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Corona & the Cost of Doing Nothing

By Anatoly Karlin • Unz Review • March 12, 2020

There is a three in a million chance that a Boeing 737 MAX won’t arrive at its destination in one piece. At the end of the day, this isn’t that big of a deal – as late as the 1980s, this was the average for the commercial airline industry, and risks were twice as high in 1970. But people don’t tolerate such numbers such risks these days, as the value attached to human life has gone up. As a result, this model has been grounded across the world, with attendant consequences for Boeing’s bottom line.

But while it may not be that big of a deal, it is still probably not a great idea to take 500 flights in a Boeing 737 MAX within a year if one can possibly help it. Why 500 Boeing 737 MAX flights? Because even though it is a disease that overwhelmingly affects the elderly, that happens to be the equivalent risk of dying from COVID-19 for people in their 30s. Moreover, when you board a plane, you are only risking your own life. People with a cavalier “iT’S JuSt lIkE ThE FlU” are presumably more likely to spread it to elderly people, for whom a brush with COVID-19 is equivalent to a round of Russian roulette (mortality is ~1/6 for over 80 year olds). Moreover, it would even be reasonable to pay money to avoid such risks, even if it involves some inconveniences.

For this novel coronavirus threatens to fundamentally degrade the global demographics of human mortality, the effects of which may last years or decades.

This graph shows q(x), or the probability of dying at any age “x”. It is calculated by taking a hypothetical cohort, usually fixed at 100,000 at the age of 0, and dividing the number of deaths by the number of survivors by age group.

The green line represents the probability of dying in the US as of 2017.

The other lines represent the effects of various epidemic shocks: An approximate doubling in severity of the average flu season (yellow); a 10% COVID-19 infection rate (orange); and a 70% COVID-19 infection rate (red).

These figures were obtained by taking the percentage chances of dying from the flu/COVID-19 and adding them to the q(x) percentages for the US in 2017 at the mortality.org database.

The mortality stats for the flu were taken from the CDC, as reported in Business Insider. They also helpfully compare the age-specific death rates to COVID-19 mortality, as derived from an investigation earlier this month by Russell et al. based on numbers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship. The extrapolated total CFR (case fatality rate) was pegged at 1.1%, but note that this applied to situation where quality healthcare was readily available (ventilators, IV drops, antibiotics, etc.). In situations where the epidemic overwhelms the healthcare system, things are going to be much worse.

Note from the outset the near insignificance of flu as a cause of mortality; under 65’s are basically two orders of magnitude as likely to die from COVID-19 as from the flu. In other words, for the younger generations, “the flu” is just 2-3x Boeing 737 MAX flights per year, as opposed to 500x for COVID-19. While the absolute numbers for the elderly are horrific, the disparity between flu and COVID-19 mortality for them is actually considerably less – just about a single order of magnitude – though even so, that’s still the difference between a ride on the Space Shuttle (flu) versus a round of Russian roulette (COVID-19). I’d rather take the Space Shuttle, thank you.

In another study by Riou et al. 2020 analyzing data from Wuhan, a total CFR of 1.6% was estimated, with a larger sample allowing for a more precise breakdowns by age (see above). As such, I will be using the numbers from this study to adjust q(x) in the different COVID-19 scenarios. Apart from that, the Wuhan scenario is likely to be more typical than the Diamond Princess scenario, if we are talking about large-scale outbreaks that partially overwhelm the capacity of healthcare cities.

There isn’t much evidence that we can hope for substantially lower mortality rates, even in developed OECD countries; contra Western stereotypes, medical care in Wuhan seems to have been highly sophisticated, with dozens of people being ventilated in the average hospital, and complex procedures such as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (“removing blood from a person’s body and oxygenating their red blood cells”) through ECMO machines being available in cases where ventilation didn’t work. Consequently, it can’t be excluded that mortality in most of the rest of the world – even in the OECD – may well end up higher than in China. For instance, England only has 28 and the US has 250 of these ECMO machines, whereas even provincial hospitals in China have been reported to have 5 of them each.

The healthcare system in Lombardy – one of the most developed regions in the world – is already on the cusp of collapse. Unless there are draconian quarantines implemented right about now, most of the rest of Western Europe and the US seem set to join it in its misery in another 10 days to two weeks. Cost-cutting “optimization” in healthcare has drastically reduced the number of hospital beds per capita throughout the West in the past two decades. At this point, I would certainly not wager on “the West” mounting a better or more competent response to COVID-19 than the Chinese.

Another cardinal difference between “the flu” and COVID-19 is that the latter is far more contagious. The standard measure of how many other people each person with a given disease infects in turn, r0, seems to be ~4 under “normal” conditions, versus just 1.3 for the flu. Moreover, as a novel coronavirus, people do not have any preexisting immunity to COVID-19 that might mitigate its virulence, and it has far greater contagiousness. Consequently, professional epidemiologists have predicted that as much as 70% of the world population may eventually become infected with COVID-19, a number which has been repeated by Angela Merkel and the British government in recent days. As such, I will be modeling a 70% COVID-19 infection rate – which presupposes millions of deaths – as a “worst case” scenario.

One final “blackpill” about COVID-19 is that, should we fail to control it, many epidemiologists expect it to become a new seasonal disease – that is, a fifth endemic coronavirus, just like the common cold. But far deadlier. The flu infects about a tenth of the population every year. What would be the impact if COVID-19 was to reach similar intensities?

This graph shows l(x), or the number of survivors at any age “x”. It can be calculated by recursively applying the aforementioned q(x) to the initial, hypothetical cohort of 100,000 newborns.

As before, we can see that even doubling the flu season – adding mortality from an average flu season to the existing probability of dying – barely nudges the curve.

However, even a 10% COVID-19 infection rate moves the curve visibly left, and the change is extremely traumatic once you get to 70% infection rates – the sort of numbers that multiple European governments are now bandying about.

This graph shows the changes in life expectancy at different ages. It is calculated from two values derived from the above data: The total number of person-years lived by any particular cohort, or T(x), divided by the number of survivors, or l(x), in that cohort. T(x) is the sum total of person-years, or L(x), lived by any particular cohort up until all its members have died. That, in turn, is given by the following formula: L(x) = l(x+1)*d(x)*a(x), where l(x+1) refers to the quantity of that cohort’s survivors in the next year, d(x) refers to the number of deaths during that interval (or, in other words, l(x+1) – l(x) ), and a(x) is a constant that is usually equal to 0.5 (except in the very first and the very last year of life).

Here is a summary of the results:

  • US life expectancy at birth was 78.86 years in 2017 (via mortality.org). There is a minor discrepancy with the official CDC figure of 78.6 years.
  • Modeling a typical flu epidemic “on top” of that (so, in practice, a ~doubling of the flu season severity) would reduce US life expectancy to 78.63 years, translating to a reduction of ~0.25 years (three months).
  • Modeling a 10% COVID-19 infection scenario with Riou et al. (2020) age-specific mortality rates – the sort of numbers we may expect should it become endemic – reduces US life expectancy to 76.15 years , translating to a reduction of ~2.5 years.
  • Modeling a 70% COVID-19 infection scenario with Riou et al. (2020) age-specific mortality rates reduces US life expectancy to 66.79 years, translating to a reduction of a cool ~12 years.

Now this is not the end of the world, as I make sure to emphasize by including the historical mortality profiles for Russia in 1994 and Sweden in 1751 across all three of these graphs.

The year 1994 marked the single worst time for Russian mortality in its post-1956 history, when rampant alcohol abuse, violence, and the despair of the 1990s reduced life expectancy to a local minimum at 63.93 years; during that time, middle-aged male mortality was equivalent to that of Imperial Russia and Sub-Saharan Africa. This is probably the worst mortality profile ever observed in a major industrialized nation outside of wartime.

Mortality rates in the preindustrial world – Sweden has the earliest comprehensive records dating back to 1751 – jumped wildly year to year, depending on the state of the harvest and the virulence of the bugs going around in that particular year. The biggest difference relative to industrialized societies, though, even ones as collapsed as Russia in the 1990s, is that deaths during infancy and childhood were mundane, not freak occurrences. Hence why life expectancy actually goes up as children live through (survive) their infanthood.

As we can see, in terms of mortality, a serious COVID-19 epidemic should be broadly equivalent to living in 1990’s Russia – and for people under the age of 50, it would be notably safer than living in a preindustrial society, such as 18th century Sweden. It will be a shock relative to current expectations colored by more than a century of “Pinkerian” progress in safety and survivability, but there were people who lived their entire lives under similar or worse mortality profiles, and that didn’t prevent many of them from finding joy and meaning in them.

However, even though the pandemic “shock” will pass, if the epidemiologists are correct and COVID-19 becomes an endemic, seasonal disease, then we may permanently lose the equivalent of about 25 years worth of progress in raising life expectancy (American life expectancy was last below 76.15 years in 1996). In this scenario, the graph of future US life expectancy may look like something above, dipping sharply this year and stabilizing at a new, lower normal in subsequent years.

In the long-term, there may be even more years lost – perhaps 3 years – in many West European countries, and perhaps in developed East Asia as well, should this pandemic veer out of control and make it impossible for them to preserve their current achievements at checking COVID-19 (I assume that even disciplined East Asian societies cannot maintain Corona-suppressing “social distancing” behaviors indefinitely). That is because, thanks mainly to America’s opiates epidemic, the West European countries now have substantially better mortality profiles than the US, so the extra “shock” of COVID-19 will depress their life expectancy to a relatively greater extent. Though, curiously enough, most of these same countries will “lose” fewer years of progress relative to the US, since American life expectancy has basically stood still for the past decade due to the opioids epidemic.

Meanwhile, industrialized countries with worse mortality profiles, such as Russia, will not actually see as big of a drop in life expectancy as the US; as of 2014, the last year for which I can find life tables for Russia, a 10% COVID-19 infection scenario translates to a 1.7 year fall in Russian life expectancy (US: 2.5 years), and a 70% infection scenario translates into a drop of 8 years in life expectancy (US: 12 years). However, due to strong gains in Russian life expectancy since 2014 – it has risen from 70.9 years in 2014 to 73.4 years in 2019 – the effects of COVID-19 will actually now be stronger (if still not as strong as in the US).

(Reminder: This is all assuming that both infection rates and the age-specific mortality rates from COVID-19 are the same across these countries – this will almost certainly not be the case due to local specifics).

Moreover, there will be multiple other factors that will either ameliorate or depress the above estimates:

  • COVID-19 is going to kill off the frailest people in this current wave, in which up to 70% of people may be infected; but this will soften its long-term impact, since you can only die once.
  • In subsequent years, when ~10% annual infection rates may become the new norm, healthcare systems will adjust and everybody should receive adequate care, lowering CFR from the ~4% currently observed when healthcare systems are overwhelmed, to the 0.5%-1.0% rates seen in South Korea and Chinese provinces outside Hubei, which have managed to keep on top of cases.
  • Conversely, people who are intubated now may suffer permanent, long-term insults on their health, making them more vulnerable to subsequent COVID-19 infections in future years.
  • Needless to say, there may well be changes in COVID-19’s contagiousness and virulence in the future.

I am not even going to attempt to model any of this. But the bottom line stands. This virus has the capability to deal a traumatic shock to the world’s population, especially to the older societies of the Global North. In the longer term, it may also permanently depress global life expectancy by about 2 years, robbing millions of future people of their planned retirements and time with their grandchildren.

There are political factions that cynically, and unironically, pray for Corona-chan to do her magic. The Chapo Trap House folks bask in the idea of COVID-19 killing off Drumpf-voting boomers who are keeping them from electing Bernie, instituting M4A, and rescuing the planet, while elements of the Alt Right anticipate the West rediscovering its youthful vigor in the wake of the “boomerpox”. But I would caution both factions against premature Schadenfreude – political trends rarely work out the way anyone expects them to. They may get more than they bargained for.

OK, summing up: We should really, really try to avoid COVID-19 veering out of control and becoming endemic.

China has demonstrated that Corona-chan can be contained; its r0 has plummeted by an order of magnitude from 4 to just 0.32, even if it had to bring its economy to a near standstill to do it. As Steve Sailer notes, China hasn’t merely “flattened the curve”. It has crushed it. This means that its success should be replicable, at least in First World nations with epidemics on the scale of peak Hubei, as in Italy.

Even more encouragingly, the nations of East Asia – Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, even middle-income Thailand – have all managed to bring COVID-19 under control at its earliest stages without resorting to China’s drastic measures. As Tomas Pueyo explains, they did this by carefully filtering infectees’ contacts at the earliest opportunity and putting them under quarantine. The main reason that South Korea failed is because its “Patient 31” happened to be a religious “super-spreader”, yet even so, even there, the epidemic is currently under control.

But all their efforts would be in vain if just a few (or even one) defeatist, incompetent, or plain stupidly-run countries decline to take the necessary steps, and thereby cut two years off global life expectancy into the indefinite future.

This stupidity and incompetence takes different forms. In Western Europe, it is the Left’s fundamentalist commitment to open borders, accompanied by bizarre claims that quarantines do not work. In the US, it is the Right’s fundamentalist commitment to free markets, as exemplified by $5,000 copays for coronavirus tests, lack of sick leave, and Trump’s “iT’S JuSt lIkE ThE FlU” mantras to appease Mammon. Meanwhile, in what is perhaps the most “powerful” move of them all, the United Kingdom has set up a cyber-unit to combat “Russian” Corona-chan shitposters while basically admitting that it has no interest in combating, like, the actual coronavirus. Hopefully the British boomers croaking in their deathbeds in another two months’ time will be understanding of HMG’s priorities.

One is almost tempted to wish a pox on all their houses.

Anyhow, while I still hope for the best, I do not expect it.

March 12, 2020 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | , | 2 Comments

Ace Up Their Sleeve: US Media Outlet Says Russian Oil Companies Can Survive Price of $15 Per Barrel

By Tim Korso | Sputnik | March 12, 2020

Russia’s Energy Minister Alexander Novak earlier stated that the sudden drop in crude prices, which happened following the collapse of the OPEC+ deal, doesn’t mean that Russian oil companies will stop being competitive on the global market.

Russian oil companies could survive and compete on par with their Saudi rivals even if the price of black gold drops to 15 to 20 dollars per barrel, Bloomberg reported, citing several energy analysts. This is possible due to a number of strengths of the country’s oil industry, as well as to precautions taken by Moscow in the aftermath of the last price drop.

“Russian companies can ensure sustainable production until oil hits $15 to $20 per barrel”, Karen Kostanian, an oil and gas analyst at Bank of America, was quoted by Bloomberg as saying.

The news outlet notes that due to having well-developed infrastructure, as well as cost-efficient railways and pipelines, major Russian oil companies can extract and transport crude at a price of $17 – including capital and operational expenditures.

Taxes and duties would not prevent them from working at extremely-low prices either, since Moscow established a floating tax rate after the last oil price dive in 2016. This means that instead of paying 40% of their revenue when oil prices were near $50, they will be paying next to nothing at prices under $20, Bloomberg reported, citing Senior Director at Fitch Ratings Dmitry Marinchenko.

“Under the current tax regime, it is the Russian state that shoulders most of the risks associated with low oil prices”, Marinchenko said.

Naturally, this means that the Russian budget, which is prepared for oil prices of around $40, will not receive some of the money from selling the crude, but at the same time Moscow still has the capacity to survive a relatively short-term price war, the media outlet said. According to Moscow-based analyst for Raiffeisenbank Andrey Polischuk, quoted by Bloomberg, such a war would only begin to affect Russia after three to five years, while the last price dip was over sooner than that.

In addition to this, Russian oil producers also benefit from the ongoing weakening of the national currency, the media outlet stressed. Because they are mostly paid in foreign currencies for their exports and most of their costs are denominated in rubles, they actually benefit from the current decline. When crude prices plunged and the ruble to dollar exchange rate doubled in 2016, one of Russia’s top oil producers, Rosneft, made use of the abnormal situation by boosting its capital spending by 66%. At the same time, other oil producers were forced to cut their spending that year, as their revenues dropped drastically.

March 12, 2020 Posted by | Economics | | 1 Comment

‘Where was your patient zero?’ Chinese official speculates AMERICANS may have infected Wuhan at army games & calls to ‘come clean’

RT | March 13, 2020

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lijian Zhao has demanded US authorities reveal what they’re hiding about the origins of Covid-19, going as far as to suggest the coronavirus may have been brought to China by the US military.

Pointing to a video of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Robert Redfield apparently admitting the US had several deaths from Covid-19 before they were able to test for it, Zhao called on the American watchdog to come clean in a tweet posted on Thursday.

“It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan,” Zhao suggested, calling for the CDC – and the US in general – to “be transparent” and share what they know about where and when “Patient Zero” was first diagnosed.

In the video, Redfield acknowledged that some cases of coronavirus were misclassified as influenza as the medics did not have an accurate test for the new epidemic at the time. He did not elaborate on when these misdiagnosed cases first appeared – saying only that “some cases have been diagnosed that way.”

In the absence of any patients’ details or chronology of deaths, speculation has swirled. Zhao’s “theory” in particular focused on the military delegation that traveled to Wuhan in October for the Military World Games, weeks before the city confirmed the outbreak in December. The delegation was part of the 300-member group of American athletes taking part in the multi-sport event held every four years.

Zhao is not the only high-profile political figure to voice suspicions about the timing of the Games and the introduction of the coronavirus in Wuhan. Former Malaysian PM Matthias Chang offered similar speculation back in January, zeroing in on the event as the launch point for what he deemed a biological war waged by the US against China.

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that what is now the Covid-19 pandemic was first reported as a coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China, on 31 December 2019. The search for the deadly disease’s origin has been ongoing, with conflicting versions blaming the Wuhan food market and bats – a local delicacy – sold there in particular, while others opined humans might have gotten the virus from pangolins, an endangered scaly mammal.

Less orthodox theories suggest malicious intent, with the head of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards sensationally claiming last week that Covid-19 could possibly be “a product of a biological attack by America which initially spread to China and then to Iran and the rest of the world.”

So far, the problem with all of those theories, blaming both animals and humans, is that no direct causal proof has been established, while the identity of China’s “patient zero” also remains unclear. And it’s not China alone: in Washington state – which seemingly identified and successfully isolated its first infected traveler, with dozens of contacts identified and monitored – the virus somehow began spreading anyway. Even Steve Wozniak, Apple’s co-founder, at one point claimed he and his wife may have been the US’ “patient zero” after developing a bad cough on return from China. It has since emerged his wife’s diagnosis was “a sinus infection,” however.

Also on rt.com

Bias virus hits New York Times as double standards infect coverage of Covid-19 lockdown measures in China and Italy

March 12, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Militarism | | 1 Comment

‘Arm’s-length’ military institution promotes belligerent worldview

By Yves Engler · March 12, 2020

downloadNot satisfied with Canada’s largest public relations machine, the Canadian Forces also employ various “arm’s-length” institutions to push their influence over the discussion of military and international affairs.

For example, the Conference of Defence Associations (CDA) Institute recently published a half-page ad in the Globe and Mail to announce its Conference on Security and Defence. The March 3 and 4 meeting at the venerable Château Laurier was sponsored by the Department of National Defence (DND) and Global Affairs as well as Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and other arms companies. As in previous years, CDA’s confab in Ottawa drew leading military and political officials, including the Chief of the Defence Staff, who heard speakers hype security threats and push for increased military spending.

The headlines the conference generated included: “Russia poses most immediate military threat to Canada, top general says” (Globe and Mail ), “Canada and the West are at war with Russia whether they want it or not: military experts” (Global ) and “Top Canadian general calls out Russia and China for ‘antagonistic actions’” (CTV).

None of these stories explained what the CDA Institute actually is. The group describes itself as a “non-partisan, independent, non-profit organization [that] expresses its ideas and opinions with a view to influencing government security and defence policy.” Established in 1932, then Minister of Defence Donald Matheson Sutherland backed CDA’s creation. Since its inception CDA has been directly or indirectly financed by DND. Initially, member associations paid a small part of the funds they received from DND to CDA. But, three decades later the role was reversed. CDA received a block grant from DND and parcelled out the money to its various member associations.

Since its creation, defence ministers and governor generals (as commander in chief) have regularly appeared at CDA’s annual conference. The governor general, prime minister, defence minister and chief of the defence staff are honorary patrons or vice patrons of the organization.

At the height of Canada’s war in Afghanistan CDA received a highly politicized five-year $500,000 contract from DND. University of Ottawa professor Amir Attaran wrote, “that money comes not with strings, but with an entire leash.” To receive the money CDA committed to producing 15 opinion pieces or letters to the editor in major Canadian newspapers, generating 29 media references to the organization and eliciting 100 requests for radio/television interviews. The media work was part of a requirement to “support activities that give evidence of contributing to Canada’s national policies.” CDA didn’t initially disclose its 2007–12 DND sponsorship agreement, which was reviewed by cabinet.

CDA represents over 50 military associations ranging from the Naval Association of Canada to the Canadian Infantry Association, Royal Canadian Legion to the Military Intelligence Association. It is run by high-ranking former officers.

CDA publishes Security and Defence Briefings, Vimy Papers and Presentations and Position Papers. The organization’s quarterly journal ON TRACKpromotes informed public debate on security and defence issues and the vital role played by the Canadian Armed forces in society.” CDA has also published influential books such as Queens professor Douglas Bland’s A Nation at Risk: The Decline of the Canadian Forces.

To encourage militarist research, CDA awards a number of prizes. It puts on an annual graduate student symposium where $3,000 goes to the winning paper, $2,000 to second place and $1,000 to third place. CDA co-sponsors the Ross Munro Media Award to a “journalist who has made a significant contribution to understanding defence and security issues” and gives the Vimy Award to a “Canadian who has made a significant and outstanding contribution to the defence and security of Canada and the preservation of (its) democratic values.”

CDA advocates militarism. Its first official resolution noted “the urgent need for an increased appropriation for national defence.” At almost every CDA convention between 1946 and 1959 a resolution passed in favour of compulsory military training. A 1968 resolution called for universal military training, expressing concern that a generation of Canadians had become “unused to the idea of military service.”

In the 1980s CDA developed the idea of the “Total Defence of Canada”. In 1985 Colonel H. A. J. Hutchinson told a CDA meeting: “I would say that the Total Defence of Canada requires much more than just the support of the Canadian Armed Forces, it involves the organization of our total economy, our industrial base, towards a single objective — the defence of this country.” Hinting at the need to talk up US President Ronald Reagan’s revival of Cold War rhetoric, Hutchison said this “can only be made [possible] if the Canadian people perceive that it is necessary and that, in fact, it is the only course of action open to them.”

A 2000 CDA report funded by the Business Council on National Issues, the Molson Foundation and DND advocated increased military spending to defend free trade. It claimed “the defence establishment, including the Canadian Forces, plays a key role in an international policy which provides the insurance and the means which allow the national interest to flourish. It contributes to stability at home and abroad, thus supporting the development of an environment congenial to trade.”

In November Richard Fadden told CDA’s Vimy Dinner Canada had to be “clear-eyed” about Russia and China, which are prepared to “use virtually any means to attain their goals.” Fadden claimed, “the risks posed by these two countries are certainly different, but they are generally based on advancing all their interests to the detriment of the West.”

For the military and the industries that profit from militarism, it is important to have “arms-length” organizations that create the illusion of a diversity of voices. But honest writers should be blunt about the CDA. It is a war machine front group, created and controlled by the military.

March 12, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Russophobia | | Leave a comment

The MH17 Show Trial Isn’t About Justice Or Closure, But Information Warfare

By Andrew Korybko | One World | March 11, 2020

The MH17 tragedy is back in the news after the start of this case’s show trial in the Netherlands, which isn’t about bringing the alleged perpetrators to justice or helping the victims’ families find closure, but waging information warfare against Russia in an attempt to “conclusively” pin the blame for this crime on its supposed proxies in Eastern Ukraine so as to ruin President Putin’s international reputation once and for all.

The world is once again talking about the MH17 tragedy after the start of this case’s show trial in the Netherlands, where four of the alleged perpetrators are being accused of murder. It’s unlikely that they’ll appear before the court, so the entire process is more about show than substance. In case the reader doesn’t remember exactly what happened on that fateful summer day on 17 July, 2014, the author recommends that they review his most recent analysis on the issue from earlier this year titled “Latest MH17 Documentary By SBU Whistleblower Shares Some Shocking Truths“, which covers what he believes to be the most convincing version of events that transpired immediately before, during, and after the passenger jet was shot down over Eastern Ukraine. In short, the conventional narrative that the Russian-aligned rebels there were responsible is debunked as a convenient cover-up for masking Kiev’s culpability, which in turn also makes that government’s Western backers — and not Russia — indirectly responsible. It’s therefore understandable that a lot of powerful forces are invested in making their manufactured version of the “truth” the “official” one, hence the show trial, which is nothing more than an attempt to “conclusively” pin the blame for this crime on Russia and its supposed proxies in Eastern Ukraine.

Before going any further, it needs to be said that victims’ families have every right to be upset about what happened, and that everyone should respect their right to draw their own conclusions about what took place even if one doesn’t ultimately agree with them. The author doesn’t believe that Russia or the Eastern Ukrainian rebels were responsible, but acknowledges that some of the victims’ families think differently, especially after some of them staged a silent protest outside of the Russian Embassy in The Hague over the weekend. Nobody should criticize the victims’ families and thus make this all the harder for them to deal with, but there’s also nothing wrong with talking about how their reaction to this tragedy is being exploited by those who are relying upon it to convince others that their interpretation of events is the only correct one. Politicizing the suffering of innocent people is wrong no matter who does it or why, which is why it’s morally reprehensible that others are taking advantage of them under the guise of “giving them a voice” in order to push their narrative onto the broader public. The ongoing trial isn’t about bringing the alleged perpetrators to justice or helping the victim’s families find closure, but waging information warfare against Russia, the purpose of which is to ruin its international reputation and that of its leader.

President Putin is generally despised by the West but loved by the non-West because of his domestic and foreign policy successes over the past 20 years, which greatly contributed to bringing the emerging Multipolar World Order about. Even his detractors recognize that he’s an epochal figure whose legacy will certainly be studied for generations to come by people all across the world, they just regard Russia’s return to international prominence as being detrimental to their countries’ zero-sum interests. Nevertheless, they also wisely understand that soft power is more important than ever before in today’s interconnected, globalized world, especially after the information-communication technology revolution of the early 2000s, so they have a driving motivation to defame the Russian leader any chance they get. Regrettably, the MH17 tragedy is cynically seen as the “perfect opportunity” to ruin his legacy by forever associating him with what happened even though he played no role in those events whatsoever, nor did his countrymen. All that’s important to the “perception managers” who manufactured this weaponized narrative is that the lingering suspicion of President Putin’s possible involvement “credibly” exists, which explains the infowar importance of the ongoing show trial for supposedly “confirming” that.

Back to the show trial itself, it’s predictable that the accused will probably be found “guilty” for the aforementioned political reasons of pinning the blame for that tragedy entirely on Russia and the Eastern Ukrainian rebels so as to deflect from the “inconvenient” facts that have since come to light implicating Kiev and its Western backers, which was explained in the author’s analysis that he cited in the opening paragraph of this article. The overall soft power impact of this seemingly inevitable conclusion will likely be minimal, however, seeing as how most people have already made up their minds about who was really responsible. Those who are convinced that Russia played a role will feel “vindicated” by the anticipated verdict, while those who have remained skeptical this entire time could use the newfound attention to this case to share the “inconvenient” evidence that was just touched upon with others. The takeaway from all this “legal” drama is that tragedies will almost always be politicized for information warfare purposes, especially if the case can remotely be made that Russia or any of the West’s other geopolitical rivals might have had even an indirect role in whatever it is that transpired, so these countries should brace themselves to expect more such show trials in the future and take steps to ensure that their side of the story is heard by as many people as possible.

Andrew Korybko is an American political analyst.

March 12, 2020 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , | 1 Comment

Taiwanese Nationalists Seek Closer Relations with China

By Paul Antonopoulos | March 12, 2020

In the the Kuomingtang (KMT), the Nationalist Party of Taiwan, election held on Saturday, Jiang Kai (commonly known in the West as Johnny Chiang) was selected as a new head of the political party. According to Taiwanese media, Jiang Kai will change the KMT’s policy towards mainland China. The press draws such conclusions based on the KMT’s new president’s statement about the 1992 consensus, also known as the One China Consensus, as “somewhat outdated.”

In the presidential election held on January 11, KMT candidate Han Kuo-yu, a former mayor of Kaohsiung City, lost to Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). In addition, the DPP still occupies the majority of seats in the Legislature.

In the election for the new party chairman, Jiang Kai only had a single opponent – the former Taipei mayor, Zhu Lilun (commonly known in the West as Eric Chu). He overcame his opponent with 84,860 votes compared to 38,483 votes, however it is worth noting that only 35% of voters bothered to vote. Taiwanese authorities claim that such a low rate is due to the coronavirus epidemic. In his speech after announcing the conclusion of voting, Jiang revealed that the KMT needs to make some changes to meet the spirit of the times, and he will make these changes within a year. The KMT are no longer as conservative as they once used to be, and in this way, Jiang is hoping to attract a part of the DPP’s voters who are generally younger and more progressive than the KMT.

For example, the KMT opposes same-sex marriage, but the law is still valid because the DPP legislature occupies the majority of seats. And among young Taiwanese, not just in the LGBT community, the legalization of such relationships is considered the greatest achievement since democracy reached Taiwan. An even more important contradiction between the two parties: the so-called 1992 consensus and the concept of “one China” (united China). The DPP does not recognize this consensus and the KMT has supported relations with mainland China, something the DPP are extremely hostile to. Clearly, the KMT now wants to move on to resolve internal issues, such as attracting new voters, and then resolve relations with Beijing. That’s why the KMT must begin entertaining the idea of making some changes to the 1992 consensus.

How will the new KMT party chairman and changes in the party’s policy affect Beijing? The last election showed that the DPP won the populist wave in the context of social disturbances in Hong Kong, and now they are also using the Covid-19 epidemic for political purposes to prove the validity of not strengthening relations with Beijing. The anti-Beijing DPP has prevented relations from becoming closer with Taipei, despite Taiwan’s economy suffering greatly just because its relationship with mainland China has cooled. This economic factor was especially felt when Beijing stopped granting licenses to travel companies to go to Taiwan which saw the number of tourists decrease by nearly a third. Agricultural imports into mainland China have plummeted, even though two years ago China purchased 20% of agricultural products worth nearly $1 billion. Taking into account the damage that coronavirus outbreaks has caused worldwide, economic development may become the most important task. The KMT will then try to balance domestic political interests and not move too far away from mainland China.

This spells bad news for the U.S. as they have been the main backers of Taiwan since the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949 when the KMT were defeated by communist guerrillas and forced to leave the Chinese mainland. Taiwan’s modern history lays with the U.S.-backed authoritarian regime of General Chiang Kai-Shek, the leader of the KMT. Chiang then imposed martial law and became dictator of Taiwan for the next 38 years, before a gradual democratization was achieved and presidential elections in 1996. The resentment of losing mainland China to the communists and the permanent deployment of tens of thousands of American soldiers has ensured that Taiwan, an island located just off the coast of China’s Fujian province, is a major U.S. pressure point against Beijing.

Although the days of Chiang and the KMT believing they are an exile government is long over, they still believe in One China, a stark difference to that of the DPP who want complete sovereignty and independence in their own right and reject One China. With the KMT seeking closer relations with Beijing despite once being mortal enemies, their inevitable return to power in the future could mean that they will begin to de-Americanize Taiwan as they seek closer relations, particularly for stability and economic reasons, with China, recognizing that we now live in a multipolar world order.

A de-Americanized Taiwan effectively means that the U.S. will lose a major submissive partner that acted as a thorn to Chinese hegemony in the South China Sea, and it is unlikely that Washington will accept this reality so easily. None-the-less, as the KMT changes its policies to attract the younger generation, it can see a real potential for One China to be achieved and the U.S. expelled from the island just as calls for the U.S. military to leave South Korea and Japan also intensify.

Paul Antonopoulos is a Research Fellow at the Center for Syncretic Studies.

March 12, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , | Leave a comment

NATO and COVID-19: a Parasitical Disease in Europe

By Finian Cunningham | Strategic Culture Foundation | March 12, 2020

The decision to go-ahead with NATO’s biggest-ever war games in Europe at a time of heightened fears over the coronavirus sure raises questions about the military alliance’s stated purpose of maintaining security.

NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg has said the Defender-Europe 20 exercises will not be cancelled due to the flu-like disease which has now spread to every country in the European Union causing hundreds of deaths so far.

Over the next five months some 17 allied NATO members will participate in military maneuvers across seven European states: in Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. All of the host nations have reported infections from the COVID-19 virus. “Host” being an operative word when it comes to also talking about the relationship with the U.S.-led NATO alliance.

Germany’s health minister Jens Spahn is quoted as saying that the coronavirus outbreak has “become a global pandemic” and the “worst has yet to come.”

In all, 37,000 troops are involved in the Defender-Europe 20 war games, the biggest contingency since the end of the Cold War nearly three decades ago. The U.S. is sending 20,000 personnel. Most of those troops will return to bases located in at least 20 American states. Thus, the risk factor of spreading the disease across Europe and the U.S. is significantly increased by the NATO events.

Going ahead with the European war games looks especially ill-advised given that U.S. forces in Asia-Pacific have cancelled similar military exercises that were scheduled in South Korea out of fears about coronavirus (COVID-19).

The Defender-Europe 20 events underway come amid reports that the U.S. Commander in Europe, Lt. General Christoper Cavoli, may have been infected after attending a recent military conference in Wiesbaden, Germany.

The top health advisor to the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force Brig. General Paul Friedrichs has also admitted that the number of COVID-19 cases among the Pentagon’s armed forces may be far higher than is being reported.

The seeming lack of cautionary measures by the U.S.-led NATO alliance is in contrast to growing public concerns for containing the disease. Italy – which has recorded the second highest fatalities worldwide after China – has placed a total lockdown on public travel for its 60 million population. Airlines across Europe have cancelled thousands of flights as some carriers go out of business altogether.

Sporting events across Europe including major soccer matches are being cancelled or will be held without attendance by fans. The six-nations rugby tournament has been thrown into disarray from match fixtures being rescheduled; a big match between Ireland and France due this weekend is postponed until October.

In Britain there are calls for parliament to be suspended after health minister Nadine Dorries was reported to have been infected. Boris Johnson’s government has been accused of complacency in dealing with the virus.

U.S. President Donald Trump has also come under fire for not taking sufficient containment measures or providing adequate resources such as testing kits. The official number of U.S. cases of COVID-19 is relatively low so far, but that is thought to be due to limited testing.

It would therefore seem reasonable in this context of pandemic risk that such a multinational event like NATO’s Defender-Europe 20 be called off. As it proceeds, the war games appear to a perfect vector for accelerating disease spread between two continents and beyond. Indeed, not parking these war games seems the height of carelessness.

How fitting that NATO should be so unresponsive to real need. This lumbering 29-nation military organization which consumes a combined annual budget of $1 trillion is a creature of habit and slavish ideology. Nearly 30 years after the Cold War with the Soviet Union, the world has moved on. But not, it seems, NATO. It continues to hold its war games supposedly defending Europe from “Russian invasion”.

If NATO can’t adjust to such glaring world realities as the end of the Soviet Union three decades ago, then no wonder its response to coronavirus is hardly fleet-footed. It’s the military equivalent of a dinosaur whose functioning is no longer supported by its environment.

The irony is that NATO’s obscene military largesse is crushing public finances that would otherwise be more usefully spent, such as building up healthcare infrastructure that would help mitigate crises like the coronavirus. Many other societal needs are chronically neglected because of exorbitant military budgets among NATO members. Donald Trump brags that he has cajoled European allies to fork out hundreds of billions more dollars on military budgets.

The coronavirus is but a stress-test on whole societies that have become hollowed out by excessive militarism and the corporate capitalist super-structure it serves.

Even before the coronavirus problem emerged in China earlier this year, the NATO war games in Europe (and elsewhere) have been a cause for much criticism. The geopolitical tensions that this U.S.-led militarism is engendering towards Russia and China have been deplored. Moscow has denounced the Defender-Europe 20 event as a “rehearsal for war” which is completely disconnected from reality. The inveterate Cold War ideology that drives NATO is imposing insecurity and risk of war on Europe in a way that makes a mockery of NATO claims about being dedicated to “security and defense”.

The reckless risk-taking with regard to inflaming a coronavirus pandemic is typical of NATO’s obsolete purpose. Like the disease itself, NATO is a parasite on host nations draining vital public resources. This organization should be “self-isolating”… 30 years too late.

March 12, 2020 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , | 1 Comment

COVID-19: Further Evidence that the Virus Originated in the US

By Larry Romanoff | Global Research | March 11, 2020

It would be useful to read this prior article for background:

China’s Coronavirus: A Shocking Update. Did The Virus Originate in the US?

By Larry Romanoff, March 4, 2020

***

As readers will recall from the earlier article (above), Japanese and Taiwanese epidemiologists and pharmacologists have determined that the new coronavirus almost certainly originated in the US since that country is the only one known to have all five types – from which all others must have descended. Wuhan in China has only one of those types, rendering it in analogy as a kind of “branch” which cannot exist by itself but must have grown from a “tree”.

The Taiwanese physician noted that in August of 2019 the US had a flurry of lung pneumonias or similar, which the Americans blamed on ‘vaping’ from e-cigarettes, but which, according to the scientist, the symptoms and conditions could not be explained by e-cigarettes. He said he wrote to the US officials telling them he suspected those deaths were likely due to the coronavirus. He claims his warnings were ignored.

Immediately prior to that, the CDC totally shut down the US Military’s main bio-lab at Fort Detrick, Maryland, due to an absence of safeguards against pathogen leakages, issuing a complete “cease and desist” order to the military. It was immediately after this event that the ‘e-cigarette’ epidemic arose.

Screenshot from The New York Times August 08, 2019

We also had the Japanese citizens infected in September of 2019, in Hawaii, people who had never been to China, these infections occurring on US soil long before the outbreak in Wuhan but only shortly after the locking down of Fort Detrick.

Then, on Chinese social media, another article appeared, aware of the above but presenting further details. It stated in part that five “foreign” athletes or other personnel visiting Wuhan for the World Military Games (October 18-27, 2019) were hospitalised in Wuhan for an undetermined infection.

The article explains more clearly that the Wuhan version of the virus could have come only from the US because it is what they call a “branch” which could not have been created first because it would have no ‘seed’. It would have to have been a new variety spun off the original ‘trunk’, and that trunk exists only in the US. (1)

There has been much public speculation that the coronavirus had been deliberately transmitted to China but, according to the Chinese article, a less sinister alternative is possible.

If some members of the US team at the World Military Games (18-27 October) had become infected by the virus from an accidental outbreak at Fort Detrick it is possible that, with a long initial incubation period, their symptoms might have been minor, and those individuals could easily have ‘toured’ the city of Wuhan during their stay, infecting potentially thousands of local residents in various locations, many of whom would later travel to the seafood market from which the virus would spread like wildfire  (as it did).

That would account also for the practical impossibility of locating the legendary “patient zero” – which in this case has never been found since there would have been many of them.

Next, Daniel Lucey, an infectious disease expert at Georgetown University in Washington, said in an article in Science magazine that the first human infection has been confirmed as occurring in November 2019, (not in Wuhan), suggesting the virus originated elsewhere and then spread to the seafood markets. “One group put the origin of the outbreak as early as 18 September 2019.” (2) (3)

Wuhan seafood market may not be source of novel virus spreading globally.

Description of earliest cases suggests outbreak began elsewhere.

The article states:

“As confirmed cases of a novel virus surge around the world with worrisome speed, all eyes have so far focused on a seafood market in Wuhan, China, as the origin of the outbreak. But a description of the first clinical cases published in The Lancet on Friday challenges that hypothesis.” (4) (5)

The paper, written by a large group of Chinese researchers from several institutions, offers details about the first 41 hospitalized patients who had confirmed infections with what has been dubbed 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

In the earliest case, the patient became ill on 1 December 2019 and had no reported link to the seafood market, the authors report. “No epidemiological link was found between the first patient and later cases”, they state. Their data also show that, in total, 13 of the 41 cases had no link to the marketplace. “That’s a big number, 13, with no link”, says Daniel Lucey . . . (6)

Earlier reports from Chinese health authorities and the World Health Organization had said the first patient had onset of symptoms on 8 December 2019 – and those reports simply said “most” cases had links to the seafood market, which was closed on 1 January. (7)

“Lucey says if the new data are accurate, the first human infections must have occurred in November 2019 – if not earlier – because there is an incubation time between infection and symptoms surfacing. If so, the virus possibly spread silently between people in Wuhan – and perhaps elsewhere – before the cluster of cases from the city’s now-infamous Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market was discovered in late December. “The virus came into that marketplace before it came out of that marketplace”, Lucey asserts.

“China must have realized the epidemic did not originate in that Wuhan Huanan seafood market”, Lucey told Science Insider. (8)

Kristian Andersen is an evolutionary biologist at the Scripps Research Institute who has analyzed sequences of 2019-nCoV to try to clarify its origin. He said the scenario was “entirely plausible” of infected persons bringing the virus into the seafood market from somewhere outside. According to the Science article,

“Andersen posted his analysis of 27 available genomes of 2019-nCoV on 25 January on a virology research website. It suggests they had a “most recent common ancestor” – meaning a common source – as early as 1 October 2019.” (9)

It was interesting that Lucey also noted that MERS was originally believed to have come from a patient in Saudi Arabia in June of 2012, but later and more thorough studies traced it back to an earlier hospital outbreak of unexplained pneumonia in Jordan in April of that year. Lucey said that from stored samples from people who died in Jordan, medical authorities confirmed they had been infected with the MERS virus. (10)

This would provide impetus for caution among the public in accepting the “official standard narrative” that the Western media are always so eager to provide – as they did with SARS, MERS, and ZIKA, all of which ‘official narratives’ were later proven to have been entirely wrong.

In this case, the Western media flooded their pages for months about the COVID-19 virus originating in the Wuhan seafood market, caused by people eating bats and wild animals. All of this has been proven wrong.

Not only did the virus not originate at the seafood market, it did not originate in Wuhan at all, and it has now been proven that it did not originate in China but was brought to China from another country. Part of the proof of this assertion is that the genome varieties of the virus in Iran and Italy have been sequenced and declared to have no part of the variety that infected China and must, by definition, have originated elsewhere.

It would seem the only possibility for origination is the US because only that country has the “tree trunk” of all the varieties. And it may therefore be true that the original source of the COVID-19 virus was the US military bio-warfare lab at Fort Detrick. This would not be a surprise, given that the CDC completely shut down Fort Detrick, but also because, as I related in an earlier article, between 2005 and 2012 the US had experienced 1,059 events where pathogens had been either stolen or escaped from American bio-labs during the prior ten years – an average of one every three days.

***

Larry Romanoff is a retired management consultant and businessman. He has held senior executive positions in international consulting firms, and owned an international import-export business. He has been a visiting professor at Shanghai’s Fudan University, presenting case studies in international affairs to senior EMBA classes. Mr. Romanoff lives in Shanghai and is currently writing a series of ten books generally related to China and the West. He can be contacted at: 2186604556@qq.com. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Notes

(1) https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/CjGWaaDSKTyjWRMyQyGXUA

(2) https://science.sciencemag.org/content/367/6477/492.full

(3) Science; Jon Cohen; Jan. 26, 2020
https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/01/wuhan-seafood-market-may-not-be-source-novel-virus-spreading-globally

(4) https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30183-5/fulltext

(5) https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30183-5/fulltext

(6) http://wjw.wuhan.gov.cn/front/web/showDetail/2020011109036

(7) http://wjw.wuhan.gov.cn/front/web/showDetail/2020011509040

(8) https://sciencespeaksblog.org/2020/01/25/wuhan-coronavirus-2019-ncov-qa-6-an-evidence-based-hypothesis/

(9) http://virological.org/t/clock-and-tmrca-based-on-27-genomes/347

(10) http://applications.emro.who.int/emhj/v19/Supp1/EMHJ_2013_19_Supp1_S12_S18.pdf

March 12, 2020 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism | | 1 Comment

Syria says will stand by allies on resistance axis to expel US from Western Asia

Press TV – March 12, 2020

A senior adviser to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad hails “constant coordination” between Damascus and its allies in the fight against terrorism, saying the Arab nation will stand by the resistance front to help drive the US out of not only Syria but the entire Middle East region.

Assad’s political and media adviser, Bouthaina Shaaban, made the remarks in an interview with Lebanon-based Arabic-language al-Mayadeen TV channel on Wednesday.

She said that Washington has been supporting the Takfiri al-Qaeda and Daesh terrorist groups, and that its sponsorship for the al-Qaeda-inspired al-Nusra Front terrorist outfit is of no surprise.

The Syrian people living east of the Euphrates River have been fighting against American occupation forces and enjoy the Damascus government’s backing for their resistance, she added.

Shaaban also stressed that the battle on eastern bank of the Euphrates is complicated and takes time, noting, however, that the Syrians will eventually expel US troops from their homeland.

The Syrian army has the backing of Iran, Russia and Lebanon’s Hezbollah resistance movement in its battle against a host of militant groups, which have been wreaking havoc on the country since 2011.

Thanks to that support, the Damascus government has managed to win back control of almost all regions from the foreign-sponsored militants.

Syria has been engaged in a liberation operation in Idlib Province, the last major bastion of terrorists in the country.

Shaaban further emphasized that her country supports its allies on the regional resistance axis to drive American military personnel out of the entire West Asia region.

Syria in constant coordination with Iran, Hezbollah

There is complete and constant coordination between Damascus on one side and Tehran and the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement on the other side in political and military spheres, the Syrian official pointed out.

She hailed Tehran-Damascus relations as historical and strategic, reiterating that both Iran and Russia prioritize Syria’s sovereignty and independence.

Taking advantage of the mayhem in Syria, the US has deployed troops to Syria under the guise of fighting Daesh. It has been running military bases in the eastern part of the country, which many reports have revealed serve as training camps for terrorists.

The US has also been supporting anti-Damascus Kurdish militants in the country’s northeastern regions, calling them allies in the so-called fight against Daesh, which lost its territorial rule in the Arab country in late 2017.

In recent months, Washington has also deployed more troops and military equipment near Syrian oil fields to “secure” them, in what Damascus, Tehran and Moscow have denounced as an attempt to steal Syria’s crude resources.

In turn, Turkey supports militants fighting to topple the Damascus government. Those elements continue to target Syrian troops and allied Russian personnel.

Last week, Russia and Turkey agreed on a ceasefire to stop clashes in Syria’s northwestern Idlib Province that brought the two countries close to direct confrontation amid a Moscow-backed Syrian counter-terrorism operation.

Idlib truce paves ground for more Syrian gains

Elsewhere in her interview, Shaaban said the Idlib truce has no confidential terms and paves the way for the liberation of the districts of Arihah and Jisr al-Shughur.

In recent weeks, she added, the Syrian army wrested control over 2,000 kilometers of the country and inflicted casualties on militants and Turkish forces.

Shabban also slammed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for serving Israel’s interests in the region.

Erdogan, she added, uses the Palestine issue as a mere bargaining chip and dreams of occupying Syria.

A meeting between Assad and Erdogan is not possible as long as Turkey occupies parts of the Syrian territory, she said.

Syria keen to forge ties will all Arab states

Additionally, Assad’s aide stressed that Syria welcomes relations with all Arab countries, referring to recent visits by Egyptian and Libyan delegations.

She also hailed Algeria’s position on Syria, adding, however, that there are no exchanges between the two states.

March 12, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | 3 Comments