Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

As Trump vows to declare Antifa a ‘Terrorist Group,’ AG Barr equates rioting to domestic terrorism

RT | May 31, 2020

The US “will be designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization,” President Donald Trump has said. The move comes amid anti-police-brutality protests and riots gripping the country, which he has blamed on the “radical left.”

“The United States of America will be designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization,” Trump tweeted on Sunday, offering no further explanation. One day earlier, Trump, as well as Attorney General William Barr, accused the loose-knit group of orchestrating rioting and looting across the country, following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on Monday.

If designated as a terrorist group, Antifa would join international groups like Al Qaeda and Hezbollah, as well as domestic organizations like the Aryan Nations and Black LIberation Army, on the government’s blacklist. Before the 9/11 attacks, the list was populated exclusively by foreign groups. However, the post-9/11 Patriot Act expanded the definition of “terrorism” to cover home-grown organizations.

Antifa – whose name is short for ‘antifascist’ – models itself on the European left-wing militias of the 1920s and 1930s. Rising to prominence since Trump’s election in 2016, the group is now known for attacking right-wing demonstrations and speeches, and instigating violence at rallies.

With riots gripping America’s major cities for the last five nights, reports of Antifa organizers directing rioters and providing them with weapons began to surface. Conservatives clamored for Trump to crack down on the militants, and Sunday’s tweet is the first indication that the president intends to do just that.

Immediately after Trump’s statement, Attorney General Barr announced that the Justice Department would use its network of 56 regional Joint Terrorism Task Forces to investigate “the violent radical agitators who have hijacked peaceful protest and are engaged in violations of federal law.”

“The violence instigated and carried out by Antifa and other similar groups in connection with the rioting is domestic terrorism and will be treated accordingly,” a statement from Barr read.

While any forthcoming designation would make it easier to use counterterrorism legislation against violent protesters, targeting Antifa as a group would be a difficult proposition. The organization has no clearly-defined hierarchy or membership, and many disparate groups of leftist militants have used its imagery and slogans.

Some left-wing commenters accused the Trump administration of attempting to “criminalize dissent.” However, the alleged militants have come under scrutiny before, and in countries more liberal than the US. In Germany, where the ‘antifascist’ movement began in the 20th century, intelligence agencies closely monitor Antifa groups, and police union head Ranier Wendt has described their actions as “the basic definition of terrorism.”

May 31, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

Kabul ready to start intra-Afghan peace talks with Taliban: Abdullah

Press TV – May 30, 2020

A senior Afghan official tasked with leading the much-awaited intra-Afghan peace negotiations with the Taliban militant group says his team is ready to commence talks “at any moment” with the militants.

Abdullah Abdullah, the head of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR), made the comment on Saturday at his first press conference since taking the role, saying the lull in violence created by an unexpected truce offered by the Taliban had set the tone for starting the peace talks.

“The announcement of the ceasefire, a reduction in violence and the exchange of prisoners have all paved the way for a good beginning,” Abdullah said, adding, “The negotiating team is ready to begin the talks at any moment.”

After months of political crisis over the outcome of a disputed September presidential election, which declared Ashraf Ghani as the president for a second term, Abdullah, Ghani’s bitter rival, agreed to ink a power-sharing deal with the incumbent president.

Part of the agreement is that Abdullah henceforth heads Kabul’s negotiating team in its intra-Afghan peace talks with the Taliban militant group, which has already controls large parts of the war-torn country.

Kabul responded to the ceasefire by releasing some 1,000 Taliban inmates this week, and plans to further free an equal number of prisoners in the coming days.

The militant group, for its part, has said that it plans to release another group of government prisoners. The Taliban have so far freed around 300 Afghan security force personnel.

The Taliban-proposed three-day ceasefire was held over the Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan. Although the truce, in effect from Sunday through Tuesday, maintained relative peace across the country, it was soon followed by deadly attacks on security forces.

Afghan officials blamed the attacks on the Taliban.

A peace deal inked between the United States and the Taliban on February 28 stipulated that the Taliban stop their attacks on foreign forces in return for the US military’s phased withdrawal from Afghanistan and also a prisoner exchange between the group and the government in Kabul, which was excluded from the talks.

The prisoner swap is regarded as a confidence-building move ahead of long-awaited peace talks between Kabul and the militant group, which rejected a government offer of truce for the duration of Ramadan and continued its attacks.

Nearly 14,000 US troops and 17,000 troops from NATO allies and partner countries remain stationed in Afghanistan years after the invasion of the country that toppled a Taliban regime in 2001.

May 30, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | | Leave a comment

Lavrov blasts leaders who put selfish interests ahead of saving lives during pandemic

RT | May 28, 2020

The elites who rule the West have put selfish or ideological goals first when choosing their response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Russia’s foreign minister has said in a scathing op-ed.

The ongoing health crisis has exposed the incompetence and failure to adapt that powerful people in the West suffer from. Those people are stuck in the kind of thinking that simply does not work in the globalized world, Sergey Lavrov wrote in a piece published by the Chinese outlet Global Times on Thursday.

The coronavirus came as “an instruction for humility,” said Lavrov, as it posed a threat to all people and nations regardless of their location, wealth, or political preferences. It was a problem that nobody could “sit out in a safe haven, behind moats and walls” or “solve at the expense of others.”

Faced with this challenge, some nations have failed to live up to the values they preach, exposing a “deficiency of humanism,” an “incurable condition” that the ruling elites in those countries suffer from, Lavrov argued. Instead of promoting cooperation, they chose “predatory approaches” and “played the game of Monopoly” in pursuit of selfish goals and settling scores with their “geopolitical opponents.”

“Those who are used to declaring – or declaiming – their moral superiority and rich democratic traditions, are shedding basic properties and ethical inhibitions and acting according to the law of the jungle.”

In recent months, the countries’ responses to the crisis have been unable to avoid taking on political connotations. Washington has continued its attempts to blame China for starting the pandemic and has made accusations against the World Health Organization. It also refused to lift sanctions from countries like Iran and Venezuela for the duration of the crisis.

At the same time, in Europe, Italy faced criticism for accepting humanitarian aid from Russia and China. Behavior like this, Lavrov noted, shows that “the much-lauded solidarity of the Euroatlantic brand is valued more than the lives and health of tens of thousands of common citizens.”

Ironically, Lavrov said, the ultra-liberal economic model that the West peddles to the rest of the world has proven to be a failure when dealing with the pandemic. Nations with “working mobilization mechanisms, clearly defined sovereign interests and original value systems” have dealt with it in more robust ways.

“The elites who rule the West have put selfish or ideological goals first when choosing their response to the Covid-19 pandemic,” Russia’s foreign minister said.

Lavrov suggested that people throughout the world, and especially in Europe, need to learn a lesson from this pandemic. He added that it was time for Europeans to stop looking “to other parts of the world” for “existential guidance” and military protection, which “denies the European Union a chance to establish itself as an independent center of influence in the multipolar world.”

May 28, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | 2 Comments

How the U.S. response to COVID-19 failed and caused thousands of deaths

CGTN | May 25, 2020

There have been over 1.6 million #coronavirus cases and nearly 100,000 deaths in the U.S. While many countries are gradually recovering, no turning point for the pandemic in America is on the sight.

Lots of people are shocked at how America, the largest economy in the world, and a great country in the eyes of many, has got to this point. So to find out what led to this mess, let’s back up a little and take a look at the timeline.

May 25, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 1 Comment

Biden/Abrams 2020?

By William Stroock | May 22, 2020

The Blue Checkmarks of the American media are an uncreative lot. They lack the basic curiosity once thought necessary to the art of journalism. As a former Obama White House advisor said in 2016, ‘The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.’ The Blue Checkmarks are stenographers really, retelling narratives set by the nation’s two most important newspapers the New York Times and the Washington Post.

This week both papers ran glowing profiles of Stacey Abrams, former member of the Georgia State House and failed gubernatorial candidate. The Times portrayed Abrams as the candidate who could help Biden reach swing voters. But the Washington Post took the science of hagiography to a level thought impossible by physicists. The Post published a 6,000 paeon to Abrams titled “The Power of Stacey Abrams.” Accompanying the piece was a photograph of Abrams wearing a cape and backlit like an angel. And so, the Times and the Post set the narrative: for the Blue Checkmarks, Abrams is the Democrat Party’s savior. Does the Democrat Party ever need a savior?

Democrats have a tremendous problem: their presumptive nominee is Joe Biden. This observer has been saying the same thing about Biden since the summer of 2019 and is aware he sounds like a broken record. But right now, the most important fact of campaign 2020 is that Joe Biden is old and out of touch. The Coronavirus quarantine isn’t helping the man. Biden’s been confined to his basement for two months, campaigning via Twitter, television interviews, and rallies via Zoom. At last week’s MSNBC townhall, geese honked and distracted the 77-year-old. In the background, a pink shirted Secret Service agent wandered about. Biden tried to carry on a conversation with a young Californian who had pre-recorded his question. ‘Hi… thank you for participating,’ the former Vice President said to the recording.

This can’t go on, and the Blue Checkmarks know it. Since the Coronavirus outbreak, they’ve wondered if New York Governor Andrew Cuomo could replace the sunsetting Biden. For weeks they’ve swooned at Cuomo’s daily press briefings in which he played the man in charge and on top of things. But now, Cuomo has come under fire for ordering nursing homes to accept elderly Coronavirus patients. As of this writing, more than 5,000 nursing home residents have died in New York State. Cuomo is now politically vulnerable. We know this because he’s arguing that nursing homes should be immune from prosecution for wrongful deaths. ‘Older people, vulnerable people are going to die from this virus. That is going to happen despite whatever you do,’ declared the man who in March said, ‘I want to be able to say to the people of New York — I did everything we could do. And if everything we do saves just one life, I’ll be happy.’ These days the king of New York seems humble, an unusual position for the three-term governor who, with great braggadocio, portrayed himself as the leader of the anti-Trump resistance. So, Cuomo is unlikely and the Blue Checkmarks are now touting Stacy Abrams.

Already, during this election cycle, the Blue Checkmarks tried elevating a losing candidate to victory. Does anyone else remember Robert Francis O’Rourke? For six months, the former El Paso Congressman and failed senatorial candidate was the heart throb of the Democrat field. The lanky 46 year-old was the reincarnation of Bobby Kennedy, the old liberal lion, tinged with a bit of Robert Redford’s weather beaten and sinewy good looks. He too was the subject of hagiographic profiles, photographed in the Texas desert standing beside his trusty pickup, hands thrust into the back pockets of his blue jeans as he contemplates the progressive task before him. ‘You’re a Rock Star!’- ABC’s Paula Faris gushed during an interview. O’Rourke didn’t win a single delegate.

The Democrat Party faithful see Biden as vessel for his advisors to advance their agenda. Already, the leftwing intelligentsia is saying Biden should pledge himself to a single term. Which makes Biden’s vice-presidential pick exceedingly important. So, who is Stacey Abrams? She served ten years in the Georgia State House rising to the position of Democrat minority leader. In 2018, she ran for the state’s open governor’s seat against Republican Brian Kemp and lost by 55,000 votes. In the aftermath of the election, without evidence, Abrams alleged systematic minority voter suppression and refused to concede. Prominent Democrats everywhere insist Abrams only lost because of minority voter suppression. Since then, she’s been a regular on cable news and is actively campaigning for the vice-presidential slot, telling an interviewer, ‘I would share your concern about not picking a woman of color because women of color, particularly black women, are the strongest part of the Democratic Party — the most loyal, but that loyalty isn’t simply how we vote, it’s how we work.’

Last week, Joe Biden asked Stacey Abrams to appear with him on MSNBC. Host Lawrence O’Donnell asked Biden if he had a reason for inviting Abrams. Did he have an announcement to make? Abrams laughed and her face lit up. Then Biden talked about Abrams’s efforts at minority outreach and voter turnout, rambling on until he ran out of steam. One could actually see Abrams’s face turn to stone.

May 22, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 3 Comments

Early March Did Not Predict the Future

Certain adamant coronavirus declarations look foolish now

By Donna Laframboise | Big Picture News | May 20, 2020

compare early March to April 7-May 7, when the coronavirus claimed more than 2,000 American lives on each of 19 separate days – click for source

It’s easy to misunderstand the danger that infectious diseases pose. Here’s conservative commentator John Hinderaker on March 20th (a mere 61 days ago):

In the last 21 days, approximately 162,000 Americans have died. Of that number, 150 were killed by the Wuhan virus. If governments at all levels had done nothing, other than eliminating regulatory barriers to the deployment of already-existing medicines, would the virus have killed more Americans? Yes, that is what flu bugs do. Would it kill more than the 13,000 or so who have died from this year’s seasonal flu virus? Who knows? More than the estimated 80,000 who were killed by the flu in the U.S. just two years ago? I doubt it: world-wide, it has killed only a little more than one-tenth that number. [bold added; see March 20th data here]

The wisdom of various government responses to the coronavirus will be debated for many years. Hinderaker’s view that economic shutdowns carry their own, heavy price was fair enough. But he clearly had no idea what this virus was capable of.

If he were in charge, he’d have done nothing more than eliminate regulatory barriers. His big mistake was imagining that the 150-person US death toll during the first three weeks of March was a reliable guide to the future. It now exceeds 93,500.

Who knows, wrote Hinderaker 61 days ago, if the coronavirus will kill more than the 13,000 US flu victims. It has now claimed seven times that number.

Hinderaker doubted the virus would kill more than the “estimated 80,000 who were killed by the flu in the U.S. just two years ago.” Wrong again. (Those flu statistics are highly questionable, but that’s another story.)

61 days ago, Hinderaker dismissed and downplayed this virus. In his words, government-imposed lockdowns were an “insane overreaction” given that a mere 8,000 or so people had perished worldwide. Since he penned those words, global deaths have officially surpassed 325,000.

OFFICIAL/CONFIRMED CORONAVIRUS DEATHS

ITALY SPAIN FRANCE US UK BRAZIL RUSSIA total deaths
world wide
14th Feb. 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1,523
14th Mar. 1441 195 91 57 21 0 0 5,821
14th Apr. 21,067 18,056 15,729 25,924 12,107 1,532 170 126,066
14th May
31,368 27,321 27,425 88,873 33,614 13,993 2,305 303,024

Between April 7th and May 7th, this virus claimed more than 2,000 American lives on each of 19 separate days (see the chart at the top of this post). That’s with sporting events, music concerts, cinemas, political rallies, and St. Patrick’s Day parades all shut down.

We will never know how many more infections, ICU admissions, long term disabilities, or funerals would have resulted had Hinderaker been the person making the decisions. What’s clear is that his analysis back in March wasn’t rooted in deep research or genuine understanding. It didn’t rest on a solid grasp of the history of infectious disease.

Hinderaker’s remarks were merely an expression of his own political worldview, his personal abhorrence of government interference in economic life. Which makes him no different from others who mistook their own worldview for reality.

Remember back in early March, when left-wing New York City officials were telling residents there was nothing to worry about? The mayor said the city was “fully prepared to respond” to the coronavirus. Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot insisted “appropriate measures” were being taken to prevent its spread, and that New Yorkers were “at low risk.”

“As we confront this emerging outbreak,” she continued, “we need to separate facts from fear, and guard against stigma and panic” (bold added).

screen grab from the Johns Hopkins virus website; 6:26 am, 20 May 2020 (click)

More than 20,000 people have since perished in NYC from this virus. The suffering has been immense. To date, that jurisdiction is America’s most deadly hotspot. Might this be connected to the fact that, blinded by her leftist worldview, the city’s Health Commissioner thought anti-Asian stigma was the big issue?

Moral of this story: Ideological blind spots have deadly consequences. It’s hard work seeing the world as it really is.

May 20, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | | Leave a comment

Venezuela sues Bank of England for refusal to return country’s gold amid coronavirus crisis

RT | May 20, 2020

Venezuela’s Central Bank has launched legal action to force the Bank of England to release more than $1 billion in gold held in its coffers to battle the Covid-19 outbreak, according to Reuters.

The claim, submitted in a London court on May 14, says that Caracas needs the gold back to buy healthcare equipment, medicine, and food to address the “COVID-19 emergency” in the country, the document seen by Reuters said. Once it is sold by the Bank of England (BoE), the funds are transferred to the United Nations Development Programme.

The gold reserves of many developing nations are held in BoE vaults, with Venezuelan assets on its deposit reportedly worth around $1.7 billion. However, Venezuela has been unable to retrieve its assets from London due to political pressure from the US, which has been seeking to oust President Nicolas Maduro.

“The foot-dragging by the Bank of England is critically hampering Venezuela and the UN’s efforts to combat COVID-19 in the country,” Sarosh Zaiwalla, a London-based lawyer representing the central bank, said as cited by Reuters.

In January, the BoE rejected Venezuela’s request to withdraw $1.2 billion in gold. Bloomberg reported at the time that the refusal came after the request of high-profile US officials to help cut off the Maduro government from its overseas assets.

Venezuela had 749 coronavirus cases with 10 people dead as of Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

The South American nation plunged deeper into political crisis after opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself ‘interim president’ following calls for regime change from Washington. While offering support to Guaido, Washington has been targeting Venezuela with multiple rounds of sanctions, crippling the nation’s finances. The restrictions include the country’s vital oil sector which accounts for most of its revenues.

May 20, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 4 Comments

US Supreme Court heaps more damages on Sudan in embassy bombing cases

MEMO | May 18, 2020

The US Supreme Court dealt a legal setback to Sudan on Monday, ruling that the African nation cannot avoid punitive damages in lawsuits accusing it of complicity in the 1998 al Qaeda bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people.

Siding with hundreds of people hurt and relatives of people killed in the bombings, the justices ruled 8-0 to throw out a lower court’s 2017 decision that had freed Sudan from punitive damages awarded in the litigation in addition to about $6 billion in compensatory damages. Justice Brett Kavanaugh did not participate in the case.

The case hinged on the Supreme Court’s view of a 2008 amendment to a federal law known as the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act allowing for punitive damages. The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 2017 upheld Sudan’s liability but ruled that the amendment was made after the bombings occurred and could not be applied retroactively.

Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in Monday’s ruling that for claims made under federal law, “Congress was as clear as it could have been when it authorized plaintiffs to seek and win punitive damages for past conduct.”

The ruling also ordered the D.C. Circuit to reconsider its decision that the foreign plaintiffs who sued Sudan under state law in the United States also could not seek punitive damages.

Starting in 2001, groups of plaintiffs sued in federal court in Washington under the 1976 Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which generally bars claims against foreign countries except those designated by the United States as state sponsors of terrorism – as Sudan was in 1993. A federal judge found Sudan liable and awarded the plaintiffs $10.2 billion, including $4.3 in punitive damages.

Sudan has faced a deepening economic crisis since the 2019 overthrow of its longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir.

President Donald Trump’s administration had urged the justices to side with the plaintiffs who sued Sudan.

Twelve Americans were killed in the August 7, 1998, attacks. The lawsuits involve 567 people, mostly non-US citizens who were employees of the US government and their relatives.

The damages had been imposed by default because for most of the litigation Sudan did not appear before a lower court to counter accusations that it harbored and provided support to the Islamist militant group al Qaeda. Sudan denied the allegations.

The truck bombs that detonated outside the embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania marked the first large-scale al Qaeda attack.

May 18, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | 1 Comment

Two Trailblazing COVID-19 Researchers Dead in a Month

By Robert Bridge | Strategic Culture Foundation | May 17, 2020

Academia does not really have a reputation for being riddled with violence and sudden unexplained deaths. Yet at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, two young pioneering researchers from the same obscure field of study met with mysterious ends.

Outside of academic circles, Dr. James Taylor and Dr. Bing Liu were relative unknowns. Inside of the scientific community, however, the two had achieved something like rock-star status. And now, within a period of 30 days, both young men are dead at a time when their talents are needed most.

James Taylor, 1979-2020

Let’s first consider the life and work of James Taylor, who passed away on April 2 at the age of 40. Anyone hoping to learn details about the cause of death of this remarkable man will be disappointed; to date, no information has been made available to the public.

“The cause of James’ death is not yet known, and given how overwhelmed the medical profession is in Baltimore, we may never know,” stated the website of Galaxy Project, using the coronavirus as an excuse for not being able to dig deeper into the death of a colleague. “Given how quickly this overtook him it is very unlikely to have been COVID-19.”

Until any additional information is forthcoming with regards to the cause of death, it seems reasonable to ask whether Taylor was involved in any projects or activities that may have made him a potential target of foul play. A cursory look at his Twitter page indicates there were some impassioned discussions just prior to his premature passing that warrant consideration. Before jumping into those discussions, however, a few words about his professional background are necessary.

According to his obituary on the Johns Hopkins University website, Taylor was “a trailblazer in computational biology and genomics research,” who made a significant contribution as a “scientist, teacher, and colleague.”

Taylor’s breakout moment in the scientific community, however, came with the creation of Galaxy, a cloud-based system that has been described as “the first comprehensive data analysis resource in Life Sciences.” According to its website, Galaxy provides an open platform that aims to make computational biology accessible to scientists, mostly those who are involved in genomics research, a major field of study when it comes to the development of drugs and vaccines.

And it is on this particular point that Taylor became engaged in debate just days before his death. On March 19, the researcher asked a seemingly innocuous question on his Twitter page: “Can we talk about genomic data sharing for #covid19 #SARSCoV2 research?”

Judging by the feedback, the question proved to be a loaded one. Taylor’s question revealed the frustration being felt by other research groups, like NCBI and Nextstrain, which were attempting to retrieve the genomic characteristics of Covid-19 but were running into hurdles. Taylor’s colleagues, Anton Nekrutenko and Sergei Kosakovsky Pond, expressed similar concerns regarding those roadblocks one month earlier in a paper entitled, ‘No more business as usual: agile and effective responses to emerging pathogen threats require open data and open analytics.’

“The current state of much of the Wuhan pneumonia virus (COVID-19) research shows a regrettable lack of data sharing and considerable analytical obfuscation,” Nekrutenko and Kosakovsky Pond wrote. “This impedes global research cooperation, which is essential for tackling public health emergencies, and requires unimpeded access to data, analysis tools, and computational infrastructure.”

Here is proof of something that many people have long suspected about the world of academia: it is ruthless and self-serving just as much as any profit-seeking corporation. Not only are academics fiercely protective of their work, which is perfectly understandable, they are also not blind to the potential for financial gain that comes from their labors. But I digress.

Judging by his social media activity, it seems that James Taylor’s main beef was with GISAID, a German-based platform that stands for Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data. This private and public organization, which also partners with the governments of Singapore and the United States, has acquired much of the genome data for many diseases, including that of Covid-19, information that would be critical in the development of drugs and vaccines.

In a follow-up tweet, Taylor complained that GISAID “has much more data… but onerous restrictions on data use and sharing, in particular does not allow sharing any sequence data.” This was followed by the comment that GISAID’s restrictions on using its data are “a real impediment to rapid, collaborative data analysis including our efforts to make transparent, reusable and reproducible analysis pipelines for outbreak analysis.”

At the same time Taylor was chastising GISAID for supposedly not sharing its sequence data on Covid-19, GISAID was boasting on its website about its transparency. So where is the truth? Judging by the comments on James Taylor’s Twitter feed, it would seem GISAID was not completely forthcoming with its data.

Dave O’Connor, for example, a virologist at the University of Washington (Madison), remarked on Taylor’s Twitter thread, “I doubt if many people, if any, people who contributed data to GISAID did so with the intention of it being siloed.”

Dr. Melissa A. Wilson, a prominent evolutionary and computational biologist from Arizona State University, also expressed dismay at the failure to share critical genome data that could assist in helping researchers discover a cure for Covid-19.

In her tweet, dated March 23, Wilson directed a question to Taylor, asking: “Where are we storing data so it is accessible?”

At this point the reader may be asking, ‘OK, so what. What significance is there to a group of researchers having trouble getting access to the genome structure of the coronavirus?’ The problem is that it could mean the difference between being able to develop a vaccine for the disease and not.

Here it should be mentioned that on October 18, 2019, Johns Hopkins University, together with the World Economic Forum and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, hosted Event 201, a high-level exercise that imagined how the public and private sector would coordinate in the event of a pandemic. The event so closely mirrored the outbreak of Covid-19 just two months later that Johns Hopkins released a statement denying that it had made a “prediction” about the pandemic.

Moreover, on the question of producing vaccines to fight against Covid-19, Johns Hopkins appears to be an ardent supporter.

“I would imagine we are going to get a massive vaccination program going in place,” revealed Andrew Pekosz, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Professor, in an interview with Bloomberg. “The vaccines that are currently in the lead… are ones that are going to be given by injection.

“It looks like vaccines are going to be the game changer here…”

The question that must be asked is whether James Taylor was somehow working at cross-purposes to other organizations that are, for example, in the race to develop a vaccine against Covid-19. Or, alternatively, did the 40-year-old renowned researcher die a natural death at the very moment the quest for a vaccine against the coronavirus had become the central focus for researchers, pharmaceutical companies and his very alma mater?

Dr. Bing Liu, 1982-2020

On May 2, Liu, a 37-year-old assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine (UPSM), was found dead with multiple gunshot wounds at his townhouse in an upscale suburban neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Another victim, identified as Hao Gu, was found dead in his car near Liu’s home with what police say was a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Just four days after the double murder, Ross Township Police said they believe the apparent murder-suicide was the result of a “lengthy dispute regarding an intimate partner.”

“We have found zero evidence that this tragic event has anything to do with employment at the University of Pittsburgh, any work being conducted at the University of Pittsburgh and the current health crisis affecting the United States and the world,” said Detective Sgt. Brian Kohlhepp.

What makes this case particularly compelling is that, according to a homage page on the UPSM website, “Bing was on the verge of making very significant findings toward understanding the cellular mechanisms that underlie SARS-CoV-2 infection and the cellular basis of the following complications.”

The other remarkable detail is how closely aligned Bing Liu and James Taylor’s academic resumes were. Both academics were involved in the obscure field of computational systems biology, as well as machine-learning techniques to better predict the behavior of biological species.

The lives of the two academics crossed paths due to their mutual affiliation with the prestigious Carnegie Mellon University, also located in Pittsburgh. There, Liu worked as a postdoctoral fellow in the department of computer science, while Taylor delivered seminars there on his Galaxy program. If by chance Taylor was unfamiliar with Liu’s prolific body of academic work that would probably have changed after Liu’s purportedly breakthrough research on the Covid-19 was released. That magical moment was not to be, of course, due to Liu’s premature and very tragic death.

With regards to the purported murder-suicide, the details are sketchy. First, the mainstream media is portraying the murder as the result of a “lengthy dispute regarding an intimate partner.” Yet local media reported that Liu and his wife had no children and mostly kept to themselves. Of course that doesn’t mean that the two men were not competing for the affections of some other woman. However, with the married Liu on the verge of making a major breakthrough on the coronavirus front, it would seem that he would have very little time for any ‘extracurricular activities.’

In any case, it remains unclear how the two men knew each other, while a possible motive for the murder also remains a mystery, the Post-Gazette reported. Neighbors did not report hearing any gunshots at the time of the killings.

Finally, there are problems with the choice of murder weapon, in this case a firearm. Since both Liu and his alleged killer were not U.S. citizens, this opens up the question as to how Hao Gu was able to acquire a firearm. It is illegal – although certainly not impossible – for non-citizens to purchase firearms in the United States.

So what we are left with, at a time when the world is desperately searching for a way to combat Covid-19, is the legacy of two trailblazing researchers who were both working towards ways of better understanding the disease. Although we may never know the true story behind each man’s untimely death, the likelihood of two renowned researchers – with almost identical professional backgrounds – dying a month apart at a time when both were making headway against the pandemic must certainly rank far less than the chances of someone actually succumbing to Covid-19. The deaths of Bing Liu and James Taylor deserve far greater scrutiny by the mainstream media.

May 17, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | | Leave a comment

Iran’s fuel shipment to Venezuela guaranteed by its missile power

Press TV – May 16, 2020

Iran is shipping tons of gasoline to Venezuela in defiance of US sanctions on both countries in a symbolic move guaranteed by Tehran’s missile prowess.

Unconfirmed reports and tanker monitoring groups suggest that at least five Iranian-flagged tankers are transporting fuel to Venezuela through the Atlantic Ocean despite the US sanctions on both Tehran and Caracas.

Iran has intentionally hoisted its own flag over the huge tankers which are navigating through the Atlantic before the eyes of the US Navy.

Iran is shipping large consignments of gasoline to Venezuela even though the US would try to intercept the shipments and seize the tankers.

There are unconfirmed reports that the US Navy has deployed its USS Detroit (LCS-7), USS Lassen (DDG-82), USS Preble (DDG-88), and USS Farragut (DDG-99) to the Caribbean along with its patrol aircraft Boeing P8-Poseidon for possible encounter with the Iranian vessels.

However, analysts say it is very unlikely that the US makes such a mistake, as it would have serious repercussions for the Trump administration ahead of the November elections.

The US would not dare to seize the Iranian vessels especially after Iran’s reaction to a similar move by the United Kingdom, a close ally of Washington.

Iran also has the upper hand thanks to its missile power, which was shown to the US in the IRGC’s retaliatory missile attacks on the Ain al-Assad Airbase in Iraq, which accommodated American troops.

The US was also reminded of the Islamic Republic’s missile prowess following the recent successful launch of Nour-1 military satellite, which reached its orbit using the Qased satellite carrier. Some Western analysts claim the satellite achievements are a prelude to Iran’s program to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

Confident about its missile capabilities, Iran is going on with the gasoline shipment to its ally in Latin America, mocking the US sanctions on the oil sectors of both countries.

The US seems to be between the rock and hard place. While it is unlikely for Washington to dare to intercept the tankers, if they reach their destination safe and sound, it may tarnish the “superpower” forever.

The fuel shipment also shows Iran’s success in turning into an exporter of gasoline after years of importing the fuel.

A senior official in US President Donald Trump’s administration told Reuters on Thursday that the United States was considering measures against Iran in response to the fuel shipment.

The official said Washington has a “high degree of certainty” that the Venezuelan government is paying Iran in gold for the fuel.

If these claims are confirmed, the “fuel for gold” exchange is also a great achievement for the Islamic Republic amid the US’ maximum pressure policy, which deprives the country’s economy of billions of dollars’ worth of oil revenues.

There are reports that Iran is receiving nine tons of gold in exchange for the fuel its ships transport to Venezuela. Under the cruel sanctions imposed by the US after its withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal in 2018, nine tons of gold can be a very precious asset for the Iranian economy.

However, we must still wait and see whether the US administration would let the Iranian tankers go and strip Washington of its “superpower” title, or it would dare to intercept the vessels and endanger Donald Trump’s campaign ahead of the November elections.

Earlier in the day, Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei said Venezuela and Iran are both independent states that have had and will continue to have trade relations with each other.

“We sell goods and buy goods in return. This trade has nothing to do with anyone else. We have to sell our oil and we have ways to do it,” Rabiei said in reaction to reports of the fuel shipment to the Latin American country.

See also:

US interception of Iran vessel to Venezuela would be ‘completely illegal

May 16, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | 2 Comments

Vitamin D linked to low virus death rate – study

Anglia Ruskin University | May 7, 2020

A new study has found an association between low average levels of vitamin D and high numbers of COVID-19 cases and mortality rates across 20 European countries.

The research, led by Dr Lee Smith of Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) and Mr Petre Cristian Ilie, lead urologist of Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s Lynn NHS Foundation Trust, is published in the journal Aging Clinical and Experimental Research.

Previous observational studies have reported an association between low levels of vitamin D and susceptibility to acute respiratory tract infections. Vitamin D modulates the response of white blood cells, preventing them from releasing too many inflammatory cytokines. The COVID-19 virus is known to cause an excess of pro-inflammatory cytokines.

Italy and Spain have both experienced high COVID-19 mortality rates, and the new study shows that both countries have lower average vitamin D levels than most northern European countries. This is partly because people in southern Europe, particularly the elderly, avoid strong sun, while skin pigmentation also reduces natural vitamin D synthesis.

The highest average levels of vitamin D are found in northern Europe, due to the consumption of cod liver oil and vitamin D supplements, and possibly less sun avoidance. Scandinavian nations are among the countries with the lowest number of COVID-19 cases and mortality rates per head of population in Europe.

Dr Lee Smith, Reader in Physical Activity and Public Health at Anglia Ruskin University, said:

“We found a significant crude relationship between average vitamin D levels and the number COVID-19 cases, and particularly COVID-19 mortality rates, per head of population across the 20 European countries.

“Vitamin D has been shown to protect against acute respiratory infections, and older adults, the group most deficient in vitamin D, are also the ones most seriously affected by COVID-19.

“A previous study found that 75% of people in institutions, such as hospitals and care homes, were severely deficient in vitamin D.  We suggest it would be advisable to perform dedicated studies looking at vitamin D levels in COVID-19 patients with different degrees of disease severity.”

Mr Petre Cristian Ilie, lead urologist of Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s Lynn NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“Our study does have limitations however, not least because the number of cases in each country is affected by the number of tests performed, as well as the different measures taken by each country to prevent the spread of infection.  Finally, and importantly, one must remember correlation does not necessarily mean causation.”

May 12, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | | Leave a comment

Vitamin D appears to play role in COVID-19 mortality rates

Patients with severe deficiency are twice as likely to experience severe complications, including death

Northwestern University | May 7, 2020

After studying global data from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, researchers have discovered a strong correlation between severe vitamin D deficiency and mortality rates.

Led by Northwestern University, the research team conducted a statistical analysis of data from hospitals and clinics across China, France, Germany, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States.

The researchers noted that patients from countries with high COVID-19 mortality rates, such as Italy, Spain and the UK, had lower levels of vitamin D compared to patients in countries that were not as severely affected.

This does not mean that everyone — especially those without a known deficiency — needs to start hoarding supplements, the researchers caution.

“While I think it is important for people to know that vitamin D deficiency might play a role in mortality, we don’t need to push vitamin D on everybody,” said Northwestern’s Vadim Backman, who led the research. “This needs further study, and I hope our work will stimulate interest in this area. The data also may illuminate the mechanism of mortality, which, if proven, could lead to new therapeutic targets.”

The research is available on medRxiv, a preprint server for health sciences.

Backman is the Walter Dill Scott Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering. Ali Daneshkhah, a postdoctoral research associate in Backman’s laboratory, is the paper’s first author.

Backman and his team were inspired to examine vitamin D levels after noticing unexplained differences in COVID-19 mortality rates from country to country. Some people hypothesized that differences in healthcare quality, age distributions in population, testing rates or different strains of the coronavirus might be responsible. But Backman remained skeptical.

“None of these factors appears to play a significant role,” Backman said. “The healthcare system in northern Italy is one of the best in the world. Differences in mortality exist even if one looks across the same age group. And, while the restrictions on testing do indeed vary, the disparities in mortality still exist even when we looked at countries or populations for which similar testing rates apply.

“Instead, we saw a significant correlation with vitamin D deficiency,” he said.

By analyzing publicly available patient data from around the globe, Backman and his team discovered a strong correlation between vitamin D levels and cytokine storm — a hyperinflammatory condition caused by an overactive immune system — as well as a correlation between vitamin D deficiency and mortality.

“Cytokine storm can severely damage lungs and lead to acute respiratory distress syndrome and death in patients,” Daneshkhah said. “This is what seems to kill a majority of COVID-19 patients, not the destruction of the lungs by the virus itself. It is the complications from the misdirected fire from the immune system.”

This is exactly where Backman believes vitamin D plays a major role. Not only does vitamin D enhance our innate immune systems, it also prevents our immune systems from becoming dangerously overactive. This means that having healthy levels of vitamin D could protect patients against severe complications, including death, from COVID-19.

“Our analysis shows that it might be as high as cutting the mortality rate in half,” Backman said. “It will not prevent a patient from contracting the virus, but it may reduce complications and prevent death in those who are infected.”

Backman said this correlation might help explain the many mysteries surrounding COVID-19, such as why children are less likely to die. Children do not yet have a fully developed acquired immune system, which is the immune system’s second line of defense and more likely to overreact.

“Children primarily rely on their innate immune system,” Backman said. “This may explain why their mortality rate is lower.”

Backman is careful to note that people should not take excessive doses of vitamin D, which might come with negative side effects. He said the subject needs much more research to know how vitamin D could be used most effectively to protect against COVID-19 complications.

“It is hard to say which dose is most beneficial for COVID-19,” Backman said. “However, it is clear that vitamin D deficiency is harmful, and it can be easily addressed with appropriate supplementation. This might be another key to helping protect vulnerable populations, such as African-American and elderly patients, who have a prevalence of vitamin D deficiency.”

May 10, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | | Leave a comment