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EU Tries to Save Face amidst Coronavirus Debacle

By Paul Antonopoulos | March 26, 2020

The European Union’s decision to open negotiations with Northern Macedonia and Albania is a propaganda act from Brussels that attempts to reassure members of the Union that countries, even in the midst of the epidemic, want to become members of the organization. This is a cheap propaganda trick that attempts to restore confidence in the European Union at a time when it has completely failed to deal with the coronavirus pandemic that has shown weakness in the alliance.

Maurizio Massari, Italy’s ambassador to the EU, said earlier this month that “the coronavirus crisis is a test of the EU’s cohesiveness and credibility — one that can only be passed through genuine, concrete solidarity. Europe must act according to the principle of mutual defense and help those members whose security is under threat.” With nearly 60,000 people confirmed infected and over 7,500 deaths, the European Union has failed in this test as no member states came to the aid of Italy and instead looked inwardly towards their own borders.  The European Union’s cohesiveness was exposed as a fantasy when days ago member state Poland closed its airspace to a Russian plane delivering aid to fellow European Union member Italy, forcing the aircraft to take an alternate route that is 1,000 kilometers longer.

Essentially the European Union that is currently the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic has exposed why the Union is dysfunctional and without any solidarity. It has shown a huge gap between words and action. The European Union as an example of the liberal world order endlessly spoke of humanity but have proven they are inhumane. They promoted the idea of efficiency but proven they are actually ineffective. In short, the announcement to progress the European Union membership of Albania and North Macedonia is a cheap propaganda gimmick for Brussels at a time when it is under heavy scrutiny for showing a lack of solidarity and assistance to Italy, raising questions regarding the credibility of the organization. It is negotiating in a way that has never existed, utterly undefined, with a big question mark as to what will be.

According to a draft decision signed by the bloc’s 27 members, which Reuters had access to, the hope of membership for the two Western Balkans countries has often been shattered in recent years due to the scepticism expressed, primarily by the Netherlands and France, as they correctly highlight that both countries are highly corrupt. However, the start date of the negotiations is not specified and will be subsequently determined when the European Commission prepares the framework for the negotiations.

Michael Roth, Germany’s state secretary for European affairs, wrote on Twitter on March 24, “Congrats to Tirana+Skopje, it’s well deserved,” after the agreement was reached during a videoconference. This was followed by European Union Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi also going to Twitter, saying that he is “very pleased that EU member states today reached political agreement on opening of accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia. I wholeheartedly congratulate both countries. This also sends a loud and clear message to Western Balkans: your future is in EU.”

North Macedonia is unlikely to face resistance in joining the European Union, and is already being rapidly ascended into NATO after it resolved its name issue with Greece. However, the accession is not yet guaranteed for Albania as Greece raises concerns on the rights and treatment of the Greek minority in occupied Northern Epirus in southern Albania. Approximately 200,000 Greeks of Northern Epirus face daily discrimination with Albanian authorities removing bilingual road signs that display Greek, the confiscation of property belonging to Greeks, and Albanian police even murdering a Greek in a shootout as they removed a Greek flag from a cemetery, among many other forms of discrimination. On these grounds, Greece may veto Albania’s accession, but this is likely to be a temporary measure as the Greek political establishment always eventually capitulate to the demands of Brussels and Germany. Once this issue is resolved, it is likely that Albania with North Macedonia will be accelerated into the European Union, and this will prove necessary as the bloc wants to maintain the illusion that it is not in disarray in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

This begs the questions though as to why Albania and North Macedonia would want to ascend into the European Union after seeing the alliance’s treatment of its own long-time member states like Italy. Albania has always been a pro-Western state, owing to the Western world its existence, its occupation of Northern Epirus, and its indirect occupation of Kosovo. It is therefore unsurprising that it wants to be further integrated into the Western world. North Macedonia since the very beginning of its foundation with the dissolution of Yugoslavia in the early 1990’s wanted to join the European Union and NATO, but was prevented from doing so because of the name dispute with Greece. With this issue resolved, it now has a clear path towards the bloc. None-the-less, both states are not even remotely close in an economic or so-called democratic sense to being candidates, but will be fast-tracked to help save face after the European Union’s debacle with the coronavirus pandemic.

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

March 26, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment

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

Asleep at the wheel: Why didn’t Western politicians act quicker on Covid-19 spread?

By Neil Clark | RT | March 19, 2020

Western countries are in lockdown due to Covid-19, but if leaders, their advisers, and the political class in general had paid attention to what was going on in China at the turn of the year, the crisis might have been averted.

Imagine you’re a passenger on a ship. You’d expect, wouldn’t you, that the captain and his officers keep a very good look-out for dangers ahead? You’d expect them to have up-to-date weather information. You’d expect them to take corrective action before the ship hit an iceberg.

The sad truth – for Western citizens, the passengers of the ship – is that those whose job it was to watch out for gathering storms have let us down very badly.

The chronology is most important.

According to the South China Morning Post, the first case of someone suffering from what later came to be known as Covid-19 occurred in China on November 17. The number of cases grew in December, (the majority linked to the Huanan Seafood Market), but we didn’t know internationally what was going on until news began to come out that Wuhan had been hit by a new virus in very late December/early January. The Chinese informed the World Health Organization of new pneumonia cases of unknown etiology on December 31.

The Chinese delay in flagging up what was happening in Wuhan absolutely didn’t help, but there was still time – about a two-week window – for other countries to act.

As reported in the BMJ, on January 11 and 12, the Chinese authorities shared the virus’ genetic sequence for countries to use in “developing specific diagnostic kits.” 440 deaths had been confirmed by January 21. By the 22nd, seven cases had been confirmed OUTSIDE China, including one in the US. All were travelers from Wuhan.

That surely should have got alarm bells ringing in Western capitals, especially as Chinese New Year on January 25 was coming up. Western leaders, and their advisers, would surely know that many Chinese workers based in the West would return home to celebrate, greatly increasing the risk that the virus would be brought back to Europe and North America.

On January 22, the UK government announced that health teams would meet the three direct flights a week from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the virus. At the same time, the risk level was raised from ‘very low’ to ‘low’.  But as Neil Ferguson, director of the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis at Imperial College, London, pointed out, flight screening was no panacea.

“This measure will only identify people who have symptoms as they come off the plane. If someone was infected two days before they travelled, they will arrive without any symptoms at all.” He added, and I emphasize in bold: “It’s essential that the entire health system is alert to the possibility that there will be cases here.”

Lo and behold, the first British case was confirmed nine days later, on January 31, 2020, from Chinese nationals staying at a hotel in York. That very same day, the first cases were also confirmed in Italy. Guess what: they were two Chinese tourists in Rome. Italy is now the world’s number one coronavirus ‘hotspot’. Nearly 3,000 have died there and 60mn people are in quarantine.

Wouldn’t it have been better, if instead of ineffective flight screening, all flights to Western countries from China had been stopped in January – and all travelers who had recently visited China been quarantined? France, by the way, got its first three cases on January 24 (a week before Italy and the UK). All three people had just come back from China. You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to see the pattern, do you?

In the New Year, the number one priority of Western politicians should have been the new coronavirus and how best to protect their own populations from it. But their minds were clearly on other things.

Trump – egged on by Washington’s Endless War Lobby – was engaged in an utterly reckless escalation of tensions with Iran. While Covid-19 was spreading in China, the New Year began with the assassination of General Soleimani, a man who had been fighting ISIS, but who was now portrayed as the ‘worst terrorist in the world’. The ‘Iran crisis’ dominated the news cycle. Boris Johnson meanwhile began the year on holiday with his girlfriend in Mustique. The opposition Labour Party were focusing on a leadership election which needn’t have taken place for several months. Three of the four candidates declared on television on February 13 – a day after the UN had activated its WHO-led Crisis Management team to deal with a rapidly escalating problem –that their ‘number one priority’ was… tackling ‘anti-Semitism’ in the Labour Party. Yet after all the brouhaha about anti-Semitism being ‘rife’ in Labour, it was reported at the end of February that the police had ended up charging just one person, a former Labour member.

One person, that is, out of a membership of half a million.

It seemed in February that no one in the political class was very interested in Covid-19.

This is despite the publication in the leading medical journal The Lancet on January 24 of a report entitled ‘A novel coronavirus outbreak of global concern’.

Covid-19 only began to be taken with the seriousness it warranted when it was already too late to try and stop its entry.

By not acting in time to restrict travel to and from China – and later from other ‘hotspots’ like northern Italy and Madrid, Spain, the governments instead waited and waited, until the measures they did take were far more draconian that might otherwise have been the case. It’s true that Trump did bar foreigners who had recently visited China from entering the US on January 31, but as David Leonhardt pointed out in the New York Times, it was “not the sweeping solution that Trump portrayed it to be.”

The costs to the economies of the various lockdowns are incalculable. People’s livelihoods are going to be destroyed. Entire industries are threatened. Don’t forget lockdowns and ‘social distancing’ can actually cause deaths too. As John Pilger pointed out on Twitter, a 2012 study showed that isolation killed the elderly, but isolate is what they’re now being told to do.

We’re in a right old state at the moment, but how much of this could have been avoided if instead of dozing off, or looking elsewhere, those whose job it was to protect us had acted quickly, at the proper time?

March 19, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | 1 Comment

Kremlin slams ‘unfounded’ EU report on Russian pandemic disinformation

RT | March 18, 2020

An EU report which accuses Russia of waging a disinformation campaign around Covid-19 isn’t backed by a single fact and has nothing to do with common sense. That’s according to Vladimir Putin’s spokesman.

Earlier, the Financial Times claimed that it obtained findings by the European External Action Service (EEAS), which insist that the “Russian pro-Kremlin media” is running a “significant disinformation campaign” to stoke “confusion, panic and fear” in the EU and the US to “aggravate the coronavirus pandemic crisis.”

“I can’t comment on this from the point of view of common sense,” Dmitry Peskov said when asked by journalists about the controversial paper. “One might expect that this Russophobic obsession would decline in the current situation, but as we see it’s not happening.”

The EEAS’ report didn’t even include a single example or a reference to a specific media outlet, so all the accusations are “unfounded,” Peskov concluded.

March 18, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Russophobia | | Leave a comment

Russiagate all over again: Secret EU report blames Russia for coronavirus ‘confusion, panic and fear’

By Nebojsa Malic | RT | March 17, 2020

When all else fails, blame Russia. That seems to be the EU approach to deflecting blame from its response to the coronavirus pandemic, no doubt because it has worked so well for Democrats in the US or London in the Skripal affair.

As Brussels finally got around to locking down the EU borders on Tuesday, London’s Financial Times ran a ‘bombshell’ story blaming “Russian pro-Kremlin media” for a “significant disinformation campaign” to stoke “confusion, panic and fear” in the West and “aggravate the coronavirus pandemic crisis.”

This is based on a nine-page report by the strategic communications division of the European External Action Service, the EU’s de facto foreign ministry. The EEAS did not officially comment on the FT story.

First things first: “strategic communications” is bureaucrat-speak for public relations, meaning that this report – assuming it is authentic – was produced by the EEAS propaganda division. Secondly, it consists of generalities, cliches and tropes already worn out from four years of “Russiagate” hysteria in the US, down to these alleged efforts being “in line with the Kremlin’s broader strategy of attempting to subvert European societies from within by exploiting their vulnerabilities and divisions.”

It’s almost as if the PR flacks in Brussels plagiarized the work of James Comey, Jim Clapper and John Brennan from the infamous US “intelligence community assessment” blaming Russia for the 2016 election – down to segueing into a diatribe against RT instead of offering evidence.

Whether the EEAS report does so or not, the FT story takes just such a deceptive leap, going on about “Russian state-linked false personas and accounts” before abruptly bringing up the entirely unrelated subject of RT Spanish, whose number of social media shares recently put it “ahead of some big western media outlets.”

How dare they, as Greta Thunberg might say.

This isn’t the first attempt to blame Russia for “disinformation” about the pandemic. The US State Department bandied about one such conspiracy theory just last month. It seems to be the go-to tactic of Western propagandists to deflect criticism from their own governments, whether it’s Theresa May using the “highly likely” Skripal affair to distract from Brexit woes or the US establishment trying to leverage it against President Donald Trump via “Russiagate.” It doesn’t appear to matter that both ultimately failed to achieve their objectives; propaganda always doubles down.

Their insistence on conflating RT with the Russian government deserves a separate analysis, but suffice to say that various Western hacks just can’t seem to comprehend that a news organization will perforce cover a major news topic – which the covid-19 pandemic most certainly is, literally on the global level.

Those looking for “confusion, panic and fear” can find an abundance of them in the pronouncements of their own government officials and health experts, as well as mainstream Western news outlets.

There indeed is an epidemic of fake news about the coronavirus – witness the recent “marshall law” hoax in the US – but what the Eurospooks and FT either missed or chose to ignore is that it has targeted Russia too.

Completely ignoring their erstwhile rhetoric about universal values and global solutions, governments and media across the West are using the pandemic to settle internal political scores, while projecting blame on Moscow in order to deflect it from themselves.

Much like the coronavirus, hypocrisy apparently knows no bounds.

Nebojsa Malic is a Serbian-American journalist, blogger and translator, who wrote a regular column for Antiwar.com from 2000 to 2015, and is now senior writer at RT. Follow him on Twitter @NebojsaMalic

March 18, 2020 Posted by | Russophobia | , | Leave a comment

Call for retraction of EU-funded G-TwYST study on GM maize

Study claiming no adverse effects from a GM maize is unreliable, writes Prof Gilles-Eric Séralini in a new peer-reviewed analysis

Report by Claire Robinson | GM Watch | March 7, 2020

Prof Gilles-Eric Séralini of the University of Caen has published a peer-reviewed paper criticising the EU-funded 2-year feeding study on GM maize that claimed to show no adverse effects from the GM diet.

The EU-funded study was published in 2019 by Pablo Steinberg and colleagues and reported the results of the 2-year rat feeding study, called G-TwYST, on a GM Roundup-tolerant maize, NK603. The published paper claimed that there were “no adverse effects” related to the feeding of the GM maize cultivated with or without Roundup spraying and that no further long-term studies with GMOs were justified.

This was in spite of the fact that the male rats in this study that were fed NK603 maize sprayed with Roundup had a significantly increased mortality rate compared with controls. The main cause of death was pituitary tumours, followed by kidney disease.

The Steinberg study was carried out to follow up the study led by Prof Séralini, which was initially published in 2012. The Séralini study had found serious adverse effects in rats fed NK603 maize and very low doses of Roundup fed both separately and together with the maize. Effects in most treatment groups strongly paralleled the findings of Steinberg’s team, including severe kidney disease and increased mortality. The pituitary gland was the second most tumour-affected organ in females after the mammary gland.

Now Prof Séralini has responded to the Steinberg study in a new peer-reviewed publication. Séralini draws attention to the differences between his own team’s and Steinberg and colleagues’ study, as follows.

* Steinberg and colleagues used a rat strain that was not sensitive to tumour-causing substances:

Steinberg and colleagues used a rat strain, the Wistar, that was less sensitive to substances causing tumours than the Sprague-Dawley rat used by Séralini (and Monsanto in its shorter study). In GMWatch’s view this is only understandable on the basis that they were actively trying not to find tumorigenic and carcinogenic effects from the GM maize tested. The Sprague-Dawley rat is one of the most commonly used models for human breast cancer risk. In other words, the Sprague-Dawley rat is about as sensitive to substances causing mammary tumours as humans and thus a suitable model for a study intended to look at carcinogenic effects.

* Steinberg and colleagues didn’t study Roundup or glyphosate alone:

Long-term effects of Roundup alone at environmentally relevant levels (0.1 ppb) on a diet without pesticides were not tested by Steinberg and colleagues, unlike Séralini’s team. Séralini’s team found severe health effects from this low dose of Roundup, including non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which was confirmed by separate research carried out by a different group of researchers at a later date.

* Heavy contamination of diets in Steinberg and colleagues’ study meant effects of the GMO could be masked:

Glyphosate-based residues were present at high levels in the diets in Steinberg and colleagues’ study, including the control diets, even though the aim was to study a glyphosate-tolerant GMO. The levels of glyphosate found corresponded to 300–1400 times more glyphosate than was present in the dose of Roundup found to be toxic in the Séralini study.

Steinberg and colleagues also found many other contaminants in the analysis of their feeds. The authors considered a priori that all the feed contaminations would have no effect. But Séralini comments, “This is only their subjective opinion, and many indications that we have cited can prove the contrary.” The bottom line is that the effects of such mixtures have not been properly tested for, so it is not valid to claim that they have no effect.

This heavy contamination of the feeds, Séralini suggests in the new paper, increased the background level of serious diseases in the controls, preventing many observable effects of the GMO treatment on animals. He writes that such contamination would have prompted him to abandon the experiment before it began: “Given such neglect of the contamination issue, we would have stopped there instead of drawing scientifically inadequate conclusions.”

The probable reason for the differences in contamination levels was that in the Séralini study, the crops were grown specially using organic methods. Thus pesticide residues were so low as to be undetectable – at least, by the detection methods available at the time, which were less sensitive than those available now. Therefore the researchers were able to highlight any effects from the GMO and/or the Roundup.

Given the low-to-non-existent pesticide and GMO contamination of the base and control diets in the Séralini team’s experiment, it is perhaps not surprising that they found 5–8 times fewer tumours and diseases in their control rats than did Steinberg and colleagues. Separate research led by Séralini showed that laboratory rat feeds are routinely contaminated by many pollutants, including GMOs, heavy metals, dioxins, and pesticides.

* High mortality rates in males fed GM NK603 corn dismissed by Steinberg and colleagues:

Séralini writes, “In spite of the many weaknesses of the study design, Steinberg et al. still found significant differences, most notably in male mortality, which was higher in the animals fed the GM corn sprayed with Roundup for 2 years. In addition, increased incidence of pituitary neoplasia, and disorders of the sex hormones estradiol and thyroid in females were also noticed.”

GMWatch has also drawn attention to these dramatic findings. But bafflingly, not a single mainstream media outlet has reported on them, even though they will be clearly evident to anyone who reads the full paper rather than just the abstract and the press statements put out by the G-TwYST researchers.

As Séralini points out in the new paper, these findings in Steinberg and colleagues’ experiment were the same as those observed in the earlier Séralini study. But Steinberg and colleagues dismissed these effects as “not… adverse”, due to the lack of histopathological alterations in the estrogen-sensitive tissues and organs. However, Séralini counters, “Lesions can be missed in the histopathological sectioning, and/or some functional alterations that have biological effects on the organism may not result in histopathological changes. It is not the place of Steinberg et al. to dismiss such changes based on assumptions, like EFSA or industry conclude, particularly in a research study conducted with the aim of revealing any health risk to humans.”

* Steinberg and colleagues haven’t published their histopathology slides:

This brings us to an important omission in Steinberg and colleagues’ paper. As Séralini writes, the histopathological sections are not shown even in supplementary data, and thus cannot be analysed by others to confirm or refute the interpretation of Steinberg and colleagues that there were no adverse effects from the GM maize.

Moreover, on closer examination of the Steinberg and colleagues’ publication, GMWatch has noticed that they did not conduct their histology (microscopic analysis of tissues) and histopathology (microscopic analysis of tissues with the aim of studying development of disease) blinded. They justify this highly unusual move on the grounds of saving time and money. However, the issue with this is that absence of blinding allows bias to creep in. They also state that they didn’t look at tissues from all the animals – but only the control and high dose group animals. The problem with that is that they could easily have missed important effects in the lower dose groups.

* Steinberg and colleagues dismiss differences in GM-fed animals for invalid reasons:

Steinberg and colleagues dismissed some statistically significant differences in treatment groups as not biologically relevant since they are “small” or “not dose-related”, the latter meaning there should be an effect proportional to the dose of the GMO. But as Séralini writes, “Such assertions are not scientifically justifiable. A dose-related observation begins with three doses and not two according to OECD [Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, which sets protocols for industry experiments conducted for regulatory purposes]. Moreover, an effect that is statistically significant should not be dismissed as ‘small’ and the effects of hormone disruptors are often not proportional to the dose.”

* Steinberg and colleagues misuse historical control data to dismiss differences:

In order to dismiss the differences in GM-fed animals, Steinberg and colleagues compare the effects observed in this experiment with the “historical control data” obtained from previous feeding trials. Séralini points out that this use of unrelated historical control data violates the Test Guidelines of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on the conduct and design of chronic toxicity and carcinogenicity studies [30] — guidelines that Steinberg and colleagues cite in their paper. The OECD states, “the concurrent control group is always the most important consideration” when considering the effects of the test substance.

Séralini writes that he finds it surprising that the authors conclude from their findings that “we should no longer bother to conduct long-term studies on agricultural GMOs in general”. This, he states, “is contrary to the spirit of scientific inquiry and (more importantly) is not supported by the concerning results that were found in spite of the methodological weakness of the study”.

Séralini continues by pointing out the many conflicts of interest of Pablo Steinberg, which were not declared in the G-TwYST study publication. For example, elsewhere Steinberg noted that he was an expert for the International Life Science Institute (ILSI), an industry lobby group funded by the likes of Monsanto and Syngenta, which has worked to weaken regulation and testing, including of GMOs and pesticides, and supports their use.

Séralini concludes that the results of Steinberg and colleagues’ paper are “unreliable” and that the paper “should be retracted, and the results deleted from regulatory appraisals and risk assessments”.


Update on long-term toxicity of agricultural GMOs tolerant to Roundup

Gilles-Eric Seralini

Environmental Sciences Europe volume 32, Article number: 18 (2020)

https://enveurope.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s12302-020-0296-8

Abstract

Agricultural genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are plants obtained by gene transfer or more recently by gene-editing. Their major common phenotypic trait for which 99% have been modified is that these are designed to be grown with pesticides, which may bioaccumulate in the plants and/or the consumer, and/or express insecticides in their cells. Examples of both types are Roundup-tolerant soy and corn and Bt insecticidal plants. Recently, Steinberg et al. concluded that there were no adverse effects in rats from consumption of a GM corn tolerant to Roundup, called NK603, and that no other long-term studies are justified. This contradicts several of our in vivo studies on the short- and long-term toxicological effects of either the same GMO, other GMOs, or the pesticide Roundup itself. Our results were attributed in particular to the long-term in vivo effects of Roundup residues, which also present toxic and endocrine-disrupting effects in vitro. These effects were clearly linked to the formulants of the pesticide, such as petroleum residues and heavy metals, and not to glyphosate alone. In fact, the treated rats in Steinberg et al.’s experiment showed many adverse effects, some of which, including increased mortality in males fed GM corn + Roundup, were statistically significant. Other adverse effects affected both treated and control groups. The latter trend may be due to contamination of the feed of the control animals by many carcinogenic pollutants, including pesticides, but also by Roundup residues and Roundup-tolerant GMOs. For instance, glyphosate contained in Roundup was found to be 300–1400 times more elevated in their control feed than in our treated group. In conclusion, Steinberg et al.’s study is invalidated by the contaminated feed, biased interpretations, and major undeclared conflicts of interest.

March 13, 2020 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Science and Pseudo-Science | | Leave a comment

Coronavirus: People are left alone in the face of a rapidly growing virus pandemic – some thoughts out of Germany

By Roman Baudzus | Institute For Political Economy | March 3, 2020

Germany’s Federal Minister of Health, Jens Spahn (CDU), is a professional politician and a bureaucrat, so it can be assumed that Spahn may have learned a lot from Jean-Claude Juncker, who recently resigned as the EU´s Commission President.

“When things get serious, you have to lie,” Juncker once blatantly said in public when looking back at the euro crisis in the year 2011. It is easy to understand that, in addition to statements like these, it is the adapting behavior patterns of bureaucrats and professional politicians that have led to a steady decline in trust among citiziens in their European institutions over the past few years.

The fact that Jens Spahn seemed to be using the motto of Jean-Claude Juncker on the evening of January 31st was probably noticed by anyone who, based on good observation skills, developed a feeling for making an assessment for himself or herself of when and whether someone is lying.

This impression came to viewers on the evening of a TV program called “Maybrit Illner”, which is broadcast once a week on the Second German Television (ZDF), during which the discussions among the invited guests was the “novel Coronavirus” and its possibly associated dangers and risks for the German population.

According to data officially reported by the National Health Department of China (NHS), it should be noted that the number of novel Coronavirus infections in mainland China had – at this point of time – already exceeded the SARS infections registered in 2002 and 2003 over a period of nine months.

The city of Wuhan and the province of Hubei were already under lockdown enforced by the members of the People’s Liberation Army. At the same time, first cases of infection became known in Germany in the free state of Bavaria, where a Chinese woman infected at least four employees of the Bavarian automotive supplier Webasto with the new corona virus.

The afore mentioned TV program developed into a clash between Federal Minister of Health, Jens Spahn, look for yourself at the tense impression the guy made during the program, and Dr. Johannes Wimmer. Statements and warnings from Dr. Wimmer, according to whom the prospect of an aggravation of the situation in Germany should also be expected and a  possibly deteriorating mood among the population, was answered by Spahn with occassional aggressive rejections.

The official narrative of the German federal government at this very early point in time was that only a handful of infection cases with the novel Coronavirus or SARS-CoV-2 had been identified in Germany, whereas in the course of a seasonal flu, far more people were statistically at risk from contagion and / or could find death. The Coronavirus would be more harmless than a normal flu. At this time, there was no reason for scaremongering, according to Spahn. And it would be counterproductive.

Spahn also pointed out that the German health care system was well prepared if there was an increase in the number of infections in the country, whereas according to his statement at the time, five of the people suffering from the novel Coronavirus were already doing well and were cheerfully happy.

Not just Dr. Johannes Wimmer, but also other German doctors and virologists see the statements made by Spahn in a contrary way. Spahn was often faced with the illusion that Germany’s hospitals were well prepared for such a crisis.

Many people who work in German hospitals or care facilities have complained for years that there is a lack of personnel and important resources in this area. At this point in time, doctors and nursing staff are completely overwhelmed with their daily amount of patients.

As a result, it cannot be ruled out that, in the event of a pandemic and a massive increase in the number of affected patients, the German health system could collapse due to a lack of staff and permanent austerity measures – if it got really bad like in China.

In the face of a drastically worsening situation in mainland China following this television discussion, the Chinese government, whose officially transmitted infection data cannot be believed for a variety of reasons, Chinese travelers – despite many demands from various associations – were not refused entry to Germany by the German government.

Infection clusters were also growing in other regions of the world, particularly in Thailand, Iran, Japan, South Korea and Malaysia. From the point of view of the German federal government, this also gave no reason to protect the country’s home airports from travelers from the most affected countries by simply banning them from entry.

What was done was to introduce the taking of temperatures at German airports and set up various information boards to alert arriving travelers from all over the world to the dangers associated with the new coronavirus.

Since it had long been established at the time based on the results of a study that people infected with the novel Coronavirus could be asymptomatic for up to 24 days, which means without showing any signs of symptoms or illness, this behavior of the German federal government has already been negligent and over the past few weeks completely incomprehensible.

At the same time, the official narrative, according to which normal influenza was more dangerous and resulted in more fatalities over the course of a season, was maintained by the Federal Government and Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn, with which, from today’s perspective, the German population was misled and misinformed by its own government.

Officials such as Federal Minister of Health, Spahn, constantly downplayed possible dangers and risks, while increasingly critical reporting on the Internet was of course defamed under the category “conspiracy theories”.

From this point of view, the question arose how an interview by health expert Karl Lauterbach from the SPD party ruling the country in a coalition with the CDU with Springer press medium Die Welt from February 3 fitted into this narrative, which was officially maintained by the federal government, in which Lauterbach announced as follows: “We are dealing with a very dangerous pest.”

Now it should be looked at whether the time since the beginning of February has been used by the German government to initiate any preventive or containment measures of SARS-CoV-2 from spreading in the home country in the face of constantly increasing infection numbers in the rest of the world.

In this regard, nothing happened over the entire month of February. Rather, the risk of contagion and the health risk associated with SARS-CoV-2 were still downplayed by the German Minister of Health, Jens Spahn, in public appearances, with the help of Germany´s National Center for Infections and Disease Control, namely the Robert Koch-Institute (RKI).

The Robert Koch-Institute even issued the recommendation not to wear face masks. The question arises whether this recommendation could have something to do with the fact that German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas sent protective clothing, sprayers and disinfectants in abundance to China after the German government made the statement to the Chinese authorities to support them in their struggle against their local epidemic.

The result is that mouth and face masks have been sold out in almost all German pharmacies for some time. Some pharmacies that still have face masks in stock now sell a pack of 100 pieces for up to 90 euros. The German government is countering a buying panic by notifying the public that mouth protection against the virus is of no use.

Let´s see how things are seen in China, where Global Times editor Hu Xijin twittered as follows on March 2, 2020:

Suggesting people not wear face mask is seriously misleading. All of the Chinese experts have advised people to wear face masks when in contact with others during time of epidemic and consider it one of the most effective measures. Please heed suggestion of Chinese experts. pic.twitter.com/xUxq11m7Bg

— Hu Xijin 胡锡进 (@HuXijin_GT) March 2, 2020

And this at a time when a great deal of uncertainty was and is even more so spreading among the German population despite the attempt by government officials to calm down everyone, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel would have been expected to turn to the citizenry in terms of addressing the threat that is associated with SARS-CoV-2.

But in this emerging crisis, Merkel can hardly be heard or seen at all. Anyone who has followed the news formats on Germany´s public channels such as the first channel (ARD) over the month of February, especially the daily news broadcast every evening at 8:00 p.m. (Tagesschau), could not help but become aware of it, to become a “victim” of a propaganda and disinformation campaign that seemed to be focused on suppressing what´s going on in the rest of the world.

The more the number of infections with SARS-CoV-2 increased abroad – and especially in Asia – the calmer it became in the reporting by Germany´s public media. In some news programs such as ARD Tagesschau, the global development around SARS-CoV-2 was increasingly not even mentioned in one word. Such reporting can be described as ignoring propaganda.

Otherwise, most of the news programs on public channels, for whose reception German citizens have to pay an annual compulsory levy, dedicated its news stories in particular to the regional election in the eastern German state of Thuringia (Thüringen), the interference of the Berlin government with regard to its election result and a supposedly reviving right-wing radicalism in the country.

Once there was talk of the spread of SARS-CoV-2, it was in most cases about an establishment of quarantine stations in the country, in which German citizens brought home from Wuhan were taken in over a period of 14 days. It has also been reported that members of the German Red Cross will volunteer to help those affected in these quarantine facilities.

The fact that a 14-day quarantine period, based on current studies showing that the incubation period can be up to 27 days before infected people start developing disease symptoms, turns out to be too short, is neither mentioned nor addressed in the official planning of the various government authorities.

Furthermore, German airports remained open to travelers from high-risk areas such as China, Iran, South Korea, Thailand, etc. throughout the entire month of February – and this is still the case at present time.

A responsible government would have ensured that risks, threats, and dangers were communicated openly to the citizenry!

In my view, a responsible government would have ensured that risks and dangers were communicated openly to an increasingly insecure population. This would have included the temporary suspension of major events such as Carnival, Bundesliga soccer matches or the like in order to prevent a massive spread of infections. However, none of this has happened so far.

After such decisions have long been made in Italy, France and Switzerland, the German government is still not doing anything. The result is that weekend after weekend tens of thousands of visitors flock to the Bundesliga soccer stadiums to enjoy the matches.

The whole thing gets even more incredible. Despite the significant increase in confirmed novel Coronavirus cases in Germany, the Robert Koch-Institute does still not seem to see any increased risk to the general health of the German population.

“The risk can be assessed as low to moderate,” said RKI Vice President Lars Schaade recently at a press conference in Berlin. The RKI also advises: “Please receive your informatiom from reliable sources.” This statement is intended to insinuate that in the case of a “reliable source” it is solely the Robert Koch-Institute to advise people what to do and what not do.

Are people listening what the RKI is publicly recommending? It does not seem so. And there must be a valid reason why people choose not to listen.

For example the RKI  explicitly does not recommend “the use of disinfectants in everyday life, even in this current situation. It is neither recommended to use face masks or any other kind of mouth-nose protection in the general public or in everyday life. ”

It is already known among people that the RKI advises against mouth-nose protection like a mantra. Reason seems to be, as more and more local politicians from several states warn, that there is by far not enough equipment stored at German warehouses for which the health minister of the Western state Nothrine-Westphalia not only openly apologized recently but also said in a TV discussion to feel ashamed that things like this would be possible in a developed nation  like Germany.

Hygiene expert Professor Dr. Klaus-Dieter Zastrow contrastingly believes that the hand disinfection among people is now actively talked down by the RKI, which Zastrow finds “extremely dangerous”.

“This is a kind of misinformation that does neither help the population nor the country a yota in containing the local epidemic,” says Zastrow. Mouth and nose protection is the only effective protection against droplet infection. ”

The expert repeatedly criticized the incorrect information being published by the RKI. Since mouth and nose protection as well as hand disinfection were discouraged from the onset, the result is that a spread of the virus is even promoted and there would be no way to contain it.

Over the past few years things like this have unfortunately become quite normal in Germany. The fact that eleven cities in the two Northern Italian provinces of Lombardy and Veneto are now under lockdown by police and military forces does not change the perspective of the German government and the Robert Koch-Institute at all.

Considering the dramatically increasing number of confirmed cases, it is still pretended that an even greater spread of the novel Coronavirus in Germany could be managed by itself, although Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn has meanwhile announced that individual infection chains can no longer be traced back.

From “Coronavirus is more harmless than flu” to “We are at the beginning of a serious epidemic” – Despite the fact, Spahn is still doing nothing while Merkel is nowhere to be seen or heard!

After all, the basic general opinion of the German Federal Minister of Health changed at least once after the events in Northern Italy, since Spahn all of a sudden sees Germany “at the beginning of a Coronavirus epidemic”. It’s hard to believe! In a conference call, he (Spahn) asked the Federal Health Ministers of the 16 German states to “activate their pandemic plans and prepare for their possible entry into force”.

Despite his fears of an epidemic outbreak, Mr. Spahn still does not want to consider closing the German borders to other – and highly affected – European nations or to take into consideration a set up of police controls at the inner German borders of the individual states!

What kind of political “leadership” is that? Mr. Spahn seems to be waiting for the novel Coronavirus to spread throughout Germany, what is happening anyway at the moment. The failure to act by this federal government does not only leave you with the impression of negligence, but almost with the bitter impression of sabotaging the interests of the own population!

And what does the Brussels EU have to say in terms of this development: We exactly got what had to be expected.

Even in the wake of the rapid spread of the novel Coronavirus in Europe, EU officials are vehemently opposed to finally implementing border closures. Rather, in the face of current developments, it seems  more important from their perspective to maintain the policy of open borders among the 28 European Union member states.

Meanwhile, the number of confirmed infections in Italy has risen to more than 2,300 and a death toll of 52 persons as of today. Please keep in mind that this increase from three to more than 2,300 officially confirmed cases occurred within just a little more than one week. But the EU Health ministers, including Mr. Jens Spahn, still insist on their viewpoint that the Schengen agreement must remain untouched.

In the meantime, 50,000 citizens in Northern Italy still see themselves under lockdown in the two provinces of Lombardy and Veneto. From this point of view, why is it so difficult to close the borders in order to prevent an infiltration from Italy to the neighbouring nations on the continent? !! According to published information many cases being recently confirmed show that the affected German persons had been on vaccation or a business trip to Italy. Or they contracted the novel Coronavirus while being out for Carnival as if no one could have seen this coming.

Infiltration has already happened in Switzerland and Austria, too. The Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conti refuses to consider border closures as well, arguing that such a decision would not prevent the novel Coronavirus spreading to other European nations – what?!

Do you understand this logic? To minimize the spread of the highly infectious Coronavirus, far more drastic measures are likely to be needed soon, when you look at China and what the Chinese government was willing to be doing to bring the R0 or reproductive value of this virus down to one or below that level.

Former Italian Minister of the Interior, Matteo Salvini, has in the meantime called for the resignation of Conte  in response to Conte’s statements, because Conte obviously seems to be “unable to defend Italy and its citizens against a great danger”.

French Transport Minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari also refuses to close borders between France and Italy – not even temporarily. Germany´s Federal Minister of Health, Spahn, who has so far turned out to be a total failure in view of the crisis – and above all from a German perspective – seems to see things the same way.

EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides naturally sees things in the light of a common European market. Why wonder about Ms. Kyriakides being worried, when according to her own statement she sees “risks of a disinformation campaign”.

Statements like this are just echoing “concerns” over at the WHO, whose general director Dr Ghebreyesus is still not willing to declare a global pandemic by obviously keeping a close eye on the development of the so called catastrophe bonds formerly issued by the Worldbank. All these side shows seem to be more of importance than the health issues being associated with the Coronavirus outbreak. Or just name it corruption.

The question arises whether it is perhaps not just those people who are in leading political positions who, due to their ideologically coloured glasses, seem to be no longer aware of what is happening in the world. At what point will it become more important to stop a global and highly dangerous pandemic instead of putting one’s own economic ideology of open borders above the well-being of all people on our continent and the rest of the world?

A recent article in The Epoch Times, stated with reference to Deutschlandfunk, (in extracts) as follows:

Virologist criticizes “very slow” government reaction – Coronavirus “at least ten times more dangerous” than flu

The German virologist Alexander Kekulé has criticized the reactions of the European Union authorities regarding the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus. The approach of the responsible authorities would be far too “slow, relaxed, and leisurely”, Kekulé told Deutschlandfunk.

He called for “early” entry controls and “area-wide screenings” to protect populations against the epidemic, but it did not happen with the result that “infiltrations from country to country occurred”. Kekulé holds the academic Chair for Medical Microbiology and Virology at the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg and is Director of the Institute for Medical Microbiology at the University Hospital Halle.

On the occasion of the outbreak in Northern Italy, he now called for extensive testing of “every case” in Europe that can be associated with “serious respiratory infections”. The virologist had already suggested this to the European Health ministers two weeks ago. “The EU Health ministers did not agree with my suggestion, and now we observe things unfolding in Italy.”

Meanwhile, he also criticized the assessment of Germany´s Health Minister Jens Spahn and his authority in terms of the danger that is associated with the novel Coronavirus. “Above all, it is still the case that his authorities try to pretend as if the novel Coronavirus would be more harmless than flu.”

According to the virologist, the novel Coronavirus is “at least ten times more dangerous than flu” for those who get infected. In contrast to a normal flu, the risk groups being associated with the novel Coronavirus are still unknown.

“It’s a very different situation,” says Kekulé. The novel Coronavirus is not only fatal from the perspective of older or very young people, but for middle-aged people, too. On top there is no existing vaccine for the novel Coronavirus and “that’s why I do not understand why they’ve taken things so lightly thus far”.

If the German population is learning one thing these days, it is that they are alone in the face of a rapidly growing virus pandemic. At least it should be said with chancellor Merkel hiding in the shadow that the Berlin government has managed to set up a “crisis team” that includes the same government figures who have so far reportedly played down the emerging crisis and – for whatever reason – have taken things very lightly. This endangers people’s trust in the authorities.

So, my American fellows, and now look at your “crisis team”: Health Czar Mike Pence, Steven Mnuchin and Larry Kudlow. Jikes! Similar to the German perspective, this is certainly a “dream team” to fight dangerous viruses! An ex-Goldman investment banker and a former cocaine addict whose economic assessments were often nothing more than smoke and mirrors in the past.

Have you ever wondered what these people actually know about viruses?

Good luck with that and may god be with us!!

Roman Baudzus is running his own economics blog Wirtschaftsfacts on Cashkurs.com and has been contributor to various economic or political websites such as Goldmoney.com, Goldseiten.de or Heise/Telepolis.

March 5, 2020 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , , , | 1 Comment

European sanctions-busting payment channel for Iran registers ZERO transactions – Iranian ambassador

RT | March 3, 2020

Over a year since its launch, the EU’s INSTEX financial mechanism – designed to facilitate trade with sanctions-hit Iran – has not carried out any operations, Iran’s ambassador to Russia Kazem Jalali has revealed.

“The Europeans have developed the INSTEX mechanism, but to date, as I’m talking to you, no transactions have been made,” Jalali said during a meeting with Konstantin Kosachev, chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Russian senate.

The special purpose vehicle INSTEX was established by France, Germany and the United Kingdom in January 2019 in an attempt to rescue the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran. The move came after the US, which used to be one of the parties of the landmark deal, unilaterally abandoned the accord and restored tough sanctions on the Islamic Republic. After the trade channel became operational, six more EU states – Belgium, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden – decided to join it.

While the mechanism is still far from being implemented, having such a financial instrument could be more vital than ever for Iran, as it has been hit hardest among Middle Eastern countries by the coronavirus outbreak. The pneumonia-causing disease that originated from China has already killed 66 people in the country and infected more than 1,500.

Although the European initiatives to save the nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), look good on paper, Iran has repeatedly slammed the partners for their lack of action. Since the US’ withdrawal from the deal, Tehran has been gradually scaling back its nuclear commitments. One of the latest steps was made in January, when it announced that it would determine the enrichment level and the amount of enriched material it produced only in accordance with its own needs.

March 3, 2020 Posted by | Wars for Israel | , , | Leave a comment

Interview with Diana Johnstone by the Saker Italia

The Saker | February 29, 2020

Saker Italia interviewed Diana Johnstone, journalist and political writer, whose articles on politics and analysis on the contemporary global “hot” issues have already been published on Saker Italia. Thanks to her experience and activism (“the political is personal”), Diana offers an always lucid and uncompromising look at current issues. In fact, you may well remember the controversy and the censorship suffered for her position on Srebrenica (“Well, I am very much a genocide denier, and I’m proud of it and I can say why”), and the support Noam Chomsky also gave her on that.

With this interview to Diana, we want to face what we now consider most urgent issues: the gap between the Eastern (Russia, China, Iran) and the Atlantic bloc, USA’s global role and its deep “identity crisis”, and the current social and political movements fleeing the European model. Trying to take a look at our geopolitical future.

S.I. One of the hot and “macro” topics is the so-called “new world order”, in particular the evolution of the model of power balance from bipolar to multipolar. The historic opposition between the USA and Russia has been enriched with new players (China and Iran), and of course the American role is changing, a role that also influences the European balance and dynamics. What is the “picture” you can take of this moment? What evolution? Which new players do you think will appear? What is Israel’s role and/or the Israeli lobby’s influence in this context?

Is there really “historic opposition” between the USA and Russia?  Russia supported the North in the U.S. Civil War while Britain and France were on the side of the South, and Russia and the USA were on the same side in two world wars. The historic opposition to Russia was more British, recalling the “Great Game” of 19th century rivalry in Central Asia.

Russia was seen as a U.S. adversary on grounds of communism. The communist scare emerged as the perfect ideological pretext for the United States to maintain the dominance it gained from World War.  Western Europe had to be defended from communism. Third World countries had to be prevented from going communist.

Russians themselves evidently believed that U.S. animosity was purely ideological, based on communism. I think they really believed that the fall of Soviet communism would make the two nations into friendly partners.

All that happened is that the opposition was exposed as purely a matter of power relations. It becomes clearer that this is not an ideological battle between “liberal democracy” and “communist dictatorship” but between the United States and whoever resists U.S. world hegemony.

After two major twentieth century wars that ruined all the major powers, the United States moved in and occupied the power vacuum. Educated to consider America morally superior to the “old world”, U.S. leaders easily considered their new supremacy to be natural, inevitable and eternal. They are psychologically ill-equipped to think in Putin’s terms of “a world of equals”.

This attitude has been very successfully exploited by Israel’s champions, whether the neoconservative policy elite, Hollywood or AIPAC. They have managed to identify Israel as a little America, land of those who escaped wicked European persecution to create a free nation in the wilderness and who must forever fend off the enemies of democracy. The Israeli influence has had a very negative effect on both the American ideology and American methods, from targeted assassinations of political enemies to methods of crowd control.

I would not call Iran a “new player”. The United States holds an old grudge against the Islamic Republic dating back to the 1979 embassy hostage crisis. Saudi Arabia and especially Israel exploit this to portray their own most powerful regional adversary as a threat to the United States, when in reality Iran only seeks peaceful relations with the West.

The “new players” that could make a difference would be Western European countries whose leaders would manage to free themselves from the military and ideological occupation by the United States that has lasted over seventy years. But so far, Europe’s irresponsible obedience provides the decisive support to U.S. worldwide pretensions.


S.I.  Focusing on Europe, the EU is increasingly perceived by its citizens as a bureaucratic rather than a political or cultural entity. Also considering the foreign policy of Macron and Merkel, what’s your view on the current EU’s state of health?

The EU is indeed a bureaucratic rather than a political or cultural entity. Still worse, its treaties lock its member States into neoliberal economic policies and bind its defense to NATO. In short, the EU is the most advanced experiment in U.S.-dominated globalization.

In this context, neither the EU itself nor its member states can pursue their own foreign policy. That is why they are flailing about helplessly as they recognize that following the United States is leading them off the cliff.

French President has been widely quoted for remarking that NATO is “brain dead”. I just read an interview with Alain de Benoist who rightly observed that it is the European Union which is brain dead, whereas NATO is flourishing. That is all too true. NATO is actually making Europe’s foreign policy through its military buildup against Russia, and they all go along, although only Poland and the little Baltic States really approve.

The EU’s domestic policies are widely unpopular, and the foreign policy is dictated by NATO. Yet the EU persists because populations have been indoctrinated for generations that only these particular supranational structures preserve Europe from war – even as Europe has been being dragged into wars in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria… and what comes next?


S.I.
 The resolution of the European Parliament, which historically equated Nazism with communism, has recently aroused much controversy. Recalling also that the 75th anniversary of the victory over Nazism will be celebrated this year in May – a victory obtained mainly thanks to the Soviet government – what is your opinion on this ideological operation, easy to become a decisive political-cultural watershed for the identity of the European Union itself?

The European Parliament has no authority to do much of anything, least of all to define historic truth. This shameful resolution illustrates the intellectual vacuity of the current European political class as a whole.

The equation of Nazism with Soviet communism is based on the propagandistic practice of throwing both of them into a bag labeled “totalitarianism”, a questionable abstract concept which refers to techniques of ideological control, ignoring the sharp differences of intention and practice. The point is to discredit extreme left and extreme right and preserve the “liberal center” as the only innocent place to be. By installing an official version of history and an official liberal ideology, the European Parliament seems to be leaning toward a bit of totalitarianism itself. Since there is no such thing as a common European sensibility, the EU tries to identify itself with abstract ideas and historic myths, much like its sponsor, the United States.


S.I. Still talking about Europe, we see the movement of the yellow vests and the recent victory of Sinn Fein in the Irish elections. We see all these movements and expressions that are strongly in contrast not only with the concept of the EU but are also openly anti-establishment. What kind of future do you see for these movements? Which others are possibly ready to explode?

The European Construction was designed (notably along the lines laid out by Jean Monnet) to put an end to nation states and even to politics, replaced by capitalism and technocratic governance. But politics is reasserting itself in various ways. The lid is shaking and may come off. In France, the problem with the EU is that the neoliberal straitjacket blocks the sort of mixed economy, with a strong State role, an industrial policy, public services and social benefits. For Hungary, EU immigration policy threatens the identity of a small nation with a difficult language. These movements call attention to the growing differences between historic nations that according to the concept of the EU were supposed to grow into one European people. But right in the very center of the EU, Belgium is coming apart because prosperous right-leaning Dutch-speaking Flanders doesn’t want to share social costs with French-speaking, left-leaning Wallonia. This illustrates a North-South split that haunts the EU. If little Belgium can’t hold together after two hundred years, a King and a good soccer team, how will Finland and Portugal, Malta and Denmark, Germany and Greece merge into a nation?


S.I. In what is geographically Europe, we are witnessing the terrible conflict in Ukraine. Can you give us your opinion on the role of Europe? Do you think that the end of the conflict is likely to happen, and if so, how?

The role of Europe is simply deplorable. Seen from Washington, Ukraine is a big wedge to drive into Russia. Using Ukraine against Russia has been U.S. policy since the end of World War II. The usual U.S. tactic is exploitation of minority discontent to promote regime change, and the massive immigration of anti-Soviet, anti-Russian Ukrainians to North America has provided plenty of encouragement.

European policy makers should have had a more profound understanding of how dangerous it would be to exploit internal Ukrainian differences, stemming from a violent and complicated history marked by conflicting interpretations of history.

In the contrary, the whole current mess began with demands that Ukraine make a sharp choice in favor of economic accords with the EU, cutting ties with Russia, its main trading partner with strong historic links.  This was bound to revive and exacerbate divisions between the two halves of the country – Western Ukraine which looks West and Eastern Ukraine which looks East. Germany had its own pawns in Ukraine, and was pushing the EU takeover, but lost to the Americans. The United States exploited the uproar to back a coup giving control of the Kiev government to forces favorable to NATO membership. This amounted to a clear threat to bring Russia’s principal naval base in Crimea under US control. Russia was able to fend off this unacceptable threat peacefully, thanks to the well-established fact that most Crimeans wanted their territory to return to Russia. This was overwhelmingly demonstrated by referendum.

Now, any seriously educated person in Europe can understand that this was not a “Russian invasion” of Ukraine but a deft move to head off a potential military confrontation. Contrary to the NATO bombing that detached Kosovo from Serbia, it was both peaceful and democratic.

Meanwhile, the people of the Russian-speaking Donbass region revolted against the coup that overthrew the President they had voted for in favor of a hostile regime including neo-Nazi elements. Russia very easily could have invaded Eastern Ukraine in support of Donbass rebels but did not do so. Yet Atlantic solidarity obliged everyone to proclaim that Russia “invaded Ukraine” and thus “threatens to invade its neighbors”.

So Ukraine is mired in a frozen conflict. Yet the way out was clear enough almost from the beginning, when leaders from France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine met in 2014 during commemorations of the D-Day Normandy landings in an attempt to work towards a solution. The outlines of a solution have been obvious from the beginning: a decentralized Ukraine, perhaps a federation on the German model, which would enable the regions to enjoy self-government. Only the Americans have an interest in the ongoing Ukrainian civil war, as a thorn in the side of Russia. The United States made it clear during the Yugoslav crisis of the 1990s that it could not stand back and allow Europeans to solve their own problems. Ukraine is a critical test of that control.


S.I. Looking at the world map, what are your thoughts and predictions on the near geopolitical future?

Today, Syria is still the central point of confrontation between great powers. I try to understand the past and the present, and never venture to predict the future. But I can worry. I worry about insane NATO military exercises on Russia’s borders. I worry today about the reckless and totally illegal Turkish intervention in Syria, which is bringing a NATO member into direct conflict with Russia. The very existence of NATO is a threat to the world, and if European leaders weren’t “brain dead”, they would demand its dissolution. Meanwhile, I read that there is strong opposition to Erdogan’s adventurism from the Turkish people. Instead of artificial “regime change” engineered by U.S. agencies, we need more genuine critical movements of European peoples demanding that governments meet domestic needs and end military confrontation.


Diana Johnstone is an American political writer, focusing primarily on European politics and Western foreign policy. She received a BA in Russian Area studies and a PhD in French literature at the University of Minnesota. Active in the movement against the Vietnam War, she organized the first international contacts between American citizens and Vietnamese representatives.

Diana worked for Agence France Presse, for In These Times as European Correspondent, and she was press officer of the Green group in the European Parliament from 1990 to 1996. Most of Johnstone’s adult life has been spent in France, Germany, and Italy, and from 1990 she has lived in Paris. Her writings have been published in New Left Review, Counterpunch, and Covert Action Quarterly.

She is author of the books “The Politics of Euromissiles: Europe’s Role in America’s World” (1984),  “The Politics of Euromissiles: Europe’s Role in America’s World (1985), Fools’ Crusade , Nato, and Western Delusions” (2003),  Queen of Chaos: The Misadventures of Hillary Clinton (2015 – Disponibile in italiano col titolo “Hillary Clinton. Regina del caos”). In 2020 she published “Circle in the Darkness: Memoir of a World Watcher”, a book recounting Diana’s lifelong effort to understand what is going on in the world, seeking the truth about our troubled times beyond the veils of government propaganda and media deception.

February 29, 2020 Posted by | Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Erdoğan Unleashes New Migrant Crisis in Europe

By Paul Antonopoulos | February 28, 2020

At least 33 Turkish soldiers who were illegally operating in Syria’s Idlib province were killed and another 35 injured by a Syrian military attack on Thursday night. The attack came just days before Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s end of month deadline for the Syrian Army to forfeit the large swathes of area it has liberated from Turkish-backed jihadists and to return to positions it held at the beginning of the year. The powerful assault suggests that the Syrian Army has no intentions to withdraw from any positions it holds on its own land and is willing to engage the Turkish military, even under threat of a full-scale war.

Although Russia has denied any involvement in the attack, hundreds of Turks congregated at the Russian consulate in the middle of the night chanting “Russian Killers, Putin Killer.” Despite this, Ankara has ignored the emotions of the people and thus far has only blamed the Syrian government for the “nefarious attack against heroic soldiers in Idlib who were there to ensure our national security,” as described by Turkish director of communications Fahrettin Altun in a statement.

Of course, this is a long stretch to claim that Turkey is in Idlib to ensure natural security as they are the main backers of terrorist organizations like ISIS and the Al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Nusra and Turkistan Islamic Party. Although they claim the Kurdish People’s Protection Units are a threat to Turkey’s national security, they have no presence in Idlib, meaning the notion that Turkey’s national security is under threat in Idlib has to be rejected and rather this is part of a project for a neo-Ottoman Empire.

Although Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu spoke to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the Syrian attack in the hope of invoking Article 5 and forcing NATO members into Erdoğan’s adventurism in Idlib, Article 6 explicitly excludes Article 5 being invoked in areas outside of NATO members territory. As Article 5 cannot be invoked, Stoltenberg made a weak condemnation against both Syria and Russia and said “defusing the tension, all sides should prevent this terrible situation and humanitarian conditions in the region from getting worse.”

Despite cold relations over the past few years, the U.S. has continued taking advantage of tense relations between Moscow and Ankara with a State Department representative saying “We stand by our NATO Ally Turkey and continue to call for an immediate end to this despicable offensive by the Assad regime, Russia, and Iranian-backed forces.” This was followed up by U.S. ambassador to NATO, Kay Bailey Hutchison, saying that Turkey should see “who is their reliable partner and who isn’t” and expressed her “hope that President Erdoğan will see that we are the ally of their past and their future and they need to drop the S-400.” Washington is taking every opportunity to firmly put Turkey back into the NATO sphere even if it is acting independent of NATO and after Ankara’s short-lived flirtation with multipolarity.

Even though Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations, repeated his call for a ceasefire in Idlib following the attack, the Syrian Army are unlikely to halt their operation to clear the northwest province of Turkish-backed terrorist forces. Rather, as Erdoğan’s deadline approaches, the Turkish president is likely to weaponize the high casualty rate of Turkish soldiers in Idlib to justify a direct war with Syria and get the general population into an emotional frenzy, bypassing any calls for a ceasefire that will likely be rejected by Syria anyway.

Although NATO made a weak response to Turkey, the EU also responded weakly by offering condolences as Erdoğan opens his country’s borders for 72 hours, allowing tens of thousands of illegal immigrants to flood to the borders of Greece and Bulgaria, violating the 2016 EU-Turkey refugee deal. Effectively Erdoğan has once again weaponized refugees to blackmail the EU despite the latter having no involvement in Idlib. Spearheading this migrant flow into Europe in response to the Syrian attack on Turkish soldiers is the Turkish Intelligence Agency MIT who were directly transporting illegal immigrants with buses to the border regions. Erdoğan hopes that by flooding Europe with illegal immigrants it will force the EU to become more involved in Idlib against the Syrian government and Russia.

However, as many EU members are also NATO members, it is unlikely to work as frontline EU states like Greece and Bulgaria will only have more hostile relations with Turkey and are not wanting to get involved in Syria for the sake of Erdoğan’s dreams. Close ally of Erdoğan, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Chairman Devlet Bahçeli, and Justice and Development (AK) Party Spokesman Omer Çelik, demanded overnight that NATO become involved. But as Turkey is going to flood two NATO members with illegal migrants and violates Greek airspace on a daily basis, it is unlikely to find widespread support.

Although Washington is taking every advantage of Turkey’s spat with Russia to mend relations, it is also unlikely that the U.S. will want to risk a potential conflict with Russia over Idlib and Erdoğan, and will probably limit its support to intelligence, weapons and diplomacy if Turkey is to go to war with Syria. But what is for certain, Turkey will not find massive support for any adventurism in Syria from NATO as it hopes to achieve and rather it will make many NATO members criticize Turkey’s one-sided and aggressive policy towards Syria.

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

February 28, 2020 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Crickets! Finland’s Insect Food Boom Goes Bust

Grilled maggots for human consumption

Swedish ‘Sustainable Food’ Project Teaches Kids to Eat Insects, Garbage © CC BY-SA 3.0 / Guttorm Flatabø / Grilled maggots for human consumption
Sputnik – February 27, 2020

Despite the media’s preoccupation with insect food and massive campaigns touting crickets and larvae as a sustainable and climate-responsible alternative to meat, the excitement has waned in a matter of several years, the Finnish broadcaster Yle reported, concluding that Finns are “not yet ready to eat crickets”.

Finland’s cricket breeding business took off in September 2017, when the country’s Ministry of Agriculture allowed breeding and selling insects as food, a decision made possible by a revision of the EU’s food standards.

After that the number of insect breeding facilities spiked, as revenues in the billions of euros were predicted. In 2018, Europe’s largest cricket farm emerged in Loviisa, which began to produce hundreds of tonnes of insect powder.

However, in the following years, the buzz subsided, and insect breeders suffered major setbacks amid dwindling demand and stiff competition.

According Lauri Jyllilä of the Finsect company, which promotes insect food, there were over 70 companies in the insect food business at the peak of the enthusiasm. Now, there are about 50 left, with no new companies being founded.

The price of frozen crickets reached as much as 100 euros per kilogram, Jyllilä explained, which was way too expensive even for sympathetic and ecologically-minded consumers.

“The cost of freshly frozen crickets should be 10-15 euros per kilogram”, Jyllilä ventured.

Kurikka resident Panu Ollikkala, one of Finland’s first cricket breeding specialists, dropped out of the competition in the autumn of 2019.

“Demand was inadequate. The price has fallen so much that my business didn’t pay off”, a despondent Olikkala mused.

The Kouvola farm, touted as Europe’s largest, followed suit. Entrepreneur Vesa-Matti Rajamäki admitted that he no longer believed in the success of cricket production. Numerous unsuccessful insect breeders complained that the massive support of the traditional meat industry makes competition virtually impossible.

“A lot of beautiful words were said about the insect business. Many farms were opened, and bank loans were taken” cricket farm owners Kirsi and Jouko Siikoine said. They intend to close down their business in March 2020. “The onterest in eating insects and the insect processing sector has plummeted”, the couple explained.

In the city of Kurikka, which is now considered the centre of insect production, crickets are still being bred, but a downward trend is visible.

“This is a sort of cricket breeding bank, thanks to which you can quickly restore your production if you want”, Jyllilä explained.

The University of Turku, the Finnish Institute of Natural Resources, and the Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency ran a project named “Insects in the food chain” and concluded that the main difficulty is getting the approval of bulk consumers. Even people who opt out of meat for the sake of the carbon footprint or perceived health benefits largely prefer vegetable sources of protein.

Crickets are often grounded into powder and added to bread, protein bars and chocolate. However, after large-scale promotion, many products gradually left the market.

The main selling point of the bug diet is the reduced environmental footprint. According to Finnish insect producers, a single kilogram of crickets only requires a single litre of water, as opposed to 2,500 litres for a kilogram of rice and a whopping 15,400 litres for a kilogram of beef. Insect food is also claimed to be rich in protein.

Many are still averse to eating insects for reasons of ideology and aesthetics. This opposition has resulted in a common web mantra: “I will not eat bugs and I will not live a pod”.

February 27, 2020 Posted by | Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity, Science and Pseudo-Science | | 1 Comment

EU delaying tactics bring it closer to Trump’s deal

By Ramona Wadi | MEMO | February 18, 2020

For all its purported peace-building efforts and support for Palestinian rights, the EU is committed to supporting Israel’s colonial-settler expansionism. Its feeble response to US President Donald Trump’s so-called “deal of the century” was accentuated in the recent decision to refuse to pass any official resolutions until after next month’s Israeli General Election.

Palestine is never a priority in foreign policy anywhere. Yet the Palestinian Authority persists in pursuing non-existent international support, notably that of the EU, ostensibly to navigate the labyrinth of dispossession which the UN’s 1947 Partition Plan forced upon the people of Palestine. The truth is that the PA is scrambling to retain its bequeathed diplomatic standing and the funding that allows it to function as the “sole representative” of the Palestinians.

In return, the PA facilitates the waiting game for the international community, while Palestinians suffer statements such as the latest by EU Foreign Affairs Chief Josep Borrell. “We briefly discussed how best to relaunch a political process that is acceptable to both parties and how best to defend the internationally agreed parameters, equal rights and international law,” he declared on Monday. Defending internationally agreed parameters has nothing to do with protecting Palestinian rights, and PA leader Mahmoud Abbas is aware of this discrepancy.

Meanwhile, Israel is lobbying EU countries to refrain from taking a stance against Trump’s plan. Israeli media highlights the fact that recognition of the State of Palestine by several European countries has “little, if any, diplomatic effect.” While in previous years, recognition of Palestine raised Israel’s ire, it is now being touted as a futile PA effort in comparison with the US-Israeli partnership to colonise Palestine, as well as the EU’s increasingly non-committal stance towards Palestinians and their legitimate political rights.

Nevertheless, Israel will not take any risk that the EU might voice a unified condemnation of Trump’s plan. The delay communicated by the EU with regard to its response over US-Israeli scheming indicates diplomatic activity that favours Israel. The latter allegedly “fears” the EU playing a major role in any future negotiations. Netanyahu has pledged to carry out the annexation of the occupied West Bank if re-elected, and the EU has done nothing other than issue the usual bland condemnation. If the EU does indeed take on a more influential role in negotiations, whether these are based on the defunct two-state compromise or Trump’s proposal, it will clearly adopt a pro-Israel stance.

Behind the scenes, Israel is lobbying for such a scenario and there is nothing to impede the EU from continuing with its track record of marginalising Palestinians. Before Trump’s deal was revealed, EU diplomats attempted to differentiate between the allegedly law-abiding EU and the international law-abusing US. The illusion of a political struggle between both entities was the focus of analysis, which suited Israel as it shifted attention away from the Palestinians.

The final step in this process will matter little to Israel as long as the EU does not depart from its decades-long policy of pretending to support Palestinian rights while actively pursuing stronger ties with Israel. One point, however, must be clarified. If the EU is seeking additional delays before issuing a statement regarding the deal of the century, the words of former EU representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini must be recalled: the EU would consider working with the US plan if the two-state paradigm is included. One obsolete imposition has now been replaced by another that offers fragments of a state, which the EU and its backing for Israeli expansionism has supported tacitly all along.

 

February 18, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , | Leave a comment