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Hier — 8 avril 2020American Herald Tribune

Anti-China Hysteria Is Ultimately Not About Covid-19, Racism or Communism, But Power

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In a recent article falsely titled “The U.S.-China propaganda war is on hold, but not for long“, The Washington Post‘s Josh Rogin made a very interesting admission.

“The United States is now in dire need of medical supplies, many of which are coming from China,” Rogin said. “If China’s leaders are willing to stop telling lies about us, we can pause pointing out the most embarrassing truths about them.”

Wait, sorry, “us”? “We”?

Rogin wasn’t quoting any US officials. He was referring, in the first person plural, to the US government, because he apparently sees himself as a part of it. He sees himself and others like him as an extension of the US government’s narrative control campaign, the branch that is responsible for distributing “truths” in America’s propaganda war to counter China’s “lies”. He sees himself as a state propagandist.

Which, of course, he is. The devoutly neoconservative Rogin consistently advances hawkish narratives against nations which have resisted absorption into the blob of the US-centralized empire, and he is showing no hesitation in running point on the new escalations in the narrative control campaign against China. This is because the USA and China have been on a collision course toward aggressive confrontation for a long time now, and the narrative managers need to manufacture consent for that horrific eventuality.

Passage‘s David Mastracci has a very worthwhile new article out titled “Don’t Blame China For Your Government’s COVID-19 Failures“, exposing what Rogin calls “embarrassing truths” about China’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic for the distorted spin jobs that they are and highlighting the fact that the difficulties Americans are currently facing is due to their own governments failures, not China’s.

“Those who aren’t in power, such as rightwing journalists, realize their neoliberal ideology is unequipped to deal with the pandemic, and therefore is under attack,” Mastracci writes. “They won’t abandon their views, so they have to shift blame to an outside country with an ideology that is different in the right way. Attacking China clearly serves this purpose, and offers a chance for anti-communism, which, as Parenti notes, people have been primed to hate for more than a century.”

This is much closer to the truth than anything you’ll read in any mass media publication. This virus is brutally highlighting all the insanity of the neoliberal status quo upon which the US empire is built, and that status quo is indeed premised upon shutting down all leftward political movement which could potentially inconvenience plutocrats and war profiteers. Much of what we’re hearing from leading Republican and Democratic Party pundits these days can be accurately translated as a wailing temper tantrum about their entire worldview crashing to an embarrassing faceplant in front of the whole world.

But even that doesn’t really cover it.

If you ask a leftist what the west’s sudden uptick in anti-China hysteria is about, they might say racism, xenophobia, and/or anti-communism. If you ask a rightist, they might tell you it’s because China lied about the virus, or because of communism, or because of China’s economic relationship with the US, or because it’s a backwards culture of people who eat different animals from us. If you ask someone who occupies the mainstream so-called “center”, they might tell you that it’s because of humanitarian concerns about China’s oppressive government, along with racism or some mixture of the aforementioned claims.

Ultimately though, it’s not about any of those things. While racism, xenophobia, anti-communism, free trade deals, authoritarianism and the virus are all real concerns which play a real role in the propaganda campaign, it’s not ultimately about any of them. Ultimately, like so much else, this is about power.

There can only be one top dog in a unipolar world. After the fall of the Soviet Union the prevailing philosophy slowly coalesced among US policymakers that the world’s only remaining superpower needed to remain that way at any cost in order to preserve the so-called liberal world order. This philosophy rose to dominance when the neoconservatives took over the Executive Branch during the George W Bush administration, and from there their ideas simply became the mainstream orthodoxy. Now the “unipolarity at any cost” ideology of neoconservatism is so pervasive that when you see someone like Tulsi Gabbard basically just advocating for pre-9/11 US foreign policy, you see them demonized as though they supported child cannibalism.

Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “China is a sleeping giant. Let her sleep, for when she wakes she will shake the world.” Preventing the rise of China (and its loose network of other unabsorbed nations like Russia) has been a lasting agenda of the western world for generations, and the continuation of this agenda has set the world on a trajectory toward aggressive confrontation. The US has been surrounding China with military bases, many of them nuclear-armed, in preparation for a confrontation that it sees as ultimately inevitable, since China has no interest in being absorbed into the US power alliance and the US has no interest in allowing China to surpass it as a superpower.

What this means for us ordinary people is that we have found ourselves smashed between steadily increasing escalations between two nuclear-armed nations and their nuclear-armed allies hurtling toward a confrontation which benefits none of us in the slightest, while propagandists spoon feed us narratives about why this is something we should eventually support.

It doesn’t have to be this way. China doesn’t have to be the “sleeping giant” that we all fear. We don’t have to live in a world where nuclear-armed governments duel for planetary domination without our consent or permission and roll the dice on nuclear armageddon with greater and greater frequency each passing day. We don’t have to live in a world where the emergence of a new disease which kills human beings is seen as a tool to be exploited in a propaganda war instead of a problem to be solved together. We could all just get along and work together to create a better world for each other and for our ecosystem.

People will say this is unrealistic and unreasonable, but unrealistic and unreasonable as opposed to what? A few idiots waving armageddon weapons at each other because the other guys are standing on the wrong segment of dirt? A bunch of sociopaths pushing for the advancement of an omnicidal, ecocidal paradigm in service of an imaginary monetary system? Sounds like they’re the unreasonable and unrealistic ones to me.

Napoleon Bonaparte said China is a sleeping giant, but I know a bigger one. It’s all of us ordinary people who are sick of being crushed, exploited and imperiled by a few psychos who only care about power. All of us around the world, regardless of what dirt we stand on or what color our skin is or what political party they tell us we belong to. When we awaken, baby, that’s when the earth will shake.

___________________________

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Julian Assange and Lockdown Injustice

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Scribes of the Julian Assange case must surely gawk with a sense of horrified wonder at each proceeding unfolding at the Westminster Magistrates’ Court in LondonAssange is in a battle that can only be described as titanic, seeking to avoid the clutches of the US Justice Department, not to mention its legal system, and convince District Judge Vanessa Baraitser about the merits of that argument.  The gigantic canvass confronting all participants in this squalid tale of vexation and oppression is the nature of journalism itself, and the central point of sharing confidential state information that sheds light on impropriety, atrocity and corruption.

That canvas, however, eludes the judge.  Baraitser has insisted through the entire process, including the four days of extradition hearings now passed, that Assange deserves to remain caged and monitored.  The farcical show of hobbled justice must go on, including the risk posed to his frail being by the coronavirus.

On Tuesday, April 7, during the course of yet another court duel, Assange’s legal team attempted to convince the judge to grant legal anonymity to the WikiLeaks publisher’s partner.  As with so many efforts, it ended in heroic failure, which could only be put down to a judge who does her work in a hermetic chamber mute to the world.

The line taken by the defence was bog standard.  Both Mark Summers QC and Edward Fitzgerald QC insisted that the identity of Assange’s partner continue to be suppressed. This would also protect the privacy of her two young children yet to attend school.  Then came that unsettling issue of US officials having attempted to take a DNA sample from one of the children’s nappies. Surely, their safety would be compromised.  

The defence lawyers had not noticed a change in Baraister’s mood, whose hostility against fair proceedings in this matter is becoming legend.  There was a strong public interest, she found, in having contemporaneous reporting of extradition hearings.  She had become a transparency advocate.  Nor need Assange and his team have any worry at all about malicious intent on the part of the United States and its emissaries to his family.  “There is no evidence before court that any US agency intends harm to Assange’s partner.”  Along with this astonishing assessment resistant to history, Baraitser took to the grounds of pedestrian normality, holding firm to the idea that this entire extradition case is business as usual.  “The evidence provided by the witness is the sort routinely provided by a witness in application bail.  In my judgement, the balance falls in favour of open justice.”

The issue of furnishing Assange with adequate legal representation also remained a bone of contention.  As he has done so often before, Fitzgerald rallied and put the case for a delay of May’s proceedings that remain singularly unmoved before world events.  “This is not a case where second best will do, where we try to muddle through – it is a case where we are entitled to have his instructions.”

A delay till September was suggested, though even that might be looking optimistic.  “We say the only way he could have a fair hearing is to be present in court, and to see the witnesses.”  Globally, events have been cancelled and postponed with regularity in response to COVID-19; engagements, facilities and institutions are being put into hibernation.  “It is an exceptional situation we find ourselves in,” urged Fitzgerald.  “We cannot do justice to Mr Assange if the case goes ahead in May.”  Not in Baraitser’s court, where muddled existence remains unchanging despite the court itself being thinly occupied.  

In what can only be regarded as a reasonable point, the defence linked the poor access and means of putting their client’s case before the court with the coronavirus lockdown. “We have not been able to have any reasonable communications with him at present,” explained Fitzgerald despairingly.  “We can’t have access to him physically, can’t have any realistic access by video, and sending in correspondence involves long delays and – in some cases – he does not get it.”  The lockdown conditions meant that the defence team had not been able to take instructions.  Assange had been deprived of legal access, and the opportunity to see friends, family and his therapist.

Going ahead with the case during the lockdown, argued the defence, would also violate the spirit of open justice.  Journalists could not be present in number.  The public would be effectively excluded. Keeping a court process open, something which chimes with the spirit of WikiLeaks’ own publication agenda, is not a trivial matter.  Many in the common law legal system wax lyrical about it.  Emma Cunliffe supplies a useful formulation: “Accessibility of information about courts and their activities is a necessary correlate to the principle that it should be possible to know the law, and helps safeguard the principle that citizens should be equally subject to law.”  

This did not concern the judge, whose reading of the equal-before-law idea has been generously tilted in favour of the prosecutionShe saw little problem revealing the identity of Assange’s partner to the glare of public and prosecutorial scrutiny in the name of open justice, but proved very much against the argument favouring postponement.  The case should be heard as a matter of haste, she insisted with reasoning most skewed, and Fitzgerald and the legal team need not be too worried: the second part of the extradition hearings were still five weeks away.  In this Baraitser showed the sort of confidence that’s very Trump-like: we shall all be open for business by Easter, or at any rate soon after.  Keep your barrister wigs and gowns handy, boys and girls; no postponement will be countenanced.  

Fitzgerald was quick to remind the judicial head of the sheer improbability of this, and any cavalier assessments of how brief the state of emergency would be.  “We know the Prime Minister had predicted that the lockdown might continue as much as 12 weeks.  That will take us well beyond the start of the hearing, and any time we could reasonably prepare for a full hearing.”  

But the judge had been bitten by a sense of urgency, even having the temerity to feel she was doing the publisher a favour.  “It is my current contention to hear as much of this case as possible in May. Mr Assange is in custody, there is some urgency for this to be heard.”

The impediments to justice cited by the defence had failed to impress the bench, though not the prosecuting team led by James Lewis QC.  “We recognise,” admitted Lewis, “there are considerable difficulties for defence, and considerable practical difficulties.”  It was another instance of the judge disagreeing with both sidesFor Baraitser, the patent inadequacies offered by restricted video links were simply not patent at all; Assange and the witnesses would still be able to participate.  “If there is a need for a third and final hearing that can take place in July.  The reasoning of lockdown injustice, laid bare.

*(Top image credit: Guido van Nispen/ Flickr)

À partir d’avant-hierAmerican Herald Tribune

Israel Needs the Arab World to Be Ruled by Dictators

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In February, the chief of the Mossad, Israel’s global death squad, visited Doha, the capital of Qatar; Yossi Cohen was accompanied by Major General Herzi Halevi, the head of the Israeli army’s Southern Command. They went at the invitation of Emir Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani and met with national security advisor Mohammed Bin Ahmed Al-Masnad.

Their meetings were effectively indirect negotiations with the Gaza Strip’s ruling authorities, led by Hamas. The Israelis reportedly argued for the natural-gas-rich emirate to continue paying millions in aid to the besieged coastal enclave.

Even these indirect, limited negotiations with Hamas – the Islamic Resistance Movement whose armed wing opposes Israel’s military incursions – were treated as a minor scandal in Israel under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The visit to Qatar was revealed by his bitter rival, the former minister (and anti-Arab psychopath) Avigdor Lieberman, who told the media about it in order to embarrass the Prime Minister in the most recent round of the apparently interminable cycle of General Elections in Israel.

Unfortunately, this contact between Qatar and Israel has a precedent. The government in Doha has actually ramped up its ties with Israel over the past few years.

At the cost of millions of dollars, the Qatar lobby in Washington has been trying to buy support for its policies, or at least an easing of US support for Saudi Arabia in the context of the Saudi-Qatar diplomatic freeze and Saudi-led blockade of its smaller neighbor. In 2018, as part of its efforts to win favor with the US administration, Qatar went on an unprecedented pro-Israel charm offensive, flying prominent conservative and pro-Israel figures into the emirate for privileged access to the Emir and other top government figures.

These visitors included “Israel’s lawyer” Alan Dershowitz and even Morton Klein, of the far-right Zionist Organisation of America. Dershowitz in particular came back from Doha miraculously singing Qatar’s praises: “Qatar is quickly becoming the Israel of the Gulf states, surrounded by enemies, subject to boycotts and unrealistic demands, and struggling for its survival.”

The Emir’s charm offensive included a donation of $100,000 to the ZOA. That was probably small change for Qatar, but it is a huge amount to the rest of us.

Qatar’s multi-million-dollar schmoozing of the US pro-Israel lobby, however, is dwarfed by those of the other Gulf Arab states. The hereditary tyrants who rule these countries – aka kings and emirs – have been in increasingly open alliance with Israel for the past decade.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in particular have over the past few years ramped up their links with Israel, establishing ever more open relations with the Zionist state, despite having no formal diplomatic relations. These three states have made common cause with Israel over their mutual hatred of Iran.

Israeli propagandists and their pro-Israel colleagues in countries around the world are currently making hay while this particular sun shines. With every new link between a dictatorial Arab state they establish, they declare a new “first”; the first Israeli cycling team to compete in an Arab country (the UAE), for example.

“We hope to make a diplomatic statement that Israel is a normal country, and normalize our image,” said Canadian-Israeli real estate tycoon and “self-appointed ambassador-at-large for Israel” Sylvan Adams while he was in the Emirates. Adams was responsible for paying American singer Madonna’s million-dollar fee for performing at the Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv last year.

However, the narrative of these Israeli “firsts” simply isn’t true. As the Palestinian academic and intellectual Joseph Massad wrote recently, the image of the Arab regimes’ resistance to Israel has, by and large, always been false.

Current developments in relations between Israel and Gulf states are “presented as some major change of heart on the part of Arab regimes, which had apparently always shunned relations with Israel in the interest of defending the Palestinians,” wrote Massad. “This was always a fiction. Most of the 20th century’s Arab leaders and ruling families maintained cordial relations with Israel and, before it, the Zionist movement.” His article is worth reading in full, as it details the long history of coordination between Israel and undemocratic Arab states, including Jordan, Sudan, Morocco, fascist Maronite leaders in Lebanon, Tunisia and, of course, Egypt.

In many ways, Israel is a natural fit for these regimes, for it is most definitely not a benign democracy for the millions of Palestinians whose fate it controls and who are forced to live under its military dictatorship in the West Bank; under its siege and repeated military offensives in Gaza; and under its racist apartheid regime within Israel itself. It also imposes a military occupation and annexation on Syrians living in the occupied Golan Heights.

Israel’s focus on its relations with these military rulers, kings and petty dictators can never make up for the fact that the Zionist state and its unjust, racist regime has always been, and always will be, rejected by the ordinary people across the region. That is why it is in Israel’s interest to preserve dictatorships in these countries, since democratic governments in the Arab lands would reject normalization with the Israeli enemy and bring about an end to such ties.

*(Top image: President Reuven Rivlin, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and the head of Mossad, Yossi Cohen., 25 December 2016. Credit: Kobi Gideon / GPO)

*This article was originally published on the Middle East Monitor.

Can Racism not Beget Racism? 

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Paul Craig Roberts, a former official in the Ronald Reagan government, has his own popular website and his articles are frequently published at the progressive Information Clearing House. I like much of what Paul Craig Roberts has to say, but liking some of the positions staked out by a person does not necessitate that a person agree with all that another person states. One can accept what seems reasonable, logical, and moral and reject that which is illogical or immoral. This is a sine qua non of a critical and morally centered thinker.

Sometimes the sources and positions recommended by someone, even high-profile personalities, call for a public rebuke. This is the case with the email sent out by today (5 April 2020) that Roberts captioned: “The Criminal Anti-Swede Government of Sweden Brought the Joys of Diversity to the Swedish People.” 

A URL takes us from Roberts’ site to the site of the Gatestone Institute. The title of the article is “F***ing Swede” by Judith Bergman. An overview of the writings by Bergman reveals her to be far-Right and anti-the Other.

In her article, she writes of a new type of crime in Sweden: förnedringsrån, which combines the Swedish words for “humiliation” and “robbery.” It speaks to an outbreak of name-calling, forcing victims to strip, urinating on victims, forcing victims to kiss the feet of their tormentors, etc: in one word, humiliation. And a large chunk of the förnedringsrån, according to Bergman, is committed by non-Swedes. To support this, Bergman cites a 2017 report by the Swedish media network Expressen on the 49 criminal networks in Sweden’s capital, Stockholm.

The report showed the networks consisted of between 500 and 700 gang members: 40.6% of the gang members that Expressen surveyed were foreign-born; 82.2% had two parents who were foreign-born. Their main country of origin was Iraq, followed by Bosnia, Lebanon, Somalia, Syria and Turkey.

Bergman also cites a 2007 book — Exit Folkhemssverige (Exit the Swedish Welfare State) — by four academics (Ingrid Björkman, Jan Elfverson, Jonathan Friedman, and Åke Wedin) who wrote:

80 – 90% of robbers have an immigrant background. The majority are 15 – 17 years…The victims are Swedish children and young people, primarily ‘Swedish guys from rich men’s schools’, as one robber put it…. The robberies usually follow a certain pattern: A group of immigrant boys approach a selected victim and convey a clear threat with their actions. A common scenario is that one of the robbers holds a knife pressed against the victim, while the others rob him of mobile phone, bank card, money. The victim… is frightened and dare not [do anything] but give up the requested items… If he doesn’t give up, he’ll be beaten, often very brutally. Humiliation of the victim is not infrequently included in the picture. If it is a boy, it is about breaking his self-esteem. He is forced to cry, give up his shoes, even undress naked, kneel and plead for his life, etc. For the girl victims, sexual humiliation applies. They get their clothes ripped off, the robbers grab them and call them “whores”.

Unequivocally, the criminal acts described in Bergman’s article are heinous and must be condemned. However, also heinous is the attempt by Bergman and, seemingly, Paul Craig Roberts to scapegoat people of other ethicities for crimes without any consideration for why people of these ethnicities came to be found in Sweden, and without asking why they committed these inexcusable crimes.

Do crimes occur in a vacuum? Should one not try and understand the etiology of the crimes? If one understands the causes, then it is theoretically possible to deal with the causes so as to elimniate the precipitating factors of the crimes. 

All the countries cited in the Expressen report (Iraq, Bosnia, Lebanon, Somalia, Syria, and Turkey) are coutries where western nations have militarily inserted themselves. Let’s leave Turkey out of this for the moment because it is a NATO member and a host of western military. [1] Sweden has been militarily involved in all these aforementioned countries, as well as in other countries. Restricting ourselves to just the 21st century, Sweden has been militarily involved in the debellation of Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria.

When a country becomes militarily involved in a country that is not attacking it, especially when the casus belli that is demonstrably illegal, how should citizens of the attacked country regard the attacking nation? Illegal or not, it is morally questionable whatever reasons are proffered to explain such militarism. [2] Thus when violence causes an efflux of refugees that seek asylum in the attacking country, how should the refugees feel about being in a country that contributed to creating the fear-evoking conditions that led them to leave their homeland? 

Nonetheless, whatever the antecedents are, this does not excuse or exculpate the alleged actions of the miscreants detailed in the Bergman article. But it provides an illucidation. If Swedes are participating foreign adverturism, what might that indicate about racist attitudes held by some Swedes?

Leila Ali Elmi is a Somali-born, raised in Sweden, hijab-wearing Swedish MP who has pointed to a structural racism embedded in Swedish society. Elmi is engaged in fighting rising support for the far right.

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*(Leila Ali Elmi. Credit: Fredrik Hjerling/ Miljöpartiet de gröna/ Flickr) 

Returning to Bergman’s article: before emailing an article to one’s email list, doesn’t it behoove the emailer to ascertain the media source of the article?

A brief sampling of fare at Gatestone Institute led me to conclude that it is a right-wing, anti-China, Islamophobic website. Even Wikipedia states: “Gatestone Institute is a far-right think tank known for publishing anti-Muslim articles.” Researching a little deeper revealed that the notorious warmonger John Bolton was Gatestone Institute’s chairman from 2013 to March 2018. Wikipedia adds, “The [Gatestone Institute] organization has attracted attention for publishing false articles and being a source of viral falsehoods.” 

It seems extreme caution is warranted for information emanating from Gatestone Institute. 

Open-minded skepticism guards us from too readily accepting the word of whoever or whatever [3] the source is. We all have the capacity for fallibility. Whenever one advocates a perspective or takes a position that upon further reflection strikes one as incorrect, then right-minded thinking demands that one adjust one’s perspective or shift one’s position accordingly.

If racism is to be understood and combatted, it must not be analyzed in isolation. Racism must be considered not just from the perspective of the victim but also of the perpetrator. After all, it may well be that it was the racism of the victim that filliped the racism of the perpetrator. Racism may often be a vicious, self-perpetuating victim-cum-perpetrator circle. 

Pointing fingers at an ethnicity is myopic and strongly suggests an unrecognized, latent if not overt racist tendency. Therefore, an all-encompassing lens is need to understand and defeat the scourge of racism.

We must deplore acts borne of racism, deplore the milieu that gives rise to racism, and deplore the very mindset of racism. Racism must be unambiguously held to be anathema.

After all, we are all human beings.

ENDNOTES 

  1. But the fact that the average Turkish person is recognizably different that the prototypical blonde-haired, blue-eyed Swede makes for easy identification as the Other.  
  2. E.g., the Swedish Communist media, Proletären, said Sweden played a “dirty role” in Syria.
  3. And behind every what is always at least one who.

*(Top image: Silent counter-demonstration in Stockholm, against “Alternativ för Sverige” (Alternative for Sweden). Credit: Jonatan Svensson Glad/ Flickr)

Coronavirus - Don't Forget the Most Vulnerable, esp. Palestine and Kashmir

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Much of the world is, understandably, focused on coronavirus, and all its repercussions. The nations where COVID-19 is spreading; social distancing, and its impact on the mental health and well-being of individuals; availability of personal protective devices for medical personnel and masks for everyone are current topics of thought and conversation. And amid all this, one is further distracted by the ravings of the lunatic U.S. president and his many contradictory and unreasonable statements about the disease.

But while the pandemic is getting just about all the world’s publicity, the brutal oppression of vulnerable populations continues; this is in addition to that of the Iranians and the Venezuelans by the U.S., oppression that gets some limited attention. But we are hearing nothing about Palestine and Kashmir, two of the most brutally repressed and cruelly treated peoples in the world.

This writer will attempt to remedy that deficit.

Palestine

In Palestine, things have only gotten worse for the people at the hands of their savage Israeli occupiers. For example, on March 26, Israeli government terrorists stole tents that were to be part of an emergency medical clinic in the West Bank. They ignored a warning from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) that the health-care system in Palestine, severely limited because of Israel’s restrictions on imports, is woefully ill-equipped to handle the coronavirus crisis. Israel has access to the most modern medical technology available, and its theft of these tents was merely another in a long, long list of activities to deprive the Palestinians of their basic human rights.

Additionally, in the past week, IDF soldiers (read: Israeli terrorists) conducted a middle-of-the-night raid in Ramallah, and continued demolishing Palestinian homes throughout the West Bank. They broke into and robbed the home of Fadi Hidmi, the Palestinian minister in charge of affairs of East Jerusalem.

Palestinian workers in Israel who are even suspected of having coronavirus, who are in Israel, are dumped like garbage on the Palestinian side of checkpoints, which in themselves are illegal. They are offered no compassion, let alone any medical assistance.

The total blockade of the Gaza Strip – by air, land, and sea – continues unabated, despite the need for the people there to be prepared for an outbreak of coronavirus.

So within Palestine, the brutality continues, and the world remains silent.

Kashmir

t was in August of 2019 that India, which has ‘administered’ Kashmir for decades, abrogated Article 370, which granted Kashmir some limited autonomy. In conjunction with this decision, 40,000 additional Indian troops were sent into the country. Prior to that addition of those troops, there was approximately 1 Indian ‘security officer’ for every 30 Kashmiris. Few nations on the planet have ever experienced this level of military occupation. Since August, the country has been closed to foreign visitors, including journalists and diplomats. All social media was banned, preventing Kashmiris inside the country from having any contact with anxious and worried friends and relatives outside their borders.

In November, 's consul general in New York, Sandeep Chakravorty, proposed following the Israeli model to colonize Kashmir. Said he: "I don't know why we don't follow it. It has happened in the Middle East. If the Israeli people can do it, we can also do it.” The issuing by India of the new domicile law paves the way for the Israeli-model to proceed.

Let us consider for a moment a few salient facts that seem to escape the news media:

  • The people of Palestine and Kashmir are as worried and as threatened by coronavirus as are the people in the United States, Canada, France, Argentina and yes, even Israel and India.
  • People suffering from coronavirus will have the same symptoms; the illness has the same lethal potential for Kashmiris and Palestinians as it does for everyone else.
  • Palestinian and Kashmiri people love their parents the same way that the people of every other nation do. They want to protect their elderly parents from the risk of a pandemic, the same as everyone else.
  • Kashmiri and Palestinian parents love their children the same as everyone else. They are desperately worried if they have a child with any kind of respiratory ailment and will do all in their power to protect that child from exposure to coronavirus. If that child or any other loved one is stricken with the illness, the people of Palestine and Kashmir want the best possible treatment for them. This, again, is no different from anyone else in the world.

If we can possibly establish in First World minds that the people whose oppression their governments are financing and otherwise supporting are no different from them, might there be some improvement in their conditions? How difficult would it be for the government of European countries, for example, to issue sanctions against Israel and India? Issuing sanctions can’t be too difficult to do: after all, the U.S. does it all the time!

Could not a resolution be introduced in the United Nations Security Council? Yes, the U.S., with no interest whatsoever in human rights and self-determination, would veto it, but it would certainly bring the topic of oppression to the forefront, and possibly even get it some media attention. And the U.N. General Assembly, not subject to a veto from anyone, could vote on it.

It is impossible to have this discussion without focusing on the United States, the global bully. Around the world, leaders have implored the erratic Trump to drop the sanctions against Iran and Venezuela so those nations can adequately deal with the pandemic within their borders. He has stated that he has no moral responsibility to do so.

World leaders have, at least minimally, condemned the occupation of Palestine and Kashmir. Not the U.S., however.

The U.S. has vetoed several Security Council resolutions condemning Israeli oppression of the Palestinians. Trump has done even worse, proposing a ‘solution’ to the decades-long oppression of the Palestinians that gives Israel everything it wants, and Palestine nothing that it needs. It is no surprise that this ‘deal’ was crafted by his son-in-law and advisor, Jared Kushner, who has substantial real estate holdings in the illegally occupied West Bank.

Regarding the situation in Kashmir, the U.S. has recommended ‘direct dialogue’ between Kashmir and India, perhaps hoping for the same ‘success’ that such ‘dialogue’ between Palestine and Israel has had: continual and ongoing victory for Indian goals at the complete expense of the human rights of the Kashmiri people.

Yes, coronavirus is having a worldwide impact that will be felt for a long time to come. But it isn’t the only unfolding disaster on the planet, despite what corporate-owned media outlets may want us all to believe. They will simply parrot what the government says, showing astonishment at the more ridiculous statements that emanate from the White House, but generally avoiding the less ‘fashionable’ topics such as shocking human rights violations.

In these times, and at all times, Palestine and Kashmir must not be forgotten.

The UN Security Council Shirks the Test for Coronavirus

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In the four months that have passed since the coronavirus outbreak began, it seems that just about everyone has had something to say about the situation—experts, regular folk, politicians, businesspeople, footballers, ice hockey players, the G7, the G20, the European Union and the African Union. So why, then, has the UN Security Council, the very body that supposedly bears the prime responsibility for maintaining peace and security in the world, remained stubbornly silent?

The official explanations—that the Security Council supposedly deals with security issues, while pandemics fall within the purview of the World Health Organization (WHO) — are rather unconvincing. Only a dedicated cynic (or a fool, perhaps) would ignore the obvious connection between the spread of the coronavirus and growing security threats around the world. As for the WHO, in the words of one of O. Henry's characters, "Sand is an unimportant substitute for oats!” With all due respect to the WHO, it is very much secondary to the Security Council in terms of its status, effectiveness and clout.

Anyone with a penchant for common law will note that there is precedent of the UN Security Council doing its part to counter the spread of dangerous diseases. Take Resolution 1308, for example, which was adopted 20 years ago to help fight the spread of HIV/AIDS. Or Resolution 2177 adopted in 2014 to fight the Ebola epidemic. In both cases, the consensus reached by the Security Council made it possible to mobilize previously inaccessible financial, administrative and political resources, set up targeted funds and public-private partnerships, incentivize global and regional banks, and provide the WHO and other relevant UN agencies with additional opportunities.

One gets the impression that the main reason behind the Security Council’s silence is the fierce information war that is taking place between Washington and Beijing.

According to the American side, any Security Council resolution on COVID-19 should be worded in such a way that the main blame for the outbreak is placed squarely on the shoulders of China and should also punish Beijing for trying to conceal the full scale of the problem from the international community. China, for its part, sees the spread of the virus as a side effect of Washington’s unilateralist policies, its proclivity to exert pressure on its partners to get what it wants and its national egotism.

It is worth mentioning here that China currently chairs the Security Council. This will make it more difficult for the Americans to get their way in terms of the language used in a resolution on the coronavirus. However, that does not mean that China's preferred wording will be any easier to adopt either. We should also add that the Security Council has been meeting via conference calls since mid-March, which inevitably makes its work less effective.

It would be fair to say that the inability of the Security Council to adopt a resolution on the coronavirus is symptomatic of a number of other problems within the agency. The pandemic has brought the now somewhat commonplace question of the limits of national sovereignty in today’s closely interconnected world to the forefront. Any meaningful international cooperation in the fight against coronavirus would require, at the very least, maximum transparency and completeness of information about the state of affairs in every single country, and most states are simply not prepared to be this open.

But this is not even half of the work that needs to be done. Far more importantly, the creation of a global front to fight the pandemic would effectively tie the hands of national governments in terms of what they can and cannot do.

And we are not talking here about issues that are difficult for the layperson to grasp fully, such as strategic arms control. Rather, we are talking about politically sensitive topics—the management of cross-border migration flows, the introduction of local and national quarantines, restrictions on the internal movement of the population, the use of unilateral sanctions and other restrictions on international trade, etc.

This is not the same as fighting Ebola in some remote African territory, where conflicts between national sovereignty and international cooperation are always resolved through cooperation. The problem is that supranational regulation could end up encroaching on one of the main symbols of state sovereignty—the basic standards of national health systems!

In this sense, the recent standoff between the United Kingdom and the European Union about how to tackle the pandemic is intriguing. Having left the European Union and fully restored British sovereignty, London has set about pursuing its own "national" strategy here too—an approach that included minimal social distancing and a refusal to close restaurants, bars and night clubs. This was done in the hope that elderly people would stay at home, while the rest of the country would catch the virus and thus develop an immunity to it. In the end, President of France Emmanuel Macron was forced to point out rather bluntly the real limits of British sovereignty to his pompous counterpart Boris Johnson. Having threatened to close the border between the United Kingdom and France (and between the United Kingdom and the European Union), Paris forced London to keep in step with other European countries.

The European Union had thus twisted the United Kingdom’s arm, forcing it to play by European rules. But who will twist Russia’s, or China’s, or the United States’ arm? And this is why the UN Security Council is keeping quiet, and it does not look like this will change any time soon.

Even if the Security Council does manage to come up with a resolution, it will probably be very general in nature and require nothing in particular from the great powers. It could use the non-binding final statement on the fight against coronavirus adopted at the recent virtual G20 summit as a template.

Whatever happens in this tug of war in the Security Council, the underlying conflict will remain. Either humanity will find the strength and determination to move to a new level of governance by relinquishing a part of the national sovereignty of states, or new pandemics (particularly climate change, international terrorism, uncontrolled migration and artificial intelligence gone bad) will, in the most archaic of manners, force us to pay an increasingly higher price for the priority we give to national sovereignty and the loyalty we show to political particularism.

*(Top image: UN Security Council Session on Middle East Peace and Security. Credit: Ron Przysucha/ Public Domain)

First published in Russia in Global Affairs.

US Leads Global Wave of Nations Stealing, Seizing and Diverting Coronavirus Equipment

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There were dramatic scenes at an airport in Shanghai, China, as U.S. agents hijacked a plane full of lifesaving equipment, including 60 million masks, bound for coronavirus-stricken France. While the plane was on the tarmac, American agents managed to bribe locals into diverting the plane to the United States, plying them with cash.

The story was revealed by the president of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (PACA) region, Renaud Muselier, who noted that he had already paid in full for the cargo. “The Americans pay double – in cash – before they even see the goods!” he told French newspaper Libération, worrying now that his country is engaged in “a race against the clock” to secure and distribute masks amid the pandemic. PACA is situated in the southeast of France, bordering Italy. The first case in PACA was confirmed on February 28 in the famous seaside resort town of Cannes; a young woman traveling back from Milan – an epicenter of the virus – was infected. Muselier’s story was backed up by Jean Rottner, President of the Grand Est region. “On the tarmac, they arrive, get the cash out… so we really have to fight,” he said.

This appears not to be an isolated incident. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau revealed that he had received similar reports of goods being seized and taken to the United States. “We need to make sure that equipment that is destined for Canada gets to and stays in Canada, and I’ve asked ministers to follow up on these particular reports,” he said yesterday. Brazil, one of the U.S.’ most loyal allies, also broke with convention to criticize the Trump administration’s pandemic gangsterism. “Today the US sent 23 of their biggest cargo planes to China to pick up the material they had acquired. Many of our purchases, which we had hoped to confirm in order to supply [our country], fell through,” saidthe country’s health minister, Luiz Herique Mandetta. “The whole world wants [supplies] too. There is a problem of hyper-demand.”

France has been hit hard by the coronavirus; 59,929 people have officially tested positive, but 5,398 have died already, the nine percent death rate suggesting that the country has not tested enough of its citizens. Both local and national governments have been criticized for their slow response to the pandemic, failing to shut down public events like markets. The famous Paris-Nice bicycle race, which finishes in PACA, was one of the last professional sporting events still running in Europe. Today the French service sector officially plunged into the deepest recession in its history. With tourism and transport halted, the government is using the high-speed TGV train service to ferry patients around the country at up to 357 mph to hospitals with free beds.

If the initial French response lacked zeal, the U.S. was even slower. President Trump spent weeks claiming the virus was a liberal “hoax” intended to dent his credibility, then downplaying the seriousness of the problem, before changing tack and blaming China for the thousands of dead. This week he declared that if 200,000 Americans die, that would be a great victory for his administration. Over 6,000 have already died, with the tally of confirmed cases almost certain to rise above a quarter-million today. The Trump administration has used the virus to impose further sanctions on Iran and Venezuela, in an attempt to overthrow their governments. It also tried to compel a German pharmaceutical corporation to move production to the U.S., in order to make sure that America alone had access to and control of any coronavirus vaccine it might produce. He reportedly wished to ensure that it would only be available on a for-profit basis. “Germany is not for sale,” the country’s furious economy minister replied. The U.S. also managed to fly out half a million test kits on a military plane from Lombardy, Italy, the epicenter of the Italian outbreak.

Other countries, too, have made highly questionable decisions. Czech authorities seized Chinese medical supplies bound for Italy when a plane refueled there, the country keeping the equipment for itself. Meanwhile, Turkey has not only banned the export of protective gear but is also reportedly reneging on shipments that other countries have already paid for.

The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic appears to be bringing out both the best and worst in human nature. With these latest U.S. moves, seizing and diverting lifesaving equipment from other countries, it seems there has also been a serious outbreak in gangster capitalism.

*This article was originally published on MintPressNews.

Who Are You to Call Me a Virus?  

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So the actor Alec Baldwin thinks Trump is a virus. An interesting idea, the virus as a metaphorSome would say the US itself is a virus, taking millions of lives in its endless wars. Yet others would say we, homo sapiens, are the virusImagine how we must look from a million miles awaySquiggling organisms hanging on to a clod of earth as it whirls through space

Corona is only doing what viruses do. They latch on to living bodies, and die or mutate into different forms when the host can no longer sustain them, which is the state the host of the organism known as homo sapiens, Planet Earth, seems to be rapidly approachingWe adapt to changing circumstances, as all viruses do,  but are we are reaching the point when it will be too late to adapt?   

Like any virus, we are consuming our host, and never more greedily than in the past 100 years.We are being warned all the time that when the planet is ecologically dead, we will die too We know this but, riddled with another virus, consumerism, we cannot stop ourselvesWe take what we can while we can, just like the viral microdots colonizing our bodies as we once colonized Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. Those affected died in their millions. We in thedeveloped worldlived off their poverty and plundered resourcesNow it is our bodies being plundered by an enemy we cannot even see

We are already being told there will be no return to the normal.  Of course, there is no static normal any more than there is a statichuman nature.’  ‘Normal’ andhuman nature depend on geography education, cultural conditioning, socio-economic structures and natural or man-made disasters such as war and earthquakes. Both change as circumstances change.  Additionally, what is normal in one society is not necessarily regarded as normal somewhere else. ‘Normal’ is what we perceive as being normal, what we are taught to believe is normal but that changes, tooWho in the 19th century could have believed that governments around the world would pass legislation allowing men to marry each other?

Our greedy leaching of the planet’s resources may be hastening the frequency and increasing the scale of natural disastersAfter all, how much battering can any fixed object takeHit a rock often enough and hard enough and it will break.  So will ironWhile earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis have been recorded throughout history, sinkholes appear to be relatively newThey certainly weren’t in the news three or four decades agoCould they be a sign that the tormented earth’s crust just can’t take it anymore?

Accelerating consumption requires accelerating industrialization to meet demand. We in the so-called ‘developed world’ know that even if we can drink clean water and breathe relatively fresh air, countless millions elsewhere don’t have either. They live in Africa or they work in the factories of China and Southeast Asia that produce the goods enabling us to lead the good life. Their cheap labor subsidizes the way we live. Their air, rivers, and seas are heavily polluted because of the absence of effective environmental safeguards in their world. This is not accidental or coincidental but the inevitable consequence of economic ‘globalization.’

When the normal gives way to the new normal, what will we learn, something or nothing? The fallout is bound to be substantial. The virus has again exposed the corrupt underpinnings of capitalism This has happened many times before but we still don’t learn the lessonCapitalism commodifies everythingMuch of what used to have a moral value now has only a market valueEducation is still regarded as a right and a necessity, as it certainly is for a corporate sector needing workers and consumers, but the quality frequently depends on money.  As for health care, in most ‘liberal democraciesthe citizen only gets as much as he or she can afford Public health in the US is frequently provided in hospitals starved of staff and resourcesThis is the same population the capitalist order wants to work and consume endlessly but is not prepared to pay for health services to make sure it can do both.  

Globalization appeared as the latest evidence of the adaptability of the capitalist order. It was based on thederegulation’ of economies, which added up to the clearing away of all global obstacles in the way of corporate profitsNational borders were turned into lines on the map and governments into the regional satraps of corporations, which would make their offers and go somewhere else if their terms were not accepted As they had the money, they had the power.  

Societies were turned against each in the interests of profit. With tariff barriers dropped, the corporations closed their factories and headed for countries where labor was cheap and the workforce controlled by anti-strike legislation and the competition for jobs. In these countries, they could produce goods at a fraction of the production costs in their home countries. They could then export their goods back to the home country and sell them as if they had been made there.

This is not just what governments allowed but encouraged. They opened the door to the flight of manufacturing industryIn cities across the US, Britain, Australia, wherever one looked, once-thriving factories were abandoned and the people who worked in them left without jobs and possessed of skills employable only in other factories that had been closed downThe privatization of essential government services swung into effect at the same time. Given that no risk was involved in the supply of water, gas and electricity, this was no more than the transfer of vast amounts of public money into private pockets Social services built up with public money over more than a century disappeared almost overnightThe fine old buildings from which these services were provided were sold off for corporate use

These shifts were harnessed to the destruction of labor unions and the notion of ‘enterprise bargainingwhich left the individual worker in search or a higher salary or better working conditions to face the corporation on his or her own. This was like putting a bantamweight into the ring to fight a heavyweightHerbert Spencer’s rugged 19th-century individualism and the jungle rules of social Darwinism underpinned the new order, summed up by Margaret Thatcher in her remark thatthere is no such thing as society. Economically, of course, for the corporations to take maximum advantage of the new/old circumstances society a word denoting a small or large human community working together for the common good and forming associations to protect common intereststhere could be no such thing as what society used to be.  

Alighting on new hosts, the virus of globalization left the old host in ruinsThe rust belt in the US is the evidenceFactories were closed down en masse and cities fell into ruin  Livelihoods had already been swept from under the feet of blue and white-collar workers when the financial institutions collapsed in 2008/9. The endless privatization of profit was succeeded by the socialization of lossIt was the people who had to pay for the corruption and malpractice endemic in financial institutions, through the loss of their jobs and homes and the siphoning-off of their taxesThe res publicathepublic thing’ – had shown the people where their government’s first loyalties lay.  

According to Mike Collins, writing in Forbes business magazine, “The operating principles of the big banks is a cesspool of greed, [lack of] ethics and criminal intent.” Insider trading was a large part of the picture, so was money-laundering with the US branch of HSBC bank, which was found to have laundered $881 billion for Mexican drug cartelsThe rating agencies (Moody’s and Standard and Poor) giving a AAA rating to the banks granting a flood of unrepayable sub-prime mortgages were paid by the same banks. By 2015, Mike Collins estimated, the bailout had cost not the $700 billions the people were originally told but $16.8 trillion (Mike Collins, ‘The Big Bank Bailout,’ Forbes, July 14, 2015.) 

There had to be some sacrificial lambs (Lehman Brothers) but with the help of government money –  the people’s moneythe rest were soon back on their feet making mega profits without having to pay back one cent of the torrents of cash that had pulled them out of the ditch. What better metaphor can there be for such rapacious capitalism than that of the virus Having eaten its way through societythe host body – it was then given a new lease of life by a government elected to protect society

The virus is a metaphor that has no limitsAll living things consume to liveSomething has to die so they can liveSome people eat to live.  Others seem to live to eatThey are encouraged to over-consume by the addictive ingredients deliberately fed into the food and drink chain by producersAn obese population is an unhealthy population but one that keeps returning healthy profits even as medical costs soar that the corporations don’t have to pay.   The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 42.7 percent of the US population was obese in 2017/18, with the prevalence of obesity increasing 1999-2000 from 30.5 to 42.4 percent. The annual cost of treating obesity was $147 billionThus, while Africans and many others starve, many Americans are eating until they practically burst.  

Extreme violence is another aspect of the American demographicThe viral nature of capitalism requires a police and a miitary to suppress discontent at home and open up new territories abroad. Profit-seeking can know no territorial limits Like any virus, it will spread as fast and as far as it can. Eduardo Galeano’sopen veins’ of Latin America were veins opened up in every part of the non-European world.   The prize was natural resources, the means were the cycles of invasion and occupation that have continued for centuries down to our time.   When Donald Trump says of Syria’s oil that it is oursand we will do with it what we want” he was only expressing the logic that has underlain imperialism all along, if rarely so crudely expressed.    

Most wars have an economic motive, usually dressed up as what we are doing for you, not what we are doing to youThe wars on Iraq were not only about oil, as they were designed to pulverize a country regarded as threatening to order and stability’ as defined by the US and more generallythe West.’  The language was the same in the 19th century and between then and now, so were the consequences for the native population: mass destruction and deathBy such means werecivilizationand progress preservedOnly the principal actors (Britain and France in the 19th century, the US now) and the technology have changed, the latter allowing the invader to kill and crush more comprehensively.  

American violence has a viral quality, intrinsic to the organism from the beginning of European settlement Once the native Indian population had been suppressed, other threatening elements had to be contained and destroyed as they arose As blackness threatened whiteness, Afro-American were enslaved, segregated, lynched and burnt alive until finally granted the rights and opportunities that came as the birth right of white AmericansRandom killings by police, the massively disproportionate black prison population and the activism of white supremacists stand as the evidence even now that the virus of racism has not been suppressed   

Viruses always move on.  Suppressed by a vaccine, they will mutate into a slightly different form and take root again in the host body.  This is what the world is experiencing with the coronavirus, which surfaced just after the financial institutions began to plunge into a deeper abyss than 2007/8.  According to the New York Times, the US administration is now contemplating “a vast financial bailout that would dwarf the federal government’s response to the 2008 crisisthe scale of the problem is unlike anything Washington has ever faced before.”  This bailoutcould” top $2 trillion and not the initial $18.3 billion approved by Congress. (‘Washington Weighs Big Bailout to Help US Economy Survive Coronavirus,’ New York Times, March 18, 2020. Note that the bailout is designed to rescue theeconomyfrom the virus, not from the failures of a socio-economic system which has sent to the country to the wall time after time). 

No questions as to where the money is going will be allowed despite the Freedom of Information Act: as the virus is allowing state governments to confine people to their homes, there can be no public protests. The police and national guard will be on hand to suppress those who defy the ban. Memories of outrage at the bilking of the public in 2008 will account for these precautions

As one commentator has observed, in 2008 Wall Street was bailed out and Main Street landed with the bill.  A repetition could ignite a public backlash withpotentially catastrophic consequences(‘Washington Weighs Big Bailout,’ New York Times) so the bailout this time has to be handled with greater finesse, with more of the cash allocated to the hard-pressed citizenry.   Even as the financial crisis broke, however, the familiar chicanery, insider trading and the timely selling-off of shares by corporations, was resurfacing.  

Can this be mere coincidence, the appearance of one virus to hide the latest ravages of another? The corporate media dismisses the very notion as a “conspiracy theory,” as if governments do not scheme, plot and conspire all the time, against each other, against their mutual enemies and frequently against their own people Within the realm of possibilities, the possibilities of an accidental release of the virus or of foul play by a government or rogue elements inside a government at least have to be allowed. We still don’t know who was behind the assassination of John Kennedy or the attacks of 9/11. How long will it be before we know the truth or, like these two other world historical events, will we ever know it? 

The war on terror having run its course, the war on the virus has followed without a break, allowing governments to build on thehomeland securityedifice constructed after 9/11. Outside fiction, police and the military everywhere are being handed unprecedented powers of arrest, surveillance, and control. In the US and elsewhere millions of people have been subjected tolockdown,’ generally a term applied to a prison after a riot. Whatever a government decides to do, whatever measures it takes to bail out the financial institutions once again, the people will not be allowed into the street to protest.Panicked, fearful of the enemy they cannot see, terrorized by the media, confused by contradictory evidence, and baffled by statistics open to more than one reading, they are doing what they are being told. They have been too effectively frightened to go into the streets. Only the virus is in the headlinesallowing the bailout to proceed quietly behind the scenes

We live in a world of virusesEmptying the planet’s natural resources and preying on other species to feed ourselves, we behave no differently ourselvesEventually, someone will come up with a cure for the coronavirus but who is going to cure us? We have to do it ourselves, but will we?

*(Top image: President Donald J. Trump delivers remarks during a coronavirus (COVID-19) update briefing Monday, March 30, 2020, in the Rose Garden at the White House. Credit: Tia Dufour/ Official White House Photo) 

Will the Post-Coronavirus World be a Historical Repetition or a New Occurrence Within a New World Order?

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World War II ended after the United States' forces used mass-destruction weapons for the first time in world history against two Asian cities which left nothing but the mass killing of a vast number of Japanese civilians. The US atomic bombardment of the Japanese cities was a new evil innovation in utilizing science and technology by individual countries to gain more power. The new world order was formed by the US over the globe in 1945.

The United States detonated two nuclear bombs over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945, respectively.

A decade later, on October 4, 1975, the Americans who know themselves as the technological winner of the last world war were shocked by the USSR. The former Soviet Union launched Sputnik satellite successfully into space which pushed the US into a deep panic. The development divided the world into the western and eastern blocs.

The Soviet Union, officially known as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR or СССР), was a federal socialist state in Northern Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991.

The Soviet Union's Sputnik 1 was launched into an elliptical low Earth orbit from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, on October 4, 1957, making it the first successful artificial satellite and marking the start of the Space Race. The satellite traveled at about 29,000 kilometers per hour, taking 96.2 minutes to complete each orbit.

Since then, world countries realized that they could gain more power only through being a pioneer in science and technology.

It is worthy of mentioning that it was space technological supremacy, launching Sputnik satellite, which gave the USSR upper-hand in face of the US hegemony.

More than any other occurrence in the United States history, the mentioned Sputnik-related crisis caused the American people and policy-makers to realize the importance of providing governmental supports for scientific-technological efforts to be capable of maintaining the US' military, technological and scientific supremacy in countering other world nations.

US atomic attack to Japan, as well as its reaction to the USSR's success in launching the Sputnik satellite, laid the foundation of the United States' current general structure.

Since then and according to the US' major policies, the country's universities became the first bedrock for conducting government-backed researches. Several state-run laboratories were established to gain more scientific progress aimed at reinvigorating the country's national security. The mentioned inspiring policies further motivated a generation of university students who were completing science and engineering courses across the United States.

Shortly after World War II and during the cold war years, the US government boosted its supports for scientific efforts which resulted in the glory of the country's scientific institutions. The mentioned approach guaranteed the US' fifty years of pioneering in science and technology worldwide. The approach also granted Washington an internationally leading role. 

Undoubtedly, the US' diplomatic and economic progress were rooted in the shocks the country's society faced following the launch of the Sputnik satellite. Approval of Space Law by the Congress, the establishment of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958, unprecedented hike in the budget of the scientific institutions, the establishment of state laboratories as well as the establishment of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA or DARPA) were among the US' measures to narrow down its vulnerability in facing a crisis similar to the Sputnik.

DARPA is an agency of the United States Department of Defense responsible for the development of emerging technologies for use by the military to cope with surprising innovations similar to the Sputnik.      

The 20th century ended, the Eastern bloc's collapse and the United States' access to the Nanotechnology, Biotechnology, Information technology and Cognitive science (NBIC) gave a chance to the US to rule over the world during the 21st century. However, social developments and the promotion trend in various parts of the world were signs of a wonderful change in higher education, researches and innovations across the global geography.

The mentioned change created an advancing multi-polar world regarding science and engineering after decades of domination of the US, the European Union, and Japan.

A glance at the rate of different countries' investments in the last two decades shows the significance of allocating more funds to research centers. The US, which was the leading player in the research activities worldwide expressed concern over footages of a new form of competition in the international arenas. The US, according to its data, was concern about the progressive capabilities of China, India and even the Russian Federation.

The Russian Federation, commonly known as Russia, is a transcontinental country extending over much of northern Eurasia (Asia and Europe). The largest country in the world by land area, Russia has the world's ninth-largest population.

In the meantime, Iran managed not to remain behind in the mentioned global competition. In over a decade of continued scientific achievements, Iran upgraded its scientific standing from 58th in 1996 to 15th in recent years. Unprecedented growth in peaceful nuclear, as well as space industries and the remarkable number of higher education alumna, turned independent Iran into a competitive newly-emerged scientific power. The sanctions, imposed on Iran, were a series of inactive strategies adopted by the US to prevent Iran from emerging as a new scientific power. However, the country successfully managed to turn the sanctions into opportunities in various fields of science, economy, banking and oil industry. 

Under the 2015 nuclear accord, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran agreed to put limits on its nuclear activities in exchange for the termination of economic and financial sanctions. However, US President Donald Trump abandoned the deal in 2018 and introduced the harshest ever sanctions in history against Iran. So far, the European Union trio – Germany, France, and Britain - which are signatory to the pact and the EU in large have not done anything tangible to shield Iran from sanctions.

It should be mentioned that the US has started to specify its weak points via reviewing its current standing as Washington has mainly realized its deficits. A report titled "Over the Storm" drafted by the American Science Foundation in 2005 released a warning for the threats facing the US' domination. The report had significant impacts on the policies of former US President Barack Obama.

US scientific supremacy is rapidly declining in various ey fields including higher education and knowledge-based industries. 

 Once, the United States was the leading destination for foreign university students of higher education worldwide. The total number of students who complete their registration process in the US universities reached 784,000 in 2013 from 475,000 in 2000. However, regardless of the rise in the total number, the registration percentage declined from %25 in 2005 to %19 in 2013 due to other countries' success in attracting international students. Britain, Australia, France, and Germany were new destinations for the international students.  

In other words, skilled technicians and engineers are the primary sources of innovations in the nowadays competitive economy in the 21st century. The governments in certain countries have paved the way for the students to access higher education as a priority. In the meantime, the mentioned countries have been trying hard to attract a talented workforce as those skilled staff working in scientific and engineering fields intend to seek a better financial situation in other countries. 

According to the latest statistics released in 2020 by the American National Science Foundation (NSF) under the title of Science and Engineering, Indicators show that China has reached or in some cases has left the US behind regarding researches and innovations.

The statistics show that the total number of Ph.D. graduates in China has approximately reached the United States' record.

On the other hand, the US budget allocation on researches has been declining year by year while individual Asian nations, especially China, have increased the mentioned budget. Researches budget in China is more than the European nations' budget for the same purpose, and it will soon surpass the US research budget too.

On the subject of global investment in research activities, the US' share decreased from %32 in 2000 to %25 in 2007. The European countries' share also decreased from %25 to %20 in the same period. Nevertheless, the Asian countries' share increased from %25 to %42, which was a severe alarm for the US.

On the subject of research activities from 2000 till 2018 across the world, the US' share declined from %28 to %17, but China's share increased from %5 to %21.

On the subject of a value-added share of hi-tech and mid-tech industries, China's progress was eye-catching in the face of the US. Regarding the hi-tech industry, the US' share decreased from %38 to %32, but China's share increased from %6 to %21. In hi-tech and mid-tech industries in 2018, China with %28 surpassed the US whose share was only %22 of the global share.

The mentioned indicators caused the US to get worried about the rivals' progress in various filed of science and technology.   

However, science and innovation are playing a very active role in the US economy and national security more than ever; some scientists are worried about the people's lack of intention to seek governmental supports for the scientific centers in comparison with the rivals' budget allocation.

The US' scientific supremacy is now in danger due to the American officials' ignorance and indifference.

The worry started following September 11, 2001 attacks when the US officials failed to understand the importance of the science in attaining more power. The worry further covered the country's higher education centers, especially in science and Mathematics fields.

 The US engaged in three wars in the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan. It dispatched a vast number of forces and spent a hefty amount of money for military operations in the region. Later the US engaged in two proxy wars in Iraq and Syria, which resulted in nothing but the destruction of the US hegemony.     

If the US intends to leave behind its rivals in the new knowledge-based world economy, it should accelerate its scientific growth which is undoubtedly indebted to providing more supports for the research centers by the government. Worrying about the people and government's adherence to push the relevant decision-makers under pressure to provide supports for the scientific centers caused some representatives in the Congress, including Vernon Ehler (r-mi), one of two Ph.D. physicists in Congress, to ask this question, "Now that we need the Sputnik- like the story, where is it?" Some others, including Bill Gates, the owner of the Microsoft Company, have talked about an accidental occurrence similar to the Sputnik satellite launch to once again lead the country towards adopting farsighted policies in the science field. 

Some other figures, including Shirley Jackson, the former chairman of the US' Science Development Society and Head of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, believe that the US is currently facing an invisible crisis.

In February 2005, the US Media National Society held a meeting, which was attended by the business and academic elites to express their concerns over threats posed by the Asian countries of China and India against the US scientific supremacy. The meeting was addressed by Craig Barret, the executive manager of Intel, who said, "This is a gradual crisis. It is not something to which the Americas' mind can give the correct response. This is not a hit similar to the Sputnik story or tsunami."

In the meantime, a senior columnist in New York Times, Thomas L. Friedman said, "The crisis is nothing but continued erosion of the United States' scientific and technological base which has thus far been upgrading innovation sources and living standards in the US." 

Mac Cromic and Smith, the authors of Post-Sputnik novel, which was written in 2008 to explain the US' scientific policy in the 21st century and published by the University of Michigan, opined that there are several reasons to be worried about the ruling system in the US. They added that the US students had gained weak results in international mathematics and other scientific exams. The authors further said that many American companies and industries are losing their international standings and traditional leadership as the companies' owner had started to sell their shares to the foreigners, including the Chinese enterprises.

They concluded that foreign workforces had occupied more and more job opportunities in the US.     

Following other countries' intention to conduct researches by themselves, many essential types of research are being conducted outside the United States. More students are avoiding registering in US universities as they are being attracted to other countries' academic centers which are offering better centers for researches and training courses.

Besides, there are several countries that can now be considered as serious rivals for the US, and the US itself is engaged in national challenges, including dependence on other countries' oil crude, facing epidemic diseases and biologic attacks.

Such problems, which of course are different from alarms caused by launching the Sputnik satellite in 1957, should not be ignored. The mentioned challenges and many other problems need public awareness in order to push the government towards paying more attention to the reinvigoration of scientific and technological progress. It is so regretful for the Americans that the US has turned into an imitator instead of a scientific leader worldwide.

Based on the American politicians' anticipations, the pandemic disease or a biological attack turned from a possibility into a reality after a decade when the possibility was planned. It is happening precisely within the framework of conflict between the US and China as two close rivals in the scientific and technological fields and in the days when the US is on the verge of decline. The US has named the coronavirus as the Chinese virus and China has claimed that the US soldiers participating in the Military World Games as the root causes of the virus outbreak.

The 2019 Military World Games, officially known as the 7th CISM Military World Games and commonly known as Wuhan 2019, was held from October 18–27, 2019 in Wuhan, Hubei, China.

The 7th Military World Games was the first international military multi-sport event to be held in China. Also, it was the most significant military sports event ever to be held in China, with nearly 10,000 athletes from over 100 countries competing in 27 sports. 

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus. The disease first emerged in China in early February and then infected most of the world countries, including Iran, Italy, Spain, France, the US, and many other nations.

Following the claims as mentioned earlier and explanations, two scenarios can be developed. The first one is the repetition of history. It will include the formation of new players in the scientific and technological areas, especially China, which has been the main threat to the US' domination for more than a decade. The US' policy-makers, relying on high-level documents, have claimed that China is a threat to the United States threats.

In this battle, may a bipolar world similar to the second cold war era take shape in the near future as it took shape in the Sputnik story in 1957? However, such a claimed world will not be formed unless the pandemic disease can create a shock similar to the Sputnik story to change the US scientific and technological policies simultaneously. If the latter prediction occurs, the US will witness another fifty years of scientific leap which will enable it to return to its previous standing, which is now declining in the face of the newly-emerged powers.

 The US' revival can be materialized only after the Far East nations' economy narrows down. It can be materialized if the US manages to dominate energy resources in Iraq and Iran.

It is worthy of explaining that bipolarity can be defined as a system of world order in which the majority of global economic, military and cultural influence is held between two states. The classic case of a bipolar world is that of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, which dominated the second half of the twentieth century.

Iran, along with China's hastily growth, is one of the leading foreign barriers in the mentioned scenario. Iran can prevent US domination over the Persian Gulf energy resources and can foil the US sanction-based plots.

The second scenario talks about the collapse of the US hegemony. It talks about a new world order in which the US is not the leading player similar to the European countries that lost their standing during the cold war and were turned into the second-hand powers.

Now, talking about being surprised by the crisis regardless of a decade long warnings seems to be meaningless. It is more alike to the inefficiency of the US management system.

 This article tries to emphasize the post-coronavirus world situation in which the US-planned theory of globalization and collective leadership of the world will come to an end.  

I have to mention that materialization each of the mentioned scenarios can lead us towards the source of coronavirus as a product of the US-owned biologic weapons arsenal or transmission of the disease from an animal including bats or anteater to the people in China's Wuhan.

However, the US President Donald Trump's behavior to emphasize imposing more sanctions on Iran and targeting popular Iraqi forces of Hashd al Shaabi speculate that coronavirus outbreak might be a pre-planned plot.

A well-known Iranian proverb says that nothing can be hidden forever.

Trump Regime War Department Concealing Numbers of COVID-19 Infected Military Personnel

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On Monday, the Pentagon admitted that over 1,000 US military personnel are infected with COVID-19 — how much over not explained.

On the same day, it ordered commanders on all US bases worldwide to stop revealing numbers of infected personnel on their installations, including ships at sea and in ports.

If the secretive Pentagon admitted to a thousand COVID-19 cases, the number is likely much higher, growing exponentially for military personnel living and operating in close quarters.

At the height of Spanish Flu infections in 1918 during WW I’s final year, up to 40% of US army and navy personnel were ill from influenza and pneumonia — causing more deaths than trench warfare and other combat.

Thousands of troops aboard transport ships to and from France died.

During battlefield operations, commanders prioritize their assigned mission. The health and welfare of military personnel can get short shrift.

If numbers of troops become sick from a contagious disease, it can spread like wildfire to others because they’re in close proximity to comrades in arms.

Texas is home to 15 US military bases, mostly around Corpus Christi and San Antonio.

The latter’s Mayor Ron Nirenberg criticized non-reporting of COVID-19 outbreaks, saying “the public has a right to know,” adding:

“The lack of information is complicating a coordinated pandemic response at the state and federal level.”

“One of the biggest battles that we have is helping people understand the seriousness of the situation.”

According to the NYT, Navy Times, and other media reports, over 100 US military personnel aboard the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt are infected with COVID-19.

The warship’s crew numbers over  4,000, most members working, eating, and sleeping in close proximity to each other, leaving them vulnerable to contagion.

The San Francisco Chronicle broke the story on Tuesday after obtaining a copy of Crozier’s letter, saying:

Capt. Brett Crozier wrote to Pentagon directly because of the threat of rapidly spreading infections.

He explained that outbreaks occurred in less than a week, urgently asking for help because the ship has limited quarantine capacity, adding:

“This will require a political solution…We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors.”

“Due to a warship’s inherent limitations of space,” quarantining is limited. “The spread of the disease is ongoing and accelerating.”

“Removing the majority of personnel from a deployed US nuclear aircraft carrier and isolating them for two weeks may seem like an extraordinary measure.”

“Keeping over 4,000 young men and women on board the TR is an unnecessary risk and breaks faith with those Sailors entrusted to our care.”

“Due to the close quarters required on a warship and the current number of positive cases, every single Sailor, regardless of rank, on board the TR must be considered ‘close contact.’ ”

“Decisive action is required now in order to…prevent tragic outcomes. (O)ur focus now must be on quarantine and isolation.”

The Trump regime war department sent mixed messages in response to Captain Crozier’s plea.

Asked about the issue on Tuesday, Trump dismissively said “let the military make that decision.”

War secretary Esper’s response was similar, saying he didn’t read Crozier’s letter, but doesn’t think evacuating the ship is necessary.

I don’t think we’re at that point,” he said, adding:

“We’re moving a lot of supplies and assistance, medical assistance, out to the carrier in Guam. We’re providing additional medical personnel as they need it.”

In other words, most crew members are likely inadequately treated or getting none at all.

According to chief of naval operations Admiral Mike Gilday, the navy is taking “this threat very seriously,” adding:

“We are confident that our aggressive response will keep USS Theodore Roosevelt able to respond to any crisis in the region.”

None occurred since WW II ended other than US invented ones.

Acting navy secretary Thomas Modly said “I know that our command organization has been aware of this for about 24 hours, and we have been working actually the last seven days to move those sailors off the ship and get them into accommodations in Guam.”

“The problem is that Guam doesn’t have enough beds right now and we’re having to talk to the government there to see if we can get some hotel space, create tent-type facilities.”

According to former former NATO supreme allied commander Europe, retired Admiral James Stavridis, “we should expect more such incidents because warships are a perfect breeding ground for coronavirus.”

If most or all crew members remain onboard, they’re all vulnerable to infection, rendering the vessel non-battle ready.

On Friday, Fox News reported two COVID-19 cases aboard the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan.

Given the contagiousness of the virus, the number of infected crew members is likely much higher by now.

The same is likely the case on most or all US bases and ships where large numbers of military personnel are in close contact with each other, social distancing not possible.

The same likelihood applies to military forces of other countries.

A Final Comment

Most worrisome is how fast outbreaks are spreading among members of the US general public and medical staff on the front lines of treating infected and other patients.

Even more worrisome is the failure of the Trump regime and Congress to act responsibly straightaway when outbreaks began and epidemiologists and other medical experts sounded the alarm about the risk of them spreading rapidly.

Containment, testing, and treating the sick should be prioritized above all else at the federal, state and local levels.

The US is the only developed country without some form of universal healthcare.

Millions of laid off workers without pay or company health insurance when provided will be hard-pressed to put food on the table and pay rent or service mortgages if the current crisis continues for months.

If become ill, they may skip treatment because of affordability and try to tough it out on their own.

Communities with large numbers of infected individuals are breeding grounds for spreading disease to others — even if individuals hunker down and only go out to buy food and essentials.

If the Trump regime responded to outbreaks like China’s imposition of draconian measures in Wuhan, rapidly rising outbreaks in the US might not be happening.

Instead, contagion is spreading through many communities nationwide at an alarming rate.

The more infected people in a nation with a large population like the US and no universal healthcare, the greater the likelihood that millions could be affected and hundreds of thousands could die needlessly.

*(Top image: Capt. Brett Crozier addresses the crew for the first time as commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) during a change of command ceremony on the ship’s flight deck. Credit: Sean Lynch/ Released)

Sanders Will Present Legislation to Pay All Medical Costs for Coronavirus Patients

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Bernie Sanders, the Junior Democratic (nominally Independent) U.S. Senator from Vermont, is working with other progressives in Congress to come up with proposed emergency legislation that would pay all coronavirus medical costs throughout the coronavirus epidemic in America, and that would pay salaries of laid-off workers, so that the economy will not crash.

In a 7-minute video which was posted by The Hill,

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Sanders says that due to the pandemic, “our economy is now collapsing in front of our eyes” and so “the essence of this legislation is that it will be more effective to prevent the collapse of our economy than to pick up the pieces once the economy collapses,” and so the legislation “will guarantee the paychecks of every American worker who has lost his or her job.” He says that other nations are already doing that. “It’s going on around the world, in Germany, the UK, Denmark, Norway, other countries. … The way to maintain the economy is to make sure that people continue to have their paycheck, even if they are working at home, even if they are not working at all. And when this crisis is over, and it will be over, people can then go back to work.”

This bill will be only temporary, during the time of the emergency, and if the Congress will fail to pass it, then not only the economy will collapse but the federal Government’s income from taxation will also collapse, and so the federal Government’s debt will soar even faster than it would soar if the legislation becomes passed into law. No taxes on no income mean shrinking the Government precisely at the stage in the economy when the private sector is collapsing and needs help the most from the Government. That hurts everybody.

Also, the legislation will include “Everybody in America will have all the medical care they need during the crisis, without any out-of-pocket expenses.”

This latter feature will also give every American the freedom, and the confidence, to know that if they suspect that they might possibly now be spreading the virus to others, they can, without any fear, have themselves tested, knowing beforehand that their paychecks will continue even if they turn out to have the virus and will therefore have to become temporarily out of work. In other words: this paycheck-guarantee will greatly expedite the discovery of individuals who are carrying the virus, so that they will no longer continue to be working at a job where they might be spreading it to others and thus a continuing threat of spreading it to others. The result of this — the federal payments to cover not only the unemployment but the medical costs — will be to end this crisis much sooner than would otherwise be the case.

Also: “We need to have a freeze on rents,” so that anyone who can afford to keep paying can do so, but anyone who cannot, will receive federal assistance, in order to prevent them from being expelled from their homes.

“Will it be expensive? It sure will. But the alternative is worse.”

“The goal right now is to prevent the collapse of our economy and of our health care system.”

Nothing that is in the program that he is drawing up in collaboration with other members of the Senate and House would be bailing out the nation’s wealthiest, such as the first piece of coronavirus-emergency legislation did. Also unlike the Obama legislation for bailouts after George W. Bush’s 2008 Wall Street crash, the legislation that Senator Sanders is now drawing up will be bailing out only consumers and employees, and not investors. It would be demand-pull, instead of supply-push, restoration of the economy, and therefore it will not expand wealth-inequality like the prior piece of legislation did, and like Obama’s Wall Street bailouts did, but it will instead reduce that inequality, by protecting consumers and employees, instead of protecting investors.

In a Time of Pandemic, the US Prepares for War – But Iran’s Weakness Is Grossly Exaggerated

Qaani in Iraq cbd75

The US prepares for confrontation with Iranian-backed militias in Iraq while Iran struggles to cope with the consequences of the coronavirus inside its borders. This looks like a good time for Americans to strike – but it isn’t.

The US military is engaged in a strategic redeployment of forces inside Iraq, including the deployment of surface-to-air missiles whose only logical purpose was to defend against an Iranian ballistic missile threat. This movement of forces has reinforced concerns that some in the Trump administration might seek to exploit Iran’s perceived weakness brought about by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The reality, however, is far different: Iran is prepared to defend itself using the totality of its defense resources. Any US move against Iran would be a miscalculation with devastating results.

Iran has emerged as the epicenter of the Covid-19 outbreak in the Middle East. As of April 1, Iran's health ministry reported over 47,000 confirmed cases with more than 3,000 deaths. To better coordinate a response to this outbreak, the Iranian health ministry announced the formation of a National Coronavirus Combat and Prevention Headquarters which has deployed 30,000 teams operating under the supervision of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to help in combating the outbreak.

The severity of the Covid-19 outbreak in Iran has been interpreted by some policy makers inside the Trump administration as proof that the ongoing campaign of “maximum pressure,” based upon the application of stringent economic sanctions, has succeeded. These same individuals, whose ranks include Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, have cited widespread demonstrations in both Iran and Iraq as additional proof of the level of discontent that exists regarding Iran’s theocratic government.

The US has long been involved in a shadow war with Iran over which side can exert the most control over the Iraqi government. The US has taken particular umbrage at the role played by Iranian-backed militias operating under the umbrella of the Popular Militia Forces, or PMF. One of these militias. Katiab Hezbollah, has been singled out for a series of missile attacks on US bases in Iraq that have killed and wounded several Americans, leading hardliners in the Trump administration, led by Pompeo and O’Brien, to consider larger military operations designed to destroy Khaitab Hezbollah. Some believe that, given the inevitability of an Iranian response, Pompeo and O’Brien are planning for a larger military operation which would include major attacks against Iran that could lead to the removal of the Iranian government.

Recent military moves in the region indicate that the US is preparing for some sort of major action in Iraq. Over the past few weeks, the US has consolidated its forces in Iraq, withdrawing from several more isolated bases and concentrating troops in two larger base complexes, one near Al Qaim and the other at the Al Asad Air Base. The US has begun deploying Patriot missile units to both Al Qaim and Al Asad, ostensibly to protect against missile attacks from Khaitab Hezbollah and Iran.

The probability of a massive Khaitab Hezbollah-Iranian response to any concerted US attack on PMF forces in Iraq has led the US commander in Iraq, Lieutenant General Robert White, to issue a stark warning that any such attack would “require that thousands more American troops be sent to Iraq and divert resources from what has been the primary American military mission there: training Iraqi troops to combat the Islamic state.” General White’s blunt warning is, in fact, an understatement. In their haste to promote regime change in Iran, Trump administration hardliners like Pompeo and O’Brien have exaggerated the vulnerability of the Iranian regime, especially in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, while minimizing the threat to US forces in Iraq. 

Iran’s retaliatory missile strike against the Al Asad air base in January drove home the reality that its ballistic missile force possesses precision strike capability. The missiles used in this attack were older variants; Iran has now deployed newer missiles with technological advances that include maneuverable warheads designed to evade US missile defenses. Iran’s ballistic missile capabilities are real, and its threat to employ them in response to any US attack are not bluffs.

A confrontation between the US and the Iraqi PMF that brought in Iran would turn into a bloodbath for all involved. For its part, Iran has shown itself able to walk and chew gum at the same time, meaning that it can simultaneously cope with the Covid-19 outbreak and prepare for a wider war with the US in Iraq. The same cannot be said for the Trump administration. Hopefully, saner heads will prevail, and the White House will heed General White’s cautionary advice. The alternative will only bring disaster.

*(Top image: Esmail Qaani, Iran's Quds Force Commander in meetings with Iraqi PMU leaders.)

*This article was originally published on RT.

In the “Oil War”, Washington Blinks First to Survive

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The “oil war” started by the Saudis (and the US) has, within a matter of weeks, already led to a change in the narrative from purportedly establishing ‘shale oil dominance’ to ‘energy market management’ and avert a crisis that could ultimately destroy the very shale oil industry of the US. This resulted in the US president  holding a phone conversation with Russia’s Putin aimed at discussing ways and means of ‘better managing’ the on-going crisis. The “oil war” that was triggered by Saudi Arabia’s refusal to continue and extend the previously agreed OPEC+ formula, which was instrumental for maintaining stable oil prices for years, has already led to the oil prices plummeting massively, going down to record lows of the last two decades. For the US, the oil war, whereas its initial purpose was to force an unwanted change on Russia and reduce its oil production to give way to an increase in the share of US shale oil on the global markets, could now potentially destroy over half of its shale oil industry, disrupting the very base of the US ‘super-power’ status.

Earlier in October 2019, Trump told US shale producers that the purpose of expanding the oil industry was not just to reduce and end dependence on oil supplies from “foreigners”, but to establish “American energy dominance.” This dominance could, however, would remain unattainable unless the demand for traditional crude oil could be reduced; hence, the Saudi (US) demand for ‘reducing’ oil production.

That the plan has clearly backfired, putting the Saudis against the US and forcing Trump to reach out to Putin to ‘manage’ the energy market. At the same time, the Saudis can still theoretically continue waging the “oil war” not just because they want to increase their own share of oil market—this could happen in the wake of a reduced Russian share—but because of the fact that an ongoing external crisis helps a weakened regime, yet the US cannot simply afford to do so primarily because the shale oil producers do not have the capacity to sustain themselves during this war anymore.

According to reports, there’s no more than 16 US shale companies that operate in fields where the average new well costs are below $35 per barrel. Other shale producers, which budgeted for oil between $55 per barrel and $65 per barrel in 2020, had no other choice but to move to idle rigs, cut staff and generate cash for expenses. In the wake of a continued “oil war” and plummeting prices, there is no gainsaying that the very few shale oil producers which are actually able to cover production costs will be forced to do a wholesale reduction in industry spending and the unprofitable producers will have to stop drilling altogether, which will drive them out of business for a while.

This led Trump demanding the Saudis to end the “oil war”. Those talks were, of course, unsuccessful as the Saudi regime itself pushed by the on-going ‘rebellions’ at home needs an external war to survive politically. The refusal has led to some bitterness coming from certain influential American senators, accusing Saudi Arabia of a ‘conspiracy’ aimed at destroying US shale oil industry.

Senator Ted Cruz reportedly stating that:

“The Saudis are hoping to drive out of business American producers, and in particular shale producers, largely in the Permian Basin in Texas and in North Dakota. That behaviour is wrong, and I think it is taking advantage of a country that is a friend… If they don’t change their course, their relationship with the United States is going to change very fundamentally.” 

For the US president, a continuation of the “oil war” and plummeting oil prices would be devastating, ruining all hopes of US ‘energy domination’ but also devastating his political fortunes.

Already, his ‘trade war’ with the Chinese has led to massive farm bankruptcies in the US, particularly in those states where Trump had won in the 2016 elections. Again, a devastation of shale oil industry, coupled with the COVID-19 crisis, could have massive impact on the next US presidential elections—a situation that any populist of ‘Trumpian’ kind would want to avoid. What adds to its significance is the fact a majority of the US shale oil producers are a large part of his political supporters and are based in the regions where Trump had won election in 2016. As of today, the situation for Trump is grim as the producers continue to lay off their workers.

For the US to survive this crisis, ‘better management’ of the energy market will also have to include and address the question of sanctions on as important Russian projects as Nord Stream 2. The US sanctions target Russia’s Gazprom from expanding and consolidating its towering presence in Europe’s energy market This case is just another example of a US conspiracy against Russian presence and share in the oil market and a push for reducing Russian share and increasing that of shale oil. Any question of ‘better management’ will thus also include ending the politics of sanctions.

*This article was originally published on journal-neo.

US Escalates Warmongering Against Venezuela Because of… Drug Trafficking?

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The Trump administration is sending Navy ships to patrol Venezuela, the latest escalation against the government targeted by an aggressive hybrid US regime change intervention.

“President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that Navy ships are being moved toward Venezuela as his administration beefs up counter-narcotics operations in the Caribbean following a U.S. drug indictment against Nicolás Maduro,” AP reports in an article packed with pro-US disinformation.

“As governments and nations focus on the coronavirus there is a growing threat that cartels, criminals, terrorists and other malign actors will try to exploit the situation for their own gain,” said Trump. “We must not let that happen.”

“The Venezuelan people continue to suffer tremendously due to Maduro and his criminal control over the country, and drug traffickers are seizing on this lawlessness,” added Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

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All of this, of course, is bullshit. The US government does not care about “the Venezuelan people” (a term only ever invoked to advance pro-regime change narratives); if they did they wouldn’t be murdering them by the tens of thousands using starvation sanctions and targeting them with backdoor biowarfare by cutting off their ability to protect themselves from a deadly pandemic.

The US government is also not interested in “drug traffickers”. As journalist Ben Norton notes, “Even the US government’s own data admit the vast, vast, vast majority of drugs (mostly cocaine) coming from Latin America come from Colombia — a right-wing US colony.”

“70% of the coca (used to create cocaine) grown in the whole world came from Colombia in 2017 according to the UN,” Norton adds. “Right-wing US colony Colombia is the CIA’s favorite drug dealer, used to fund death squads and Contra terrorist wars to overthrow leftist governments.”

As Venezuela Analysis rightly points out, in 2009 George W Bush awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to then-president of Colombia Álvaro Uribe Vélez, who was previously listed by US intelligence as one of Colombia’s leading narco-traffickers.

So no, the US government does not care about drug trafficking, and it does not care about the Venezuelan people. What the US government cares about is securing control over the largest proven oil reserve on planet Earth, which is located beneath Venezuelan soil.

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It’s so precious how the US empire pretends that its transparent resource control agendas are about protecting human interests. It reminds me of the excuses the guys make when they get busted on To Catch A Predator: “No, Chris Hansen, honest! I just drove 300 miles because I wanted to give the 13 year-old girl a talking to about the dangers of flirting with strangers online.” No you didn’t America, you drove 300 miles because you wanted to steal that little girl’s oil reserves you pervert.

The Trump administration has already admitted that its sole interest is in toppling the Venezuelan government with its ridiculous offer to cease murdering civilians via economic warfare if Maduro leaves office; adding a bunch of unrelated gibberish about narco-trafficking on top of this does nothing to obfuscate this. Warships have been sent to Venezuela because the Trump administration is waging a deadly war upon Venezuelans and that’s what you do during a war. These continued escalations are directed at nothing other than shoring up more power and control for the globe-spanning US-centralized empire, which works tirelessly to dominate the world by dominating its resources.

I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t remember voting for a paradigm where powerful governments pour the lion’s share of riches into sabotaging, toppling and destroying nations which don’t bow before their demands. This dynamic exists without the consent of ordinary human beings, and it brings nothing but harm to ordinary human beings. It harms human beings abroad with overt and covert applications of deadly force, and it harms human beings at home by robbing them of riches and resources for agendas which benefit them in no way, shape or form.

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All these Venezuela shenanigans are occurring as revelations emerge that the Pentagon had predicted the exact sort of disruptions a deadly coronavirus pandemic would cause way back in 2017. The Nation‘s Ken Klippenstein shows that the Department of Defense had warned that unless changes were made an outbreak of a novel virus would see a shortage of “ventilators, devices, personal protective equipment such as face masks and gloves”, which “will have a significant impact on the availability of the global workforce.”

Hey America? If your Department of “Defense” is not being used to defend the American citizenry from the deadly threats it perceives, but is being used to patrol the shores of an oil-rich nation that has nothing to do with you, then maybe that department needs a new name. And maybe you need a new kind of government. Just a thought.

___________________________

Internet censorship is getting pretty bad, so the best way to keep seeing the stuff I publish is to get on the mailing list for my website, so you’ll get an email notification for everything I publish. My articles and podcasts are entirely reader and listener-funded, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, liking me on Facebook, following my antics on Twitter, checking out my podcast, throwing some money into my hat on Patreon or Paypal, or buying my book Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers

*(Top image: President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro Moros address Human Right Council special meeting. Geneva, 12/11/15. Credit: UN Photo/ Jess Hoffman/ Flickr)

Covid 19 and the FORGOTTEN Working Class

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We hear a lot these days about providing benefits and income for the tens of millions of workers who are being laid off, required to ‘stay in place’ by government orders, or out of necessity have to stay home with young children now that schools have shut down. The recent passed CARES ACT provides some minimal and basic income and unemployment benefits for those without work.

But what about the working class that is still at work? Why are they being asked to sacrifice and get nothing in return but words of praise from politicians and media talking heads?

I’m talking about those workers who are required to continue essential work just in order to keep what’s left of the economy going. Those whose work keeps our increasing tenuous social system from flying apart.

I’m talking about workers who are making sure essential utility services aren’t cut off. Who are ensuring that food is available and delivered to stores and homes. Who continue to pick up our garbage in order to prevent a further health crisis. Who keep the pharmacies open so those who need essential medicines can still get them. I’m talking about all those warehouse workers at Amazon and elsewhere filling orders for food and other essentials. The firefighters who still call when emergencies happen. The workers still processing health insurance claims. The subway workers, bus drivers and railroad workers. The truck drivers, local and long haul. Postal workers who keep processing and delivering the mail. The assembly line workers still working their machines that produce the desperately needed PPE. And of course the nurses, technicians, doctors and administrative hospital staff. And let’s not forget the volunteers of all kind, who keep delivering meals to grandma and grandpa, and checking in on them to help with basic physical needs. Forget them at your peril because there are limits to what they can be asked to do.

They are the combat troops at the front line. The rest of us are on leave behind the line and not facing imminent danger.

Politicians keep telling us they are heroes. Yeah, we know that. They’re working in dangerous and hazardous and even life threatening conditions. But simply saying they’re heroes doesn’t cut it. It’s not enough. Words are cheap.

My point is this: Why aren’t we compensating and rewarding these folks too, just as we’re protecting those losing their jobs with expanded unemployment benefits? Why isn’t the ‘still working working class’ being properly rewarded for the hazardous jobs they’re doing, the long hours, the unhealthy working conditions?

We’re giving corporations and businesses trillions of dollars in grants, loans, and free money from the Federal Reserve bank. Why are we short-changing those workers who are the real source of keeping the entire system from collapsing during this crisis, who are keeping the economy—or what’s left of it—still running.

They are holding the entire economy and social system together in this crisis. Why isn’t that properly recognized? And rewarded?

Here’s what the politicians should be doing. Here’s what should be included in Congress’s next spending bill for those occupations who are now keeping the system itself from crashing during this crisis:

• Hazard pay at time and one-half base pay
• Time and one-half for all hours worked beyond 7 hours; double time beyond 10 hours
• Full health care coverage provided under an emergency new ‘Part E’ of Medicare
• 90 day moratorium on apartment rent or home mortgage payment
• Government reimbursement for minimum credit card interest charges for six months
• Government reimbursement for auto loan monthly payments
• Clothing allowance tax credit for costs of cleaning & PPE equipment purchases

There’s an analogy here that’s relevant. It’s a strike. When workers go on strike, any decent union strike fund will pick up their mortgage or rent when it comes due. The strike fund covers the monthly auto payment. It provides for food on the table. Everyone in the union pays into the strike fund during good times, so that those in need during a strike can continue.

Isn’t the country supposed to be a union? Don’t we all pay taxes into the ‘national strike fund’ that is the government budget? Well it’s time to use that budget to cover those in need. And that includes not just the unemployed but the employed as well—i.e. those who are keeping it all together during the crisis.

It’s not just the unemployed who are in need. We should recognize all those still working who are risking their lives for the rest. Who are out there on the front lines, risking their health, working extended hours, often under terrible conditions, worried about their families at home. Managers, professionals, and other occupations may be able to work from home. Or telecommute. Or use videoconferencing to keep their companies afloat as the economy shuts down. But workers who are essential must continue to go out into the world and work, or else the entire economic edifice will come down around all our ears.

So why aren’t we properly rewarding and compensating these folks who are keeping an even greater crisis and social collapse at bay?

Let’s not forget the working class still at work.

Forget them at your peril. Forget them and there’ll come a time, and maybe not too far off, when they just decide ‘the hell with this, it’s not worth it’, and just walk off the job in protest or disgust or just decide to take care of their own instead of all of us. And no nice words by politicians about being ‘heroes’ will bring them back.

Then you’ll see how important workers are to the economy and even to what we call civilization itself!

Coronavirus: A Health Emergency or Is There Another Agenda 

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There is an aphorism attributed to the great American writer, Mark Twain. He is said to have made the claim: there are three kinds of lies. Lies, damn lies and statistics. That has always proved to be useful guidelines, although it did not deter me from an early career as a university statistician.

Twain’s wisdom was recalled to mind when confronting what can only be described as blanket cover of a virus currently doing the rounds of the planet. Known generally as Covid-19 it has induced a reaction from nearly all western governments, with the possible exception of Sweden, that is to say the least extraordinary.

Part of the reaction has been to attribute to China the ignominy of being both the source of the virus, and of wilful attempts to mislead the world. Although the data at present, and that is a deliberate qualification, appears to suggest that the Covid-19 virus originated in China, that is a far from established scientific fact. The accusation that China is “responsible” tells one more about the ideological commitment of the speaker then it does about the antecedence of any given disease.

China was certainly the first to publicly acknowledge the existence of the disease which appeared in the city of Wuhan, the capital of a region of 40+ million people. To accuse China of being the “source” of the virus on that basis displays not only a profound ignorance of how viruses are spread. It also reflects the not so well-hidden biases and presumptions of the accuser.

The ill-will of the China accusers is further evidenced by the false accusations made against them by western commentators. It is an established fact that China advised the World Health Organisation as soon as it established that there was in fact a virus affecting its population. That realization was quickly followed by draconian measures imposed by the Chinese government, drastically curtailing both in numbers and geography the extent of the virus’s contagion.

Is the virus spread rapidly to other countries around the world, so too did the level of hysteria and the imposition of draconian measures. It is a fundamental principle governing the actions of governments that measures taken which inhibit the freedom and safety of the citizen must be commensurate with the risk. It is extremely doubtful that such a claim could be made in Australia.

To examine that question a little more closely one has to look at the statistics, or perhaps more accurately, reverting to Twain’s aphorism, the misuse of the statistics.

Before governments pronounce on the risk of a given phenomenon, certain basic data have to be established. The first question, rather obviously, is how many people have the virus? The answer is that we do not know. The reasons we do not know the answers are multiple. Let us do a simple exercise.

The Australian population is, in round figures, 25 million. There are therefore 25 million people at risk of catching the disease. How many actually do is therefore a figure between one and 25 million.

Of that 25 million, some have already caught the disease, suffered only mild symptoms that they probably attributed to the common cold, and recovered without medical intervention. We do not know, and the overwhelming likelihood is we will never know, how many people fall into that category. 

The second statistic is those that catch the virus to a degree that it is recognizable and seek some form of medical intervention. Again, we have a totally unknown figure because there are no reliable statistics about the number of people in this category. Speculation, a common technique of the mainstream media, is less than helpful.

The first statistic that begins to have some utility is the number of people who actually require medical intervention. Even here, the data are not as reliable as the mainstream media would suggest. The media have tended to focus on those who have died, and indeed, insofar as there is any degree of thinking behind the media hysteria about the spread of this virus it is firmly linked to the admittedly dramatic consequence of dying.

Even here, however, the data are less than clear. The overwhelming majority of the still very small numbers of people who have actually died in Australia have two overwhelming conditions in common. The first is that they are overwhelmingly older people, that is, more than 70 years of age and a large portion of them are over 80 years of age. Given that life expectancy at birth for that generation was significantly less, and even by contemporary standards they are aged, their death is hardly a shock or surprise. 

This factor is compounded by the other outstanding characteristic of the deceased, and that is that they had an average of three pre-existing serious medical conditions.  Without detailed autopsy analysis, it is impossible to attribute their death to any specific cause from those multiple conditions.  That data is not available and until it is the dramatic media coverage of the deaths is simply unwarranted.

If we look at the number of deaths that have been attributed to the virus, as unreliable and overstated as that is likely to be, we see that the numbers are actually very small.  As of 2 April 2020 the number of deaths attributed to the coronavirus stood at 23 out of a total of 5106 cases of persons to whom a diagnosis has established that they actually had coronavirus.

Twenty-three deaths are less than 1 per million of the population.  The total number of people diagnosed as having the disease equates to 0.02 percent of the population. By way of comparison the total number of deaths in Australia in 2017 (the last year available) was 160,909.

Let us assume that the number of deaths attributed to coronavirus continues at the same rate for the rest of the year. That will create a total number of deaths of just 90 persons or 0.05 percent of total deaths likely this year.

Which brings me to the $64,000 question. Is the shutting down of social activities, a massive increase in unemployment and a devastating disruption to every fabric of everyday life warranted in the light of the actual figures?  

In my view, most assuredly not. Which raises the obvious question: what is the governments real agenda in this huge assault on the lives of everyday citizens? 

What Are the Benefits of Using a Credit Card?

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Other than inciting you into pulse buying, credit cards are a good companion that you'll come to appreciate as far as you maintain disciplined financial spending habits. So, just like any other financial tool or service, credit cards, too, have their ups and downs, but the benefits are much paying and worth a try if you want to extend creditworthiness. Yes, you heard it right, you can use your Credit cards to build credit score and borrow more. Remember, most lenders prefer to deal with individuals who have impressive credit scores.

So, what are some of the benefits that you'll be entitled to when you switch to using credit cards? Well, they include but not limited to, the following:

Higher purchasing power

A credit card will indeed enable you to make more significant purchases that you otherwise wouldn't afford if you dug right into your pocket for solid cash. Credit cards allow you to spend extra money that you've not earned in any way, only that you'll pay back later. However, you must note that different people have varying credit limits, and that will depend on your bank financial statements, monthly earnings, and even general credit score. If your credit score is appealing, you may even land a bigger credit limit.

Convenience

Credit cards are convenient because they'll allow you to shop anywhere, be it in physical shops or online retail stores. Remember, some products will only require prepaid conditions before being dispatched for delivery, and in that case, solid cash won't bail you out. You can even link your credit cards with online stores or cab applications for easier and seamless check out processes. Also, the weights of credit cards are negligible, unlike when you try to walk around with large sums of money. And even if someone stole your credit card, you can proceed to block it, and it won't be beneficial to them in any way. So, other than just convenience, credit cards are secure!

Trackability

Many people go broke because of poor consequential financial decisions and choices they make, primarily when they only use cash for shopping and paying utility bills. Well, credit cards are electronic modes of payment, and the beauty of technology is that it will always leave a trail. Therefore, it will be easier to track all your payment history from the day you started using the credit card to the very last day. Other than just helping you in making prudent financial decisions, it will also help you trace any cases of fraud and prevent them before it is too late.

Ideal for emergencies

The sad truth is that most emergency cases, in fact, 80% of emergency cases, will need money as a temporary or straightforward solution until something else is put in place. Be it rushing someone to a health facility or attending to a broken car; a credit card will always come in handy. Furthermore, you'll also live with some sense of security when you know that you have a backup plan, in terms of extra finances. Fiat currency and specifically solid cash is an insatiable human want, and you may not hold the same for long, waiting for an emergency. Instead, a credit card can train you to be disciplined in terms of saving and expenditure.

Credit history

Building a credit history with a credit card is the most beneficial part of it. For instance, if today, you only qualify for a 2000-dollar credit limit, you should expect to rank somewhere between $5000 and $10000 within the next few years. Now, the best thing is that you can start using credit cards today, as a trajectory plan of unlocking a larger credit limit that will see you setting up that dream business. Many people have done it! Be part of the few moguls!

Universally accepted 

Lastly, maybe you should know that credit cards are widely accepted as a means of payment except for businesses that may need cash transactions only. The best thing is that you'll avoid carrying big sums of money around your pocket, which can jeopardize your security. If you are also operating a business, accepting credit card payments can help you curb fraud, such as fake currency transactions. Moreover, there are credit cards that can be used to shop in any corner of the world, provided your expenditure is within the borrowing limit.

We are fast moving into a digital world, where office practices even promote paperless desks. Don't you think it would be best if you also embraced electronic transactions? You don't have to line up in a bank to withdraw that weekend money, just get your credit card and swipe! Get rewarded every time you spend your hard-earned money via credit cards!

What Determines Your Value as a Citizen in Bahrain Is Your Sect!!!

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Hundreds of Bahrainis visit Iran every year as the Islamic republic, in the recent years, has made a comeback on the travel scene being listed as one of the hot spot destinations with religious, cultural, medical, educational, commercial specificities.

On February 19, Iran publicly confirmed the coronavirus outbreak. Hence, about 2,130 Bahrainis were stranded in the holy city of Mashed, according to a statement issued by Al-Wefaq, the largest now-outlawed opposition bloc.

Shockingly, the government has exploited the crisis to stoke political and sectarian squabble with Iran through abandoning and putting the lives of hundreds of its citizens at considerable risk. Instead of evacuating its indigenous citizens, the government went to accuse Iran of biological warfare. At least seven citizens have passed away so far since the beginning of the crisis, as Manama and in cold blood impedes efforts to bring them home. 

Besides, Bahrain's so-called House of Representatives, which has neither legislative powers nor opposition representation, voted not to allow return the stranded citizens trapped in Iran.

Since the government has opted to politicize this crisis, its loyalists, who are plagued by sectarian hatred and grudges, have not stopped ridiculing the Shiites religious beliefs, calling their compatriots trapped in Iran traitors, urging the authorities not to allow them to return and to revoke their citizenship. It is noteworthy to mention that Bahrain has no diplomatic relationship with Iran and airlines do not usually fly directly between the two countries. Whatsoever, many countries were quick to send planes to evacuate their nationals and put them under observation. For instance, Canada, which had strained relations with China, opened direct channels of communication with the Chinese authorities to ensure the evacuation of its nationals.

Human rights activists accuse Bahrain of capriciousness and untrustworthiness after subsequent evacuation attempts were reported to have been abruptly canceled or obstructed.

They express their criticism via twitter under the Arabic hashtag #أعيدوا_العالقين_البحرينيين, which means "Bring the stranded Bahrainis back home" which has been seen trending for several weeks. 

On March 6th, Bahrain's ruler directed the Jaffaria Endowments Directorate to bear the expenses of the Bahraini nationals stranded abroad, which means nothing but that he deems Bahrain's Shiite community, who constitutes 70% of the population, as non-citizens.

After more than one month one can understand why those marginalized peaceful citizens have been revolting since February in 2011 and how this brutal government denies the people's suffering and miseries. The ruler has cast the burden and responsibility on the shoulders of the Jaafari endowments, which means that the Shiite issues are not a national Bahraini affair. Again, it means that the sectarian rhetoric against the Bahrainis trapped in Mashhad is launched on behalf of the ruler and his despotic government.

Now world have u realized why the Bahrainis kicked off to the streets in Feb 2011?? Have you realized how blatantly the government discriminates against them and merely regard them as non-citizens!!

*(Top image: Bahrain Airlines (Gulf Air) in Oman’s Muscat canceled tickets of 76 Bahraini passengers traveling at a personal cost from Mashhad to Bahrain.) 

White House: Hand-outs for the Rich Guys, No More Help for Ordinary Americans in Need

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During the 2008-09 financial crisis, banks got trillions of dollars of free bailout money. Ordinary Americans got sold out.

A protracted main street Depression remains ongoing since that time, greatly deepening for millions of US households with real unemployment already at Great Depression levels and rising exponentially in what’s shaping up perhaps to be the Greatest Depression, what economist Nouriel Roubini envisions.

History is repeating. Americans in need are getting crumbs alone from the great congressional corporate bailout Trump signed into law days earlier.

It’ll likely to be greater than what was doled out in 2008-09 when the dust settles, including from massive Fed money printing madness — free money handouts to business and large investors at a time when growing millions of US households are broke, unemployed, and food insecure, along with growing thousands ill from COVID-19.

Congressional Dems and Republicans colluded with the Trump regime in arranging an unprecedented wealth transfer from ordinary Americans to privileged ones.

According to WaPo’s White House economics reporter Jeff Stein, the prospect for further main street aid is “zero,” citing an unnamed White House source, saying:

“No more spending. We did all the spending” — when much more is needed for millions of US households in need.

House speaker Pelosi and Dem Senate minority leader Schumer falsely claimed more aid is coming for ordinary Americans.

The time to get it was in the now enacted great giveaway to business, large investors, and other high-net worth households.

Republicans and undemocratic Dems don’t give a damn about the rights, needs, and welfare of ordinary Americans, just privileged ones.

It notably shows in legislation now the law of the land since the neoliberal 90s — a bonanza for the nation’s privileged class, hard times getting much harder for the vast majority of Americans.

When needed in Washington to serve them during deepening hard times, Congress is recessed until April 20.

It’s at a time when unemployment is likely to surge, along with sharply rising COVID-19 outbreaks, making it hard for the nation’s healthcare system to cope.

There aren’t enough hospital beds in US cities with large-scale COVID-19 outbreaks to handle numbers of patients needing hospitalization.

New York’s Central Park was transformed into a makeshift hospital — supplemented by a US Navy hospital ship with 1,000 beds.

Chicago’s McCormick place is being transformed into a makeshift 3,000-bed hospital by end of April — 500 beds expected to be ready in a week.

Similar efforts are likely elsewhere in the US as numbers of COVID-19 outbreaks keep growing exponentially — through Monday numbering about 165,000.

It’s guesswork as to when numbers will peak, but they’re certain to be much greater than now — taxing healthcare facilities and medical staff more greatly than any time in modern memory.

US prisons are breeding grounds for widespread coronavirus outbreaks.

Last week, the New Yorker said they’re spreading “like wildfire (in) New York’s prisons.”

As of Monday, at least 134 Cook County, IL detainees in the greater Chicago area were diagnosed with COVID-19.

Federal, state, and local authorities need to empty prisons of nonviolent inmates who pose no threat to society to prevent a potential tsunami of outbreaks behind bars.

There’s no time to delay. Trump should use his bully pulpit to urge mass releases nationwide and order it for federal prisons.

Many hundreds of inmates were already diagnosed with COVID-19. In crowded prisons, they could spread it like wildfire to countless others.

These are very stressful times for most people everywhere.

On top of hardships they face in normal times, increasing numbers of highly contagious COVID-19 outbreaks, rising unemployment, and suspension of social interactions, makes it increasingly hard for most people to cope.

Most concerning is there’s little clarity on how long the current status quo will last.

Now is the time when all-out government help is most needed. It’s large-scale for privileged Americans, crumbs alone for the vast majority with little prospect for improvement.

*(Top image credit: Fotomovimiento/ Flickr)

The Quiet and Lethal Wars Against Iran

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Some wars are fought with bombs and bullets. These are the wars in Syria and Iraq, in Afghanistan and Yemen. Then there are quieter wars executed by drone. These cowardly wars also kill people, but not our people. These quieter wars accomplish what the more cacophonous wars accomplish without the public outcry and condemnation.

Medical Warfare

But there are wars that are even quieter still. There are wars so quiet that they aren’t even heard beyond the borders of the countries in which they are happening. In Iran, the U.S. is waging medical warfare: what foreign minister Javad Zarif has called medical terrorism.

Iran is being crushed by the COVID-19 virus, and the weight of the pandemic is being intensified by US sanctions that prevent Iran from adequately testing and treating the virus and from preventing it. Iran’s strangled economy is too emaciated to come to a temporary stop or to support people if they are prevented from going to work to earn their living. And sanctions on Iranian banks choke the acquisition of drugs and medical equipment.

But, like the efficient and deadly warrior it is, the US doesn’t ease up as its enemy staggers, but presses at the enemy’s exposed weakness. Despite pleas from both U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres and UN Human Rights Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, Iran and the international community, America has not provided momentary respite from the sanctions but intensified them.

The crime is compounded by an ugly and little discussed piling of crime upon war crime. People with respiratory illnesses are at greater risk of dying from COVID-19, and approximately 100,000 Iranians are made vulnerable by that risk because of respiratory illnesses still lingering from the effects of an Iraqi chemical war rained on Iran with US approval and partnership.

Adding the word "medical" to the word "war" doesn’t make it any less of a war.

Economic Warfare

And there have been other forms of quiet wars. The re-imposition of sanctions on Iran has been a modern version of a medieval siege.

The US was legally bound to honor its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear agreement, including ending sanctions, as long as Iran was honoring all of its commitments. So, since Iran was verifiably honoring all of its commitments, the US acted illegally when it pulled out of the treaty and re-imposed sanctions.

America has pressed Iranians down under the weight of unprecedented unilateral sanctions that may well constitute an internationally prohibited act of aggression. Iran’s economy is suffering, and its people are being killed.

The US didn’t only sanction Iran by itself but forced extraterritorial sanctions on every other nation. Those sanctions barred any economic trade that could contribute to Iran’s nuclear program or that dealt with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. But since the US claimed that any contribution to the economy could contributed to the nuclear program or to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the US, as Gareth Porter and John Kiriakou explain in their book The CIA Insider’s Guide to the Iran Crisis, essentially criminalizes the entire Iranian economy. The sentence, according to the IMF, was "severe distress" for Iran’s economy and people.

As the American economic siege strangled the Iranian economy, the Iranian people gasped for breath. The economy has collapsed into severe recession; GDP has shriveled; oil production has fallen; Iran’s currency, the rial, has lost 50% of its value; inflation has soared and the cost of living, including buying food, has become prohibitive.

A siege is the oldest form of collective punishment and war. Adding the word "economic" to the word "war" doesn’t make it any less of a war.

Cyber Warfare

But medical warfare and economic warfare did not exhaust the variety of quiet wars. The U.S. has admitted direct responsibility for a barrage of cyberattacks against Iran.

The New York Times has revealed that the US ordered sophisticated attacks on the computers that run Iran’s nuclear enrichment facilities. A massive virus known as Flame attacked Iranian computers. This virus maps and monitors the system of Iranian computers and sends back intelligence that is used to prepare for cyber war campaigns against Iran. Officials have now confirmed that Flame is one part of a joint project of America’s CIA and NSA and Israel’s secret military unit 8200.

One such cyber war campaign was Stuxnet, the computer virus that infected Iran’s centrifuges and sent them spinning wildly out of control before playing back previously recorded tapes of normal operations that plant operators watched unsuspectingly while the centrifuges spun faster and faster until they literally tore themselves apart. Stuxnet seems to have wiped out about 20% of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges.

Adding the word “cyber” to the word “war” doesn’t make it any less of a war. The United States attacked Iran. That crucial Iranian infrastructure was destroyed by a computer virus rather than a bomb does not change the destruction. A NATO study has admitted that Stuxnet qualified as an "illegal act of force.” According to Russia scholar Stephen Cohen, after the US accused Russia of hacking computers, NATO issued a statement saying that “hacking a member state might now be regarded as war against the entire military alliance, requiring military retaliation.” That is, cyber attacks are an act of war, not only justifying, but requiring military retaliation.

America has dropped no bombs on Iran. There are no explosions to be heard. But the quiet of the war doesn’t make it any less of a war. Wars don’t stop being wars because you place the words "medical," "economic," or "cyber" before the word "war."

*This article was originally published on Antiwar.

US Should Stop Sanctions against Iran Amidst Coronavirus Pandemic

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Washington is not willing to delay its plans to eternalize its hegemonic power, even in the face of an unprecedented global crisis. Currently, one of the main American targets is Iran, which, in the midst of the devastating crisis of COVID-19, will now have to face the fury of the US, which do not intend to retreat in the imposition of international sanctions against Tehran.

The Persian country is one of the most affected by the catastrophe. With more than 2,700 dead, Iran is trying to survive the pandemic. Despite the huge number of victims, the country is already beginning to show signs of stability. President Hassan Rouhani assured the world that the country has a strong health system and is able to cope with the rapid progression of the disease. State health insurance would cover 90% of coronavirus-related patient costs, including donations and low-interest loans to those affected by COVID-19. Altogether, 20% of the national budget is being directed towards controlling the pandemic.

However, this priority given to fighting the pandemic is not universal, with some countries more concerned with continuing their geopolitical ambitions to the detriment of human well-being. The United States has repeatedly announced that international sanctions against Iran will not end, regardless of the state of crisis caused by the global pandemic. In the past three months, US sanctions against Iran's oil and industry have increased exponentially, due to escalating tensions between the two countries. US State Secretary Mike Pompeo has publicly stated that Washington intends to recover global restrictions on Tehran because of the alleged "violation of its nuclear commitments".

Previously, American sanctions had been imposed in 2018, following the unilateral withdrawal of the US from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Reasonably claiming that Tehran had violated the terms of the agreement, Washington initiated a series of coercive measures that, over the past few two years, cost Iran about $200 billion, according to official Tehran data, directly damaging the country's economy and weakening strategic sectors.

 In a situation of humanitarian catastrophe, secondary tensions are expected to be minimized in favor of international cooperation against a common problem. Taking into account that the US has an even greater number of cases than Iran and that everything indicates that it will surpass the number of deaths, it would be reasonable that the Trump administration was less concerned with punishing another country and more interested in acting against the virus, be it helping other countries or just increasing their efforts to control internal chaos. However, the White House and the Pentagon do the exactly opposite. Sanctions against Iran not only continued but increased, with the US on March 26 adding a list of 5 organizations and 15 individual people to the list of those sanctioned for "collaboration with Iran". Clearly, the United States is interested in increasing and aggravating the crisis, not in reducing it.

Despite this, Iran has shown itself to be increasingly strong. Foreign sanctions, although cruel to the country's economy, have forced Iran to develop previously weaker sectors, strengthening the country as a whole. The Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, spoke in this regard, stating that “Iran has benefited from US sanctions. This made us self-sufficient in all areas”. Looking at it comparatively, the US, being the largest economy in the world, demonstrates a much greater strategic fragility, since the pandemic grows exponentially in its territory, even under conditions much more economically favorable than Iran.

Indeed, economic sanctions play a unique strategic role on the international scenario: generating instability and damaging the lives of the people affected by the measures. However, this seems to be a weak and inefficient formula when applied to strong and organically structured nations, with millennia of tradition and nurtured by great popular support for their governments, as is the case with the Islamic Republic of Iran. As Jeffrey Sachs, professor of sustainable development at Columbia University, wrote to Chinese media: “The US should immediately suspend all economic sanctions on countries that are struggling to deal with the disease (...) US economic sanctions have caused millions of people to suffer, and soon they could kill tens of thousands, if not far more. Exacerbating civilians' suffering to try to change their government's conduct is ethically wrong and prohibited by international law. Pursuing this strategy during the worst health crisis the world has faced in modern times demonstrates reckless disregard for human life and contempt for the norms of civilized behavior. ”

Finally, we must wait to see what will be the next steps of the US in its desperate search for the preservation of the global hegemony. If the American government is more interested in taking care of its own people and fighting the virus than punishing foreign nations, the most correct measure is an immediate end to sanctions.

Source: InfoBrics

A Foretaste of the Horror of Biological Warfare

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The world is getting sick from the spreading COVID-19 virus. North Americans and Europeans are now as horrified as Chinese by the invisible killer that has put their hospitals under siege.

They are also getting a grim foretaste of what biological warfare would be like. Those not cowering in terror in their homes would likely be amazed to learn that some of their governments are still churning out highly toxic chemical and biological agents in hidden factories.

But surely our lily white democracies don’t stoop to making poison gas and germs?

Back in 1990-91, I was based in Baghdad covering the first of the Gulf Wars. The US was threatening to attack Iraq for daring to invade oil-rich Kuwait, which used to be part of Iraq until ‘detached’ by the British Empire. At the same time, the eight-year Iran-Iraq War had just ended in a bloody stalemate. The US and Britain had pressed Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to invade Iran, seize its oil wealthy and overthrow the Islamic government in Tehran.

Facing a US-British invasion, Saddam Hussein ordered all foreigners in Iraq rounded up and confined to tourist hotels. Among the foreigners, I discovered four British scientific technicians who had been sent, or ‘seconded,’ to a newly built biowarfare chemical complex south of Baghdad at Salman Pak. They were then trucked to Baghdad as hostages against a US attack.

I managed to slip into the compound that held them and talked for hours over mugs of tea. The British tech team told me they had been secretly sent to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq by Britain’s Ministry of Defense and Britain’s MI6 Secret Intelligence Service to help Iraq’s military develop and deploy biological weapons for use against numerically superior Iranian forces on the Central Front, Al-Faw Peninsula, and again Kurdish rebels in the north.

The bio weapons included Anthrax, botulism, Q fever and tularemia that attacks the eyes, throat, skin and lymph nodes. Salman Pak also produced quantities of nerve and mustard gasses used against Iranian infantry formations.

Most raw materials for the germ and gas came from Europe. Feeder stocks for the germ/poison gas weapons came from the main UC chemical warfare plans at Ft. Detrick, Maryland.

A popular joke among western journalists in Baghdad went, ‘of course Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction. We have the delivery receipts.’

The times Iraq deployed its chemical/bio weapons against Iran, the results were nightmarish: blinded soldiers choking to death, unable to unable to breathe; soldiers with their skin peeling off; dead mothers holding babies in their arms. Many of these attacks were targeted by US satellites positioned over Iraq. US Air Force officers worked closely with their military counterparts Iraq.

To this day, there remain tens of thousands of maimed, blinded, crippled Iraqi soldiers. It was Iraq’s version of World War I, cheerfully financed by the US, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Iraq’s once thriving economy is mostly in ruins. US and British bombing even destroyed most of Iraq’s sewage systems, water reserves, hospitals and bridges. Contaminated water alone killed 500,000 Iraqi children, according to the UN, a price ‘worth paying’ said US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

The moral of this terrible story, and the current worldwide epidemic, is to immediately ban all chemical and biological weapons everywhere. Destroy all chem/bio warfare plants everywhere, including the US, Russa, China, India and Israel.

The COVID-19 virus is merely a taste of what a real biological war would be like. Many around the world who bear us ill cannot help but take notice how the world’s richest, mightiest nation can be brought to its knees by some invisible bugs.

When President Trump fulminates against China over COVID-19, he should be advised that the anthrax and other germ weapons used against Iraq in 1990 originated at Fort Detrick, just 50 miles NW of the White House, a mere one hour drive if traffic is not too heavy.

100,000 US COVID-19 Deaths OK with Trump

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Over the weekend, CDC director Anthony Fauci said he expects “millions of (US COVID-19) cases…between 100 and 200,000” deaths.

Comments like the above when most people already are scared to death by a daily drumbeat of COVID-19 fear-mongering facilitate the imposition and maintenance of draconian policies intended to erode human and civil rights.

Temporary shelter in place, social distancing, and lockdown orders will end when the coast is clear.

Other lost rights may not be restored to their previous state. US and other ruling authorities seek control over their populations, notably wanting dissent suppressed.

Fauci didn’t explain what’s on the CDC website about seasonal flu/influenza.

During the 2018-19 flu season, running from October to May, there were more than 35.5 million flu illnesses, over 16.5 million medical visits, about 490,600 hospitalizations, and around 34,200 deaths — with no fear-mongering headlines about a real epidemic.

It repeats annually with numbers similar to what’s above — with no shelter in place, social distancing, or lockdowns ordered, no mass closure of retail establishments or cancellations of public events.

Life proceeds normally in spite of a large-scale epidemic that occurs like clockwork annually in the US and other countries.

For weeks, Trump denied that COVID-19 threatened Americans. On January 21, he said “(w)e have it totally under control…It’s going to be just fine (sic).”

Time and again, he falsely blamed China for US outbreaks, on February 2 saying “(w)e pretty much shut it down coming in from China (sic).”

On February 10, he claimed outbreaks would “miraculously (go) away…by April (sic).”

Two weeks later he falsely said “(w)e’re very close to a vaccine” that requires many months to develop, likely won’t be available until around yearend, and will be hazardous to human health when obtainable.

Around the same time, he falsely said there’s only “15” cases in the US that “within a couple of days (will be) close to zero (sic).”

He lied claiming “(w)hatever happens, we’re totally prepared (sic).”

Five weeks later, the US has about 164,000 cases through Monday, numbers rising sharply each day — US outbreaks exceeding other countries, including over 3,200 deaths.

Throughout his tenure in office, Trump repeatedly and consistently showed and continues to show indifference toward human health and welfare.

According to him, 100 to 200,000 US deaths will show he’s “done a very good job (sic).”

Critics slammed his insensitivity. National Nurses United’s Charles Idelson said “(a) serial killer would be jealous.”

On Sunday, Trump claimed mid-April will be the “highest point” of outbreaks. They’ll start coming down from there (sic)” — citing no evidence to back his claim because there is none.

Extending social distancing guidelines to end of April, he claimed “(t)hat will be a day of celebration (sic).”

The vast majority of Americans have nothing to look forward to but permanent unemployment or underemployment earning poverty wages with few no benefits, along with steady erosion of their fundamental human and civil rights.

That’s the disturbing reality today in the United States of I Don’t Care for its ordinary people.

The nation under both right wings of the one-party state serves its privileged class exclusively — at the expense of most others.

A Final Comment

By executive order Friday, Trump authorized the war department and DHS to activate up to around one million reservists and National Guard forces for up to 24 months on the pretext of combatting COVID-19.

Borrowing language from the US Declaration of Independence, never before “in the course of human events (was it) necessary” to activate up to a million military personal to combat the flu or any other disease.

Does Trump have something else in mind — more foreign wars or perhaps protecting privilege from angry masses if protracted hard times get too hard to bear?

These are no ordinary times. Business, large investors, and other high-net worth households are benefitting hugely from what’s going on at the expense of the vast majority of Americans getting screwed.

*(Top image: President Donald J. Trump delivers remarks during a coronavirus (COVID-19) update briefing Monday, March 30, 2020, in the Rose Garden at the White House. Credit: Tia Dufour/ Official White House Photo)

The Free Market Is Largely Responsible for Much of Today’s Health Crisis

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Listening to Trump’s daily press conference, one gets injected with a healthy dose of how market based solutions are already saving us from the virus.

On a daily basis, Trump tells us what a fantastic job he’s doing, then trots out corporate CEOs before the camera, one after another, each telling us what they’re doing: US auto execs tell us of their plans to convert their idled factories and produce millions of ventilators (while states in desperate need are actually buying them from abroad, mostly China). Big Pharma companies are developing the new vaccine or interim medical treatments like hydrocholoroquinine (which Cuba has already produced and is giving free to Italy); silicon valley tech companies announce contributions of hundreds of thousands of N95 masks (from their offshore inventories purchased from Asia and elsewhere no doubt).

But the reality is that the free market and so-called free enterprise system is largely responsible for much of today’s health crisis. It is the ‘market’ that has given us the massive shortages in hospital beds, ventilators, critical personal protection equipment (PPE), and the long lag in developing interim medical treatments—let alone a vaccine.

Here’s just a few notable cases how the market has failed and continues to do so:

Hospital Beds

As others have pointed out, before the Neoliberal market system implanted itself in the USA decades ago with Ronald Reagan (deepening and expanding ever since), there were 1.5 million hospital beds in the country and an extensive non-profit public hospital system. Before 1980 there were 100 million fewer US citizens for those 1.5 million beds. Today there are 100 million more Americans, but only 925,000 hospital beds. We’ve added 100 million but reduced beds by 500,000. The reduction, of course, was all done in the name of ‘market efficiency’ by the for profit hospital chains who bought up and then shut down much of the non-profit public hospital system. Now, as the current health crisis deepens, we’re left setting up cots in auditoriums and college dorms and call them hospitals.

The crisis in hospital beds for virus patients can be traced largely to the program of Bill Clinton in 1994 called ‘managed health care’. That program permitted and incentivized the acquisition of the public hospital system by the for-profit chains who sought to reduce competition so they could raise prices. Under Clinton’s program, the for-profit chains were even exempted from US anti-trust laws that might have prevented the loss of half million hospital beds. Hospitals are one of the few industries totally exempt from anti-trust still today.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Why is the USA so short on ventilators, masks, safety clothing, even disinfectants? It’s because the market solution was to offshore the production of these critical items to Asia, Latin America, and especially China years ago. It was cheaper to move production offshore (experts call this today relocating the supply chains!). It was cheaper to import back these products to the US economy. Expanding free trade (again under Clinton) then made the cost of importing back to the US even cheaper and thus more profitable still. Offshoring and free trade are but two sides of the same coin. Add a third leg to the economic stool: tax laws were changed to provide tax breaks to corporations that actually offshored the production of PPE.

Fast forward and today we have China producing 115 million N95 and surgical masks A DAY! China’s surplus is so great it is giving ventilators and masks to Italy for free. But is the US saying anything about this in Trump’s press conferences? Has Trump ever admitted the availability of these critical PPE materials, ready for import to the US right now! No. Instead, health care providers, doctors, nurses, technicians, are told to re-use their masks and other equipment since there aren’t enough of them to go around. And we’re told by corporate representatives in Trump’s press conferences the materials are coming. Just be patient.

And then there’s the Hydrochloroquinine interim treatment for those sick with Covid-19. Trump mentioned that. But did he say where it was being already used? Some reports are now appearing that the treatment was successfully developed in Cuba, whose doctors have been sent to Italy to administer it there to the most ill patients. But no mention, however, that that treatment is taking place right now in Italy. You won’t hear that ‘non-market’ solution from market unfriendly Cuba from Trump.

Unemployment Benefits

The USA has one of the most miserly unemployment benefit payment systems among all the advanced economies. It provides barely a third of what’s needed to live on. And in many states not even that. In California, one of the more generous in relative terms, the top benefit is $450/wk. That’s about $1,800 a month. But the median rent in urban areas of California alone is $3,000 or more! In New York and other big cities, even more. And the insufficient benefits are paid for only six months.

But if you’re one of the tens of millions of temp, contract, gig workers you’re not considered an employee for the company you’re working for. You therefore are not eligible for even the insufficient unemployment benefits paid in the US.

That has temporarily changed as the US Congress CARE Act just passed. It now provides unemployment benefits for ‘gig’ and other contract workers, albeit for just four months. But the point is this: It’s not the ‘market’ that is helping the millions of gig and other contract workers with at least some benefits. It’s the government. With the CARES Act the government and taxpayer will now pick up the tab for the unemployment benefits for the millions of contract and gig workers that the ‘market’ has failed to cover. The market has allowed companies to avoid paying any unemployment benefits tax that would otherwise cover contract and gig workers. The taxpayer and government now will ‘pick up the tab’. The market failed and the government-taxpayer must clean up its mess and provide the benefits companies like Uber, Lyft, AirBnB and others have avoided and pocketed for themselves.

Health Insurance

In the free market Nirvana that is the USA today, millions of companies are permitted to forego providing their employees health insurance coverage. 37 million have no insurance at all.> And 87 million are under insured. Millions with some insurance have deductibles of thousands of dollars per person a year.
Now the Cares Act once again, i.e. the government and taxpayer, is stepping in and ensure these millions—employed and unemployed—have some kind of health insurance coverage. The government is called upon to clean up the mess the market has left.

Paid Medical-Sick Leave

The richest country in the world, the USA, where the Fortune 500 largest companies have managed to distribute more than $1 trillion a year for the past nine years to their shareholders in stock buybacks and dividend payouts, only provides on average 6 paid sick leave days a year to employees. And that’s typically only where a union contract exists. Most get unpaid sick leave or none at all. Get sick, go find another job. That’s the ‘market solution’. In Europe and elsewhere, combined paid leave is typically 30 days or more a year. But not in Trump’s market solution America.

Once again, the consequence is that the government-taxpayer in the CARES Act will have to pick up the tab for paid medical leave for the millions who must stay home due to their Employer’s order, or government ‘stay in place’ guidelines, or school districts shutdowns.

Market Solutions for Worker Retraining

It used to be that companies trained their own workers to become more skilled and productive. There was once a very widespread on the job training culture in the USA. That disappeared as well with the deepening of Neoliberalism and globalization (aka free trade, offshoring, and foreign direct investment by US multinational corps). Under Bill Clinton, corporations were allowed to bring hundreds of thousands of skilled workers from their foreign operations back to the US to take some of the best US jobs. It still continues. Free market efficiency meant it was cheaper (and more profitable) just to transfer workers on H1-B and L-1/2 visas to the US. No need to train American citizens. Cheaper simply to import skilled labor. That was the ‘market solution’ to job training.

The CARES ACT: $500 Billion ‘Socialism for Corporations’

The CARES Act allocates $500 billion just to large corporations. (Another $367 billion to smaller businesses). But do the large corporations really need the $500 billion? And who will oversee the distribution of that largesse?

Take the Airlines. Do they need it for the next 60 days? Do they deserve it?
The airlines are getting $58 billion under the just passed Cares Act. Half of that in outright grants. No strings attached. Another half in loans. Reportedly, they’re now quickly taking the grants but not the loans. Why? They’re probably waiting for Congress to agree to convert the loans to outright grants later in the year.

But no one is asking how much cash on hand the airline companies have as they’re handed these tens of billions of $! And no one is mentioning that the same airline companies in recent years gave their shareholders and CEOs no less than $45 billion in stock buybacks and dividend payouts. So now they’re getting $58B to back fill the hole of $45 billion they gave away to themselves and their big investors (who together owned most of the $45B stock bought back).

Here’s another question unanswered: In recent years big corporations (Fortune 500) earned record profits and paid out more than $1T a year in buybacks and dividends. Under Trump, they’ve paid out a total of more than $3 trillion in buybacks+dividends. In addition to that, in the months immediately leading up to the March 2020 virus crisis, the same big corporations were drawing down hundreds of billions of dollars from their credit lines with banks. At the same time in recent months they have been issuing new bonds and raising billions more in cash. No less than $73 billion was raised from issuing new bonds in February, a record. Flush with mountains of cash from Trump 2018 tax cuts, from their bank credit lines, and from record corporate bond issuance, they now are being given $500 billion more by Congress in the CARES ACT. Do they really need it? Let’s open their books and see before they get even $1.

Not least, there’s the question of who will oversee who gets the $500 billion. The Democrats in Congress say the special board created must oversee. Trump in turn has said, no way. I’m personally going to oversee. Want to guess who’ll win that one?

The point is Big Corporations are loaded with cash. And they didn’t earn most of it from the ‘market’. They got it from Trump tax cuts, from bank credit lines, and from low interest corporate bond issuance made possible by convenient near zero interest loans from the Federal Reserve. Nevertheless, now the non-market sugar daddy, the US government, is giving them $500 more whether they need it or not!

Super-Socialism for Bankers & Investors

The $500 billion going to big business pales in comparison, however, to the multi-trillions that the central bank, the Federal Reserve, is now pouring into the bankers, shadow bankers (i.e. hedge funds, equity firms, investment banks, mutual funds, etc.), and even now into non-bank corporations for the first time as well.

In 2008 the Federal Reserve provided more than $4 trillion to bail out the banks. Now it is providing more than $6 trillion (thus far)—and this time the banks haven’t even failed yet!

The Fed has opened a free money spigot to investors, bankers, and to big business of all types, and has simply declared ‘come on in and take it’. And if the $6 trillion to date isn’t enough, we’ll provide more.

For the first time ever the Fed is now providing free money not only to bankers, but to credit card companies, mortgage companies, corporate bond holders, and even to investors in derivatives like Exchange Traded Funds, or ETFs. Next it will start buying stocks to prop up those markets. Its cousin central bank, the Bank of Japan, has been doing that for years now.

Subsidizing Capital Incomes by Government Not the Market

Both tax policy and central bank monetary policy are supposed to function as general economy stabilization tools, according to mainstream economists. But today that’s a fiction perpetrated by the corporate media. In recent decades, tax and central bank policy ‘tools’ have become virtual conduits for the subsidization of capital incomes.

They have become the vehicles of Corporate Socialism. The Capitalist State and its government is taking care of its own. The rest of us will be taken care of by ‘the market’, according to Trump.

Bob Dylan’s Midnight Message to JFK’s Ghost

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On May 1, 1962, President John Kennedy was meeting in the Oval Office with a group of Quakers who were urging him to do more for peace and disarmament.  As he kept explaining the great political opposition he was facing within his own government, they kept urging him to do more.  He listened very closely to their words and finally said, “You believe in redemption don’t you.”  By the next spring he had turned decisively toward the peacemaking the Quakers had urged upon him, resulting in his murder in the fall by treacherous government forces, led by the CIA, that opposed him all along.

Now that Dylan has burst forth from behind his many masks and gifted the world with his incandescent new song about the assassination, with a title taken from Hamlet, from the mouth of the ghost of the dead King of Denmark –“ Murder Most Foul “– we have entered a new day in an odd way.  For those who have wondered over the years if Dylan had “sold out,” here is their answer. For those who have wondered if he would go to his grave reciting the words of T.S. Eliot’s J. Alfred Prufrock – “I am no Prince Hamlet nor was meant to be” – here is Hamlet’s booming response. Not only does this song lay bare the truth of the most foundational event in modern American history, but it does so in such a powerfully poetic way and at such an opportune time that it should redeem Dylan in the eyes of those who ever doubted him.

I say “should,” but while the song’s release has garnered massive publicity from the mainstream media, it hasn’t taken long for that media to bury the truth of his words about the assassination under a spectacle of verbiage meant to damn with faint praise.  As the media in a celebrity culture of the spectacle tend to do, the emphasis on the song’s pop cultural references is their focus, with platitudes about the assassination and “conspiracy theories,” as well as various shameful and gratuitous digs at Dylan for being weird, obsessed, or old.  As the song says, “they killed him once and they killed him twice,” so now they can kill him a third time, and then a fourth ad infinitum.  And now the messenger of the very bad news must be dispatched along with the dead president.

The media like their Hamlets impotent and enervated, but Dylan has come out roaring like a bull intent on avenging his dead president.

He has the poet’s touch, of course, a hyperbolic sense of the fantastic that draws you into his magical web in the pursuit of deeper truth.  In many ways he’s like the Latin American magical realist writers who move from fact to dream to the fantastic in a puff of wind.

Dylan is our Emerson.  His artistic philosophy has always been about movement in space and time through song.  Always moving, always restless, always seeking a way back home through song, even when, or perhaps because, there are no directions.  “An artist has got to be careful never to arrive at a place where he thinks he’s at somewhere,” he’s said.  “You always have to realize that you are constantly in a state of becoming and as long as you can stay in that realm, you’ll be alright.”

Sounds like living, right.

Sounds like Emerson, also.  “Life only avails, not the having lived.  Power ceases in the instant of repose; it resides in the moment of transition from a past to a new state, in the shooting of the gulf, in the darting to an aim.  Thus one fact the world hates, that the soul becomes.”

“Murder Most Foul” is Dylan’s soul becoming

“A song is like a dream, and you try to make it come true.  They’re like strange countries that you have to enter.  You can write a song anywhere …. It helps to be moving.  Sometimes people who have the greatest talent for writing songs never write any because they are not moving,” he wrote in Chronicles. 

“Murder Most Foul” is a moving song in every sense of the word – a trip to truth.

Dylan has long been accused of abandoning his youthful idealism and protest music.  I think this is a bum rap.  He was never a protester, though his songs became anthems of the civil rights and anti-war movements.  There is no doubt that those songs were inspirational and gave people hope to carry on the good fight.  But in turning in a more oblique and circumspect musical direction, following his need to change as the spirit of inspiration moved him, Dylan’s songs came to inspire in a new way. You could always tell his sympathies lay with the oppressed and downtrodden, but for decades he didn’t shout it, with perhaps the one exception being the powerful, hard-hitting, and mesmeric Hurricane in 1975.  With that one he stepped into the ring to brawl.

But for the most part over the years, a listener has had to catch his drift. If you go to the music, and dip into his various stylistic changes over the decades, however, you will find a consistency of themes.  He deals with essentials like all great poets.  Nothing is excluded.  His work is paradoxical.  Yes, he’s been singing about death since twelve, but it has always been countered by life and rebirth.  There is joy and sadness; faith and doubt; happiness and suffering; injustice and justice; romance and its discontents; despair and hope.  His music possesses a bit of a Taoist quality mixed with a Biblical sensibility conveyed by a hopelessly romantic American.  He has fused his themes into an incantatory delivery that casts a moving spell of hope upon the listener.  He is nothing if not a spiritual spell-binder; similar in many ways to that other quintessential American – the Beat poet Allen Ginsberg, whose best work was a poetic quest for an inspired salvific poetry.

While speaking the unspeakable truth about President John Kennedy’s murder might seem hopeless, it is actually a sign of great hope.  For our only hope is in telling the truth, which Bob has done.

This is art, not theory, and art of a special kind since Dylan is an artist at war with his art.  His songs demand that the listener’s mind and spirit be moving as the spirit of creative inspiration moved Dylan.  A close listening will force one to jump from line to line, verse to verse – to shoot the gulf – since there are no bridges to cross, no connecting links.  The sound carries you over and keeps you moving forward. If you’re not moving, you’ll miss the meaning.

I have no wish to explicate the poet’s brilliant work.  It speaks for itself.  It says far more than it actually says about a system rotten to the core, a country where everything went wrong since “The day the killers blew out the brains of the king/Thousands were watching, no one saw a thing.”

If you listen to Dylan’s piercing voice and follow the lyrics closely, you might be startled to be told, not from someone who can be dismissed as some sort of disgruntled “conspiracy nut,” but by the most famous musician in the world, that there was a government conspiracy to kill JFK, that Oswald didn’t do it, and that the killers then went for the president’s brothers.

Your brothers are comin’, there’ll be hell to pay

Brothers? What brothers? What’s this about hell?

Tell them, “We’re waiting, keep coming,” we’ll get them as well

This is an in-your-face tale, set to music with a barely tinkling piano, a violin, and a soupçon of percussion, whose lightest words, as Hamlet’s father’s ghost said to him:

Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,

Make thy two eyes like stars start from their spheres,

Thy knotty and combinèd locks to part,

And each particular hair to stand on end

Like quills upon the fretful porcupine.

“Murder Most Foul” truly startles.  It is a redemptive song.  Dylan holds the mirror up for us. He unlocks the door to the painful and sickening truth.  He shoves the listener in, and, as he writes in Chronicles, “your head has to go into a different place.  Sometimes it takes a certain somebody to make you realize it.”

Bob is our certain somebody. In these dark times he has offered us his voice.

You believe in redemption, don’t you?

A Disaster Is Coming: The Spread of Coronavirus in the Gaza Strip

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The Palestinian Health Ministry announced on Wednesday evening another seven cases of the coronavirus, taking Gaza’s total confirmed cases to nine; the first two cases of COVID-19 in Gaza had been reported  after two Palestinians residents, aged 79 and 63, returned recently to the Gaza Strip from Pakistan through Egypt. They were held in quarantine on their return and then diagnosed with coronavirus.

Gaza’s health ministry said in a statement that there are seven new cases of coronavirus in the same quarantine center.”

The statement explained that the new patients infected with the coronavirus are the police officers who came into contact with the two patients the security men who were quarantined in the same quarantine center, but stressed that neither any of them left the quarantine center or mixed with the wider population.

There were no cases reported inside the Gaza Strip, and the newly infected cases were discovered in one of the quarantine centers,” Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesman for the Ministry of Health in the Gaza Strip, said.

"Until Wednesday evening, more than 644,000 people have been affected with coronavirus in the world and more than 21,000 have died while more than 113,000 have recovered," al-Qidra said,

According to Abdelnasser Soboh, the Director of the World Health Organization’s Gaza office, the new cases have been imported from outside of Gaza, and the symptoms were initially discovered in quarantine centers at the Rafah Crossing.

If 50 cases were discovered from outside Gaza, they do not pose a danger to the internal community, as long as it did not appear in people who did not travel and did not come into contact with travelers,” Soboh said.

The Director of the Gaza Health Ministry,Yusef Abu al-Rish announced last Sunday that the first two cases of Coronavirus infection were recorded in Gaza, indicating that the two cases were quarantined and they did not enter the Gaza Strip, confirming that no cases were recorded from inside the Strip.

The spread of coronavirus in the Gaza Strip would be a disaster of horrifying proportions. “Dozens of other Palestinians who entered the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border crossing in the past three weeks have also been placed in quarantine in 18 different centers,” al-Rish added. 

As a result of the coronavirus outbreak in the world, Mohammad Shtayyeh, the Palestinian prime minister, ordered the Palestinian people to stay at home for two weeks, in an effort to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

The government in the Gaza Strip and Hamas operatives continue implementing a variety of precautionary measures, including closing crossings, shutting down wedding halls,  disinfecting public places, banning weekly street markets, and urging people to pray at home rather than in mosques. Four-hundred prisoners were released from jail, more than 200 quarantine units have been built in the northern Gaza Strip, and there are orders not to gather at events. Coordination is taking place between Hamas and Egypt, including the exchange of information about coronavirus patients.

In a statement that was released on 22 March 2020, Hamas “invited Palestinian factions and the Ministry of Health to contribute to the fight against COVID-19.”

Gaza Strip, a 60-square-kilometer (139-square-mile) stretch of land, is one of the world’s most densely populated areas, and Israel’s 13-year blockade of the territory has shattered the coastal enclave’s economy, as well as having left hospitals overburdened and understaffed, and deprived its 2 million inhabitants of free movement in and out of Gaza. Despite some minor easing in recent years, Israel has limited the import of medicines, the entry of basic amenities. and other essential items.

Israel said that it will close its borders with Gaza and the West Bank to commercial traffic, though some patients and humanitarian staff could cross.

The Health Ministry in Gaza issued an urgent appeal to the World Health Organization and other international organizations to stand with Gaza for critical medical equipment in the event of a coronavirus outbreak, including ventilators and intensive care equipment to deal with the epidemic. 

We call on international aid groups and the World Health Organization, alongside the supporters of the Palestinian people, to help the Palestinian people in this fierce fight against the coronavirus epidemic,” Hamas said in a statement.  

Hamas holds Israel fully responsible for the situation in the Gaza Strip: Ashraf al-Qidra, the spokesman for the Gazan Ministry of Health, said Israel is responsible for the health and humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip and called on the UN as well to accept responsibility.

“Israel would be responsible if the coronavirus spread in the Gaza Strip,” Khalil al-Haya, deputy chairman of the Hamas political bureau, said.

*(Top image credit: AFP/ YouTube)

Coronavirus Brings a “Bretton Woods Moment”

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The economic effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic continue to appear: stock exchanges close to collapse, stagnant production, falling expectations for global growth, entire economies broken and an uncertain future for the current system. The fragility of the international financial system can no longer be hidden, it is visible and palpable. To survive the crisis, the West becomes less and less “western”, progressively denying its liberal and globalist values ​​of open society, open borders and free markets, promoting increasingly constant and incisive state interventions, closing borders and instituting strong economic protectionism.

To illustrate some of the partial effects of the crisis, we can mention some official data. Federal Reserve System’s President James Bullard recently announced that 46 million people are expected to lose their jobs in the United States. The speculation concerns precisely the positions in which employees work interacting with the public. These jobs are suspended indefinitely by the sanitarian rules, which damage the income of millions of people and require a quick government attitude to guarantee a universal basic income.

In Germany, banks have already anticipated the recession and Europe's largest economy is experiencing its greatest instability in recent decades. With the overwhelming growth of the infection in the country, there is no other measure than the implementation of the quarantine and the strong action of the State to repair the economic crisis that will result from the isolation. "The coronavirus pandemic will trigger a severe downturn in Germany's economy and recession is inevitable (...) The federal government acted quickly and correctly. It seems to me that now the most important thing is to keep faith in the actions of the state", commented the Bundesbank director, Jens Weidmann, in an interview with the newspaper Die Welt.

The oil sector was one of the biggest affected by the economic crisis. Oil prices have almost halved since the beginning of March, amid the slowdown in market demand due to the advance of COVID-19, as well as the lack of agreement within OPEC and the unbridled increase in production in Saudi Arabia. Bloomberg analyst David Fickling said that "future generations will never see the wealth that the Gulf States enjoy today".

Some experts already classify the pandemic as a new Great Depression. Indeed, the social and economic effects of COVID-19 are only just beginning. The crisis is far from over. The number of cases increases daily on all continents. Few countries have managed to stabilize the crisis so far. What we can expect is an unprecedented catastrophe. As Tobin Smith, analyst and president of Transformity Research, said: "this is as a financial disaster, as a health disaster, as an economic disaster – is like we got three neutron bombs dropped on us."

Predictions that the current economic order will not be able to restructure after the crisis increase day after day. Jamie Martin, a former British government adviser, believes that the pandemic could represent the end of European liberalism and the return of an authoritarian tendency. However, if the contemporary global structure is failing, it must be reformed or replaced. But what comes after it? What will be the future of the world order? Is this the definitive end of liberalism or just the beginning of a new phase of capitalism?

This week, at a remote meeting of the G-20 summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed the elaboration of a common economic recovery plan, emphasizing the need for international cooperation to overcome the effects of the current crisis. One way to lessen the impacts of the crisis, according to Putin, would be through "green corridors", free from trade wars and sanctions. The president proposes the creation of a special fund under the International Monetary Fund, which any member of the G20 could use. In his words: "At the moment, it is extremely important to guarantee access to finance for countries that need resources, especially taking into account the countries that have been affected by this crisis and this pandemic".

In fact, international organizations currently do not have the necessary tools to deal with a crisis of such dimensions, which is why two speeches may arise: the strengthening of National States and the regression of liberalism and globalization or the strengthening of the international organizations, creating new models of global governance that establish more efficient mechanisms to contain damages in crises. Both speeches are booming in public debate.

What we are witnessing is the failure of a model that started in Bretton Woods in 1944, when the main economic powers came together and accorded the post-war economy. Although the Bretton Woods agreements were overcome in the 1970s, their legacy lives on: the belief in the infinite progress of capitalism and the favoring of the US in the world economy. Subsequently, the so-called "Washington Consensus" reinforced this view and updated it for a post-industrial world and for the emergence of financial capitalism. Now, this entire legacy seems to fall apart. In a world where natural resources are increasingly scarce and technology replaces much of the human workforce, how can we still believe in the infinite progress of capitalism?

This is perhaps the time for a “new Bretton Woods”, for a meeting of all world powers to define new parameters for the global economy in an era when the ecological collapse and social upheavals brought by globalization are increasingly evident and dangerous, touched by the outbreak of a deadly virus. If a meeting of such magnitude really occurs, two models will be disputed by the world leaders: the strengthening of National States (through international cooperation and regional integration) and the strengthening of globalization through the revitalization of world organizations and global governance. One of these paths will lead to multipolarity, the other will insist on the error of a liberal globalization. We are experiencing a real “Bretton Woods moment”.

*(Top image: JM Keynes addresses the Bretton Woods conference in 1944.)

Source: InfoBrics

The U.S. Is a Failed State, and COVID-19 Proves It

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The United States’ capitalist and imperialist economy cannot provide a modicum of social welfare to its people and has been in perpetual war with Black Americans and Indigenous Peoples since its formation.

U.S. imperialism has a long-standing habit of imposing the most brutal forms of war and torture onto nations under the pretext of so-called humanitarian grounds. Humanitarian intervention and the “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) have been used to destroy Libya, Syria, and Somalia and turn them into “failed states.” In many cases, however, these states were declared failures prior to U.S. intervention. Failure in the eyes of U.S. imperialism and its legion of profiteers is defined as any oppressed nation’s refusal to bow down to the economic and political dictates of a foreign imperial power. To be a “failed state” has always been a declaration of war by the U.S. and its imperial allies on the most oppressed and downtrodden nations of the world. What the hubris and racism of American exceptionalism and humanitarianism masks is that the U.S. is an actually existing failed state. COVID-19 has exposed this fact to the masses.

For two months, China heroically employed mass quarantines, built emergency temporary hospitals in record time, and redirected much of its economic and political infrastructure toward containing COVID-19. The U.S. exploited the disease to demonize China only to find itself unprepared for the blowback. President Trump declined testing kit assistance from the World Health Organization (WHO), allowing the virus to spread virtually undetected. Exorbitant healthcare costs and the lack of medical leave have deterred workers from taking the necessary precautions outlined by the WHO and the CDC. With no planned, nationalized response to the outbreak on U.S. shores, local governments have facilitated haphazard curfews and recommendations for more “social distancing” in attempt to stem the tide.

Forty years-plus of neoliberal shock therapy has turned the United States into the very failed state that the political class constantly complains about in reference to other nations. The U.S. cannot provide free healthcare to the masses because shareholders in the pharmaceutical and insurance industries are more committed to their profits. The U.S. cannot provide homes to the homeless because capitalists in finance, insurance, and real estate industries (FIRE) view public housing as an impediment toward their widening share of the market. The U.S. cannot possibly provide the conditions necessary for a rapid and effective response to a pandemic because private profits remain in command of society.

Private profits have indeed been prioritized throughout the COVID-19 crisis. The Federal Reserve didn’t hesitate to pump 1.5 trillion dollars into the plunging stock market. Not a cent of a trillion dollars was invested in student and other debt relief, a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, or toward the development of medical infrastructure to make up for a massive shortfall in masks, ICU beds, and ventilators. What the masses in the United States did receive was a Congressional bill for COVID-19 relief that House leader Pelosi proudly endorsed. The bill possessed a corporate friendly loophole that left nearly eighty percent of workers out of a 14-day federally mandated and funded medical leave benefit. 

The massive inefficiency and anarchy of the U.S.’ capitalist and imperialist model has existed for quite some time, especially in relation to Black America and other oppressed nations. Hurricane Katrina killed thousands of Black Americans and displaced over 100,000 more due to the putrid response of the U.S. state. Puerto Rico has been plundered by a U.S.-backed financial control board which left the island vulnerable to prolonged devastation after Hurricane Maria. And make no mistake, oppressed nations will undoubtedly feel the brunt of the fallout from COVID-19. Black Americans make up a large portion of the “gig economy” and the rest of the service sector which is stuffed to the brim with shit jobs lacking medical leave or any form of protection. Blacks make up a disproportionate number of the homeless populations in urban centers, of the unemployed, and those without adequate healthcare. Black Americans, Latino Americans, and Indigenous Americans comprise over half of the 2 million people being held in concentration camps called U.S. prisons. These conditions already leave America’s “wretched of the earth” vulnerable to premature death, and COVID-19 will be no different.

An imperialist failed state is also a menace abroad and the U.S. has only hindered the ability of the world’s people to tackle the outbreak of COVID-19. While China has offered experience, medical equipment, and other forms of aid to nations such as Iran and Italy, the U.S. has only fanned the flames of anti-China sentiment. CNN moderator Dana Bash asked Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden at the most recent debate how they would punish China for concealing the true danger of COVID-19. Both candidates affirmed their commitment to war by calling China an “authoritarian” state that must be held accountable. Neither called out the basis of the question as a proven fallacy. Biden even suggested that the U.S. should have deployed “experts” to China to monitor the situation, a clear act of war.

The U.S. is a failed state because it has nothing to offer the world but death, destruction, and destitutionIranians continue to die of treatable diseases and COVID-19 due to U.S. sanctions. The United States continues to deploy its trillion-dollar military albatross to murder, starve, and pollute the vast majority of the world’s people. No calls have been made to halt operations in the U.S.’ eight hundred military bases or to rollback AFRICOM amid the spread of COVID-19. To do so would threaten the profits of the banks and transnational corporations that depend on war to create the conditions necessary for their domination. 

The characterization of the United States as a failed state is helpful in several respects. First, calling the U.S. a failed state helps us redefine the term and provides numerous opportunities to organize a people’s centered struggle for human rights. The U.S. has no right to impose any unilateral military action upon any nation, whether in the form of sanctions or direct attack. The United States’ capitalist and imperialist economy cannot provide a modicum of social welfare to its people and has been in perpetual war with Black Americans and Indigenous Peoples since its formation. A moment of crisis like that presented by COVID-19 requires a demand on the so-called international community to take swift action to muzzle the destructive impact of U.S.’ failed state. People have the right to healthcare, housing, and the necessities of life to address the COVID-19 crisis and the failed state on the American mainland is incapable of providing these fundamental human rights without the pressure of an international movement.

Second, calling the U.S. the failed state delegitimizes the imperial narrative that prevents the people from learning key lessons from countries constantly disparaged as “authoritarian,” “dictatorships,” and the like. COVID-19 proves that the United States’ war on the world is a drag on humanity. China’s ability to curtail the rapid spread of the virus over the course of two months showed the world what a functioning centralized state can do in service of the people. Cuba’s advanced healthcare system possesses critical medical interventions that can address the dangers of COVID-19 as well as other conditions such as lung cancer. The U.S. must be condemned as a failed state so that more people, especially those that call themselves “the left,” can open their eyes to the absolute necessity of building solidarity with nations such as Cuba and China which have successfully confronted the capitalist and imperialist systems at their root.

As COVID-19 facilitates a collapse in the capitalist economy and as the U.S. continues to demonstrate its fatal weaknesses on a broad scale, it is important that the crisis of legitimacy facing U.S. imperialism does not go to waste. The political class has used the crisis to feign compassion and may very well be forced to institute temporary programs such as universal basic income and expanded medical leave. Pentagon resources may need to be diverted toward the massive shortages in medical equipment and hospital beds. Not only do such measures demonstrate to the masses that the state can be redirected toward human need, but they also present an opportunity for nations such as China and Cuba to find some relief from the war machine around the world. Of course, U.S. imperialism cannot be depended upon to provide people-centered human rights in any kind of universal form. This must be demanded from the power structure. When the power structure fails to deliver, then the complete overhaul of the system shifts from a remote chance to an absolute possibility in a very short time. Whether the crisis of COVID-19 and its aftermath allow the U.S.’ failed state to go on in the old way remains to be seen.

*This article was originally published on the Black Agenda Report.

The US Supporting Terrorists in Syria Who Are Holding Hostages at Rukban Camp

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While the COVID-19 pandemic has taken center stage of the global media, there is little attention paid to a tragedy playing out in southeastern Syria.  Far away from the western media coverage of the “Islamic State of Idlib”, the scene is set in a desolate area on the border between Syria and Iraq, adjacent to the illegal US military base of ‘Al Tanf’.  The ‘Rukban Camp’ holds 13,500 Syrian civilians, who are displaced, and 6,000 armed Radical Islamic terrorists of Maghawir Al-Thawra and their families.  

On March 28 the Russian-Syrian Coordination Committee released a statement in Damascus, in which they exposed the US support of the terrorists who control the camp. Under the guise of humanitarian aid, the US has coerced the UN into complicity, as the UN aid trucks are used to deliver not only food and supplies to the suffering civilians but also arms and ammunition to Maghawir Al-Thawra who administer the camp. The US uses the residents of the camp as a reason to remain in illegal occupation of the area, claiming the US troops are protecting the displaced civilians who live at the camp.

The situation in the camp is dire, as the terrorists are in complete control, even deciding who eats, and who starves. According to the joint statement, many civilians have been evacuated from the camp and relocated to government-controlled areas that are safe and have free medical care facilities under the Syrian Ministry of Health, who work in conjunction with the World Health Organization (WHO).  However, the US-sponsored terrorists have prevented the civilians from leaving by threatening them with dire consequences based on misinformation. Maghawir Al-Thawra is benefitting from the suffering civilians trapped in the camp as hostages. 

The ‘Russian Centre for Syrian Reconciliation’ said in September 2019 that the Rukban Camp is controlled by an illegally armed militia, and they had refused to let the UN buses inside to evacuate those who needed to be evacuated, instead insisting on using the civilians as human shields. Maghawir Al-Thawra had seized a large cargo delivered by the UN and the Syrian Red Crescent and the confiscated goods were warehoused by the terrorists.

“Sometimes, we received aid from the Red Crescent, but we only saw a small portion of it, most often sold to us, not given for free. The militants take the free aid and resell it to the refugees — that’s their business. To get money, we had to work at the camp. They set up a brick factory and we had to work like dogs there,” said Ahmad Mohammed, a former resident at Rukban Camp, who has been evacuated to Palmyra, and is now living safely there. He said that Maghawir Al-Thawra was selling humanitarian aid given freely, “Medical aid depended on the militants, too: if you co-operate, you have access to doctors. If you don’t, there will be no aid,” Mr. Mohammed said.

Using COVID-19 pandemic to threaten and torture displaced civilians

The US military uses the assets on hand, and in this case, Maghawir Al-Thawra is the ‘boots on the ground’ that keep the very small numbers of American troops safe, and firmly in control of the area.  The Pentagon knows it would be very hard to get an approval of 6,000 Americans to hold Al Tanf, but the terrorists are on hand and are vicious fighters who will carry out crimes without batting an eye.

The US presence and control of the Rukban Camp

American troops illegally occupied the area at Al Tanf in 2015, defying international law, and the UN charter.  President Trump famously ordered the US troops to withdraw from Syria, only to back-track later and order the US military to occupy and confiscate the oil wells in the Deir-Ez-Zor area illegally.  However, the US military presence at Al Tanf has never been under the withdrawal order, and the US military base is only manned by a few hundred US troops, while they partner with the terrorist group Maghawir Al-Thawra, who are on the US payroll and are tasked with the security and administration of the Rukban Camp.

“We believe that the American side’s reluctance to exert influence on their militants to ensure the unhindered departure of people from the Camp and the safe work of humanitarian representatives in the At-Tanf zone they occupied is clear evidence of their intention”, the statement issued March 28 asserted. 

The role of the UN and humanitarian organizations in prolonging the suffering of Syrian civilians

On March 18 UNICEF shut down the only clinic providing Rukban Camp residents with advanced medical care, such as surgeries, and Caesarean-sections. Two days later a group in Rukban issued an urgent appeal addressed to the UN and the international community in general, calling for quick action to lift what it called the “Coronavirus siege,” which has only worsened the already miserable situation in the camp.

An American journalist was killed for exposing the UN complicity 

Serena Shim, an American journalist, was covering the Syrian conflict from the Turkish-Syrian border in 2014. She had reported that terrorists had crossed from Turkey into Syria on trucks bearing the symbols of the UN’s ‘World Food Organisation’ and other humanitarian aid organizations.  She was killed the day after she had broadcast that the Turkish intelligence agency had threatened her. While her death was pinned on a cement truck hitting her small car, the driver of the truck was never charged. 

The only humanitarian solution for Rukban Camp

Syrians need to return to normal life in their homes, not camps. The solution for the Rukban Camp is to be shut down, the residents evacuated to safe areas, which have aid, schools and medical care available.  The US troops should evacuate from the area, taking with them their partners Maghawir Al-Thawra. The Syrian war is over. Peace has returned to Syria, and there is no justification for keeping hostages in a camp, which has always been more like a prison than a sanctuary.

*This article was originally published on Mideast Discourse.

Bernie Sanders: By Supporting the Palestinian Cause, He Will Change US Policy

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It is uncommon to see a person nominated in a US presidential election who supports  Palestinian rights. “I am pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian; I want to bring people together” is a sentence that has been said repeatedly by Bernie Sanders who seeks the nomination from the Democratic party for the US upcoming presidential elections in November 2020. Sanders declared his complete support for the Palestinian cause and even it became a main topic in his lectures and debates. In return, a lot of Palestinian-American activists and advocacy groups have endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders for president.

Who is Bernie Sanders? 

Bernie Sanders, known as Bernie, 78 years old, comes from a Jewish family whose grandparents were murdered in the Holocaust. His father immigrated to the United States as a result of Nazi injustice. Bernie Sanders is a U.S. Senator from Vermont; he was elected to the U.S. Senate after 16 years as Vermont’s sole congressman in the House of Representatives. He describes himself as a democratic socialist.

In Congress, Bernie has fought tirelessly for working families, focusing on the shrinking middle-class and growing gap between the rich and everyone else. Bernie has been called a “practical and successful legislator” and he was dubbed the “amendment king” in the House of Representatives for passing more amendments than any other member of Congress, according to his official website.

Sanders' explicit support for the Palestinians people 

Sanders always shows his support to Palestine and condemns Israel’s violence against Palestinians. During the last war in Gaza, in 2014, he called Israel’s use of force “disproportionate” and “indiscriminate,”  and he also publicly condemned Israel’s killing of peaceful Palestinian protesters Great March of Return in 2018-19. “Innocent people are being killed,” Sanders told the Intercept. “Those are terrible actions. Instead of applauding Israel for its actions, Israel should be condemned.”  

In Sanders's tweet, he called the deaths “tragic” and unequivocally defended Palestinians’ freedom of assembly, saying: “It is the right of all people to protest for a better future without a violent response.”

And while numerous US government officials have rushed to blame Gazans for their own desperate conditions, Sanders has highlighted the prolonged Israeli siege as the source of the humanitarian crisis. In a co-authored letter to the secretary of state Mike Pompeo a year ago, he emphasized his call for rebuilding Gaza, lifting the siege, and restoring US funds to UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East); in addition to he decried the massive levels of unemployment and poverty in Gaza City.

As anyone might expect, Sanders' explicit support for Palestinians has placed him in the line of sight of hawkish pro-Israel groups like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). 

During the last presidential campaign, Sanders was the only major candidate who skipped appearing in AIPAC’s annual conference. When AIPAC refused to allow him to address the conference by video link from the campaign trail, Sanders recorded a speech addressed to the AIPAC audience and posted it online. “We have also got to be a friend, not only to Israel but to the Palestinian people,” Sanders said.

 Sanders added, “When we talk about Israel and Palestinian areas, it is important to understand that today there is a whole lot of suffering among Palestinians and that cannot be ignored.” Not surprisingly, Sanders also skipped this year’s AIPAC conference.

Senator Bernie Sanders said the United States must be "pro-Palestinian" as much as "pro-Israeli" and described the Israeli government as "right-wing" and "racist.".

Sanders' statements about Palestine and the Palestinian people are not a usual speech used in American politics; for instance, he called for reducing US military aid to Israel and demanded that it be linked with respect for the Palestinian people in Gaza. 

“My solution is to say to Israel: you get $3.8 billion dollars every year, if you want military aid, you’re going to have to fundamentally change your relationship to the people of Gaza,” Sanders said. “In fact, I think it is fair to say that some of that should go right now into humanitarian aid in Gaza.”

Sanders' Palestinian-American activists supporters  

A coalition of Palestinian-American activists such as Democratic Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, comedian and political activist Amer Zahr, political activist Linda Sarsour along with advocacy groups have endorsed Senator Sanders for the US presidential election, lauding the Democratic candidate as a "supporter of justice, equality and human rights for all, including the Palestinian people". 

“More than any other presidential candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders has built a historically inclusive and forward thinking-movement, one that represents America as a set of ideas grounded in the belief that all humans are equal and worthy of dignity and rights,” the coalition of political, academic and social organizations said in a joint statement.

The group also said: "We call upon all Palestinian Americans, joining those who support equality, justice, and human rights, to vote for Senator Sanders in the Democratic primaries and beyond.

The endorsement - signed by nine organizations and more than a dozen advocates from across the country - include Sanders' campaign surrogates Linda Sarsour and Amer Zahr as well as civil rights advocates and cultural and political organizations from various cities in the United States. They noted Sanders' even-handed approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It highlighted the senator's assertion at a debate in December when he said Washington's foreign policy cannot only be pro-Israel but "must be pro-Palestinian as well".

The statement also mentioned Sanders’ opposition to bills criminalizing the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction (BDS) movement against Israel as well as his rejection of Trump’s Mideast plan known as “deal of the century”.

Zahr, a comedian and activist, said Sanders has "consistently centered the Palestinian issue in his foreign policy".

"We believe that his honesty and consistency over the years gives us a different kind of hope as we head into this presidential election," Zahr further added.

Linda Sarsour, who has been campaigning for Sanders among Muslim voters, said that “There is an assumption the Palestinian American community only supports Bernie because he’s the most progressive on Palestine,” she also added. “But we also support him for many other issues, including Medicare for All, immigration, his staunch opposition to the Muslim Ban”

Rashida Tlaib, a Muslim congresswoman, "hopes the Michigan Arab and Muslim communities will play a determining role in a Sanders' victory."

The Palestinians' involvement in this momentum in the American elections and the publicity that precedes it, made them stand out on the political and media scene in unprecedented ways.

Is Bernie a good candidate for the Palestinians people? 

Undoubtedly; at this moment, Sanders is the only one who could achieve an important change in the US approach. Palestinians may have given up finding their political savior among US presidential candidates since they have been Israeli supporters for a long time so far, but things may change if  Sanders receives the president chair. 

*(Top image: U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders speaking with supporters at a campaign rally at Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, Arizona. Credit: Gage Skidmore/ Flickr)

Prof. Mario Caligiuri: “The Coronavirus Represents the Death of Capitalism and an Opportunity to Reinvent Society”

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Mohsen Abdelmoumen: What is the situation in your country Italy in the context of the Covid19 virus epidemic? 

Prof. Mario Caligiuri: At the moment, the Italian situation is the most serious in the world, in terms of the number of people infected and dead, even more than in China. The conditions are extremely difficult and in Lombardy they are even tragic. But the truth about the numbers is not told. For example, in China, from February to December 2019, 21 million mobile phones are turned off. I don't know if that means anything. In Italy, according to the High Institute of Health, the percentage of deaths due to coronavirus alone is about 2%. In Russia, the number of infected persons is very low and no deaths have been reported so far. In Japan, the country was quarantined immediately after the official news of the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics to next year. It is only in recent weeks that strict measures have been taken against the pandemic by European countries with the exception of Sweden, and the United States, where the number of infections detected has made it the number one country in the world. While the figures are indicative, they must be interpreted and put into context. And the conclusions will be made at the end, several months from now.

You mention three very disturbing elements, such as the fact that 21 million mobile phones have been switched off in China, that only 2% of Italians have died from the coronavirus and that Russia has very few infected people and no deaths. That's a lot of things to constitute a coincidence. In your opinion, what is the truth behind this mysterious Covid 19 virus? 

In all great tragedies, there are those who suffer them and those who profit from them. The most important form of confrontation we will soon have to deal with is information warfare, which is boundless. Behind the mysterious Covid 19 virus, in my opinion, there is no conspiracy but a manifestation of nature that found us unprepared, especially in a historical phase in which man, through genetic engineering and artificial intelligence, has taken on the appearance of a God who grants life and death. What's going on brings everyone back down to earth.

Don't you think that there has been a huge lack of anticipation on the part of European governments with regard to the pandemic we are currently experiencing? 

The first meeting of the European Commission to address the issue took place on 6 March 2020. The epidemic has been known with certainty since at least December 2019 and, as early as the end of January 2020, the World Health Organization underlined the very serious risk that this epidemic represented. Nothing more is needed to understand the neglect and unpreparedness of a large part of the European ruling class.

Why has Europe abandoned Italy when China is trying to help it? 

This confirms that every nation, beyond purely gratuitous assertions of principle, thinks first of itself. Rather than a Europe of the people, the European Union is based on the economy. China does its policy legitimately, as it does in Africa: propaganda and long-term investment.

Has Europe not shown its limits with the coronavirus crisis? 

Irreversibly, if it is not in a position to confront the terrible economic crisis, which predicts a 4.5% reduction in GDP by 2020. But it could be even worse.

We have seen scenes of collective hysteria in supermarkets and superstores. Hasn't this coronavirus crisis put individualistic consumption patterns to the test?

According to the philosopher Slavoj Žižek, global capitalism could undergo a profound transformation. For him, a radical change is needed and the coronavirus represents "the death of capitalism and an opportunity to reinvent society". The whole social system, from media education to media literacy, is based on the promotion of consumption. Algorithms are the most powerful agent of political change in this century and are programmed in the capitalist logic of favoring the consumption of goods.

The health sector has been abandoned in the face of shortages of necessary equipment such as masks, respirators and hydro-alcoholic gel, which are sorely lacking, and the depletion and even suffering of health care workers. Don't you think that the neo-liberal model that places profit above all else is to be questioned? Can we manage health as we manage any economic sector? 

There is no doubt that health cannot be managed as an economic sector. In Italy, it is assigned to the regions, 70 % of whose budgets concern health care. In our country, in 1997, there were 575 acute care beds per 100,000 inhabitants. Today there are 275: less than half. Health in southern regions is often problematic, while at the national level, the private sector is very strong. All this confirms a banal truth: for many people, health is just a way to make money. The many exceptions, which we gratefully admire in Italy these days, only confirm the rule.

Are not peoples of Europe paying the price of austerity, deindustrialization, and relocation? 

After the Second World War, the idea of Europe ensured 75 years of peace, the longest period in history without conflict on our continent. During this period, however, economic and bureaucratic logics prevailed, especially after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The most aggressive logics of profit prevailed even more, which also explains the planetary spread of mafias. To cope with the pandemic crisis, the United States should see its budget deficit double, in Germany, more than a thousand billion is injected, in France 300 billion and in Italy around 50 billion. When they will start to draw conclusions, there will be people in Europe who will suffer more and people who will suffer less. And the results will be unpredictable.

What do you think of the lack of competence of certain politicians who are managing this crisis on a do-it-yourself basis? Hasn't the coronavirus exposed entire governments? 

Politics is unforgivable for weakening public health. The ruling classes of the Western democracies underestimated what was happening. China used the iron fist, South Korea used technology. The ruling classes in these countries have proven to be more effective. Three years ago, Daniel Bell published the book "The Chinese Model", in which he theorizes that democracies are inadequate for creating effective public elites. We are living it. It is to be hoped that there will be an awakening soon, otherwise times will be really difficult because each private and public organization works mainly according to who leads and represents it.

Don't you think that after this crisis nothing should ever be the same again? 

It doesn't seem obvious to me. We need to see how the political system will be re-articulated. In Italy, there is no alternative to this homogeneous political class. The new actors are no better than the old ones and have not reduced the inefficiency, social injustices and indefensible privileges of politicians. As an example, I would like to remind the position of the Five Stars movement on vaccines that they felt were doing more harm than good. If we don't change all the musicians, the music will always be the same. But we don't see any new musicians on the horizon.

It has been noted that in countries such as France, Belgium, etc. the population does not respect containment. Don't you think that the issue of individual rights, the lack of discipline, complicates the solutions to eradicate the coronavirus? 

Certainly, but we must consider that this is a new situation and that social networks, rather than helping to understand, contribute to anxiety and confusion. Misinformation is the most significant fact of this era. Several years ago, I theorized on the society of disinformation, which is achieved by the excess of information on the one hand and the low level of education on the other. Today, many people understand this: why flood people with information, which is often useless and erroneous, when those who receive it do not have the critical and cultural tools to interpret it? This could be considered a very effective form of censorship. That is the deprivation of the information necessary to understand reality.

How do you explain the lack of international cooperation, with the exception of China, Cuba, Venezuela and Russia, which send doctors and/or equipment and medicines, in the fight against this virus?

International cooperation usually works when there is something to take rather than something to give. Cuba is praiseworthy because, thanks to Fidel Castro, it has created a quality public health system at the service of the people. In the West, private health services are excellent, but they are certainly not for everyone.

Both the political system and the economic system, which some told us were infallible, have shown their vulnerability to a virus. What can we learn from this? 

In particular, democratic political systems are in great crisis due to the insufficient selection of elites. Democracy is only a process in the hands of narrow oligarchies supported by the media, which gives credibility to a system that fails even to guarantee the essential rights of citizens, from safety to health, from work to education. The economic system itself has confirmed the limits of a development model based on capitalism that has now imposed itself on the entire planet, including former communist states such as Russia and China.

On a completely different note, Operation Rubicon is a global scandal. How do you explain the CIA aided by the German BND spying on Allied states? Aren't intelligence assets being misused?

Aldo Moro, the Italian statesman killed by the Red Brigades in 1978 while he was prisoner, had already stated that the German federal secret service was conducting activities in Europe on behalf of the United States. Nothing new or shocking. Years ago, the revelations of Edward Snowden, as well as those of Julian Assange, had already anticipated these events. Our President of the Republic, Francesco Cossiga, who was a great connoisseur of intelligence, maintained that it was normal to spy among allied and friendly countries. There is nothing shocking about that, because these are normal, unconventional foreign policy activities.

You are a great intelligence specialist. How do you read the connivance between drug traffickers as well as serious crime and jihadists? How do you assess the intelligence cooperation between the northern and southern Mediterranean countries? 

The convergence of interests between drug traffickers, criminals and jihadists is a very dangerous scenario, especially at this time. Few believe that states rightly focus on the fight against the coronavirus and therefore crime and terrorism are more far-reaching, especially at the IT level. In addition, one of the consequences of the economic crisis in the coming months will be an increase in social distress. With democratic ruling classes designated by election or competition, we will certainly be in even greater difficulty with mafias and terrorism, which choose their leaders on the basis of merit and individual ability. Intelligence is the deep state, the continuity of the state, independently of political majorities. Intelligence has never before had the task of stabilizing democracy and giving continuity to public institutions. It is precisely for this reason that cooperation between the intelligence services of European and African countries is a strategic step forward to transform the Mediterranean from a sea of conflict and social unrest into a sea of meetings and changes, to give new horizons to humanity in the 21st century.

Interview realized by Mohsen Abdelmoumen

Who is Prof. Mario Caligiuri? 

Mario Caligiuri is a full professor at the University of Calabria, where he founded the first master’s degree in intelligence, the first course in intelligence and the first center for intelligence studies at Italian universities. He is considered one of the leading international scientific experts in intelligence. His writings include intelligence and the humanities: Una disciplina accademica per il XXI secolo (2016), Cyber intelligence; Tra libertà e sicurezza (2016), Intelligence e magistratura; Dalla diffidenza reciproca alla collaborazione necessaria (2017) and, with Giangiuseppe Pili, Intelligence studies; Un’analisi comparata tra l’Italia e il mondo angloamericano” (2019). For the Italian intelligence magazine « Gnosis« , he recently wrote two very important essays: The unsustainable lightness of the democratic elites (2017), On artificial intelligence and the new world order and A priority commitment to intelligence (2018). 

Coronavirus: Petition Demanding Removal of Monstrous US Anti-Iran Sanctions, Please Sign!

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US foreign policy against Iran has been dominated by threats and the use of crippling sanctions against the innocent Iranian people. These horrific sanctions, found unlawful by a ruling from United Nations’ International Court of Justice in October 2018, are preventing Iran from importing vital humanitarian supplies, especially at a time of global crisis as seen with the coronavirus epidemic.

Any fair-minded person would find that as a result of the sanctions placed on Iran, innocent people are dying because medicine imports have been banned for Iran. With more than 2500 victims due to the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the rest of the world can become now aware of the barbarity of Trump administration and economic sanctions inflicted on Iran. Whatever American baseless propaganda fantasies might claim about Iran, there is absolutely no justification for ravaging the Iranian government and hindering its response to the virus, and squeezing the sick innocent citizens and kicking them when they are down.

This dire situation is the result of the shortage of much-needed medication and medical equipment, due to the US sanctions on the country.  This latter has devastated the economy and blocked every financial channel available to Iran for buying food and pharmaceuticals. The Trump administration reimposed, in 2018, sweeping penalties on Iran’s economy after exiting the 2015 nuclear deal.

Ironically, Trump dubbed Iran terrorist state; how to explain his choking move against innocent people amid planetary sanitary crisis, claiming hundreds of lives on a daily basis, who are fighting off this pandemic with the minimum of means possible. Is not he the leader of the world’s number one terror state?

A heartless and devious administration showing callous disregard for the lives of innocent Iranians in the midst of this global coronavirus crisis, and even worse; it went far by declaring that crippling economic sanctions will be doubled down on the Islamic Republic, despite the sheer scale of the suffering. 

As the death toll from the coronavirus outbreak continues to rise in Iran, one of the world's most impacted countries calls worldwide emerged, urging Trump administration to lift these unilateral sanctions that have direct effect of preventing Iranians from much-needed services. These sanctions are with no result besides hurting ordinary Iranians and demonizing a country rich in culture, a long history and peace-loving people.

Monstrous U.S. must provide immediate relief, as the global pandemic is not a time for settling geopolitical accounts, especially those that have no basis, invented by Washington for the purpose of satisfying their own ambitions, as stated by the Russian Foreign Ministry:

"Illegal unilateral U.S. sanctions, imposed since May 2018 as part of the 'maximum pressure' campaign, are a powerful obstacle to effective fight against the infection. The reason for the many victims, caused by it, lies not only in the disease itself, but also in the fact that the U.S., purposefully hinder the resistance [to the coronavirus]."

 "Millions of Iranian citizens were cut off from the possibility of purchasing necessary medical supplies, no matter how hard Washington tried to distort it. The anti-human policy of the U.S. provokes deep regret, alarm, and serious concern.

Trump’s vile administration, for its part, is being glaringly cruel and extremely unreasonable, turning a blind eye to the mounting death toll and calls pouring from every corner, demanding the removal of the anti-human sanctions that are impeding anti-Covid19 efforts.

To this end and with Iran being the epicenter for the outbreak of this pandemic, an electronic petition has been created, calling on the world community to put pressure on the United States to lift unfair sanctions against Iran as a country that is fighting the coronavirus. This humanitarian move is purely inspired by humanistic feelings far from any political affiliations.

Here is the link to the petition:

http://www.corona2plus.com/Corona2/En/Portal/

Would you kindly sign and share this petition. 

Stephen Bell: The Saudi Coalition Has Failed to Achieve Its Military Goals

Stephen Bell a7bda

Five years of the imposed aggression have devastated Yemen leaving the country at the verge of a 'humanitarian catastrophe,' where 18 million people are in need of assistance and created the largest food security emergency in the world. Since the onset of the Saudi-led aggression, anti-war campaigners organised protests in solidarity with the Yemeni people. Mirat Al Jazeera has interviewed Stephen Bell, the Treasurer of the Stop the War Coalition, who affirms that after five years, the coalition has failed to achieve its military goals and that the collapse of the Coalition will be the harbinger for the Yemeni resistance's ultimate victory.

The balance of power has changed 

There has been a broad military deadlock since the movements of the summer of 2015. Almost certainly the forces of Ansarallah had been over-extended by the taking- over of Aden, so the subsequent loss was not a surprise. But following that, the Saudi led coalition has been unable to roll up the resistance forces. Underlying this failure is the failure of the Gulf transition process after 2011. By this process, the Saudi regime hoped to overturn the popular forces which had brought the former regime to an impasse and had split the national army and state forces. But the popular forces represented a majority of the Yemeni population. The transition process was not coherent enough to overturn this real balance of forces, and in 2014 this balance reasserted itself with the assumption of power by Ansarallah and the patriotic section of the General People’s Congress.

This balance cannot be overturned by purely domestic manoeuvres. The Saudis decided, with US imperialism’s support, to embark on military action on the assumption that the military balance would be more favourable than the political balance. This proved to not be the case because the patriotic forces are fighting for Yemen’s independence and the possibility of social progress for the population. The invading forces are fighting for money and foreign governments. The resistance has better morale and domestic support. That is why the Saudi led coalition has failed and will continue to fail.

Factors that helped the Ansarullah to successes 

The success of Ansarallah has in the first instance been the successful mobilisation of the majority of the population for an independent future for Yemen. Without this achievement, it would probably have been reduced to protracted guerrilla warfare against the invaders. As it is, it has achieved a credible government and state structure which can lay the basis for a credible political solution through a peace process with genuine national forces from the coalition. Providing governance to over 60% of the population means Ansarallah can make a successful peace after the war.

Clearly, military successes have reinforced and deepened social mobilisation. Technological factors, especially those associated with having secured a large part of the old armed forces, would not be so significant if the leadership did not command such an extensive social base.

Yemeni resistance's defence system 

The failure of the Saudi coalition has meant that there has been an over-reliance upon superiority in the air. The ground forces of the coalition, if we put to one side its Yemeni allies, has largely been composed of mercenaries with primarily UAE officers. At the start of the war, the Saudis boasted of having an army of 150,000. This has not been deployed, because it is largely a myth and that which exists is unreliable. The Saudis failure to expel and overturn the popular forces fighting in the southern provinces of the Saudi state demonstrates the inability of the Coalition to present ground forces capable of actually defeating Ansarallah and allies.

The main remaining card, particularly for the Saudis, has been air power. This has meant that they can severely damage Yemen’s infrastructure and intimidate the civilian population with air raids. Yet victory cannot be won without a substantial land force. Equally, naval superiority allows for a siege to be imposed, particularly as the US navy is acting as a reserve for the Saudi blockade. 

But even a crippling siege cannot force a risen people to surrender, as has been also demonstrated by the Palestinians in Gaza. Hence the recent successes in challenging the Coalition’s air superiority are highly significant for the further development of the struggle.

Implications of the US involvement

US imperialism does not want to see genuine independent states in the Middle East and North Africa. To maintain its hegemony it needs states and governments that readily accept US “friendship” and “protection”. Post-2011, US interventions, overt and covert, in Syria, Libya, Egypt and Iraq have been to support the creation of regimes and governments which do not promote sovereign control of national resources. The US has been heavily dependent on Saudi Arabia and the UAE in these interventions. 

The people of Yemen have long demonstrated their refusal to simply accept submission to the US and its regional allies. The failures of US policy, inside and outside Yemen, demonstrate that from a historical perspective US imperialism is in decline, whatever its short term gains here and there. The military impasse in Yemen is as significant as the failure of the US to establish a stable pro-US regime in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Driving Factors behind the recent territorial gains in Jawf and Nehm 

The morale of the resistance is far superior to that of the Coalition. Nor has the resistance’s unity fractured, even after the betrayal of Saleh and some allies. In contrast, the Coalition has suffered unending divisions and fragmentation. 

Qatar and Morocco have left the Coalition. The UAE has reduced its ground forces, whilst sponsoring a split in the Coalition between the Southern Transitional Council (STC)/Security Belt forces and those of al Islah and Hadi. Al Islah has also been split in this, with some forces around Tawwakol Karman calling for resistance to the Coalition. In these circumstances, it is not surprising that the popular forces have regained ground and secured it in Jawf and Nehm. 

Saudi retaliatory airstrikes against civilians as a response to their losses  

Almost certainly, Muhammed bin Salman would like to end the war. But he has no path to victory. The Trump administration has no desire to see the popular resistance secure a victory, so favours continuing the war, for now, having twice vetoed Congress on the issue. 

All of which reinforces the point made earlier that the real expression of the continuation of the war is the air raids and the siege. The Saudis are incapable of any major military initiative.

Economic and humanitarian impacts of Saudi Arabia’s sea blockade 

The UN’s characterisation of the situation remains in place; this is the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today. This is entirely the result of the actions of four governments – those of Saudi Arabia, UAE, US and UK. None of whom dispute the seriousness of the crisis. 

The Coalition obviously believes that inflicting such suffering upon the Yemeni people is justified to subvert the popular will of Yemen.

The UN estimate is that 24 million Yemenis, approximately 80% of the population, are in need of humanitarian assistance. Having created this catastrophe, these four governments still boast of their aid levels to Yemen, whilst taking military action to ravage the country further.

Yemenis under the blockade 

The siege cannot be overcome; until it is lifted it has to be endured. The economics of resistance has allowed the Yemeni people to survive, but there is no question of prospering in these circumstances. Peace is required for prosperity. The war effort has the priority in the utilization of resources, but the revolutionary administration has to be careful to hold popular support through the careful and just distribution of necessities across the population in the areas it controls. The National Salvation Government’s anti-corruption initiatives in Sana’a and elsewhere have been very important to sustain the population. In times of war, severe measures are necessary, but they must be justified. 

The Government’s decision to lift the tax on humanitarian goods is very welcome. The tax appeared to place the concerns of the revolutionary regime over the concerns of the hungry people, so it was correct to end it.  

Blockade of the Sana’a international airport 

The airport blockade has had terrible consequences for Yemenis who require medical treatment that Yemen cannot currently provide. 

In September, the World Health Organisation reported that 35,000 cancer patients were deprived of treatment by the blockade, 12 per cent of whom were children. The painfully slow progress in the peace talks has resulted in the first air-bridge when 28 patients were taken out on flights from Sana’a recently. The UN Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen, Martin Griffith, welcomed this start but added: “…many thousands of patients needing medical care abroad remain in Sana’a”.   

Re-opening of the airport's negotiations 

 The UN-sponsored negotiations are terribly fragile. On February 16th there was an agreement reached to exchange lists for a future prisoner exchange. Given that 290 detainees were released by Ansarallah in October, and 128 by the Saudis in November, it might have been expected that more progress would be made by now. The same is true of Sana’a airport. It is understandable that the resistance is trying to organise an international campaign, or at least raise international awareness, that Sana’a airport is a lifeline for Yemeni civilians.

 It is likely that the airport will be opened when the peace process is more firmly established. That does not appear to be an immediate prospect. The US Presidential election is a factor in this. Trump prefers chaos and a continuation of war to an outright setback for his policy in Yemen. He has woven Yemen into his “Iran is the greatest threat to world peace” tapestry. 

Unravelling it is politically dangerous for him at present.

Pro-coalition mercenaries' withdrawal  

Most certainly these withdrawals signify victories. 

These forces were deployed to defeat the popular resistance. They were withdrawn because they couldn’t. The uprising in Sudan is a factor which has been a setback for the US/Saudi allies. The bargaining in negotiations on incorporating the opposition has led to winding down the subcontracting of Sudanese youth to the Saudi war machine. 

And hence, greater pressure on Saudi allies inside Yemen, who still have to face the intransigence of the people’s resistance. This is not a shift in strategy; it is a setback and retreat.

The UAE's occupation of the southern provinces 

The UAE regime appears to want to control Yemen’s ports, and along with Saudi Arabia, to have control of the energy and natural resources in the southern provinces. The UAE’s goals then may be achieved through the partition of Yemen. This would explain its promotion of relations with the STC over the Hadi government. In turn, this has strengthened the separatist forces over the forces of al-Islah. The Saudis cannot be satisfied with this; southern separation leaves most of Yemen under control of Ansarallah. Thus there are real elements of conflict between the two key regional governments in the Coalition. Nor can there be any confidence that the Riyadh agreement guarantees against the military conflict between pro-Coalition militias.

*Stephen Bell is the Treasurer of the Stop the War Coalition. He was a coordinator for the protests when Mohammed bin Salman visited London. He has been involved in the Palestine Solidarity Campaign for many years. He is a lifelong activist in the trade union and labour movement. He was Head of Policy for the Communication Workers Union from 2002 -2015. 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RednRuff 

How Will the World Look Like after Covid-19?

 Andre Vltchek 898cc

[During this exchange, both men are “locked up”. Verde in Naples, Vltchek in Santiago de Chile] 

FV: How will be the world after the Covid-19? 

AV: Totally different and I’d like to believe, much better.

But before it gets better, millions of people will lose their lives, and perhaps hundreds of millions will have their existence thoroughly ruined.

When I say ‘people will lose their lives’, I don’t say they will be killed by COVID-19. Instead, they will be killed by unemployment, by collapse of the social services, by psychological depression, and simply by misery.

The Western economy is crashing. The Western governments are behaving like a bunch of irrational trolls, and they are destroying, or “rearranging”, both industry and social system. Solidarity is gone; in North America, but especially in Europe. In such places like the United Kingdom, nobody is even pretending that the establishment cares about the people, anymore.

Therefore, most likely, things will get really terrible, horrific, before they get better.

The Western regime is devouring its own people, literally. Its own people, but especially people from all over the world, particularly in what could be defined as the ‘neo-colonies.

What is new and positive is that human beings everywhere are shedding their illusions about the current arrangement of the world. They now clearly see that the gangrenous face of the Western system, of imperialism. COVID-19 is a symbol, not just a disease. After dust settles, after the epidemy is defeated, inhabitants of our Planet will never want to be governed by the European and North American “culture”.

Which means, there will be, once again, a chance for a logical development for the human race: towards socialism and democratic Communism; towards natural progress that was brutally interrupted, during the 20th century, by twisted fascist and imperialist forces with their bases in London, Paris, Berlin, Washington D.C. and New York.

FV: We are seeing two systems confronting COVID-19. Both China (we could even say Asia, in general) and the West, are fighting against the virus. Both are using all means available, but results are very different. In your opinion, is the Chinese system superior to the Western one? 

AV: The Chinese system is clearly superior. For many reasons, but the most important is – because it is geared to serve and defend the Chinese people, and all human beings on this Planet. It is not a ‘perfect system’, but at this moment, it is the best system that we – our humankind – have.

It is repeatedly showing its superiority: in the social spheres, by pulling hundreds of millions of people out poverty, and by creating a society without extreme misery. By its fight for the “ecological civilization”. And by aiming at the world without wars, free of armed conflicts. The Chinese system is bravely and effectively confronting the Western colonialism and imperialism, through many ways, one of which is the “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI), a brainchild of President Xi

Now, all that the West can use against China are not facts, it is the most vicious propaganda, dark sarcasm, smearing: in brief, nothing positive or progressive; no great ideas or ideals, only dirt, perverse lies, and brain manipulation of the masses through the mass media, NGOs and “education”. At a closer look, there is no logic in such propaganda. But the West uses negative indoctrination of its subjects for centuries, and it technically managed to achieve certain perfection in disseminating it all over the world. It already destroyed Soviet Union utilizing propaganda. It ruined many countries in Latin America and elsewhere. It doesn’t do it in order to improve life on our Planet. It only does it in order to keep its grip on power.

Look at the main U.S. anti-Chinese warriors: Peter Navarro and Steve Bannon: one uninformed, ignorant economist, ridiculed even by his own colleagues for knowing nothing about China; other being just an extreme right-wing wing ideologue and apparatchik.

The superiority of the Chinese system is now also clearly evident, when analyzing the struggle against COVID-19. China mobilized immediately after the first cases were detected. It behaved rationally, without excesses. Even at the most dangerous moments, it was only the hardest-hit areas, not the entire country, which were locked up. Simultaneously, the entire society went to work, enthusiastically, with great zeal, utilizing all intellectual and physical forces in the war against the novel coronavirus. It was an epic battle for the survival of the nation, and in a way, it was somehow beautiful to watch: the greatest country on Earth raising against the mortal enemy, a repulsive virus, which was, possibly, brought from abroad.

And after defeating the virus, China, together with Russia and Cuba, began helping other nations, including Italy, Serbia, but also many poor and defenseless nations, all over the world.

That is socialism, at its best. If they tell you that the great “isms” are dead, laugh at them! 

Now look at the United States, United Kingdom, Italy, Spain and France! What are they doing to their people? How dare they? Inept, pathetic, ruthless approach. Why? Because these regimes cannot mobilize in the name of the people. They can only plunder, consume, and brutalize “the others.” They lost all their ability to work for the better future.

The Western civilization is dead. I have written a lot about it. And what we are experiencing now is clear proof of it. Such culture has no right to govern the world. Enough. Off the way! Let the much better systems influence the people of this Planet, instead.

FV: How do you judge the US sanctions imposed against the countries which are fighting the Covid-19? 

AV: It is clear degeneracy.

The U.S. is imposing sanctions against China, Russia, Venezuela, Iran, Syria and many other places, as if it would have some moral upper hand.

You know, such countries like Venezuela ‘did not fall’. They were doing great! And the West broke their spine precisely because they were doing well. The West and their servants prevented them from changing, improving the world. First, sanctions were imposed, then huge destabilization campaigns were unleashed. Direct attempts at overthrowing legitimate governments were made. And then, when the Venezuelan economy was destroyed from abroad, massive propaganda went to work, repeating thousands of times: “You see, socialism cannot work!” And totally brainwashed and conditioned, the citizens of the West have been obediently accepting all these cheap propaganda gigs. It is shameful. Another sign that the West has no right to judge or lecture the world: its citizens are as conditioned as the ISIS fighters.

Also, just look at what is being done to Iran - a country which is, for decades, on the receiving end of the Western terror.

Recently, Venezuela and Iran asked for the assistance, so they could continue with the fight against Covid-19. And what did they get? Nothing! Sorry, they got something, obviously: the more threats, the more attacks, tightening of sanctions.

You know, in the U.S., even many doctors do not stop on the highway, when they see a car accident. So, what do you expect from their fascist government? You are down, and if you happen to be from the other end of the political spectrum, you will be kicked, robbed, violated, and perhaps, murdered. That is what they are doing to Venezuela and to Iran. It is actually not just shameful, it is twisted and inhuman.

FV: Your opinion, your thoughts, about incredible declarations of the U.S., against Maduro and Cabello of today? 

AV: As mentioned above, the West is continuing to brutalize its victims, even during this tragedy. Or more precisely, especially now, when the countries like Venezuela are particularly vulnerable.

It is nothing less than a fascist, terrorist campaign against the independent-minded nations.

The United States has already managed to overthrow a socialist government in Bolivia. That was before COVID-19. Now COVID-19 is used by the “interim government” in La Paz as some justification, to ‘postpone’ the elections by several months.

Now, COVID-19 is immobilizing everybody. People cannot travel. If the U.S. decides to attack, to overthrow the socialist government in Venezuela, it can do it easily. There will be no foreign witnesses, as it is next to impossible to get to Caracas.

I am experiencing ridiculous lock-up in Santiago de Chile. I am desperately trying to get to Venezuela, but there seems to be no way. This is a political move. This fascist regime in Chile is playing the same game as its master - the West. In many ways, Santiago uses the same shameful strategy as Bolivia, where the US-backed coup broke the spine of the multi-racial socialism. The extreme right-wing government here postponed referendum on the new Constitution, by several months. It did it in the name of public health (in a country with only handful of fatalities). Ridiculous and perverse. And people, as in the West, are suddenly, obediently, accepting such lies from the president whose popularity is in only in single-digit neighborhood.

But back to Venezuela: it is possible that the West will take advantage of the situation, and try to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro, as well as the entire socialist system.

That would be detrimental to the entire Latin America and free world.

It is essential that the countries like China and Russia come to Venezuela’s rescue.

If Caracas falls, it will have huge, horrific impact on the region and the entire world. Venezuela is home to one of the most progressive internationalist philosophies on Earth. It is close to Russia, Cuba and China.

If the United States occupies it, the control of the largest oil reserves will fall into its hands, as well as the control of the access to the Panama Canal. That would have tremendously negative impact on both China and Russia.

Venezuela has to be defended, by all means.

And the entire world has to be defended against the lunatics in Washington and London, who are using COVID-19, in order to preserve their control over the Planet!

*(Top image: Andre Vltchek - covering South America and the entire world, before getting grounded and locked-up.) 

[Originally published by Lantidiplomatico, Italy] 

Trump’s Handling of the COVID–19 Pandemic Would Cost Him the Presidency If Democrats Just Embrace Sanders

Donald Trump Covid19 db0a8

No matter how much Fox News tries to spin it, President Trump’s handling of the COVID–19 pandemic has been little short of disastrous. For weeks, he wrote the virus off as a liberal “hoax” designed to force him out of the White House. Rather than providing leadership at the top, his main concern appears to be shifting American anger towards China, insisting on calling the pandemic the “China virus” and demanding Beijing be held to account for their supposed mishandling of the coronavirus. He also appears to be actively blocking New York State’s attempts to procure thousands of lifesaving ventilators. “I have a feeling that a lot of the numbers that are being said in some areas are just bigger than they’re going to be,” he told Sean Hannity on Thursday, adding that, in the midst of a seemingly exponential rise in cases, that he wants to “start opening up certain parts of the country” again, because the cure can’t be worse than the disease. 

Unlike in other countries, testing for the virus remains extremely limited. Germany, a country with a far smaller population, has been testing 500,000 people per week. The US has still not reached that number in total. As Danny Haiphong wrote: “A deep thirst for profit among powerful elites dictates all social policies and organizations in the United States and this thirst has deadly consequences.” Trump’s subsequent pronouncement that the churches should be full on Easter Sunday was perfect proof of this, and will doubtless lead to an untold number of deaths. 

Trump’s air ball on the most important test of his presidency should lead to a slam dunk opportunity for the Democratic Party come November. And fortunately, they have a perfect candidate for the crisis: Bernie Sanders. An unprecedented public health crisis requires a public healthcare solution. Sanders has been championing and popularizing Medicare for All. His proposals are popular: some polls show that 70 percent of the public, including a majority of Republicans, support it. Not only that, but 91 percent of peer-reviewed studies of a Sanders-like healthcare plan alsoconclude that it would actually save the United States money, 86 percent showing it would immediately begin paying off in year one. Bernie remains the country’s most popular senator and has a massive and dedicated army of activists willing to work for him. 

But instead, the Democratic Party appears intent on selecting former vice-president Joe Biden as their candidate, immediately coalescing around him before Super Tuesday. Biden is the consummate party insider, dogged by corruption scandals and a long history of terrible voting and policy proposals. He recently suggested that he would automatically veto any Medicare for All proposal as president, even one that had already been passed by the House and the Senate. Worse still, he has now been credibly accused of raping a former staffer, Tara Reade.

Holed up in his own house, and making an unending series cringe-worthy gaffes that show his cognitive decline every time his handlers allow him to interact with media or the public, the former Delaware senator increasingly looks like yesterday’s man, as Branko Marcetic has written.

In contrast, Sanders is showing real leadership. The 78-year-old is not self-isolating, but fighting for workers’ and unemployment rights to be included in bailouts, leading virtual town halls online, informing the public of what is going on. 

Nevertheless, Biden is looking like an increasingly certain bet to lose to Trump in November, if he even makes it that long as the nominee. Already, Andrew Cuomo is being floated by many in the establishment as a possible substitute. However, for many in the Democratic elite, they believe have already won the real election. If Sanders is vanquished, a member of the corporate elite will become president in November, whether it will be the human corporation in Trump or the “Senator for MBNA” in Biden. 

If we are not going to choose sacrificing the population to serve the market, as many Republicans are now demanding, COVID–19 means implementing huge wealth redistribution measures to keep the country going and starting comprehensive, socialist-style policies that will give the public ideas about how society should be run in the future. Sanders is the obvious choice for anyone committed to beating Trump. But the Democrats are intent on blowing the layup to ensure that the wealth of the country stays in the hands of the superrich.

*(Top image: President Donald J. Trump addresses the nation from the Oval Office of the White House Wednesday evening, March 11, 2020, on the country’s expanded response against the global Coronavirus outbreak. Credit: Shealah Craighead/ Official White House Photo)

Coronavirus: A New 9/11?

George W Bush East Room of October 26 2001 ac309

The ongoing and unfolding reactions to the Corona Virus look set to have wide-ranging and long-lasting effect on politics, society and economics. The drive to close down all activities is extraordinary as are the measures being promoted to isolate people from each other.

The deep-rooted fear of contagious disease, hardwired into the collective consciousness by historical events such as the ‘Black/Bubonic Plague’ and maintained through popular culture (e.g. the Hollywood movies Outbreak and Contagion), means that people are without question highly susceptible to accepting extreme emergency measures whether or not such measures are rational or justified. The New York Times called for America to be put on a war footing in order to deal with Corona whilst former Army General Stanley McChrystal has been invoking his 9/11 experience in order to prescribe lessons for today’s leaders.

At the same time, political actors are fully aware that these conditions of fear and panic provide a critical opportunity that can be exploited in order to pursue political, economic and societal objectives. It is very likely, however, that the dangers posed by the potential exploitation of Corona for broader political, economic and societal objectives latter far outweigh the immediate threat to life and health from the virus. A lesson from recent history is instructive here.

9/11 AND THE GLOBAL ‘WAR ON TERROR’

The events of September 11 2001 represent a key moment in contemporary history. The destruction of three skyscrapers in New York after the impact of two airliners and an attack on the Pentagon, killing around 3000 civilians, shocked both American and global publics. The horror of seeing aircraft being flown into buildings, followed by the total destruction of three high rise buildings within a matter of seconds, and the spectre of a shadowy band of Islamic fundamentalists (Al Qaeda) having pulled off such devastating attacks, gripped the imagination of many in the Western world.

It was in this climate of paranoia and fear that extraordinary policies were implemented. The USA Patriot Act led to significant civil liberty restrictions whilst the mass surveillance of the digital environment became normalized.

In the United States torture was authorized in the name of preventing terrorism whilst the Guantanamo Bay facility in Cuba became a site in which accused individuals have been held without any adequate legal protection or due process.

Remarkably, the individual accused of leading the alleged 9/11 plot, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who ‘confessed’ to CIA interrogators after being ‘waterboarded’ 183 times, has recently received his trial date, set for January 11 2021 and 20 years after 9/11. Civil liberty restrictions, mass surveillance and torture were only a sub-strand of the major war-fighting-policy that was enabled by 9/11.

Presented at the time as America’s ‘New Pearl Harbour’, 9/11 provided the conditions for a series of major regime-change wars which persist until today.

Critically, these wars have not been primarily about combatting ‘Islamic fundamentalist terrorism’/Al Qaeda, but rather attacking ‘enemy’ states. Indeed, the evidence that the 9/11 event and the alleged threat of ‘Islamic fundamentalist’ was then exploited in order to pursue a geo-politically motivated set of regime-change wars which had little connection to the purported Al Qaeda threat is well established.

Former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, Wesley Clark, famously went public in 2006/7 stating that immediately after 9/11 he had been informed that the US was intending to attack seven countries within five years including Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Somalia, Sudan and Iran. Clark stated:

He [the Joint Staff officer] picked up a piece of paper, he said I just got this down from upstairs, from the Secretary of Defence’s office today, and he said this is a memo that describes how we are gonna take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and finishing off Iran.

Clark’s claims have recently been corroborated by retired Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson (chief of staff to Colin Powell and Iraq War planner) who stated that he had actually seen the same plans Clark was referring to many months prior to 9/11:

My first briefing in the Pentagon from an Air Force three-star general in February of 2001 I almost fell of my chair because their briefing included on the one hand the Air Force’s ability to take out 80 to 90% of the targets in North Korea in the first few hours of an aerial strike on that country to hey when we do Iraq we’re gonna do Syria and Lebanon and we’re going to do Iran and maybe Egypt … but this was more than that [just contingency planning] Wes Clark is right they had these plans they were going to go right through all these countries that they felt threatened Israel all through those countries that they felt threatened 25-30% of the world’s oil passing through the Strait of Hormuz.

Documentary evidence for these claims has come by way of the UK Chilcot Inquiry into the 2003 Iraq War. For example, a report quoted a British embassy cable, dated 15 September 2001, explained that ‘[t]he “regime-change hawks” in Washington are arguing that a coalition put together for one purpose [against international terrorism] could be used to clear up other problems in the region.’ Another document released by Chilcot shows British Prime Minister Tony Blair and US President George Bush discussing phases one and two of the ‘war on terror’ and when to hit particular countries. Blair writes:

If toppling Saddam is a prime objective, it is far easier to do it with Syria and Iran in favour or acquiescing rather than hitting all three at once.

The regime-change wars that have flowed directly and indirectly from 9/11 continue to this day. War and conflict continues in Afghanistan and Iraq whilst the nine-year-long war in Syria has borne witness to extensive and illegal policies pursued by Western governments including the funding and arming of extremist groups coupled with support for groups actually aligned with Al Qaeda. Iran continues to be subjected to US hybrid warfare tactics including sanctions and covert operations whilst the threat of military action is very clear and present.

The human cost of these wars, built upon the ruthless exploitation of public fear of terrorism in order to pursue multiple ‘regime-change’ wars, has been huge. According to the Brown University ‘Costs of War Project’, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have killed a combined 480,000 to 507,000 civilians, coalition military members, and foreign fighters, with an untold number having been maimed and disfigured. IPPNW estimated that the first ten years of the ‘war on terror’ in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan killed 1.3 million people.

Since 2011, in Syria alone, over 400,000 people have died as a result of war. The numbers of people displaced as a result of these conflicts are also extremely high; wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Syria have wrought a combined 9.39 million refugees, 10.78 million internally displaced peoples, and 830,000 asylum seekers. In addition, there are persisting and very serious concerns with respect to the possible involvement of state actors with the event of 9/11.

Recent and critical developments regarding the events of 9/11 include the publication this week of the University of Alaska study of the WTC7 Collapse which confirms that the official US government investigation was wrong if not plain fraudulent. Other important developments include publication last year of the 9/11 Consensus Panel evidence and increasing scrutiny of the official narrative from mainstream academics.

Overall, the 9/11 global ‘war on terror’ is increasingly coming to be understood particularly across the world as, first and foremost, a remarkable propaganda campaign designed to enable violent conflict in the international system and with its effects and objectives being far wider and deeper than had been suggested by official narratives regarding the need to combat Al Qaeda.

CORONA VIRUS: A NEW 9/11?

The lesson of 9/11 is that major events can become what scholar Peter Dale Scott describes as deep events which are exploited by political actors in order to precipitate and manage major political, economic and social shifts. 9/11 became, in effect, the deep event that enabled 20 years of unfettered Western warfare abroad and severe civil liberty restrictions and extensive surveillance at home.

At the time of 9/11 many people in the West were terrified of terrorism. Public opposition to the invasion of Afghanistan (the first regime war to flow within months of 9/11) was almost impossible without being accused of being reckless in the ‘fight against terrorism’ or of being an ‘Al Qaeda’ sympathizer. Muslims throughout the West were widely despised. US President George Bush declared that ‘you are either with us or against us’. The parallels with what is happening today are obvious.

Is the Corona Virus a new 9/11, a new deep event? We cannot yet be sure, as of this writing. Perhaps the current strategy of suspending basic liberties will work to effectively eliminate all threats posed by the virus. Governments will then restore the civil liberties currently being suspended and all will fairly quickly return to the way things were before. Perhaps the economy will confidently weather the fallout from the ‘lockdowns’ and everything will return to business as usual.

And perhaps a sober ‘lessons learned’ review will lead to public health officials developing reasonable and balanced plans, such as developing sufficient capacity for rapid testing and tracing, which can be deployed the next time a sufficiently dangerous virus starts to spread thus avoiding terrifying publics and implementing draconian measures that inflict significant damage to the social and economic fabric of society.

Or perhaps not. It may be that, as British journalist Peter Hitchens has been warning, the loss of liberty and basic rights will continue indefinitely as governments greedily hold on to their increased powers of control over their citizenry.

Similarly, Italian journalist Stefania Maurizi has warned about the risks in Italy of state authorities, hostile to open societies and the political left, exploiting Corona in order to increase their control.

An obvious concern here is whether there will be a permanent impact on mass gatherings and protests. James Corbett warns of a permanent state of ‘medical martial law’ and there is certainly the very real possibility of the normalization of government-imposed quarantine and other freedom of movement restrictions.

Margaret Kimberley of the US-based Black Agenda Report warns that Corona may be used as a way of covering up both economic crisis and collapse. She notes that the Federal Reserve ‘recently threw Wall Street a $1.5 trillion lifeline which only kicked the can down the road. The can has been kicked ever since the Great Recession of 2008’. The likely destruction of small businesses might allow for ever greater corporate choke-hold on the economy with more people forced into the corporate workforce.

There is certainly the danger that Corona will be exploited in order to distract from severe economic problems whilst also enabling the pursuit of new economic strategies which worsen rather than mitigate the social inequalities that already tarnish Western countries.

And, of course those actors behind the regime-change wars that flowed from 9/11 may use the Corona Virus to increase pressure on the countries they have been targeting for the last 20 years and those they wish to target in the future.

Already we have seen the regime-change advocate John Bolton blaming China for the Corona Virus whilst the New York Times reported that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser Robert C. O’Brien were ‘arguing that tough action while Iran’s leaders were battling the corona virus ravaging the country could finally push then into direct negotiations’.

ABC news report that, despite the Corona Virus, US and UAE troops have held a major military exercise ‘that saw forces seize a sprawling model Mideast city’. It is also worth nothing here the recent US assassination of Iranian General Solemeni and the on-going proxy battles between US forces and Iranian-backed groups in Iraq. The possibility of Corona being exploited in order to further the regime change wars we have seen over the last 20 years is extremely likely and it would be naïve in the extreme to think otherwise.

Whatever the Corona event may or may not be, the fundamental lesson of the last 20 years is that governments can and do exploit, even manipulate, events in order to pursue political, social, military and economic objectives. Fearful populations are frequently irrational ones, vulnerable and malleable. Now is not the time for deference to authority and reluctance to speak out.

It is time for publics to get informed, think calmly and rationally, and to robustly scrutinize and challenge what their governments are doing. The dangers of failing to do this likely far surpass the immediate threat posed by the Corona Virus.

*(Top image: President George W. Bush signs the PATRIOT Act into law, October 26th 2001.)

*This article was originally published on the Off-Guardian.

Ronda Lynn: Yemen's Painful Status Quo under the Aggression Is Unimaginable

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The Saudi-led coalition has launched its devastating campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the goals of bringing the government of former president Hadi back to power and crushing the Ansarullah resistance movement. The UN says over 24 million Yemenis are in dire need of humanitarian aid, including 10 million suffering from extreme levels of hunger. The war has claimed more than 100,000 lives over the past five years and has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories. American Activist Ronda Lynn has spoken to Mirat Al Jazeera about the war, its implications the prospects of the next while.

Man-made humanitarian catastrophe 

Lynn notes that the Saudi Coalition’s broad restrictions on aid and goods to Yemen’s population continue to worsen the man-made humanitarian catastrophe. ''Prior to the war, Yemen depended on imported fuel, food and medicine, for 80 to 90 %of the population’s needs. In violation of international humanitarian law, the Coalition has restricted the flow of food, fuel, and medicine to civilians,'' she says. 

Malnutrition 

Today, millions of Yemeni suffer from malnutrition and are at severe risk of starvation. Many have already died due to the lack of food. This is not an unintended side effect of war but the deliberate and illegal actions carried out by the Saudi Coalition, Lynn comments. She refers to Carolyn Miles, President of Save the Children, who said, "Severely malnourished children are 12 times more likely to die from preventable diseases like pneumonia, measles, cholera or diphtheria". “Children who are stunted suffer physical and often irreversible long-term cognitive damage."

''All members of the Saudi Coalition have been and are currently purposely starving civilians in Yemen to death, including children! An estimated 160,000 Yemeni children under five suffer from severe acute malnutrition,'' Lynn states.

The US activist believes that for those who do survive, the threat of death is far from over. ''Their bodies have been broken down from malnutrition while the coalition continues to prevent life-saving medications and medical treatment from being accessible to the majority of Yemen citizens, Lynn concludes.

Illegal blockade 

The illegal blockade is causing sickness and preventing medical service to Yemeni civilians. Much needed medicines and medical supplies are not reaching civilians or hospitals in Yemen. 

Lynn maintains that the blockade of fuel has caused a majority of Yemen's hospitals to close as generators are unable to supply the electricity needed in a majority of hospitals.

She states, "The Coalition continuously blocks ships from providing these life-saving necessities to Yemen, even after they have passed all inspections and have been cleared by officials,'' pointing out to a report, released by the IRC in December of 2019, which states that 24 million Yemenis, or 80 % of the population, need humanitarian aid and 16 million are living on the verge of famine.

Blockade of Sana'a International Airport 

In a statement released by the Ministry of Public Health and Population on the 19th of October, 2019 estate, "Tens of thousands of deaths, mostly children and women, have fallen after they were unable to travel abroad to receive the treatment they could not get in Yemen as a result of the siege."  

Lynn adds the Saudi Coalition's blockade of Sana'a Airport prevents activists and journalists from reporting on the humanitarian conditions in Yemen, causing a media blockade of Yemen. ''Unfortunately, the lack of truthful reporting on the war in Yemen helps the aggression countries to continue their illegal acts against civilians in Yemen, as people around the world do not know the crimes being committed by their governments who are supporting the coalition," she finds.

The US activist goes on to say the closure of Sana'a airport prevents the Yemeni people from leaving an area devastated by war and also prevents many who have been displaced since the war from returning to visit family. ''The economy of Yemen has also been affected by the closure of Sana'a airport, the total blockade and war against the sovereignty of Yemen, causing the economy to shrink by 50 %, Lynn expresses.

Lynn does not believe the Saudi Coalition will allow the opening of the airport unless there is extreme pressure for them to do so because it has no respect for human rights or for that matter human life. ''I believe factors that would help ensure the opening of Sanaa Airport would be pressure from leaders of the Coalition, pressure from human rights groups, and pressure from free people globally,'' she adds.

Lynn suggests that is vital that independent media cover the war on Yemen and document the crimes being committed against the people. ''Citizens around the world must demand their government end support for the Saudi Coalition,'' she stresses.

Yemeni Resistance

''The Yemeni resistance has continuously worked towards peace but unfortunately, leaders of the Coalition do not want peace they want control over Yemen,'' Lynn states, adding she believes Muhammad Ali Houthi is aware of this and understands the need to reach out to people around the world and to inform them of the truth regarding what is happening in Yemen.

Lynn further says, ''The people of Yemen found the courage to stand up against foreign influence in their country, the courage to stand up against their corrupt leaders, it is time citizens around the world do the same. We cannot continue to sit idle while our leaders purposely starve a civilian population. We cannot allow the genocide of the Yemeni people to continue.

US involvement in the aggression  

Recent reports of the US destroying Yemen's air defense systems under the reign of former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2004 proves that the US was preparing for the Saudi Coalition's military campaign against the sovereignty of Yemen well before Yemen's Houthi took over the capital of Sanaa.

Lynn comments, ''while this strategy was likely used by the US government to prevent the people of Yemen from fighting back against the expansionist ambitions of the US for the Greater Israel project, it did not work,'' saying she believes ''when the Yemeni people gain access to the knowledge that the US had planned this war, well in advance, that it will only help to unite the people of Yemen. This information also disputes the propaganda and lies used by government leaders to justify the war against Yemen, revealing the truth to people around the globe.''

She goes on to say that the Saudi Coalition, including the US, justified the attack on Yemen based on the propaganda of the ''Houthis being an Iranian proxy that caused the civil war in Yemen, a foreign government that threatens the sovereignty of the Yemeni people.''

American Voices against the aggression 

Lynn believes the American people have to stand up and demand the US Congress to stop funding this unconstitutional war. ''We have to demand that arms sales to Saudi Arabia are stopped as required by International law. The war against Yemen began from Washington, I believe when US support ends, the war will also end. The only way I believe the airport will reopen is when humanity stands with the people of Yemen, and together we demand it be opened,'' she suggests.

The US activist concludes, ''Once people realize that the US government planned the war against Yemen long before the civil war broke out, and long before the Houthi took control of Sanaa, they should be able to see that it is the Saudi Coalition that threatens Yemen's Sovereignty and understand why the Yemeni Houthi took action to stop."

Coronavirus: Is This the Mother of all Mixed Messages?

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Looking out onto the deserted post-apocalyptical Orwellian landscape of lockdown Britain, where police drones scour the moors to hunt down harmless dog walkers escaping their dreary house arrest, it’s puzzling to find a UK Government website carrying this statement:

Status of COVID-19

"As of 19 March 2020, COVID-19 is no longer considered to be a high consequence infectious diseases (HCID) in the UK.

The 4 nations public health HCID group made an interim recommendation in January 2020 to classify COVID-19 as an HCID. This was based on consideration of the UK HCID criteria about the virus and the disease with information available during the early stages of the outbreak. Now that more is known about COVID-19, the public health bodies in the UK have reviewed the most up to date information about COVID-19 against the UK HCID criteria. They have determined that several features have now changed; in particular, more information is available about mortality rates (low overall), and there is now greater clinical awareness and a specific and sensitive laboratory test, the availability of which continues to increase.

The Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens (ACDP) is also of the opinion that COVID-19 should no longer be classified as an HCID.”

Are Government ministers aware of this bombshell in their midst? If experts really have downrated COVID-19’s harmfulness, it doesn’t chime with the way the authorities are stoking public fears. And why would Boris Johnson impose unprecedented controls and make us prisoners in our own homes? Why is he pursuing policies so extreme as to destroy businesses and livelihoods, wreck the economy and force millions into misery and poverty, knowing it will result in years of severe austerity, if the bug is not all it’s cracked up to be?

Why are we receiving such bizarre mixed messages?

Boris failed to close our borders 2 months ago when he should have. And he still hasn’t done it. What’s the point of being an island nation if we don’t isolate ourselves from devastating threats like these? Is there some sort of ‘dark’ agenda here? Is it part of a wider plan?

Boris now has the bug. So has his health secretary Matt Hancock. Both with mild symptoms only, like Prince Charles. The domino effect kicks in…. How many chiefs will fall, and how hard?

*(Top image: Prime Minister Boris Johnson taking part in Clap for Carers outside NO10 Downing Street during the Coronavirus. Credit: Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street/ Flickr)

In the USA, Life Is Incredibly Cheap

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The coronavirus has made one thing clear: life is incredibly cheap in the USA.  Or so it seems to our leaders, who are desperate to put America back to work by Easter in two weeks’ time, irrespective of the death toll that would result.  It’s all about getting back to “normal,” keeping the wheels of capitalism rolling along, and the profits rolling in for corporate America.

Capitalism is America’s true national religion, and money is our god.  Our leaders make decisions consistent with that belief system.  And, as Dorothy Day, the famous Catholic activist for the poor, said: “Our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy, rotten system.”

Worth citing here is Caitlin Johnstone, who in a recent article noted how America’s response to COVID-19 illustrates the pathologies of market-driven capitalism and the politicians who so willingly serve it:

The corporate cronyism of America’s political system has been highlighted with a massive kleptocratic multitrillion-dollar corporate bailout of which actual Americans are only receiving a tiny fraction. Instead of putting that money toward paying people a living wage to stay home during a global pandemic, the overwhelming majority of the money is going to corporations while actual human beings receive a paltry $1,200 (which they won’t even be getting until May at the earliest) at a time of record-smashing unemployment.

America’s capitalism worship has been highlighted with Wall Street Journal headline “Dow Soars More Than 11% In Biggest One-Day Jump Since 1933” running at the exact same time as “Record Rise in Unemployment Claims Halts Historic Run of Job Growth — More than 3 million workers file for jobless benefits as coronavirus hits the economy“. Stocks are booming, Amazon is surging, and mountains of wealth are being transferred to sprawling megacorporations, while actual human beings are terrified of what the future holds.

Nice to know a few are profiting while so many worry, suffer, and die.  But should we be that surprised by how callous America’s leaders are?

I recall reading Daniel Ellsberg’s book on U.S. planning for nuclear war.  Sixty years ago, U.S. leaders were prepared to kill 600 million people (that’s not a typo) in their efforts to “win” the Cold War.  As I wrote about in December 2017:

U.S. nuclear war plans circa 1960 envisioned a simultaneous attack on the USSR and China that would generate 600 million deaths after six months.  As Daniel Ellsberg noted, that is 100 Holocausts.  This plan was to be used even if China hadn’t directly attacked the U.S., i.e. the USSR and China were lumped together as communist bad guys who had to be eliminated together in a general nuclear war.  Only one U.S. general present at the briefing objected to this idea: David M. Shoup, a Marine general and Medal of Honor winner, who also later objected to the Vietnam War.

Notoriously, General William Westmoreland once mused that “The Oriental doesn’t put the same high price on life as does a Westerner.  Life is plentiful.  Life is cheap in the Orient.”  That philosophy helped to justify massive killing of the Vietnamese people (perhaps as many as three million) in a futile quest to “win” the Vietnam War.

Thinking about Westmoreland’s musing in light of our government’s response to COVID-19, as well as past plans for “winning” a nuclear war and prevailing in Vietnam by killing everything that moved, one wonders about which value system truly esteems life.  It sure doesn’t seem to be the “Western” model as espoused by our leaders.

Bonus Lesson: In its daily send out, the New York Times had this article today: FACT CHECK: “Trump’s Baseless Claim That a Recession Would Be Deadlier Than the Coronavirus,” by LINDA QIU.  The opposite is more likely to be true, according to research and experts.

*(Top image: President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence and members of the Coronavirus Task Force, speaks to members of the press Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020, in the James S. brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. Credit: D. Myles Cullen/ Official White House Photo)

*This article was originally published on BracingViews.com.

Technology of Death: The Not-so-Shocking Report on Israeli Weapons Exports

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The Middle East region, battered by wars and adjoining humanitarian crises that have left millions of people stateless, hungry and diseased, is in urgent need for peace, security, and reconstruction. Thanks to the US, Russian, French, Israeli and other weapons manufacturers, however, it is now the dumping ground for military hardware, an ominous sign for the years ahead.

Data released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) on March 9, paints a grim picture of the world, in general, and the Middle East, in particular. According to the report, the demand for weapons in the warring region has increased by a whopping 61% between 2015 and 2019.

The correlation between arms, war, and casualty count needs no elaborate algorithm to be deciphered, as facts on the ground amply demonstrate. Syria remains the epicenter of conflict in the Middle East, with Libya, Yemen, Iraq, Palestine, and South Sudan trailing, but not far behind.

The top five merchants of death, according to SIPRI, are the United States, Russia, France, Germany, and China. Interestingly, while US arms exports have increased exponentially by 76% in the last five years, Russia’s arms exports fell by 18%.

The US market is in constant expansion as it now includes 96 client countries, while Russia has, essentially, lost one of its most significant clients, India.

Ruled by a right-wing Hindu nationalist government, Delhi has found in Tel Aviv a more ideologically like-minded supplier. The special ‘friendship’ between India’s Narendra Modi and Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu has made India Israel’s largest weapons market.

In 2017, Israel’s arms exports reached a record high of $9 billion dollars, following the signing of a $2 billion deal with India. The contracts awarded to the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) were considered the “single largest deal ever signed by the Israeli arms industry.”

With India becoming the largest importer of Israeli arms in the world, Israel is now a secondary party in the protracted conflict between India and Pakistan. The two nuclear-armed countries edged closer to the abyss of a full-blown war in March 2019. Naturally, Israeli weapons, now featured prominently in India’s military arsenal, will play a major role in sustaining any future conflict.

According to the newly-released data, Israel is only second to South Korea in terms of the vast expansion of weapons exports, as Israel’s weapons manufacturing industry has experienced an unprecedented boom in recent years. SIPRI puts that increase at 77%.

Last year, the International Defense Cooperation Directorate of the Israeli Ministry of Defense (SIBAT), which is the cornerstone of Israel’s weapon manufacturing, testing, and export, released a comprehensive plan aimed at the expansion of Israel’s global weapons market, with due focus on the US, Finland, and India.

What makes Israeli weapons more attractive than others is the fact that they are not accompanied by any political price tag. In other words, Israel is willing to sell weapons to any country, or even non-state actors, openly or secretly, regardless of how these weapons are used and whether their use violates human rights or not.

In May 2019, Amnesty International’s Israeli chapter released an in-depth report that examined Israel’s weapons export markets. Contrary to the claim by Rachel Chen, head of the Israeli Defense Export Controls Agency, that “we will carefully examine the state of human rights in each country before approving export licenses for selling them weapons,” Israel is known for peddling its weapons to the world’s most notorious human rights violators. The list includes Myanmar, Philippines, South Sudan, and Sri Lanka.

A damning proof to the above claim is a statement made by Philippines President, Rodrigo Duterte, who is known for his dismal human rights record, on September 4, 2018, during his highly-touted visit to Israel. Duterte told Israeli President, Reuven Rivlin, that the Philippines “would henceforth only buy weapons from Israel due to its lack of restrictions,” ‘Times of Israel’ reported.

The US is “a good friend,” Duterte said, but like Germany and China, US weapons come with certain “limitations”.

Considering that Washington provides Israel with over $3 billion worth of weapons annually that are used freely against occupied Palestinians and other Arab nations with no regard whatsoever for international or humanitarian law, one has to marvel at Duterte’s statement.

It is logical to assume that a country that sells weapons to civil war-torn and extremely impoverished South Sudan, has not an iota of regulations, let alone moral standards.

What is unique about the export of Israel’s weapons and so-called ‘security technology’ to the rest of the world, is that they often appear in regions where people are most oppressed and vulnerable. For example, Israeli companies have for years stood at the forefront of successive US administrations’ war on undocumented immigrants.

Moreover, recent years have witnessed the infusion of brutal Israeli military tactics in many aspects of American society, including the militarization of American police, thousands of whom received training in Israel.

Similarly, in 2018, Israeli war technology was incorporated into the European Union’s security apparatus. One such contract was awarded to the Israeli company Elbit, estimated at $68 million, to provide maritime unmanned aircraft system (UAS) services. This technology, which relies on the Hermes 900 Maritime Patrol system, allows Frontex – the European Border and Coast Guard Agency – to intercept war refugees and migrants in their attempts to cross into safer European territories.

Interestingly, the EU has purchased from Israel the same deadly technology that the Israeli army has used against Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip during Israel’s so-called ‘Protective Edge’ war of 2014.

The latter fact represents the backbone of Israel’s marketing strategy. Branding its military products as ‘combat-proven’, Tel Aviv is able to obtain top dollar for its bloody technology, as it is able to demonstrate, using actual footage, how its armed drones, for example, can flatten whole Palestinian neighborhoods in seconds and return safely to their bases inside Israel.

Far greater focus should be placed on the fact that Israel is, itself, a notorious human rights violator that should be held accountable for its crimes against Palestinians, who are often used as guinea pigs in the testing stage of Israel’s technology of death.

*(Top image credit: Israel Defense Forces/ Flickr)

Why France Is Hiding a Cheap and Tested Virus Cure

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What’s going on in the fifth largest economy in the world arguably points to a major collusion scandal in which the French government is helping Big Pharma to profit from the expansion of Covid-19. Informed French citizens are absolutely furious about it.

My initial question to a serious, unimpeachable Paris source, jurist Valerie Bugault, was about the liaisons dangereuses between Macronism and Big Pharma and especially about the mysterious “disappearance” – more likely outright theft – of all the stocks of chloroquine in possession of the French government.

Respected Professor Christian Perronne talked about the theft live in one of France’s 24/7 info channels: “The central pharmacy for the hospitals announced today that they were facing a total rupture of stocks, that they were pillaged.”

With input from another, anonymous source, it’s now possible to establish a timeline that puts in much-needed perspective the recent actions of the French government.

Let’s start with Yves Levy, who was the head of INSERM – the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research – from 2014 to 2018, when he was appointed as extraordinary state councilor for the Macron administration. Only 12 people in France have reached this status. 

Levy is married to Agnes Buzy, who until recently was minister of health under Macron. Buzy was essentially presented with an “offer you can’t refuse” by Macron’s party to leave the ministry – in the middle of the coronavirus crisis – and run for Mayor of Paris, where she was mercilessly trounced in the first round on March 16.    

Levy has a vicious running feud with Professor Didier Raoult – prolific and often-cited Marseille-based specialist in communicable diseases. Levy withheld the INSERM label from the world-renowned IHU (Hospital-University Institute) research center directed by Raoult.

In practice, in October 2019, Levy revoked the status of “foundation” of the different IHUs so he could take over their research.

Raoult was part of a clinical trial in which hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin healed 90% of Covid-19 cases if they were tested very early. (Early, massive testing is at the heart of the successful South Korean strategy.)

Raoult is opposed to the total lockdown of sane individuals and possible carriers – which he considers “medieval,” in an anachronistic sense. He’s in favor of massive testing (which, besides South Korea, was successful in Singapore, Taiwan and Vietnam) and a fast treatment with hydroxychloroquine. Only contaminated individuals should be confined.   

Chloroquine costs one euro for ten pills. And there’s the rub: Big Pharma – which, crucially, finances INSERM, and includes “national champion” Sanofi – would rather go for a way more profitable solution. Sanofi for the moment says it is “actively preparing” to produce chloroquine, but that may take “weeks,” and there’s no mention about pricing.

A minister fleeing a tsunami

Here’s the timeline:

On January 13, Agnes Buzyn, still France’s Health Minister, classifies chloroquine as a “poisonous substance,” from now on only available by prescription. An astonishing move, considering that it has been sold off the shelf in France for half a century.

On March 16, the Macron government orders a partial lockdown. There’s not a peep about chloroquine. Police initially are not required to wear masks; most have been stolen anyway, and there are not enough masks even for health workers. In 2011 France had nearly 1.5 billion masks: 800 million surgical masks and 600 million masks for health professionals generally.

But then, over the years, the strategic stocks were not renewed, to please the EU and to apply the Maastricht criteria, which limited membership in the Growth and Stability Pact to countries whose budget deficits did not exceed 3% of GDP. One of those in charge at the time was Jerome Salomon, now a scientific counselor to the Macron government.    

On March 17, Agnes Buzyn says she has learned the spread of Covid-19 will be a major tsunami, for which the French health system has no solution. She also says it had been her understanding that the Paris mayoral election “would not take place” and that it was, ultimately, “a masquerade.”

What she does not say is that she didn’t go public at the time she was running because the whole political focus by the Macron political machine was on winning the “masquerade.” The first round of the election meant nothing, as Covid-19 was advancing. The second round was postponed indefinitely. She had to know about the impending healthcare disaster. But as a candidate of the Macron machine she did not go public in timely fashion. 

In quick succession:

The Macron government refuses to apply mass testing, as practiced with success in South Korea and Germany.  

Le Monde and the French state health agency characterize Raoult’s research as fake news, before issuing a retraction.

Professor Perrone reveals on the 24/7 LCI news channel that the stock of chloroquine at the French central pharmacy has been stolen.

Thanks to a tweet by Elon Musk, President Trump says chloroquine should be available to all Americans. Sufferers of lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, who already have supply problems with the only drug that offers them relief, set social media afire with their panic.

US doctors and other medical professionals take to hoarding the medicine for the use of themselves and those close to them, faking prescriptions to indicate they are for patients with lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.

Morocco buys the stock of chloroquine from Sanofi in Casablanca.

Pakistan decides to increase its production of chloroquine to be sent to China.

Switzerland discards the total lockdown of its population; goes for mass testing and fast treatment; and accuses France of practicing  “spectacle politics.” 

Christian Estrosi, the mayor of Nice, having had himself treated with chloroquine, without any government input, directly calls Sanofi so they may deliver chloroquine to Nice hospitals. 

Because of Raoult’s research, a large-scale chloroquine test finally starts in France, under the – predictable – direction of INSERM, which wants to “remake the experiments in other independent medical centers.” This will take at least an extra six weeks – as the Elysee Palace’s scientific council now mulls the extension of France’s total lockdown to … six weeks.

If joint use of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin proves definitely effective among the most gravely ill, quarantines may be reduced in select clusters.

The only French company that still manufactures chloroquine is under judicial intervention. That puts the chloroquine hoarding and theft into full perspective. It will take time for these stocks to be replenished, thus allowing Big Pharma the leeway to have what it wants: a costly solution.  

It appears the perpetrators of the chloroquine theft were very well informed.

Bagged nurses

This chain of events, astonishing for a highly developed G-7 nation proud of its health service, is part of a long, painful process embedded in neoliberal dogma. EU-driven austerity mixed with the profit motive resulted in a very lax attitude towards the health system.

As Bugault told me, “test kits – very few in number – were always available but mostly for a small group connected to the French government [ former officials of the Ministry of Finance, CEOs of large corporations, oligarchs, media and entertainment moguls].  Same for chloroquine, which this government did everything to make inaccessible for the population.

They did not make life easy for Professor Raoult – he received death threats and was intimidated by ‘journalists.’

And they did not protect vital stocks. Still under the Hollande government, there was a conscious liquidation of the stock of masks – which had existed in large quantities in all hospitals. Not to mention that the suppression of hospital beds and hospital means accelerated under Sarkozy.”

This ties in with anguished reports by French citizens of nurses now having to use trash bags due to the lack of proper medical gear.

At the same time, in another astonishing development, the French state refuses to requisition private hospitals and clinics – which are practically empty at this stage – even as the president of their own association, Lamine Garbi, has pleaded for such a public service initiative: “I solemnly demand that we are requisitioned to help public hospitals. Our facilities are prepared. The wave that surprised the east of France must teach us a lesson.”

Bugault reconfirms the health situation in France “is very serious and will become even worse due to these political decisions – absence of masks, political refusal to massively test people, refusal of free access to chloroquine – in a context of supreme distress at the hospitals. This will last and destitution will be the norm.” 

Professor vs president

In an explosive development on Tuesday, Raoult said he’s not participating in Macron’s scientific council anymore, even though he’s not quitting it altogether. Raoult once again insists on massive testing on a national scale to detect suspected cases, and then isolate and treat patients who tested positive. In a nutshell: the South Korean model.  

That’s exactly what is expected from the IHU in Marseille, where hundreds of residents continue to queue up for testing. And that ties in with the conclusions by a top Chinese expert on Covid-19, Zhang Nanshan, who says that treatment with chloroquine phospate had a “positive impact,” with patients testing negative after around four days. 

The key point has been stressed by Raoult: Use chloroquine in very special circumstances, for people tested very early, when the disease is not advanced yet, and only in these cases. He’s not advocating chloroquine for everyone. It’s exactly what the Chinese did, along with their use of Interferon. 

For years, Raoult has been pleading for a drastic revision of health economic models, so the treatments, cure and therapies created mostly during the 20th century, are considered a patrimony in the service of all humanity.“That’s not the case”, he says, “because we abandon medicine that is not profitable, even if it’s effective. That’s why almost no antibiotics are manufactured in the West.”

On Tuesday, the French Health Ministry officially prohibited the utilization of treatment based on chloroquine recommended by Raoult.  In fact the treatment is only allowed for terminal Covid-19 patients, with no other possibility of healing. This cannot but expose the Macron government to more accusations of at least inefficiency – added to the absence of masks, tests, contact tracing and ventilators.

On Wednesday, commenting on the new government guidelines, Raoult said, “When damage to the lungs is too important, and patients arrive for reanimation, they practically do not harbor viruses in their bodies any more. It’s too late to treat them with chloroquine. Are these the only cases – the very serious cases – that will be treated with chloroquine under the new directive by [French Health Minister] Veran?” If so, he added ironically, “then they will be able to say with scientific certainty that chloroquine does not work.”

Raoult was unavailable for comment on Western news media articles citing Chinese test results that would suggest he is wrong about the efficacy of chloroquine in dealing with mild cases of Covid-19.

Staffers pointed instead to his comments in the IHU bulletin. There Raoult says it’s “insulting” to ask if we can trust the Chinese on the use of chloroquine. “If this was an American disease, and the president of the United States said, ‘We need to treat patients with that,’ nobody would discuss it.”

In China, he adds, there were “enough elements so the Chinese government and all Chinese experts who know coronaviruses took an official position that ‘we must treat with chloroquine.’ Between the moment when we have the first results and an accepted international publication, there is no credible alternative among people who are the most knowledgeable in the world. They took this measure in the interest of public health.”

Crucially: if he had coronavirus, Raoult says he would take chloroquine. Since Raoult is rated by his peers as the number one world expert  in communicable diseases, way above Dr. Anthony Fauci in the US, I would say the new reports represent Big Pharma talking.

Raoult has been mercilessly savaged and demonized by French corporate media that are controlled by a few oligarchs closely linked to Macronism. Not by accident the demonization has reached gilets jaunes (yellow vest) levels, especially because of the extremely popular hashtag  #IlsSavaient (“They knew”), with which the yellow vests stress that French elites have “managed” the Covid-19 crisis by protecting themselves while leaving the population defenseless against the virus.

That ties in with the controversial analysis by crack philosopher Giorgio Agamben in a column published a month ago, where he was already arguing that Covid-19 clearly shows that the state of exception – similar to a state of emergency but with differences important to philosophers – has become fully normalized in the West.

Agamben was speaking not as a doctor or a virologist but as a master thinker, following in the steps of Foucault, Walter Benjamin and Hannah Arendt. Noting how a latent state of fear has metastasized into a state of collective panic, for which Covid-19 “offers once again the ideal pretext,” he described how, “in a perverse vicious circle, the limitation of freedom imposed by governments is accepted in the name of a desire for security that was induced by the same governments that now intervene to satisfy it.”

There was no state of collective panic in South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Vietnam – to mention four Asian examples outside of China. A dogged combination of mass testing and contact tracing was applied with immense professionalism. It worked. In the Chinese case, with the help of chloroquine. And in all Asian cases, without a murky profit motive to the benefit of Big Pharma.

There hasn’t yet appeared the smoking gun that proves the Macron system not only is incompetent to deal with Covid-19 but also is dragging the process so Big Pharma can come up with a miracle vaccine, fast. But the pattern to discourage chloroquine is more than laid out above – in parallel to the demonization of Raoult. 

*This article was originally published on Asia Times.

Boris Johnson Tests Positive for Covid-19 as UK Lockdown Tightens

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Make an unnecessary journey and you could face a fine of £60: that’s the message the UK government is sending as it tightens up its restrictions in light of the current coronavirus pandemic. On Monday night, Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed the nation, and in truly unprecedented manner for this liberal politician, informed people that their rights and freedoms would have to be temporarily curtailed; he instructed the British public to stay at home unless absolutely necessary. The Prime Minister has become the latest victim of Covid-19, along with Prince Charles: this virus does not discriminate.

Boris Johnson has been trying to get his message across for weeks now - that self-isolation is the key to tackling the pandemic. Yet not everyone has been paying attention. Just a few hours after his announcement on Monday for people to remain indoors, people could be seen socializing outside and the London underground was still jam-packed, even though there is now a limited number of places people can gather in. Despite the warnings, some people have chosen to ignore the advice on social distancing, leading to the PM’s decision to give the police powers to fine and even arrest those who disobey the rules.

UK residents may only leave their homes for essential reasons: to buy groceries, once a day for exercise (or walk the dog), to fulfill a duty of care, to travel to essential work or for medical reasons. The police are already taking their enforcement powers very seriously, using drones and roadblocks to catch out anyone flouting the law. This has already caused some controversy however as a couple walking their dog in the Peak District were exposed by a police drone. Police claimed that the couple had driven 30 miles away to walk their dog in a way that was ‘not essential’. However, when the UK cabinet office was approached about this the response was that it is not in fact forbidden to drive somewhere to take a walk.  It’s not clear why the police thought that this couple, walking in a remote part of the country far from anyone else, could possibly be worth highlighting as an example. This case emphasizes the extent to which this law is open to interpretation and that problems could arise as a result.

The measures that Boris Johnson has taken however are undoubtedly necessary, and if nothing else have perhaps not been implemented early enough.  The number of deaths in Britain to Covid-19 is now 578 with over 11,600 cases and the country is on a steeper trajectory than either Italy or Spain - the two worst affected European countries - have been on to date. Italy’s scientific advisor, Walter Ricciardi, who called his nation’s lockdown has even said that the UK government should have shut down the country earlier - 10 days earlier in fact - to halt the spread of the virus.  He has suggested that as a result, the UK may go on to have a higher infection rate than that of Italy and that it will have to endure lockdown conditions for a longer period.

Scenes of struggling hospitals in Italy and exhausted medical staff have shocked the world. The death toll in the country is now over 8000 with morgues bursting at the seams and stadiums transformed into makeshift hospitals. Spain is not far behind with over 4000 deaths and the largest number of deaths in one day amongst nations: 718 in total. Things have got so out of hand that an ice rink in Madrid has had to be used as a temporary morgue. The President of the Madrid region has said she expects around 80% of the population to contract coronavirus.

Across the world, people are getting used to a new reality. In the age of globalization, our freedom of movement has been the key to the current crisis. Now we must learn to live without it for the time being. At least, most of us have the ability to stay connected through the internet. Without that convenience, the current lockdown would be much bleaker.

One thing is for sure, this period in our history will have a profound effect on all of us. When it is over, we will all be changed in some way. It will have both negative and positive effects: for some of us, we will have lost loved ones; for others, we will learn to appreciate the things we take for granted: meeting with friends and family; exercise, entertainment, holidays. Things we deemed an essential part of life now don’t seem so essential after all...

*(Top image: The Prime Minister Boris Johnson visit’s the Mologic Laboratory in Bedford during the Coronavirus. Credit: Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street/ Flickr)

Source: InfoBrics

Power in a Time of Coronavirus

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Every day now we’re waking up into an extreme real-life nightmare, while responses are still routinely lagging far behind what’s at stake. Urgency is reality. The horrific momentum of the coronavirus is personal, social and political. In those realms, a baseline formula is “passivity = death.” The imperative is to do vastly better.

Consistent individual actions -- such as “social distancing” and extensive handwashing -- are absolutely necessary. People should stay home if at all possible. Other steps include disinfecting potentially contaminated surfaces and following the admonition to not touch your face.

Meanwhile, a huge social burden has fallen onto charities and other nonprofit organizations with resources that are tiny in relation to the scale of this catastrophe. Even in normal times they can’t do much more than slightly ameliorate the shredding of government social safety nets, the shrinking of the public sector and the profit-obsessed cruelties of corporate capitalism.

Under the weight of the coronavirus emergency, the crucial political challenges involve fighting the bastions of dominant political malfeasance, lies and plunder at the top of the U.S. government.

“In order to save lives, protect working families, and boost our economy in sustainable and healthy ways,” Oxfam concludes, “we need to take actions that are swift, bold, and well beyond what Congress has thus far been willing to approve.” After partnering with Data for Progress to do national polling, Oxfam released a report that shows public opinion favors much more drastic legislation in response to the coronavirus rampage.

“Registered voters in the U.S. strongly support immediate, aggressive action in response to both the public-health and economic crises,” the March 20 report says. “Among the measures they endorse: paid sick leave for all workers, emergency funding for food supplies for those affected by the crisis, free testing for the virus, and moratoriums on evictions, foreclosures, and utility shutoffs.”

An immediate necessity is to galvanize political power from the grassroots to step up the pressure for an all-out government mobilization against this pandemic. That means continually pushing to generate maximum resources toward people who need them most -- now and for a long time to come.

Rather than being a respite from political power struggles, the coronavirus emergency is greatly intensifying them. More aid for those immersed in greed will mean less for those in desperate need. The quest by corporate profiteers to mercilessly exploit dire situations has never flagged.

Showing the vital importance of his national voice as a presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders has outlined some of the gluttonous corporate maneuvers now underway.

“Just in the last few days,” he pointed out on Sunday, “we've seen numerous examples of lobbyists and their agents fighting for special favors: the airline industry is asking for $50 billion, the private space industry is asking for $5 billion, the hotel industry wants $150 billion, the National Association of Manufacturers wants $1.4 trillion, the International Council of Shopping Centers wants a guarantee of up to $1 trillion, Adidas wants to sneak in a long-sought provision allowing people to use pretax money to pay for gym memberships and fitness equipment -- even when many gyms and retail stores are closed nationwide, and corporate pork producers are using the coronavirus to push Congress to expedite guest worker visas, even at a time when international travel and immigration is largely shut down.”

In this time of “unprecedented crisis,” Sanders said, “we need an unprecedented legislative response that focuses on the emergency health care needs of the American people and that puts working families and the poor ahead of CEOs and huge corporations.”

With this pandemic, fueled by the intentional neglect and greedy stupidity of Trump and Company, we have profuse reasons to heed words from legendary labor organizer Mary Harris “Mother” Jones: “Mourn the dead and fight like hell for the living.”

To fight like hell for the living -- to protect people from the ravages of the coronavirus and a harsh economic system -- will require unrelenting work from progressive movements willing and able to organize effectively in every political arena.

Tulsi Gabbard Falls on Her Sword: America’s Leading Antiwar Voice Is Destroyed by Hillary

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In American politics, it is not often that one sees an assassination carried out in public, but that is exactly what the Democratic Party establishment did to peace candidate Tulsi Gabbard. She was sidelined right from the beginning of her campaign and the fact that she was a woman of color and a veteran earned her no points with the Democratic National Committee (DNC), and, more to the point, with the Clintons, who continue to have a disproportionate say in what goes on in the party. The chameleonlike Clintons have long been known for their ability to punish anyone who stands in the way of their ambition and Hillary’s dislike for Gabbard dates back to the 2016 election when Gabbard, then vice-chair of the DNC, endorsed Bernie Sanders.

Gabbard is admittedly a somewhat controversial figure, but many individuals involved in the antiwar movement who have taken time to speak with her have come away impressed by her sincerity and willingness to talk up an issue that all the other candidates, save Bernie Sanders, have ignored. She is a serious non-interventionist and a critic of her party’s embrace of the national security state that has emerged since 9/11. In the several debates where she was allowed to participate and actually given some time to speak, she has been a harsh critic of the endless “regime change wars.”

Tulsi has stayed in the race in spite of the fact that the Democratic Party establishment, most particularly to include the Clintons, have been out to destroy her since she first appeared. Gabbard, generally definable as a conventional moderate Democrat, believes that the United States should end nearly all its wars overseas, which are a symptom of a fractured foreign and national security policy. She also advocates auditing the Federal Reserve and is a supporter of Julian Assange as well as whistleblowers Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning. Tulsi has stuck by her guns and had stayed in the race to promote those and other anti-establishment views.

Unfortunately for the many Americans who had hoped to see Tulsi somehow surfacing either as a candidate or as a major voice in shaping the party platform, her candidacy has finally ended. Her announcement came after she was blocked from participating in the candidates’ debate on March 15th by an abrupt and unexpected change in the guidelines for being included. The new qualifying criteria require a candidate to have earned at least 20 percent of the delegates awarded thus far, which meant that only Biden and Sanders could participate.

On March 18th, Gabbard announced her decision to wrap up her campaign and throw her support to Joe Biden as follows: “I know that he [Biden] has a good heart and he’s motivated by his love for our country and the American people… So today I’m suspending my presidential campaign, and offering my full support to Vice President Joe Biden in his quest to bring our country together.”

The endorsement of Biden came as somewhat of a surprise as Bernie Sanders is closer to her philosophically, but sources close to Tulsi suggest that she did so in the belief that Biden was more likely to unite the party and also better suited to defeating Donald Trump. In any event, speculation that she will have some influence over where the Democratic Party is heading seems to be misplaced as she is not running again for Congress and seems content to return to what passes as a normal life in Hawaii. She retains her commission as a major in the Hawaii National Guard.

If one sought to make a case for who was most active in the undoing of Tulsi Gabbard, the finger would point directly at Hillary Clinton. When Tulsi endorsed Sanders in 2016 she did so knowing that “Clinton had a stranglehold over the Democratic party and that crossing Clinton (who considered herself the ‘inevitable nominee’) could mean the end of her own political career.” Clinton was reportedly made "extremely angry — to put it mildly" by the endorsement and had her aides send Tulsi a wave of threatening emails. 

Hillary Clinton’s first major attack against candidate Gabbard in 2019 was featured in a podcast hosted by former President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign manager, David Plouffe that was recorded last fall. The comments on Gabbard came during a discussion of the upcoming election. Clinton speculated that President Donald Trump and the GOP would likely be "grooming" a potential spoiler candidate for a third-party bid to take away votes from the Democrats. She said “I’m not making any predictions, but I think they’ve got their eye on somebody who’s currently in the Democratic primary and they’re grooming her to be the third-party candidate. She’s the favorite of the Russians. They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far and that’s assuming Jill Stein will give it up because she’s also a Russian asset.”

Clinton did not name Gabbard but one of her spokespersons later confirmed the “Russian asset” comment referred to her. The reference to the completely respectable Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, was based on the oft-repeated claim by Clinton and others that Stein was being supported by Russian agents and that she took votes away from the Democratic candidate. Clinton has also suggested that Moscow is "grooming" Gabbard to run third party and steal votes from the Democrats.

Gabbard courageously responded to the Clinton attack with: "Thank you @HillaryClinton. You, the queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption, and personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party for so long, have finally come out from behind the curtain. From the day I announced my candidacy, there has been a concerted campaign to destroy my reputation. We wondered who was behind it and why. Now we know — it was always you, through your proxies and powerful allies in the corporate media and war machine, afraid of the threat I pose."

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Shortly before dropping out of the race, while Tulsi was the only remaining woman contender for the nomination, Hillary Clinton opted to get in the proverbial last shot in an interview with Fareed Zakaria, saying “We no longer have a woman in the presidential race. There are a lot of reasons for that. We started off with I think six, and now have none.” 

That Tulsi Gabbard, a genuine peace candidate, was deliberately marginalized in the Democratic Party nomination process in spite of having considerable grassroots support does not speak well either for the party or for the system of government by the corruption that prevails in the United States. Tulsi has sued Hillary Clinton for $50 million for defamation due to her being labeled a Russian asset. In the suit, she describes Hillary as “a cutthroat politician by any account” and claims that the former Secretary of State has been working to destroy Gabbard’s presidential campaign as payback for 2016. May Tulsi prevail. And one has to hope that we all have heard the last of the Clintons.

*(Top image: U.S. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard speaking with attendees at the 2019 California Democratic Party State Convention at the George R. Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, California. Credit: Gage Skidmore/ Flickr

Israel Occupation Throws a Palestinian Worker on the Roadside on Suspicion of Coronavirus

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Israel occupation forces violated international law and humanitarian and human-rights norms on Monday, 23 March 2020. They throw a Palestinian worker on the roadside near Beit Sera, an Israeli military checkpoint near the city of Nablus in the occupied West Bank, on suspicion of infection with the emerging coronavirus, despite his difficult health conditions and without knowing whether or not he had the infection.

Social media activists shared a video, documenting the moment when the Palestinian worker, Malik Ghanem, was thrown near the Israeli checkpoint by the Israeli occupation forces after his temperature increased and due to his inability to move.

On Tuesday morning, Palestinian government spokesman Ibrahim Milhem condemned the Israel authorities and the Israeli employers for the treatment of Palestinian workers at their workplaces.

Milhem called on the Palestinian workers not to accept work at infected places and to demand decent, humane treatment. “This is racist behavior and inhumane of Israel; we call on Palestinian workers not to accept these inhumane conditions and not to go to settlements to work, since they are the epicenter of the epidemic, Milhem said.

Milhem further added, "If you have to work for a living, then let it be with dignity, and not in this demeaning way."

As a result of this aggressive act, the secretary-general of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU), Shaher Saad, condemned the crime against Ghanem, pointing out "the Israeli brutality, which was manifested in the dirtiest of its forms towards the worker Malik Ghanem."

The PGFTU issued a statement on Monday evening. The union said that the worker, a resident of the town of Surra in the Nablus city, was thrown near the Beit Sera military checkpoint after his employer suspected that he was infected with the coronavirus, without providing him with any form of medical assistance. This behavior, the PGFTU statement said, is racist behavior that is repugnant and unreasonable, calling it “… abominable racist behavior that is not acceptable to logic or reason, and the state."

The Union said that the Israeli occupation is obligated, in accordance with the rules of international law as an occupying power, to deal with the Palestinian workers in accordance with the rules and provisions of the International Convention, to protect the rights of all migrant workers and members of their families. These rules and provisions were adopted by General Assembly Resolution No. (45) of December 18, 1990. 

It is an agreement that is not read in isolation from other international references, including core United Nations instruments relating to human rights, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the International Covenants, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights;  the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rightsand the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discriminationending with the Fourth Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilians.

In the statement, the Union emphasized that the Israeli occupation is also obligated to give the Palestinian workers the same rights as they grant them to Israeli workers as well as other expatriate workers coming from all countries of the world, in all circumstances and conditions, especially in emergency situations, natural disasters, and epidemics.

Israel is also required to take the necessary measures to protect the physical and psychological integrity of workers in light of the direct and indirect effects that may accompany the declaration of a state of emergency and the spread of the epidemic.  

The Union holds the Israeli occupation fully responsible for the health and safety of all Palestinian workers, and indeed for the health and safety of all the Palestinian people because the occupied Arab Palestinian lands are still subject to the Israeli military occupation.

The labor struggle bloc, the Association arm of Palestinian Popular Struggle Front, called on the International Labor Organization, and all human rights institutions to open an immediate and quick investigation about this offense against humanity.

The bloc said: "This barbaric act, which is not surprising by the Israel occupation, reaffirms its brutality and its continuous crime against the Palestinian workers."

There was a call to all Palestinian workers inside the occupied territories to take precautions to exercise caution and support public safety.

The Palestinian government spokesman Ibrahim Milhem confirmed that testing of the worker who was thrown by the Israelis on the roadside showed that he was "uninfected" by Coronavirus, and he was sent to the National Hospital in Nablus for treatment of the condition that was causing his suffering.

*(Top image: Palestinian worker Malik Ghanem thrown out of Israel.)

White Helmets Use Covid-19 Crisis to Further US Coalition Regime Change Agenda in Syria

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The White Helmet ‘coronavirus campaign’ is a cynical exploitation of the pandemic to weaponize it against the Syrian government. To really help the Syrians they should demand a lift of Western sanctions, not support them.

Five cases of coronavirus have now been reported by the health ministry in Syria. The country is subject to a curfew from 6pm to 6am as of March 25. Syria braces itself for a potential medical crisis. 

The Syrian healthcare sector has been crippled under a “maximum pressure” economic sanctions campaign that has collectively punished the Syrian people for the duration of a war waged against them by the same governments inflicting the catastrophic economic damage. Hospitals and medical care centers have been targeted and occupied by the extremist armed groups throughout Syria, further reducing the Syrian state-ability to deal with the looming threat of an apparently rapacious pandemic. 

Sanctions increase the risk of pandemic spread

All measures taken against the Syrian government by the UK, US and EU are ostensibly to “protect” the Syrian people. Of course sanctions never protect the people, they deprive the people of basic needs, they decimate essential infrastructure. They are designed to weaken the target state or leadership, to turn the people against the government, to serve US-led foreign policy agendas in the region. Sanctions enable war and destruction, they are taken to bring resistant nations into line with horrifying consequences for the civilian population. 

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Instead of lifting sanctions to allow nations like Iran and Syria to combat what is described as a “global pandemic” that threatens the lives of all Syrians and Iranians according to the media hype – the US-led coalition of “humanitarian” intervention is effectively doubling down on their pro-sanction, pro-war rhetoric, as a recent statement from the UK, US, France and Germany has demonstrated. Former UK Ambassador to Syria, Peter Ford, described the statement as a thinly veiled cry of solidarity for Al-Qaeda in Syria, “There is not a word here with which Hayat Tahrir Ash Sham, the dominant jihadi group, would not concur.

White Helmets weaponize Covid-19 to ensure Syrian people suffer more

The Al-Qaeda-linked White Helmets group have sprung into action to defend the sanctions regime and to effectively condemn the huge majority of Syrian people to further misery should the pandemic take hold in Syria. An organization with a history of collaboration with the US Coalition-sponsored armed groups in Syria, itself funded by the same governments, has been triggered by the billionaire-manufactured PR complex that manages and directs this shadow state construct.

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We have seen a flurry of activity on their Twitter accounts, their primary platform, promoting the White Helmet “coronavirus” campaign. This is nothing short of cynical exploitation of a world crisis to weaponize it against the Syrian government via an entity that has served this purpose since its establishment, in Turkey, by a former British military intelligence officer, James Le Mesurier. 

The White Helmets have published a statement calling for sanctions against Syria to be maintained. The statement is based on misinformation and duplicitous narratives including the claim that Syria and Russia are deliberately targeting hospitals, omitting that these hospitals are invariably taken over by the Al Qaeda-dominated armed groups in areas they control – converted into terrorist triage centers, prisons, courts, military centers, and torture chambers. 

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Raed Saleh, the leader of the White Helmets, was recently given a platform in the Senate to “[feed] the Senate Foreign Relations Committee the talking points that it should adopt.” Saleh’s highly politicized speech is echoed in his tweet, instrumentalizing the coronavirus crisis to further amplify the talking points historically and fraudulently used to criminalize the Syrian government while airbrushing Nusra Front/Al-Qaeda from the Syrian conflict landscape. 

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White Helmets are neither neutral nor humanitarian

So, in summary, the White Helmets, a supposedly “neutral” “humanitarian” organization are sustaining their donor's “maximum pressure” campaign against the Syrian people they claim to support. If the White Helmets were anything other than an extremist, propaganda construct implementing the US Coalition “regime change” policy against Syria, they would have demanded a ban on sanctions to enable the country to collectively deal with the coronavirus crisis. 

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The White Helmet organization should be condemned for effectively enabling mass suffering and death in Syria, not only by providing cover for internationally designated terrorist groups, but, now, for endorsing sanctions that will ensure the perfect conditions for a global pandemic to spread like wildfire through a “hybrid warfare”-decimated nation. 

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*(Top image credit: The White Helmets/ Twitter)

*This article was originally published on RT.

It Is Not China, but the Western World that Should Be Defined as the “Real Sick Man”

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Not long ago, the Wall Street Journal insulted China, calling it “the Real Sick Man of Asia”. China retaliated, and then the U.S. counter-retaliated. Emotions have been running high, journalists got deported.

Suddenly, various Chinese officials expressed publicly what many in both China and Russia have been, for weeks, articulating in sotto voce: that it was perhaps the U.S. military establishment, which brought the new type of coronavirus (COVID-19) to Wuhan, in order to harm China and bring the world back, through complex backroads, under the West’s control.

Suddenly, the world feels very uncomfortable. The way it is governed is clearly perverse. People do not always know why, they just feel frightened, prickly and insecure. Actually, they always have, during the last few decades, but this is somehow becoming “too much”.

Countries do not trust each other. People do not trust each other. People do not trust their governments. Capitalism is despised, but nations have been robbed of alternatives.

I work all over the world, and I observe all this. What I see, I do not like.

Increasingly, I am fearful that what has been set in motion by Washington and London, may not end well. That a tragedy is waiting right around the corner.

For many years I have been warning that imperialism is murdering tens of millions of people, annually. Predominantly Western imperialism, but also its offshoots in some places where the elites learned from their former colonialist master how to brutalize conquered territories, such as Jakarta, New Delhi, or Tel Aviv.

Genocides and modern-day slavery have become the vilest reflections of modernity. Not the only ones, of course, but the vilest.

I recently wrote for this magazine (NEO), that I have never seen the world so fragmented.

Travel, Internet, Social Media – they all were supposed to improve the world, and to bring people closer to each other. They did not. I see confusion and disinformation all around me. People travel but do not see or understand. They stare at computer screens for hours each day, as they used to stare at the television screens, but they do not have any clue how the world functions.

People used to come to us, philosophers, for advice. We used to interact. Not anymore. And look at philosophy itself: it has been reduced to a dry, controlled university discipline by the regime. Before, to be a philosopher used to be identical with being a thinker. Now, pathetically, a philosopher is an individual with a university degree in philosophy, which is issued by some college that is part of the establishment.

And anyway, now almost each and every individual, at least in the West, believes that he or she is a philosopher; self-absorbed, posing and posting on social media, using selfies, with grotesquely boosted egos.

Something has gone wrong. Almost everything has. Humanity is facing tremendous danger. Why? Because it does not understand itself. Its dreams have been reduced to some low, pathetic, sad ambitions. Its lofty ideals that were formed over long centuries have been belittled by the Western nihilist narrative.

And then, a new coronavirus hit.

Do not underestimate the coronavirus! It may have the mortality rate of an ordinary flu, but it is much more dangerous than that. Its danger is predominately psychological and philosophical, much more than medical.

It arrived, unexpectedly, and illustrated to the world, that there is no global unity, no solidarity, anymore.

Countries are acting and reacting in extremely brutal ways. It is frightening. It all feels like some of the bad, second-rate horror films produced by Hollywood.

Governments are pointing fingers at each other, irrationally. Airlines are lying, robbing customers, while claiming that they are protecting them.

I recently “escaped” from Hong Kong, after Korean Air unceremoniously cancelled flights to China, doing nothing to re-route stranded passengers. I flew for 5 days to South America, home, through several Asian airports, by the most bizarre routes, north and south and north again, then via Amsterdam and Suriname, zig-zagging through Brazilian cities, before reaching Chile. Peculiarly, at one point along the way, I ended up in Seoul, where I was earlier told I was not supposed to be to begin with, experiencing the proverbial South Korean racism on my skin, and going through outrageous humiliation and interrogation after uttering, at the gate before departing for Amsterdam, that North Koreans definitely treat people with much more respect and dignity than Seoul.

I will write much more about this, in the near future, but this is not supposed to be the main topic of this essay.

What is essential is that the logic itself has collapsed. The behavior of many countries has become irrational, if the rationale is supposed to be synonymous with the advancement of humanity and improvement of the lives of human beings. Now things make sense only when seen from the point of view of the desire to control and usurp, plunder and humiliate.

And the coronavirus?

Is the United States trying to take advantage of the situation, to monopolize the cure, and to save its economy and currency, at the expense of billions worldwide?

On March 15, 2020, The Sun reported:

“Donald Trump aides ‘offered huge sums to a German company in a bid to grab the coronavirus vaccine for Americans only.’”

One day later, on 16 March, 2020, the Mail Online, amplified the story:

“German officials are trying to stop the Trump administration from luring German biopharmeceutical company CureVac to the US to get its experimental coronavirus vaccines exclusively for Americans.

President Donald Trump has offered funds to lure the company CureVac to the US. The German government has made counter-offers to make the company stay, according to a report in German newspaper Welt am Sonntag.

An unidentified German government source told the paper Trump is trying to secure the scientists’ work exclusively, and would do anything to get a vaccine for the United States – ‘but only for the United States.’”

The behavior of the Empire could easily make one sicker than the coronavirus would itself.

The United States occupies and antagonizes countries and then it punishes them when they try to protect themselves. Israel does the same. And so, do Indonesia, India, and NATO as a block. Turkey is turning into a maniac. Iran, Venezuela and others are screaming, brutalized for absolutely no reason by sanctions and embargoes. Russia is being constantly smeared, just for helping injured nations, in the Middle East, Africa and Latin America.

I watch all this and I wonder: how much further can all this go? Is all this banditry and idiocy going to go on from now on, and forever accepted as a normalcy?

But back to the coronavirus. It is all connected to what I mentioned above, isn’t it? Billions of people are now being stripped of their rights and will, pushed around, and fully controlled, everything justified by a disease with the mortality rate of an ordinary flu? And do people notice that the victims are now being treated like criminals, something that would have been unimaginable just a couple of decades ago.

China, infected by the U.S. or not, is being continuously insulted, isolated and smeared. Western anti-Chinese propaganda kicked in, almost from the start of the epidemy. How ugly; how monstrous!

Western propagandists are alert, waiting, monitoring the world. Like piranhas, they attack with lightning speed, whenever blood is spilt, or a piece of flesh gets exposed.

When disaster strikes, they take full advantage of the weaknesses of their opponent. They go for the kill. And there is nothing human in their behavior. It is a calculating strike against the victim. It is the surgical swing of a scalpel, designed to kill, in the most terrifying way.

China reacted in totally the opposite way: when Italy got infected, Chinese medics offered their help. They flew to Italy with medicine and equipment.

And China is not alone. Whenever disasters strike, anywhere in the world, Cuban doctors and rescue commandos take off, as long as they are allowed to travel and help.

Venezuela, too. It used to supply cheap fuel, even to needy people who happened to be citizens of its arch-tormentor – the United States.

And Russia, in whatever form (as the biggest Soviet Republic, or as the Russian Federation), it has been helping dozens and dozens of decimated nations: by treating their sick, educating their students, building infrastructure, spreading culture through books and music, all in local languages.

Russia does not talk much: it just does, performs, helps. And so do China, Cuba and others.

I want to see the world united. I want to experience humanity embarking on a beautiful project: improving the planet, searching, together, for an egalitarian system, with no misery, no incurable illnesses, no depravity.

But I am not naïve. I see what the West and its extreme capitalism and imperialism are doing to the world.

And I am convinced that only the classic isms are capable of evoking compassion and solidarity in the people. Propagandists in Washington and London tell you the opposite; they will lie to you that Communism and socialism are dead, or at least totally outdated. Do not trust them; you know that their goals have nothing to do with improving life on our planet. Whatever you hear from them, trust the opposite.

Right now, our human race is like a sick, very sick person. Not because of the coronavirus, but because of the response to the coronavirus.

China is not at all the real sick man of Asia. No matter how it happened, China got infected, but then it rose to its feet, fought with great determination and courage, and began obliterating the disease. Chinese doctors, Chinese people in general, are now celebrating. They are ecstatic. They are winning, their first hospitals dedicated to the coronavirus patients are now closing down in Wuhan. Their system is clearly victorious, created for the people.

Almost simultaneously, China has started to help other countries.

Actually, China and its people are behaving like human beings are supposed to behave. And, if that is called “sick”, then what is “healthy”?

Recognizing and Resisting the Hasbara Pandemic 

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Steady media reports on the rising number of the novel Coronavirus infections and its human toll have contributed to a global psychology of fear where entire populations are succumbing their free will to those in positions of authority, elected and otherwise.   But while we try to keep ourselves safe during this pandemic, a deadlier and more destructive virus creeping in the shadows for years is also reaching its peak.  The virus is called hasbara or better understood as propaganda.

Lest you think it is not contagious or deadly, think Iraq.  The Iraq war alone cost the American taxpayers trillions of Dollars but the Iraqi population bore the brunt of the pain and suffering from America’s sanctioned terror attack and invasion with over one million souls lost and counting.  Just like COVID-19 which may be dismissed as a cold, the hasbara virus may be taken for the truth – and therein lies the threat.  As we surrender our will to the officials so that we can survive this pandemic, the spinners have upped their hasbara in order to coax us into embracing their terrorism, their wars, and their genocide.  

Abandon your will, if you must, but not your common sense. As someone who has studied propaganda for fifteen years, I have never seen it so prevalent and so dangerous at a time when we are distracted by a viral diseaseHaving allowed the hasbara virus to spread and go undetected for such a long time, weve lost all ability to recognize it. The spinners know this and are taking full advantage of it. Let me give you two examples from the last 24 hours alone.

First one is a heartwarming ‘news item’ – even benign. 

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How can the picture of this cute dog not touch you heart? More so when you read on that his owner is in quarantine in Mexico with the coronavirus.  His chips cravings prompt him to tie a note to the dog, send him to the store with a $20 bill and instructions to the shopkeeper to give the dog a bag of “Cheetos”.   Now didn’t that give you the warm fuzzies?  The story is shared over and over and the ‘news reporter’ gets a kudos from his boss for writing this sweet story which would no doubt increase circulation.  I loved it.

But then I had to ask myself why a man in Mexico would tie a 20 Dollar bill to his dog and not Pesos.  That is a lot of Mexican Pesos, and no change was returned.  I mean where would the poor dog keep the change, a lot of change, in Mexican Pesos.  

I shared the story with many friends, some of whom included university professors.  None noted the oddness of the Dollar bill.    Even when I asked if they noted something strange about the story, they did not point to it until I told them.  The story was heartwarming and the incident was something they all wanted to accept – a feel good story.   Nothing else was noted.  We want to believe a story that appeals to our sense of reality, our values, no matter how unrealistic.

On the opposite side is the news story about a former FBI agent Robert Levinson.  Levinson disappeared in 2007 and the United States had accused Iran of holding him hostage.  Iran has no information about him.  Yesterday, out of nowhere, various hasbara outlets cited Levinson’s family releasing an statement citing that they recently received information from US officials that led them to conclude that our wonderful husband and father died while in Iranian custody.   

Iran denied having held him in custody and the news of his death was news to them.  Why was this unbelievable?  After all, I have no way of knowing who is lying, the US or Iran.  Though one certainly may question the timing of this report.

But it was not just the timing that was odd.  It was the orange prison uniform.  Orange prison uniform is easy to process for Americans, and the West.  Images of prisoners wearing orange jumpsuit in Guantanamo is embedded in our minds.  More disturbing still are the images of prisoners captured by ISIS and wearing orange jump suits as they are being executed.   I always wondered where did ISIS get all the orange jump suits their prisoner wore.  But that is beside the point.  In Iran, prisoners do not wear orange.  The uniforms are different shades of blue depending on their status. Ordinary prisoners wear the striped while political prisoners the plain blue uniforms.

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*(Photos courtesy of Iran-based journalist)

Aside from the wrong color uniform, I was struck by Levinson’s appearance as portrayed in Western media.  It was hard to process the tanned face which contrasted so sharply with his pale hands.   It didn’t make sense.  It is not clear to me as to why America would choose this moment to stage this death. I can only imagine that it is to present an image of a ruthless Iran in order to justify its terrorism by way of sanctions at a time when Iran, like the rest of the world, is fighting this pandemic.   But even the lies will not hide the shameless stain of America’s cruel madness.  Hence, we must resist and fight the propaganda.

For decades, we have been victims of propaganda to the point that we are no longer aware of it. In spite of it, we have not managed to build an immunity to the lies.  Quite the opposite -- we have become more vulnerable as our resistance erodes with every shot of hasbara.  But we are not broken – not yet.  It can only affect us if left undetectedLike COVID-19, the hasbara virus goes undetected until it’s tested for and discovered.  We must therefore learn to test for, detect, and reject it.  We can do this by refusing to abandon our critical thinkingPleasant or not, we cannot allow our underlying bias guide us and use commonsense. Don’t let the hasbara virus infect you -- it is deadlier than you can imagine.

Liberalism without Liberties: the Overton Window Opened by COVID-19

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The changes that the coronavirus pandemic is about to produce in international society are finally beginning to show its first signs. The scenario of doubts, uncertainties and multiple possibilities generated by the explosion of the pandemic now seems to give way to an atmosphere of greater clarity as to what is expected from the post COVID-19 world.

Since the beginning of the world coronavirus crisis, one thing has been clear: the pillars of the contemporary world order, i.e., financial capitalism and globalism, are dead. The world as we know it since the end of the Cold War seems to be coming to an end. This is not good or bad in itself, it is only a concrete and practically indisputable fact.

It took only a few months of a pandemic for the global economy to stagnate and stock exchanges around the world to approach collapse. Progressively, the West, which for long sold the neoliberal discourse, increasingly promotes state intervention, aiming to free its nations from the complete collapse. The intervention takes place not only in the economic sphere but also in the political and social sphere, with the closing of borders and the interruption in the flow of people and goods. To survive, the West must deny its own values ​​- it must become less and less "Western".

The limits of this Western revision of its own ideology maybe even wider. The pillar ideology of the West and Modernity - liberalism - seems to be undergoing a revision itself. Day after day, news in all media outlets about increasingly daring proposals for social and financial control increases.

Democrats recently drafted the first version of a more than 1,000-page bill providing for the creation of a US digital dollar, defined as “a balance expressed as a dollar value consisting of digital ledger entries that are recorded as liabilities in the accounts of any Federal Reserve Bank or... an electronic unit of value, redeemable by an eligible financial institution (as determined by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System)”. The bill comes to light with the intention of containing the catastrophic effects of the coronavirus crisis, promising (at least by the Democrats) to be the salvation of the American economy.

What would be the real intention behind creating a digital dollar? Would this be an advanced step towards complete economic virtualization, provided precisely by the crisis of financial capitalism? These are questions that still remain unanswered when taken separately. But we can think about it more deeply by analyzing other data.

New technologies are changing international society forever. In this sense, a new generation of high-resolution satellites is bringing new challenges to the public debate. The new geospatial technology allows a wide and detailed view of practically everything on Earth from space, including entire ecosystems, guaranteeing a gigantic roll of data on the main issues of our time: global warming, endangered species, atmospheric pollution and expansion of viral infections.

In fact, satellites of this nature are already being used in the elaboration of dashboards that, managing data from geospatial technology, provide a constant tracking of the expansion of the COVID-19 infection in several regions, allowing a more accurate dimensioning of the crisis. But this is just one of the uncountable possibilities opened up by this technology.

Modern geospatial technology allows not only the control of epidemics but also the social control that is able to “prevent” the outbreak of an epidemic. Management of big data by artificial intelligence mechanisms can be able to track and monitor any person, with any biological disease or condition, anywhere. We can then think of medical records online or available to the major security and control agencies, from which one could evaluate absolutely everything a person does.

Now, we can think of an even more dystopian scenario when we mix information from geospatial technology with the advance of digital money by state crisis management initiatives. It is absolutely possible that artificial intelligence mechanisms start to control what a person consumes based on certain data contained in their systems, such as medical information. So, it is likely that, with the discourse of avoiding a future pandemic, governments will implement such mechanisms that prevent, for example, an individual with suspected symptoms of buying a ticket to another country or even simply going out and leaving home, preventing the spread of a virus.

What is known is that the panic generated by the coronavirus is justifying the advance of social control mechanisms. This is the Overton Window opened by the pandemic: speeches against civil and individual liberties are gaining acceptance and will soon reach the stage of public policies. We are facing the birth of liberalism without liberties, of a computerized global dictatorship under the mark of “green capitalism”.

US at a Critical Juncture: Facing Two Epidemics, Covid-19 and Soaring Joblessness

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The Senate and the White House have finally managed to negotiate a record $2-trillion stimulus aid package to ease the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak. But the money may well be too little too late.

Once approved, the bill will go to the House of Representatives for likely approval there after which it will go to the president's desk for signing.

American and global stock market reaction has so far been lackluster.

The problem is that the once virtuous circle of increasing jobs, increasing spending and corporate profits, and more hiring that keeps the economy rolling is breaking due to recession caused by coronavirus. Unless the US can slow the growth of the coronavirus epidemic and deal decisively with soaring unemployment, which threatens to reach levels not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s by summer, both crises could become a death spiral.

The problems facing the US are long-standing and deep. Alone among most developed nations, the US has what Norway’s University of Science and Technology, in a letter to students studying abroad, delicately termed as “poorly developed health services and infrastructure.” The US also, after decades of harsh cut-backs, at this point has only the last few remaining threads of what was even at best called a ‘social safety net’ to provide for those without jobs, or with jobs that paid too little to meet basic needs like rent and food.

Faced with the coronavirus pandemic, which has now infected over 55,000 people in all 50 states, and with a shocking shortage of Covid-19 test kits because of poor planning by the government, the best that the US can do is lock down the economy. State after state has done this, ordering schools, colleges and all but essential businesses to shut down, with everyone in non-essential jobs ordered to hole up in their homes for the indefinite future. Many major US cities today resemble ghost towns, with patrolling police and ambulances providing the only signs of life.

Joblessness is becoming a kind of second epidemic, growing and spreading even more rapidly than Covid-19. So many people are suddenly being laid off that President Trump even tried to persuade state governments, which are responsible for administering unemployment compensation programs, not to report the actual number of new unemployment comp applications for March. He failed in that endeavor, with Fortune magazine projecting that 5-6 million workers could end up losing their jobs in March alone by the end of this month – a situation the magazine calls cataclysmic.” According to a new report by the Economic Policy Institute, 3.4 million of these laid off workers reportedly applied for benefits over the past week. That number is 50 percent higher than the total number of new applications for unemployment benefits filed over the prior 12 months, and is the greatest number for a single month filed in the nation’s history. Far more laid off workers are expected to claim benefits in April, and even more in May.

Nor is the number of new unemployment compensation applications a particularly good measure for how many people have actually lost their jobs. In the US, only about 27 percent of workers are even eligible for the meager benefit checks the system pays out, but the percentage varies by state, with 57 percent of workers in Massachusetts covered, and only 10 percent of workers in North Carolina, the state with the fewest of its workers eligible for benefits. 

Many smaller businesses are exempt from the requirement to pay into the unemployment insurance system. And 20 percent of workers in the US these days – from construction workers and oilfield workers to magazine writers, insurance brokers, to some nurses, elderly caregivers, cab drivers and landscape workers – are considered ‘independent contractors’, or in effect, independent businesspeople, entitled to nothing when the company hiring them lets them go, whatever state they’re working in.

Last week, Treasury SecretarySteven Mnuchin warned Congress that the US could have 20 percent unemployment before summer if the coronavirus crisis continues and if legislators don’t pass record stimulus and worker support legislation. Aware that most of these people and their families – perhaps 100 million in all, or a quarter to a third of the entire US population – will suddenly be without any income or support, Congress is debating giving some kind of cash grant to virtually every American citizen, but it would only amount to $1000-$1500 per adult, which is not enough to cover rent and food for a month.

And that’s where the cliff comes in.

The US has the world’s second largest economy and its manufacturing output may seem large, but the US Bureau of Economic Research reports that manufacturing only accounts for 11.6 percent of Gross Domestic Product – slightly more than half of the share health care accounts for. Meanwhile, consumer spending accounts for nearly 80 percent of total Gross Domestic Product. That begs the question: How does a country that doesn’t actually produce much anymore besides movies and weapons still have a functioning economy, or even a functioning society, if nobody has any money to spend any longer? 

If people don’t have money, they don’t buy anything but the bare necessities. But if nobody is buying, the companies selling everything from toys and food to guns, cars, and theater tickets go under. Even mighty Amazon, which is currently raking in money as the only place people can turn to get anything since it delivers to the door, may soon find its customers vanishing for everything but toilet paper, and sanitizer and masks.

Look at the airline industry. With nobody flying, they’re sitting there with all these huge leases on aircraft and no ticket revenue to pay the monthly bill. The Congressional rescue package will offer them access to up to $50 billion in loans, but if people still aren’t flying, that money won’t go very far and the airlines will end up saddled with debt they can’t hope to repay.  

The Big Three automakers, GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler, can’t have workers coming in and getting each other sick with coronavirus, and besides, nobody’s in the mood to buy a car now, so they’ve all closed down. But these auto-makers have a combined debt of $262 billion (GM: $94.2 billion, Ford: $155 billion, Fiat-Chrysler: $12.9 billion) on which they have to pay interest whether they’re making and selling cars or not. How long can these big companies go without selling cars and trucks? In the last recession in 2008-09, remember, GM had to be bailed out of bankruptcy with $49.5 billion in government cash and loans or the iconic company would have disappeared.

Across the whole US economy, this existential crisis is playing out in business after business.

In good times, companies doing business earn revenues that allow them to pay wages to employees, who then go out and buy goods and services in a virtuous circle that keeps the economy chugging along or hopefully growing. But when that circle breaks down, as it is now doing in the US with a vengeance, the virtuous circle can quickly become a death spiral: Less income for workers means less buying power and depressed demand for goods – especially non-essential goods. People with a negative view of the future aren’t going to buy a new house or car or spend on luxuries like designer clothes or theater tickets, so businesses lay workers off, and the economy goes further south.

And that’s the risk facing the US now. Dean Baker, senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington and visiting professor of economics at the University of Utah, told this author that everything depends now upon both widespread testing for coronavirus becoming available quickly, and Congress passing a bill that puts significant money into the hands of all American workers and the unemployed so that there isn’t massive hunger, evictions, and homelessness.

“If that happens and if this pandemic crisis is over within the next two to three months, you could see a pretty good recovery,” Baker says. “After all, if Congress passes some kind of program to get money to people, many will be saving money, and you’ll have a lot of spending once things start to open up again. But if the crisis goes on more than three months, I think it will be hard to hold things together.” 

The current rescue package working its way to passage by Congress, which just provides each American with $1200, and just half of that amount for those who were already under the poverty line before the crisis began, is half what many economists, including Baker, say would be needed even for a short-term economic jump-start.  

Other economists are offering direr views than Baker. Roger Framer, an economics professor at the University of Warwick in the UK, says“The longer this disruption goes on, the more likely it will have a permanent effect… Three weeks we can bounce back from. Three months, it’s not so clear.”

Dion Rabouin, markets editor with Axios, says, The Coronavirus could force the world into an unprecedented depression.” He adds, “In the latest repricing of the economy, the [stock] market sees the now expected global recession caused by the coronavirus outbreak morphing into an economic depression unlike any the world has seen in generations.”  

Meanwhile across the US, millions of people, their jobs gone, are locked down in their homes, their cupboards and closets stuffed with canned goods, toilet paper, and sanitizer bottles, their refrigerators packed with fresh food and frozen food, and are watching TV news reports of the unrelenting rapid spread and expansion of the coronavirus – and are wondering where it will all end.

Hearing the reports from across the nation of desperate shortages of masks, ventilators, hospital beds, and especially test kits to discover who’s infected and who’s not, they understand it won’t end soon, and until it does, things won’t be pretty.

*This article was originally published on RT.

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