victims of the plague with their thought that their death will, through shrinking the labour supply, boost future wages…

Click here to read the same piece on Yanis Varoufakis’ official website.

Note that: Not all of the views expressed above are ones necessarily shared by Wall of Controversy.

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Update:

If you would like regular information on the spread of Covid-19 and the measures being taken in countries across the world, then I very much recommend the down-to-earth daily updates provided by Dr John Campbell. Today he begins by reading one of the most heart-rending letters imaginable from a nurse working on the frontline in Italy:

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On March 15th, George Galloway invited NHS Consultant, Dr Ranjeet Brar, to speak about the threat posed by a rapidly accelerating number of coronavirus cases and difficulties now facing the health service. He also talks at length about the Malthusian ethos informing the government initial decision to sacrifice numbers of our elderly and infirm for the sake of developing ‘herd immunity’ (something that may not even be achievable for a coronavirus outbreak):

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On March 18th, Going Underground invited Professor Rupert Read, Associate Professor of Philosophy and spokesman for Extinction Rebellion (an organisation I do not have a great deal of time for – for the record) to discuss the British government’s lamentable response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Read also expresses his dismay at Boris Johnson’s decision to adopt a ‘herd immunity’ response knowing it would inevitably result in hundreds of thousands of Britons dying. They also talked about how the UK government response is completely at odds with the rest of the world and how the British population is actually leading the government in terms of its own response to tackling the spread of coronavirus infection:

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On March 18th, Novara Media invited Steve Turner, Assistant General Secretary (AGS) of Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union, Unite the Union, to join them in an extended discussion about the potential economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, how it impacts working class people, and how organised labour needs to respond:

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On April 8th, Yanis Varoufakis joined Aaron Bastani and Michael Walker on Novara Media’s Tysky Sour to discuss what he calls “the tragedy of errors”:

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in search of the truth about this new coronavirus, Covid-19

Like most people, when it comes to coronavirus Covid-19, I’m no expert on the relevant scientific fields of microbiology, infectious diseases or epidemiology. Complete absence of knowledge in such a highly technical issue can seem like a good reason not to enter into the debate at all and why, until now, I have chosen to avoid writing on this subject. The change of heart happens because, like you too, I have a serious, since vested interest, not only in trying to determine the truth, but also in sharing the fruits of my own investigations.

Before I come to the science or discuss the UK government’s response, I wish to make clear that although I believe the government has acted recklessly by playing down the seriousness of SARS-CoV-2 (the technical name for the virus itself), parts of the media have been reckless in a different way: rushing around like a clucking flock of Chicken-lickens (dare I add) with their heads cut off, all clamouring in that ostentatious 24/7 rolling news coverage way of theirs to reinforce the opinion that “the sky is falling in”. Some of this febrile media panic has become so bad that other more reserved news reports have actually confirmed that a mass hysteria is being irresponsibly (if fortunately to great extent ineffectively) whipped up:

University of California, Irvine associate professor E. Alison Holman, who has published research on media exposure to mass-trauma events, said the toilet paper scare appeared to have originated with articles about stocking up before the virus’ spread.

“A week ago, there were a handful of articles in major newspapers saying, here’s what you should do to prepare for the coronavirus. And one of the top things that was listed on at least two or three websites — major media outlets — was: Buy toilet paper,” Ms. Holman said. “I think some of the freak-out about getting toilet paper has to do with that.”

She described the media-fueled worry as “a little overblown,” while others have gone so far as to accuse the press of sensationalizing the virus to juice ratings. 1

Liberally mixed into this whole confusion is the swirling uncertainty of an aggregate of internet information, misinformation and disinformation (or ‘fake news’ if you must – as if propaganda is only the product of our internet age). It ought to go without saying really that you shouldn’t automatically trust anything you read, with the original source of the story key to understanding any subsequent interpretation of it – a caveat that in no way excludes the articles on my own blog, but also applies to mainstream broadcasters and newspapers.

I try to take great care with the inclusion of references wherever relevant, always doing my best to navigate a course to avoid any deliberate lies and well-intentioned misunderstandings and errors. Sometimes this puts me at odds with the stance taken by other researchers, journalists and bloggers whose views I ordinarily subscribe to. Right now, there are many who justifiably are alerting their own audiences to the danger that measures rolled out to contain this disease ranging from increased surveillance and the introduction of cashless exchange 2 to lockdowns, curfews, and arrest and detainment, which may be difficult or impossible to rollback. In the notorious words of Rahm Emanuel: “Never let a crisis go to waste”. Not wishing to downplay this very real alternative danger, I therefore encourage readers to follow the work of investigative reporter Whitney Webb who explains in her latest article:

The decision to classify government coronavirus preparations in mid-January, followed by the decision to coordinate the domestic response with the military and with intelligence deserves considerable scrutiny, particularly given that at least one federal agency, Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), will be given broad, sweeping powers and will work closely with unspecified intelligence “partners” as part of its response to a pandemics like COVID-19.

The CBP’s pandemic response document, obtained by The Nation, reveals that the CBP’s pandemic directive “allows the agency to actively surveil and detain individuals suspected of carrying the illness indefinitely.” The Nation further notes that the plan was drafted during the George W. Bush administration, but is the agency’s most recent pandemic response plan and remains in effect.

Though only CBP’s pandemic response plan has now been made public, those of other agencies are likely to be similar, particularly on their emphasis on surveillance, given past precedent following the September 11 attacks and other times of national panic. Notably, several recent media reports have likened coronavirus to 9/11 and broached the possibility of a “9/11-like” response to coronavirus, suggestions that should concern critics of the post-9/11 “Patriot Act” and other controversial laws, executive orders and policies that followed. 3

Click here to read the full article entitled “US Intel Agencies Played Unsettling Role in Classified and ‘9/11-like’ Coronavirus Response Plan” published by Mint Press News.

I would also point you to the research of John Whitehead who writes of the current crisis:

Don’t go underestimating the government’s ability to lock the nation down if the coronavirus turns into a pandemic, however. After all, the government has been planning and preparing for such a crisis for years now.

The building blocks are already in place for such an eventuality: the surveillance networks, fusion centers and government contractors that already share information in real time; the government’s massive biometric databases that can identify individuals based on genetic and biological markers; the militarized police, working in conjunction with federal agencies, ready and able to coordinate with the federal government when it’s time to round up the targeted individuals; the courts that will sanction the government’s methods, no matter how unlawful, as long as it’s done in the name of national security; and the detention facilities, whether private prisons or FEMA internment camps, that have been built and are waiting to be filled.

Now all of this may sound far-fetched to you now, but we’ve already arrived at the dystopian futures prophesised by George Orwell’s 1984, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, and Philip K. Dick’s Minority Report. 4

Click here to read the full article entitled “Coronavirus vs. Mass Surveillance State: Which Poses the Greater Threat?” published in Counterpunch.

It is wise to be cautious. The remedy can often be worse than the disease; however, this is no excuse whatsoever to downplay the threat once we understand that the threat is real.

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Science, what science?

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director general, said Europe – where the virus is present in all 27 EU states and has infected 25,000 people – had become the centre of the epidemic, with more reported cases and deaths than the rest of the world combined apart from China. […]

Tedros stressed that countries should take a comprehensive approach. “Not testing alone,” he said. “Not contact tracing alone. Not quarantine alone. Not social distancing alone. Do it all. Find, isolate, test and treat every case, to break the chains of transmission… do not just let this fire burn.5

[bold highlight added]

Click here to read the full Guardian report published on Friday entitled “‘Do not let this fire burn’: WHO warns Europe over Covid-19”.

Having completed what Boris Johnson and the UK government have comically, bordering on the self-satirical, described as the “containment” phase – a period in which countless people who arrived in Britain from infected areas were permitted entry without quarantine and never tested or traced – we have now reached the “delay” phase, which will, they say, “flatten the curve” to slow up the rate of hospital admissions, whilst permitting the development of herd immunity.

On paper, such a lassez-faire approach might have merits. In the long run, it will certainly mean the population becomes resistant to this particular strain of virus, lessening concerns of another outbreak once the current one has passed. Meanwhile, any slowing down of transmission of the virus will save lives. In fact, this approach would be commendable for an outbreak of flu, but unfortunately what we are dealing with isn’t flu. It isn’t even the same virus; this is a SARS-like virus and comparisons to flu are misleading for many reasons (pictures sometimes tell a better story than words):

Now for some figures: as of March 9th, South Korea had tested 190,000 people, with 7,478 confirmed cases and 51 deaths. 6 That equates to a 0.7% mortality rate, which matches what has also been reported outside of Wuhan in China. This is the best estimate of the mortality rate we currently have – for comparison, the rate is around 0.1% for seasonal flu. That represents a hugely significant difference. Of course, the death rates and hospitalisation rates can only be based on confirmed cases, which means that the recorded figures can be high because there is insufficient testing of non-serious cases. The positive here is quite obvious, but there is also a negative to consider: that the spread of this disease is already far more widespread than any current data indicates.

On top of this, Covid-19 is highly transmissible. Best estimates indicate that is may be 3-4 times more infectious. As the spread is exponential and this is the base multiplier, the rise in the number of cases can be expected to far exceed a typical rise in cases of flu, putting an enormous extra strain on any health service. It accounts for why China has locked down a city, constructed new hospitals and flown in some 50,000 extra medics. It also explains how the situation in Italy has become so desperate.

Indeed, if transmission in the UK or elsewhere is not sufficiently slowed, then we can expect to see scenes like those in Italy where the health system has been overwhelmed with so many serious cases requiring intensive care. So what measures have we taken that Italy did not? Or Spain (which is also beginning to see a dramatic spike in cases)?

Richard Horton is the Editor of ‘The Lancet’. This is just one of many tweets he has recently put out highly critical of government inaction:

 

There are two further points about the threat posed by this new coronavirus that really need clearing up. Firstly, it continues to be intimated that just the elderly and those with underlying conditions should be concerned about contracting the disease, which is true up to a point. Thankfully, children and very young adults seem to be hardly affected at all. Although again this presents another risk since these asymptomatic groups can also be carriers, spreading the disease within communities. It should also be stressed however that the median age of fatality is 65 years old (this seems to be confirmed across all regions). Median means that half of the cases are below 65, with many of the victims sadly in their 50’s and younger. For some as yet unknown reason, they are also disproportionately male.

Secondly, although the mortality rate is below 1% (high nonetheless), what we are slowly learning is that about 10% of cases suffer a very severe form of pneumonia which can leave serious and long-term damage. To reiterate: this is not flu. I have included interviews with medics working on the frontline in Italy in an addendum below.

The government’s official stance is very obviously contrary to the stringent measures that were enforced by China and more humanely in Singapore and South Korea, where coronavirus epidemics have been quite rapidly contained; it is also in outright defiance to current World Health Organisation guidelines, as summarised above. The fact that there is no testing of anyone who doesn’t present symptoms and no contact tracing whatsoever means we cannot accurately keep track of the disease, and in the words of Tedros, “you can’t fight the virus if you don’t know where it is”.

In the same briefing statement given on March 12th, Tedros also said this: “To save lives we must reduce transmission. That means finding and isolating as many cases as possible, and quarantining their closest contacts. Even if you cannot stop transmission, you can slow it down and protect health facilities, old age homes and other vital areas – but only if you test all suspected cases.” 7

And here again, the UK government is completely remiss. As of now, the government is making no efforts to find and isolate anyone at all. From one perspective, this also looks like it is being deliberately allowed to spread, or rather more generously and less conspiratorially, that it is a clear dereliction of duty to protect its citizens.

The bewildering aspect of this clear failure to comply with WHO guidelines is that Johnson insists he is just following ‘the science’. Well, if Johnson’s advisors disagree with WHO then surely it is incumbent on them to acknowledge and justify their variance, rather than simply ignoring it.

On BBC’s Question Time broadcast on March 12th, Professor John Ashton, former Director of Public Health, was also highly critical of the government’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak which he described as “paternalistic, old-fashioned and top-down”:

Moreover, and despite how Boris Johnson and the UK government have chosen to present and justify their current strategy, as always flanked by medical and scientific experts, there is far more to address here than simply ‘the science’ (as if the definite article somehow makes it more scientific). Thankfully, we do not as yet live in a technocracy, and potential crises like the one we may now face provide another good reason to avoid ever becoming one. Why? Because the approach we adopt to tackle any public health issue, and especially one that is urgent and potentially serious, is inherently political – it is immediately informed by what government and to a lesser degree our society values most, which are seldom the same given that our governments are beholden more to special interests than the electorate. There is no single scientific answer; no technocratic short-cut. Do we care more about people or profits? It is a question the government ought to be asked more often.

Here is Health Secretary, Matt Hancock speaking yesterday on BBC’s ‘The Andrew Marr Show’ appearing to be completely out of his depth and making no real sense:

Remarkably the upload has been removed already (within 24 hours!) – but you can still watch the whole interview on BBC iplayer here.

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Final thoughts

There is no question the banksters and the rest of the vulture capitalist class are rubbing their hands at the prospect of fire sales and super-charged deregulation – that is the nature of disaster capitalism. And more immediately, public hand out for emergency contracts that always pay above the odds. I also see every reason to be suspicious that two of the countries most affected right now are China and Iran – the origins of this disease remain a mystery. It is also the case that the media is hyping this. Why the hell do people panic buy in the first place, except when they start seeing images of empty shelves? On top of all that, there is every reason to be suspicious of a UN body like the WHO.

Embedded below is a powerful investigative documentary entitled ‘trustWHO’ (available on Vimeo for a small rental fee) made by filmmaker Lilian Franck, who went on a quest to discover what lies behind the altruistic façade of the world’s largest public health body. What she uncovers is an alarming picture of corruption and opacity. She also covers the recent change to the classification of what  a pandemic is and when the WHO should announce a pandemic, an announcement that triggers a world wide pandemic response by nation states, the kind of which we have been seeing in recent days since the WHO finally announced it:

Assuredly Covid-19 is not as virulent as the Spanish Flu which I believe had an estimated death rate of about 20% (there is an interesting article on how Wikipedia recently altered their entry to reduce this figure). It is now evident, however, that it is far more deadly than regular flu. It should also be noted that many more people are made seriously ill than this death rate. Lastly, the infectiousness of Covd-19 is also much higher than flu – possibly as much as 3-4 times higher. For all these reasons it is entirely misleading to compare Covid-19 to flu.

The NHS here in Britain barely copes with the annual winter flu rise. To be honest, although originally I dismissed this as merely media hype, I am now anticipating that Britain will be hit by a crisis the NHS is unprepared to deal with: a situation at least as dire or possibly worse than the one happening in Italy. My hunch is that this will likely happen within the next fortnight (we shall see – fingers crossed that I’m wrong). I would also be concerned about the same situation subsequently happening in America – not because Covid-19 is as deadly as Spanish Flu but because it is bad enough, spreads astonishing rapidly and none of our terribly under-funded public health systems are ready for it. Of course, I really hope this turns out to be wrong and yes, the vultures are already circling whatever happens.

*

Addendum

Giacomo Grasselli, a senior Italian government health official who is coordinating the network of intensive care units in Lombardy, spoke about the “critical” situation in Italy on C4 News broadcast March 10th:

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Giovanni Guaraldi discusses lessons being learned by Italian doctors about the new virus on CTV News broadcast on March 4th:

On March 14th Sky News interviewed anaesthetist Marco Vergano who works in Turin, Italy:

*

Additional: What are the origins of Covid-19?

The world has been given to believe that this novel form of coronavirus Covid-19 is an entirely accidental mutation. To begin with, at least in the West, we were also expected to swallow the unsubstantiated but widely publicised assertions that its occurrence was due to the bizarre eating habits of the Chinese and cross-contamination from a wet market. Unsettling images of ghastly bowls of bat soup were featured across the newsstands – pictures almost certainly not taken in China but never mind.

Beneath the frankly xenophobic headlines, there is another side to the story that has received considerably less attention: just how strikingly novel the new virus really is. This is from an article entitled “Why COVID-19 is more insidious than other coronaviruses” published by Salon magazine in late February:

While there are many known viruses in the same class of coronavirus as COVID-19, some of its peculiarities — including its infectivity — are perplexing researchers. Now, a recent research paper viewable on the Chinese research site Chinaxiv.org and previously reported on by the South China Morning Post notes that the new coronavirus has an “HIV-like mutation” that gives it novel properties.

“Because of this mutation, the packing mechanism of the 2019-nCoV may be changed to being more similar to those of MHV, HIV, Ebola virus (EBoV) and some avian influenza viruses,” the English abstract of the paper states.

The same article continues:

Though the paper is yet to be peer-reviewed, the scientists involved hail from Nankai Unviersity in Tianjin, one of the top universities in the world’s most populous nation.

The paper adds to the crucial body of research around COVID-19, which still includes more unknowns than knowns. Currently, scientists still do not know COVID-19’s origin, though suspect it is zoonotic, meaning it likely started in an animal before spreading to humans. As the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note on their website, COVID-19 is an “emerging disease,” and much of what we do know is “based on what is known about similar coronaviruses.” 8

Keeping this in mind, I recommend listening to a short interview with esteemed human rights lawyer and Professor of International Law at the University of Illinois, Francis Boyle. It is important to understand that Boyle has significant expertise in this field having drafted legislation for the Biological Weapons Convention, known as the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989.

Boyle is adamant that Covid-19 is a leaked bioweapons agent and given his standing, one might imagine that informed opinion of this kind with the submission of supporting evidence, deserves a more public platform. Instead, as he says, no mainstream journalists have come forward to speak with him. I do not, of course, leap to the conclusion that his account is the correct one; only find it curious that most journalists, who for their part invariably have little to no expertise in this field, are so eager to either ignore him altogether or undermine his authority in hit-pieces that consistently dismiss Boyle merely as “a lawyer”.

Furthermore, there is an additional piece of evidence that appears to be in favour of Boyle’s claims. It appeared in an article published by the highly respected scientific journal Nature back in November 2015. Entitled “Engineered bat virus stirs debate over risky research”, the piece begins:

An experiment that created a hybrid version of a bat coronavirus — one related to the virus that causes SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) — has triggered renewed debate over whether engineering lab variants of viruses with possible pandemic potential is worth the risks. 9

For the record, the bats in question were Chinese horseshoe bats.

I shall not reproduce a larger extract because there is an ominous ‘rights & permissions’ caution, and so for the purposes of fair use I will also reprint in full the editors’ cautionary note prefacing the article:

Editors’ note, March 2020: We are aware that this story is being used as the basis for unverified theories that the novel coronavirus causing COVID-19 was engineered. There is no evidence that this is true; scientists believe that an animal is the most likely source of the coronavirus.

Having no expertise in this field, I merely present evidence for others to judge.

Click here to read the full Nature article.

And here and here to read articles published in 2013 about attempts by scientists based in The Netherlands to weaponise bird flu.

Correction:

In the original version of this article I incorrectly stated that SARS-CoV-2 was “the technical name for the disease itself”. It is instead the name of the virus whereas Covid-19 is the name of the disease; just as HIV is the name for the virus that causes the disease AIDS.

*

1 From an article entitled “’Inducing panic’: Media under fire for driving coronavirus hype to epidemic levels” written by Valerie Richardson, published in The Washington Times on March 11, 2020. https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2020/mar/11/media-fueling-coronavirus-panic-under-fire/

2 Arguably this is purely for hygienic reasons right now and not intended as a long term plan – a measure to protect workers on the frontline such as those needed on supermarket checkout. Obviously they do not need coronavirus to enact such regulation.

3 From an article entitled “US Intel Agencies Played Unsettling Role in Classified “9/11-like” Coronavirus Response Plan” written by Whitney Webb, published in Mint Press News on March 13, 2020. https://www.mintpressnews.com/us-intelligence-unsettling-role-classified-9-11-like-coronavirus-response/265687/

4 From an article entitled “Coronavirusvs, the Mass Surveillance State: Which Poses the Greater Threat” written by John W. Whitehead, published in Counterpunch on March 12, 2020. https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/03/12/coronavirus-vs-the-mass-surveillance-state-which-poses-the-greater-threat/

5 From an article entitled “’Do not let this fire burn’: WHO warns Europe over Covid-19” written by Jon Henley and Sam Jones, published in the Guardian on March 13, 2020. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/13/european-countries-take-radical-steps-to-combat-coronavirus

6 Based on figures reported in an article by New Scientist entitled “Why is it so hard to calculate how many people will die from Covid-19?” written by Michael Le Page, published in New Scientist on March 11, 2020. https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg24532733-700-why-is-it-so-hard-to-calculate-how-many-people-will-die-from-covid-19/  Here is a fuller extract of the piece:

Last month, a study estimated that the fatality rate when infected people without symptoms are included in the case count is around 1 per cent, and this is still thought to be in the right ball park.

It is clear that some countries, including the US and Iran, are missing cases as so few people are being tested. South Korea, by contrast, had tested 190,000 people as of 9 March, with 7478 confirmed cases and 51 deaths.

This means 0.7 per cent of reported cases in South Korea have died so far, which matches what we have seen in China outside of Wuhan. If these places are detecting most cases, the fatality rate will not be much lower than this, though it could be higher if many recently infected people die.

The fatality rate for covid-19 isn’t fixed, and will vary based on many factors. Age is one, with the rate rising from around age 50 and reaching 15 per cent in over-80s, according to data from China. Countries like Niger, with many younger people, may fare better than Japan, where more than a quarter are aged over 65.

7 https://www.who.int/dg/speeches/detail/who-director-general-s-opening-remarks-at-the-mission-briefing-on-covid-19—12-march-2020

8 From an article entitled “Why COVID-19 is more insidious than other coronaviruses” written by Nicole Karlis, published by Salon magazine on February 28, 2020. https://www.salon.com/2020/02/27/why-covid-19-is-more-insidious-than-other-coronaviruses/

9 From an article entitled “Engineered bat virus stirs debate over risky research” written by Declan Butler, published in Nature on November 12, 2015. https://www.nature.com/news/engineered-bat-virus-stirs-debate-over-risky-research-1.18787

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Filed under analysis & opinion, Britain, China, Italy, police state

the united colours of Bilderberg — a late review of Montreux 2019: #2 (un)stable strategic order

This is the second of a sequence of articles based around the ‘key topics’ to last year’s Bilderberg conference discussed in relation to the prevailing political agenda and placed within the immediate historical context.

This piece focuses on issues relating to China and Russia:


A schematically enhanced version of last year’s ‘key topics’

*

The price of “full spectrum dominance”

“I have said earlier that the United States is now totally frank about putting its cards on the table. That is the case. Its official declared policy is now defined as ‘full spectrum dominance’. That is not my term, it is theirs. ‘Full spectrum dominance’ means control of land, sea, air and space and all attendant resources.” [from 38:30 mins]

These sobering words come from Harold Pinter’s acceptance speech after he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005. Dying from cancer and confined to a wheelchair, Pinter courageously seized the occasion and used it as a final opportunity to speak truth to power.

He continued:

“The United States now occupies 702 military installations throughout the world in 132 countries, with the honourable exception of Sweden, of course. We don’t quite know how they got there but they are there all right.

“The United States possesses 8,000 active and operational nuclear warheads. Two thousand are on hair trigger alert, ready to be launched with 15 minutes warning. It is developing new systems of nuclear force, known as bunker busters. The British, ever cooperative, are intending to replace their own nuclear missile, Trident. Who, I wonder, are they aiming at? Osama bin Laden? You? Me? Joe Dokes? China? Paris? Who knows? What we do know is that this infantile insanity – the possession and threatened use of nuclear weapons – is at the heart of present American political philosophy. We must remind ourselves that the United States is on a permanent military footing and shows no sign of relaxing it.” 1

In March 2018 ‘Democracy Now!’ interviewed former New York Times reporter Stephen Kinzer, author of “Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq”. Kinzer reminds us of just a few of the many U.S.-backed coups and invasions beginning with the overthrow of Nicaraguan President José Santos Zelaya (1909) to the toppling of democratic Prime Minister Mosaddegh in the 1953 Iranian coup d’état to the Dominican Republic to Honduras to Cuba. He also discusses the radical anti-imperialism of Mark Twain:

*

During the decade and a half that has passed since Pinter gave his impassioned speech, the US State Department under Hilary Clinton pressed for the disastrous Nato-led regime change operation to topple Gaddafi in Libya (2011), while under the pretext of fighting al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the same Obama administration simultaneously waged war on Yemen, a conflict that since 2015 was further escalated under a Saudi-led and US-backed coalition. 2

A UN report on Yemen released in September accuses the Saudi-led coalition of killing tens of thousands since 2015 and of starving to death a further 85,000 children as a deliberate war tactic. It further accuses America, Britain and France, who have armed and provided logistical support and intelligence to the Saudis, of complicity in those war crimes:

Tamer Kirolos, Country Director of Save the Children said:
“It’s unacceptable that those responsible for the killing, maiming and other grave violations against thousands of Yemeni children are yet to face any consequences. The report even notes the use of starvation as a weapon of war, resulting in thousands of children facing severe malnutrition. Children are not only dying from bombs and bullets, they are being smothered silently because they are denied food.” 3

[Bold highlights as in the original]

Meanwhile, under Timber Sycamore and other clandestine operations, the US and its Gulf State allies has also supplied weapons, training and funding directly to Islamist terrorist groups in repeated efforts to destabilise Syria.

And today, as Trump and the neo-con faction surrounding him continue to heighten tensions with Iran, the US already has forces, many of which are private contractors, deployed widely across the Middle East, Africa and further afield:

The U.S. military reportedly has more than 1.3 million men and women on active duty, with more than 200,000 of them stationed overseas in nearly every country in the world. Those numbers are likely significantly higher in keeping with the Pentagon’s policy of not fully disclosing where and how many troops are deployed for the sake of “operational security and denying the enemy any advantage.” As investigative journalist David Vine explains, “Although few Americans realize it, the United States likely has more bases in foreign lands than any other people, nation, or empire in history.”

Don’t fall for the propaganda, though: America’s military forces aren’t being deployed abroad to protect our freedoms here at home. Rather, they’re being used to guard oil fields, build foreign infrastructure and protect the financial interests of the corporate elite. In fact, the United States military spends about $81 billion a year just to protect oil supplies around the world.

The reach of America’s military empire includes close to 800 bases in as many as 160 countries, operated at a cost of more than $156 billion annually. As Vine reports, “Even US military resorts and recreation areas in places like the Bavarian Alps and Seoul, South Korea, are bases of a kind. Worldwide, the military runs more than 170 golf courses.”

This is how a military empire occupies the globe.

The extract above is taken from a recent article written by John Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of Battlefield America: The War on the American People, who continues:

War spending is bankrupting America.

Although the U.S. constitutes only 5% of the world’s population, America boasts almost 50% of the world’s total military expenditure, spending more on the military than the next 19 biggest spending nations combined.

In fact, the Pentagon spends more on war than all 50 states combined spend on health, education, welfare, and safety.

The American military-industrial complex has erected an empire unsurpassed in history in its breadth and scope, one dedicated to conducting perpetual warfare throughout the earth.

Since 2001, the U.S. government has spent more than $4.7 trillion waging its endless wars.

Having been co-opted by greedy defense contractors, corrupt politicians and incompetent government officials, America’s expanding military empire is bleeding the country dry at a rate of more than $32 million per hour.

In fact, the U.S. government has spent more money every five seconds in Iraq than the average American earns in a year.

Future wars and military exercises waged around the globe are expected to push the total bill upwards of $12 trillion by 2053. 4

Click here to read John Whitehead’s full article entitled “Come Home America: Stop Policing the World and Waging Endless Wars” published by Counterpunch.

On Monday 13th, Taya Graham of ‘The Real News Network’ spoke to CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin about why special interests are promoting conflict with Iran, the nearly inevitable veto of the War Powers resolution vote, and the urgent need for popular antiwar resistance:

*

Sanctions against China: the flagrant lies and double standards

On December 3rd, the US House of Representatives passed by a vote of 407 to 1 the Uighur Intervention and Global Humanitarian Unified Response Act (UIGHUR Act), a stronger amended version of the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2019, which had previously passed the Senate by unanimous consent on September 11th. This revised bill is now awaiting approval by the Senate:

[The bill] adds provisions that require the president to sanction Chinese government officials responsible for the repression of Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim Turkic ethnic group, and places restrictions on the export of devices that could be used to spy on or restrict the communications or movement of members of the group and other Chinese citizens. […]

Among other provisions, the bill requires the president to submit to Congress within 120 days a list of senior Chinese government officials guilty of human rights abuses against Uighurs in Xianjiang or elsewhere in China. That list would include Xinjiang Party Secretary Chen Quanguo and officials responsible for mass incarceration or “re-education” efforts that single out Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities.

The president would be required to impose visa and financial restrictions on the listed individuals under the Global Magnitsky Act. 5

Click here to read the full article published by Bloomberg on December 3rd.

A fortnight earlier on November 20th, the House had passed Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019 (HKHRDA) by 417-1 which again allowed for targeted sanctions.

The justification for the introduction and tightening of sanctions on China is twofold. Firstly it is to protect human rights protesters in Hong Kong and secondly to protect the Uyghurs, a largely Muslim population who live in the Xinjiang province of the north-west.

I have discussed the Hong Kong protests in previous articles (for instance here) and the evidence is overwhelming that genuine grievances have been deliberately inflamed by agencies working on behalf of the US State Department. Such strategies for fomenting colour revolution are tried and tested and other recent examples have included the failed coup attempt in Venezuela and the victorious Maidan in Ukraine. Today neo-Nazis from Ukraine who have flown out to Hong Kong are actively helping out:

With their flamboyant waving of US and British colonial flags and tendency to belt out the American national anthem on megaphones, anti-China separatists in Hong Kong have made themselves a magnet for the US far-right. Staff of the website InfoWars, right-wing social media personality Paul Joseph Watson, and the ultra-conservative group Patriot Prayer are among those who have made pilgrimages to the protests.

The latest collection of extreme-right activists to reinforce the ranks of the Hong Kong separatists are from Ukraine. They call themselves Gonor and have tattoos on their upper torsos with undeniable symbols of white supremacy and neo-Nazism.

These extremists previously fought in a notoriously brutal neo-Nazi militia called the Azov Battalion, in Ukraine’s war against pro-Russian militants. 6

Click here to read the full report by Ben Norton published in The Grayzone.

No mention of this is ever reported by the corporate media, of course; just as the neo-Nazi presence during the original Maidan was deliberately downplayed and ignored. You do not want to have your colour revolution spoiled by uncomfortable facts leaking out.

Which brings me to consider another often-repeated mainstream story: how the Chinese government has arrested and detained a million or more Uyghur, who are being held and tortured inside secret “re-education camps”. Such is the sheer scale of this alleged programme of ethnic cleansing that it encourages comparison to the genocidal regime of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia or the concentration camps of Nazi Germany. So what is the hard evidence and how reliable are sources?

The claim that China has detained millions of ethnic Uyghurs in its Xinjiang region is repeated with increasing frequency, but little scrutiny is ever applied. Yet a closer look at the figure and how it was obtained reveals a serious deficiency in data.

While this extraordinary claim is treated as unassailable in the West, it is, in fact, based on two highly dubious “studies.

The first, by the US government-backed Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders, formed its estimate by interviewing a grand total of eight people.

The second study relied on flimsy media reports and speculation. It was authored by Adrian Zenz, a far-right fundamentalist Christian who opposes homosexuality and gender equality, supports “scriptural spanking” of children, and believes he is “led by God” on a “mission” against China. 7

The assessment is made by investigative journalists Ajit Singh and Max Blumenthal writing in The Grayzone. The same piece continues:

The “millions detained” figure was first popularized by a Washington, DC-based NGO that is backed by the US government, the Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD).

In a 2018 report submitted to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination – often misrepresented in Western media as a UN-authored report – CHRD “estimate[d] that roughly one million members of ethnic Uyghurs have been sent to ‘re-education’ detention camps and roughly two million have been forced to attend ‘re-education’ programs in Xinjiang.” According to CHRD, this figure was “[b]ased on interviews and limited data.”

While CHRD states that it interviewed dozens of ethnic Uyghurs in the course of its study, their enormous estimate was ultimately based on interviews with exactly eight Uyghur individuals.

[Bold highlights as in the original]

Continuing:

In its mounting pressure campaign against China, the US is not only relying on CHRD for data; it is directly funding its operations. As Ben Norton and Ajit Singh previously reported for The Grayzone, CHRD receives significant financial support from Washington’s regime-change arm, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

For anyone who remains unfamiliar with the work of the NED, please read this earlier article.

Click here to read the full article which provides a detailed profile of born-again Christian, Adrian Zenz, who:

“recently explained in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. ‘I feel very clearly led by God to do this,’ he said. ‘I can put it that way. I’m not afraid to say that. With Xinjiang, things really changed. It became like a mission, or a ministry.’”

*

The fact that Beijing operates a repressive authoritarian regime is not in dispute. There is also irrefutable evidence that China incarcerates many thousands of political prisoners, amongst whom members of the Uygher minority are disproportionally targeted. Others are secretly executed. Why then would the West bother to engage in a campaign that exaggerates the level of human rights abuses taking place?

The short answer is that China is now singled out because America and its close allies wish to isolate and impose sanctions just as they have done previously with Russia, Syria and, most recently, Iran. Sanctions are, of course, the basic tool for economic warfare.

The slightly longer answer is that in order to satisfy their objective, Chinese human rights abuses need necessarily be portrayed as categorically different from the crimes of Western allies. This falsehood is maintained in large part by comparative silence concerning, for instance, the human rights violations under the totalitarian rule of military dictator Abdel el-Sisi in Egypt; the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Kashmir carried out by Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi; or the daily crimes against humanity perpetrated by Israel and Saudi Arabia…

Saudi Arabian dissidents do not expect to live for very long. Instead they expect to be tortured, beheaded and ‘crucified’. Or in the case of Washington Post correspondent, Jamal Khashoggi, dismembered alive with a bonesaw on the personal orders of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Meanwhile, under Israel’s apartheid system, which was formalised after the passing of the Nation-State Law in 2018, one third of the five million registered Palestinian refugees, born of families who lost their homes when their land was ethnically cleansed at the time of the 1948 Nakba, remain crammed into permanent refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and the West Bank. Another third (1.85 million to be exact) exist under a constant economic blockade inside Gaza’s open-air prison and are subjected to periodic military assaults which Israeli strategists and hardliners casually describe as “mowing the lawn”. Those brave enough to protest against these dire conditions are routinely shot at with live ammunition. During the last two years Great March of Return, nearly two hundred unarmed people including many women and children have been killed by IDF snipers, while another six thousand are now maimed for life.

So this becomes a numbers game, with the figures for Uygher victims necessarily measured in excess of the less deserving victims of Egypt, India, Israel or Saudi Arabia, whose plight is correspondingly under-reported and forgotten. Moreover, although the unrelenting war and blockade of Yemen has caused a prolonged cholera epidemic and mass starvation that amounts to actual genocide, this grotesque crime against humanity is seldom if ever mentioned in the news, which prefers to reserve hyperbolic comparisons to Nazi Germany for China rather than India and Saudi Arabia (or allies Britain and France).

*

The grey zone

On June 13th, BBC Newsnight broadcast a report on a new mission for the SAS and other UK special forces, which, should ministers choose to authorise it, is set “to counter Russian and other forces around the world.”

As Newsnight’s Diplomatic and Defence Editor, Mark Urban, reported in a related BBC news article:

The plan [called ‘Special Operations Concept’] is currently being considered by military chiefs, Whitehall insiders tell me, and will soon be sent to ministers and is likely to be approved.

The Ministry of Defence has said it does not comment on the UK Special Forces.

UK Special Forces are meant to provide more options for low-profile actions in places where overtly committing conventional troops would be difficult.

For example, under the new plan, an operation might be mounted in a Baltic republic or African country in order to uncover and pinpoint Russian covert activities. […]

The new missions would take UKSF units in a less “kinetic” or violent direction – after almost 20 years of man-hunting strike missions in the Middle East and Afghanistan – and into closer cooperation with allied intelligence agencies and MI6.

The same piece continues:

The role of the SRR [Special Reconnaissance Regiment: one of the three main elements of the UK’s Special Forces working along the SAS and SBS], which carries out covert surveillance, would grow under the Special Operations Concept.

Military chiefs believe Russia has been using its military intelligence arm, the GRU, effectively in Ukraine, Syria and Africa.

“Right now, you do nothing or you escalate,” one senior officer says. “We want to expand that competitive space.”

Adding:

At a London conference earlier this month, Chief of General Staff General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith referred to “authoritarian regimes” rather than mentioning Russia by name, noting they had managed to “exploit that hybrid space between those two increasingly redundant states of ‘peace’ and ‘war’”. 8

The quote drawn from Sir Mark Carleton-Smith’s speech delivered at RUSI is startling: “those increasingly redundant states of ‘peace’ and ‘war’”; and the tone is made all the more alarming due to the placement of quotation marks around the words ‘war’ and ‘peace’. Is this really what the Chief of General Staff intends when he talks about “the grey zone”: that ‘war’ and ‘peace’ now have purely relative meanings and signify nothing at all in any absolute sense? It is hard to imagine anything more Orwellian than this. Moreover, the leaked plans to redeploy Special Forces in preemptive action against other states are very likely in breach of the UN Charter, as the Russian embassy in London subsequently pointed out:

“In fact, this would mean that UK defense agencies are paving the way for removing the existing restrictions imposed by the international law and to claim the right to carry out military operations beyond the limits of self-defense, which constitutes a direct breach of the UN Charter,” the embassy said. “This would not just become a yet another step towards deliberately destroying the world order based on the international law, but also create major risks of those ‘hybrid’ operations evolving into full-fledged armed conflicts as a result of various coincidences and misunderstandings.” 9

*

Russia & cyber threats

Having returned from Montreux, National Security Correspondent for The New York Times, David E. Sanger, quickly put together a piece that helps us to better understand the interconnecting parts of another two of last summer’s Bilderberg key topics (Russia & Cyber Threats):

The United States is stepping-up digital incursions into Russia’s electric power grid in a warning to President Vladimir V. Putin and a demonstration of how the Trump administration is using new authorities to deploy cybertools more aggressively, current and former government officials said. 10

‘Current and former government officials said…’ Pompeo and Petraeus by any chance? Just taking a wild guess, of course, because there were others mingling in Montreaux with specialist knowledge who arguably better fit the bill as sources: take for instance, James H. Baker, the Director of the Office of Net Assessment; or alternatively, Matthew Daniels from New Space and Technology Projects, another whose post is under the aegis of the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

Just as plausibly, Sanger may have got the lowdown from Matthew Pottinger, Senior Director of the National Security Council (NSC) while partaking of some of the fine comestibles with NSC colleague and Director for China, Matthew Turpin. And if you’re wondering whether the colleagues at NSC were officially booked into adjacent rooms with a view, do please take note that:

“Thanks to the private nature of the Meeting, the participants take part as individuals rather than in any official capacity” (according to the Bilderberg website) 11

On the same basis we must therefore surmise that US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, was driven to this year’s summit by his own fleet of black limousines!

…Although attended by, as Charlie Skelton wryly observes, “a small army of secret service bodyguards, a bunch of State Dept staff and advisors, and the US Ambassador to Switzerland.”

Officially at least, the White House mustn’t have known two of their senior staffers were even going to Montreux!

David Sanger’s article continues:

Advocates of the more aggressive strategy said it was long overdue, after years of public warnings from the Department of Homeland Security and the F.B.I. that Russia has inserted malware that could sabotage American power plants, oil and gas pipelines, or water supplies in any future conflict with the United States.

But it also carries significant risk of escalating the daily digital Cold War between Washington and Moscow.

Adding:

Power grids have been a low-intensity battleground for years.

Since at least 2012, current and former officials say, the United States has put reconnaissance probes into the control systems of the Russian electric grid.

But now the American strategy has shifted more toward offense, officials say, with the placement of potentially crippling malware inside the Russian system at a depth and with an aggressiveness that had never been tried before. It is intended partly as a warning, and partly to be poised to conduct cyberstrikes if a major conflict broke out between Washington and Moscow.

What the article casually describes as “the daily digital Cold War”, if true, is actually nothing of the sort. The Cold War did not involve daily attacks on enemy infrastructure, which is part of the reason why thankfully it remained a cold war. Such an admission of US attacks is again in clear breach of international law, and yet coolly reported as mundane tit-for-tat exchanges justified on the back of entirely unsubstantiated rumours of Russian sabotage.

The article continues:

Mr. Trump issued new authorities to Cyber Command last summer, in a still-classified document known as National Security Presidential Memoranda 13, giving General Nakasone [head of United States Cyber Command] far more leeway to conduct offensive online operations without receiving presidential approval.

But the action inside the Russian electric grid appears to have been conducted under little-noticed new legal authorities, slipped into the military authorization bill passed by Congress last summer. The measure approved the routine conduct of “clandestine military activity” in cyberspace, to “deter, safeguard or defend against attacks or malicious cyberactivities against the United States.”

Under the law, those actions can now be authorized by the defense secretary without special presidential approval. […]

Two administration officials said they believed Mr. Trump had not been briefed in any detail about the steps to place “implants” — software code that can be used for surveillance or attack — inside the Russian grid.

Pentagon and intelligence officials described broad hesitation to go into detail with Mr. Trump about operations against Russia for concern over his reaction — and the possibility that he might countermand it or discuss it with foreign officials, as he did in 2017 when he mentioned a sensitive operation in Syria to the Russian foreign minister.

Which is the single aspect of Sanger’s article that we can know without doubt is true, since under section 1632 of the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for the Fiscal Year 2019 (H.R. 5515) which passed the Senate on August 1st 2018, and which Trump subsequently signed into law on August 13th, he thereby removed the need for his own presidential authorisation to launch a cyberattack:

Affirming the authority of the Secretary of Defense to conduct military activities and operations in cyberspace. 12

It is a piece of legislation that conjures to mind the essential plot device in Dr Strangelove: a presidential pre-delegation of first-strike nuclear weapons use that grants permission to demented General Jack D. Ripper of Kubrick’s satire to personally launch his nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. 13

On the other hand, claims that Russia and America have already inserted viruses inside each other’s primary infrastructure demands evidence, and without any, the story clearly lacks credibility. So besides fearmongering, what would be the aim of putting out these purported ‘leaks’?

Well, it may help in the construction of a pretext for a genuine attack. A prospect which brings us to consider this admission (quoted again from Sanger’s NYT piece):

In a previous post, General Nakasone had been deeply involved in designing an operation code-named Nitro Zeus that amounted to a war plan to unplug Iran if the United States entered into hostilities with the country.

Given the current climate Iran would seem to be a more likely target then Russia – it is also the country most conspicuous by its absence from this year’s Bilderberg ‘key topics’. Did Mike Pompeo really spend the weekend at Bilderberg and not talk about Iran? When indeed was the last time the region of the Middle East failed to feature in Bilderberg’s published agenda? (I cannot remember a single occasion.)

In support of this alternative thesis, the article also contains this curious and conspicuous passage:

Both General Nakasone and Mr. Bolton, through spokesmen, declined to answer questions about the incursions into Russia’s grid. Officials at the National Security Council also declined to comment but said they had no national security concerns about the details of The New York Times’s reporting about the targeting of the Russian grid, perhaps an indication that some of the intrusions were intended to be noticed by the Russians.

Noticed by the Russians, the Chinese, the Venezuelans, and the Iranians too presumably… leaks of alleged “intrusions” that the public would know literally nothing whatsoever about were it not for the fact that the whole matter was conveniently brought to the attention of NYT-Bilderberg insider David E. Sanger by those “officials at the National Security Council”. Leaks much to the advantage of those with an interest to heighten tensions and incubate the new cold war.

Author of the piece David Sanger, on the list of Bilderberg participants as it was originally released on May 28th, has since gone missing.

By Friday June 1st, and with the conference well underway, his name was expunged.

As these screenshots show:

Like Mike Pompeo, he is another of last year’s Bilderberg disappeared.

*

A reconstructed world order

On the day of the anniversary of the D-Day landings, as Angela Merkel joined fellow western leaders to commemorate the sacrifice of the allied soldiers during the Second World War, two nations fighting alongside the victors were quietly snubbed. Russia and China each lost more than twenty million lives in their struggles against Germany and Japan respectively; the Russian Red Army doing more than all of the other allied forces to halt the march of the Nazis, battling alone against four-fifths of the Wehrmacht and forcing their thousand mile retreat from Moscow to Berlin.

However the isolation and the US-led encirclement of Russia and China has had the inevitable if unintended consequence of forging a closer alliance, and so as British, French, Canadian and American dignitaries laid wreaths on Normandy’s beaches, uninvited leaders Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin were instead meeting in Moscow – it would be their thirtieth get-together in just the past six years – a tightening Eurasian partnership that has been relatively under-reported by the western press.

The following is taken a BBC news report:

The alliance between the two countries has intensified since both Moscow and Beijing feel alienated by Europe and especially the US.

Moscow’s relationship with the West turned sour when Russia was put under sanctions for its involvement in the Ukraine conflict five years ago. It has also been criticised for assisting the Assad regime in Syria in 2015.

China’s ties with the US have deteriorated since the Trump administration appeared to turn its back on globalisation in favour of economic national protectionism.

The two countries are currently embroiled in a trade war and tit-for-tat tariffs that intensive talks have so far failed to resolve.

With a shared sense of rejection from the West, Russia and China have hence moved closer together, both in economic and military cooperation, observers say.

The partnership has already seen an increase in trade, which grew by 25% in 2018 to hit a record $108bn (£85bn) according to the Kremlin. 14

There is no mention of the D-Day snub, of course, although the same piece does include a useful breakdown of the burgeoning economic ties between the two superpowers along with this observation:

During Xi’s visit to Moscow, the two sides have promised to deepen military and economic cooperation in the future.

Among the business deals signed there is one that stands out: Russian telecoms company MTS will allow controversial Chinese tech giant Huawei to develop a 5G network in Russia.

Click here to read the full BBC news report entitled “China’s Xi praises ‘best friend’ Putin during Russia visit”.

Such deals represent a direct response to, on the one hand, the West’s sanctions imposed on Russia ostensibly for its annexation of Crimea, and on the other, Trump’s imposition of tariffs on China. As the trade war against both counties is ratcheted up, once again it is inevitable that they are pushed into forming closer mutual ties. Moreover, Trump’s blustering has effectively backed America into a corner, as economist Michael Hudson explains:

The US is making impossible demands for economic surrender – that no country could accept. What appears on the surface to be only a trade war is really a full-fledged Cold War 2.0.

At stake is whether China will agree to do what Russia did in the 1990s: put a Yeltsin-like puppet of neoliberal planners in place to shift control of its economy from its government to the U.S. financial sector and its planners. So the fight really is over what kind of planning China and the rest of the world should have: by governments to raise prosperity, or by the financial sector to extract revenue and impose austerity. […]

The objective is to gain financial control of global resources and make trade “partners” pay interest, licensing fees and high prices for products in which the United States enjoys monopoly pricing “rights” for intellectual property. A trade war thus aims to make other countries dependent on U.S.-controlled food, oil, banking and finance, or high-technology goods whose disruption will cause austerity and suffering until the trade “partner” surrenders.

The best approach left open to China according to Hudson is to “stand aside and let the US self-destruct”, although he also advocates, albeit a little tongue-in-cheek, that Xi should nominate Trump for next year’s Nobel Peace Prize:

We know that he wants what his predecessor Barack Obama got. And doesn’t he deserve it more? After all, he is helping to bring Eurasia together, driving China and Russia into an alliance with neighboring countries, reaching out to Europe.

Trump may be too narcissistic to realize the irony here. Catalyzing Asian and European trade independence, financial independence, food independence and IT independence from the threat of U.S. sanctions will leave the U.S. isolated in the emerging multilateralism. 15

Click here to read Hudson’s full article entitled “Trump’s Trade Threats are really Cold War 2.0” published on June 13th.

*

On July 8th Ross Ashcroft, host of RT’s ‘Renegade Inc’, was joined by the journalist and Middle East based commentator Sharmine Narwani to discuss how Iran and the Middle East is reshaping the world order. Narwani explained how the battle over Syria (which she refers to as ‘Ground Zero’) has marked a turning point in the large-scale, two-decade long, neo-colonial ‘third world war’ raging across the Middle East, Central Asia and North Africa:

*

Additional: Iraq, Soleimani and the threat of petroyuan

The following is an extended extract from a recent article entitled “How a Hidden Parliamentary Session Revealed Trump’s True Motives in Iraq” by Whitney Webb published in Mint Press News:

[T]he use of the petrodollar has created a system whereby U.S. control of oil sales of the largest oil exporters is necessary, not just to buttress the dollar, but also to support its global military presence. Therefore, it is unsurprising that the issue of the U.S. troop presence in Iraq and the issue of Iraq’s push for oil independence against U.S. wishes have become intertwined. Notably, one of the architects of the petrodollar system and the man who infamously described U.S. soldiers as “dumb, stupid animals to be used as pawns in foreign policy”, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, has been advising Trump and informing his China policy since 2016.

This take was also expressed by economist Michael Hudson, who recently noted that U.S. access to oil, dollarization and U.S. military strategy are intricately interwoven and that Trump’s recent Iraq policy is intended “to escalate America’s presence in Iraq to keep control of the region’s oil reserves,” and, as Hudson says, “to back Saudi Arabia’s Wahabi troops (ISIS, Al Qaeda in Iraq, Al Nusra and other divisions of what are actually America’s foreign legion) to support U.S. control of Near Eastern oil as a buttress of the U.S. dollar.”

Hudson further asserts that it was Qassem Soleimani’s efforts to promote Iraq’s oil independence at the expense of U.S. imperial ambitions that served one of the key motives behind his assassination.

“America opposed General Suleimani above all because he was fighting against ISIS and other U.S.-backed terrorists in their attempt to break up Syria and replace Assad’s regime with a set of U.S.-compliant local leaders – the old British “divide and conquer” ploy. On occasion, Suleimani had cooperated with U.S. troops in fighting ISIS groups that got “out of line” meaning the U.S. party line. But every indication is that he was in Iraq to work with that government seeking to regain control of the oil fields that President Trump has bragged so loudly about grabbing. (emphasis added)”

Hudson adds that “…U.S. neocons feared Suleimani’s plan to help Iraq assert control of its oil and withstand the terrorist attacks supported by U.S. and Saudi’s on Iraq. That is what made his assassination an immediate drive.”

While other factors — such as pressure from U.S. allies such as Israel — also played a factor in the decision to kill Soleimani, the decision to assassinate him on Iraqi soil just hours before he was set to meet with Abdul-Mahdi in a diplomatic role suggests that the underlying tensions caused by Iraq’s push for oil independence and its oil deal with China did play a factor in the timing of his assassination. It also served as a threat to Abdul-Mahdi, who has claimed that the U.S. threatened to kill both him and his defense minister just weeks prior over tensions directly related to the push for independence of Iraq’s oil sector from the U.S.

It appears that the ever-present role of the petrodollar in guiding U.S. policy in the Middle East remains unchanged. The petrodollar has long been a driving factor behind the U.S.’ policy towards Iraq specifically, as one of the key triggers for the 2003 invasion of Iraq was Saddam Hussein’s decision to sell Iraqi oil in Euros opposed to dollars beginning in the year 2000. Just weeks before the invasion began, Hussein boasted that Iraq’s Euro-based oil revenue account was earning a higher interest rate than it would have been if it had continued to sell its oil in dollars, an apparent signal to other oil exporters that the petrodollar system was only really benefiting the United States at their own expense.

Beyond current efforts to stave off Iraq’s oil independence and keep its oil trade aligned with the U.S., the fact that the U.S. is now seeking to limit China’s ever-growing role in Iraq’s oil sector is also directly related to China’s publicly known efforts to create its own direct competitor to the petrodollar, the petroyuan.

Since 2017, China has made its plans for the petroyuan — a direct competitor to the petrodollar — no secret, particularly after China eclipsed the U.S. as the world’s largest importer of oil. As CNBC noted at the time:

“The new strategy is to enlist the energy markets’ help: Beijing may introduce a new way to price oil in coming months — but unlike the contracts based on the U.S. dollar that currently dominate global markets, this benchmark would use China’s own currency. If there’s widespread adoption, as the Chinese hope, then that will mark a step toward challenging the greenback’s status as the world’s most powerful currency….The plan is to price oil in yuan using a gold-backed futures contract in Shanghai, but the road will be long and arduous.”

If the U.S. continues on its current path and pushes Iraq further into the arms of China and other U.S. rival states, it goes without saying that Iraq — now a part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative — may soon favor a petroyuan system over a petrodollar system, particularly as the current U.S. administration threatens to hold Iraq’s central bank account hostage for pursuing policies Washington finds unfavorable.

It could also explain why President Trump is so concerned about China’s growing foothold in Iraq, since it risks causing not only the end of the U.S. military hegemony in the country but could also lead to major trouble for the petrodollar system and the U.S.’ position as a global financial power. Trump’s policy aimed at stopping China and Iraq’s growing ties is clearly having the opposite effect, showing that this administration’s “gangster diplomacy” only serves to make the alternatives offered by countries like China and Russia all the more attractive. 16

[Bold highlights as in the original]

Click here to read Whitney Webb’s full article published on January 17th.

*

1 Harold Pinter’s Nobel Lecture was pre-recorded, and shown on video on December 7, 2005, in Börssalen at the Swedish Academy in Stockholm. A complete transcript is available here: https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/literature/2005/pinter/lecture/ 

2

Although the Trump administration vastly escalated the counter-terrorism war in Yemen, the war began under President Obama. Over his entire presidency, President Bush had conducted only a single strike in Yemen in 2002.

From an article entitled “Drone Strikes: Yemen” written by Peter Bergen, David Sterman and Melissa Salyk-Virk, published in New America https://www.newamerica.org/in-depth/americas-counterterrorism-wars/us-targeted-killing-program-yemen/ 

3 From a statement released by Save the Children entitled “Time to Bring Killers of Children in Yemen to Justice” published on September 3, 2019. https://www.savethechildren.net/news/statement-time-bring-killers-children-yemen-justice

4 From an article entitled “Come Home America: Sop Policing the World and Waging Endless Wars” written by John W. Whitehead, published in Counterpunch on January 13, 2020. https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/01/13/come-home-america-stop-policing-the-world-and-waging-endless-wars/ 

5 From an article entitled “U.S. House Passes Xinjiang Bill, Prompting Threat From China” written by Daniel Flatley, published in Bloomberg on December 3, 2019. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-12-03/u-s-house-ramps-up-china-tensions-with-uighur-human-rights-bill

6 From an article entitled “Ukrainian neo-Nazis flock to the Hong Kong protest movement” written by Ben Norton, published in The Grayzone on December 4, 2019. https://thegrayzone.com/2019/12/04/ukrainian-nazis-hong-kong-protests/ 

7 From an article entitled “China detaining millions of Uyghurs? Serious problems with claims by US-backed NGO and far-right researcher ‘led by God’ against Beijing” written by Ajit Singh and Max Blumenthal, published in The Grayzone on December 21, 2019. https://thegrayzone.com/2019/12/21/china-detaining-millions-uyghurs-problems-claims-us-ngo-researcher/

8 From an article entitled “UK’s special forces set for new Russia mission” written by Mark Urban, published in BBC news on June 13, 2019. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-48624982

9 From a report by Tass entitled “Russian embassy alarmed by London’s plans to shift focus of UK special forces” published on June 15, 2019. https://tass.com/world/1063933

10 From an article entitled “U.S. Escalates Online Attacks on Russia’s Power Grid” written by David E. Sanger and Nicole Perlroth, published in The New York Times on June 15, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/15/us/politics/trump-cyber-russia-grid.html

11

The Bilderberg Meeting is a forum for informal discussions about major issues. The meetings are held under the Chatham House Rule, which states that participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s) nor any other participant may be revealed.

Thanks to the private nature of the Meeting, the participants take part as individuals rather than in any official capacity, and hence are not bound by the conventions of their office or by pre-agreed positions.

https://www.bilderbergmeetings.org/meetings/meeting-2019/press-release-2019

12 https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/115/hr5515/text

13

As declassified U.S. documents show, such pre-delegation existed beginning in 1956 when then U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower authorized U.S. air defenses to use nuclear weapons to defend against Soviet bomber forces in the event of an attack. This was further solidified with Eisenhower approving pre-delegation instructions for the use of nuclear weapons in 1959. Some form of nuclear pre-delegation existed at least until the end of the 1980s, as Bruce G. Blair has shown.

Daniel Ellsberg, a high-level nuclear war planner in the 1960s, notes in The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner that during the Cold War years, pre-delegation was seen as an integral part in the nuclear arms race with the Soviets for a simple reason: Its absence would undermine nuclear deterrence. Ellsberg writes: “The theatrical device represented by the president’s moment-by-moment day-and-night access to the ‘football’, with its supposedly unique authorization codes, has always been that: theater — essentially a hoax.”

From an article entitled “Dr. Strangelove and the Insane Reality of Nuclear Command-and-Control” written by Franz-Stefan Gady, published in The Diplomat on January 5, 2018. https://thediplomat.com/2018/01/dr-strangelove-and-the-insane-reality-of-nuclear-command-and-control/ 

14 From a report entitled “China’s Xi praises ‘best friend’ Putin during Russia visit” published by BBC news on June 6, 2019. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-48537663

15 From an article entitled “Trump’s Trade Threats are really Cold War 2.0” written by Michael Hudson posted on his own website on June 13, 2019. https://michael-hudson.com/2019/06/cold-war-2-0/

16 From an article entitled “How a Hidden Parliamentary Session Revealed Trump’s True Motives in Iraq”  written by Whitney Webb, published in Mint Press News on January 17, 2020. https://www.mintpressnews.com/hidden-parliamentary-session-revealed-trump-motives-iraq-china-oil/264155/

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Filed under analysis & opinion, Charlie Skelton, China, Iran, Iraq, Russia, USA, Yemen

colour revolution or not: with protests in Catalonia, Chile, Ecuador, France, Haiti and Hong Kong, what are the tests of authenticity?

When the Ukrainians gathered in the square in 2014, the stage had been set for a bloody coup. Today ‘the Maidan’ or ‘Euromaidan’ is seldom if ever mentioned and a false impression is often given that the subsequent Ukrainian civil war was sparked by a Russian invasion of Donbass and its annexation of Crimea. However, at the time of the Maidan, western media featured the Ukraine’s fascist-led colour revolution on a nightly basis: the use of catapaults to launch rocks at the police then applauded by BBC and C4 correspondents alike, as more judiciously were the Molotov cocktails laced with polystyrene for extra adhesion.

Even as it became abundantly clear that leading perpetrators of the violent disorder were neo-Nazi brown-shirts Svoboda and their paramilitary comrades Pravyi Sektor (Right Sector), who were engaged in arson attacks on union buildings and ultimately shooting live ammunition into the square, our media maintained the official charade that this was all part of a ‘pro-democracy demonstration’.

In Venezuela we have been presented with a different fictional account by the same media outlets as once again the US ramped up its repeated efforts to overthrow the elected President, Nicolás Maduro; on this occasion, manoeuvring to replace him with the hand-picked puppet Juan Guaidó. Thus, during another ‘popular uprising’ horrifically violent acts by anti-government thugs that included the burning of opponents alive, went unreported as the corporate media once again parroted the official line that consistently portrayed the perpetrators of these crimes as ‘pro-democracy demonstrators’ fighting against ‘a regime’ and ‘a dictator’.

Today we have the so-called ‘pro-democracy demonstrators’ in Hong Kong who are again lauded for their commitment, courage and ingenuity; even when it comes to smashing up buildings, and hurling rocks and Molotov cocktails at police lines. And when considering the authenticity of any uprising, our media’s characterisation of rioting as ‘protesting’ must always be considered a red flag. But besides the one-sided media coverage that quickly prioritises and magnifies the events on the ground (numbers, or rather the perception of numbers matters greatly) and makes this its nightly headline, there are further clues we can look for that help with spotting colour revolutions and distinguishing them from authentic uprisings.

By definition, colour revolutions are driven and directed by outside interests that steer the movement both by means of financial support and by way of official legitimisation (hence the unduly favourable media coverage). And whenever the US State Department issues statements that acknowledge its backing of any protest movement – but especially protests that destabilise states labelled hostile or ‘rogue’ – it is more than likely meddling directly in events on the ground.

In former decades it was left to the CIA to foment uprisings to topple unwanted governments or otherwise unfavourable ‘regimes’, but that role has today been passed over to its soft power agencies USAID and the GONGOs – government-organised non-governmental organisations. Amongst today’s prime movers we find the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) which describes itself as “a private, nonprofit foundation dedicated to the growth and strengthening of democratic institutions around the world” and that, in turn, funds think tanks and private NGOs. In their 2012 report, NED indicated that it spent more than $3 million on programmes in the Ukraine alone. It had previously spent millions more in US attempts to destabilise Chevez in Venezuela. As author and historian William Blum writes:

How many Americans could identify the National Endowment for Democracy? An organization which often does exactly the opposite of what its name implies. The NED was set up in the early 1980s under President Reagan in the wake of all the negative revelations about the CIA in the second half of the 1970s. The latter was a remarkable period. Spurred by Watergate – the Church committee of the Senate, the Pike committee of the House, and the Rockefeller Commission, created by the president, were all busy investigating the CIA. Seemingly every other day there was a new headline about the discovery of some awful thing, even criminal conduct, the CIA had been mixed up in for years. The Agency was getting an exceedingly bad name, and it was causing the powers-that-be much embarrassment.

Something had to be done. What was done was not to stop doing these awful things. Of course not. What was done was to shift many of these awful things to a new organization, with a nice sounding name – The National Endowment for Democracy. The idea was that the NED would do somewhat overtly what the CIA had been doing covertly for decades, and thus, hopefully, eliminate the stigma associated with CIA covert activities.

It was a masterpiece. Of politics, of public relations, and of cynicism.1

Click here to read the full piece which provides details of NED’s meddling in elections across the world on William Blum’s official website.

Alongside the dirty hands of in-house agencies USAID and NED there is also the closely aligned and US government-funded NGO Freedom House which claims to be “an independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world” and “a catalyst for greater political rights and civil liberties”. Habitually too, we will find the involvement of similarly deceptive ‘independent’ ‘pro-democracy’ organisations more than likely funded by or closely associated with billionaire George Soros.

As the Guardian’s Ian Traynor wrote at the time of America’s first soft coup in Ukraine, the so-called Orange Revolution of 2004, in an article entitled “US campaign behind the turmoil in Kiev”:

Funded and organised by the US government, deploying US consultancies, pollsters, diplomats, the two big American parties and US non-government organisations, the campaign was first used in Europe in Belgrade in 2000 to beat Slobodan Milosevic at the ballot box.

Richard Miles, the US ambassador in Belgrade, played a key role. And by last year, as US ambassador in Tbilisi, he repeated the trick in Georgia, coaching Mikhail Saakashvili in how to bring down Eduard Shevardnadze.

Ten months after the success in Belgrade, the US ambassador in Minsk, Michael Kozak, a veteran of similar operations in central America, notably in Nicaragua, organised a near identical campaign to try to defeat the Belarus hardman, Alexander Lukashenko.

That one failed. “There will be no Kostunica in Belarus,” the Belarus president declared, referring to the victory in Belgrade.

But experience gained in Serbia, Georgia and Belarus has been invaluable in plotting to beat the regime of Leonid Kuchma in Kiev.

The operation – engineering democracy through the ballot box and civil disobedience – is now so slick that the methods have matured into a template for winning other people’s elections.

He continues:

In Ukraine, the equivalent is a ticking clock, also signalling that the Kuchma regime’s days are numbered.

Stickers, spray paint and websites are the young activists’ weapons. Irony and street comedy mocking the regime have been hugely successful in puncturing public fear and enraging the powerful.

Last year, before becoming president in Georgia, the US-educated Mr Saakashvili travelled from Tbilisi to Belgrade to be coached in the techniques of mass defiance. In Belarus, the US embassy organised the dispatch of young opposition leaders to the Baltic, where they met up with Serbs travelling from Belgrade. In Serbia’s case, given the hostile environment in Belgrade, the Americans organised the overthrow from neighbouring Hungary – Budapest and Szeged.

In recent weeks, several Serbs travelled to the Ukraine. Indeed, one of the leaders from Belgrade, Aleksandar Maric, was turned away at the border.

The Democratic party’s National Democratic Institute, the Republican party’s International Republican Institute, the US state department and USAid are the main agencies involved in these grassroots campaigns as well as the Freedom House NGO and billionaire George Soros’s open society institute. 2

Click here to read Ian Traynor’s full article.

Applying these criteria, it is possible to test the ongoing protests around the world to ascertain the likelihood and scale of outside interference. In the following sections I provide a brief overview region by region. In summary, those pursuing anti-austerity objectives are almost certainly the least susceptible to external manipulation; these include the mass uprisings in Chile, Ecuador, France and Haiti. The unrest in Catalonia is a consequence of a different form of state repression with historical roots and the mainly peaceful protests are the spontaneous response of a mostly genuine pro-democracy grassroots movement. The situation in Hong Kong is more complicated and compelling evidence of western interference is presented below.

Update:

Press TV compares western media coverage of the protests in Hong Kong, the Gilets Jaunes in France, and the Great March of Return in Gaza:

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Hong Kong

As the initially peaceful protests and mass demonstrations rapidly turned into riots and highly coordinated pockets of violent resistance, it also became increasingly clear that contrary to US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo’s, and US government denials, the unrest had indeed been actively fomented by agencies acting on behalf of American foreign policy agenda. The following extended extract is taken from an assiduously referenced investigative piece written by geopolitical researcher and writer Tony Cartalucci:

US policymakers have all but admitted that the US is funnelling millions of dollars into Hong Kong specifically to support “programs” there. The Hudson Institute in an article titled, “China Tries to Blame US for Hong Kong Protests,” would admit:

A Chinese state-run newspaper’s claim that the United States is helping pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong is only partially inaccurate, a top foreign policy expert said Monday. 

Michael Pillsbury, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, told Fox News National Security Analyst KT McFarland the U.S. holds some influence over political matters in the region.

The article would then quote Pillsbury as saying:

We have a large consulate there that’s in charge of taking care of the Hong Kong Policy Act passed by Congress to insure democracy in Hong Kong, and we have also funded millions of dollars of programs through the National Endowment for Democracy [NED] … so in that sense the Chinese accusation is not totally false.

A visit to the NED’s website reveals an entire section of declared funding for Hong Kong specifically. The wording for program titles and their descriptions is intentionally ambiguous to give those like US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo plausible deniability.

However, deeper research reveals NED recipients are literally leading the protests.

The South China Morning Post in its article, “Hong Kong protests: heavy jail sentences for rioting will not solve city’s political crisis, former Civil Human Rights Front convenor says,” would report:

Johnson Yeung Ching-yin, from the Civil Human Rights Front, was among 49 people arrested during Sunday’s protest – deemed illegal as it had not received police approval – in Central and Western district on Hong Kong Island.

The article would omit mention of Johnson Yeung Ching-yin’s status as an NED fellow. His profile is – at the time of this writing – still accessible on the NED’s official website, and the supposed NGO he works for in turn works hand-in-hand with US and UK-based fronts involved in supporting Hong Kong’s current unrest and a much wider anti-Beijing political agenda.

Johnson Yeung Ching-yin also co-authored an op-ed in the Washington Post with Joshua Wong titled, “As you read this, Hong Kong has locked one of us away.”

Wong has travelled to Washington DC multiple times, including to receive “honors” from NED-subsidiary Freedom House for his role in leading unrest in 2014 and to meet with serial regime-change advocate Senator Marco Rubio.

It should also be noted that the Washington Post’s Anne Applebaum also sits on the NED board of directors.

This evidence, along with extensively documented ties between the United States government and other prominent leaders of the Hong Kong unrest reveals US denial of involvement in Hong Kong as yet another wilful lie told upon the international stage – a lie told even as the remnants of other victims of US interference and intervention smolder in the background.

The direct ties and extreme conflicts of interest found under virtually every rock overturned when critically examining the leadership of Hong Kong’s ongoing unrest all lead to Washington. They also once again reveal the Western media as involved in a coordinated campaign of disinformation – where proper investigative journalism is purposefully side-stepped and narratives shamelessly spun instead to frame Hong Kong’s ongoing conflict in whatever light best suits US interests.

What’s worse is big-tech giants like Facebook, Twitter, and Google purging thousands of accounts attempting to reveal the truth behind Hong Kong’s unrest and the true nature of those leading it. If this is the level of lying, censorship, and authoritarianism Washington is willing to resort to in order for Hong Kong’s opposition to succeed, it begs one to wonder what this so-called opposition is even fighting for. Certainly not “democracy” or “freedom.” 3

Click here to read Tony Cartalucci’s full article.

Here to read a follow up piece in which Cartalucci explains how Twitter “not only has taken no action to expose and stop US interference in Hong Kong, but is actively aiding and abetting it” by “target[ing] accounts within China itself to disrupt any effort to expose and confront this US-backed unrest unfolding in Hong Kong.”

And here to read an earlier post which provides further background to the current uprising in Hong Kong.

Note that: on Wednesday 23rd, HK’s security chief John Lee announced that the bill that had triggered the initial demonstrations by allowing for the extradition of criminal suspects to mainland China – legislation that protesters feared Beijing may use to target dissidents – was officially withdrawn. In response, several opposition lawmakers tried to heckle Lee’s speech, demanding his resignation:

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Haiti

Mass demonstrations demanding the resignation of the president of Haiti, Jovenel Moïse, began in July 2018 following disclosure of the embezzlement of $2 billion in Venezuelan oil loans when “former Presidents René Préval and Michel Martelly, declared states of emergency, allowing their respective prime ministers — Jean-Max Bellerive and Laurent Lamothe —to approve projects using PetroCaribe funds”:

Prior to the earthquake, Haiti had accumulated more than $396 million in debt to Venezuela, which the South American nation forgave. But in the last seven years, it has wracked up [sic] almost $2 billion in new debt as Martelly’s government ministers traveled the globe promoting a new image of a post-quake Haiti while reconstruction projects languished and tens of thousands continued to live in camps. As of October, more than 37,000 Haitians still lived in 27 camps, the International Organization for Migration said. 4

Click here to read the full report published in the Miami Herald.

Although it was the PetroCaribe scandal that sparked the initial unrest, there are many related concerns about government corruption that continue to fuel the protests:

But the anger isn’t just over squandered money. It’s also directed at Haitian politicians and their privileges in a country where two out of three people live on less than $2 a day and concerns are increasing over the potential for more social unrest.

During recent political mudslinging, the president of the Haitian Senate and an opposition senator accused each other of corruption. Sen. Ricard Pierre said Haiti’s cash-strapped government was paying $115,500 to rent a residence for the head of the body, Sen. Joseph Lambert. Lambert in turn accused Pierre of stealing the chamber’s generator.

Pierre denied the accusation. Lambert announced that the Senate would cancel the lease and curtail lawmakers’ privileges. The damage, however, was already done.

“They were not even ashamed,” K-Lib, 37, [whose real name is Valckensy Dessin] said, adding that it’s time for Haitians to stop accepting “corruption and impunity” as normal.

“After the last events that happened to Haiti, the Haitian population understands the necessity for them right now to take part in everything that is happening in the country,” he said. “What’s happening is a movement of massive collective consciousness.” 5

Click here to read the full report published in the Miami Herald.

On Valentine’s Day Al Jazeera reported the deaths of “at least” nine people and “dozens of others injured”. 6 The deaths received very little coverage in either the corporate or alternative media.

Here is a report uploaded by The Real News Network on October 22nd, featuring political economist Keston Perry, who says the Trump administration is propping up the Haitian regime:

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France

Many thousands of Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vests) anti-austerity protesters will once again peacefully take to the streets in Paris and other cities across France tomorrow for the fiftieth consecutive weekend.

Last weekend’s ‘Acte 49’ protests took place in Clermont-Ferrand, Lyon, Toulouse, Lille and Bordeaux and looked like this:

And like this – met by a very heavy-handed police response which includes the deployment of water-canon, flash grenades and tremendous quantities of teargas (some dropped from helicopters), while the corporate media generally ignores these protests altogether:

One of the first political commentators to understand the significance of the Gilets Jaunes movement was American author Diana Johnstone, who is based in Paris and wrote in early December:

Initial government responses showed that they weren’t listening. They dipped into their pool of clichés to denigrate something they didn’t want to bother to understand.

President Macron’s first reaction was to guilt-trip the protesters by invoking the globalists’ most powerful argument for imposing unpopular measures: global warming. Whatever small complaints people may have, he indicated, that is nothing compared to the future of the planet.

This did not impress people who, yes, have heard all about climate change and care as much as anyone for the environment, but who are obliged to retort: “I’m more worried about the end of the month than about the end of the world.”

After the second Yellow Vest Saturday, November 25, which saw more demonstrators and more tear gas, the Minister in charge of the budget, Gérard Darmanin, declared that what had demonstrated on the Champs-Elysée was “la peste brune”, the brown plague, meaning fascists. (For those who enjoy excoriating the French as racist, it should be noted that Darmanin is of Algerian working class origins). This remark caused an uproar of indignation that revealed just how great is public sympathy for the movement – over 70% approval by latest polls, even after uncontrolled vandalism. Macron’s Minister of the Interior, Christophe Castaner, was obliged to declare that government communication had been badly managed. Of course, that is the familiar technocratic excuse: we are always right, but it is all a matter of our “communication”, not of the facts on the ground.

Maybe I have missed something, but of the many interviews I have listened to, I have not heard one word that would fall into the categories of “far right”, much less “fascism” – or even that indicated any particular preference in regard to political parties. These people are wholly concerned with concrete practical issues. Not a whiff of ideology – remarkable in Paris! 7

Click here to read Johnstone’s full article entitled “Yellow Vests Rise Against Neo-Liberal ‘King’ Macron”.

And here to read my own assessment of the Gilets Jaunes movement from an article published on March 25th entitled “Gilets Jaunes, Avaaz, Macron & Facebook (or when grassroots ‘populism’ meets controlled opposition”.

It is difficult to find up-to-date figures of casualties for the full year of Gilets Jaunes protests but as of July, Spiked online magazine was reporting:

The gilets jaunes have been protesting in France – week in, week out – for over six months. They have had to run the gauntlet of tear gas, police batons and rubber bullets every weekend. And yet there has been barely any coverage of the police’s actions – let alone condemnation.

As of this week, the French police stand accused of causing 861 serious injuries to yellow-vest protesters: one woman has been killed, 314 have suffered head injuries, 24 have been permanently blinded, and five have had their hands blown off. Police have attacked disabled people and the elderly. 8

Click here to read the full report published by Spiked online.

On February 23rd, French lawyer and former gendarme, Georgia Pouliquen, produced and uploaded an impassioned video testifying to the brutal treatment meted out against Yellow Vest protestors by President Macron’s French government. In May, Pouliquen travelled to England for the first time in order to help spread the truth about Macron’s assault on the French people. The following upload begins with her original video and afterwards features an extended interview she gave to Brian Gerrish of UK Column News:

Update:

Images from Gilets Jaunes Acte 50 on Saturday Oct 26th:

On the same day, Afshin Rattansi interviewed Priscillia Ludosky, one of the founders of the Gilets Jaunes movement, on RT’s ‘Going Underground’. They discussed the French police’s use of flash-ball riot control guns against protesters, the massive amount of injuries recorded among the Gilets Jaunes protesters, as well as the European Commission’s role in permitting state repression:

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Ecuador

In common with the Gilets Jaunes protests in France, it was the raising of fuel prices that ultimately sparked the ongoing crisis in Ecuador, in this case following President Lenín Moreno’s announcement that his government was intending remove subsidies on petrol. However, the underlying reason for the protests traces back to just a few days earlier when on October 1st, Moreno was quick to capitulate to IMF demands for the imposition of severe austerity measures and a raft of neo-liberal conditionalities following the acceptance of a $4 million loan:

Protests began on October 3 when President Lenin Moreno cut petrol subsidies that had been in place in the country for 40 years. The cuts saw the price of diesel more than double and petrol increase by 30 percent, overnight.

The government also released a series of labour and tax reforms as part of its belt-tightening measures it was forced to undertake when it agreed to a $4.2bn loan with the IMF.

Some of the more controversial reforms include a 20 percent cut in wages for new contracts in public sector jobs, a requirement that public sector workers donate one day’s worth of wages to the government each month, and a decrease in vacation days from 30 to 15 days a year. 9

Click here to read the full report published by Al Jazeera.

At the height of the protests, Moreno decided to relocate his government to the coastal city of Guayaquil before sending armoured cars onto the streets of the capital Quito in desperate attempts to quell the disturbances:

Tens of thousands, and possibly hundreds of thousands, of people participated.

They were massively disruptive, and the government response was fierce. Security forces killed at least seven people, arrested about 1,000, and injured a similar number. Moreno had declared a “state of exception,” a curfew beginning at 8 pm, and yet still had to flee the capital—temporarily moving it from Quito to the port city of Guayaquil.

writes Mark Weisbrot in The Nation magazine, adding:

Amnesty International had demanded “an immediate end to the heavy-handed repression of demonstrations, including mass detentions, and…swift, independent and impartial investigations into all allegations of arbitrary arrests, excessive use of force, torture and other ill-treatment.” The level of police repression shocked many in a country where security forces are not known for the use of excessive force.

The government also raided homes to arrest political allies of former president Rafael Correa, including Paola Pabón, the governor of the province where the capital, Quito, is located. This continues a disturbing crackdown, which has included trumped-up charges against Correa himself and a number of former officials and the abuse of pretrial detention to force them into exile. On Monday, the Mexican embassy in Quito offered protection to a number of pro-Correa political dissidents, including legislators. 10

Click here to read Mark Weisbrot’s full report entitled “Ecuador Reaches a Deal – but Unrest May Return” published in The Nation magazine.

In the midst of Moreno’s state of emergency crackdown on October 11th, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued an official statement that begins:

“The United States supports President Moreno and the Government of Ecuador’s efforts to institutionalize democratic practices and implement needed economic reforms.” 11

On October 10th, The Real News Network spoke to representatives of two of the largest indigenous organizations CONAIE and CONFENAIE:

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Chile

Protest in Chile erupted a fortnight ago, again in response to unsustainable increases in the cost of living but also with charges of government corruption hovering in the background. In response last Friday [Oct 18th], President Sebastián Piñera announced a state of emergency, and began sending in troops to disperse the demonstrations. As in Ecuador, a curfew was soon put in place. CBS News has since confirmed “at least 18 dead and thousands arrested”:

Approximately 20,000 soldiers are patrolling the streets. Nearly 200 people have been injured, and some 5,000 have been arrested.

Human rights groups expressed concerns about how security forces have handled the protests after the government ordered a military curfew. It was the first such curfew — other than for natural disasters — imposed since Chile returned to democracy in 1990 following a bloody 17-year dictatorship.

“We’re worried,” José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch, told The Associated Press. “The images that we’ve received from credible sources, trustworthy sources, show that there has been an excess of force both by police as well as some soldiers.” 12

Click here to read yesterday’s full report published by CBS News.

Al Jazeera‘s Manuel Rapalo reported from Santiago on October 23rd:

And this is footage of protests that took place yesterday:

Update:

Scenes from Chile’s capital Santiago on Friday [Oct 25th] with police firing tear gas and water cannon at demonstrators:

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Catalonia

On October 6th, author, political activist and commentator Chris Bambery, published an extended piece that put into historical context the rise of the Catalan independence movement and the likelihood of heightened protests in the coming weeks. His piece begins:

Catalonia awaits the verdict in the trial at the Spanish Supreme Court of 12 political and civic leaders charged with ‘rebellion’ and ‘sedition’ for their part in the 1 October 2017 referendum on Catalan independence. That verdict will be delivered before 17 October, the judges say. Brace yourself for a wave of non-violent direct action in response across Catalonia.

Continuing:

In Catalonia hundreds of mayors and councillors face trial for crimes such as keeping council buildings open on Spanish holidays or not flying the Spanish flag on those days, while others face trial for ripping up pictures of the King.

However offensive or outrageous you find such things it is hard to imagine them reaching the courts in Germany, France, the UK or other Western European states. The UK is no paragon of liberty and its democracy is flawed but its handling of the Northern Ireland peace process stands out well in comparison to Spain’s dealings with ETA and the offer of peace. Why are things different in Spain? 13

Click here to read Chris Bambery’s full article.

A few days later the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and EuroMed Rights issued a joint report accusing Spain’s Supreme Court of “serious irregularities” in the trial of the Catalan independentists:

The two organizations alleged that judges didn’t do enough to ensure that lawyers could shed light on the alleged facts—for instance, when they prevented defense teams from contrasting the testimony of some witnesses with actual footage from the scenes they were describing.

Observers from the two organizations, who attended the Supreme Court hearings in person, said that prosecutors called witnesses whose testimonies offered “stereotypical” narratives and didn’t guarantee the right to defense. 14

Click here to read the full report in Catalan News.

In light of the Supreme Court verdict and the imprisonment of nine independentist leaders, protesters then took to the streets of Barcelona:

By late afternoon, thousands of protesters had answered a call from the Tsunami Democràtic movement designed to bring the airport to a standstill.

Thousands set off by car, train and metro. When police closed the station, even more made the three-and-a-half hour journey on foot. Several people were injured as police baton-charged protesters on the concourse of Terminal 1, the main international terminal. Foam bullets were reported to have been fired and video emerged of national and the regional Catalan police beating demonstrators and attacking journalists.

Thirteen people received medical attention and more than 60 flights were cancelled. 15

Click here to read the full Guardian report.

However, the real struggle for independence in Catalonia had already reached its crisis point two years ago on October 1st 2017 when, as eyewitness reporter Kevin Buckland testified:

[A]ll across Catalunya ballot boxes were ripped from people’s hands by masked police and a dangerous violence was unleashed, at random, upon some of the 2,262,424 people who stood in long lines to cast their vote. The repression dealt by the Spanish State to prohibit the Catalan Referendum, in every bloodied baton and ever rubber bullet, transformed the day from a question of independence to a question of democracy. People were voting for the right to vote. 16

Click here to read more from my October 4th post entitled “reflections on October 1st 2017: the day when tyranny returned to Catalonia”.

As a friend living in Barcelona reported on the eve of the Catalan elections just a few weeks later:

Things are rather complicated at the moment. We’ve had a “coup d’etat” by the Spanish state (government and lawcourts working together; no independent judiciary here), although of course from their point of view, it is the Catalan side that have staged one of those.

Whichever way, I don’t think the Catalan leaders deserve to be in custody (this could mean up to four years before trial), and even less go to prison for up to thirty years if found guilty (which they might well be). To me this means that anybody, not just them, can be put in prison for their political ideas, whether they’re peacefully demonstrating, or striking, or whatever. Anything can be judged as “sedition” these days.

Something else that has happened is that Catalan self-government, which is in fact older the Spanish constitution, has been suspended, and we may not get it back after the election. The Spanish government have made it clear that it all depends on whether the “wrong” side win or not. Rigging is definitely on the cards.

In the meantime, freedom of expression is being curtailed, sometimes in bizarre ways: for example, yellow lights in public fountains have been banned, because they evoke the yellow ribbons that independentists wear as a protest against the arrests. And school teachers who dared hold debates in class about the police violence on October 1st have been taken to court for it. What gets to me is that many people refuse to see how worrying these things are. I suppose normalizing it all is a survival strategy, since the alternative, i.e. being aware of what’s going on, makes one anxious and afraid.

Click here to read more of my original post “notes from Catalonia on the eve of tomorrow’s elections” published on December 20th, 2017.

But the struggle over Catalonian independence cannot be understood without considering the broader historical context including concessions made following the death of Franco in 1975 and Spain’s transition to democracy. As Chris Bambery explains:

The European Union is very proud of Spain’s Transition and held it up as a model, for instance in the former Soviet satellites in Eastern Europe. That in part explains its silence on what Spain has done in Catalonia, even its moves to stop three Catalan prisoners and exiles being able to take their seats in the European Parliament after they were elected this year.

When Franco died in 1975 a mass movement of anti-fascist resistance had grown up, strongest in the Basque Country, Catalonia and Madrid. The May events of 1968 had set in motion a chain of events where the left seemed to be in the ascendant.

In ruling circles in Bonn, Paris, London and Washington there was concern that Franco’s death might unleash a mass movement moving in a revolutionary direction. Many on the revolutionary left confidently predicted that the regime could not be reformed but must be toppled.

In Portugal that is precisely what had happened.

Bambery concludes as follows:

It is very clear that the limits imposed on Spanish democracy during the Transition of the late 1970s need to be addressed. But that is something which is near impossible in the current atmosphere in Spain. A conviction for the Catalan 12 will only increase the alienation of that nation from the Spanish state. 17

Moreover, one of the side-effects of the 2008 financial crisis was that it opened up old wounds.

Back in October 2012, I reposted an article by journalist and pro-independentist Esther Vivas entitled “When will we see tanks in Barcelona”. She begins:

“Independent Catalonia? Over my dead body and those of many other soldiers”. It was with these words that on August 31, retired infantry lieutenant-colonel Francisco Alaman Castro referred to the possibility of an independent Catalonia.

Continuing with tremendous prescience:

The current crisis is not only an economic and social crisis, but really an unprecedented regime crisis that calls into question the state model that came out of the Transition, its “pacts of silence” and the very shaky democratic system that we have today.

In the middle of this mess, we must support all democratic demands that come up against the monarchical corset of the Transition, starting with the right of the Catalan people to decide its own future. Who is afraid of such a referendum in Catalonia? Those who are not willing to accept its result.

And concluding:

Infantry lieutenant-colonel Francisco Alaman Castro said that “the current situation resembles that of 1936”. That is quite a declaration of intent. Today, as then, our democracy, our rights and our future are threatened. What is at stake is important. When will we see tanks in the streets of Barcelona? It would not be the first time. But there is one thing I am sure of: the people will not remain silent.

Appended to Esther Vivas’ piece I added my own “words of caution” that begin:

The situation Esther Vivas describes is obviously a very troubling one and I fully appreciate that recent history makes the political situation in Spain more complex than in other luckier regions of our continent – Franco having died in 1975, and thus fascism in Spain lasting well within living memory. However, and in view of what is currently happening across Europe and the rest of the world, I feel it is important to also consider the issue of Catalan independence within a more global context.

The break-up of states into micro-states is a process that has long served as a means for maintaining imperialist control over colonised regions. This strategy is often called Balkanisation, although in general only by its opponents.

Click here to read to read all parts of the post entitled “on the struggle for an independent Catalonia”

In short, what is happening today in Catalonia is the almost inevitable consequence of multiple misguided actions by the Spanish state in its attempts to repress the independentist cause which has deep historical roots and was reignited by the austerity measures imposed during the 2008 debt crisis. The decision two years ago to crush a referendum on the spurious grounds that any vote on independence immediately violates the constitution and the draconian sentences issued to pro-independence leaders meant to quell support for the movement has instead emboldened opposition to Madrid and set in motion a potentially unstoppable revolt.

It is curious that some pro-independence sections of the Catalan protests have begun reaching out to pro-western Union Jack waving protesters in Hong Kong given how the colonial ties are in effect reversed, but the fact that tactics employed in Barcelona have copied those tried in HK does not mean the two movements share anything else in common. It is a mistake to confuse these movements.

Update:

Live feed of peaceful protests taking place on Saturday 26th in Barcelona calling for Catalan independence leaders to be freed:

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Final thoughts

There are mass demonstrations in two states that I have avoided discussing for quite different reasons: Palestine (specifically Gaza) and Lebanon.

In the case of Lebanon, where demonstrations began little more than a week ago, I am as yet disinclined to discuss the movement until I have a clearer understanding of its background and goals. Regarding Palestine, on the other hand, the case is absolutely open and shut and I have already posted many articles in support of the Palestinian struggle for recognition and full right to return to their land.

The Great March of Return protest that began in Gaza in March 2018 is the single longest running of all the uprisings in the world today. It is also the most dangerous and the most underreported. Dozens are wounded every single week and a great many of the victims are innocent bystanders and children, while our western governments remain impassive and the corporate media maintains an almost unbroken silence.

The Palestinian Center For Human Rights (PCHR) has documented 214 killings by Israel since the outbreak of the protests on 30 March 2018, including 46 children, 2 women, 9 persons with disabilities, 4 paramedics and 2 journalists. Additionally, 14,251 have been wounded, including 3,501 children, 380 women, 245 paramedics and 215 journalists – it also notes that many of those injured have sustained multiple injuries on separate occasions. 18

Today marks the 81st Friday of the mass demonstrations in Gaza. If we wish to hold up a standard against which all other popular uprisings might be gauged then it must surely be the Palestinian Great March of Return. If there is any flag to be waved today and any cause to stand firmly in solidarity with, it is for the freedom of the Palestinian people, and most especially those trapped within the open air prison of Gaza.

Update:

Palestinians gathered in the east of the blockaded Gaza Strip for the 80th consecutive Friday [Oct 25th] to demand the right of return to their ancestral homes. They also called for an end to the illegal Israeli blockade on the enclave, which according to the United Nations amounts to collective punishment:

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1 From an article entitled “Trojan Horses and Color Revolutions: The Role of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED)” written by William Blum, published in Global Research on August 7, 2017. https://www.globalresearch.ca/trojan-horses-and-color-revolutions-the-role-of-the-national-endowment-for-democracy-ned/5515234

2 From an article entitled “US campaign behind the turmoil in Kiev” written by Ian Traynor, published in the Guardian on November 26, 2004. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2004/nov/26/ukraine.usa

3 From an article entitled “US is Behind Hong Kong Protests Says US Policymaker” written by Tony Cartalucci, published in New Eastern Outlook on September 9, 2019. https://journal-neo.org/2019/09/09/us-is-behind-hong-kong-protests-says-us-policymaker/ 

4 From an article entitled “Haiti owes Venezuela $2 billion – and much of it was embezzeled, Senate report says” written by Jacqueline Charles, published in the Miami Herald on November 15, 2017. https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/haiti/article184740783.html

5 From an article entitled “’Where did the money go?’ Haitians denounce corruption in social media campaign” written by Jacqueline Charles, published in the Miami Herald on August 23, 2018. https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/haiti/article217110220.html

6 “Death toll rises in Haiti protest crackdown” published by Al Jazeera on February 14, 2019. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/02/death-toll-rises-haiti-protest-crackdown-190214174428945.html

7 From an article entitled “Yellow Vests Rise Against Neo-Liberal ‘King’ Macron” written by Diana Johnstone, published in Consortium News on December 5, 2018. https://consortiumnews.com/2018/12/05/yellow-vests-rise-against-neo-liberal-king-macron/ 

8 From an article entitled “So now you care about France’s brutal treatment of protesters?” published by Spiked magazine on July 2, 2019. https://www.spiked-online.com/2019/07/02/so-now-you-care-about-frances-brutal-treatment-of-protesters/ 

9 From an article entitled “Ecuador unrest: What led to the mass protests?” written by Kimberley Brown, published in Al Jazeera on October 10, 2019. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/10/ecuador-unrest-led-mass-protests-191010193825529.html

10 From an article entitled “Ecuador Reaches a Deal – but Unrest May Return” written by Mark Weisbrot, published in The Nation magazine on October 16, 2019. https://www.thenation.com/article/ecuador-protests-imf/

11 https://www.state.gov/united-states-response-to-protests-in-ecuador/ 

12 From an article entitled “At least 18 dead and thousands arrested in Chile protests” published by CBS News on October 24, 2019. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/chile-news-santiago-at-least-18-dead-and-thousands-arrested-in-chile-protests-2019-10-24/ 

13 From an article entitled “Flawed transition: why the Spanish state is repressing the Catalan independence movement” written by Chris Bambery, published in Counterfire on October 6, 2019. https://www.counterfire.org/articles/history/20589-flawed-transition-why-the-spanish-state-is-repressing-the-catalan-independence-movement

14 From a report entitled “Human rights groups denounce ‘serious irregularities’ in Catalan trial” published by Catalan News on October 9, 2019. https://www.catalannews.com/catalan-trial/item/human-rights-groups-denounce-serious-irregularities-in-catalan-trial

15 From an article entitled “Violent clashes over Catalan separatist leaders’ prison terms” written by Sam Jones and Stephen Burgen, published in the Guardian on October 14, 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/oct/14/catalan-separatist-leaders-given-lengthy-prison-sentences

16 From an article entitled “Disobeying Spain: the Catalan Referendum for Independence” written by Kevin Buckland, published in Counterpunch on October 3, 2017. https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/10/03/disobeying-spain-the-catalan-referendum-for-independence/ 

17 From an article entitled “Flawed transition: why the Spanish state is repressing the Catalan independence movement” written by Chris Bambery, published in Counterfire on October 6, 2019. https://www.counterfire.org/articles/history/20589-flawed-transition-why-the-spanish-state-is-repressing-the-catalan-independence-movement

18 https://pchrgaza.org/en/?p=13019

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colour revolution comes to Hong Kong

Watch the video here.

The Hong Kong protests represent a major challenge not only to the authorities of Hong Kong itself, but also to Beijing, due to both their protracted nature and a high level of organization resembling the Kiev Maidan of 2013/14.

The Hong Kong rioters have gone so far as to produce and disseminate a veritable urban warfare manual describing in detail the division of labor between the close-combat fighters, ranged-weapon fighters, as well as various support roles. Their “Plan A” appears to be, as cynical as this may sound, to provoke bloodshed by inducing local law enforcement to use firearms against the rioters.

Thus far this has not come to pass. On the one hand, Hong Kong police has displayed considerable self-restraint, and their rules of engagement seem to favor withdrawal and disengagement when faced with superior numbers of rioters. On the other hand, irrespective of the will of the riot planners, the actual rioters have, again thus far, displayed healthy self-preservation instincts. In the few cases where firearms were brandished by Hong Kong police, usually in cases of police officers finding themselves surrounded by the raging mob, the sight of weapons proved enough to compel the rioters to withdraw. That by itself, however, will not solve the problem of riots because there also seems to be a “Plan B.” Whereas, for example, the Kiev Maidan was largely confined to the Maidan Square itself, the geography of Hong Kong riots is much more extensive and unpredictable. Hong Kong rioters have not shrunk from attacking strategic infrastructure, including the now-infamous occupation of the Hong-Kong International Airport that caused massive air traffic disruptions.

Likewise the violent riots in popular malls and tourist destinations all over the Hong Kong area have had the effect of depressing tourism and even prompting fears of a capital flight. While so far there are no indications of a lasting effect on the enclave’s economy, this is due to the still-lingering perception the unrest is a temporary phenomenon. Should it continue with present intensity, or, worse, escalate in terms of numbers of participants and methods used, there will be severe negative effects. For these reasons, China’s authorities cannot hope to win through a war of attrition, or expect that an escalation of violence will somehow cure this problem. There are genuine underlying problems in Hong Kong which have made themselves visible through these demonstrations.

What ails Hong Kong?

As with other “color revolutions”, the Hong Kong protests have tapped into a deep vein of discontent within the population. In this instance, rather than poverty or corruption or even the institutional design of Hong Kong’s government, the banal problem facing the average Hong Kong resident is the extremely high cost of living combined with the highly visible class divisions. Since this “special administrative region” of People’s Republic of China represents a major concentration of financial industries, it is also home to massive wealth which, alas, does not appear to be trickling down. While there is also considerable wealth inequality in China proper which is expanding its list of billionaires at a steady pace, the less well-off Chinese urban-dwellers have the option of migrating from city to city in search of better opportunities. But that option is not one the average inhabitant of Hong-Kong is likely to adopt. Moving to China proper would run counter to the strong local Hong Kong identity, and moreover represent a move to a considerably less wealthy part of the world. Thus while the average Chinese citizen is unlikely to exhibit much sympathy for the plight of the protesters from the special administrative area, Hong Kong residents do not evaluate their well-being in comparison with mainland China. For them, the only relevant reference is Hong Kong itself.

One should also note that the violent component of Hong Kong protests is disproportionately composed of young men in their late teens and twenties suggesting the influence of a generation gap and the breakdown in the intergenerational social contract. While Hong Kong, if it were a sovereign state, would have one of the world’s highest life expectancies, its population is rapidly aging due to the low birth rates of the past several decades. A large age cohort is nearing the retirement age, placing a significant financial burden on the considerably smaller younger generation.

Pining for Tiananmen

Further complicating matters for Beijing is Western powers’, and principally the US, interest in using Hong Kong as an instrument in the gradually escalating confrontation between East and West. The rioters’ awareness of their foreign audience was made plain by the displays of US flags as well as the flags associated with Hong Kong’s British colonial past. From the US perspective, crippling Hong Kong economically would inflict serious damage to China’s economy and also badly dent its political image.  Entirely unsurprisingly, Western governments and media wholeheartedly endorsed the protests while turning a blind eye on the increasing violence perpetrated by Hong Kong’s urban warriors who make no bones their aim is to provoke security forces to spill demonstrators’ blood. It is not difficult to predict what kind of Western reaction would follow: sanctions on Hong Kong officials, financial institutions, perhaps even on top Chinese leadership.

Update: For some reason Twitter censored this interview, however, it has also been uploaded on Youtube:

The media outcry would be so large that countries thus far unwilling to jump on the anti-Huawei bandwagon would find it difficult to maintain that position. It is evident the Trump administration is raring for a pretext to break as many ties between United States and China as possible, and also to force third countries, most notably the states of the European Union, to choose continued economic integration with United States or with China—but not both.  Furthermore, Hong Kong’s financial institutions have played an important role in furthering China’s economic objectives in the last several decades. In addition to playing a role of a major supplier of financial investments, they also  are China’s “invisible hand of the market”. While today China’s economy is far less dependent on Hong Kong, thanks to several “special economic zones” such as Shenzhen located only a short distance from Hong Kong itself, a major crisis in Hong Kong would reverberate throughout China.

Fortunately, there appears to exist a key difference between the Kiev Maidan and the Hong Kong protests, namely the absence of a wealthy oligarch or oligarchs pursuing a reactionary political agenda. None of the Hong Kong business elite have given any indications of supporting the rioters’ more radical agenda, nor is there evidence of their contacts with Western diplomats or intelligence services. It is doubtful such contacts would escape the attention of China’s counter-intelligence services, and China’s political leadership is unlikely to show the sort of timidity Ukraine’s President Yanukovych did in a similar situation, to his own chagrin.

One Country, One System?

The current “one country, two systems” paradigm unfortunately lies at the core of Hong Kong’s current troubles. The establishment of an economic enclave, with little labor mobility across this veritable intra-Chinese border, turned Hong Kong into a political pressure cooker. Its political autonomy in turn meant policies that favored the economic elite, causing the growth of wealth inequality which contributes to the high level of the local government’s unpopularity, to the point it has become a liability for Beijing itself. In the short term, Beijing will likely be forced to funnel considerable financial resources into Hong Kong to relieve the social pressures. In the longer term, however, a lasting solution will require not only a more close oversight of Hong Kong’s social policies, but also promotion of two-way migration between China proper and Hong Kong.

Note to readers: please click the share buttons above or below. Forward this article to your email lists. Crosspost on your blog site, internet forums. etc.

Click here to find the original version written and produced by J.Hawk, Daniel Deiss, Edwin Watson and published by South Front.

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Additional: the major role of the National Endowment for Democracy

“Another video to counter the relentless lies disseminated by the US Empire and its “democracy” allies. It’s elementary stuff to those who follow Hong Kong affairs, but a useful and revealing summary for interested others.  The video, made by a HK lawyer, contains many key details and other evidence of the plentiful links between Washington and HK’s turmoil. A message from the producers:

“The video below was produced by a lawyer in HK who is very angry at the reporting done by the Western media. She asked to show it to people all over the world so they know the truth of what is happening in HK. Please take a few minutes to watch the truth. Thank you.”

Via: https://www.facebook.com/100007410134…

Also Raed Saleh of UK FCO-incubated White Helmets – Al Qaeda auxiliaries in Syria – seen in Berlin at a conference organised by BILD with Joshua Wong.  I had predicted the White Helmet global franchise in early 2018.

Joshua Wong posed with the “White Helmets” head Raed Al Saleh (L), Kiev Mayor Vitali Klitschko (R) and Iranian-Austrian political activist Mina Ahadi. © Reuters / Hannibal Hanschke

Click here to find the source of these notes as originally posted by Vanessa Beeley on her website The Wall Will Fall.

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John Pilger on war with China, the West’s loss of perception, and how “many journalists have simply given up”

“When I first went to Hiroshima it was just over twenty years after the bomb was dropped and it had an extraordinary effect on me. I saw on the steps of a bank in the middle of Hiroshima, the shadow of a woman. She’d been sitting there, apparently preparing her lunch, sitting on the steps when the flash happened. The bomb dropped on August 6th 1945 and her image was burnt into the steps of the bank.

“I remember looking at this image of this woman – you could see her shape, her arms, almost her relaxed position – and the impact that had on me was quite profound actually. And it obviously had an impact on many people because they got rid of it. They got rid of the shadow. Japan under US pressure got rid of this extraordinary shadow and it’s not there anymore.

“Now I would suggest that that shadow represents something ahead of us unless we start understanding the true dangers of the recklessness of our own governments.” — John Pilger

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On today’s season finale special episode of Going Underground, Afshin Rattansi speaks to award-winning journalist and film-maker John Pilger in an extended interview about the current state of global affairs as it enters what Pilger describes as a state of world war: the ‘Coming War on China’ that he had warned about in an earlier documentary (embedded within the transcript below) has already arrived he says.

He also discusses his concern with John Bolton being at the ear of Donald Trump amidst the collapse of the global nuclear arms control framework that saw the end of the INF Treaty and the beginning of a new arms race with Russia; a situation where Washington’s goal is to break up the Russian Federation under Putin. He likewise sees a growing risk of war between other nuclear superpowers, most especially Pakistan and India.

Pilger also talks about western sanctions imposed on Venezuela and Iran and how they are deliberately bringing suffering to the citizens of those countries; how Brexit has provided a distraction from the most pressing issues at home (such as austerity and the NHS) and abroad; and finally, he provides an update on the condition of Wikileaks founder and publisher Julian Assange, after he visited him recently in Belmarsh prison:

The full transcript of the interview is my own [interview begins at 2:30 mins]:

Afshin Rattansi: John thanks for coming back on. Boris Johnson [is] in Germany today. All eyes on the G7 at the end of the week: Russia not invited, China not considered by the IMF to be an advanced economy, but they will be talking about China apparently – we are being led to believe that Hong Kong is the centre of this weekend’s negotiations or talks.

John Pilger: Yes – what are these talks about? Excluding two of the most interesting developed powers in the world, China and Russia. I mean you know the truth is – what nobody is talking about – is there is a world war. It’s not a shooting war. But it could easily become a world war. There is a war already on China.

There has been a war of attrition against Russia for some years now: breaking up the Russian Federation is an American objective. Maintaining the supremacy of the US in all areas of human affairs – economic affairs, cultural affairs – is what particularly this regime in Washington is committed to. All regimes have been committed to.

It’s now reaching a head because they see a challenge in China. A challenge, and undoubtedly it’s an economic challenge, but it’s not a military challenge. This Nineteenth Century view of the world that permeates Washington and has returned to this country, the United Kingdom, has now created a war situation with China.

Very few know that China has now changed its nuclear posture from low alert – that is separating the warheads from missiles – to high alert – putting them together, the same as the United States. That’s something China didn’t do for many, many years, but they are clearly worried there now.

AR: You’re documentary was “The Coming War on China”, but you’re saying it is a war: we’ve seen colour revolutions thwarted – some successful against Putin in Russia. Is Hong Kong – millions of pounds have gone in from the National Endowment for Democracy – does Beijing understand what Hong Kong is?

JP: Oh yes. Yes, I think Beijing understands perfectly. The reason there is a rebellion in China is complex, of course, the people in Hong Kong do have a grievance. There is an inequality. But really what has happened is that manufacturing has moved to the mainland. The interference in Hong Kong, the subversion in Hong Kong by the US through the National Endowment for Democracy, through its local agents… and by all the others who make regular pilgrimages to John Bolton. Of course they are part of the war on China.

That’s not to take away from the fact that there are grievances within China – within Hong Kong – but Hong Kong didn’t sign up for two countries, two systems. It signed up for one country and two systems. And I find it almost grotesque the whole idea [that] the Union Jack should be draped over the speaker’s chair in the assembly in Hong Kong, when it was the Union Jack over hundred that represented an oppressive system.

I went to Hong Kong several times to write about the oppression of the police under the British. A corrupt police force led by British officers. A brutal police force. There was never any democracy.

AR: Even up to the 1990s?

JP: Right up to the 1990s. What there was – Hong Kong has been a business island. Well one could say that perhaps China is a business nation. And the mainland has usurped this special role of Hong Kong.

AR: So why here are we treated to endless images – as you say, no doubt some of these protesters have justification for opposing what is going on in Hong Kong – but yet the Gilets Jaunes protests are probably not going to be discussed in Biarritz this weekend at the G7?

JP: Because never before have people been called upon to think within such a narrow spectrum. And we could sit here all day talking about the iniquities of the media and so on, but it’s even wider than the media. There is a spectrum in which we are, if you like, allowed to think.

The news is dominated by Hong Kong and yet 29 miles from England there’s France, and this extraordinary rebellion of the Yellow Jackets, which has produced the most equally extraordinary violence from the state, has been virtually ignored. The same is true of Kashmir. I mean Kashmir was a fleeting moment, if you like, allowed into our perception. And here is a country bigger than Belgium, bigger than Portugal – 30 million people – where people are denied everything by the Indian state: denied food, freedom of movement, freedom of expression. India’s been doing this for a very, very long time. But India is our friend – the world’s greatest democracy and so…

AR: Trump says he’s being even-handed on it. China, of course, which has an interest there – another nuclear power apart from the other two – has taken it up at the Security Council.

JP: It’s our perception, I suppose, that we’re thinking about here… the way people are concerned that we’re going to run out of medicines after October 31st. We have no perception of the way the people of Iran are suffering under the sanctions that deny cancer drugs almost entirely because of these sanctions.

We have no perception of the way the people of Venezuela are suffering under sanctions. We have absolutely zilch understanding of how the people of Gaza continue to suffer in their open prison, as that has been obliterated almost from the news agenda and by extension from our perception. So within this spectrum – this narrow spectrum – the manipulation of people is probably the most extraordinary I’ve know in my career as a journalist.

AR: But obviously it’s not a physiological problem amongst journalists in newsrooms around the world that they can’t understand say Brexit no deal – there’s going to be problems here with medicines and food – and not understanding Yemen.

JP: I think journalists have given up. Many journalists have simply given up. There is a so-called mainstream, which is a misnomer: it’s not a mainstream at all, it’s an agency of extreme economic policies, policies that produce 4.1 million children in poverty in Britain.

AR: Four million children, two million under the age of five in Britain.

JP: Yes. And the kind of suffering that has come out of these extreme policies – called neoliberalism or whatever you want to call it – is echoed through our media in the same way that the whole absence of a warning that these virulent campaigns against China and Russia (particularly against the nuclear armed countries) could actually lead to something.

The abandonment by the United States of the INF treaty – the most important anti-nuclear war treaty ever signed – and here we had yesterday, I think it was, the US now testing again these intermediate-range nuclear weapons. And Russia, Putin, saying well yes of course we’re in an arms race again. The dangers of this. The dangers of accidentally, mistakenly beginning a nuclear war are not known to most people. That’s left out of this spectrum.

AR: Some say the INF treaty had to be revised because China was always opposing and violating the terms… in which the INF treaty was originally negotiated between Gorbachev and…

JP: That would come out of Washngton. And even if that treaty did need revision, then revise it. I remember those discussions and I interviewed a number of the American negotiators, extraordinary men… who sat down and negotiated with the Russians these complex treaties. They were serious people. We are not dealing with serious people.

AR: Some school textbooks in this country still say that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the prices to pay for ending the Second World War. You went there.

JP: You only have to read the US Air Force bombing survey and it’s very clear that that wasn’t the case.

When I first went to Hiroshima it was just over twenty years after the bomb was dropped and it had an extraordinary effect on me. I saw on the steps of a bank in the middle of Hiroshima, the shadow of a woman. She’d been sitting there, apparently preparing her lunch, sitting on the steps when the flash happened. The bomb dropped on August 6th 1945 and her image was burnt into the steps of the bank.

I remember looking at this image of this woman – you could see her shape, her arms, almost her relaxed position – and the impact that had on me was quite profound actually. And it obviously had an impact on many people because they got rid of it. They got rid of the shadow. Japan under US pressure got rid of this extraordinary shadow and it’s not there anymore.

Now I would suggest that that shadow represents something ahead of us unless we start understanding the true dangers of the recklessness of our own governments.

AR: Well, John Bolton, the National Security Advisor, who advises Trump we are led to believe, says that all options should be on the table against dictators like Maduro, against people in Iran who lead their government – attacking all these different places.

JP: I’ve interviewed John Bolton. John Bolton comes as close to being a political lunatic as you can get.

AR: He had friendly conversations with Boris Johnson here just the other week.

JP: Often political lunatics can have a very friendly conversation with others if they recognise similarities. But Bolton particularly is a man absolutely salivating it appears – and I don’t think I’ve ever said this about any politician of this kind – for a war. Or for an attack. Or for an overthrow. Or for a coup. That he is in the position he is in is the most terrifying thing.

AR: In foreign policy terms you see the European Union, which completely backs John Bolton’s view on Venezuela – Britain and Brussels completely aligned with Washington saying Juan Guaidó is the real leader of Venezuela. The EU is an arm of Nato?

JP: Well, you see the problem with the whole Brexit nonsense – this utterly almost internecine struggle of wills following the referendum in 2016 – is how much it excludes. There is no public debate, certainly no parliamentary debate – probably there never would have been – no public debate on the fact that the European Union is an agency of Nato. And Nato is, almost by definition, certainly by example, a nuclear war fighting provocative organisation. All this is supported by the EU. It should be part of our debate about the EU. I have no doubt there are great virtues in some things about the EU.

AR: Of course it’s the kind of thing Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party here in Britain, used to talk about. Is there reason why he perhaps has been on the fence – or is regarded as being on the fence about Lexit versus Brexit, because he understands that?

JP: Jeremy Corbyn seems to have become so overwhelmed by Brexit, whereas the country – this country – in which so many people are suffering is as a result of this hideous ideology “austerity”. One only has to drive outside London as I’ve done in making the film I’ve made about the National Health Service. And drive into rather nice places like Wiltshire and see the boarded up towns. This needs a Labour leader.

Now Jeremy Corbyn has presented himself as that Labour leader, but Brexit seems to have overwhelmed every party, anyone who steps anywhere near Parliament or this subject – it’s a very important subject, of course. No deal or not no deal. But what is most important is whether the National Health Service will survive, not Brexit, but will survive the ideological attacks on it. Whether people will survive this hideous mutation of welfare called Universal Credit.

In Durham, a father of three killed himself because he had no money anymore, it hadn’t come through under Universal Credit. The suffering of people in this developed country, which is now the sixth or seventh richest country in the world, is obscene.

AR: This is a week when the Childhood Trust has said that in Britain children are eating toilet paper to stave off hunger. Is this in a sense, when you talk about the United States or Germany, is this the Achilles heel? Because, of course, Bernie Sanders, Tulsi Gabbard, there are people heading to 2020 to overthrow, democratically, Donald Trump, who seem to have a different vision. And is the 2008 crisis the context: the foreign policy, the home policy, the starvation?

JP: I mean I think Sanders and the rest of them are social democrats rushing to catch up with a kind of social democracy which has been in Europe and is now being rapidly extinguished. But their foreign policy doesn’t change. We had two of the leading socialists – at least they are members of the Democratic Socialists of America – vote for Donald Trump’s 738 billion arms budget recently in Congress. That should concern us in the outside world, that Sanders and the others – which they interestingly call “the left” in the United States – okay, but they’re social democrats – whether they bring some form of civilised life to a country where now up to half the population are suffering some form of impoverishment (in the United States).

AR: You certainly won’t hear them defending Julian Assange of Wikileaks. If anything they might arguably be seen as part of those people who consider Wikileaks a Russian cut-out of an organisation. You met Julian Assange in Belmarsh prison not far from this studio. Chelsea Manning of course is refusing to testify against Julian Assange. She’s in solitary in the United States. Tell me first of all about Julian’s health.

JP: Can I just say very quickly, first you know we’ve been talking about censorship by omission on a huge scale. A federal court ruled that there was no Russian connection with Julian Assange. That he had constitutional rights to do as he did as a journalist and as a publisher, and that has been completely ignored.

Julian’s own condition is, how do I put it, very dangerous. When I last saw him about ten days ago I was shocked because he’d lost more weight. He was isolated. They seemed to be imposing a regime that must be punitive on him of isolation. He’s in the health wing – what they call the ‘healthcare wing’ or ‘hospital wing’ – of Belmarsh prison, but he’s in a single cell and he told me that I see people walking by and I’d like to talk to them but I can’t.

Category A prisoners, murderers and others who have committed serious crimes, are allowed to fraternise; Julian is not allowed to fraternise. He’s not even allowed to telephone his American lawyers and he’s facing extradition to the United States. He had to wait two and a half months to see an optician and then when he got his glasses one of the lens didn’t work.

He’s being denied the right – the right – to prepare his own defence. He’s denied access to documents. Access to the library. A laptop. His lawyer, his solicitor Gareth Peirce spoke to the governor on the fourth of June about this and received no reply. What’s going on?

We understand if there is no basic justice in the treatment of somebody like this, who is in prison because he infringed bail – that is just about the merest – it’s not a crime actually – it is about the merest thing that the law can nail you for (and that is infringing your bail). He is there also, of course, because he is facing US extradition. But primarily he is there for this minor offence and he has been treated in the way that political prisoners are treated all over the world. That’s a moniker that won’t be appreciated, but it applies.

AR: Have his previous partners, the Guardian newspaper in London, The New York Times, have they helped to seal his fate?

JP: Yes they have helped to seal his fate. Mind you they’re worried. They’re worried because in the federal court ruling it was made clear by the judge in this very considered judgement that newspapers like The New York TimesThe New York Times and the Guardian published the war logs in 2010 – the war logs from Iraq, the war logs of Afghanistan that Wikileaks had been the conduit for, had passed to them – they published them first, before Wikileaks.

In law, and that’s what he [the judge] was saying, they are as liable. But they are also, as Julian is – and this was the point he was making – are protected by the US Constitution. Now the US Constitution is being torn up by the Trump administration. That’s why Julian, basically, is in the trouble he is.

All these charges that he’s meant to be facing in the United States are concocted. They’re ridiculous. They don’t apply. They are charges against a journalist and a publisher, but they would apply equally against the editor-in-chief of the Guardian, the editor of The New York Times, and the editor of El País, the editor of Der Spiegel, the editor of The Sydney Morning Herald. They know this and they’re worried.

But they’re in such cahoots, they collude so deeply with the establishment of their country, and that now means the intelligence agencies – they have the power now in western societies – they collude so deeply with them that they dare not speak up. I suggest that as this whole grotesque charade against Julian Assange goes on, they should speak up pretty quickly.

Not all of the views expressed are necessarily views shared by ‘wall of controversy’.

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