Tag Archives: coronavirus

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.”

*

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

corona marginalia: track-and-trace

Boris Johnson tells Britain that our test-and-tracing system will be “world-beating”. Here’s what I’ve witnessed from the inside.

Writes an anonymous whistleblower [I am calling “Ann”] in a piece published in today’s Guardian. This is what happened shortly after she applied to an online ad for a temporary “customer service adviser”, which read:

You must have your own computer and high-speed internet to download our software and communicate with our customers … Don’t let lockdown stop you getting your dream job.

“The training was very basic”, Ann says, going on to describe in detail the extremely cursory “online training course” each of the candidates had to sit through:

We saw some slides about our role – the public health website we will use, and a script for what we had to say to people. We were told do not go off-script, and if there was anything we could not answer, we should ask our supervisor.

The training was wrapped up early, and we were asked if we felt prepared. There was a chorus of no from many people. Some said yes, but I didn’t see how anyone could be prepared for something they’d only found out about a couple of hours ago, plus we hadn’t even accessed the specific programmes. I checked my schedule and saw that I was due to start the next day at 9am. Panic set in.

The trainer told us there was a further seven and a half hours of self-led training that we had to complete before “going live”. This seemed a little unfair, if not impossible to achieve by the next morning. We were reassured that we could probably get through the training in two to three hours – but we would be paid for all seven and a half.

The trainer declared the training over and was immediately inundated with more questions from those anxious about what to do and when. The chatroom was then closed by the trainer, and were left on our own.

The self-led courses were very basic – with some generic dos and don’ts about customer data, security and so on. I completed it all in less than one and a half hours, with a score of 95%+.

The entirety of Ann’s first day of “work” was then spent waiting for entry into a chatroom. Her online colleagues were similarly left out in the cold. The second day was little different: “The day passed as we waited, re-attempted training, and wrote messages to supervisors and got no response.” This went on for the whole week and by the weekend, she tells us: “I had clocked up 40 hours of key worker pay for doing absolutely nothing.”

Ann continues:

Over the next few days I learned more about my job from watching the news than I did from those who were supposed to supervise me. I still did not feel qualified to do it. Then it was announced by [Matt] Hancock that we were going live the next day. On my chat there was a message from a supervisor asking the more experienced members of our chat to help those who needed help. The blind leading the blind! How were people who started the same day as me, and who had the same short and basic training as I had, supposed to help me do my job?

Ann concludes her account of the whole experience philosophically:

To this day I remain a “key worker”, paid £10 an hour to sit in a chatroom – alone, lost, without support or help. Despite what the government is saying, it seems the relentless problem “with the system” is another pandemic without a cure. Motivated as I am to help out during this difficult time – and after two weeks of doing “pretend” work on the track-and-trace programme – I have decided to quit and try to find a real way to help people.

Click here to read the full story entitled “Why I quit working on Boris Johnson’s ‘word-beating’ test-and tracing system”, published by the Guardian on May 30th.

*

Those who have worked anywhere within the service sector are rather too familiar with these sorts of ‘online training courses’. The whole industry is basically a racket and of course every racket is driven by the profit motive. The question that immediately arises therefore is which private company was contracted by the government on this occasion. And it will come as little surprise that the trail soon leads to the outsourcing giant Serco:

Serco is overseeing the crucial track-and-trace system that has been launched today. But people it has recruited to work as contract tracers have already complained about a lack of training and guidance.

Earlier this month, Serco was condemned after it accidentally shared the contact details of 300 contact tracers. The error has led to calls for an urgent investigation into the “alarming” incident.

Rachel Reeves, the shadow Cabinet Office minister, wrote to Michael Gove, her counterpart in government, that it was “particularly troubling that a company that is being trusted with some of the most sensitive work in our national effort against the virus seems to struggle with the most basic aspects of data privacy”.

The contract-tracing data breach was not the first fiasco in Serco’s contributions to the government’s pandemic response. In April the company was in the news over concerns about delays at the drive-in COVID-19 test centres that it was managing. At one test site, key workers were left waiting for two hours in hot weather, unable to leave their vehicle or even open the windows.

From an exposé published by OpenDemocracy on May 28th entitled “Revealed: Serco under fire over fresh £90m COVID-19 contract”

Click here to read an earlier post about Serco’s subcontracting role in the fingerprinting of British schoolchildren.

*

Update: on the creeping privatisation of the NHS

On May 4th, the Guardian published an article entitled “UK government ‘using pandemic to transfer NHS duties to the private sector’”

The government is using the coronavirus pandemic to transfer key public health duties from the NHS and other state bodies to the private sector without proper scrutiny, critics have warned.

Doctors, campaign groups, academics and MPs raised the concerns about a “power grab” after it emerged on Monday that Serco was in pole position to win a deal to supply 15,000 call-handlers for the government’s tracking and tracing operation.

They said the health secretary, Matt Hancock, had “accelerated” the dismantling of state healthcare and that the duty to keep the public safe was being “outsourced” to the private sector.

In recent weeks, ministers have used special powers to bypass normal tendering and award a string of contracts to private companies and management consultants without open competition.

Click here to read the full Guardian article written by Juliette Garside and Rupert Neate.

One month later, they published a follow-up piece:

[Serco] have taken the bulk of the work, recruiting 10,000 of the new 25,000 contact tracers after being awarded an initial fee of £45.8m, which could rise to £90m.

In an email forwarded to staff, which was then immediately recalled, a message from [Rupert Soames, Serco’s chief executive] said: “There are a few, a noisy few, who would like to see us fail because we are private companies delivering a public service. I very much doubt that this is going to evolve smoothly, so they will have plenty of opportunity to say I told you so.”

It continued: “If it succeeds … it will go a long way in cementing the position of the private sector companies in the public sector supply chain. Some of the naysayers recognise this, which is why they will take every opportunity to undermine us.”

[Bold emphasis added]

Click here to read the full Guardian article entitled “NHS test-and-trace system ‘not fully operational until September’” written by Sarah Marsh, published on June 4th.

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Sign the WeOwnIt Petition:

Serco is already failing to deliver:

  • The head of Serco has said that the contact tracing system won’t be operational until September and is likely to be “imperfect and clunky”
  • Serco has only tracked 1749 people so far, with many staff sitting idle.
  • Staff say they have no idea what they should be doing, are paid near minimum wage and have had minimum training – a recipe for disaster.

Serco has scammed us before:

  • They were convicted of fraud for the electronic tagging scandal, and fined £23 million
  • Their breast cancer hotline only trained staff for 1 hour before putting them on the phones to talk to distressed patients
  • They falsified NHS data 252 times when they ran a GP out of hours service

They’re not fit to run such an important system to get us out of this pandemic safely. But we’re being asked to trust them with our lives.

Click here to sign the petition.

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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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the united colours of Bilderberg — a late review of Montreux 2019: #4 the weaponisation of social media

Important note: As we approach the period spanning the end of May and beginning of June when Bilderberg meetings are ordinarily scheduled, it should be observed that the home page of the official Bilderberg website currently declares in bold capitals:

THE MEETING 2020 IS POSTPONED.

It does not say for how long.

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Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you

— Joseph Heller 1

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

This piece focuses on issues relating to the weaponsation of social media and cyber threats:


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

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Trolls R’ Us

JTRIG was in the business of discrediting companies, by passing “confidential information to the press through blogs etc.”, and by posting negative information on internet forums. They could change someone’s social media photos (“can take ‘paranoia’ to a whole new level”, a slide read.) They could use masquerade-type techniques – that is: placing “secret” information on a compromised computer. They could bombard someone’s phone with text messages or calls.

JTRIG also boasted an arsenal of 200 info-weapons, ranging from in-development to fully operational. A tool dubbed “Badger” allowed the mass delivery of email. Another, called “Burlesque”, spoofed SMS messages. “Clean Sweep” would impersonate Facebook wall posts for individuals or entire countries. “Gateway” gave the ability to “artificially increase traffic to a website”. “Underpass” was a way to change the outcome of online polls.

The Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG) is a unit attached to Britain’s GCHQ. The summary above is based on a slides leaked by Edward Snowden. It outlines the sorts of disinformation tactics being deployed against targets across the world (including domestic ones) as far back as 2013. Of course, this is long before mainstream reports of Russian troll farms and the consequent calls for active internet censorship to save us from the ever-present threat of “fake news”.

Entitled “Inside the British Army’s secret information warfare machine”, the same Wired report devotes its main attention to the slightly better known UK disinfo operation, the 77th Brigade, that was founded officially in January 2015, although its establishment had in actuality involved the rebranding of a different agency formerly known as the “Security Assistance Group” 2:

Walking through the headquarters of the 77th, the strange new reality of warfare was on display. We’ve all heard a lot about “cyberwarfare” – about how states could attack their enemies through computer networks, damaging their infrastructure or stealing their secrets. But that wasn’t what was going on here. Emerging here in the 77th Brigade was a warfare of storyboards and narratives, videos and social media. An engagement now doesn’t just happen on the battlefield, but also in the media and online. A victory is won as much in the eyes of the watching public as between opposing armies on the battlefield. Warfare in the information age is a warfare over information itself.

A few paragraphs down, we also learn that:

Inside the base of the 77th, everything was in motion. Flooring was being laid, work units installed; desks – empty of possessions – formed neat lines in offices still covered in plastic, tape and sawdust. The unit was formed in a hurry in 2015 from various older parts of the British Army – a Media Operations Group, a Military Stabilisation Support Group, a Psychological Operations Group. It has been rapidly expanding ever since.

In 2014, a year before the 77th was established, a memo entitled “Warfare in the Information Age” flashed across the British military. “We are now in the foothills of the Information Age” the memo announced. It argued that the British Army needed to fight a new kind of war, one that “will have information at its core”. The Army needed to be out on social media, on the internet, and in the press, engaged, as the memo put it, “in the reciprocal, real-time business of being first with the truth, countering the narratives of others, and if necessary manipulating the opinion of thousands concurrently in support of combat operations.” 3

Click here to read the full article in Wired magazine.

In March 2018, James Corbett foreshadowed the Bilderberg group with a broadcast of his own show entitled “The Weaponization of Social Media”:

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New America

The New America Foundation has received more than $21 million from Google; its parent company’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt; and his family’s foundation since the think tank’s founding in 1999. That money helped to establish New America as an elite voice in policy debates on the American left and helped Google shape those debates.

According to a New York Times article from August 2017 entitled “Google Critic Ousted From Think Tank Funded by the Tech Giant”. The critic in question was a scholar working for New America called Barry Lynn who posted a statement on the think tank’s website applauding European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager for levying a fine of 2.4 billion euros against Google for breaching EU antitrust laws.

The same NYT report continues:

“New America financial supporters have no influence or control over the research design, methodology, analysis or findings of New America research projects, nor do they have influence or control over the content of educational programs and communications efforts,” [New America’s executive vice president] Ms. [Tyra] Mariani said. She added that Mr. Lynn’s statement praising the European Union’s sanctions against Google had been temporarily removed from New America’s website because of “an unintentional internal issue” unrelated to Google or Mr. [Eric] Schmidt.

Ms. Mariani and Ms. [Riva] Sciuto [a Google spokeswoman] said Google is continuing to fund New America.

Hours after this article was published online Wednesday morning, Ms. [Anne-Marie] Slaughter announced that the think tank had fired Mr. Lynn on Wednesday for “his repeated refusal to adhere to New America’s standards of openness and institutional collegiality.”

Ms. Slaughter also wrote on Twitter that the article was “false,” but was unable to cite any errors. New America would not make Ms. Slaughter available for an interview. 4

So what? Why am I writing about this hand-in-glove relationship between tech giant Google and the Executive Chairman of its parent company Alphabet Inc., Eric Schmidt, with a think tank formerly known as New America Foundation but since renamed simply New America? The short answer is one man: Peter Warren Singer.

A strategist for America Foundation, P.W. Singer specialises in 21st century warfare. In a few years he has published nothing short of a small library of books on related topics ranging from the post-9/11 rise of the mercenary armies, child soldiers, military robotics, cybersecurity and cyberwarfare. Amongst his most recent publications, LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media (2018) is already regarded as a seminal work.

If “CyberWar” is about hacking networks, “LikeWar” is about hacking the people on the networks, driving ideas viral through a mix of “likes” and lies. And in these battles for virality, which can generate real world power, generating a sense of authenticity has become an important milestone for any online operation, be it selling an album, a political campaign, or an information warfare operation designed to cause your enemies army to run away (as in the #AllEyesOnISIS operation). 5

From an article by P.W. Singer and co-author Emerson Brooking entitled “What Taylor Swift Teaches Us About Online War” published around the time of the book launch by Defense One in October 2018.

Funnily enough, and only a few months later, Singer was invited to the 2019 Bilderberg gathering in Montreux, when one of the key topics happened to be “The weaponisation of social media”.

I wonder whether he contributed to the discussion at all, and found the time to chew the cud with Bilderberg warhorse and his New America Foundation benefactor and Chairman Emeritus, Eric Schmidt.

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(Everything is) LikeWar

The pattern of military hardware silhouettes above welcomes visitors to P.W. Singer’s official website. To judge from his CV, he very probably has the same wallpaper up in his bedroom.

In a recent interview he told Lauren Hepler:

Social media is not just a communication space and a marketplace. It’s also a battle space. You have sides that go back and forth. They use tactics and strategies to achieve their goals. We’ve seen its weaponization to target elections, to target military units. We’ve seen it used to target corporations to try to sabotage their share price, to harm the rollout of a new product. We’ve also seen it have a real and very sad impact on public health.

This is now a matter of life and death. The deliberate spread of misinformation on coronavirus didn’t just shape a laggard Trump administration response, but also shaped individual-level decisions that were irresponsible and dangerous. It cost lives.

Singer calls a response at all levels: individual, governmental and, importantly, corporate:

Then we had coronavirus breakout, and all of them [‘the platform companies’] again implemented things [forms of censorship] that were unthinkable, impossible for them to do just a few months earlier. They should be applauded for doing it, but as they take on more and more of a political role, they are forced to play politics. For example, when someone posts information about a medical treatment that is not effective and maybe even dangerous, they knocked offline certain individuals for doing that, but not others because they’re a little bit too prominent, and if we do, then it will look like we’re playing politics.

Singer’s view is that playing politics is fine, indeed something the tech giants “should be applauded for doing”, however in western democracies, maintaining appearances is of the utmost importance. He continues:

I’m incredibly empathetic toward these companies, because they’re being forced to play this role in the U.S. essentially because we have not updated our election rules. In other nations, the companies have more guidance.

Incredibly empathetic… well, you’re hardly going to bite the hand that feeds you! But what is Singer’s role here? As a former Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute and current Strategist for New America, whose major donors besides Eric and Wendy Schmidt also include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the US State Department, Singer is clearly in the business of shaping US government policy on behalf of corporate interests. In this instance, enjoining the government to issue “guidance” on censorship such that the tech giants are then able to distance themselves from policies deliberately brought in to marginalise dissident voices.

A Washington Post article published in late 2016 entitled “Why Facebook and Google are struggling to purge fake news” made the matter plain:

Facebook, Google and other Web companies have sought to walk a fine line: They don’t want to get into the practice of hiring human editors, which they believe would make them vulnerable to criticisms of partisan bias and stray from their core business of building software. Yet outsiders, as well as some within Silicon Valley, are increasingly clamoring for technology giants to take a more active role in policing the spread of deceptive information.

“It is very difficult for Facebook to say they are not a gatekeeper when they drive such an enormous share of the attention of most news consumers across the world,” said Joshua Benton, director of the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. “They need to figure out some editorial mechanism; with their scale comes responsibility.” 6

Singer admits:

A few weeks ago, there was a blast of kind-of-weird content moderation happening. It was because the platform companies had to send many of their people home, and they were using more and more AI that was understandably squirrelly. People were looking for conspiracy, when it was just AI doing its thing. 7

As an esteemed expert in his field Singer must know very well, of course, that this excuse of ‘squirrelly AI’ is actually a red herring. After all, the internet clampdown and “kind-of-weird content moderation” didn’t spring forth inadvertently on the back of the coronavirus lockdown a few weeks ago, but has been incrementally ratcheted up even before the first stirrings of the “Russiagate” hoax four years ago. As I pointed out in an earlier piece, fears of the fabled internet “kill switch” are a distraction, as the volume of dissident voices is being steadily turned down and the internet is slowly shut down by stealth.

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Project Birmingham: Alabama’s ‘fake news’ false flag

At least 1,100 Russian-language accounts followed Republican U.S. Senate nominee Roy Moore’s Twitter account over the past few days. Moore’s team says they want to know why.

So begins an article in local newspaper the Montgomery Advertiser entitled “Russian invasion? Roy Moore sees spike in Twitter followers from land of Putin”

Caption retained:
A screen cap of Republican U.S. Senate nominee Roy Moore’s Twitter followers on Monday, Oct. 16, 2017. Moore’s campaign accounts was followed by thousands of Cyrillic-language accounts in the days prior. The Moore campaign says they have asked Twitter to investigate. (Photo: Twitter)

Beneath a composite image showing just a few examples of this huge army of Russian Twitter bots (see above), the same report into the stormy Alabama 2017 senate race between Republican Roy Moore and rival Democrat Doug Jones continues:

“We had absolutely nothing to do with this,” said Drew Messer, a spokesman for the campaign, on Monday. “We’ve never purchased followers or dummy ads on Twitter. We’ve asked Twitter to look into this.”

The increase helped push Moore’s following on Twitter from about 27,000 accounts on Friday to over 47,000, ahead of Democratic nominee Doug Jones, who has about 39,000 followers on Twitter.

Adding:

The Jones campaign Monday evening said Moore was “embarrassing the people of Alabama with another disgusting and pathetic lie.”

“Maybe Moore should check with Vladimir Putin, who shares his views on depriving people of their civil rights,” the statement said.  8

Although Moore had been leading in the polls by six to eight points, it was finally Democrat Jones who went on to win the election. So had the disclosure of Russian influence during the campaign finally affected the result? Very possibly, although in the fullness of time something more extraordinary was revealed by an internal report. Those thousands of bots meddling in the campaign had not been Russian at all and had no connection whatsoever to Putin. Instead they were part of “an experiment”:

One participant in the Alabama project [aka ‘Project Birmingham’], Jonathon Morgan, is the chief executive of New Knowledge, a small cyber security firm that wrote a scathing account of Russia’s social media operations in the 2016 election that was released this week by the Senate Intelligence Committee. […]

The project’s operators created a Facebook page on which they posed as conservative Alabamians, using it to try to divide Republicans and even to endorse a write-in candidate to draw votes from Mr. Moore. It involved a scheme to link the Moore campaign to thousands of Russian accounts that suddenly began following the Republican candidate on Twitter, a development that drew national media attention.

“We orchestrated an elaborate ‘false flag’ operation that planted the idea that the Moore campaign was amplified on social media by a Russian botnet,” the report says.

The same piece includes a number of statements for Morgan, including this explanation:

Mr. Morgan said in an interview that the Russian botnet ruse “does not ring a bell,” adding that others had worked on the effort and had written the report. He said he saw the project as “a small experiment” designed to explore how certain online tactics worked, not to affect the election.

“The research project was intended to help us understand how these kind of campaigns operated,” said Mr. Morgan. “We thought it was useful to work in the context of a real election but design it to have almost no impact.” 9

Click here to read the full New York Times article published in December 2018 entitled “Secret Experiment in Alabama Senate Race Imitated Russian Tactics”.

Jonathan Morgan’s New Knowledge is a Texas-based cybersecurity firm, and behind it we find far larger concerns in the shape of American Engagement Technologies (AET) and for-profit investment management firm Investing In US. This is a trail I shall return to below.

However, it turns out that this phoney Russiagate operation was only part of the information warfare strategy. A separate effort had involved an elaborate fake campaign intended to convince voters of Republican candidate Moore’s supposed plans to reintroduce alcohol prohibition:

The “Dry Alabama” Facebook page, illustrated with stark images of car wrecks and videos of families ruined by drink, had a blunt message: Alcohol is the devil’s work, and the state should ban it entirely.

Along with a companion Twitter feed, the Facebook page appeared to be the work of Baptist teetotalers who supported the Republican, Roy S. Moore, in the 2017 Alabama Senate race. “Pray for Roy Moore,” one tweet exhorted.

In fact, the Dry Alabama campaign, not previously reported, was the stealth creation of progressive Democrats who were out to defeat Mr. Moore — the second such secret effort to be unmasked.

So who was behind these disinformation campaigns? The same NYT piece continues:

The revelations about the first project, run in part by a cybersecurity company called New Knowledge, led Facebook to shut down five accounts that it said had violated its rules, and prompted Senator [Doug] Jones to call for a federal investigation. There is no evidence that Jones encouraged or knew of either of the deceptive social media projects. His spokeswoman, Heather Fluit, said his legal advisers were preparing to file a formal complaint with the Federal Election Commission. […]

The first of the Alabama efforts was funded by Reid Hoffman, the billionaire co-founder of LinkedIn, who apologized and said he had been unaware of the project and did not approve of the underhanded methods. The second was funded by two Virginia donors who wanted to defeat Mr. Moore — a former judge accused of pursuing sexual relationships with underage girls — according to a participant who would speak about the secret project only on the condition of anonymity and who declined to name the funders.

The two projects each received $100,000, funneled in both cases through the same organization: Investing in Us, which finances political operations in support of progressive causes. Dmitri Mehlhorn, the group’s managing partner, declined to comment on whether he approved of the tactics he had helped pay for. 10

For the record, Investing in US was co-founded by Reid Hoffman and Dmitri Mehlhorn, a former senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute.

Click here to read the full NYT report entitled “Democrats Faked Online Push to Outlaw Alcohol in Alabama Race”.

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Pulling the strings back at Bilderberg

Reid Hoffman may be a name that is unfamiliar to you, even though he was co-founder and executive chairman of LinkedIn. As we learn from a NYT puff piece from 2011, after a shaky start, Hoffman was fortunate enough to have some well-connected associates:

In 1985, Mr. Hoffman enrolled at Stanford, where he majored in symbolic systems, the study of the relationship between computing and human intelligence. He soon befriended a fellow student, Peter Thiel, who would go on to found PayPal.

When his own social media start-up SocialNet flopped, Hoffman was invited to rejoin his old pal as Thiel was setting up PayPal:

As an executive vice president, it was up to Mr. Hoffman to manage external relations. “He was the firefighter in chief at PayPal,” Mr. Thiel says. “Though that diminishes his role because there were many, many fires.” 11

Click here to read the full NYT article entitled “A King of Connections Is Tech’s Go-To Guy”

Peter Thiel and Reid Hoffman today sit at the high table as Bilderberg regulars alongside Eric Schmidt – the trio of techies have each attended every conference during the last four years: Thiel going under the title President of Thiel Capital; Hoffman more self-effacingly as a ‘Partner’ at Greylock Partners; and Schmidt, evidently the most modest of the three, declaring himself a mere ‘Technical Advisor’ to Alphabet Inc.

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Please note: I started constructing this article as part of a larger review (that was subsequently broken down into this series of smaller pieces) many months prior to the current coronavirus crisis and lockdown.

1 Though it is not referenced by Wikiquote, there are a wide variety of sources including articles published by the Guardian and The Atlantic magazine that have attributed Joseph Heller’s novel Catch-22 as the original source of this quote. Variations of the same quote are also misattributed to American singer, songwriter, and musician, best known as the guitarist and frontman of the rock band Nirvana, Kurt Cobain.

2 https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2015-02-24/225283/

3 From an article entitled “Inside the British Army’s secret information warfare machine” written by Carl Miller, published in Wired on November 14, 2018. https://www.wired.co.uk/article/inside-the-77th-brigade-britains-information-warfare-military

4 From an article entitled “Google Critic Ousted From Think Tank Funded by the Tech Giant” written by Kenneth P. Vogel, published in The New York Times on August 30, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/30/us/politics/eric-schmidt-google-new-america.html?_r=0

5 From an article entitled “What Taylor Swift Teaches Us About Online War” written by Peter W. Singer & Emerson T. Brooking, published in Defense One on October 2, 2018. https://www.defenseone.com/ideas/2018/10/what-taylor-swift-teaches-us-about-online-war/151634/?oref=d-river

6 From an article entitled “Why Facebook and Google are struggling to purge fake news” written by Elizabeth Dwoskin, Caitlin Dewey & Craig Timberg, published in the Washington Post on November 15, 2016. https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/why-facebook-and-google-are-struggling-to-purge-fake-news/2016/11/15/85022897-f765-422e-9f53-c720d1f20071_story.html

7 From an article entitled “A futurist on Covid-19 and business: Pandora’s box is now open” written by Lauren Hepler, published in Protocol on April 19, 2020. https://www.protocol.com/cyberwar-expert-pw-singer-coronavirus

8 From an article entitled “Russian invasion? Roy Moore sees spike in Twitter followers from land of Putin” written by Brian Lyman, originally published in the Montgomery Advertiser on October 16, 2017 (updated December 12, 2019) https://eu.montgomeryadvertiser.com/story/news/politics/southunionstreet/2017/10/16/roy-moores-twitter-account-gets-influx-russian-language-followers/768758001/

9 From an article entitled “Secret Experiment in Alabama Senate Race Imitated Russian Tactics” written by Scott Shane & Alan Blinder, published in The New York Times on December 19, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/19/us/alabama-senate-roy-jones-russia.html

10 From an article entitled “Democrats Faked Online Push to Outlaw Alcohol in Alabama Race” written by Scott Shane & Alan Blinder, published in The New York Times on January 7, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/07/us/politics/alabama-senate-facebook-roy-moore.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

11 From an article entitled “A King of Connections Is Tech’s Go-To Guy” written by Evelyn M. Rusli, published in The New York Times on November 5, 2011. https://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/06/business/reid-hoffman-of-linkedin-has-become-the-go-to-guy-of-tech.html?pagewanted=all

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corona marginalia: techno-tyranny

“How do we really use new technology in the economy of tomorrow? And that’s the lesson that we’re all learning right: work from home; telemedicine; tele-education. It’s all about technology, and a better use of technology, and really incorporating the lessons into that. And probably the best mind in this country, if not on the globe to do this, is I believe a true visionary, especially in the field of technology, and that’s Eric Schmidt.”

This is New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s effusive welcome to former Google CEO Eric Schmidt when he joined him for the daily coronavirus briefing on Wednesday May 6th. Cuomo continues:

“[Schmidt] saw a future that no-one else envisioned and then developed a way to get there. And we’ve asked him to come work with us to bring that kind of visionary aspect to government and society. Let’s look at what we just went through. Let’s anticipate a future through that lens. And tell us how we can incorporate these lessons. And Mr Schmidt who has tremendous demands on his talent and his time has agreed to help us and head an effort to do this.”

Eric Schmidt, no less lavish in his praise for Cuomo, says:

“Thank you Governor. You have been doing an incredible job for our state and frankly for the nation, and I’m really pleased to help. The first priorities of what we’re trying to do are focused on telehealth, remote learning and broadband. We can take this terrible disaster and accelerate all of those ways that will make things much, much better.”

The author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, Naomi Klein begins her latest article entitled “Screen New Deal” with reflections on this video meeting and Cuomo’s announcement that Schmidt “will be heading up a blue-ribbon commission to reimagine New York state’s post-Covid reality, with an emphasis on permanently integrating technology into every aspect of civic life”:

This is a future in which, for the privileged, almost everything is home delivered, either virtually via streaming and cloud technology, or physically via driverless vehicle or drone, then screen “shared” on a mediated platform. It’s a future that employs far fewer teachers, doctors, and drivers. It accepts no cash or credit cards (under guise of virus control) and has skeletal mass transit and far less live art. It’s a future that claims to be run on “artificial intelligence” but is actually held together by tens of millions of anonymous workers tucked away in warehouses, data centers, content moderation mills, electronic sweatshops, lithium mines, industrial farms, meat-processing plants, and prisons, where they are left unprotected from disease and hyperexploitation. It’s a future in which our every move, our every word, our every relationship is trackable, traceable, and data-mineable by unprecedented collaborations between government and tech giants.

She continues:

If all of this sounds familiar it’s because, pre-Covid, this precise app-driven, gig-fueled future was being sold to us in the name of convenience, frictionlessness, and personalization. But many of us had concerns. About the security, quality, and inequity of telehealth and online classrooms. About driverless cars mowing down pedestrians and drones smashing packages (and people). About location tracking and cash-free commerce obliterating our privacy and entrenching racial and gender discrimination. About unscrupulous social media platforms poisoning our information ecology and our kids’ mental health. About “smart cities” filled with sensors supplanting local government. About the good jobs these technologies wiped out. About the bad jobs they mass produced.

And most of all, we had concerns about the democracy-threatening wealth and power accumulated by a handful of tech companies that are masters of abdication — eschewing all responsibility for the wreckage left behind in the fields they now dominate, whether media, retail, or transportation.

That was the ancient past known as February. Today, a great many of those well-founded concerns are being swept away by a tidal wave of panic, and this warmed-over dystopia is going through a rush-job rebranding. Now, against a harrowing backdrop of mass death, it is being sold to us on the dubious promise that these technologies are the only possible way to pandemic-proof our lives, the indispensable keys to keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe.

Adding:

Thanks to Cuomo and his various billionaire partnerships (including one with Michael Bloomberg for testing and tracing), New York state is being positioned as the gleaming showroom for this grim future — but the ambitions reach far beyond the borders of any one state or country.

And at the dead center of it all is Eric Schmidt.

Klein notes: “Lest there be any doubt that the former Google chair’s goals were purely benevolent, his video background featured a framed pair of golden angel wings.”

Click here to read Naomi Klein’s full article published on May 8th by The Intercept.

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Eric Schmidt and the NSCAI

“[D]ata is the new oil. And China is just awash with data. And they don’t have the same restraints that we do around collecting it and using it, because of the privacy difference between our countries. This notion that they have the largest labeled data set in the world is going to be a huge strength for them.”

— Chris Darby, President and CEO of In-Q-Tel, an investment arm of the CIA and member of NSCAI. *

The second part of Klein’s article moves on to discuss the Sidewalk Labs division of Google’s parent company Alphabet and specifically their “smart cities” Toronto project. This is a topic I have addressed in my last post published as it happened on the eve of the project being shut down following what Klein describes as “two years of ceaseless controversy relating to the enormous amounts of personal data that Alphabet would collect, a lack of privacy protections, and questionable benefits for the city as a whole.”

But central to her article is an investigation into Schmidt’s other roles both as Chair of the Defense Innovation Board, which advises the Department of Defense on increased use of artificial intelligence in the military, and as Chair of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI) which advises Congress on “advances in artificial intelligence, related machine learning developments, and associated technologies.”

Specifically, Klein draws attention to slides from a presentation made by Schmidt’s NSCAI back in May 2019, that have since been released following a Freedom of Information request made by the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

In fact a week prior to Klein’s excellent piece, independent journalist Whitney Webb had already brought attention to the same document release; the presentation in question is titled “Chinese Tech Landscape Overview”.

Webb writes:

This document suggests that the U.S. follow China’s lead and even surpass them in many aspects related to AI-driven technologies, particularly their use of mass surveillance. This perspective clearly clashes with the public rhetoric of prominent U.S. government officials and politicians on China, who have labeled the Chinese government’s technology investments and export of its surveillance systems and other technologies as a major “threat” to Americans’ “way of life.”

In addition, many of the steps for the implementation of such a program in the U.S., as laid out in this newly available document, are currently being promoted and implemented as part of the government’s response to the current coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis. This likely due to the fact that many members of this same body have considerable overlap with the taskforces and advisors currently guiding the government’s plans to “re-open the economy” and efforts to use technology to respond to the current crisis.

Webb then highlights Eric Schmidt’s “similar concerns about ‘losing’ technological advantage to China”:

[Schmidt] argued in February in the New York Times that Silicon Valley could soon lose “the technology wars” to China if the U.S. government doesn’t take action. Thus, the three main groups represented within the NSCAI – the intelligence community, the Pentagon and Silicon Valley – all view China’s advancements in AI as a major national security threat (and in Silicon Valley’s case, threat to their bottom lines and market shares) that must be tackled quickly.

Naomi Klein likewise draws attention to the NYT op-ed headlined “I used to Run Google. Silicon Valley Could Lose to China”, in which Schmidt had called for “unprecedented partnerships between government and industry” and is, in Klein’s words “once again, sounding the yellow peril alarm”. She then quotes the salient passages:

A.I. will open new frontiers in everything from biotechnology to banking, and it is also a Defense Department priority. … If current trends continue, China’s overall investments in research and development are expected to surpass those of the United States within 10 years, around the same time its economy is projected to become larger than ours.

Unless these trends change, in the 2030s we will be competing with a country that has a bigger economy, more research and development investments, better research, wider deployment of new technologies and stronger computing infrastructure. … Ultimately, the Chinese are competing to become the world’s leading innovators, and the United States is not playing to win.

On this pretext of regaining competitive advantage over China, the NSCAI presentation goes on to cite the kinds of “structural factors” that need to be altered.

Here is Whitney Webb again:

Chief among the troublesome “structural factors” highlighted in this presentation are so-called “legacy systems” that are common in the U.S. but much less so in China. The NSCAI document states that examples of “legacy systems” include a financial system that still utilizes cash and card payments, individual car ownership and even receiving medical attention from a human doctor. It states that, while these “legacy systems” in the US are “good enough,” too many “good enough” systems “hinder the adoption of new things,” specifically AI-driven systems. […]

The document also defines another aspect of government support as the “clearing of regulatory barriers.” This term is used in the document specifically with respect to U.S. privacy laws, despite the fact that the U.S. national security state has long violated these laws with near complete impunity. However, the document seems to suggest that privacy laws in the U.S. should be altered so that what the U.S. government has done “in secret” with private citizen data can be done more openly and more extensively. The NSCAI document also discusses the removal of “regulatory barriers” in order to speed up the adoption of self-driving cars, even though autonomous driving technology has resulted in several deadly and horrific car accidents and presents other safety concerns.

Who are NSCAI? Webb provides us with a list of members and their interests:

Other members of the NSCAI are as follows:

  • Safra Catz, CEO of Oracle, with close ties to Trump’s top donor Sheldon Adelson
  • Steve Chien, supervisor of the Artificial Intelligence Group at Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Lab
  • Mignon Clyburn, Open Society Foundation fellow and former FCC commissioner
  • Chris Darby, CEO of In-Q-Tel (CIA’s venture capital arm)
  • Ken Ford, CEO of the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition
  • Jose-Marie Griffiths, president of Dakota State University and former National Science Board member
  • Eric Horvitz, director of Microsoft Research Labs
  • Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon Web Services (CIA contractor)
  • Gilman Louie, partner at Alsop Louie Partners and former CEO of In-Q-Tel
  • William Mark, director of SRI International and former Lockheed Martin director
  • Jason Matheny, director of the Center for Security and Emerging Technology, former Assistant director of National Intelligence and former director of IARPA (Intelligence Advanced Research Project Agency)
  • Katharina McFarland, consultant at Cypress International and former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Acquisition
  • Andrew Moore, head of Google Cloud AI

As can be seen in the list above, there is a considerable amount of overlap between the NSCAI and the companies currently advising the White House on “re-opening” the economy (Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Lockheed Martin, Oracle) and one NSCAI member, Oracle’s Safra Katz, is on the White House’s “economic revival” taskforce. Also, there is also overlap between the NSCAI and the companies that are intimately involved in the implementation of the “contact tracing” “coronavirus surveillance system,” a mass surveillance system promoted by the Jared Kushner-led, private-sector coronavirus task force. That surveillance system is set to be constructed by companies with deep ties to Google and the U.S. national security state, and both Google and Apple, who create the operating systems for the vast majority of smartphones used in the U.S., have said they will now build that surveillance system directly into their smartphone operating systems.

Click here to read Whitney Webb’s full article entitled “Techno-tyranny: How the US National Security State is using Coronavirus to Fulfill an Orwellian Vision” published on May 4th at her official website Unlimited Hangout.

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Tele-everything!

In her article for The Intercept, Naomi Klein supplies an update and a glimpse of the headway already made by the tech giants in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Responding to a subsequent op-ed by Eric Schmidt [passages in Italics], Klein writes:

Less than two weeks into New York state’s lockdown, Schmidt wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal that both set the new tone and made clear that Silicon Valley had every intention of leveraging the crisis for a permanent transformation.

Like other Americans, technologists are trying to do their part to support the front-line pandemic response. …

But every American should be asking where we want the nation to be when the Covid-19 pandemic is over. How could the emerging technologies being deployed in the current crisis propel us into a better future? … Companies like Amazon know how to supply and distribute efficiently. They will need to provide services and advice to government officials who lack the computing systems and expertise.

We should also accelerate the trend toward remote learning, which is being tested today as never before. Online, there is no requirement of proximity, which allows students to get instruction from the best teachers, no matter what school district they reside in. …

The need for fast, large-scale experimentation will also accelerate the biotech revolution. … Finally, the country is long overdue for a real digital infrastructure…. If we are to build a future economy and education system based on tele-everything, we need a fully connected population and ultrafast infrastructure. The government must make a massive investment—perhaps as part of a stimulus package—to convert the nation’s digital infrastructure to cloud-based platforms and link them with a 5G network.

Indeed Schmidt has been relentless in pursuing this vision. Two weeks after that op-ed appeared, he described the ad-hoc homeschooling programing that teachers and families across the country had been forced to cobble together during this public health emergency as “a massive experiment in remote learning.” The goal of this experiment, he said, was “trying to find out: How do kids learn remotely? And with that data we should be able to build better remote and distance learning tools which, when combined with the teacher … will help kids learn better.” During this same video call, hosted by the Economic Club of New York, Schmidt also called for more telehealth, more 5G, more digital commerce, and the rest of the preexisting wish list. All in the name of fighting the virus.

His most telling comment, however, was this: “The benefit of these corporations, which we love to malign, in terms of the ability to communicate, the ability to deal with health, the ability to get information, is profound. Think about what your life would be like in America without Amazon.” He added that people should “be a little bit grateful that these companies got the capital, did the investment, built the tools that we’re using now, and have really helped us out.”

Click here to read Naomi Klein’s full article published on May 8th by The Intercept.

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* From an article entitled “In-Q-Tel President Chris Darby on the intelligence community’s innovation challenges” written by Olivia Gazis, published in CBS News on April 24, 2019. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/intelligence-matters-in-q-tel-president-chris-darby-on-the-intelligence-communitys-innovation-challenges/

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corona marginalia: timeline of failures

Despite previous claims by the government that it was well-prepared for the coronavirus, Britain is now expected to have one of the highest death tolls in the world. In a video released by Novara Media on April 10th, Aaron Bastani examined precisely what happened in recent months, and how public authorities – broadly unchallenged by the media – let a tragedy unfold:

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Here’s a timeline that refutes Michael Gove and the government’s attempts to shift blame on to Beijing:

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I have added a complementary timeline constructed around notable press reports, TV news and social media items that also focuses on the UK government response throughout the same period and brings the story up to date with today’s revelations in the Sunday Times.

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January 24th

On the third Friday of January a silent and stealthy killer was creeping across the world. Passing from person to person and borne on ships and planes, the coronavirus was already leaving a trail of bodies.

The virus had spread from China to six countries and was almost certainly in many others. Sensing the coming danger, the British government briefly went into wartime mode that day, holding a meeting of Cobra, its national crisis committee.

But it took just an hour that January 24 lunchtime to brush aside the coronavirus threat. Matt Hancock, the health secretary, bounced out of Whitehall after chairing the meeting and breezily told reporters the risk to the UK public was “low”.

This was despite the publication that day of an alarming study by Chinese doctors in the medical journal, The Lancet. It assessed the lethal potential of the virus, for the first time suggesting it was comparable to the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, which killed up to 50 million people.

From today’s Sunday Times article entitled “Coronavirus: 38 days when Britain sleepwalked into disaster” written by Jonathan Calvert, George Arbuthnott and Jonathan Leake.

The same piece continues:

Unusually, Boris Johnson had been absent from Cobra. The committee — which includes ministers, intelligence chiefs and military generals — gathers at moments of great peril such as terrorist attacks, natural disasters and other threats to the nation and is normally chaired by the prime minister. […]

That afternoon his spokesman played down the looming threat from the east and reassured the nation that we were “well prepared for any new diseases”. The confident, almost nonchalant, attitude displayed that day in January would continue for more than a month.

Johnson went on to miss four further Cobra meetings on the virus.

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February 3rd

Boris Johnson speaking in Greenwich:

We are starting to hear some bizarre autarkic rhetoric, when barriers are going up, and when there is a risk that new diseases such as coronavirus will trigger a panic and a desire for market segregation that go beyond what is medically rational to the point of doing real and unnecessary economic damage, then at that moment humanity needs some government somewhere that is willing at least to make the case powerfully for freedom of exchange, some country ready to take off its Clark Kent spectacles and leap into the phone booth and emerge with its cloak flowing as the supercharged champion, of the right of the populations of the earth to buy and sell freely among each other.

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February 25th 

Bruce Aylward – the epidemiologist who led the recent WHO mission to China – returned from Wuhan, where the crisis began, and gave a warning to the world. China, Aylward explained, had done something extraordinary. It had managed to wrest control of an exponentially expanding epidemic. “When you spend 20, 30 years in this business,” Aylward said, holding up a graph that showed the improbable slowdown in cases across China, “it’s, like, ‘Seriously, you’re going to try and change that [curve] with those tactics?’”

From an article entitled “Government documents show no planning for ventilators in the event of a pandemic” written by Harry Lambert, published in the New Statesman on March 16th.

Here’s Dr Bruce Aylward advising the world to follow China’s example:

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March 3rd

Boris Johnson: “I can tell you that I’m shaking hands continually. I was at a hospital the other night where I think there were actually a few coronavirus patients, and I shook hand with everybody you’ll be please to know, and I continue to shake hands. And I think that it’s very important that – people obviously can make up their own minds” continuing, “… but I think the scientific evidence is… well, I’ll hand over to the experts.”

[Quickly turning and directing attention to Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance who was standing to his left.]

Patrick Vallance: “Wash your hands”

BJ: “Our judgement is washing your hands is the crucial thing.”

The same footage is also available here.

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March 10th

Editor of The Lancet, Richard Horton tweeted:

The UK government – Matt Hancock and Boris Johnson – claim they are following the science. But that is not true. The evidence is clear. We need urgent implementation of social distancing and closure policies. The government is playing roulette with the public. This is a major error.

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March 11th 

[T]he day before Boris Johnson told the nation that the coronavirus sweeping the UK could no longer be contained and that testing for Covid-19 would stop except for the seriously ill in hospital, the head of No 10’s “nudge unit” gave a brief interview to the BBC.

At the time it was barely noticed – it was budget day, after all. With hindsight, it seems astonishing.

“There’s going to be a point, assuming the epidemic flows and grows as it will do, where you want to cocoon, to protect those at-risk groups so they don’t catch the disease,” said Dr David Halpern. “By the time they come out of their cocooning, herd immunity has been achieved in the rest of the population.”

From an article entitled “‘Absolutely wrong’: how UK’s coronavirus test strategy unravelled” written by Sarah Boseley, published in the Guardian on April 1st.

The same article continues:

It was a window into the thinking of the political strategists directing the UK response to Covid-19, who claimed to base what they were doing on scientific evidence. We would let the disease spread among the healthy. So no need to test.

If there was a moment when the UK turned its back on the traditional public health approach to fighting an epidemic, this was it.

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March 12th

[S]peaking after Thursday’s emergency Cobra meeting, the government’s chief scientific officer, Sir Patrick Vallance, said the true total [of cases of coronavirus] was likely to be between 5,000 and 10,000. He said 20 people were being treated for Covid-19 in intensive care units and that the UK was on a trajectory about four weeks behind that of Italy, which has had more than 1,000 deaths.

Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, said that worst-case scenario planning projected that 80% of the country would contract the virus, with a 1% mortality rate. This equates to more than 500,000 deaths.

The prime minister, Boris Johnson, said: “We have all got to be clear, this is the worst public health crisis for a generation. Some people compare it to seasonal flu. Alas, that is not right. Due to the lack of immunity this disease is more dangerous.

“It is going to spread further and I must level with you, I must level with the British public: many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time.”

From a report entitled “Johnson: many more people will love loved ones to coronavirus” written by Heather Stewart, Kate Proctor and Haroon Siddique, published in the Guardian.

The same article continues:

Johnson said schools would not close and neither did he join Scotland in banning gatherings of more than 500 people, though he warned that major events may be cancelled in future because of the burden they placed on public services during the outbreak.

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March 13th

The World Health Organization has stepped up its calls for intensified action to fight the coronavirus pandemic, imploring countries “not to let this fire burn”, as Spain said it would declare a 15-day state of emergency from Saturday.

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.”

As reported by the Guardian in an article entitled “‘Do not let this fire burn’: WHO warns Europe over Covid-19” written by Jon Henley and Sam Jones.

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March 17th

Sam Coates [from 17:40 mins]: Some people came away from yesterday’s briefing more confused for instance about guidance for the elderly. Do you accept that the buck stops absolutely with you in this crisis? And do you take responsibility for the actions of your father? [after Boris Johnson’s father Stanley had publicly vowed to ignore official government advice]

Johnson: Right, umm, I think I’ve got a bit of a… Patrick [Vallance] why don’t you go first?

Having had plenty of time to think, he then replies at 21:55 mins:

“Of course the buck stops with me and I take full responsibility for all the actions that this government is taking. Decisions we’re taking, difficult though many of them are. And all the advice we’re giving to everybody. What I’d say to people who are thinking about… [inaudible] the more we follow the advice of our scientific and medical advisors, and the more closely we do what they tell us to do, the better our chances collectively of slowing the disease, of protecting the NHS, and of saving life. And also, of course, the better we can protect our NHS, umm, the less economic damage there will ultimately be. And of course people care about pubs, and have a right to care about pubs, and restaurants, but that is why we’re announcing the package, the extraordinary package, that Rishi [Sunak] has just unveiled today. That is the way we should be working to look after our economy.”

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March 21st

Nurses forced to wear binbags at Northwick Park Hospital in London:

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March 22nd

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 12, 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.” 1

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

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March 22nd

Channel 4 News spoke with Prof. Helen Ward, Clinical Professor of Public Health at Imperial College, University of London. She began by talking about the latest advice coming from the government:

“Well, there’s a lot of public health specialist senior leaders who’ve been discussing this over the weekend, and I think most of them, like me, will be very disappointed. It seems to me that there are mixed messages. I know that the Prime Minister said that people should reduce their social contacts outside of the home, but has not done anything yet to enforce that.

“Going back to the science, which he says is guiding everything they do, the work that came out of Imperial College said that those social contacts outside the home have to reduce by 75 percent, if this is going to work. Now it’s clear from what’s being shown today that is not happening yet, and therefore closures – of some of the shops that are not necessary, some of the parks, etc – are going to have to be enforced. But more importantly, I think making some restrictions on travel and unnecessary travel.

“At the moment it’s all voluntary and unfortunately people are not sure that they want to do that.” [from 5:10 mins]

Asked whether she was “surprised he didn’t take a tougher stance”, Ward continued:

“I was surprised, because I think that the evidence from elsewhere in the world is that you have to take a really tough stance, and you have to take it early. The places that have actually got this under control and got numbers of cases starting to go down – of new cases – like South Korea; they have had a major investment in testing: very, very widespread testing, contact tracing, and reduction in social contacts.

“If you think you’re going to put these measures in place in four days time, if it doesn’t work now; four days is a lot of extra cases. So I think last week when we had the pubs and clubs and ‘don’t go to them’ not enforced, we lost four days, and then they enforced it. I think we are urging the Prime Minister and the government to take the bold steps that are necessary now, and not wait another four days.” [from 6:40 mins]

In response to the question why Johnson is so slow in enforcing these restrictions, she says:

Well, he actually poses it in terms of a Draconian clampdown, as opposed to people enjoying themselves, and I think that’s the wrong message to be giving to people. That it’s one or the other.

“I think you have to say ‘this is an emergency, we have to get people to comply with this, and we have to do that at a local level’. And I think local authorities are quite right to be taking these measures, and they need to have the backing of the government to enforce them. But it’s not just that.

A lot of communities, and shops, and other things, are actually doing the right thing. They are closing down and shifting towards supporting the most vulnerable. We’ve got hotels saying they’re going to be available, [providing] extra capacity, whether it’s for the NHS, or some have suggested for refuges for people suffering domestic violence as a result of the isolation. There’s many things that could be done, but the Prime Minister does seem to want to be one step behind.” [from 8:15 mins]

With regard to whether Johnson really is, as he repeats, ‘being led by the science’, or in fact driven more by political ideology and his antipathy towards ‘the nanny state’, Ward says:

“I think that the science that is informing this has been good. I do think there’s a lack of experience in public health leadership in helping the government to make those decisions. We do have the CMO and the Scientific Advisor, but there is a huge network of public health expertise around the country that I don’t think is being drawn on enough. People that were communicable disease control experts, who have been planning for epidemics and pandemics for years. I don’t hear their voices enough influencing government.” [from 9:20 mins]

Finally, asked if it is already too late to avoid the crisis now faced by Italy, she says:

“If we want to stop this, if we’re two weeks behind, then we have two weeks to stop that in a sense and we have to start today, because it’s the infections that are occurring today that are spreading in Columbia [Road] Flower Market for example. Those are the infections that in two weeks’ time will be causing deaths and intensive care use, and that’s what we have to try and stop now.

“I think there has to be clearer messaging. It is different in different parts of the world. It’s not just about limiting contact between individuals and [stopping] the spread that way: it’s also between hot spots like London and other parts of the country, and I think we need to look carefully about limiting travel between areas…

“But it takes time, so we need to start that now. Not say we’re going to think about it and maybe do it next week. Next week is another several tens of thousands of cases and more pressure on the NHS and more deaths.” [from 10:05 mins]

 

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March 24th

Johnson and the UK government finally issued stricter instructions that initially called on everyone with the single exception of “key workers” to stay at home:

However, within hours their advice substantially altered following a second tweet which lowered restrictions advising “to go to work (but work from home if possible)”:

 

In additional to this softening of restrictions which left both employers and employees at a loss to understand the new guidelines, the government then issued further instruction to workers on construction sites, who were advised to continue working but practice social distancing – the completely impractical advice that they must keep two metres apart.

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March 31st

BuzzFeed News has spoken to health experts in the UK and across Europe to find out why. 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 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. […]

The government has publicly insisted that herd immunity is not the UK’s policy. But the person familiar with Whitty and Vallance’s thinking said they believed it privately remains a long-term objective.

They said they thought the government would continue to prioritise increasing intensive care unit capacity to prevent the NHS from becoming overwhelmed, rather than widespread testing of the population, because they had accepted that a large percentage of the country will become infected in the next 12 to 18 months, before a vaccine is found. 2

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

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April 1st

The failure to obtain large amounts of testing equipment was another big error of judgment, according to the Downing Street source. It would later be one of the big scandals of the coronavirus crisis that the considerable capacity of Britain’s private laboratories to mass produce tests was not harnessed during those crucial weeks of February.

“We should have communicated with every commercial testing laboratory that might volunteer to become part of the government’s testing regime but that didn’t happen,” said the source.

The lack of action was confirmed by Doris-Ann Williams, chief executive of the British In Vitro Diagnostics Association, which represents 110 companies that make up most of the UK’s testing sector. Amazingly, she says her organisation did not receive a meaningful approach from the government asking for help until April 1 — the night before Hancock bowed to pressure and announced a belated and ambitious target of 100,000 tests a day by the end of this month.

The same delay happened with the procurement of PPE.

The NHS could have contacted UK-based suppliers. The British Healthcare Trades Association (BHTA) was ready to help supply PPE in February — and throughout March — but it was only on April 1 that its offer of help was accepted. Dr Simon Festing, the organisation’s chief executive, said: “Orders undoubtedly went overseas instead of to the NHS because of the missed opportunities in the procurement process.”

Also from today’s Sunday Times article: “Coronavirus: 38 days when Britain sleepwalked into disaster

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April 6th

The government has been accused of missing an opportunity after it failed to deploy 5,000 contact tracing experts employed by councils to help limit the spread of coronavirus.

Environmental health workers in local government 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. But a spokesperson for Public Health England (PHE), which leads on significant outbreaks, 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.

According to an article entitled “UK missed coronavirus contact tracing opportunity, experts say” written by Rachel Shabi, published in the Guardian.

The same piece continues:

The institute’s Northern Ireland director, Gary McFarlane, said government health bodies “absolutely should be drawing on the skills set of EHOs [environmental health officers] and if they aren’t, it’s a missed opportunity”. He said: “There is significant capacity that is sitting there for this kind of work to be done.”

PHE’s contact tracing response team was boosted to just under 300 staff, deemed adequate for the containment phase of handling the Covid-19 virus up to mid-March. In that time the team, working around the clock, traced 3,500 people and supported the 3% of contacts found to be infected to self-isolate. Tracing was scaled back when the UK moved to the delay phase of tackling coronavirus in mid-March. It is now carried out in limited form, mainly for vulnerable communities.

Rachel Shabi adds:

The government decision to all but abandon contact tracing is not consistent with WHO guidelines, which urge a test-and-trace approach. At a WHO media briefing on Covid-19 in March, director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “Tracing every contact must be the backbone of the response in every country.”

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April 19th

Speaking on Sky News’ Sophy Ridge, Michael Gove initially insisted a Sunday Times article detailing failures during this period had numerous inaccuracies and would be corrected. But in a subsequent interview on BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show, Gove conceded that Boris Johnson missed five consecutive emergency COBR meetings in the buildup to the coronavirus crisis, saying this was normal for a PM:

For the record: The composition of a ministerial-level meeting in COBR depends on the nature of the incident but it is usually chaired by the Prime Minister or another senior minister, with other key ministers as appropriate, city mayors and representatives of relevant external organisations such as the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the Local Government Association.

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1 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

2 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

Extract from Wikipedia entry as of April 19th. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cabinet_Office_Briefing_Rooms

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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

corona marginalia: white man’s burden

During a debate on French TV channel LCI, Camille Locht, head of research at Inserm health research group, was talking about a vaccine trial in Europe and Australia.

Jean-Paul Mira, head of intensive care at Cochin hospital in Paris, then said: “If I can be provocative, shouldn’t we be doing this study in Africa, where there are no masks, no treatments, no resuscitation?

“A bit like it is done elsewhere for some studies on Aids. In prostitutes, we try things because we know that they are highly exposed and that they do not protect themselves.”

Mr Locht nodded in agreement at this suggestion, and said: “You are right. We are in the process of thinking about a study in parallel in Africa.”

Click here to read the full BBC News report from April 6th.

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In the same BBC report we learn that:

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) has condemned as “racist” the comments by two French doctors who suggested a vaccine for the coronavirus could be tested in Africa.

“Africa can’t and won’t be a testing ground for any vaccine,” said Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. 1

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Meanwhile, in another completely unrelated story:

Former national security adviser John Bolton is joining mounting calls for the director of the World Health Organization to resign, calling him an “accomplice to China’s massive coverup” as the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has faced calls for his resignation from American politicians and others who link the group to China’s lack of transparency regarding the severity of COVID-19.

“The @WHO is an accomplice to China’s massive coverup of Covid19,” Bolton tweeted late Monday. “That’s why I support efforts by @marcorubio & @tedcruz pushing for resignation of WHO director general.”

He added: “He misled the world by blindly trusting a communist regime intent on deception.” 2

This is the same John Bolton who allegedly ‘put the squeeze on’ Jose Bustani, a former head of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), warning him “we know where your kids live”:

In early 2002, a year before the invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration was putting intense pressure on Bustani to quit as director-general of the OPCW — despite the fact that he had been unanimously re-elected to head the 145-nation body just two years earlier. His transgression? Negotiating with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to allow OPCW weapons inspectors to make unannounced visits to that country — thereby undermining Washington’s rationale for regime change.

In 2001, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell had penned a letter to Bustani, thanking him for his very impressive work. By March 2002, however, Bolton — then serving as under secretary of state for Arms Control and International Security Affairs — arrived in person at the OPCW headquarters in the Hague to issue a warning to the organization’s chief. And, according to Bustani, Bolton didn’t mince words. “Cheney wants you out,” Bustani recalled Bolton saying, referring to the then-vice president of the United States. “We can’t accept your management style.”

Bolton continued, according to Bustani’s recollections: “You have 24 hours to leave the organization, and if you don’t comply with this decision by Washington, we have ways to retaliate against you.”

There was a pause.

“We know where your kids live. You have two sons in New York.” 3

Click here to read the full article entitled “‘We know where your kids live’: how John Bolton once threatened an international official” published by The Intercept.

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1 From a report entitled “Coronavirus: Africa will not be testing ground for vaccine, says WHO” published by BBC News on April 6, 2020. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-52192184

2 From an article entitled “Bolton joins calls for WHO director’s resignation: ‘Accomplice to China’s massive coverup’” written by Brooke Singman & Tyler Olson, published in Fox News on April 7, 2020 https://www.foxnews.com/politics/bolton-joins-calls-for-who-directors-resignation-accomplice-to-chinas-massive-coverup

3 From an article entitled “‘We know where your kids live’: how John Bolton once threatened an international official” written by Mehdi Hasan, published in The Intercept on March 29, 2018. https://theintercept.com/2018/03/29/john-bolton-trump-bush-bustani-kids-opcw/  

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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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corona marginalia: “Operation Last Gasp”

It is ten days since the UK government took its first steps to tackle the shortage of NHS ventilators, when Boris Johnson, along with Michael Gove, “joined a conference call with more than 60 manufacturing businesses to rally them in a national effort to produce more equipment.”

Politico reported at that time that the government’s aim was to have the necessary ventilators “on stream” within two weeks. We also learned that Johnson had joked about how this request to build more life-saving ventilators might be remembered as “Operation Last Gasp.” 1

Yesterday another reason behind the government’s delay in the procurement of essential medical equipment was revealed by the Guardian, when it reported (initially at least):

Downing Street has declined to take part in an EU scheme to source life-saving ventilators to treat coronavirus because the UK is “no longer a member” and is “making our own efforts”.

Critics accused Boris Johnson of putting “Brexit over breathing” after No 10 said it did not need to participate in the EU effort to procure equipment to fight coronavirus.

The EU has said it is open to the UK taking part in the programme, which seeks to use its bulk-buying power to get new ventilators at the best price.

The UK has instead chosen to source ventilators from British manufacturers who have never made the products before, ordering 10,000 machines from the household appliance firm Dyson.

Asked why the UK was not taking part, the prime minister’s official spokesman said: “We are no longer members of the EU.” He also stressed that the UK was “making our own efforts” in this area. 2

However, this Guardian article was quickly reedited, and replaced with a different version that retains the same URL whilst providing (as of writing) no notification of any update.

According to the revised account, the government’s failure to cooperate with the EU scheme had never been a policy decision, but was simply “a mix-up” over an email and that the government “would consider participating in future”:

Downing Street has claimed it failed to take part in an EU scheme to source life-saving ventilators to treat coronavirus because it accidentally missed the deadline.

No 10 initially said it did not take part because the UK was “no longer a member” and was “making our own efforts”.

But after critics accused Boris Johnson of putting “Brexit over breathing”, a No 10 spokesman clarified that it had missed out because of an error and would consider participating in future. It is understood the UK claims not to have received an email from the EU asking it to participate.

The mix-up means the UK has missed out on benefiting from the collective buying power of the EU. The bloc is seeking to use its clout to source large numbers of ventilators and protective equipment.

A UK government spokesperson said: “Owing to an initial communication problem, the UK did not receive an invitation in time to join in four joint procurements in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“As the commission has confirmed, we are eligible to participate in joint procurements during the transition period, following our departure from the EU earlier this year.

“As those four initial procurement schemes had already gone out to tender, we were unable to take part in these, but we will consider participating in future procurement schemes on the basis of public health requirements at the time.” 3

Click here to read the revised Guardian article freshly titled “No 10 claims it missed deadline for EU ventilator scheme”.

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Update: Proof that the government lied

Shortly after posting this it came to my attention that Health Secretary Matt Hancock had already confessed to knowing about the EU ventilator scheme because he drew attention to it on last week’s BBC1 Question Time (March 19th). So it wasn’t “a mix-up” after all – that was just fake news:

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Further evidence has since come to light “that heap doubt on government claims of missing an email” in a subsequent Guardian article published on March 30th:

EU minutes seen by the Guardian show that a British official joined eight out of 12 EU health security committee meetings dedicated to the Covid-19 outbreak since the group was set up earlier this year, shortly before China’s Hubei province was put into lockdown.

At least four of those meetings discussed EU procurement schemes on: 31 January, 4 February, 2 March and 13 March.

While the government marked Brexit day on 31 January, a British representative joined EU member states and commission officials to discuss what was then called “the cluster of pneumonia cases associated with novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China”.

At this meeting, four EU member states said the virus could require increased stocks in Europe of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, masks and goggles, and the commission said it was ready to help if asked.

The EU executive stated it was ready to help countries bulk-buy medical equipment on 4 February. By 2 March, officials at the commission’s health department reported that 20 EU countries wanted to join a procurement scheme for personal protective equipment, such as overalls, gloves and face-shields. Later that month, on 13 March, EU officials discussed the combined purchase of ventilators.

Peter Liese, a German MEP and medical doctor who sits on the European parliament’s public health committee, said there had also been telephone calls between British and EU officials about the EU procurement scheme. “I know that they [British officials] were at a working level interested in joint procurement,” he told the Guardian.

The veteran German MEP dismissed UK government claims they missed an email. “It was not that they were not aware, but it was a decision not to participate,” he said. “If you are interested you don’t wait for an email.”

Click here to read the full Guardian article entitled “UK discussed joint EU plan to buy Covid-19 medical supplies, say officials” written by Jennifer Rankin, published on March 30th.

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1 From an article entitled “POLITICO London Playbook: The age of corona – Rishi leads the fightback – Commons rule change” written by Jack Blanchard, published in Politico on March 17, 2020. https://www.politico.eu/newsletter/london-playbook/politico-london-playbook-the-age-of-corona-rishi-leads-the-fightback-commons-rule-change/

2 From an article entitled “No 10 accused of putting ‘Brexit over breathing’ in Covid-19 ventilator row” written by Rowena Mason and Lisa O’Carroll, published in the Guardian on March 26, 2020 (10:31 EDT) https://web.archive.org/web/20200326170654/https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/26/no-10-boris-johnson-accused-of-putting-brexit-over-breathing-in-covid-19-ventilator-row

3 From an article entitled “No 10 claims it missed deadline for EU ventilator scheme” written by Rowena Mason and Lisa O’Carroll, published in the Guardian on March 26, 2020 (18.25 GMT) https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/26/no-10-boris-johnson-accused-of-putting-brexit-over-breathing-in-covid-19-ventilator-row

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