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Illinois goes on coronavirus lockdown days after holding ‘fine & safe’ Democratic primaries

RT | March 20, 2020

Having insisted on holding Democratic presidential primaries just days earlier, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker has now placed the state on “shelter-in-place” regime over the Covid-19 pandemic, following California and New York.

The measure will go into effect on Saturday evening, March 21. All non-essential businesses – not including hospitals, doctors’ offices and grocery stores – are to be closed indefinitely, Pritzker announced after consulting with experts. “To avoid the loss of tens of thousands of lives we must order an immediate shelter-in-place.”

Pritzker admitted the state does not have “the resources, the capacity, or the desire to police every individual’s behavior,” so the enforcement of the order will come down to “Illinoisans to be good members of their communities and good citizens,” he told the Chicago Tribune.

The statewide measure follows the order of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot to close down the city, declaring that “now is not the time for half measures” but also that this is “not a lockdown, or martial law.”

Just three days prior, however, the state refused to cancel, postpone or enable mail-in voting in the Democrat presidential primary.

“I feel good about the decision to have the election go on tomorrow,” Pritzker had said Monday afternoon. “We do believe it’s safe. We’ve certainly consulted experts, and we think that the election will go on just fine.”

With many poll workers not showing up due to fears of contagion and numerous polling places closed, the voting involved large crowds clustering together for many hours – conditions ideal for spreading the coronavirus.

The primary was overwhelmingly carried by establishment favorite Joe Biden (924,771 votes, 59 percent), whereupon Pritzker and the experts appear to have suddenly changed their minds.

As of Friday, Illinois had 585 registered Covid-19 cases, with five fatalities.

March 20, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties | | Leave a comment

‘India Could Be Next Coronavirus Hotspot’

The Wire | March 18, 2020

In an exclusive 50-minute interview to Karan Thapar for The Wire, Dr Ramanan Laxminarayan said that he found it hard to believe the health ministry’s official figure which, on their website at 12 pm on March 18th, said India had 130 people with COVID-19 in addition to the 14 who had recovered and three who had died.

He says if the UK could accept that they have underestimated the number infected by a factor of 12, at the very least the situation would be the same in India. That means there are over 1,500 undetected cases. In fact, given our size and population density, Dr Laxminarayan estimates that India is bound to have 10,000 or more undetected novel coronavirus cases.

March 20, 2020 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Video | , | Leave a comment

US airlifts Lebanese-American accused of torture, murder from Lebanon

MEMO | March 20, 2020

Lebanese-American Amer Fakhoury, accused of torturing and murdering prisoners while serving in the Israeli-backed south Lebanon army, has been airlifted from Beirut by the US, Senator Jeanne Shaheen announced yesterday.

A US Marine Osprey was seen landing at the US Embassy in Beirut, hours before Fakhoury’s release was announced.

Shaheen said she had spoken with Fakhoury on the phone soon after his release, adding that “anytime a US citizen is wrongfully detained by a foreign government, we must use every tool at our disposal to free them”.

In a statement later yesterday, US President Donald Trump said that he was “very grateful to the Lebanese government. They worked with [the US]”.

Fakhoury was detained on 12 September when he arrived in the country to visit family after more than two decades.

The former member of the south Lebanon Army has been accused of being the “Butcher of Khiam” over allegations that he oversaw the torture and murder of detainees during his tenure as a prison guard.

Former detainee Abbas Qabalan told local media Naharnet that “not a single person held in Khiam was spared physical and psychological torture”. At least ten people died at the prison while Fakhoury was working there.

The charges against Fakhoury were initially dropped on Monday, when he was acquitted because the alleged offences took place more than ten years ago.

However, a military judge ordered a re-trial after Judge Ghassan Khoury asked the Military Court of Appeals to overturn the acquittal. A court order forbidding Fakhoury from travelling internationally for two months was announced later.

In the wake of Fakhoury’s release, the head of the Military Tribunal Brigadier General Hussein Abdallah announced his resignation from the post this morning, the Daily Star reported.

Abdallah said he resigned “out of respect for my oath and military honour” adding the military tribunal had become a place where “the application of the law equals to the release of an agent of pain”.

Tensions between the US and Lebanon have risen dramatically as a result of Fakhoury’s detention, with Senators Shaheen and Cruz tabling legislation in February which would invoke sanctions against Lebanese officials and associates which are deemed to have been involved in the illegal detention of a US citizen.

The Trump administration have threatened to withhold aid to the country and sanction the Lebanese military.

March 20, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment

From Cluster Bombs to Toxic Waste: Saudi Arabia is Creating the Next Fallujah in Yemen

A collection of unexploded ordnance recovered by the UNDP’s YEMAC project in Yemen. Courtesy | YEMAC
By Ahmed AbdulKareem | MintPress News | March 20, 2020

AL-JAWF, YEMEN — As the world’s focus turns to the rapidly-spreading COVID-19 pandemic, Yemenis are reeling from their own brewing tragedy, contending with the thousands of cluster bombs, landmines and other exploded munitions that now litter their homeland. Just yesterday, a young child was killed and another was injured in the al-Ghail district of al-Jawf when a landmine left by the Saudi military exploded, witnesses told MintPress. Outraged and terrified by the presence of these unexploded ordnances, Ahmed Sharif, a father of 9 who owns a farm in the district called the unexploded ordnances “a significant threat to our children.”

Earlier this week, thousands of cluster bombs containing between dozens and hundreds of smaller submunitions were dropped by air and scattered indiscriminately over large areas near Ahmed’s farm. A large number of those munitions failed to explode on impact, creating a new threat to residents already reeling from 5 years of war, famine and an economic blockade. The use, production, sale, and transfer of cluster munitions is prohibited under the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, an international agreement recognized by over 100 countries, but rejected by Saudi Arabia and the United States.

Saudi Arabia is estimated to have dropped thousands of tons of U.S.-made weapons in al-Jawf over the past 100 days alone. Al-Jawf is an oil-rich province that lies in Yemen’s north-central reaches along the Saudi border. The aerial campaign is likely a last-ditch effort to stem the tide of battlefield success by local volunteer fighters who teamed with Houthi forces to recapture large swaths of al-Jawf and Marib provinces. That campaign, for all intents and purposes, has failed.

An unexploded bomb dropped by a Saudi warplane is recovered from a pomegranate farm in the Jamilah district in Sadaa. Courtesy | YEMAC

On Wednesday, the Houthis announced that their military operation – dubbed “God Overpowered Them” – was complete and that al-Jawf was free of Saudi occupation. According to Houthi sources, more than 1,200 Saudi-led coalition fighters were killed or injured during the operation and dozens of Saudi troops, including officers, were captured. The Houthis also struck deep into Saudi territory in retaliation for the more than 250 Saudi airstrikes that were carried out during the campaign. In multiple operations, ballistic missiles and drones were used to target facilities inside Saudi Arabia, according to officials.

Saudi losses haven’t been limited to al-Jawf either. Last week, Marib province, which lies adjacent to Yemen’s capital of Sana’a, was recaptured following heavy battles with Saudi forces. Local tribal fighters were able to clear strategic areas in the Sirwah District with the assistance of Houthi forces and take control of the town of Tabab Al-Bara and the strategic Tala Hamra hills that overlook Marib city. Both the Saudi-led coalition and its allied militants initially admitted defeat but later described their loss as a tactic withdrawal.

Marib is now the second Yemeni governorate adjacent to Saudi Arabia to fall under the control by Yemen’s resistance forces in the last month, al-Jawf being the first. Both provinces have strategic importance to Saudi Arabia and could serve as a potential launch point for operations into Saudi Arabia’s Najran province.

“Saudi [Arabia] and America have planted our land with death”

The highly populated urban areas of Sana’a, Sadaa, Hodeida, Hajjah, Marib, and al-Jawf have been subjected to incomprehensible bombing campaigns during the Saudi-led war on Yemen, which turns five on March 26. The sheer scale of that campaign, which often sees hundreds of separate airstrikes carried out every day, coupled with its indiscriminate nature, has left Yemen one of the most heavily contaminated countries in the world.

Since 2015, when the war began, coalition warplanes have conducted more than 250,000 airstrikes in Yemen, according to the Yemeni Army. 70 percent of those airstrikes have hit civilian targets. Thousands of tons of weapons, most often supplied by the United States, have been dropped on hospitals, schools, markets, mosques, farms, factories, bridges, and power and water treatment plants and have left unexploded ordnances scattered across densely populated areas.

A significant proportion of those ordnances are still embedded in the ground or amid the rubble of bombed-out buildings, posing a threat to both civilians and the environment. As Man’e Abu Rasein, a father who lost two sons to an unexploded cluster bomb in August of 2018 puts it: “Saudi [Arabia] and America have planted our land with death.” Abu Rasein’s sons, Rashid, ten, and Hussein, eight, were grazing their family’s herd of sheep in the village of al-Ghol north of Sadaa, far from any battlefield. They spotted an unusual looking object and like most curious young boys, picked it up to investigate. But the object they found was no toy, it was an unexploded cluster munition dropped by a Saudi jet. After hearing an explosion, the boys’ family went to investigate and found them lying dead, covered in blood.

A group of children in Sahar district inspects a cluster bomb dropped by a Saudi warplane at a farm in Sadaa, March 18, 2019. Abdullah Azzi | MintPress News

Since March of 2015, Human Rights Watch has recorded more than 15 incidents involving six different types of cluster munitions in at least five of Yemen’s 21 governorates. According to the United Nations Development Program’s Emergency Mine Action Project, some of the heaviest mine and ERW (explosive remnants of war) contamination is reported in northern governorates bordering Saudi Arabia, southern coastal governorates and west-central governorates, all areas surrounding Houthi-dominated regions of Yemen. Since 2018 alone, the UNDP has cleared nearly 9,000 landmines and over 116,000 explosive remnants in Yemen.

From the Yemeni war of 1994 to the six wars in Sadaa, Yemenis have suffered several wars over the last three decades. Yet thanks to saturation of U.S. weapons, the ongoing war has brought death on a toll not seen in Yemen for hundreds of years. In Sadaa, the Saudi coalition has a significant legacy of unexploded ordinances, up to one million according to figures provided to MintPress by the Yemeni Executive Mine Action Center (YEMAC), an organization backed by the United Nations.

The Project Manager of YEMAC identified heavy cluster munition contamination in Saada, al-Jawf, Amran, Hodeida, Mawit, and Sanaa governorates, including in Sanaa city. Contamination was also reported in Marib. For the time being, YEMAC is the only organization working throughout the country during the ongoing war. Their teams are confronted with a very complex situation, disposing of both conventional munitions and bombs dropped from airplanes, including explosive remnants of war rockets, artillery shells, mortars, bombs, hand grenades, landmines, cluster bombs, and other sub-munitions and similar explosives.

Saudi Arabia’s toxic legacy

In addition to killing and injuring hundreds of civilians, American-made weapons have exposed Yemen’s people to highly toxic substances on a level not seen since the now-infamous use of radioactive depleted uranium by the United States in Fallujah, Iraq, which to this day is causing abnormally high rates of cancer and birth defects.

The hazardous chemicals from Saudi Coalition military waste, including radioactive materials, fuel hydrocarbons, and heavy metals, has already led to outbreaks of disease. Vehicles abandoned on battlefields, usually in various states of destruction, contain toxic substances including PCBs, CFCs, DU residue, heavy metals, unexploded ordnances, asbestos and mineral oils. Hundreds of these military scraps remain publicly accessible in Nihm, al-Jawf, Serwah, Marib and throughout Yemen.

Aside from the threat they pose to life and limb, unexploded ordnances contain toxic substances like RDX, TNT, and heavy metals which release significant levels of toxic substances into the air, soil and water. According to both the Ministry of Water and Environment and the Ministry of Health, which have undertaken environmental assessments on the impact of urban bombing, high levels of hazardous waste and air pollutants are already present in a populated areas.

Alongside the still unknown quantities of more conventional weapons remnants in Yemen, the waste from the cleanup of bombed-out buildings has been found to be especially contaminated with hazardous materials, including asbestos which is used in military applications for sound insulation, fireproofing and wiring among other things. Fires and heavy smoke billowing over heavily populated civilian areas following Saudi bombing runs also pose an imminent threat to human health. A common sight in many Yemeni cities since the war began, these thick clouds of toxic smoke sometimes linger for days and coat both surfaces and people’s lungs with hazardous toxins like PAHs, dioxins and furans, materials which have been shown to cause cancer, liver problems and birth defects.

Before the war began, most hazardous materials were trucked to Sanaa where they were separated and disposed of properly at the sprawling al-Azragein treatment plant south of the capital. But that plant was among the first targets destroyed by Saudi airstrikes after the war began. After it was bombed, puddles and heaps of toxic material were left to mix with rainwater and seep into surrounding areas. Yemeni researchers are still trying to grasp the scale of pollution from biohazardous chemicals at the site.

Although a comprehensive nationwide environmental assessment of the impact of urban bombing in Yemen has yet to be completed, high levels of hazardous waste and air pollutants have been recorded by many hospitals and environmental agencies. Some idea of the long-term effects can also be gleaned from studies carried out in areas where similar toxins have been used, particularly by the United States in Fallujah, Iraq and in Vietnam, where scientific assessments have shown increased cases of birth defects, cancer and other diseases, including in U.S. veterans.

In southern Yemen, where Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates operate largely unchallenged, the coalition has been disposing of military waste in large trenches devoid of any measures to mitigate potential toxic fallout. Waste is dumped into large holes and either detonated or simply buried, inevitably contaminating soil and groundwater according to data from the UN Environment Program.

Yemen’s coastline hasn’t been immune either. The country’s General Authority for Environmental Protection said Wednesday that the Saudi-led coalition is dumping toxic and polluted waste on the shores of Yemen and in Yemeni regional waters, causing great damage to the marine environment, the deaths of fish and marine organisms, and in some cases, actually changing the color of the sea to a toxic green. The agency stated that in addition to dumping toxic waste, the coalition was allowing unsafe fishing practices such as marine dredging and the use of explosives by foreign ships, destroying the marine environment and coral reefs.

One hundred years to safety

Thousands of displaced Yemenis cannot fathom returning home due to the large number of explosives potentially hidden in and around their houses. Removing them all would require an end to the U.S.-backed war and economic blockade. Special equipment and armored machines such as armored excavators would need to be brought in, a slim prospect in a country unable to secure even the basic staples of life.

The remnants of a cluster bomb dropped by Saudi-led coalition warplanes inside a Yemeni home. March 18, 2020. Abdullah Azzi| MintPress News

Explosive remnants do not just impact lives and limbs, they prevent the use of potentially productive agricultural land and the rebuilding of important infrastructure. Like many border areas in Saada and Hajjah, fertile soil in al-Jawf and Marib has become so environmentally polluted since the war began that it could take decades to recover. Explosive remnants also prevent access to vital resources like water and firewood, cripples the movement of residents, including children traveling to school, and prevents aid from reaching those in need.

Even if the Saudi-led coalition were to stop the war immediately and lift the blockade, its legacy of indiscriminate bombing on such a massive scale will be felt for years to come. Due to the intensity of the bombing, experts at the United Nations Development Program’s Yemeni Executive Mine Action Center estimate that clearance could take at least 100 years in larger cities. Despite these dangers, desperate families with nowhere to go do not waste a lull in the barrage of Saudi airstrikes or a short-lived ceasefire to attempt to return home.

Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media.

March 20, 2020 Posted by | War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Pompeo and Netanyahu paved a path to war with Iran, and they’re pushing Trump again

By Gareth Porter | The Grayzone | March 20, 2020

Though it narrowly averted war with Iran this January, the Trump administration is still pushing for all-out military conflict. The architects of the drive to war, Mike Pompeo and Benjamin Netanyahu, have relied on a series of cynical provocations to force Trump’s hand.

The US may escape the most recent conflict with Iran without war, however, a dangerous escalation is just over the horizon.  And as before, the key factors driving the belligerence are not outraged Iraqi militia leaders or their allies in Iran, but Trump’s secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has long sought to draw the US into a military confrontation with Iran.

Throughout the fall of 2019, Netanyahu ordered a series of Israeli strikes against Iranian allies in Iraq and against Lebanese Hezbollah units. He and Pompeo hoped the attacks would provoke a reaction from their targets that could provide a tripwire to outright war with Iran. As could have been expected, corporate US media missed the story, perhaps because it failed to reinforce the universally accepted narrative of a hyper-aggressive Iran emboldened by Trump’s failure to “deter” it following Iran’s shoot-down of a U.S. drone in June, and an alleged Iranian attack on Saudi oil facility in September.

Pompeo and John Bolton set the stage for the tripwire strategy in May 2019 with a statement by national security adviser John Bolton citing “troubling and escalatory indications and warnings,” implying an Iranian threat without providing concrete details. That vague language echoed a previous vow by Bolton that “any attack” by Iran or “proxy” forces “on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.”

Then came a campaign of leaks to major news outlet suggesting that Iran was planning attacks on U.S. military personnel. The day after Bolton’s statement, the Wall Street Journal reported that unnamed U.S. officials cited “U.S. intelligence” showing that Iran “drew up plans to target U.S. forces in Iraq and possibly Syria, to orchestrate attacks in the Bab el-Mandeb strait near Yemen through proxies and in the Persian Gulf with its own armed drones…”

The immediate aim of this campaign was to gain Trump’s approval for contingency plans for a possible war with Iran that included the option of sending as many as 120,000 U.S. troops into region.  Trump balked at such war-planning, however, complaining privately that Bolton and Pompeo were pushing him into a war with Iran. Following Iran’s shoot-down of the U.S. drone over the Strait of Hormuz on June 20, Pompeo and Bolton suggested the option of killing Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani in retaliation. But Trump refused to sign off on the assassination of Iran’s top general unless Iran killed an American first, according to current and former officials.

From that point on, the provocation strategy was focused on trying to trigger an Iranian reaction that would involve a U.S. casualty.  That’s when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu interjected himself and his military as a central player in the drama. From July 19 through August 20, the Israeli army carried out five strikes against Iraqi militias allied with Iran, blowing up four weapons depots and killing as many Shiite militiamen and Iranian offcers, according to press accounts.

The Israeli bombing escalated on August 25, when two strikes on the brigade headquarters of a pro-Iranian militia and on a militia convoy killed the brigade commander and six other militiamen, and a drone strike on Hezbollah’s headquarters in south Beirut blew the windows out of one of Hezbollah’s media offices.

Netanyahu and Pompeo sabotage Trump and Macron’s attempt at diplomacy

Behind those strikes was Netanyahu’s sense of alarm over Trump toying with the idea of seeking negotiations with Iran. Netanyahu had likely learned about Trump’s moves toward detente from Pompeo, who had long been his primary contact in the administration. On August 26, French President Emanuel Macron revealed that he was working to broker a Trump-Rouhani meeting. Netanyahu grumbled about the prospect of U.S.-Iranian talks “several times” with his security cabinet the day before launching the strikes.

Two retired senior Israeli generals, Gen. Amos Yadlin and Gen. Assaf Oron, criticized those strikes for increasing the likelihood of harsh retaliation by Iran or one of its regional partners. The generals complained that Netanyahu’s attacks were “designed to prod [Iran] into a hasty response” and thus end Trump’s flirtation with talking to Iran. That much was obviously true, but Pompeo and Netanyahu also knew that provoking an attack by Iran or one of its allies might cause one or more of the American casualties they sought. And once American blood was spilled, Trump would have no means to resist authorizing a major escalation.

Kataib Hezbollah and other pro-Iran Iraqi militias blamed the United States for the wave of lethal Israeli attacks on their fighters. These militias responded in September by launching a series of rocket attacks on Iraqi government bases where U.S. troops were present. They also struck targets in the vicinity of the U.S. Embassy.

The problem for Netanyahu and Pompeo, however, was that none of those strikes killed an American. What’s more, U.S. intelligence officials knew from NSA monitoring of communications between the IRGC and the militias that Iran had explicitly forbidden direct attacks on US personnel.

Netanyahu was growing impatient. For several days in late October and early November, he met with his national security cabinet to discuss a new Israeli attack to precipitate a possible war with Iran, according to reports by former Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren. Oren hinted at how a war with Iran might start. ‘[P]erhaps Israel miscalculates,” he suggested, “hitting a particularly sensitive target,” which, in his view, could spark “a big war between Israel and Iran.”

But on December 27, before Netanyahu could put such a strategy into action, the situation changed dramatically. A barrage of rockets slammed into an Iraqi base near Kirkuk where U.S. military personnel were stationed, killing a U.S military contractor. Suddenly, Pompeo had the opening he needed. At a meeting the following day, Pompeo led Trump to believe that Iranian “proxies” had attacked the base, and pressed him to “reestablish deterrence” with Iran by carrying out a military response.

In fact, U.S. and Iraqi officials on the spot had reached no such conclusion, and the investigation led by the head of intelligence for the Iraqi federal police at the base was just beginning that same day. But Pompeo and his allies, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Chairman of Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark A Milley, were not interested in waiting for its conclusion.

A deception brings the US and Iran to the brink of war

The results of a subsequent Iraqi investigation revealed that the rocket barrage had been launched from a Sunni area of Kirkuk with a strong Islamic State presence, and that IS fighters had carried out three attacks not far from the base on Iraqi forces stationed there in the previous ten days. US signals intercepts found no evidence that Iraqi militias had shifted from their policy of avoiding American casualties at all cost.

Kept in the dark by Pompeo about these crucial facts, Trump agreed to launch five airstrikes against Kataib Hezbollah and another pro-Iran militia at five locations in Iraq and Syria that killed 25 militiamen and wounded 51. He may have also agreed in principle to the killing of Soleimani when the opportunity presented itself.

Iran responded to the attacks on its Iraqi militia allies by approving a violent protest at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad January 31. The demonstrators did not penetrate the embassy building itself and were abruptly halted the same day. But Pompeo managed to persuade Trump to authorize the assassination of Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s second most powerful figure, presumably by hammering on the theme of “reestablishing deterrence” with Iran.

Soleimani was not only the second most powerful man in Iran and the main figure in its foreign policy; he was idolized by millions of the most strongly nationalist citizens of the country. Killing him in a drone strike was an open invitation to the military confrontation Netanyahu and Pompeo so desperately sought.

During the crucial week from December 28 through January 4, while Pompeo was pressing Trump to retaliate against Iran not just once but twice, it was clear that he was coordinating closely with Netanyahu.  During that single week, he spoke by phone with Netanyahu on three separate occasions.

What Pompeo and Netanyahu could not have anticipated was that Iran’s missile attack on the U.S. sector of Iraq’s sprawling al-Asad airbase in retaliation would be so precise that it scored direct hits on six U.S. targets without killing a single American. (The US service members were saved in part because the rockets were fired after the Iraqi government had passed on a warning from Iran to prepare for it). Because no American was killed in the strike, Trump again decided against further retaliation.

Towards another provocation

Although Pompeo and Netanyahu failed to ignite a military conflict with Iran, there is good reason to believe that they will try again before both are forced to leave their positions or power.

In an article for the Atlantic last November, former Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, channeled Netanyahu when he declared it would be “better for conflict [with Iran] to occur during the current [Trump] administration, which can be counted on to provide Israel with the three sources of American assistance it traditionally receives in wartime,” than to “wait until later.”

Oren was not the only Israeli official to suggest that Israeli is likely to go even further in strikes against Iranian and Iranian allies targets in 2020. After listening to Israeli army Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi speak in late December, Haaretz military correspondent Amos Harel reported that the Israeli army chief conveyed the clear impression that a “more serious confrontation with Iran in the coming year as an almost unquestionable necessity.” His interviews with Israeli military and political figures further indicated that Israel would “intensity its efforts to hit Iran in the northern area.”

Shockingly, Pompeo has exploited the Coronavirus pandemic to impose even harsher sanctions on Iran while intimidating foreign businesses to prevent urgently needed medical supplies from entering the country. The approaching presidential election gives both Pompeo and Netanyahu a powerful reason to plot another strike, or a series of strikes aimed at drawing the US into a potential Israeli confrontation with Iran.

Activists and members of Congress concerned about keeping the US out of war with Iran must be acutely aware of the danger and ready to respond decisively when the provocation occurs.

March 20, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

US must shut down its biowarfare labs to save the world from pandemics

By Kevin Barrett | Press TV | March 20, 2020

The coronavirus is spreading here in the United States in an alarming fashion and the government is now moving into crisis mode. Nearly 15,000 people have been tested positive as of today, Friday, and it’s increasing exponentially. So the question becomes what went wrong? The US had plenty of warning on this. The Chinese figured out it was a problem back in January. And at that point, measures could have been taken that would have kept the problem very, very small. And that didn’t happen.

I think we can look at this from a couple of different standpoints. The first, of course, is that the US leadership is completely incompetent and reckless. And from the incompetence standpoint, clearly, Trump has been completely at a loss trying to politicize this thing and blame China without taking the kinds of measures that would protect the American people.

The US healthcare system is a world class joke. We’re the only advanced industrial country that doesn’t have some form of universal health coverage. So nobody in the United States except for a handful of rich and very well insured people is in a position to easily go and get a coronavirus test. And there aren’t any test kits. For some reason, despite the problem being evident in January, no test kits were made for the United States. And so the United States is basically last in the world in responding to this.

So that’s one aspect of the problem. But the other aspect, which is completely blacked out and censored from the corporate-controlled mainstream media here in the West, is that this crisis is a lesson to the entire world that we need to address the problem of biological weapons. This may or may not be a deliberate biological weapon attack; it may or may not be an accidental release of a biological weapon. There are strong arguments for both possibilities. And I think the arguments for it being a deliberate release as an attack on China by the United States to try to use this hybrid fifth generation warfare and economic warfare to prevent China from overtaking the United States as the world’s leading power — previous similar attacks on China using SARS and bird flu and so on and so forth have been ongoing for years, and when SARS was used against China by the United States, it didn’t spread from China —  and it’s very likely that the same people who did that once again hit China with this COVID-19 virus, as part of Trump’s wrapped-up economic fifth generation hybrid war on China.

Likewise, the severity of the outbreak in Iran suggests that the Americans and/or their partners the Israelis, who often play a leading role in these kinds of extreme events, may very well have been in this and they may have deliberately attacked Iran.

Now it’s spreading worldwide, presumably because the people behind this simply were so reckless that they either didn’t take into consideration the likelihood of this kind of blowback, which is always there with any use of bio-weapons, or perhaps they figured they could use the worldwide economic crisis for their own ends. But this is of course still a high hypothesis and there’s lots of circumstantial evidence for this. I wrote a piece about this at Unz Review. But whether or not it’s the case, we know that one of the greatest threats to humanity is the ongoing development of biological weapons, especially ethnic-specific or the makers intend them to be ethnic-specific biological weapons, but then they can mutate and hit other ethnicities as well. There have been all sorts of research on this.

The United States has been using biological weapons regularly for the past 50 years. It dropped hundreds of thousands of germ bombs with cholera and plague on Pyongyang alone during the Korean War, and hundreds of thousands or even millions elsewhere all over China and Korea. And, this is explained in the book This Must Be the Place: How the U.S. Waged Germ Warfare in the Korean War and Denied It Ever Since by Dave Chaddock.

The US also attacked its own Congress in 2001. We now know that the anthrax attacks came from within the US biological weapons community, and it was presumably part of the September 11 anthrax false flag operation as Dr. Graham McQueen has explained in his book, the 2001 anthrax attacks.

So there is a wakeup call here. The US has biowarfare labs all over the world surrounding Russia in places like Georgia, Armenia and elsewhere, these labs need to be shut down. The world treaty banning biological weapons has a loophole. It says you can work on so-called defensive weapons but not offensive weapons. Well, there’s no difference. And then the black operators can use the so-called defensive weapons as offensive weapons, and they are. This needs to end.

So we need to put some teeth in that biological warfare treaty, get huge inspections, international control over this issue, shut down all bio-warfare research labs and everybody else remotely close to that field. That’s the only way we’re going to save the world from not only this pandemic, but vastly worse ones that are upcoming very soon in the future if we don’t act now.

March 20, 2020 Posted by | Book Review, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | | 3 Comments

‘Utter contempt for human life’: Iranian FM Zarif slams US for hitting Tehran with new sanctions amid Covid-19 crisis

RT | March 20, 2020

Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif accused the US of taking its policy of “maximum pressure” on Tehran to a “new level of inhumanity” by imposing new sanctions on Iran as it struggles to cope with a huge surge of Covid-19 cases.

Zarif tweeted on Friday that The Trump administration was “gleefully” taking pride in “killing Iranian citizens” on Nowruz, the Persian New Year, celebrated on March 20 this year. He said US policy betrayed an “utter contempt for human life.”

His rebuke comes shortly after the US blacklisted five companies based in the United Arab Emirates for trading in Iranian petrochemicals. Three companies in China, three in Hong Kong and one in South Africa were also added to the list this week, as Washington attempts to choke off Tehran’s oil revenues.

“Washington’s increased pressure against Iran is a crime against humanity… all the world should help each other to overcome this disease,” Reuters quoted an Iranian official as saying on Friday.

“Our policy of maximum pressure on the regime continues,” US special representative for Iran Brian Hook told reporters, even though Iran is the worst-hit country in the Middle East by the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak and may face economic catastrophe as a result.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday that the US has imposed “no sanctions” on medication or humanitarian assistance going into Iran. However, US financial sanctions have in effect prevented Tehran from buying the necessary supplies, while shipping sanctions have interfered with humanitarian deliveries.

China has called on the US to offer sanctions relief to Iran, with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Beijing tweeting on Wednesday that the policy was “against humanitarianism and hampers Iran’s epidemic response,” as well as deliveries of aid by the UN and other organizations.

Iran has seen at least 1,400 deaths from Covid-19 so far, with more than 19,000 confirmed cases. A health ministry spokesperson said on Wednesday that one person in Iran was now dying “every 10 minutes” from the virus, with 50 new infections every hour.

March 20, 2020 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel | , | 6 Comments

Covid-19 Shatters the Facade of European Union

Strategic Culture Foundation | March 20, 2020

The new coronavirus and its accompanying disease Covid-19 has stopped the globe in its tracks. Governments, markets and news cycles have become dominated by the pandemic. Europe is now the epicenter for the disease, with reportedly more fatal cases of infection than China where the virus first erupted in December.

Several European Union countries have declared themselves to be in states of emergencies, including Belgium, France, Portugal, Spain and Italy. The 27-member bloc has sealed off external borders. Some states, such as Poland, have begun closing borders with other EU members. Brussels, the administrative center of the EU, is alarmed because the much-vaunted single market and its core principles of free movement of goods and people is at risk of collapsing.

The European entity which proclaims solidarity and supranational status is reverting to a collection of nation states, each desperately fighting for their own survival amid the Covid-19 pandemic. EU leaders have been criticized for showing a lack of central leadership and solidarity. When Italy first reported a surge in infections a few weeks ago, the rest of Europe was slow to respond with the necessary prompt assistance. Now Italy is in such a grip of the disease – with thousands dead – that in some parts of the country normal funeral services reportedly cannot even cope with the number of deceased.

In blistering remarks this week, the Serbian President Alexander Vucic lamented that there was “no European solidarity”. Serbia is a prospective member of the EU along with several other Balkan states, but Vucic said his country has received little in the way of aid from the EU in face of the coronavirus threat. Indeed, by contrast, the Serb leader extolled the generosity of China which has sent large shipments of equipment to combat the disease. Beijing has also dispatched aid cargoes and medical teams to Italy and other EU members to help them cope with their outbreaks.

The World Health Organization has praised the prompt and massive intervention by the Chinese authorities in curbing the spread of the disease within their borders. Latest indications seem to show China has halted the spread of the infection.

The dithering response by the EU and its belated nation-based reactions could turn out to be a fatal political incompetence with consequences of a huge death toll and ruinous economic impact. The citizens of Europe will not forgive such fecklessness.

Laughably, an EU monitoring group this week claimed that Russia was interfering by spreading disinformation about impacts of the novel coronavirus in such a way as to undermine European governments and to “sow division” among European civilians. This scapegoating for its own incompetence is risible.

Weeks ago when the world could see that the virus outbreak in China was a grave development, the EU administrators and national leaders were sitting on their hands. Now that the disease has become a pandemic across the EU, the European Central Bank has suddenly announced it is pumping €750 billion ($820 billion) to shore up financial markets and institutions while countries struggle to find test kits to detect the disease and ventilators to treat victims. Healthcare systems have been gutted by years of economic austerity under neoliberal capitalism whereby Brussels and European governments have prostrated themselves to the diktat of finance capital.

What is abundantly clear is that the EU has become a financially-driven cartel, not a human-centered federation of nations. An organization that cannot adequately protect the health of its public is not an organization worth defending. The EU’s declarations of democracy and solidarity are being seen for the facade that they are. That facade was always shaky. A microbe is enough to tear it down.

March 20, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | | 1 Comment

Baltic countries seek relevance on the international scene

By Lucas Leiroz | March 20, 2020

In 2017, RAND Corporation published in its associated media Small Wars Journal an article by the researchers Marta Kepe and Jan Osburg, outlining a strategic defense plan for the Baltic countries in the event of a Russian invasion. The authors claim that Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia will manage their weaknesses to face the Russians, overcoming their population and military deficit through the participation of civilians in the conflicts, working with the armed forces to create a “total defense” plan that would make the invasion too costly and laborious for Russia. Subsequently, the RAND Corporation article was mentioned in a paper by the National Interest magazine, authored by Michael Peck, in which the author studies the Baltic defense strategy, speculating about “total defense” and its efficiency in a possible case of Russian invasion. The researcher, finally, takes a pessimistic conclusion, stating that, despite all efforts, nothing will change the fact that Russia is a large country and the Baltic States are small and weak.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lucas Leiroz is a research fellow in international law at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

March 20, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | 1 Comment

For the green zealots, Covid-19 is our penance for sins against the planet

By Frank Furedi | RT | March 20, 2020

Green zealots want to turn the global catastrophe of Covid-19 into fuel for their alarmist extinction narrative. By blaming humanity’s impact on the planet for the outbreak, they hope to mobilize support for their cause.

The hastily cobbled together green playbook on the unfolding global pandemic seeks to hold humanity responsible for the outbreak of Covid-19. Its rhetoric of blame is often just that – rhetoric.

The communications strategy adopted by green scaremongers is to continually raise questions about the possibility that our neglect of nature has brought Covid-19 down upon us. The more frequently such questions are posed the more likely that their speculation will mutate into a taken-for-granted fact. “Tip of the iceberg: is our destruction of nature responsible for Covid-19?” asks a headline in the Guardian. The manner in which this question is posed invites readers to respond, “quite likely.”

To pose questions about the link to man-made climate change is often presented as the normal response to the crisis. A commentary on Inside Climate News illustrates this rhetorical strategy.

“Now, questions have arisen about whether climate change contributed to the outbreak of Covid-19, whose spread the World Health Organization declared a pandemic on Wednesday. For example, did habitat loss, driven in part by climate change, make it easier for pathogens to spread among wildlife and for the virus to jump to humans? Does air pollution, mainly from the burning of fossil fuels, make some people more vulnerable to contracting the illness?”

As one question reinforces the next, the reader is encouraged to imagine that in some shape or form, climate change is likely to be connected to the Covid-19 outbreak.

It is almost as if green activists are desperately hoping that someone will come up with a shred of evidence that can be used to prove that one way or another that human-created global warming is responsible for the outbreak. Their interest is far removed from containing the virus’ threat. On the contrary, their narrative takes great delight in using Covid-19 as a weapon to be wielded against environmentally irresponsible people. Statements on this score transmit the message ‘that it is all your fault’. In this vein, Dr Aaaron Bernstein, Interim Director Of The Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment, offers a cautionary tale about the impact of human behaviour on the planet:

“You look at climate change, we have transformed the nature of the Earth. We have fundamentally changed the composition of the atmosphere, and as such, we shouldn’t be surprised that that affects our health. We have, as a species, grown up in partnership with the planet and life we live with. So, when we change the rules of the game, we shouldn’t expect that it wouldn’t affect our health, for better or worse. That’s true of the climate. And the same principle holds for the emergence of infections.”

Bernstein does not provide any arguments for his casual linking of the transformation of the world by humans to the emergence of infections. That’s not the point of his statement. His objective is to morally condemn the very human aspiration to change the world and to imply that we have brought the current global tragedy upon ourselves.

Not so long ago, with the development of science we learned that a disaster, such as a plague or an earthquake, was not caused by mysterious vengeful forces – they were rightly called ‘Acts of Nature’. For the green zealot, disasters are never just Acts of Nature; they are a penalty that humanity pays for seeking to modernize the world.

For green ideologues, the pandemic provides an opportunity to mobilize support for their cause. For us, the flu outbreak constitutes a threat that will be overcome with single minded commitment to the cause of humanity. History shows that – contrary to the green world view – humans are not the problem, they are the solution.


Frank Furedi is an author and social commentator is an emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Kent in Canterbury. Author of How Fear Works: The Culture of Fear in the 21st Century. Follow him on Twitter @Furedibyte

March 20, 2020 Posted by | Environmentalism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Science and Pseudo-Science | | 3 Comments

US urged to explain military lab shutdown

By Leng Shumei – Global Times – 2020/3/15

Netizens and experts are calling for the US government to release information on the suspension of an infectious disease research lab under the US Army, as a petition on the White House website listed coincident events between the closure and the outbreak of COVID-19, urging the US government to clarify whether the lab was related to the deadly virus.

While the origin of the novel coronavirus is still unknown and conspiracy theories have caused widespread panic, experts said that timely information disclosure to the public would benefit global unity and cooperation against the pandemic, which had infected more than 150,000 people and killed 5,400 around the world as of Saturday.

The Fort Detrick laboratory that handles high-level disease-causing material, such as Ebola, in Fredrick, Maryland was shut after the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a cease and desist order to the organization in July, 2019 according to local media.

The suspension was due to multiple causes, including failure to follow local procedures and a lack of periodic recertification training for workers in the biocontainment laboratories. The wastewater decontamination system of the lab also failed to meet standards set by the Federal Select Agent Program, media reported.

The lab, which was closed more than half a year ago, recently caught public attention as a petition submitted to the White House website on March 10 listed some coincidences in time between the closure and the COVID-19 outbreak.

For example, “a large-scale ‘influenza’ killed more than 10,000 people” in the US in August 2019 following the closure; and the COVID-19 epidemic broke out globally in February 2020 after the US organized Event 201 – A Global Pandemic Exercise – in October 2019.

The petition also noted that many English-language news reports about the closure of Fort Detrick were deleted amid the worsening COVID-19 pandemic, raising suspicions over the lab’s relationship with the novel coronavirus.

Petitioners urged the US government to publish the real reason for the lab’s closure and to clarify whether the lab was related to the novel coronavirus and whether there was a virus leak.

The petition had received just more than 400 signatures as of Sunday.

Chinese netizens urged the US government to respond to the public’s appeals as soon as possible.

“It’s not a small issue, the truth should be published,” an internet user commented.

“The world deserves to know the truth,” said another.

Ni Feng, a deputy director of the Institute of American Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, called on the US government to increase transparency in the COVID-19 pandemic related issues in response to wide-spread doubts.

The origin of the virus should be decided according to scientific research, but the urgent issue at the current stage is to cooperate in the global battle against the pandemic, Ni noted.

Wang Yiwei, a professor with the School of International Relations at Renmin University of China, agreed with Ni, noting that the US had behaved badly to China when the latter was struggling with the epidemic – accusing China of low transparency and blaming a Chinese lab for leaking the virus.

Now China has won the conviction of the world with practical efforts and improvements. The US should cooperate sincerely with China and the world against the virus, according to Wang.

March 20, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Militarism | | Leave a comment