Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

Corona-Chan Didn’t Care Until I Put on the Mask

By Anatoly Karlin • Unz Review • April 2, 2020

For most of the past two months, Russian disinformation agents respectable Western Establishment voices such as the Surgeon-General of the US, the CDC, and the MSM (e.g. CNN, Vox) have churned out propaganda that masks are ineffective against containing the spread of the coronavirus. In perhaps the most “powerful” take, Forbes even claimed that they INCREASE infection risk.

This propaganda was bizarre on multiple levels. First, it violated common sense – even a T-shirt wrapped around your mouth and nose will ward off large droplets – there’s a massive amount of other evidence in favor of masks. Second, the conventional wisdom appears to be that this advice was given for a putative “greater good” – preventing runs on masks, so as to spare them for healthcare workers who are much more exposed to the virus. This, at least, made sense – though it had to be balanced against the negative impact on public trust towards “experts” and institutions. However, as Scott Alexander has noted, this explanation is likely false; in reality, the CDC and other American experts have been dismissing the efficacy of face masks for years, including during the H1N1 epidemic in 2009 and the MERS epidemic in 2015. So the real explanation is much less altruistic and far more banal than even reasoned critics gave them credit for – it was just sheer bureaucratic inertia and unwillingness to adapt East Asian best practice.

In any case, there is evidence of a turnaround. Global mask production has been revving up, though East Asia remains far in the lead – China alone produces almost half the world’s masks at ~100+ million units per day, and its capacity to supply them will enable it to acquire massive soft power in the coming months. Moreover, an official recommendation to wear masks in public in the US appears to be imminent. The process is more advanced in several European states, such as Czechia, where according to Twitter, face mask adaptation has become near as universal as in East Asia.

This is very good news, if long overdue. Had these policies been adopted at the very start, it is entirely possible that the West would not have seen the huge epidemics and morbid debates about whether to save the boomers or the GDP when a massive bunch of 5 cent face masks would have sufficed to keep r0 at close to 1. But this was left too late, and now there is no choice – POLITICALLY, at any rate – but to impose huge lockdowns that are going to crater the world economy (if only in the short-term… if we’re lucky).

The rest constitutes what I hope will be a useful reference on mask efficacy to convince people who insist that they are useless/won’t do anything/etc. Practical advice on face masks usage at my COVID-19 Survival Guide.

***

East Asian “Lived Experience”

Basic facts: No East Asian region outside Hubei, China – despite their FAR more intensive travel links with China – have experienced major COVID-19 epidemics as in Europe and the US. Not even South Korea, which experienced a freak occurrence thanks to Patient 31, a church-frequenting “superspreader.” Meanwhile, Japan has seen just a bit more than a thousand cases, despite adopting a very relaxed stance towards lockdowns, quarantines, and travel restrictions by global standards – there has not been a COVID-19 explosion as in Europe. Taiwanese cases capped out at 47, before Europeans started tilting their numbers modestly upwards again.

Science: Not wearing masks to protect against coronavirus is a ‘big mistake,’ top Chinese scientist says

Balaji S. Srinivasan: “… Asia shows it doesn’t have to be this way. And their playbooks are online. So it’s bizarre to watch Western leaders surrender to the idea of 40-80% infection rates AND extended lockdown. That’s not a manageable situation, it’s overnight impoverishment.

***

Articles

* Scott Alexander: Face Masks: Much More Than You Wanted To Know. Does a large meta-analysis of different studies to conclude that surgical masks are effective.

Meanwhile, n95 masks are more effective than surgical masks, but only if you put them on properly – which is apparently not a trivial task:

I remember my respirator training, the last time I worked in a hospital. They gave the standard two minute explanation, made you put the respirator on, and then made you go underneath a hood where they squirted some aerosolized sugar solution. If you could smell the sugar, your respirator was leaky and you failed. I tried so hard and I failed so many times. It was embarrassing and I hated it.

I’m naturally clumsy and always bad at that kind of thing. Some people were able to listen to the two minute explanation and then pass right away. Those kinds of people could probably also listen to a two minute YouTube explanation and be fine. So I don’t want to claim it’s impossible or requires lots of specialized background knowledge. It’s just a slightly difficult physical skill you have to get right.

Bunyan et al, 2013, Respiratory And Facial Protection: A Critical Review Of Recent Literature, discusses this in more depth. They review some of the same studies we reviewed earlier, showing no benefit of N95 respirators over surgical masks for health care workers in most situations. This doesn’t make much theoretical sense – the respirators should win hands down.

The most likely explanation is: doctors aren’t much better at using respirators than anyone else. In a California study of tuberculosis precautions, 65% of health care workers used their respirators incorrectly. That’s little better than the general public, who have a 76% failure rate. …

Is a poorly-fitting N95 respirator better than nothing? The reviewed studies suggest that at that point it’s just a very fancy and expensive surgical mask.

* Dr. Sui Huang: COVID-19: Why We Should All Wear Masks — There Is New Scientific Rationale

The surgeon general tweeted: “STOP BUYING MASK, they are not effective…”. The Center for Disease Controls (CDC) states that surgical masks offer far less protection than the N95 respirator masks (which also must be perfectly fitted and only professionals can do it). The CDC recommends that healthy persons should not wear masks at all, only the sick ones. These guidelines are not rooted in scientific rationales but were motivated by the need to save the valuable masks for health professionals in view of a shortage. But they may have had unintended consequences: stigmatizing those that wear masks in the public (you are a hoarder, or you are contagious!)

Contrast this with the cultural habit, the encouragement, or even mandate to wear masks in Asian countries — which have now “flattened the curve” or even have had a flatter curve from the beginning.

* Less Wrong: Credibility of the CDC on SARS-CoV-2

***

Studies

* Yan, Jing, Suvajyoti Guha, Prasanna Hariharan, and Matthew Myers. 2019. “Modeling the Effectiveness of Respiratory Protective Devices in Reducing Influenza Outbreak.Risk Analysis: An Official Publication of the Society for Risk Analysis 39 (3): 647–61.

It was found that a 50% compliance in donning the device resulted in a significant (at least 50% prevalence and 20% cumulative incidence) reduction in risk for fitted and unfitted N95 respirators, high-filtration surgical masks, and both low-filtration and high-filtration pediatric masks. An 80% compliance rate essentially eliminated the influenza outbreak.

* Davies, Anna, Katy-Anne Thompson, Karthika Giri, George Kafatos, Jimmy Walker, and Allan Bennett. 2013. “Testing the Efficacy of Homemade Masks: Would They Protect in an Influenza Pandemic?Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness 7 (4): 413–18.

The median-fit factor of the homemade masks was one-half that of the surgical masks. Both masks significantly reduced the number of microorganisms expelled by volunteers, although the surgical mask was 3 times more effective in blocking transmission than the homemade mask.

* Radonovich, Lewis J., Jr, Michael S. Simberkoff, Mary T. Bessesen, Alexandria C. Brown, Derek A. T. Cummings, Charlotte A. Gaydos, Jenna G. Los, et al. 2019. “N95 Respirators vs Medical Masks for Preventing Influenza Among Health Care Personnel: A Randomized Clinical Trial.” JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association 322 (9): 824–33.

In this pragmatic, cluster randomized clinical trial involving 2862 health care personnel, there was no significant difference in the incidence of laboratory-confirmed influenza among health care personnel with the use of N95 respirators (8.2%) vs medical masks (7.2%).

* Leung, Nancy H. L., Daniel K. W. Chu, Eunice Y. C. Shiu, Kwok-Hung Chan, James J. McDevitt, Benien J. P. Hau, Hui-Ling Yen, et al. 2020. “Respiratory Virus Shedding in Exhaled Breath and Efficacy of Face Masks.” Nature Medicine, April.

April 4, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Science and Pseudo-Science | , , , | Leave a comment

US sidestepped OWN SANCTIONS against Russia to save American lives from Covid-19… If only it cared as much about Iranian lives

By Scott Ritter | RT | April 3, 2020

When it comes to saving American lives, sanctions are not an obstacle to the provision of life-saving medical equipment. Ramping up sanctions on struggling Iran is okay however – which goes to show the US price tag on human life.

It was a sight that warmed the heart of even the most cynical American opponent of Vladimir Putin’s Russia—a giant An-124 aircraft, loaded with boxes of desperately needed medical supplies, being offloaded at JFK Airport. When President Trump spoke on the phone with his Russian counterpart on March 31, he mentioned America’s need for life-saving medical supplies, including ventilators and personal protective equipment. Two days later the AN-124 arrived in New York.

As the aircraft was being unloaded, however, it became clear that at least some of the equipment being offloaded had been delivered in violation of existing US sanctions. Boxes clearly marked as containing Aventa-M ventilators, produced by the Ural Instrument Engineering Plant (UPZ), could be seen. For weeks now President Trump has made an issue about the need for ventilators in the US to provide life-saving care for stricken Americans.

There was just one problem—the manufacturer of the Aventa-M, UPZ, is a subsidiary of Concern Radio-Electronic Technologies (KRET) which, along with its parent holding company ROSTEC, has been under US sanctions since 2014. Complicating matters further is the fact that the shipment of medical supplies was paid in part by the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), a Russian sovereign wealth fund which, like ROSTEC, was placed on the US lending blacklist in 2014 following Russia’s intervention in Crimea. Half of the Russian aid shipment was paid for by the US State Department, and the other half by RDIF.

According to a State Department spokesperson, the sanctions against RDIF do not apply to purchases of medical equipment. KRET, however, is in the strictest SDN (Specially Designated Persons) sanctions list, which means US citizens and permanent residents are prohibited from doing business with it. So while the letter of the sanctions may not have been violated, the spirit certainly has been.

One only need talk to the embattled Governor of New York State, Andrew Cuomo, to understand the difficulty in trying to purchase much-needed medical equipment during a global pandemic where everyone else is trying to do the same. New York has been competing with several other states to purchase much-needed ventilators from China. “It’s like being on eBay”, Cuomo recently told the press, with 50 states bidding against one another, driving the price up. The issue became even more complicated when the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, entered the bidding war. “They big-footed us”, Cuomo said, driving the price per ventilator up to $25,000. “We’re going broke.”

Cuomo estimates that New York will need upwards of 40,000 ventilators to be able to handle the influx of stricken patients when the outbreak hits its peak. At the moment, New York has 17,000 ventilators available—including 2,500 on order from China—and Cuomo doesn’t expect any more. “We’re on our own.” Plans are in place to begin imposing a triage system to prioritize ventilator availability if and when the current stockpile is exhausted. These plans include the issuance of an emergency waiver that permits health care providers to take a patient off a ventilator to make it available for another patient deemed to be more “viable”—that is, who has a greater expectation of surviving the disease.

Cuomo’s predicament is being played out around the world, in places like Italy, Spain—and Iran, where the outbreak of coronavirus has hit particularly hard. The difference, however, is that while the US, Italy and Spain are able to scour the global market in search of life-saving medical supplies, Iran is not. US sanctions targeting the Iranian financial system, ostensibly imposed to prevent “money laundering” by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Command, which has been heavily sanctioned by the US over the years, have made it virtually impossible for Iran to pay for humanitarian supplies needed to fight the coronavirus outbreak.

As bad as it is for Governor Cuomo, at least he can enter a bidding war for medical supplies. Iran can’t even get its foot in the door, and it is costing lives. Making matters worse, at a time when the international community is pleading for the US to ease sanctions so Iran can better cope with an outbreak that is taking a life every ten minutes, the US instead doubled down, further tightening its death grip on the Iranian economy.

The global coronavirus pandemic will eventually end, and when it does there will be an accounting for how nations behaved. Nations like Russia and China have been repeatedly vilified in the US media for any number of reasons—even the Russian aid shipment containing the sanctioned ventilators has been dismissed as a “propaganda ploy.” What, then, do you call the US’ blatant disregard for select human lives?

The callous indifference displayed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other officials to the suffering of the Iranian people by increasing sanctions at a time when the situation cries out for them to be lifted in order to save lives, when contrasted to the ease in which US sanctions on Russia are ignored when life-saving medical equipment is needed, drives home the point that, as far as the US is concerned, human life only matters when it is an American one. That might play well among American voters (it shouldn’t), but for the rest of the world it is a clear sign that hypocrisy, not humanitarianism, is the word that will define the US going forward.

Scott Ritter is a former US Marine Corps intelligence officer. He served in the Soviet Union as an inspector implementing the INF Treaty, in General Schwarzkopf’s staff during the Gulf War, and from 1991-1998 as a UN weapons inspector. Follow him on Twitter @RealScottRitter

April 3, 2020 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Isn’t that ‘Medicare for all’? Trump administration rolls out interesting plan for funding Covid-19 treatments in US

RT | April 3, 2020

The Trump administration has said it intends to pay providers treating coronavirus patients at ‘Medicare rates’ and prohibit additional billing – in effect, testing a flagship progressive proposal for nationalized healthcare.

“We will send money to providers through the same mechanism used for testing,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told reporters on Friday, referring to the $100 billion in funds earmarked for healthcare providers in the CARES stimulus act.

The government will reimburse any patients with Covid-19 that lack health insurance at Medicare rates, and will ban them from “balance-billing” those patients, Azar added, noting that this will give the millions of newly unemployed – and therefore uninsured – Americans a better deal than falling back on “Obamacare” insurance exchanges.

This did not escape the attention of President Barack Obama’s former healthcare czar Andy Slavitt, who hinted that this basically amounted to “Medicare for all” – a proposal for single-payer healthcare championed by Senator Bernie Sanders as part of his bid for the Democrat presidential nomination.

Azar’s announcement amounts to a field test of Sanders’s proposal, at a time when the US economy has been crippled by the weeks-long shutdown ordered as a measure to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, mainstream Democrats – such as the establishment favorite Joe Biden and 2016 candidate Hillary Clinton – have clamored for the government to reopen Obamacare exchanges, condemning Trump for not doing so, only to get “outflanked from the left” by the White House.

The CARES Act is an ambitious $2.2 trillion package passed by Congress last week, intended to deal with the pandemic but also offset the economic fallout of the measures imposed to combat its spread. As of Friday, the US has registered almost 274,000 cases of Covid-19, with just over 7,000 deaths.

April 3, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , , | 1 Comment

We need to cut around 10 mln barrels per day of oil production, Russia is ready to act with US on oil markets – Putin

RT | April 3, 2020

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country is ready to work with the Trump administration to halt the freefall of oil prices. His comments come after a phone call with President Trump earlier this week.

Putin also noted that the daily oil output should be cut by around 10 million barrels, as there is lower demand due to coronavirus. Oil prices started dwindling after OPEC+ countries disagreed on production cuts, with Saudi Arabia refusing to lower the output.

With an ongoing “price war” between Russia and Saudi Arabia driving prices even further down, US president Trump said on Thursday that “it would be great” if the two countries could make a deal to limit production.

Putin had already spoken to Trump by phone earlier this week, and on Friday announced that he is ready to cut production by 10 million barrels per day.

The Russian leader said that moving forward, Moscow would be comfortable with a price of $42 per barrel, roughly $10-15 higher than current levels.

Oil prices jumped prior to Putin’s Friday announcement, after Trump spoke of a pending deal.

No talks between Moscow and Riyadh have yet taken place, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday. However, non-OPEC member Azerbaijan announced that the petroleum bloc and its allies will hold discussions on Monday aimed at restoring “balance to the oil market.”

Saudi Arabia, ramped up its production on Wednesday to a record high of more than 12 million barrels per day, after previous OPEC+ production cuts expired at the end of March.

During a televised meeting with Energy Minister Alexander Novak Putin said the Saudi crown is flooding the market to force competing shale oil producers out of business, among them the US and Russia.

Novak noted that he doesn’t know when the world’s plummeting demand for oil will finally bottom out.

April 3, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , | 1 Comment

US Sends Navy Ships to Caribbean in ‘Anti-Drug’ Mission Targeting Venezuela

By Ricardo Vaz and Lucas Koerner | Venezuelanalysis | April 2, 2020

Mérida  – The Trump administration is dispatching US Navy warships to the Caribbean Sea in an effort to turn up the pressure on Venezuela.

The initiative was announced by President Donald Trump and other high ranking officials in a press conference Wednesday.

The move is allegedly part of a wider “anti-narcotics” operation in the region, which in addition to Navy destroyers will reportedly involve AWAC surveillance aircraft and on-ground special forces units. The Associated Press reported that the operation is one of the largest in the region since the 1989 invasion of Panama.

“We must not let malign actors exploit the [coronavirus] situation for their own gain,” Trump said.

The military deployment came on the heels of the Department of Justice (DoJ) levying “narco-terrorism” charges against top-ranking Venezuelan officials, as well as a “democratic transition” plan unveiled by the State Department.

On March 26, the DoJ accused President Nicolas Maduro, National Constituent Assembly Diosdado Cabello and several other officials of conspiring with FARC rebels to “flood” the US with cocaine.

Critics have pointed to the dearth of concrete evidence implicating top Venezuelan leaders and to the fact that data from US agencies shows that only a small fraction of drug routes pass through Venezuela, with most cocaine entering US territory via Central America and Mexico.

A map produced by the US Southern Command shows the main drug-smuggling routes connecting Colombia and Ecuador with Guatemala and Mexico via the Pacific Ocean.

On Tuesday, the State Department unveiled a “framework for a peaceful democratic transition in Venezuela,” calling for Maduro’s resignation and the establishment of a transition government headed by opposition and Chavista officials to oversee new elections.

The Trump administration pledged to lift sanctions against Venezuelan individuals and key economic sectors, but only after Maduro left office and all security agreements with Russia and Cuba were terminated.

The US has vowed to ramp up unilateral sanctions until the Maduro administration accepts the deal.

For its part, the Venezuelan government blasted the military deployment, with Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez calling it “an attempt to attack Venezuela with lies and threats.”

Rodriguez added that Venezuela has “robust” anti-narcotics policies and would be ready to “coordinate” actions against drug trafficking in the region.

Washington’s naval operation comes days after the controversial sinking of a Venezuelan coast guard boat off the coast of the Caribbean island of La Tortuga.

According to the Venezuelan Ministry of Defense, the patrol ship “Naiguata” located a Portuguese cruise ship, the “RCGS Resolute,” in Venezuelan territorial waters and ordered the vessel to accompany it to port. The “Resolute” allegedly refused the instructions and proceeded to ram the “Naiguata,” which subsequently sank as a result of the impact.

The cruise ship owner, Columbia Cruise Services, has disputed this account, insisting that the “Resolute” was “subject to an act of aggression by the Venezuelan Navy in international waters,” while carrying no passengers.

On Wednesday, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro suggested the ship “was being used to transport mercenaries.” He also claimed that “someone from the north called” to prevent Dutch authorities from inspecting the “Resolute” at its current mooring in the Curacao port of Willemstad.

Portuguese Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva, for his part, has pledged to collaborate with Venezuela and Holland in the investigation of the “unfortunate” incident.

April 3, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | , , | 2 Comments

Crisis & Critique: US Ramps up Aggression amid Pandemic

By Ociel Alí López – Venezuelanalysis – April 1, 2020

Venezuela has been one of the countries least affected by the coronavirus pandemic in the region so far. Nevertheless, the US government is attempting to exploit the situation in order to force a violent outcome to the country’s political standoff, putting a price on the head of Maduro and other top functionaries as well as pushing a new “transition” plan to depose the government in exchange for sanctions relief. Meanwhile, Venezuela’s attorney general has summoned Guaido for questioning on April 2. Far from bringing about a truce, the coronavirus has raised tensions to new heights.

On the verge of a truce

The pandemic has caught Venezuela’s opposition in a rather uncomfortable position. Their strategy of not recognizing Maduro and the never ending simulacrum that is Guaido’s “interim presidency” is, fourteen months later, an abject failure in terms of concrete achievements. Guaido’s virtual staying power is owed almost exclusively to Donald Trump, who invited him to the White House at the close of his international tour in February.

But this strategy leaves a vacuum in the opposition. The existence of an “interim president” precludes that of an opposition leader who can channel requests, critiques, and demands toward the government. Guaido is instead forced to speak as a president but without any state resources at his disposal to confront the COVID-19 crisis. Some of Guaido’s spokespeople such as his foreign relations envoy, Julio Borges, issue statements that are woefully out of touch with the gravity of the international conjuncture: “The coronavirus is Maduro and there will be no cure until he leaves power.”

For his part, Maduro, comfortable and without internal resistance, rapidly implemented the World Health Organization’s guidelines, decreeing a national quarantine within days of the first case being reported on March 13. Maduro also managed to meet not only with the country’s principal chamber of commerce, FEDECAMARAS, but also with Colombia’s health authorities, a fact which Colombian President Ivan Duque publicly denied. He additionally secured aid from Cuba and China, which have emerged as global leaders in COVID-19 response. Meanwhile, the United States and Guaido’s other Western sponsors are mired in an unprecedented health crisis due to the number of dead and infected.

On March 23, the European Union publicly called for the International Monetary Fund to accept emergency loan requests from Venezuela and Iran and for relief from US sanctions, which according to EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, “block them from receiving income by selling oil.” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also urged the lifting of unilateral coercive measures in the face of the pandemic.

The situation seemed favorable for Maduro’s struggle against the US economic blockade.

In this context, the coronavirus was on the verge of bringing about the unthinkable: an agreement between the opposition and the government. Henry Ramos Allup, the president of Venezuela’s main opposition party, announced on March 10 that Democratic Action would abandon its prior abstentionism and compete in parliamentary elections scheduled for 2020. Amid the global COVID-19 hysteria, former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles opened the possibility for an agreement with Maduro when he stated on March 25:

This pandemic must create an opportunity to pursue some kind of agreement that looks after people’s wellbeing… Let’s work together: you have internal control, and I have international support. You are willing to come to an agreement to join hands. Could it be that difficult? I don’t think so.

That very night, there were two, almost parallel reactions. Maduro said, “I agree with Capriles’ proposal,” and asked the Vatican’s representative in the country to mediate and open its offices for a meeting with the different opposition factions as soon as possible.

Minutes later, Guaido stated, “we are willing to do everything we have to do,” implicitly recognizing the need for an agreement to address the health emergency. However, he did enumerate certain conditions regarding the distribution of humanitarian aid, which should be managed by multilateral organisms and not the Maduro government.

Venezuela’s dueling political factions appeared to be on the verge of engaging in substantive talks, but it was not to be.

Escalating US assault

The next day, on the morning of March 26, US Attorney General William Barr gave a press conference announcing “narco-terrorism” charges against Maduro and other senior government officials.

As expected, the charges were endorsed by Trump in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, effectively torpedoing negotiation efforts and once again raising tensions to a boiling point.

This is hardly the first time that the US has blocked dialogue. When in early August 2019 rumors were circulating of something resembling an electoral pre-agreement emerging from Norway-brokered talks, the United States ramped up sanctions with an August 5 executive order banning all dealings with the Venezuelan state and freezing its assets in what some analysts have linked to the Cuba embargo. The next day, Maduro abandoned talks.

The government had also previously claimed in February 2018 that a last minute call by then US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to the head of the opposition negotiating team, Julio Borges, led the opposition to walk out in lieu of signing a finalized electoral deal. This was the fruit of months of negotiations mediated by former Spanish President Jose Rodriguez Zapatero and the Dominican government, and the agreement concerned guarantees for the 2018 presidential elections, which the main opposition parties opted to boycott.

With this latest decision, Trump ups the ante. On top of punishing economic sanctions, the US now places a multi-million dollar bounty on the head of Maduro and other top officials, giving the green light to renewed violent actions aimed at killing or capturing them.

But the move also aborts the nascent negotiation efforts recently underway. Rather than paving the way for an invasion, indictments open the way for paramilitary operations of the sort one might find in a Hollywood movie. Recall that neighboring Colombia is a country littered with irregular armed outfits. Just a few days ago, following the seizure of an arms cache in northeastern Colombia, retired Major General Cliver Alcala confessed to a plot to overthrow Maduro in coordination with Guaido and US advisors. Paradoxically, the general confirmed the coup plan only after he was indicted by the US Justice Department, subsequently turning himself in to Drug Enforcement Agency officials and traveling from Colombia to the US.

Several days later, on March 31, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a more conciliatory but equally arrogant tone, unveiled a “transition” plan proposing the creation of a “council of state” comprised of opposition and Chavista representatives, with both Guaido and Maduro stepping aside and new elections called. The Venezuelan constitution contains no provisions permitting such an arrangement, which has already been rejected by Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza.

The government did not delay in rolling out its response. The attorney general summoned Guaido to appear for questioning on April 2 and it is very possible that he could be taken into custody after Alcala publicly named him as responsible for terrorist actions to be carried out with the arms confiscated in Colombia. With Guaido behind bars, another scenario opens up, and all that is left is to await a more decisive response from the US.

Meanwhile, we must not forget the arena that has taken center stage at present: healthcare.

Coronavirus and the collapse of the health sector

This escalation of conflict comes not only in the context of coronavirus, but also at a moment of deep crisis in Venezuela’s healthcare system, which could be rapidly overwhelmed if Venezuela’s curve mirrors that of other countries.

In a November 2019 report, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock observed:

I have seen myself how the health system is on the verge of collapse, with many hospitals lacking the most basic water and electricity infrastructure. Hospital patients, many of whom are already critically ill, are at high risk of losing their lives from new infections they are acquiring while they are in hospital, because basic cleaning and disinfection cannot be done. This is exacerbated by a lack of medicines, and a shortage of doctors and nurses to administer them. Preventable diseases including malaria and diphtheria are back with a vengeance. People with chronic health conditions, pregnant and nursing women, infants and those living with disabilities are among the most vulnerable.

No matter how much the government emphasizes its strength in the health sector owing to the support of its allies, the reality is that the system has suffered severe deterioration. If we project an Italy or Spain-style curve in Venezuela, the result could be not just a health sector collapse, but a catastrophe in every arena of life.

For this very reason, Washington’s bellicose measures provoke widespread animosity among diverse national and international constituencies. On the one hand, Chavismo automatically closes ranks behind the government, which implements stronger security measures that block efforts to open up the political field. On the other, the opposition factions that were engaged in or calling for dialogue with the government are now shut out of the game because it will be very difficult for them to compete in parliamentary elections to be held later this year. And if the main opposition parties do not participate, like in the last few elections, they will lose the only real power they have left: the National Assembly. The majority of opposition political actors have reacted with caution and have not automatically supported the US’ actions.

Washington’s latest maneuvers also fly in the face of positions taken by US allies like the European Union, as well as other multilateral bodies, which have called for lifting sanctions on Venezuela and Iran. Washington’s “kick them while their down” approach may appear disproportionate in the face of the current crisis, but we must remember that the US presidential campaign looms large and the Venezuela issue is key to winning the critical state of Florida.

For his part, Guaido may try to dust off the “humanitarian aid” discourse that he had dropped from his political repertoire after the opposition’s US-backed effort to force food and other supplies across the Colombian border in February 2019 ended not only in failure but in a corruption scandal that has dogged the “interim president” ever since. The US, Colombia, and Guaido’s other allies could make a fresh attempt at “humanitarian intervention” amid the current situation of international panic. US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Cuba and Venezuela Carrie Filipetti recently prepared the ground for this possibility, stating that the COVID-19 contagion in Venezuela could pose a regional threat.

This discourse is illogical given that according to official figures Venezuela has far fewer cases than its neighbors, while the US is now the global epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. But when it comes to US-Venezuela relations, official discourses have little concern for facts. Anything can happen, above all, if elections require putting a face on the “invisible enemy.”

Ociel Alí López is a Venezuelan researcher who has published numerous written and multimedia works. He is dedicated to analyzing Venezuelan society for several European and Latin American media outlets. He is a co-founder of alternative Venezuelan state television station Avila TV in 2006. He is the recipient of the CLACSO/ASDI researcher prize and the Britto Garcia literature award.

April 3, 2020 Posted by | War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Despite US Sanctions, Iran’s Revolutionary Public Health System Curbing COVID-19 Outbreak

Sputnik – April 3, 2020

Iran has managed to contain its coronavirus outbreak even under crippling US trade sanctions that have limited the country’s access to medical equipment and other resources, Sayyed Mohammad Marandi, an American studies and postcolonial literature professor who teaches at the University of Tehran, told Sputnik’s Loud & Clear Thursday.

Marandi told Sputnik the situation in Iran is “significantly better than in the US,” despite Washington’s adamant refusal to lower economic sanctions frustrating trade with Iran, which have made buying medicine and equipment for hospitals difficult.

“It has been managed, and that’s largely because – despite all the sanctions in the last four decades – after the [1979] revolution, Iran established a primary health care network across the country,” Marandi told host Brian Becker.

“It exists in villages, in towns, in cities, it’s a huge network. This is the foundation upon which the resistance or the fight against the coronavirus was based,” Marandi said, noting that “Iran had much less time” to prepare for the outbreak than did European countries or the US, being one of the first hit after the virus broke out of China’s Hubei Province.

“But since Iran had less time, Iran was obviously less prepared. And because of the sanctions, because the US government was trying to prevent Iran from being able to fight the virus by preventing Iran from purchasing [test] kits, by preventing Iran from purchasing masks, ventilators – the US government was doing everything it could, basically through the sanctions, to turn the coronavirus into a biological weapon to use against Iran. And they still do,” Marandi said.

“But despite all of that, and despite the hardship that the Iranians went through initially, not being able to purchase their needs, because of this very powerful and very extensive primary health care network that exists in the country, they were able to contain the virus. And now the situation in Iran, despite being hit very hard and being the first to be hit without knowing clearly what it was and how to deal with it – the situation in Iran is remarkably better than what we are seeing sadly in Europe and unfortunately in the US,” Marandi told Sputnik.

The latest data reveals that there are more than 50,000 cases of the virus in Iran, and more than 3,000 people have died as a result. The US has become the epicenter of the pandemic, with more than 242,000 cases and almost 6,000 deaths from the disease.

In a recent statement, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif referred to the US sanctions against Iran as “economic terrorism.”

“We had always said the sanctions are unjust, but coronavirus revealed this injustice to the world,” Zarif added.

In a Saturday tweet, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed that Iran’s “concerted effort to lift US sanctions isn’t about fighting the pandemic” but is rather about Iran’s leaders “trying to avoid responsibility for their grossly incompetent and deadly governance.”

Even though the US claims that its sanctions don’t prevent the sale of medicine and medical devices, the secondary sanctions on financial institutions and businesses have prevented Iran from buying necessary items like ventilators that could save the lives of coronavirus patients, the New York Times reported.

Renewed Tensions With Iran in Iraq

In the midst of the pandemic, US President Donald Trump on Wednesday took to Twitter to warn Iran against attempting to attack US troops or assets in Iraq after claiming that Iran or its proxies “are planning a sneak attack on US troops and/or assets in Iraq.”

One day later, Zarif tweeted: “Don’t be misled by usual warmongers,” adding that the US “surreptitiously lies, cheats & assassinates,” while Iran “only acts in self-defense.”

“Iran starts no wars, but teaches lessons to those who do,” the minister added.

According to Marandi, Trump may be threatening Iran in an attempt to distract American citizens from the catastrophic mismanagement of the coronavirus within US borders.

“Iran is an extremely powerful country. If the US carries out an attack on the country, it will have devastating consequences for the Americans, and I think the Americans know that. The Americans had to leave Iraq about a decade ago when the small resistance with light weapons put up a fight against an American force with all its allies that were well over 150,000 troops. Now, the Americans in Iraq have 5-6,000 troops. They’re all alone, almost. Almost all of their allies have left, and the Popular Mobilization Forces of the Iraqi Armed Forces is itself well over 100,000. So, I can’t see a situation where Trump can win in Iraq, win in Iran,” Marandi added.

April 2, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , | 1 Comment

COVID-19: What the Virus Might Do to the American Empire

By Tony Kevin | Consortium News | April 1, 2020

Canberra, Australia – Under current CV19 lockdowns, there is much quiet time at home in which to reflect on how dramatically the virus is even now changing our familiar New Cold War world, and how such changes will gather force as the weeks of crisis unfold.

Australia is a good place from which to reflect: an excessively obsequious minor member of the U.S.-led anti-Chinese and anti-Russian Western strategic alliance, Australians are also conflicted by our need to earn a living and our obvious economic dependence on our major trading partner and Asia-Pacific strategic neighbor China. Two contradictory imperatives are gnawing at the minds of thinking Australians.

Meanwhile, the 120-year old Australian federal system is under strain: a symptom of world politics also under strain. The federal Prime Minister Scott Morrison, with the task of protecting as much as he can of the shrinking national economy, failed like President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Boris Johnson to take the hard lockdown decisions early enough. It has been a case of too little too late, with the state premiers finally this week seizing the baton from him, locking down and isolating their states to preserve their populations’ lives – with the federal government following belatedly behind.

Only today, a leading Australian mining-industry oligarch, Andrew Forrest, announced that the public interest, charity arm of his company, Fortescue Minerals, had negotiated with the Chinese government to secure ample supplies for his home state Western Australia of desperately sought Chinese-made personal protective equipment (PPE) which will be essential to combat the virus as it expands into WA.

Minutes earlier, WA Premier Mark McGowan had warned the federal Australian government in tough public language to rapidly move the Covid-19 quarantined German cruise ship Artania away from Perth, and away from Western Australian coastal waters. He asserted that his primary duty was to protect West Australians from CV19, and he would not let Perth become known as a safe haven for homeless, stricken cruise ships. The matter remains unresolved.

Changing How We Think

Around the world, borders are closing down to all but essential travel. Online, we still seem to be one world. I can, thank goodness, easily plug in to what people in Beijing and Moscow, as well as in Washington and London, are saying. But globalization is rapidly becoming anachronistic (in its original literal Greek meaning– “in the wrong time”) in terms of mass global flows of people and, increasingly even, of goods and services themselves.

For instance, it is hard to see the (largely American-created) massive cruise ships industry, or mass airborne global holiday tourism, recovering quickly — or even, ever — from CV19. For a long time, people are going to want to stay closer to home and avoid such risky disruptions in their and other people’s lives. The globalization model is broken.

The pandemic’s brutal, erratic course around the world – from China to Korea and Italy, thence to Spain, the U.K. and worst of all to the USA, is rapidly changing the way we will think about the world and about our respective countries’ and elites’ participation in it. CV19 is a disease with our rich elites’ fingerprints all over it: their privileged globetrotting lifestyle, serviced by armies of Third World serf labor, is in an ugly spotlight now.

Old Ideologies Dissolve

One cannot predict what the world will look like after this pandemic runs its course. One certainty: it will be very different from the world before CV19, with the knowledge of other such viruses potentially to come.

Let’s look at the de-coupling of supply lines: a concept first touted by U.S. strategic thinkers before CV19 struck, as part of warfighting Cold War Redux. Western governments wanted to reduce dependence on superstar firms like Huawei, to “de-couple” strategic Western industries from the risk of Chinese sabotage. The plan was to reduce markets for Chinese suppliers of key information technology, despite Chinese mastery of the lowest-cost capitalist production mode.

Now the boot is on the other foot. Goaded by sanctions and other Western interference, China and Russia are well on the road to research, industrial and agricultural self-sufficiency for the Eurasia-centered heartland. Meanwhile the U.S., caught at the end of global supply chains that all seem to start in China, is begging for much-needed ventilators and PPE: in competition with people like Andrew Forrest, who know how to deal with China.

Two groups of people in our Western societies are finding it particularly hard to get their heads around the rapid dissolving of old ideological certainties.

First, the brave and bold radical movements in the West. Used to exposing a constant diet of disinformation from Western Deep State sources, they find it hard to believe that CV19 can be more than another propaganda trick by the Deep State to strengthen its control over society. They refuse to see the real threat CVI9 poses to decent human societies, by the fact of its extreme virulence, delayed visible symptoms, and generation-sensitive lethality. They cling to their familiar worlds of friends and enemies, and lose sight of medical and epidemiological realities. They try to rationalize CV19 away.

More significant here is the Western strategic community, caught now in a similar, increasingly anachronistic world of familiar friends and enemies. Cold War Redux, which by one measure began around 2013 with Western-instigated anti-Russian violent regime change in Ukraine, Russia’s vulnerable underbelly, is now so deeply embedded in Western strategic thinking that even the most thoughtful Western strategists find it hard to see beyond its familiar boundaries of thought and policy.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo continues to fulminate thoughtlessly and vindictively, threatening ever-crueler sanctions against Iran and Venezuela. The White Helmets continue to foment false chemical warfare allegations, in the war against the legitimate Syrian government, which their side are losing. NATO continues automaton-like to arm and exercise against the imagined Russian threat.

Coronavirus patients at the Imam Khomeini Hospital in Tehran, Iran. (Fars News Agency, CC BY 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)

A ‘Pitiful, Helpless Giant’

CV19 is collapsing this dangerously illusory world. Let’s look first at military logistics. Spectacular news broke on Tuesday that the captain of the U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, on station near Guam, has requested the immediate evacuation of 90 percent of his crew of 4,000 into individual quarantine after the carrier reported an outbreak of CV19 on board. Over 70 crew members have tested positive for CV19 and in cramped ship conditions the disease is spreading fast. The captain recommends a skeleton crew of 400 be left on board, to safeguard the ship’s weapons and reactors while it is quarantined and sanitized.

More contradictions: The U.S. has been forced to suspend a planned attack on pro-Iranian Shia militia in Iraq, because of spreading CV19 in U.S. bases in Iraq. Planned massive NATO maneuvers this summer on the Russian border have had to be scaled back severely due to CV19 risks. Faced by horrendous mortality facts and projections in New York, Trump is forced to send the U.S. Navy’s largest hospital ship there to bolster local overstretched medical resources. China and Russia – the putative enemies – are flying much-needed medical relief supplies in to the U.S.

The U.S. may be sliding towards becoming the “pitiful, helpless giant” which Richard Nixon warned against in 1970.

The familiar diplomatic fabric of our former world is also under intense pressure now. The UN and the UN Security Council, for long theaters for ritualistic Cold War games, is being energized by the CV19 world crisis. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has denounced the anachronism and cruelty of wars and sanctions by powerful countries in the new CV19 world. He has called for a “ceasefire.” His call was supported by the Pope, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and so far 53 UN member nations. More and more, the U.S. and its NATO allies look like a resentful and recalcitrant rump of ill-wishers. The U.S. blocks a motherhood UN Security Council resolution calling for unified world action against CV19, because China and Russia reject draft resolution language claiming that the virus originated in China.

The Dark Web

Let’s look at that troubling question. In what country did the CV19 virus first break out? In wet wild animal markets in Wuhan, or in germ warfare laboratories? Did it break out accidentally or was it deliberately released? The Dark Web is full of disturbing allegations and counter-allegations. So far, none of the major powers have dignified any such allegations at the level of official government statements. The ships of states sail on, but there is angry gossip just below decks.

Trump, Putin and Xi would undoubtedly know of these ugly stories. It is no coincidence that in recent days the three leaders are again talking cordially. Trump’s Cold War hawks in Washington have been silenced for now. Trump knows he has to maintain civility towards his partner leaders who are now helping his stricken country. He needs them. And they are too professionally gracious to humiliate or reprimand him in America’s hour of need. All three will observe the courtesies, whatever the Dark Web is alleging.

Let me draw this together: the pre-CV19 economic, strategic and diplomatic world is starting to unravel in myriad ways which are not yet clear. In its death throes, the dying Cold War world will take casualties: NATO, conceived as a Euro-American aggressive military alliance against Russia; the war-mongering Pompeo and the U.S. fondness for economic sanctions against its enemies.

What Might We Expect?

In the new diplomatic landscape, which can as yet only be dimly seen, old verities going back to 1945 will be rediscovered. The UN Security Council will again find its proper role as a collective instrument of world solidarity against aggression by any – any – powerful nation that goes rogue. The U.S. will learn again how to practice real diplomacy based on nations’ sovereignty and mutual respect, instead of crude great power bullying. Russia and China will generously put their past hurts behind them, secure in their new strength after Putin’s establishment of an invulnerable, nuclear MAD deterrent and the nightmare experience of CV19.

In this model future – I will admit, an optimistic model, but not grossly so – the world will begin to recover its sanity. We will gradually step back from the precipice of nuclear devastation on which we have teetered for at least the past seven years. We will work together to build less environmentally destructive systems of global trade and travel, armed with the new knowledge that having survived CV19 lockdowns will bring. We will concentrate on rethinking societies, and on rebuilding public order and confidence and respect for all classes in Western societies after the terrible wounds CV19 is inflicting on the weak and poor as I write. We will work together to put in place more resilient, less fragile systems of global trade and cooperation.

I argue here, in sum, that the U.S. and its obedient allies cannot go on fighting an anachronistic Cold War Redux against China and Russia, while the world struggles to defeat CV19, this stealthy new common enemy.

And that when this war is won — as it will be won: to then go back to Cold War Redux will seem increasingly distracting and pointless. I think Trump, for all his faults, dimly gets this already. As Xi and Putin certainly do.

Tony Kevin is a former Australian senior diplomat and the author of six published books on public policy and international relations.

April 2, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Business as Usual” Isn’t Even a Choice

By Anatoly Karlin • Unz Review • April 1, 2020

A few days ago, I joked on Twitter:

The choice isn’t between boomer genocide and an economic collapse.

The choice is between boomer genocide and economic collapse, or producing millions of 5 cent masks and making people wear them.

Reality is, it is only boomer genocide that isn’t a choice.

74% of Americans support a national quarantine, and that even includes 72% of Republicans. In France, there is a near consensus on lockdown at 96%. In Italy it is 94%.

In Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro – the only President of a major democratic polity who continues to insist on treating coronavirus as a nothingburger – has been made into a lame duck, his commands ignored by 24 out of Brazil’s 27 governors and even by his own Health Minister.

Meanwhile, as predicted by Ron Unz, Trump has performed a volte face, extending federal social distancing guidelines past Easter up to April 30 and now touts 100,000 deaths as a “good scenario.”

Which is just as well, because as we know see, modern democracies are simply incapable of “powering through” even through what is a fairly low-mortality pandemic in historical terms.

Consequently, the only choices are:

  • Nip it in the bud early on through mass testing-tracing-treatment, border controls, and limited lockdowns, resulting in limited economic damage. [for example]
  • Wait until later, necessitating progressively more massive, longer, and economically ruinous lockdowns. [for example]

So the only correct move is to clamp down close to the start, and to clamp down hard. This is what was done in all the East Asian polities, be they chaotic democracies, city-state technocracies, or Communist single-party states.

Because in the latter scenario, there will eventually come a time when you are simply sidelined by your own underlings and by regional authorities, adding a political crisis on top of a healthcare and economic one.

In my post on Trump’s initial decision, I speculated:

Far out scenario: Blue states may outright defy Trump on abandoning containment measures, in which case they too would be doing starkly better than Red states (unless it also sparks a Constitutional crisis into the bargain).

Well, on that note, here’s a Tweet from California governor Gavin Newsom today. That’s some interesting wording there:

So again, good on Donald Trump to have come to terms with Corona reality and averting what could have become a very dangerous experiment.

This brings us to another interesting question: Will we get a “clean” experiment anywhere?

As per above, I don’t think it’s going to happen in any democracy. Britain backed away from its “herd immunity” idea two weeks ago, on realizing that their models didn’t include a term for ventilator shortages. The Dutch followed soon afterwards. With Sweden’s coronavirus mortality trajectory beginning to radically diverge from those of its Nordic cousins, I believe it is only a matter of time before they go into lockdown as well.

My guess is that our best “hope” – inappropriate as that expression may be – lies in Belarus, which is run by a decidedly non-coronapilled dictator.

April 2, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics | , , | 2 Comments

The lies the U.S. is using to blame Covid-19 on China

By Rainer Shea | Medium | April 1, 2020

The Washington imperialists and the corporate media are manipulating the narrative around Covid-19 in the same ways that they’ve controlled discourse around the comparably dramatic crisis of 9/11. Just like how the Bush White House immediately concluded (based upon still dubious evidence) that Osama Bin Laden was the one who had directed the attacks in order to justify starting the war in Afghanistan, and like how the Bush team campaigned to associate Saddam Hussein with 9/11 to justify invading Iraq, Covid-19 is being weaponized as a war propaganda tool. And now the designated enemies are China, Iran, Russia, and the other countries which threaten U.S. hegemony.

As was also the case after 9/11, the imperialist narrative managers are using McCarthyism, censorship, and intensive demonization of the designated enemies to hide the growing amount of evidence that the U.S. is connected to the crisis.

The evidence is in favor of the virus having originated in the U.S., not China

Like how the CIA conspired with Saudi Arabia to cover up details about 9/11 which contradicted the official Washington narrative, or how the media has ignored the evidence of Mossad foreknowledge of 9/11, the U.S. State Department and major media outlets are working to conceal and deflect from the questions about America’s potential responsibility for the virus.

There have been many events in the last year that suggest the U.S. brought the virus to China, whether intentionally or unintentionally. The U.S. Army Medical Research Institute in Fort Detrick was closed down in July 2019. Then in October, a team of U.S. troopers who had trained near Fort Detrick traveled to Wuhan, staying a mere 300 meters from the seafood market where the virus spread from. If these troops were deliberately sent there to proliferate the virus, it wouldn’t be unprecedented in U.S. warfare; Washington has a history of transferring viruses to use as diplomatic cargo for secret military programs.

These coincidences, while not necessarily compelling evidence for the bioweapon hypothesis on their own, are accompanied by solid evidence that Covid-19 started in the United States. As Larry Romanoff has written, “the genome varieties of the virus in Iran and Italy have been sequenced and declared to have no part of the variety that infected China and must, by definition, have originated elsewhere. It would seem the only possibility for origination would be the US because only that country has the ‘tree trunk’ of all the varieties.” Daniel Lucey, an infectious disease specialist at Georgetown University, has helped support the hypothesized link between the U.S. troops and the original Wuhan outbreak by concluding that “The virus came into that marketplace before it came out of that marketplace.”

But enough with my hesitant language about how it’s supposedly still unclear whether the virus came from America. Chinese spokesman Zhao Lijian has formally accused Washington of bringing the virus to China, saying “When did patient zero begin in U.S? How many people are infected? What are the names of the hospitals? It might be U.S. army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! U.S. owe us an explanation!” Iranian Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali has made a similar statement about Covid-19’s origins: “Instead of leveling false accusations against China and Iran, U.S. officials should respond to international demands regarding its role in creating and spreading the coronavirus and the continuation of its crimes against the Iranian people by keeping in place the economic sanctions.”

Was Covid-19 engineered in an American laboratory? While a recent study has provided evidence against this, the scientific debate over whether it was artificially created will continue to go on. Plus, bioweapons don’t even have to be artificially created-just look at all of the already existing diseases that U.S. biowarfare operations have brought to Cuba. And even if the virus came from the U.S. to China by accident, it’s certain that China is not the country where the virus came from.

Painting China’s response to the virus as “incompetent” and “authoritarian”

Anti-Chinese propaganda often takes the form of the Western media observing benign events in China or minor slip-ups in Chinese policy, and twisting them into outrage stories. So was the case for the imperialist propaganda machine’s representation of the story of Li Wenliang, the Chinese doctor who mistakenly spread a false message on WeChat and was subsequently warned about it by Chinese authorities. The government then paid tribute to Li for helping combat the virus and retracted their warning against him after his death, but disingenuous pundits used the incident to score rhetorical points in the information war against China.

The government’s response to Wenliang didn’t have to do with his public revelation of the virus, which was done only a day before the government decided to officially announce that the virus was a problem. Yet it’s been suggested that his decision to speak up about the virus conflicted with the agenda of the government, and that the government had targeted him for his whistleblowing.

This ridiculous distortion of events was used to justify the Western media’s deeply unfair overall portrayal of the Chinese response to the virus, as represented by this paragraph from a recent Vice article:

China initially ignored the outbreak that first surfaced in Wuhan in early December, silencing doctors who tried to raise the alarm before eventually enacting a draconian and restrictive lockdown that impacted 50 million people.

Vice, which is one of the outlets that’s been known to promote content under the direct guidance of the U.S. government in recent years, is here engaging in a subtle ploy to associate China’s response to the virus with “authoritarianism.” China’s “draconian restrictive lockdown,” which is another way to say “quarantine,” was entirely necessary and in line with how most other governments have handled the virus. But Vice’s phrasing is meant to reinforce the narratives that China had failed to respond to the virus quickly enough, and that the actions it took against the virus were oppressive and sinister.

The underlying message, which is that those quarantined by China’s government were put in an unusually miserable and repressive state compared to the other quarantined populations around the world, is absurd. Thanks to Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, China’s people have had access to universal healthcare during this crisis. They’ve been in a country that’s virtually eradicated poverty. They’ve been able to contact police officers who go shopping for families in need of assistance during the quarantine. This contrasts with capitalist countries like the United States, where the gutted and highly privatized healthcare system is being overwhelmed, the people who’ve lost their jobs during the quarantine are already largely in financial hardship due to neoliberalism, and the police have continued to act as a terrorizing force which frequently shoots innocent people.

Another claim the Vice article makes is that “even the slightest reference to coronavirus or the government’s response was erased” as a result of China’s censorship. This is also misleading. Most of what the censors deleted was people referring to the military games in regards to the virus, likely as a measure for keeping the public from jumping to conclusions too early about America’s potential role in the crisis. They did not go after posts that referenced the severity of the crisis, but rather material that could be harmful to international relations.

This week, the U.S. propaganda machine expanded upon these claims by alleging that China lied about the extent of the virus. Unsurprisingly, the intelligence agents who are cited as sources for this revelation are anonymous. And the Bloomberg reporters who helped break this story didn’t even see the report behind it, instead having the details outlined to them by these mysterious officials. There was no evidence to back up their claims; all they did was craft another headline that reflects the other baseless insinuations from imperialist propagandists.

These charges and mischaracterizations distract from the enormously effective efforts of the CPC in combating the virus. Because of the party’s rapid construction of medical centers and sustained widespread quarantine, the disease has recently been close to obliterated within the country. China has also provided medical resources to numerous countries, a humanitarian act which the mentioned Vice article somehow tries to spin as a bad thing.

The CPC responded as best as was possible for it to, and keeping a spreading pandemic within a country’s border is essentially beyond the powers of any state. So China can’t be accused of letting the virus spread throughout an unnecessary amount of its people (as the U.S. government can certainly be accused of). Nor can China reasonably be accused of “letting” the virus spread globally.

Using McCarthyism and censorship to shut down those who challenge the warmongering claims

Pandemics create a scary kind of political psychology. Similar to the mass fears of terrorism throughout the last two decades, when people feel threatened by a disease they become hostile towards those who step out of the defined parameters for keeping society safe. While those urging people to disregard all of the Covid-19 safety advice are engaging in dangerous misinformation, this fringe and extreme position is being conflated with voicing dissenting views about where the virus came from and which country is responsible.

Headlines about pro-China Covid-19 content being “foreign disinformation” are promoting the perception that it’s wrong to ask the questions I’ve posed throughout this article, or to point out the falsehoods of Western reporting on China’s handling of the virus. It’s making dialogue about the issue harder to have, and it’s giving leverage to the oligarchic censorship engines within the U.S./NATO empire.

Facebook has been deleting posts about the virus to a far more thorough extent than has been the case for China’s censors. At the same time, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, the BBC, and other entities have joined in on a project called the Trusted News Initiative. TNI partner Noel Curran has said about the project’s goal that “There is a tide of misinformation and bad information, driven mainly through online social platforms, which is threatening to undermine public trust and cause further anxiety for people. This initiative underlines the role of public service media in tackling misinformation head-on and delivering accurate content that audiences can safely rely on.”

It’s an extension of the McCarthyism, censorship, and stigmatization of supposed “fake news” that’s dominated Western politics in recent years. Media hysteria about “Russian interference” after the 2016 election facilitated an unprecedented series of censorship measures from corporations and governments, rationalized by a desire to protect trust in institutions. Amid the last decade’s growing backlash to neoliberalism, the ruling class has been waging a war on dissenting journalism and socialist politics. Now is another opportunity to silence and shame those who challenge imperialist and capitalist narratives.

An example of the emerging hostile atmosphere towards dissent can be found in a recent graphic from Counter Hate UK, which advises people to respond to “Coronavirus misinformation” with the following measures: “Report misinformation to platforms,” “[don’t] reply, share, or quote misinformation,” and “spread official advice” to “drown out fake news.”

This is the psychological weapon that the U.S./NATO empire is using to keep itself on the path of war escalations and internal repression: instilling people with the fear that if they challenge anything the centers of power tell them about the virus, they’ll endanger society. But we need critical thinking and open dissent more than ever during this time. The capitalist ruling class is neglecting the needs of the masses while using the crisis to exacerbate inequality, and we poor and working people need to fight back. We must challenge the narratives which enable the imperialist war campaigns against China and other countries, and we must work to intensify the class struggle.

April 2, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment

West Trying to Take Advantage of Venezuela’s Coronavirus Woes to Topple Gov’t – Moscow

Sputnik – April 2, 2020

The West is trying to take advantage of Venezuela’s difficulties during the coronavirus outbreak to depose the Maduro government, Russian Foreign Minsitry said on Thursday.

“Unfortunately, we see that a number of countries are still guided by the desire to take advantage of the difficult situation in the world and the epidemiological situation in Venezuela in particular to achieve political goals”, spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova said during a briefing on Thursday.

According to her, the idea of a coup that would lead to the ouster of the legitimately elected president of the country still remains in the minds of some political forces in the West.

“We object to the blocking of assistance to Caracas through the IMF. We condemn the US far-fetched drug-trafficking accusations against the head of a sovereign state”, she added.

Venezuela has so far registered 143 COVID-19 cases and three deaths. Last week, Russia delivered the first batch of 10,000 coronavirus test kits to the country and vowed to continue this assistance. China, in turn, sent a team to medical experts to help the sanctioned and the cash-strapped country. Both nations have called for lifting sanctions on Venezuela.

Amid these developments, Pompeo said on Tuesday that an interim government could be established in Venezuela, consisting of National Assembly members and accepted by both Caracas and the opposition, to serve until the next presidential and legislative elections. The US pledges to remove sanctions should the conditions of its plan, including “the departure of foreign security forces” and free elections, be met.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza rejected firmly on Tuesday Washington’s crisis settlement plan, which envisions the creation of an interim government and elections within the next year.

April 2, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | 4 Comments