ThereAreNoSunglasses

American Resistance To Empire

“We are defending your industry while you’re destroying ours.”

Is Trump Really, Finally Ready To Punish Saudi Dictatorship?

 

WASHINGTON/LONDON/DUBAI (Reuters) – As the United States pressed Saudi Arabia to end its oil price war with Russia, President Donald Trump gave Saudi leaders an ultimatum.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a family photo session with other leaders and attendees at the G20 leaders summit in Osaka, Japan, June 28, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

In an April 2 phone call, Trump told Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that unless the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) started cutting oil production, he would be powerless to stop lawmakers from passing legislation to withdraw U.S. troops from the kingdom, four sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The threat to upend a 75-year strategic alliance, which has not been previously reported, was central to the U.S. pressure campaign that led to a landmark global deal to slash oil supply as demand collapsed in the coronavirus pandemic – scoring a diplomatic victory for the White House.

Trump delivered the message to the crown prince 10 days before the announcement of production cuts. The kingdom’s de facto leader was so taken aback by the threat that he ordered his aides out of the room so he could continue the discussion in private, according to a U.S. source who was briefed on the discussion by senior administration officials.

The effort illustrated Trump’s strong desire to protect the U.S. oil industry from a historic price meltdown as governments shut down economies worldwide to fight the virus. It also reflected a telling reversal of Trump’s longstanding criticism of the oil cartel, which he has blasted for raising energy costs for Americans with supply cuts that usually lead to higher gasoline prices. Now, Trump was asking OPEC to slash output.

A senior U.S. official told Reuters that the administration notified Saudi leaders that, without production cuts, “there would be no way to stop the U.S. Congress from imposing restrictions that could lead to a withdrawal of U.S. forces.” The official summed up the argument, made through various diplomatic channels, as telling Saudi leaders: “We are defending your industry while you’re destroying ours.”

Reuters asked Trump about the talks in an interview Wednesday evening at the White House, at which the president addressed a range of topics involving the pandemic. Asked if he told the crown prince that the U.S. might pull forces out of Saudi Arabia, Trump said, “I didn’t have to tell him.”

“I thought he and President Putin, Vladimir Putin, were very reasonable,” Trump said. “They knew they had a problem, and then this happened.”

Asked what he told the Crown Prince Mohammed, Trump said: “They were having a hard time making a deal. And I met telephonically with him, and we were able to reach a deal” for production cuts, Trump said.

Saudi Arabia’s government media office did not respond to a request for comment. A Saudi official who asked not to be named stressed that the agreement represented the will of all countries in the so-called OPEC+ group of oil-producing nations, which includes OPEC plus a coalition led by Russia.

“Saudi Arabia, the United States and Russia have played an important role in the OPEC+ oil cut agreement, but without the cooperation of the 23 countries who took part in the agreement, it would not have happened,” said the Saudi official, who declined to comment on the discussions between U.S. and Saudi leaders.

The week before Trump’s phone call with Crown Prince Mohammed, U.S. Republican Senators Kevin Cramer and Dan Sullivan had introduced legislation to remove all U.S. troops, Patriot missiles and anti-missile defense systems from the kingdom unless Saudi Arabia cut oil output. Support for the measure was gaining momentum amid Congressional anger over the ill-timed Saudi-Russia oil price war. The kingdom had opened up the taps in April, unleashing a flood of crude into the global supply after Russia refused to deepen production cuts in line with an earlier OPEC supply pact.

On April 12, under pressure from Trump, the world’s biggest oil-producing nations outside the United States agreed to the largest production cut ever negotiated. OPEC, Russia and other allied producers slashed production by 9.7 million barrels per day (bpd), or about 10% of global output. Half that volume came from cuts of 2.5 million bpd each by Saudi Arabia and Russia, whose budgets depend on high oil-and-gas revenues.

Despite the agreement to cut a tenth of global production, oil prices continued to fall to historic lows. U.S. oil futures dropped below $0 last week as sellers paid buyers to avoid taking delivery of oil they had no place to store. Brent futures, the global oil benchmark, fell towards $15 per barrel – a level not seen since the 1999 oil price crash – from as high as $70 at the start of the year.

The deal for supply cuts could eventually boost prices, however, as governments worldwide start to open their economies and fuel demand rises with increased travel. Whatever the impact, the negotiations mark an extraordinary display of U.S. influence over global oil output.

Cramer, the Republican senator from North Dakota, told Reuters he spoke to Trump about the legislation to withdraw U.S. military protection from Saudi Arabia on March 30, three days before the president called Crown Prince Mohammed.

Asked whether Trump told Saudi Arabia it could lose U.S. military support, U.S. Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette told Reuters the president reserved the right to use every tool to protect U.S. producers, including “our support for their defense needs.”

The strategic partnership dates back to 1945, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt met with Saudi King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud on the USS Quincy, a Navy cruiser. They reached a deal: U.S. military protection in exchange for access to Saudi oil reserves. Today, the United States has about three thousand troops in the country, and the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet protects oil exports from the region.

Saudi Arabia relies on the United States for weapons and protection against regional rivals such as Iran. The kingdom’s vulnerabilities, however, were exposed late last year in an attack by 18 drones and three missiles on key Saudi oil facilities. Washington blamed Iran; Tehran denied it.

THIRTEEN ANGRY SENATORS

Trump initially welcomed lower oil prices, saying cheap gasoline prices were akin to a tax cut for drivers.

That changed after Saudi Arabia announced in mid-March it would pump a record 12.3 million bpd – unleashing the price war with Russia. The explosion of supply came as governments worldwide issued stay-home orders – crushing fuel demand – and made clear that U.S. oil companies would be hit hard in the crude price collapse. Senators from U.S. oil states were infuriated.

On March 16, Cramer was among 13 Republican senators who sent a letter to Crown Prince Mohammed reminding him of Saudi Arabia’s strategic reliance on Washington. The group also urged Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to investigate whether Saudi Arabia and Russia were breaking international trade laws by flooding the U.S. market with oil.

On March 18, the senators – a group that included Sullivan of Alaska and Ted Cruz of Texas – held a rare call with Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi ambassador to the United States. Cramer called the conversations “brutal” as each senator detailed the damage to their states’ oil industries.

“She heard it from every senator; there was nobody that held back,” Cramer told Reuters.

The Saudi embassy did not respond to requests for comment.

Cramer said the princess relayed their comments to officials in Saudi Arabia, including the energy minister. The senators told the princess that the kingdom faced rising opposition in the Senate to the Saudi-led coalition that is waging a war in Yemen against Houthi rebels.

Saudi and U.S. officials have said the Houthis are armed by Iran, which Tehran denies. The backing of Senate Republicans over Yemen had proved crucial for Saudi Arabia last year. The Senate upheld Trump vetoes of several measures seeking to end U.S. weapons sales and other military support to Saudi Arabia amid outrage over the Yemen conflict, which has caused more than 100,000 deaths and triggered a humanitarian crisis.

Cramer said he made a phone call to Trump on March 30, about a week after he and Sullivan introduced their bill to pull U.S. troops from Saudi Arabia. The president called Cramer back the same day with Energy Secretary Brouillette, senior economic adviser Larry Kudlow and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on the call, the senator said.

“I said the one person that you don’t have on the call that can be very helpful is Mark Esper,” the defense secretary, Cramer recounted, saying he wanted Esper to address how U.S. military assets in Saudi Arabia might be moved elsewhere in the region to protect U.S. troops.

The Pentagon did not respond to a request for comment on whether Esper was involved in discussions of pulling military assets out of Saudi Arabia.

BENDING THE KNEE

Trump’s oil diplomacy came in a whirlwind of calls with Saudi King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed and Russian President Vladimir Putin starting in mid-March. The Kremlin confirmed Putin’s conversation with Trump and said they discussed both oil supply cuts and the coronavirus pandemic.

On the April 2 call with Prince Mohammed, Trump told the Saudi ruler he was going to “cut them off” the next time Congress pushed a proposal to end Washington’s defense of the kingdom, according the source with knowledge of the call. Trump also publicly threatened in early April to impose tariffs on oil imports from Saudi Arabia and Russia.

After the conversation with the Saudi crown prince, and another the same day with Putin, Trump tweeted that he expected Saudi Arabia and Russia to cut output by about 10 million barrels, which “will be GREAT for the oil & gas industry!”

Riyadh and Moscow later confirmed they had restarted negotiations.

On April 3, Trump hosted a meeting at the White House with senators Cramer, Cruz, and Sullivan, and oil executives from companies including Exxon Mobil Corp, Chevron Corp, Occidental Petroleum Corp and Continental Resources.

During the public portion of the meeting, Cramer told Trump that Washington can use the billions of dollars it spends defending Saudi Arabia on other military priorities “if our friends are going to treat us this way.”

The prospect of losing U.S. military protection made the royal family “bend at the knees” and bow to Trump’s demands, a Middle Eastern diplomat told Reuters.

After prolonged and fractious negotiations, top producers pledged their record output cut of 9.7 million bpd in May and June, with the understanding that economic forces would lead to about 10 million bpd in further cuts in production from other countries, including the United States and Canada.

Trump hailed the deal and cast himself as its broker. “Having been involved in the negotiations, to put it mildly, the number that OPEC+ is looking to cut is 20 Million Barrels a day…” he tweeted shortly after the deal.

Riyadh also took credit. Saudi energy minister Prince Abdulaziz told Reuters at the time that the crown prince had been “instrumental in formulating this deal.”

Reporting by Timothy Gardner and Steve Holland in Washington, Dmitry Zhdannikov in London and Rania El Gamal in Dubai; additional reporting by Alexandra Alper and Humeyra Pamuk in Washington, and Marwa Rashad in Riyadh; writing by Michael Georgy; editing by Richard Valdmanis and Brian Thevenot

Is Trump Really, Finally Ready To Punish Saudi Dictatorship?

Trump Could Use ‘Nuclear Option’ To Make Saudi Arabia Pay For Oil War

US Saudi flags

President Donald Trump is considering all options available to him to make the Saudis pay for the oil price war as the crash that followed has done significant damage to the U.S. oil industry

With last month having seen the indignity of the principal U.S. oil benchmark, West Texas Intermediate (WTI), having fallen into negative pricing territory, U.S. President Donald Trump is considering all options available to him to make the Saudis pay for the oil price war that it started, according to senior figures close to the Presidential Administration spoken to by OilPrice.com last week. It is not just the likelihood that exactly the same price action will occur to each front-month WTI futures contract just before expiry until major new oil production cuts come from OPEC+ that incenses the U.S. nor the economic damage that is being done to its shale oil sector but also it is the fact that Saudi is widely seen in Washington as having betrayed the long-standing relationship between the two countries. Right now, many senior members on Trump’s closest advisory circle want the Saudis to pay for its actions, in every way, OilPrice.com understands.

This relationship was established in 1945 between the U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Saudi King at the time, Abdulaziz, on board the U.S. Navy cruiser Quincy in the Great Bitter Lake segment of the Suez Canal and has defined the relationship between the two countries ever since. As analysed in depth in my new book on the global oil markets, the deal that was struck between the two men at that time was that the U.S. would receive all of the oil supplies it needed for as long as Saudi Arabia had oil in place, in return for which the U.S. would guarantee the security of the ruling House of Saud. The deal has altered slightly since the rise of the U.S. shale oil industry and Saudi Arabia’s attempt to destroy it from 2014 to 2016 in that the U.S. also expects the House of Saud to ensure that Saudi Arabia not only supplies the U.S. with whatever oil it needs for as long as it can but also that it also allows the U.S. shale industry to continue to function and to grow.

Related: Could Brent Crude Oil Prices Ever Fall Into Negative Territory?

For the U.S., if this means that Saudi Arabia loses out to U.S. shale producers by keeping oil prices up but losing out on export opportunities to U.S. firms then that is just the price that the House of Saud must pay for the continued protection of the U.S. – politically, economically, and militarily. As U.S. President Donald Trump has made clear whenever he has sensed a lack of understanding on the part of Saudi Arabia for the huge benefit that the U.S. is doing the ruling family: “He [Saudi King Salman] would not last in power for two weeks without the backing of the U.S. military.” Trump has a very good point, as it is fair to say that without U.S. protection, either Israel or Iran and its proxy operatives and supporters would very soon indeed end the rule of the House of Saud.

Aside from just withdrawing all such support from the Saud family right now, there are other options available to the U.S. as interim measures, although some are more practical than others. Early in the oil price war, Trump stated that “I will do whatever I have to do… to protect… tens of thousands of energy workers and our great companies,” and added that plans to impose tariffs on Saudi Arabia’s oil exports into the U.S. were “certainly a tool in the toolbox.” From a practical volumes perspective, putting tariffs on Saudi oil rather than Russian oil would make sense from two key perspectives. First, the U.S. imports around 95 per cent more oil from Saudi than it does from Russia, so sanctioning Russian oil would have little effect on the U.S.’s supply glut that is overhanging its already-stretched domestic storage facilities. Second, Russia is in much better economic shape than Saudi to handle any shocks to its oil-related streams of revenue, with a budget breakeven oil price of US$40 per barrel of Brent rather than Saudi’s US$84 per barrel point.

Second, there is also the fact that Saudi currently provides one of the few large-scale sources of sour crude (including the benchmark Arab Heavy) that is available to the U.S., which is essential to its production of diesel, and to which purpose WTI is less suited. Certainly much of the U.S.’s Gulf Coast refinery system is geared towards using sourer crude, having invested heavily in coking systems and other infrastructure to better handle heavier crudes from the Middle East in recent decades. The other major historical sources of this for the U.S. are not in a position to fill the gap, with U.S. sanctions still imposed on oil imports from Venezuela, Mexican flows unreliable, and Canada’s pipeline capacity to the U.S. not able to handle any more more exports south until the long-delayed Keystone pipeline is up and running at some point in 2023.

In a U.S. presidential election year, the last thing that a U.S. president wants is increasing diesel prices or shortages making a coronavirus-hit economy even worse. It is a fact that since the end of the First World War, the sitting U.S. president has won re-election 11 times out of 11 if the U.S. economy was not in recession within two calendar years ahead of an election whilst presidents who went into a re-election campaign with the economy in recession over the same time-frame won only once out of seven.

Related: Oil Prices Crash 24% As Storage Fears Mount

This said, it may be that Trump will use the threat of such tariffs on Saudi Arabia, as his mercurial reputation may work to convince the Saudis that he is unpredictable enough to impose such taxes, regardless of the short-term economic consequences. Even as it stands, he needs to do something as around 44 million barrels of Saudi crude are expected to reach the U.S. over the next four weeks, according to oil industry and shipping data. This is around four times the most recent four-week average, according to EIA records, and it is mostly due to be delivered to the already overwhelmed Cushing delivery point. Republican Senator Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, who has advised Trump on energy issues, has been calling on the White House to take action to stop the very large crude carriers from unloading, and several senators and congressmen have threatened to vote to withhold military aid to Saudi Arabia. Trump, for his part, has so far only said that he will “look at it,” referring to stopping these new imports.

Given the burgeoning ill-feeling towards the Saudis amongst the U.S.’s two legislative houses – from an already high base – sources in the Presidential Administration say that a forceful, but private, reiteration of the threat of the ‘No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act’ (NOPEC) Bill direct to King Salman, circumventing his son Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, might do the trick in convincing the Saudis to dramatically increase the contextually paltry output cut last agreed with the Russians. As highlighted by OilPrice.com, the pressure for Trump to finally sign off the NOPEC Bill has been growing from the second that the Saudis began the latest oil price war.

Specifically, the NOPEC Bill would make it illegal to artificially cap oil (and gas) production or to set prices, as OPEC, OPEC+, and Saudi Arabia do. The Bill would also immediately remove the sovereign immunity that presently exists in U.S. courts for OPEC as a group and for each and every one of its individual member states. This would leave Saudi Arabia open to being sued under existing U.S. anti-trust legislation, with its total liability being its estimated US$1 trillion of investments in the U.S. alone. The U.S. would then be legally entitled to freeze all Saudi bank accounts in the U.S., seize its assets in the country, and halt all use of U.S. dollars by the Saudis anywhere in the world (oil, of course, to begin with, is denominated in U.S. dollars). It would also allow the U.S. to go after Saudi Aramco and its assets and funds, as it is still a majority state-owned production and trading vehicle, and would mean that Aramco could be ordered to break itself up into smaller, constituent companies that are not deemed to break competition rules in the oil, gas, and petrochemicals sectors or to influence the oil price.

The Bill came very close indeed to being passed into law when in February of last year, the House Judiciary Committee passed the NOPEC Act, which cleared the way for a vote on the Bill before the full House of Representatives. On the same day, Democrats Patrick Leahy and Amy Klobuchar and – most remarkably – two Republicans, Chuck Grassley and Mike Lee, introduced the NOPEC Bill to the Senate. Its progress was only halted after President Trump stepped in and vetoed it when the Saudis did what he told them to do (at that point, to produce more to keep oil prices under US$70 per barrel of Brent), but the option is still available for a relatively quick turnaround on turning it into law.

By Simon Watkins for Oilprice.com

GLOBAL ECONOMIC COLLAPSE REVEALS THE COMPLETE FAILURE OF NEO-LIBERAL CAPITALISM

GLOBAL ECONOMIC COLLAPSE REVEALS THE COMPLETE FAILURE OF NEO-LIBERAL CAPITALISM

Global Economic Collapse Reveals the Complete Failure of Neo-Liberal Capitalism

ILLUSTRATIVE IMAGE

Written by Dr. Leon Tressell exclusively for SouthFront

  • Fitch Ratings, ‘Unparalleled Global Recession Underway’
  • Economist Sven Heinrich, ‘Central banks are weapons of economic mass destruction.’

As each day passes by data pours in revealing the immense economic damage caused by the Coronavirus pandemic. Most politicians and economic pundits will put the blame for up the economic hurricane, blasting tens of millions into unemployment, on Coronavirus lock downs. Fitch Ratings has given a brief snapshot of the unfolding economic catastrophe which it predicts will last well into the 2020s:

“World GDP is now expected to fall by 3.9% in 2020, a recession of unprecedented depth in the post-war period. This is twice as large as the decline anticipated in our early April GEO update and would be twice as severe as the 2009 recession.”

“The decline in GDP equates to a USD2.8 trillion fall in global income levels relative to 2019 and a loss of USD4.5 trillion relative to our pre-virus expectations of 2020 global GDP. Fitch expects Eurozone GDP to decline by 7%, US GDP by 5.6%, and UK GDP by 6.3% in 2020.”

Yet at the beginning of this year the financial media and political classes around the world were making rosy forecasts how we were going to experience moderate economic growth this year built upon solid economic foundations. There was no cause for worry or alarm just let global capital work its magic and trickle-down economics would ensure living standards would rise for all.

Fast forward 4 months and a global health pandemic has revealed how shallow, brittle and unstable were the economic foundations of the neo-liberal economic order that has been heralded as such a success since the Reagan-Thatcher era of the 1980s. These foundations were built upon infinitely low interest rates, an exponential rise in debt both public and private (sending global debt over the $250 trillion mark) and a massive increase in social and economic inequality. Alongside this, has been the intense exploitation of nations in the developing world and the use of regime change wars as naked resource grabs which cement the neo-liberal economic model in position.The world economy was slowing down during 2019 and heading towards a global recession. Japan’s economy had already entered recession territory in the last quarter of 2019, meanwhile PMI data from China and Germany indicated that they were hovering just outside recession territory.The global economy at the end of 2019 was teetering on the brink and just needed a catalyst or pin to pop the everything bubble which has seen massive inflation in the prices of paper assets across the globe ranging from stocks and bonds to derivatives such as collateralized loan obligations.

The anaemic economic growth experienced by global capitalism since the last financial crisis, which was a mere 12 years ago, has been based upon a gigantic expansion of the global money supply as central banks and governments mistakenly believe that the only way to sustain our debt fuelled economic system was to create ever more debt.

The last 12 years since the 2008 global financial crisis have witnessed an unparalleled wealth transfer from the working classes to the billionaire class which wields immense political influence over governments across the world. Central bank stimulus programs i.e. quantitative easing together with historically low interest rates fuelled a speculative bonanza which has pushed financial markets to all-time highs across the globe.

Meanwhile, governments across the world have sought to give the hard pressed billionaire class a helping hand by cutting capital gains, income and corporation taxes across the board. President Trump’s $1 trillion tax give away to the economic elites in 2017 is the most egregious example of this phenomena.

At the same time, wages for billions of ordinary people have stagnated or fallen whilst welfare benefits and health care have declined. We now have the utterly surreal situation whereby 26 billionaires control as much wealth as the poorest half of humanity amounting to over 3.8 billion people.

The working and middle classes together with the underemployed poor of the developing world were made to pay for the costs of the 2008 global economic crisis. Once the Coronavirus pandemic has finally burned itself out the working people of this world will be confronted with an economic depression which will rival and indeed may exceed in severity that of the 1930s. Governments across the board will once again seek to make ordinary people pay for the cost of the gigantic debts incurred by government and central bank bailouts.

In a desperate effort to prop up their system and protect the interests of their own class central bankers and corporate politicians across the globe are presiding over yet another wealth transfer that benefits the richest 1% in society. Bloomberg has noted how over $8 trillion has been printed out of thin air by global central banks and governments to prop up their debt fuelled system. The bulk of this horde of fiat money has gone to service the needs of Wall Street and its counterparts in London, Paris Frankfurt, Shanghai et cetera.The Wall Street Journal has openly acknowledged this truth in an editorial:

“The Fed may feel all of this is essential to protect the financial system’s plumbing and reduce systemic risk until the virus crisis passes, but make no mistake the Fed is protecting Wall Street first. The goal seems to be to lift asset prices, as the Fed did after the financial panic, and hope that the wealth effect trickles down to the rest of the economy.”

As the 2020s progress massive wealth and health inequalities, hunger and poverty will lead large numbers of people to question the hyper financialised economic system whose sole motive is to protect the interests of the 1%.

The American dominated monetary system which gives preferential treatment to the empire and its allies is in decline. Its decline will be exacerbated by the twin hammer blows of the Coronavirus pandemic and the global economic depression now unfolding.

During the coming decade the make the world will become an even more unstable place as the hegemonic power of our era seeks to maintain its dominant position in the global economy at the expense of other nations. The contradictions and tensions between the United States and its rival China will be greatly exacerbated during the next period. As we saw in the 1930s once these economic contradictions and tensions reach breaking point then the superpowers of the day have few course of action open to them beyond war or appeasement of their rival.Yet during the 1930s there were instances where the onward march to war could have been averted. If Republican Spain had defeated Franco’s fascist insurgency then the momentum towards war would have been slowed. It would have greatly strengthened the Popular Front government in France and halted the appeasement policies that allowed Nazi Germany to grow in strength like a cancerous tumour.
During the next decade there will no doubt be other such instances where the onward march to war can be averted.

The Seven-Step Path From Pandemic To Totalitarianism

Authored by Rosemary Frei via Off-Guardian.org,

There are just seven steps from pandemic declaration to permanent totalitarianism – and many jurisdictions are about to start Step 5…

As if it was planned in advance, billions of people around the globe are being forced step by rapid step into a radically different way of life, one that involves far less personal, physical and financial freedom and agency

Here is the template for rolling this out.

STEP 1

A new virus starts to spread around the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) declares a pandemic.

International agencies, public-health officials, politicians, media and other influential voices fan fear by focusing almost exclusively on the contagiousness of the virus and the rising numbers of cases, and by characterizing the virus as extremely dangerous.

Within a few days governments at national and local levels also declare states of emergency. At lightning speed they impose lock-down measures that confine most people to their homes – starting with closing schools – and shut down much of the global economy. World markets implode.

The stunned, fearful and credulous public – convinced over the previous few years that their bodies do not have the natural ability to react to pathogens by producing antibodies that confer long-lasting immunity – largely complies willingly.

The first weekly virtual class on local emergency and crisis responses to COVID19 is held for mayors and other city officials around the world. Coordinated by a handful of American organizations in the academic, medical, financial, political and transportation spheres, the classes feature guests ranging from Barack Obama to Bill Gates.

STEP 2

National, state/provincial and municipal leaders, as well as public-health officials, start daily press briefings. They use them to pump out frightening statistics and modelling asserting the virus has the potential to kill many millions.

Most of this information is hard to decipher and sheds little real light on the natural course of the virus’s spread through each geographic area.

Officials and media downplay or distort inconveniently low death tolls from the virus and instead focus on alarming statistics produced by compliant academics, social-media influencers and high-profile organizations.

The main message is that this is a war and many lives are at stake unless virtually everybody stays at home. Mainstream media amplify the trope that the world is at the mercy of the virus.

Simultaneously, central banks and governments hand out massive amounts of cash largely to benefit the big banks. And they bring in giant private-sector financial firms to manage the process despite these global companies’ very poor track record in the 2008-2009 crash. Governments also rapidly start to create trillions of pounds’ worth of programs that include compensating businesses and workers for their shutdown-related losses.

STEP 3

There is a concerted effort by all levels of government and public health to very rapidly ramp up testing for viral RNA, along with production of personal protective equipment.

They push aside the need for regulation, including quality standards and independent verification of tests’ rates of accuracy, by insisting that fast approval and roll-out are imperative for saving lives.

Models are released that predict snowballing of numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths even under best-case scenarios.

At about the same time, public-health officials significantly loosen the criteria for viral infections, outbreaks and deaths, particularly in the oldest members of society. That increases the numbers of cases and deaths ascribed to the new pathogen.

The media continue to clamour for more testing and for severe punishment of people who aren’t completely compliant with the lock-down measures.

As a result, there’s little backlash as police and military with sweeping new powers enforce these measures and give stiff penalties or even jail terms to those who disobey orders. States also monitor with impunity massive numbers of people’s movements via their cellphones.

Vast human resources are focused on tracking down people who have had contact with a virus-positive individual and confining them to their homes. Thus the portion of the public exposed to the virus remains relatively small.

It also contributes to social isolation. Among many effects, this enables those in control to even further erase individual and collective choices, voices and power.

STEP 4

When the numbers of cases and deaths start to plateau, local officials claim it’s too early to tell whether the virus has finished passing through their population and therefore, restrictive measures must continue.

An alternative narrative is that if such measures aren’t kept in place there will be a resurgence of cases and deaths. Yet another is that the continuing climb in elderly persons’ deaths means all bets are off for the time being.

They admit that initial models incorrectly predicted there would be a tsunami of cases, ICU admissions and deaths. However, they assert more time is needed before it can be determined whether it’s safe to loosen some of the restrictions and let children return to school or adults go back to work.

Officials do not try to calculate the overall skyrocketing cost to their populations and economies of the shut-downs and other measures against, nor do they discuss what cost level may be too high.

They and powerful media organizations also push for the massive virus-testing over-capacity to be used to surveil the general population for viral DNA in their bodies. At the same time, the roll-out begins of widespread blood testing for antibodies to the virus.

Meanwhile, new data are published showing the virus has a high capacity to mutate. Scientists and officials interpret this as meaning a larger medical arsenal will be needed to combat it.

Image source: The Spectator

STEP 5

About two or three weeks later, the dramatic increase in testing for viral DNA produces the desired goal of a significant upsurge in the number of people found positive for the virus.

Public-health officials add jet fuel to the surge by adding to their case and death tallies the large number of people who are only suspected – and not lab-test-confirmed – to have had an infection. Politicians and public-health officials tell the populace this means they cannot return to their jobs or other activities outside the home for the time being.

Governments work with public-health agencies, academics, industry, the WHO and other organizations to start to design and implement immunity-passport systems for using the results of the widespread antibody testing to determine who can be released from the lock-downs. This is one of many goals of the seven steps.

Meanwhile, government leaders continue to highlight the importance of vaccines for besting the virus.

STEP 6

Large-scale human testing of many different types of antivirals and vaccines begins, thanks to a concerted push from the WHO, Bill Gates and his collaborators, pharmaceutical and biotech companies, governments and universities.

Large swaths of the population don’t have the antibodies to the virus because they’ve been kept from being exposed to it; they eagerly accept these medications even though they’ve been rushed to market with inadequate safety testing. They believe these medical products offer the only hope for escaping the virus’s clutches.

STEP 7

Soon the new virus starts another cycle around the globe – just as influenza and other viruses have every year for millennia. Officials again fan the flames of fear by positing the potential for millions of deaths among people not yet protected from the virus.

They rapidly roll out virus and antibody testing again, while companies sell billions more doses of antivirals and booster vaccines.

Governments simultaneously cede control of all remaining public assets to global companies. This is because local and national governments’ tax bases were decimated during Step 1 and they’re virtually bankrupt from their unprecedented spending in the war against the virus in the other steps.

The overall result is complete medicalization of the response to the virus, which on a population level is no more harmful than influenza.

This is coupled with the creation of permanent totalitarianism controlled by global companies and a 24/7 invasive-surveillance police state supported by widespread blossoming of ‘smart’ technology.

The key players repeat the cycle of hysteria and massive administration of antivirals and booster shots every few months.

And they implement a variation of steps 1 to 7 when another new pathogen appears on the planet.

Sounds far-fetched? Unfortunately, it’s not.

With the arrival of COVID19 many countries quickly completed Steps 1, 2 and 3.

Step 4 is well under way in a large number of jurisdictions.

Step 5 is on track to start in early May.

World Shipping Grinds To A Screeching Halt

Oil Tankers Surround California With Nowhere to Unload

 

(Bloomberg) — Oil tankers carrying enough crude to satisfy 20% of the world’s daily consumption are gathered off California’s coast with nowhere to go as fuel demand collapses.

Almost three dozen ships — scattered in waters from Long Beach to the San Francisco Bay — are mostly acting as floating storage for oil that’s going unused as the coronavirus pandemic shutters businesses and takes drivers off the road. Marathon Petroleum Corp.’s refinery in Martinez, California, has been idled and others, including Chevron Corp.’s El Segundo refinery, have curtailed crude processing as the state orders residents to stay at home.

The more than 20 million barrels of crude is the highest volume of crude to ever float off the West Coast at one time, according to Paris-based Kpler SAS, which tracks tanker traffic. About three quarters of those tankers are holding oil in storage, meaning they have been floating steadily for seven days, also a record.

Storage has become increasingly scarce as a growing supply glut collides with collapsing fuel demand. As traditional tanks have filled, oil has been pushed onto tankers to float off Singapore, the U.S. Gulf Coast and, now, the U.S. West Coast.

The slowdown in oil deliveries into California was already becoming evident last quarter, when 38.8 million barrels of crude was delivered into Long Beach, down from 42 million barrels a year earlier, according to Port of Long Beach data.

The Seaexpress, a tanker that normally carries fuel, is currently holding crude for Royal Dutch Shell Plc. for at least a month in Puget Sound, Washington, after data on the ships draft indicated it loaded up at the company’s Anacortes refinery.

(Adds Port of Long Beach data in second to final paragraph)

[EDITOR’S NOTE: included unusual image of tug boats (light blue) at anchor up and down the Mississippi, Ohio and Missouri Rivers…another indicator of the huge hit now being absorbed by the US shipping industry.]

Global Food Chain Breakdown Anticipated from Covid Economic Disruption

[ Ship Crews Stuck in Lockdown Strain Global Supply Chains]

[Pandemic could cause famines of ‘biblical proportions’]

Global Food Exports Paralyzed by Growing Port Problems

shipping containers
File Photo: hxdyl / Shutterstock

By Jen Skerritt, Leslie Patton and Emele Onu (Bloomberg)

The port backups that have paralyzed food shipments around the world for weeks aren’t getting much better. In fact, in some places, they’re getting worse.

In the Philippines, officials at a port that’s a key entry point for rice said earlier this week the terminal was at risk of shutting as thousands of shipping containers pile up because lockdown measures are making them harder to clear. Meanwhile, curfews in Guatemala and Honduras, known for their specialty coffees, are limiting operating hours at ports and slowing shipments. And in parts of Africa, which is heavily dependent on food imports, there aren’t enough workers showing up to help unload cargoes.

The port choke-points are just the latest example of how the virus is snarling food production and distribution across the globe. Trucking bottlenecks, sick plant workers, export bans and panic buying have all contributed to why shoppers are seeing empty grocery store shelves, even amid ample supplies.

Food moves from farm to table through a complicated web of interactions. So problems for even just a few ports can ripple through to create troubling slowdowns. For example, wheat grown in Europe can be shipped off to India, where it’s processed into naan bread for eventual export into the American market. Disruptions along the way are causing heavy delays.

And there’s the threat that things could get much worse if port problems spread. Just a handful countries, for instance, export the bulk of the world’s rice and wheat, staple sources of calories. Soybeans from South America help keep the planet’s livestock fed, and the vast majority of cocoa supplies are shipped out of small section of West Africa.

Even countries like the U.S., a key food exporter, depend on imports for things like wine, spices, cheese and out-of-season produce — that’s how you can make avocado toast year-round.

U.S. frozen-foods company Saffron Road relies on Indian shipments for naan and other products. A three-week lockdown on the nation’s 1.3 billion people has brought transportation of goods within its borders to a near halt, and the government sparked confusion when it told all major ports that the virus was a valid reason to halt some operations.

Saffron Road may be forced to look for other suppliers if the disruptions continue much longer, said Chief Executive Officer Adnan Durrani.

“It’s uncharted territory,” Durrani said.

Still, in some parts of the world earlier port disruptions have already improved.

China is past the worst of its problems. At the height of the nation’s outbreak, thousands of containers of frozen pork, chicken and beef were piling up at major ports after transport disruptions and labor shortages slowed operations. The logjam also created a dearth of containers elsewhere in the world, which was then compounded by the fact that vessels weren’t making trips out from the Asian nation with manufactured goods. Those issues have since cleared up as the country went back to work.

In Brazil, the world’s top exporter of soybeans, beef, coffee and sugar, shipments are now running at a normal pace. Companies brought in extra empty refrigerated containers to ease a shortage that disrupted meat shipments. The nation also managed to export record volumes of soybeans in March after the government intervened to stop a strike threatened by port workers who were worried about their safety.

“Brazil’s export volumes are so big that any minor issue must be solved very quickly. Otherwise, it may lead to logistic bottlenecks in all the world,” said Sergio Mendes, head of the nation’s grain export group known as Anec.

But with the disease spreading, container issues are popping up in other regions. The sturdy boxes, often made of steel and usually measuring somewhere between 20 feet (about 6 meters) to 50 feet in length, are constantly sent back and forth across the planet with goods. That flow has been heavily disrupted as the virus slows manufacturing and cripples demand for some products. The Port of Los Angeles, for example, saw a 31% drop in volume in March compared with a year ago as retailers scale back orders.

Food exporters are being forced to wait longer for incoming shipments to be able to empty and refill vessels with their goods. That’s the case in Europe, where operations are running more or less normally, but the container squeeze is causing delays, according to Philippe Binard, general delegate of Freshfel Europe, a produce association.

It’s also a problem in Canada after some shipping routes were canceled by carriers because of lower demand for manufactured goods.

“The outbound capacity is really starting to diminish,” said Mark Hemmes, president of the Edmonton, Alberta-based Quorum Corp., a company hired by the federal government to monitor Canada’s grain-transportation system.

Across the globe in Nigeria, the problem is too many containers, which are piling up and clogging the ports. Workers who would normally be clearing the congestion are facing difficulties coming in as the nation’s lockdown shut public transportation. Banks near the ports are closing, making it harder to process receipts and clearing documents.

With food stuck in containers floating at the docks, it’s exacerbating shortages and driving up prices.

“The ports are jam-packed,” Tony Nwabunike, president of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, the union that represents workers who clear the ports. “The main reason is that there is no movement now. Even those of us that have been given orders to go to the ports as essential service providers, we are not accessing the ports because transportation remain skeletal,” and not all workers have the necessary paperwork to show they are essential employees, he said.

“Police are on the road, so people are scared. There is harassment everywhere.”

Even as some of these issues start to ease, there’s also concern over the possibility of port workers getting sick. Employees in close proximity will have to be quarantined if they are exposed, and there’s the threat of contagion. Hubs like Singapore and Shanghai have halted crew transfers to prevent the spread of the virus.

In Australia, two workers at Port Botany, one of the country’s biggest container ports, tested positive for Covid-19, it was confirmed this week. A further 17 workers went into self isolation for 14 days.

The threat of sick workers is top of mind for Paul Aucoin, executive director of the Port of South Louisiana, the largest tonnage port district in the U.S. The virus has already forced some security personnel to self-isolate, and vessel crews are no longer allowed on shore in an effort to stem the spread, he said.

“I fear we’re going to lose some workers, and when you lose workers it gets harder to keep the same pace,” Aucoin said. “We are going to see a slowdown.”

–With assistance from Tatiana Freitas, Marvin G. Perez, Ruth Olurounbi, Megan Durisin, Claire Jiao, James Thornhill, Isis Almeida, Jenny Leonard and Aaron Clark.

© 2019 Bloomberg L.P

India’s Modi Uses Pandemic To Intensify Anti-Muslim Campaign

The coronavirus outbreak has allowed authoritarianism and anti-Muslim sentiment to flourish.

By

Police officers on patrol during the coronavirus lockdown in Mumbai, India, last week.
Credit…Divyakant Solanki/EPA, via Shutterstock

NEW DELHI — For decades, India embraced many of the ideals that are the hallmarks of a liberal democracy. But since the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu fundamentalist Bharatiya Janata Party in 2014, we have experienced a breathtaking erosion in the rule of law and civil and political rights and the unleashing of a wave of intolerance against religious minorities.

Sadly, much of the Indian media has been complicit in the B.J.P.’s assault on democratic and secular values, either by actively promoting the narrative of Mr. Modi and his party, or by censoring itself to avoid being punished.

There are still journalists who maintain their integrity and work to uphold the democratic ideals of the Indian Constitution. For these independent journalists, it has become something of a rite of passage to have the police come after them for speaking out against the ruling establishment.

As a founding editor of The Wire, an independent online news portal, I have had my own brushes with the law, chiefly in the form of defamation complaints. At one point, we faced 14 defamation cases, all of them frivolous, seeking damages totaling $1.3 billion. The cases were filed by people who are either a part of the ruling establishment or considered close to it. Seven cases have since been withdrawn.

A few weeks back, the harassment took a darker turn.

On April 1, I was accused by the police in Ayodhya, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, of several serious crimes: using a computer to impersonate someone and transmit obscene material; disobeying the instructions of a public official; spreading panic about an impending disaster; and spreading rumors with intent to cause a riot. Some of these crimes carry a three-year prison sentence.

The police complaints, though vaguely worded, made it evident that the government was angered by an article in The Wire on March 31 about coronavirus infections at the Delhi headquarters of a Muslim religious organization, the Tablighi Jamaat.

The article noted, by way of background, that religious leaders and groups in India had been slow to wake up to the dangers of the coronavirus. The chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, who is a priest and a prominent Modi ally, had taken part in a Hindu religious gathering in Ayodhya along with dozens of people on March 25 — the first day of the national lockdown to stem the spread of the virus.

Mr. Adityanath had tweeted video of himself surrounded by priests, officials and journalists. A handful of those present wore masks, but the gathering was a blatant violation of the government’s advisory on social distancing. The article misattributed a quote to Mr. Adityanath. The words had been uttered by another priest from Ayodhya. We published a clear and swift correction.

We mentioned Mr. Adityanath in our report because the Tablighi Jamaat infections were being exploited by the Islamophobic establishment and its spear-carriers to generate hostility against Muslims. We were reminding our readers that no religion has a monopoly on ignorant or complacent followers. That, I believe, is the real crime the Hindu fundamentalists who rule India and Uttar Pradesh think we have committed.

The establishment is much more comfortable with the propaganda campaign against Muslims immediately started by a section of the Indian media, vilifying members of the Tablighi Jamaat, targeting mosques and seminaries. This quickly morphed into a vicious social media campaign with fake videos carrying hashtags like #CoronaJihad.

Predictably, the online hate spilled over to the real world. There are reports from Uttar Pradesh and other parts of India of vigilantes attacking Muslims and enforcing a boycott of Muslim vendors. Two babies have died after hospitals allegedly refused to treat their Muslim mothers. A cancer hospital announced that it would not admit Muslim patients unless they provided proof of having tested negative for the coronavirus.

None of this has stirred the Indian government or the state authorities to firmly enforce the rule of law. Instead, amid the lockdown, policemen were dispatched from Ayodhya to my home in New Delhi, 435 miles away, to summon me to answer the charges.

The date they chose for my appearance happened to fall within the lockdown, so they knew I would never be able to make it across state lines. They also knew I would be unable to approach the courts because of the lockdown, making me potentially liable to arrest for not responding.

Fortunately, the civil society outcry over this intimidation forced the police to backtrack. Thirty-six hours before the deadline, I was informed that I could submit a statement through email, which I have done.

The ball is now in the Uttar Pradesh government’s court. But given the B.J.P.’s general intolerance of criticism, I do not expect officials there to back off just because of the public health emergency.

Across India, the pandemic and lockdown have provided an occasion for the free play of authoritarian impulses. Despite the Supreme Court of India urging the authorities to empty the prisons because of the coronavirus, the human rights activist Gautam Navlakha and Anand Teltumbde, a management professor and leading intellectual, were taken into custody last week under a draconian antiterrorism law on the flimsiest of evidence.

Sadly, neither in their case nor indeed in a raft of rights-related cases has the Supreme Court of India chosen to intervene. The lockdown, which Mr. Modi announced on March 24, with four hours’ notice, rendered hundreds of thousands of migrant workers without work, food and shelter, forcing them to set out on crushing journeys to their villages on foot.

A public interest case was filed in the Supreme Court of India seeking support for the distressed workers. The court meekly accepted the Indian government’s unsubstantiated claim that the exodus of migrant workers was caused by “fake news” by the media and not by the lack of preparation or warning by the government.

The police are targeting journalists and even citizens using social media for reports and comments that show the government in poor light. Last Wednesday, the police in the state of Gujarat, charged a respected lawyer with hate speech for a sarcastic tweet. Most of these cases fizzle out, but India’s police know that the process is the punishment.

A national lockdown is precisely the time when journalists in a democracy need to be free to write and report without worrying about a midnight knock. Only by doing our jobs can we ensure not only that ordinary citizens come out of the pandemic alive, but that their democracy does so, too.

Siddharth Varadarajan is a founding editor of The Wire and a former editor of The Hindu newspaper.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: letters@nytimes.com.

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram.

Ambassador says coronavirus imported to China, points to genetic sequence as proof

Ambassador says coronavirus imported to China, points to genetic sequence as proof

On Wednesday, Fox News reported, citing its sources, that the virus had allegedly spread from a Wuhan laboratory

MOSCOW, April 17. /TASS/. A gene sequence in the novel coronavirus indicates that the virus was imported to China’s Wuhan, instead of emerging there, China’s Ambassador to Russia Zhang Hanhui told TASS Friday.

For clarity, the ambassador used family ties to trace the virus’s development. Thus, the mv1 haplotype is “the grand-grandfather,” while H13 and H38 are “the grandma and grandpa,” H3 — is “the father” and H1 is “the child.”

“The virus that was discovered at Wuhan’s seafood market was of the H1 variety,” he continued. “Only the H3 haplotype was discovered in Wuhan earlier, but it had nothing to do with the seafood market.”

The previous gene sequences, H13 and H38, were never discovered in Wuhan.

“This suggests that the H1 specimen was brought to the seafood market by some infected person, which sparked the epidemic. The gene sequence cannot lie,” Zhang Hanhui asserted.

The ambassador castigated attempts to pin the blame for the pandemic on China as libel, and reiterated that the country had to undertake huge efforts and suffer a lot of casualties in order to beat the disease.

“In doing so, China bought time for other nations — two entire months — in order to allow them to take prevention and control measures,” he concluded.

Earlier, US President Donald Trump doubted that China had divulged all information about the virus’s emergence and spread. On Wednesday, Fox News reported, citing its sources, that the virus had allegedly spread from a Wuhan laboratory. Trump promised to look into this version.

Coronavirus source

“Numerous facts indicate that the source of COVID-19 has not been identified yet and point towards various regions. The virus is the common enemy of all of mankind, and the search for ‘patient zero’ is aimed not to nail them to a ‘pillar of shame’ but to better understand this virus, discover its evolutionary path and then defeat it completely,” the diplomat explained. “By relying on contemporary science and technologies, we can trace the source of the virus and be sure that, sooner or later, the day will come when everything that’s been concealed will be revealed.”

According to the envoy, although the novel coronavirus was first discovered in Wuhan, there are no facts determining that the source had originated from there.

He provided an example of a married couple from Japan, who contracted the disease in Hawaii between January 28 and February 7, “without visiting China or contacting any Chinese.” Notably, the husband had symptoms by February 3.

Zhang Hanhui pointed to media reports that speculate that the virus had appeared in Italy’s Lombardy as early as January 1.

“Besides, according to some media, a renowned Italian medical specialist Giuseppe Remuzzi opined that the epidemic in Italy had begun spreading before it started in China,” he pointed out.

The diplomat also recalled a comment made by Robert Redfield, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who speculated that the large number of flu deaths in the US could have in fact been caused by COVID-19, but the US did not test for it at that time.

“Italy hoped to trace the first infection case by conducting an exhumation, but the US vehemently disagreed,” the Chinese envoy emphasized.

US allegations

Beijing furnished the United States with coronavirus data on time, Zhang Hanhui told TASS Friday, commenting on Washington’s allegations that Beijing withheld information about the epidemic.

The diplomat recalled that in late December 2019, the Wuhan Center for Disease Prevention and Control (China CDC) discovered the previously unknown pneumonia cases. According to the ambassador, starting January 3, 2020, China “promptly and timely provided the World Health Organization (WHO), the US and nations’ relevant agencies with information on the epidemic.”

“On January 4, the head of the Chinese CDC contacted the US CDC Director and briefed him on the epidemiologic situation,” the envoy said. “On January 8 and 19, the Chinese and American Centers again directly held contacts on the coronavirus issue.”

The diplomat added that China shared the virus’s entire genome sequence with the WHO and the nations of the world, while the National Health Commission published daily bulletins on the epidemic on its official websites and other media platforms.

Zhang Hanhui underscored that the WHO Director-General Thedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus thanked Beijing for its openness and cooperation.

Earlier, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed that the fight against the coronavirus in the US was complicated by China’s failure to provide Washington with comprehensive information about the disease.

China’s international help

According to the ambassador, the People’s Republic has done everything to restore production as soon as the initial coronavirus outbreak was contained, and currently is manufacturing more than a half of world’s stockpile of medical equipment.

“[China] has provided 120 countries and four international organizations with general use medical masks, N95 respirators, protective wear, nucleic acid detection chemicals and ventilators,” the envoy said. “Besides, [Beijing] also contributed $20 million to the World Health Organization to support international cooperation in battling COVID-19. Ignoring China’s contribution and sacrifices goes against moral norms and conscience.”

The envoy also noted that no one is safe in the face of the pandemic, and therefore all nations “must unite, instead of pinning the blame on one another.”

“Racism and a Cold War mindset are not only useless in the fight against the ongoing epidemic, but can even drag our world into the abyss,” he underscored. “[The pandemic] knows no borders. Nations of the world are a community bound by a single destiny.”

What is needed most of all is an effective joint prevention strategy to fight the coronavirus, Zhang Hanhui believes.

“We must also work together to iron out economic relations, unblock trade channels, overcome possible financial crises, and prevent a global economic downturn,” the envoy emphasized. “Only through the unity and joint efforts of all of humanity will we achieve a comprehensive victory in the global fight against the pandemic.”

On March 11, 2020, the WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. According to the latest statistics, over 2,000,000 people have been infected worldwide and more than 147,000 deaths have been reported. In addition, so far, over 553,000 individuals have recovered from the illness across the globe.

Do Covid19 Antibody Tests Reveal That “the large majority of people who contract COVID-19 recover without ever knowing they were infected”

“Hundreds of thousands of adults there may have already been infected….the numbers show that COVID-19 is merely a partisan-driven flu hoax.

If true, it suggests that the large majority of people who contract COVID-19 recover without ever knowing they were infected. If undetected infections are that widespread, then the death rate in the county could be less than 0.2%, making the virus far less lethal than authorities have assumed. Los Angeles authorities also peg their death rate at 0.2% based on the USC study.”

[This begs the question: WHEN DID THOUSANDS CONTRACT THE “Killer Virus”?  Were some of these cases misdiagnosed as the flu, as CDC Chief Redfield admitted?  Were these misdiagnosed cases last year, before the Wuhan outbreak?]

Feud over Stanford coronavirus study: ‘The authors owe us all an apology’

 

Angry statisticians dispute Santa Clara County research that found high infection rates

Edwin Chang, center, a staff member at the Stanford Radiology department and Stanford medical student Thomas Koehnkz, right, along with fellow students and volunteers prepare to take blood samples during a coronavirus antibody study at Mountain View’s First Presbyterian Church in Mountain View, Calif., on Friday, April 3, 2020. The public health research study will be testing 2500 pre-registered participants at three sites. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)
Researchers are engaged in a fierce debate over the startling estimates in a Stanford study that suggested as many as 81,000 people could already have been infected with coronavirus in Santa Clara County, with some of the world’s top number crunchers calling the study sloppy, biased and an example of “how NOT to do statistics.”

“I think the authors owe us all an apology… not just to us, but to Stanford,” wrote Andrew Gelman, a professor of statistics and political science and director of the Applied Statistics Center at Columbia University.

Yet after a weekend of attacks on the paper, a study announced Monday out of the University of Southern California on a sampling of residents in Los Angeles reached a very similar conclusion: It found hundreds of thousands of adults there may have already been infected. As of Monday, Los Angeles County had recorded fewer than 13,000 cases.

The Santa Clara County study concluded that the virus had infected 2.5% to 4.2% of residents here; in LA, the estimated infection rate ranged from 2.8% to 5.6%.

The early studies set off a firestorm — not only among academics taking to Twitter to debate sampling methods, false positives and Bayesian inferences with a furor reminiscent of the banning of @BabyYodaBaby — but critics who believe the numbers show that COVID-19 is merely a partisan-driven flu hoax.

The showdown over a few percentage points has captured our cultural zeitgeist, sheltering at home in fear of both a virus and an economic meltdown.

In response, on Sunday, the Stanford study’s authors said they are planning to soon release a detailed appendix that addresses many of the “constructive comments and suggestions” the team has received.

“This is exactly the way peer-review should work in scientific work, and we are looking forward to engaging with other scholars as we proceed in this important work,” said Dr. Jayanta Bhattacharya, professor of medicine at Stanford University, who along with colleague Dr. Eran Bendavid, also assisted with the USC study.

The estimate, posted on the website medRxiv, comes from a first-in-the-nation community study of newly available antibody tests of 3,300 Santa Clara County residents in early April. Like all other emerging COVID-19 research papers, the work had not been peer reviewed prior to its release.

Based on those tests, the authors contend that between 48,000 and 81,000 of the county’s 1.9 million residents had been infected with the virus as of the first week of April. That’s 50 to 85 times more than the official count of cases at the time.

If true, it suggests that the large majority of people who contract COVID-19 recover without ever knowing they were infected. If undetected infections are that widespread, then the death rate in the county could be less than 0.2%, making the virus far less lethal than authorities have assumed. Los Angeles authorities also peg their death rate at 0.2% based on the USC study.

Santa Clara County Executive Dr. Jeff Smith remains steadfast in his interpretation of the study’s findings: It suggests that asymptomatic people spread the virus, and that more than 95% of the population remains susceptible to infection.

“That all means that there is more risk than we initially were aware of,” said Smith, lamenting how some are using the study to challenge Bay Area health officials’ unprecedented stay-home orders.

Similarly, Los Angeles Department of Public Health’s chief science officer Dr. Paul Simon said Monday that the LA study “suggests that many folks out there have infections and aren’t aware of it, or have mild symptoms….I think it is really important to continue the social distancing at least for the next month.”

The Los Angeles study was smaller than the Santa Clara County study, testing fewer than 1,000 people. This puts it at greater risk of distorted results. Researchers there plan to repeat the study to improve the accuracy of their results and track the virus’ spread.

However, researchers in LA took a more representative sample of residents than the Stanford team, using a market research firm rather than recruiting study subjects through Facebook, and including more minority groups.

They both used the same test kit, which is not FDA approved and has a 90 to 95% accuracy rate.

The Stanford study’s authors said they adjusted for the test kit’s performance and their limited sampling techniques to estimate the prevalence of the virus in Santa Clara County.

But over the weekend, some of the nation’s top number crunchers said their extrapolation of the results rests on a flimsy foundation.

They contended the Stanford analysis is troubled because it draws sweeping conclusions based on statistically rare events, and is rife with sampling and statistical imperfections.

Gelman of Columbia University called the conclusions “some numbers that were essentially the product of a statistical error.”

“They’re the kind of screw-ups that happen if you want to leap out with an exciting finding,” he wrote, “and you don’t look too carefully at what you might have done wrong.”

From the lab of Erik van Nimwegen of the University of Basel came this: “Loud sobbing reported from under Reverend Bayes’ grave stone,” referring to a famed statistician. “Seriously, I might use this as an example in my class to show how NOT to do statistics.”

“Do NOT interpret this study as an accurate estimate of the fraction of population exposed,” wrote Marm Kilpatrick, an infectious disease researcher at the University of California Santa Cruz. “Authors have made no efforts to deal with clearly known biases and whole study design is problematic.”

Others accused the authors of having agendas before going into the study. Back in March, Bhattacharya  and Bendavid wrote an editorial in the Wall Street Journal arguing that a universal quarantine may not be worth the costs. Their colleague John Ioannidis has written that we lack the data to make such drastic economic sacrifices.

One major problem with the Santa Clara County study relates to test specificity. It used a kit purchased from Premier Biotech, based in Minneapolis with known performance data discrepancies of two “false positives” out of every 371 true negative samples.  Although it was the best test at the time of the study, that’s a high “false positive” rate that can skew results, critics say — especially with such a small sample size.

With that ratio of false positives, a large number of the positive cases reported in the study — 50 out of 3320 tests — could be false positives, critics note. To ensure a test is sensitive enough to pick up only true SARS-CoV-2 infections, it needs to evaluate hundreds of positive cases of COVID-19 among thousands of negative ones.

This potential error in the test can easily dominate the results, they said.

Statistician John Cherian of D. E. Shaw Research, a computational biochemistry company, made his own calculations given the test’s sensitivity and specificity — and estimated the proportion of truly positive people in the Stanford study to range from 0.5% to 2.8%.

Adjusting for demographics, Cherian’s calculations suggest that prevalence could plausibly be under 1% and the mortality rate could be over 1%.

The “confidence intervals” in the paper – that is, the range around a measurement that conveys how precise the measurement is – “are nowhere close to what you’d get with a more careful approach,” he noted.

Assuming a sensitivity of 72%, this is a histogram of possible true positive rates, according to statistician John Cherian. 

Even if the test were completely accurate, there would still be sampling problems in the Stanford study, critics said.

Biostatistician Natalie E. Dean of the University of Florida called it a “consent problem.” The Facebook ad might have attracted people who thought they were exposed to the virus and wanted testing.

“The prevalence drops off quickly when adjusted for even a small self-selection bias,” wrote Lonnie Chrisman, chief technical officer at the Los Gatos data software company Lumina Decision Systems.

Addressing the critics, Stanford’s Ioannidis, professor of medicine and  biomedical data science at Stanford University, promised an expanded version of their study will be posted soon. “The results remain very robust,” he said.

In the end, no single study is going to answer the question of how prevalent COVID-19 is in our communities, scientists said.  More studies with different technologies and analytic approaches are needed.

That’s coming. A UC Berkeley project, which will begin in May, will test a large and representative swath of 5,000 East Bay residents. Scientists will take saliva, swab and blood samples from volunteers between the ages of 18 and 60 around the region.

Starting Monday, UC San Francisco and a privately-funded operation will test all 1,680 residents of rural Bolinas for evidence of the virus. UCSF will launch a similar effort Saturday in San Francisco’s densely populated and largely Latino Mission District, where it hopes to test 5,700 people.

Results are expected soon from seroprevalence surveys run by other groups around the world, including teams in China, Australia, Iceland, Italy and Germany

“This pandemic,” wrote research scientist Ganesh Kadamur, “has been one giant Stats class for everyone.”


Read the Stanford study: https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.04.14.20062463v1

Trump May Block Saudi Supertanker Shipments of Unneeded Oil

U.S. Oil Storage To Hit Its Limit By Mid-May

Crude oil price plunges below zero for first time in unprecedented wipeout

Flotilla of Saudi Oil Threatens to Worsen U.S. Supply Glut – WSJ

U.S. President Donald Trump addresses the daily coronavirus task force briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 20, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump said on Monday that his administration was considering the possibility of stopping incoming Saudi Arabian crude oil shipments as a measure to support the battered domestic drilling industry.

“Well, I’ll look at it,” Trump told reporters at a daily news conference after he was asked about requests by some Republican lawmakers to block the shipments under his executive authority.

Trump said he had heard the proposal immediately before the news briefing. “We certainly have plenty of oil, so I’ll take a look at it,” he said.

U.S. crude oil futures collapsed to trade in negative territory for the first time in history on Monday, amid a coronavirus-induced supply glut. Futures ended the day at a stunning minus-$37.63 a barrel as desperate traders paid to get rid of oil as storage space was close to running out.

The collapse in prices has threatened to tilt the once-booming U.S. oil industry into bankruptcy.

Trump described the drop as short-term and stemming from a “financial squeeze,” but said the oil industry was hurting from a lack of demand, as states have imposed stay-in-place restrictions to curb the spread of the virus.

“The problem is no one is driving a car anywhere in the world, essentially. … Factories are closed, businesses are closed,” Trump said. “We had really a lot of energy to start off with, oil in particular, and then all of a sudden they lost 40%, 50% of their market.”

He said the global producer group known as OPEC+ had agreed to cut production by some 15 million barrels per day, and said weak prices could force more declines for economic reasons.

“They have to do more by the market, it’s the same thing over here. If the market is the way it is, people are going to slow it down or they’re going to stop. That’s going to be automatic, and that’s happening,” Trump said.

Trump reiterated that his administration plans to top up the nation’s emergency crude oil stockpile as prices plunge.

The Department of Energy is in the process of leasing some of the roughly 77 million barrels of available space in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to U.S. oil companies to help them deal with dearth of commercial storage as the coronavirus outbreak crushes domestic energy demand.

The administration initially wanted to purchase the crude oil directly, but Congress has yet to approve the funding.

Asked if he still wanted lawmakers to approve the funding, Trump said the space in the SPR would be filled either way.

Reporting by Jeff Mason and Alexandra Alper; Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Peter Cooney, Sam Holmes and Leslie Adler

The Bloodsucking Lawyers Have Taken Legal Action To Punish China For Coronavirus

[SEE: US/China Trading Dangerous Accusations Over Possibility of Weaponized Coronavirus]

“If we don’t go to war over the loss of 31,000 now, and certainly more to come, 31,000 American lives, what do we go to war over?”

“Because whether they did it intentionally or not, we do know this: that that virus was unleashed on the world and they lied, and that is the same as making it an intentional and conscious act of warfare, as far as I’m concerned.”–Lou Dobbs

US Coronavirus Victims Sue China for Billions

china flag with a sick man and an eye vee
(Dreamstime)

By Bill Hoffmann 

More than 5,000 Americans — including hundreds of doctors and nurses — have now signed on to a sweeping class-action lawsuit which claims China’s secrecy and negligence triggered the coronavirus pandemic.

And legal experts believe, if successful, the suit — filed by the Florida-based Berman Law Group — could reap trillions of dollars in damages.

“We’ve gotten calls from potential plaintiffs from over 35 countries, including folks from Russia and China,” Vinh Vuong, partner with the government relations firm of Lucas | Compton, which is partnered with Berman, told Newsmax.

“We hope this becomes a global coalition of all nations affected to unite vs. the Chinese Communist Party for their continued unethical behaviors and actions. Enough is enough.”

Vuong added, the action would help empower Chinese citizens who question the communist party in its handling of COVID-19.

In a scathing analysis of China’s possible liabilities, The Henry Jackson Society, a neoconservative foreign policy think tank, said China broke the International Health Regulations statute, a pact between 196 countries to work together for global health security.

The Chinese government’s “negligence” has cost the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the UK at least $4 trillion — “and the wider world a presently incalculable sum,” the report stated.

“Here, the breach of international law has devastated the global economy, killed thousands and changed the lives of millions,” according to Henry Jackson Society. “If the world does not act in response to this breach of international law, that begs the question when it will.”

Former Florida state Sen. Joseph Abruzzo, a consultant to Berman, said: “This could have been contained while Chinese officials instead attempted to put a positive narrative on the unfolding epidemic for China’s own economic self-interest.

“When you read about the rising death tolls, and see the almost complete halt to normal life and travel, remember that China waited seventeen critical days before sharing the COVID-19 genome sequence with other nations.”

Legal experts say China will likely cite in its defense the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act (FSIA), a doctrine that states a government cannot commit a legal wrong and is immune from civil suit or criminal prosecution.

But Vuong told Newsmax lawyers at Berman are confident they can successfully circumvent the FSIA and seize Chinese assets.

The Berman lawsuit is not the only legal action against the East Asian country of 1.4 billion.

Attorney Robert Eglet has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Las Vegas businesses who claim Chinese officials hid key statistics about the coronavirus outbreak and intimidated doctors and journalists who tried to report it, leading to its catastrophic spread.

Eglet previously represented victims of the 2017 Las Vegas shooting massacre in which a gunman killed 58 people and wounded 413.

So far, China has rejected all culpability, insisting it has been “open and transparent” in responding to the emergency and sharing data with countries around the world.

“Some U.S. officials just want to shift the blame,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a press briefing, according to Bloomberg. “Actually we don’t want to fall into an argument with them, but faced with such repeated moral slander by them, I feel compelled to take some time and clarify the truth again.”

But there is a growing outcry for China’s hide.

The Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld, wrote in an opinion piece:

“No one can blame Beijing for a viral outbreak beyond its control. But the Chinese communist regime should be blamed — and held legally liable — for intentionally lying to the world about the danger of the virus, and proactively impeding a global response that might have prevented a worldwide contagion.”

Theissen also quoted former Justice Department official David Rivkin as saying that successful court judgements against China could be used to seize any China’s commercial assets and proceeds of Chinese exports.

© 2020 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

US/China Trading Dangerous Accusations Over Possibility of Weaponized Coronavirus

[By asking the question, is Covid-19 a bioweapon, or a natural virus, we set ourselves upon a very dangerous path. If anyone follows the question to its ultimate answer, it would mean either that someone has used a biological weapon against at least one other country, or that China had created a coronavirus bioweapon which was accidentally released in China. Trump and Pompeo have set us on a course to blame the virus on China and to punish the Asian nation for its actions and accompanying coverup. Either way, a US/China war scenario has been set up as we enter this precarious future of economic collapse/depression…many foolish people see war as an answer to our other economic problems.–ed.]

Trump threatens consequences for Beijing as Senate launches China-centered probe into Covid-19 origins

Trump threatens consequences for Beijing as Senate launches China-centered probe into Covid-19 origins

China will have to answer for allegedly misleading the world about coronavirus, President Donald Trump has signaled. His thinly-veiled threat comes as the US Senate begins an investigation into the causes of the health crisis.

The US president took a swipe at China – as well as CBS reporter Paula Reid – after the journalist asked him why there had been no “consequences” for Beijing’s “misinformation” during the pandemic.

“I wouldn’t tell you. China will find out. Why would I tell you?” Trump fired back. “How do you know there are no consequences? You’re going to find out.”

His warning coincided with the launch of a Senate probe into the origins of and response to the coronavirus pandemic. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson said that the investigation would ask difficult questions about why the United States was not properly prepared to handle the health crisis. The inquiry will also put the World Health Organization (WHO) and China under the microscope.

“Where did this all start from? Was this transferred animal to human? Was this from a lab in China? Might have been the best of intentions trying to come up with the different cures, with the different therapies for the coronavirus in general,” Johnson said on Monday. “We need to know what role [the] WHO might have had in trying to cover this thing up.”

ALSO ON RT.COMHuawei urges UK to stick with 5G collaboration as Chinese firm becomes target of Covid-19 conspiracies

 

Accusations that China is at least partially responsible for the pandemic also came from the State Department. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed in an interview that Beijing failed to inform the world about Covid-19, which purportedly originated in Wuhan, China, in a “timely fashion.” He said that the US government was focused on overcoming the crisis but that there will later be “time for recriminations.”

The United States and China have exchanged incendiary accusations over the virus, with officials from both countries alleging cover-ups and other nefarious activities.

At home, Democrats have accused the Trump administration of downplaying the seriousness of the virus while there was still time to prepare. Many Americans have instead placed their faith in Dr Anthony Fauci, who is spearheading the country’s response to the Covid-19 outbreak.

ALSO ON RT.COMChina denies discriminating against ‘African brothers’ & says accusations by US govt are attempt at diplomatic sabotage

 

Trump and Fauci have locked horns over how to manage the crisis. The medical expert sparked a media firestorm after arguing that lives could have been saved if the government had acted sooner to combat the virus.

However, Fauci also seems to have been slow to realize the danger. In February, he told media that there was no need for Americans to wear face masks unless they were “contagious.”

“Whenever you have the threat of a transmissible infection, there are varying degrees from understandable to outlandish extrapolations of fear,” Fauci said at the time.

The Global Rise of Fascism–Capitalism End Game?

The Global Rise of Fascism: Capitalism End Game?

It is everywhere. In a few years, it has metastasized like a cancer, on all continents. Its fervent proponents and ill-informed supporters call it populism or nationalism. In the Italy, Germany, or Spain of the 1930s, however, this ideology of exclusion and fear, defined by a hatred of the other, together with a tyrannical executive power, was called by its proper name: fascism. Mussolini in Italy, Hitler in Germany and Franco in Spain were the bloodthirsty tenors of capitalism’s symphony orchestra, singing the deadly opera quietly conducted by the military-industrial complex. When the fascism-induced collective psychosis was put to an end in 1945 by Russia and the Western allies, between 68 and 80 million people had been slaughtered worldwide.

MAGA is America Uber Alles

The disease, expressed by the term Deutschland Uber Alles (Germany above all else), was also contagious. It has been repackaged under the thinly concealed Make America — or Italy, Austria, Hungary, Brazil, or Israel — Great Again. The doctrine of one country above all else is, in reality, the best way to justify the tyranny of the State against its own population. Constant threats, external or internal, mostly fabricated and hugely amplified by subservient media, keep societies on edge and make people tolerate or, even worse, embrace an omnipresent security apparatus, either military or police. Fascist regimes always blur the line between military and police. Why not, indeed, be able to deploy your military against your own citizens if you have brainwashed them with the notion of lurking internal enemies? After all, fear and paranoia are the most powerful vectors of the global Orwellian empire we live in.

The nexus of fascism and capitalism

The neofascists have draped themselves in the flag of populism and nationalism and therefore have disingenuously convinced their supporters that they are the champions of a fight against globalism, elitism, and the corruption of the neoliberal political system. They are, however, fierce proponents of dog-eat-dog capitalism and its abject systematic exploitation of labor. Fascists enthusiastically support the global military-industrial complex as well as capitalism’s senseless exploitation of resources through mining and deforestation. For fascists, just as for capitalists, wealth must be concentrated in fewer hands, and money may circulate across borders without constraint while ordinary people may not.

There is indeed nothing new under the sun. If industrialists today profit from wars on both sides of conflicts, giant US companies such as Ford and General Motors did the same in the build up to and even during World War II. Historian Bradford Snell wrote, more than 20 years ago, that “the Nazis could not have invaded Poland and Russia without GM.” The cozy relationship of Ford and GM with the Nazi regime went back to the early 1930s. Henry Ford himself was a Nazi supporter, and Hitler was a fan of the automaker. The two companies, Ford and GM, credited themselves with being “the arsenal of democracy” by transforming their production lines for US military purposes, but they were also, openly at least until 1942, the arsenal of fascism.

The same apparent schizophrenia is at play today. Just like Ford and GM were complicit with the Nazis, global capitalism, driven by the merchants of death of the military-industrial complex, is profiting from war crimes by, for example, selling a massive amount of weapons to the Islamo-fascist regime of Saudi Arabia, which is currently committing crimes against humanity by killing thousands of civilians and starving the entire population of Yemen. These war crimes are committed with weapons made in the USA, the UK and France, in the respective order of the volumes sold to the Saudis. France has a liberal and pseudo human-rights champion as its leader in the person of Macron. Nevertheless the booming French military-industrial  complex sells 7 billion Euros worth of weapons per year. India, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt are the top buyers of death made in France: a criminal industry that employs more than 200,000 people.

Fascists have built mental walls of hatred

The likes of Trump, Salvini, Kurz, Orban and Bolsonaro were elected largely on the false premise and racist notion of culture wars and clash of civilizations: the mythical threat that, in an already multi-ethnic world, immigrants, the outsiders often with darker skins or another religion, represent an existential peril for host countries. The neofascists have risen by building mental walls of hatred in fortress Europe and fortress America. The worldwide proliferation of neofascism constitutes a new form of ideological globalization, and global capitalism is banking on it. For example, once it became obvious that Bolsonaro would be elected president of Brazil, the country’s stock market rose by 13 percent in two weeks while all the major international markets fell. During World War II the fascist axis powers were Germany, Italy, and Japan. Now they are the US, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Brazil, and India to some extent. All of it has the curious blessings of the mighty little State of Israel and the large money bags called the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.

Geopolitical conundrum

The global rise of fascism will change a landscape already on shaky ground. Trump’s National Security adviser, John Bolton, has already set the agenda and put in the neofascist crosshair Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua, which he called the “troika of tyranny.” Naturally, Bolton counts on the new fascist regional helpers of US imperialism, Colombia and Brazil, to enforce a revived full-blown Monroe Doctrine.  In Europe, neofascists have risen to power in Hungary and the coalition governments of Italy and Austria. Their ideological comrades in Germany, Poland, France, Sweden, and the Netherlands have not risen to power, but their political clout is quickly growing. This rise of the neofascists, combined with the UK’s Brexit, is jeopardizing the European Union. In these developments, Steve Bannon of the US is playing the part of a fascism ideologue and black-clad eminence grise.

The Russians, for their part, have developed a dangerously cozy relationship with today’s European fascists, as if the history of World War II has not taught them anything about fascism.  The pact of non-aggression between Nazi Germany and the USSR, signed in August 1939, not only allowed Hitler to unleash his killing spree on the West, but also did not prevent the German army from launching an attack two years later on the USSR. Stalin’s strategic mistake resulted eventually in the deaths of 27 million Soviet citizens. In the current context, it seems that a potential dismantlement of the EU is one of the only geopolitical goals that Russia and the US can agree on. As an example, the Russians as well as the US’ Bannon like and promote Italy’s powerful Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, a rising star of European neofascism and a euro-skeptic whose motto is: “Make Europe Great Again!”

Gott Mit Uns (God with us)

“Gott Mit Uns,” in raised letters around an eagle and swastika, was the inscription that adorned the German army’s belt buckles during World War II. If there is a God, his power certainly did not much help the soldiers of the Third Reich! That being said, there is definitely a religious track in the rise of global fascism. In the US and in Brazil, the vote of the evangelical Christians was a primary factor in the elections of Trump and Bolsonaro. “Born-again” Christian fundamentalists in the US are mainly concentrated in the formerly Confederate Southern states of the Civil War. These evangelical fundamentalist communities largely reject evolution, secularism, and the reality that climate change is man-made. Many in these communities believe that the US should be a Christian state. These Christian fundamentalists are the most reliable voting block for Trump, just as they were for George W. Bush. Well-funded far-Right fundamentalist think tanks like The Heritage Foundation have been pulling the strings in the background since the early 1970s.

Brazil’s Bosonaro was raised a Catholic, but he became, in what could be viewed as a cynical political calculus, a “born-again” evangelical. The evangelical voting block arguably gave him the edge on his opponent during the country’s October 2018 presidential election. Meanwhile, in what they see as fortress Europe, the European fascists have embraced their so-called Christian heritage, and they fuel anti-Islam sentiments, blurring the line between racism and religious intolerance. In Israel, under what can be called PM Netanyahu’s Judeo-fascism, Palestinians are dehumanized and persecuted, as the Jews were in Europe’s pogroms. In Saudi Arabia, the Islamo-fascist Mohamed bin-Salman does the same by painting Iran’s Shiites as heretics and terrorists. In India, PM Modi, who is considered by many Indian Muslims to be a Hindu-fascist, is also using religion to create conflicts and justify massive military spending. In brief, religious fundamentalists of all stripes are today the neofascists’ best assets to manipulate people and turn them, often violently, against each other.

Fascism’s unbearable ecological footprint

In the mold of Trump in the US and Bolsonaro in Brazil, neofascists are by-and-large climate change deniers, or “skeptics,” as they prefer. After all, the Lord or Allah knows best and holds the key to their destinies. For the rest of us, who do not expect God to have an extra planet Earth in his back pocket, the rise of global fascism offers a grimmer prospect for  humanity’s survival. Under the jackboots of the global fascism stormtroopers, the little that is left of our shattered ecosystem will meet its final solution. Bolsonaro could engineer a tabula rasa in the Amazon, which is considered the lung of the earth, due to its capacity to absorb CO2. The super-rich who control global capitalism will give carte blanche to their fascist surrogates to grow and use a massive military-police apparatus to repress the billions of climate change refugees and victims of ecological collapse. Despite their assumptions and planning, discretely run by the Pentagon based on climate change becoming a national security issue, climate change will be capitalism’s end game. All the gold and diamonds in the world will not stop the storms or shield the atmosphere from the deadly rays of a blazing sun.

Editor’s Notes: Gilbert Mercier is the author of The Orwellian Empire. Photograph one from the archives of Torbak Hopper; illustrations two, five, six and seven by Banksy; photograph three by Dominika Komender; photograph four by Sandra Cohen-Rose; illustration eight from the archive of Kitchener; and photographs nine and ten by Gilbert Mercier. | This article is also available in French and Spanish.

2020–When the Great Disruption Began

“The last global crisis didn’t change the world. But this one could” William Davies

It was always going to come to this. Whether it was a pandemic triggering a shutdown, a climate emergency bursting the carbon bubble, a populist backlash against inequality, wars over water or countless other possible triggers, this moment has long been inevitable.

COVID-19 is just like a match thrown on a tinder dry forest floor on a hot windy day and starting a wildfire. The match isn’t the key – it’s where it lands.

While of course a pandemic would always be an enormous economic and health challenge, the context in which it lands is the key to our ability to manage it. Thus, we now see our economic system’s inherent instabilities clearly exposed. The house of cards is collapsing.

Won’t this all pass? We’ll find a cure, develop a vaccine, boost the economy and then everything will get back to normal. It’ll take a few years, but we’ll get back on track. Right?

Wrong, very wrong.

We are at the beginning of a process with an uncertain end. It could be a major recession, a full-scale depression, or a slide into systemic collapse. Or it could be a turning point – where we recover and build a very different kind of economy, one defined by sustainability and resilience with a focus on improving human well-being. This range of outcomes is uncertain. What is certain is that we are not going back to how things were.

Why?

We should always remember the true meaning of the word ‘unsustainable’. You can never be sure when, or how it will happen, but one thing you can be very sure of is this: when things are unsustainable….they will stop.

When I wrote my book “The Great Disruption” in 2011, I laid out this argument. At that time, I thought the climate crisis was the most predictable trigger point for a crisis that would drive system change. Basic physics showed that increasing emissions would, in the end, force an existential crisis. But like the match, the trigger is not the key. The book’s main focus was the broad global system and its inherent unsustainability – and why a major disruption was inevitable.

In summary the argument I made was this.

An economy and human society built on the concept of infinite compound economic growth was, by itself, obviously ultimately unsustainable. It’s like COVID-19 cases doubling several times a week – in a short time you go from a worrying number, to a collapsed health system and social chaos. On a longer timeframe, it’s the same with infinite economic growth.

On top of that, I argued there were a series of ‘system overload’ points built into our economy – points that when reached would inevitably trigger a system wide crisis.

These included:

  • the emissions causing climate change and with it, water shortages, conflict, extreme weather and food crises;
  • inequality causing political instability, polarisation and protectionism;
  • global poverty causing geopolitical instability, conflict and refugee crises;
  • the delusional idea that when things get tough you can just ‘print more money’ – making the house of cards taller, and more unstable.

Thus, we had built a system that, as a whole, behaved in a predictable way. There was always uncertainty what the trigger would be, but certainty that the moment would come. When things are unsustainable… they will stop.

Then comes The Great Disruption.

“Economic contagion is now spreading as fast as the disease itself”-Harvard Business Review – March 2020

Here we are in 2020. The house of cards is tumbling down and the inherent weaknesses of the system are being exposed – making the virus spread faster and the economic crash harder.

  • Inequality means the virus spreads faster because of the lack of access to services1;
  • Our reliance on centralised fossil fuel supplies, especially oil, exacerbates financial system risks and geopolitical instability as the economy declines2;
  • Huge levels of debt, incurred to keep the system afloat, put huge risks into the global financial markets, that the virus’s economic impacts could now tip over the edge3;
  • Neo-liberalism’s4 success in reducing both the resources and the authority of the state, leaves many countries ill equipped to manage such a rapidly moving crisis, thereby magnifying the economic crash.

Meanwhile governments vacillate between impossible choices – crash the economy and risk a global depression or crash the health system and kill millions, risking social chaos.

The dreadful thing about the coronavirus is that it is all happening so quickly. This leaves little capacity to reflect on the system wide lessons and how we can avoid spiralling into an ongoing crisis, or worse.

However, like any crisis and deep instability, we owe it to ourselves to understand, and act on, the lessons being learnt. As William Davies5 argued “To experience a crisis is to inhabit a world that is temporarily up for grabs.”

We can no longer prevent the COVID-19 crisis. We can only manage it aggressively to reduce suffering, loss of life and economic impact. However, we can still learn the lessons being thrust in our faces and drive the change needed to prevent future crises. Climate change is still coming at us hard and fast. We can reduce the inequality which will make future crises worse and harder to manage. We can recognise the benefit of our actions and economy being guided by science and expertise rather than ideology. And we can recognise that market economics is a useful tool, but not an ideology nor a way to run our lives – and therefore strong and competent government is central to human progress.

I now find myself with time – thankfully isolated with my family on our farm in rural Tasmania, Australia. So, I will be putting my mind to reflections on these questions and sharing them with you here – in the Cockatoo (Corona) Chronicles.

The future is still ours to make. We can respond to this pandemic by acting to prevent future crises from overwhelming us. We have tinder dry fuel across the whole global system. If we don’t act to reduce it, a fire like this one could one day sweep away all before it.

There will be no vaccine for a global disruption triggered by climate change, inequality or ecosystem degradation. It’s time to pay attention. The Great Disruption is underway.

Wake Up–The War is Now Here in America!

“None of this is accidental, and none of this is due to this virus. This coup has been planned for a long time, and those plans were exposed on many occasions in the past. Most thought that the ideas of prescient thinkers were far-fetched and that the loss of all freedom was not possible. Therefore, those that recognized the scope of this plot long ago were ignored and cast aside as conspiracy theorists, when in fact they were right all along. One look around today will bring to light that truth.”

Wake Up: The War is Now Here in America!

This coronavirus fraud is being labeled a war by the ruling powers, but this is no war on any virus, it is war against humanity. How many obvious signs are necessary before the frightened American sheep will pull their heads out of the sand? Because the general population hides from the truth in order to avoid reality, a governing takeover of epoch proportions is being implemented at a lightening pace. Every single day brings forth more tyrannical measures, and these measures are meant to be permanent. Are Americans really as ignorant as this government thinks they are?

Please look around at what is happening. Consider that this is no virus, but a false flag event long planned in order to facilitate an economic collapse that was already imminent due to corrupt banking and government policies. This might be the reason the reaction by so many countries is in concert with one another, as all major countries have destroyed their economies by monetary expansion, debt creation, and redistribution of wealth, which placed the bulk of assets in the hands of a concentrated few. In this country, there has also been perpetual indoctrination and aggressive war, and these factors combined have led to class separation, division, and enhanced dependence on government. Because of this, control over society is becoming a reality, and this control is necessary in order for those now so powerful to retain that power and more importantly, to expand and retain control of an obedient proletariat.

What has happened in just a few weeks is staggering to say the least, but this top-down takeover is just beginning. This tyranny was allowed to escalate due to fear of a so-called flu strain in China that allegedly killed 3,322 out of 1.45 billion people. That is a mortality factor of .00000229, or to put that in perspective, 1 death out of every 436,000 Chinese people.  From Global Times:

“An analysis led by Chinese scientists published in the Lancet Public Health in September 2019 found that there were 84,200 to 92,000 flu-related deaths in China each year, accounting for 8.2 percent of all deaths from respiratory diseases.”

So the average number of common flu deaths in China is 26 times the number of deaths due to this so-called coronavirus, or Covid-19, but pneumonia deaths alone as of 2010 in China were an additional 125,000. Why is there panic and why is there chaos? The answer to this question is obvious if any logic is considered. This panic was not due to any virus strain, but to the purposeful political and media hype of a planned event meant to frighten the general population into believing that some fake pandemic was a threat to all life on earth. Approximately 3 million people die every year in the U.S., or 8,000 every day, with alleged total deaths due to coronavirus being 6,000 for the entire season. This is even with what are certainly vastly overstated numbers of deaths due to this “virus.” That is less than the number of deaths in one day in this country.

So what is really going on here? This is a planned takeover of people, and the fake virus scare is the excuse being used to advance a new totalitarian state that can monitor every aspect of our lives, monitor movement, surveil everything, control all monetary processes, behavior, travel, communication, and social contact. This dystopia is already here, but can get much worse if not stopped.

Travel and movement is becoming less possible every day. Most of this country has voluntarily locked themselves up in home prisons. Fear is rampant, and neighbors have become the eyes of the very police and security forces bent on controlling them. There is talk and plans to digitize all money, which in and of itself would destroy freedom. Distancing mandates have been implemented, but are also being promoted for the future. The entire economy is virtually shut down with no end in sight, food shortages are evident, and psychological and health problems are increasing at an alarming rate. Necessary surgeries are being cancelled even though many hospitals are empty. Mortgages are defaulting, and millions will lose their homes, this while unemployment will most likely affect a third or more of the people in this country.

In addition to all this, GPS tracking devices are being ordered in some areas for any who have tested positive for coronavirus, and Google is releasing location data to “authorities” so they can check and monitor all those in state mandated lockdowns. Calls for forced vaccination abound, with all the social scoring and imbedded devices to prove vaccination history not only being discussed, but also planned for the near future. Those like the evil eugenicist and population control advocate Bill Gates that have the ear of powerful politicians, are promoting full shutdowns, forced vaccination, tracking of all, and at the same time Gates is funding seven new vaccine factories, and tattoo ID tracking at MIT, and those conflicts are obvious and criminal.

The bottom line is that a massive plan to build a new monetary, economic, and social structure worldwide is being advanced. A new global order is being constructed that will replace our current system with a technocratic rule that will be all encompassing at every level of life. The financial systems due to fraud and corruption will fail and that failure will be blamed on this fake pandemic. This economic collapse will break the back of this country, and then the promise of universal income, universal healthcare, increased automated production, and smart living will be pursued, along with totalitarian rule.

None of this is accidental, and none of this is due to this virus. This coup has been planned for a long time, and those plans were exposed on many occasions in the past. Most thought that the ideas of prescient thinkers were far-fetched and that the loss of all freedom was not possible. Therefore, those that recognized the scope of this plot long ago were ignored and cast aside as conspiracy theorists, when in fact they were right all along. One look around today will bring to light that truth.

The threat of absolute rule is upon us, and little time is left to stop the onslaught of this dictatorial regulation of society by government and its masters. The decimation of freedom is at hand, so dissent by every able-bodied man is necessary to halt this terror. Political remedies are no longer possible in my opinion, so a real revolution is now necessary. An apocalypse is coming, and hell is coming with it.

“Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.”
~ Henry David Thoreau, Thoreau and the Art of Life: Precepts and Principles

The Economy Is Ruined. It Didn’t Have to Be This Way.

Illustration of the Department of Labor seal
KATIE MARTIN / THE ATLANTIC 

For the second straight week, the U.S. workforce set a dismal unemployment record. On Thursday morning, the Labor Department reported that 6.6 million people filed new claims for unemployment benefits last week. That figure is twice as high as the previous record of 3.3 million, set just seven days ago.
This brings the two-week total of initial claims to nearly 10 million. That’s 10 million Americans who have lost their jobs—and, in many cases, their health insurance—in the spiraling chaos of a public-health crisis. Ten million Americans who have been thrust into unemployment-insurance programs, with their company on pause, their start-up ruined, or their business closed, and no clear timeline for reopening. Ten million Americans, many effectively quarantined by local law, simultaneously dealing with sudden confinement and sudden joblessness, separated from their daily habits and prohibited from leaving their apartment to commiserate with colleagues, or seek comfort in the arms of family.

In short, the U.S. is accelerating toward an economic and human disaster unlike anything recorded in American history.

During the Great Recession of 2007–2009, the economy suffered a net loss of approximately 9 million jobs. The pandemic recession has seen nearly 10 million unemployment claims in just two weeks. Some states are convulsing at a rate of one Great Recession every few days. After the financial crash, Hawaii’s unemployment rate peaked at 7.3 percent. In the past week, exactly 7.3 percent of Hawaiian workers filed for unemployment benefits

As mind-numbingly awful as these official figures are, they likely understate the severity of the joblessness crisis. Some unemployed people don’t know to file for jobless benefits, and others wait several weeks before collecting insurance. There are widespread reports that people have been stymied by crashing websites and hour-long waits on the phone with state offices, which have been slammed by the historic surge in claims. Our economic data, like our public-health data, are shrouded in uncertainty: In many cases, we simply don’t know whether our more dire statistics are measuring reality or we have simply maxed out our capacity to measure in the first place.
In the early innings of the crisis, it was obvious that the forced closure of city streets would be an apocalypse-level event for restaurants, the travel industry, concerts, amusement parks, and any other company in the business of attracting a crowd. But the economic stoppage is now rippling into almost every sector of the economy. When restaurants and stores cannot open, they can’t order new supplies. When farms can’t supply restaurants with food, they can’t afford new equipment. Without new equipment orders, manufacturers have to lay off workers. If you drop a boulder into the middle of a pond, the waves will eventually reach every edge.

The most important question is: What can we do now?

Tragically, the U.S. likely missed its best opportunity to avoid mass layoffs. That would have been to take a page out of Denmark’s playbook and directly pay businesses to meet their payroll obligations and retain their employees. This would have accomplished several important goals. By reducing layoffs, it would have kept workers inside their companies, so that firms would have an easier time ramping up after the crisis passes. By reducing unemployment, it would have kept workers from having to take it on themselves to wait for hours on the phone, or online, to secure jobless benefits. By freezing the economy, it would have reduced anxiety for millions of people who, at this moment, don’t know where their next job is, or when they should realistically think about applying for work.

But with jobless claims surging toward 10 million, we may be too late to pivot toward the northern-European approach.

Instead, the U.S. economic rescue package implicitly encourages layoffs and increases spending on the unemployed. Jobless benefits have been expanded, and many households will receive one-time payments of $1,200 per adult—plus $500 per child.

Strengthening our jobless benefit programs in this way was necessary to keep families from starving, given the inevitability of historic layoffs. But had the U.S. reacted swiftly and creatively to the prospect of a historic sudden-stop recession, this level of layoffs would not have been inevitable. We could have paid workers a living wage to stay with their companies. Instead, companies are firing workers en masse, and we’re scrambling to pay them a living wage anyway.

The government can immediately strengthen this program in two ways—with more marketing and more money. First, the administration should advertise the program, repeatedly, publicly urging companies to use government money to continue to pay their workers. The message should be: You have a patriotic and moral duty to hold on to your workers during this national crisis, and the government has a patriotic and moral duty to pay you to do it.

Second, Congress should return to session immediately to double the loan guarantees to more than $600 billion. That is approximately equal to 11 weeks of payroll for all companies with fewer than 500 employees in the United States.

Instead, we are already in danger of moving in the opposite direction. Instead of rushing a larger small-business bailout through Congress, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has criticized Democrats who are calling for follow-up legislation.

If Congress does not move quickly, more ghastly history-making awaits us. At the height of the Great Depression, in 1933, approximately 25 percent of Americans were out of work. In the past two weeks, 6 percent of Americans filed for jobless benefits.  Today, we are dealing with a light-speed recession. But after two months of this, the word recession might not be sufficient.

.

DEREK THOMPSON is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, technology, and the media. He is the author of Hit Makers and the host of the podcast Crazy/Genius.

30-50% Unemployment…This Country Will Explode

“30 percent unemployment rateGross Domestic Product…expected to drop by 50 percent.”

[If the GDP and the employment rates drop this low, this country will absolutely EXPLODE!]

Pandemic-Related Unemployment and Shutdowns Are a Recipe for Social Unrest

That’s a huge concern as forecasters expect the U.S. unemployment rate in the months to come to surpass that seen during the depths of the Great Depression.

Could the stalled economy we’ve inflicted on ourselves in our frantic efforts to battle the COVID-19 pandemic lead to civil disorder? History suggests that’s a real danger.

Around the world, high unemployment and stagnant economic activity tend to lead to social unrest, including demonstrations, strikes, and other forms of potentially violent disruptions. That’s a huge concern as forecasters expect the U.S. unemployment rate in the months to come to surpass that seen during the depths of the Great Depression.

“We’re putting this initial number at 30 percent; that’s a 30 percent unemployment rate” in the second quarter of this year as a result of the planned economic shutdowns, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard told Bloomberg News on March 22. Gross Domestic Product, he adds, is expected to drop by 50 percent.

Unlike most bouts of economic malaise, this is a self-inflicted wound meant to counter a serious public health crisis. But, whatever the reasons, it means businesses shuttered and people without jobs and incomes. That’s risky.

“Results from the empirical analysis indicate that economic growth and the unemployment rate are the two most important determinants of social unrest,” notes the International Labour Organisation (ILO), a United Nations agency that maintains a Social Unrest Index in an attempt to predict civil disorder based, in part, on economic trends. “For example, a one standard deviation increase in unemployment raises social unrest by 0.39 standard deviations, while a one standard deviation increase in GDP growth reduces social unrest by 0.19 standard deviations.”

Why would economic shutdowns lead to social unrest? Because, contrary to the airy dismissals of some members of the political class and many ivory-tower types, commerce isn’t a grubby embarrassment to be tolerated and avoidedit’s the life’s blood of a society. Jobs and businesses keep people alive. They represent the activities that meet demand for food, clothing, shelterand that develop and distribute the medicine and medical supplies we need to battle COVID-19.

President Donald Trump may be overly optimistic when he hopes to have the country, including areas hard-hit by the virus, “opened up and just raring to go by Easter,” but he’s not wrong to include the economy in his calculations.

By contrast, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s insistence that “if it’s public health versus the economy, the only choice is public health,” sounds fine and noble. But it reflects an unrealistic and semi-aristocratic disdain for the activities that make fighting the pandemic possible at alland that keep social unrest at bay.

While the ILO has tried to quantify the causes of social unrest, its researchers certainly aren’t the first to make the connection between angry, unemployed people and trouble in the streets.

At the height of the Great Depression, when U.S. unemployment hit a peak of 24.9 percent, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration saw make-work programs such as the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) as a means of getting the joblessespecially young mensafely into “quasi-military camps often far from home in the nation’s publicly owned forests and parks,” Joseph M. Speakman wrote for the Fall 2006 issue of Prologue Magazine, a publication of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

“Bringing an army of the unemployed into ‘healthful surroundings,’ Roosevelt argued, would help to eliminate the threats to social stability that enforced idleness had created,” Speakman added.

The program mostly workedat least, it confined revolts to the camps themselves, where they were suppressed by Army officers. Those same officers commanded the men when they were drafted and dispatched to even more remote destinations with the coming of World War II.

In fact, the connection between unemployment, stagnant economies, and social unrest is so clear that an important indicator for a large underground economy is relative peace prevailing alongside a chronically high unemployment rate.

If 21 percent of the workforce “were jobless, Spain would not be as peaceful as, barring a few demonstrations, it has so far been, say economists and business leaders,” the Financial Times noted in 2011. Sure enough, researchers found that off-the-books businesses and jobs thrived in Spainaccounting for the equivalent of a quarter of GDP at one pointkeeping people employed and defusing tensions.

Bullard of the Fed doesn’t propose shipping the jobless off to the wildernessat least, not yetand he doesn’t seem inclined to rely on the black market to keep people fed, warm, and healthy. Instead, to defuse the impact of the social-distancing shutdowns of normal economic activity, he calls for lost income to be replaced by unemployment insurance and other payments that would make displaced workers and business owners whole.

He better be right that government checksdrawing on money from the thin air and not generated by an economy that has largely halted, I’ll notecan offset the pain of lost jobs and businesses, because the first wave of the unemployment he predicts is already here.

“In the week ending March 21, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 3,283,000, an increase of 3,001,000 from the previous week’s revised level,” the United States Department of Labor announced on Thursday, March 26. “This marks the highest level of seasonally adjusted initial claims in the history of the seasonally adjusted series.”

Those disturbed by such economic collapse include public health professionals who take COVID-19 very seriously.

“I am deeply concerned that the social, economic and public health consequences of this near total meltdown of normal lifeschools and businesses closed, gatherings bannedwill be long lasting and calamitous, possibly graver than the direct toll of the virus itself,” wrote David L. Katz, former director of Yale University’s Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, in The New York Times last week. “The stock market will bounce back in time, but many businesses never will. The unemployment, impoverishment and despair likely to result will be public health scourges of the first order.”

Unemployment, impoverishment, and despair are frightening outcomes in themselves. They’re also a recipe for social unrest that will afflict even those of us who weather both the pandemic and the accompanying economic storm.

Pakistan Releases Prime Terrorist Omar Sheikh, Suspect In Killing of Benazir Bhutto and Bin Laden

[at 2:29 Benazir makes bin Laden claim]

[SEE:  ‘The 9/11 Omar Sheikh Files’]

Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl is pictured in this January 30, 2002 photo,Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl is pictured in this January 30, 2002 photo,   | Photo Credit: Reuters

The Wall Street Journal reporter was investigating Islamist militants in Karachi after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States,

A Pakistani court has commuted the death sentences of the main person accused in the 2002 kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, and acquitted three co-accused in the matter, two lawyers told Reuters on Thursday.

At least four people were convicted in connection with Pearl’s murder, including British-born Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who was sentenced to death in 2002 for masterminding the murder. He has been in jail for 18 years awaiting the outcome of an appeal.

“The court has commuted Omar’s death sentence to a seven year sentence,” Khawaja Naveed, the defence lawyer told Reuters by telephone. “The murder charges were not proven, so he has given seven years for the kidnapping.”

“Omar has already served 18 years, so his release orders will be issued sometime today. He will be out in a few days,” Naveed said.

A two-member bench of the High Court of Sindh province issued the order in the city of Karachi on Thursday, Naveed said, adding that the three others, who had been serving life-sentences in connection with the case, had been acquitted.

Pearl was investigating Islamist militants in Karachi after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States when he was kidnapped in January 2002. Video emerged a few weeks later of his murder.

Trump Making His Move On Venezuela Under Cover of National Emergency

US Preparing Panama-Style Invasion of Venezuela?

Trump announces enhanced counternarcotics operation at coronavirus briefing

Trump announces enhanced counternarcotics operation at coronavirus briefing

Trump administration officials announced Wednesday that the U.S. military would send naval ships and aircraft to the Caribbean as part of an enhanced counternarcotics operation.

President Trump and other top officials discussed the operation at the top of a White House coronavirus briefing Wednesday evening. Trump said it was important not to let drug cartels “exploit the pandemic to threaten American lives.”

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the Pentagon would deploy additional ships, aircraft and security forces to the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility as part of the operation.

“At a time when the nation and the Department of Defense are focused on protecting the American people from the spread from the coronavirus, we also remain vigilant to the many other threats the country faces,” Esper told reporters.
“Today, at the president’s direction, the Department of Defense, in close cooperation with our interagency partners, began enhanced counternarcotics operations in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea,” he continued.

The announcement came at the top of a regular White House briefing dedicated to the response to the coronavirus pandemic and provided some counterprogramming to the administration’s usual announcements about efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19 throughout the United States.

The Defense secretary described the operation as part of the administration’s “whole-of-government approach to combating the flow of illicit drugs into the United States and protecting the American people from their scourge.”

Later, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley seemed to expand on Trump’s earlier remarks, suggesting that the U.S. military obtained intelligence suggesting that Mexican drug cartels were trying to exploit the domestic focus on the spread of the coronavirus.

“We came upon some intelligence some time ago that the drug cartels as a result of COIVD-19 were going to try to take advantage of the situation and try to infiltrate additional drugs into our country,” Milley said, without providing further detail. “We’re at war with COVID-19, we’re at war with terrorists, and we’re at war with drug cartels as well.”
Asked to address the announcement, Trump said it was important to the administration to focus on reducing the flow of illicit drugs into the country.

Attorney General William Barr, who also participated in the announcement, predicted the operation would “radically improve” U.S. interdiction efforts in addition to putting pressure on drug cartels.

Trump, answering questions from reporters later, said it was important to him to focus on drugs and hoped the operation would prevent a “good percentage” of illicit narcotics from coming into the U.S.

Our Leaders Are Terrified. Not of the Virus–of Us

[Within the panic of this “planned-emic”, even as we are witnessing the implosion of capitalism’s many deficiencies, we are also seeing the ruling class expose their own vast weaknesses, as well as their evil, Malthusian plans to “CULL THE HUMAN HERD“.]

alert 4960172 640 8d526

You can almost smell the fear-laden sweat oozing from the pores of television broadcasts and social media posts as it finally dawns on our political and media establishments what the coronavirus actually means. And I am not talking about the threat posed to our health.

A worldview that has crowded out all other thinking for nearly two generations is coming crashing down. It has no answers to our current predicament. There is a kind of tragic karma to the fact that so many major countries – meaning major economies – are today run by the very men least equipped ideologically, emotionally and spiritually to deal with the virus.

That is being starkly exposed everywhere in the west, but the UK is a particularly revealing case study.

Dragging their heels

It emerged at the weekend that Dominic Cummings, the ideological powerhouse behind Britain’s buffoonish prime minister Boris Johnson, was pivotal in delaying the UK government’s response to the coronavirus – effectively driving Britain on to the Italian (bad) path of contagion rather than the South Korean (good) one.

According to media reports at the weekend, Cummings initially stalled government action, arguing of the coming plague that “if that means some pensioners die, too bad”. That approach explains the dragging of heels for many days, and then days more of dither that is only now coming to a resolution.

This was 2 weeks ago. 1000s had already died all around the world, the WHO was already begging government’s to enforce distancing & to “test test test.” This gross negligence by the Johnson’s gov should never be forgotten nor forgiven. #UKlockdown pic.twitter.com/islqkivW8l

Cummings, of course, denies ever making the statement, calling the claim “defamatory”. But let’s dispense with the formalities. Does anybody really – really – believe that that wasn’t the first thought of Cummings and half the cabinet when confronted with an imminent contagion they understood was about to unravel a social and economic theory they have dedicated their entire political careers to turning into a mass cult? An economic theory from which – by happy coincidence – they derive their political power and class privilege.

And sure enough, these hardcore monetarists are already quietly becoming pretend socialists to weather the very first weeks of the crisis. And there are many months more to run.

Austerity thrown out

As I predicted in my last post, the UK government last week threw out the austerity policies that have been the benchmark of Conservative party orthodoxy for more than a decade and announced a splurge of spending to save businesses with no business as well as members of the public no longer in a position to earn a living.

Since the 2008 financial crash, the Tories have cut social and welfare spending to the bone, creating a massive underclass in Britain, and have left local authorities penniless and incapable of covering the shortfall. For the past decade, the Conservative government excused its brutalist approach with the mantra that there was no “magic money tree” to help in times of trouble.

The free market, they argued, was the only fiscally responsible path. And in its infinite wisdom, the market had decided that the 1 per cent – the millionaires and billionaires who had tanked the economy in that 2008 crash – would get even filthier rich than they were already.

Meanwhile, the rest of us would see the siphoning off of our wages and prospects so that the 1 per cent could horde yet more wealth on offshore islands where we and the government could never get our hands on it.

“Neoliberalism” became a mystifying term used to reimagine unsustainable late-stage, corporate capitalism not only as a rational and just system but as the only system that did not involve gulags or bread queues.

Not only did British politicians (including most of the Labour parliamentary party) subscribe to it, but so did the entire corporate media, even if the “liberal” Guardian would very occasionally and very ineffectually wring its hands about whether it was time to make this turbo-charged capitalism a little more caring.

Only deluded, dangerous Corbyn “cultists” thought different.

Self-serving fairytale

But suddenly, it seems, the Tories have found that magic money tree after all. It was there all along and apparently has plenty of low-hanging fruit the rest of us may be allowed to partake from.

One doesn’t need to be a genius like Dominic Cummings to see how politically terrifying this moment is for the establishment. The story they have been telling us for 40 years or more about harsh economic realities is about to be exposed as a self-serving fairytale. We have been lied to – and soon we are going to grasp that very clearly.

That is why this week the Tory politician Zac Goldsmith, a billionaire’s son who was recently elevated to the House of Lords, described as a “twat” anyone who had the temerity to become a “backseat critic” of Boris Johnson. And it is why the feted “political journalist” Isabel Oakeshott – formerly of the Sunday Times and a regular on BBC Question Time – took to twitter to applaud Matt Hancock and Johnson for their self-sacrifice and dedication to public service in dealing with the virus:

Be ready. Over the coming weeks, more and more journalists are going to sound like North Korea’s press corps, with paeans to “the dear leader” and demands that we trust that he knows best what must be done in our hour of need.

Saved by the bail-outs

The political and media class’s current desperation has a substantive cause – and one that should worry us as much as the virus itself.

Twelve years ago capitalism teetered on the brink of the abyss, its structural flaws exposed for anyone who cared to look. The 2008 crash almost broke the global financial system. It was saved by us, the public. The government delved deep into our pockets and transferred our money to the banks. Or rather the bankers.

We saved the bankers – and the politicians – from their economic incompetence through bail-outs that were again mystified by being named “quantitative easing”.

But we weren’t the ones rewarded. We did not own the banks or get a meaningful stake in them. We did not even get oversight in return for our huge public investment. Once we had saved them, the bankers went right back to enriching themselves and their friends in precisely the same manner that stalled the economy in 2008.

The bail-outs did not fix capitalism, they simply delayed for a while longer its inevitable collapse.

Capitalism is still structurally flawed. Its dependence on ever-expanding consumption cannot answer the environmental crises necessarily entailed by such consumption. And economies that are being artificially “grown”, at the same time as resources deplete, ultimately create inflated bubbles of nothingness – bubbles that will soon burst again.

Survival mode

Indeed, the virus is illustrative of one of those structural flaws – an early warning of the wider environmental emergency, and a reminder that capitalism, by intertwining economic greed with environmental greed, has ensured the two spheres collapse in tandem.

Pandemics like this one are the outcome of our destruction of natural habitats – to grow cattle for burgers, to plant palm trees for cakes and biscuits, to log forests for flat-pack furniture. Animals are being driven into ever closer proximity, forcing diseases to cross the species barrier. And then in a world of low-cost flights, disease finds an easy and rapid transit to every corner of the planet.

The truth is that in a time of collapse, like this decade-long one, capitalism has only “magic money trees” left. The first one, in the late 2000s, was reserved for the banks and the large corporations – the wealth elite that now run our governments as plutocracies.

The second “magic money tree”, needed to deal with what will become the even more disastrous economic toll wrought by the virus, has had to be widened to include us. But make no mistake. The circle of beneficence has been expanded not because capitalism suddenly cares about the homeless and those reliant on food banks. Capitalism is an amoral economic system driven by the accumulation of profit for the owners of capital. And that’s not you or me.

No, capitalism is now in survival mode. That is why western governments will, for a time, try to “bail out” sections of their publics too, giving back to them some of the communal wealth that has been extracted over many decades. These governments will try to conceal for a little longer the fact that capitalism is entirely incapable of solving the very crises it has created. They will try to buy our continuing deference to a system that has destroyed our planet and our children’s future.

It won’t work indefinitely, as Dominic Cummings knows only too well. Which is why the Johnson government, as well as the Trump administration and their cut-outs in Brazil, Hungary, Israel, India and elsewhere, are in the process of drafting draconian emergency legislation that will have a longer term goal than the immediate one of preventing contagion.

Western governments will conclude that it is time to shore up capitalism’s immune system against their own publics. The risk is that, given the chance, they will begin treating us, not the virus, as the real plague.

*This article was originally published on Jonathan Cook‘s blog.

Mossad In Charge of Taking Masks, Ventilators, Test Kits From Whomever For Zionist State

Mossad officer describes covert global battle to obtain ventilators at all costs

In TV exposé, senior member of spy agency says Israel — and other countries — has been laying hands on machines ordered by others, in ‘most complex operation’ he’s overseen

Illustrative: A doctor checks a medical ventilator control panel while wearing protective clothing at the Samson Assuta Ashdod University Hospital, March 16, 2020. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Spy agencies around the world, which normally deal with national security, terrorism and international crime, have shifted during the coronavirus pandemic to using their expertise to lay their hands on medical equipment that has become invaluable, a senior Mossad officer has said.

In an exposé broadcast Tuesday by Channel 12’s “Uvda” investigative news program, the head of the technology department in Israel’s Mossad intelligence service said countries have been locked in a fierce, covert battle to take control of a limited supply of ventilators at all costs.

Mossad, which has been tasked with securing medical equipment from abroad from unspecified countries amid worldwide shortages, has helped obtain 25,000 N95 respiratory masks, 20,000 virus test kits, 10 million surgical masks, and 700 overalls for ambulance workers who usually carry out the initial testing for the virus.

Israeli security services and government ministries had also acquired 27 ventilators and at least another 160 ventilators would be brought to Israel by Wednesday, the Mossad has said, without giving details on where the equipment was coming from.

It was the third such shipment by the Mossad over the past few weeks aimed at addressing shortages in Israel.

Boxes of protective masks and ventilators arrive in Israel after being purchased in a joint operation by Israeli security services and government ministries on March 31, 2020. (Health Ministry)

“I have overseen many operations in my life, and I’ve never dealt with such a complex operation,” said the Mossad officer, identified only by the Hebrew initial “Het.”

He said that the government has tasked the Mossad with obtaining more than 130,000 objects needed to fight the outbreak of the respiratory virus, including gas masks, virus test kits, medicine, protective gear and, most importantly, ventilators, which have become one of the most sought-after commodities in the world.

“The world is selling [ventilators] through cracks. We need to find the cracks,” said Het. “We are world champions in operations, and we know how to manage complex operations.

“We are utilizing our special connections to win the race and perhaps do what the whole world is doing — lay our hands on stocks ordered by others,” he said.

Het said his office was receiving over 2,000 leads every day, some false and some real, and some where other countries beat Israel to the punch.

“We had a country in Europe where our trucks arrived at the factory’s doors but another European country was ahead of us and loaded it up,” he described. “We also had a situation where we had equipment we purchased on a plane but it had to be unloaded because the plane didn’t get permission [to take off] due to the embargo.

Head of the Mossad Yossi Cohen at a cyber conference at Tel Aviv University on June 24, 2019. (Flash90)

“The whole world is looking after itself. Prices have risen four- and five-fold and the world has closed down.”

However, Het said he was confident his organization would meet the set goal of acquiring 7,000 ventilators.

“Uvda” cited senior officials as saying that by the coming weekend, Israel would manage to acquire another 1.5 million N95 protective masks necessary for medical staff, 700,000 surgical masks, 2 million protective overalls and protective glasses, 50,000 coronavirus medicines and, most importantly, 180 ventilators.

The report also said Israel had recently obtained essential information needed for local manufacturing of ventilators, via a complex operation.

Het said Israel’s goal was not to be dependent on anyone else, and Yaniv Rotem, head of the research and development department in the Defense Ministry, said the goal was to produce hundreds of ventilators a week.

“The first dozens of ventilators will be manufactured this week, and it will increase over time,” said Het. “That won’t be the bottleneck.”

He said that unlike three or four days ago, he was now confident that Israel would weather the crisis much better than Italy, Spain and the United States, and that there will be no shortage of equipment.

Boxes of protective masks arrive in Israel after being purchased in a joint operation by Israeli security services and government ministries on March 31, 2020. (Health Ministry)

As of Wednesday morning there were 5,591 diagnosed cases of COVID-19 in Israel. Twenty-one people have died of the disease and 97 are in serious condition, including 76 who are hooked up to ventilators, according to Health Ministry figures.

According to a report prepared last week for the Knesset’s Special Committee on Dealing With the Coronavirus, there were at most 1,437 ventilators in the country still available to treat patients. The Health Ministry disputed that figure, saying there were 2,864 available ventilators.

Last week the Mossad brought 400,000 coronavirus test kits to Israel from an undisclosed foreign location, the Prime Minister’s Office said at the time. The shipment came a week after the agency had obtained 100,000 testing kits.

The PMO, which is responsible for the Mossad, said the intelligence service had imported the chemical reagents needed to perform approximately 400,000 tests. The swabs needed to carry out the task are being sourced both internally and from a number of foreign countries.

The PMO refused to comment further on the matter, specifically on the country or countries that sold it the testing components, leading many to assume that it was a country that does not have strong or formal ties with Israel.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

Trump Takes A Page From FDR’s “Depression” Playbook…Will $2T Infrastructure Bill Mean “WPA2”?

[My beloved grandfather got his first civilian job with the WPA (after serving in the Navy Seabees during WWI), building an iconic local elementary school, Lindsay Elem. School, in Sciotoville, OH (also known as East Portsmouth).  This was where he learned to work like a young horse, a trait he carried-on throughout his life, until he worked himself to death as a Culligan Soft Water man, carrying 100 lb. tanks up and down basement stairs, causing his heart to stop from the 3rd heart attack at the age of 59.  But this is something all must learn again in the tragedy of the days ahead.–Peter]

Trump calls for $2T infrastructure bill as ‘Phase 4’ of coronavirus response

By Brooke Singman | Fox News

Will there be phase 4 of a coronavirus relief bill?
President Trump says a possible phase four relief package would be aimed at helping states.

Get all the latest news on coronavirus and more delivered daily to your inbox. Sign up here.

President Trump on Tuesday called for a $2 trillion infrastructure bill to serve as “Phase 4” of the federal government’s coronavirus response efforts, just days after Congress approved a massive stimulus package worth even more than that.

“With interest rates for the United States being at ZERO, this is the time to do our decades long awaited Infrastructure Bill,” Trump tweeted Tuesday. “It should be VERY BIG & BOLD, Two Trillion Dollars, and be focused solely on jobs and rebuilding the once great infrastructure of our Country! Phase 4.”

Trump has sought a major infrastructure bill ever since taking office and would appear to be pitching that plan anew as a form of economic stimulus. The president’s tweet comes as lawmakers in both the House and the Senate already are eyeing a fourth coronavirus response bill, though some have voiced caution about continuing to appropriate such massive sums of money.

$2 TRILLION WASN’T ENOUGH: LAWMAKERS ALREADY EYING ANOTHER CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE BILL

“I think the odds are we’ll need more legislation. First, we don’t know the extent of the crisis in terms of the magnitude, so that could rise. But there are going to be problems that we don’t realize now that we’re going to have to grapple with,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said recently, according to The Hill. “So I think the odds are high there will be a COVID-4.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., also expressed the need for further legislation, telling CNN that Democrats “had bigger direct payments in our bill, and we think we’ll get more direct payments in another bill.”

Kellyanne Conway says there could be a ‘phase four’ of coronavirus stimulus packageVideo
Democrats, in a fourth stimulus package, are reportedly seeking additional funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps, as well as emissions restrictions on airlines — a measure that was blocked from inclusion in the package passed last week.

Pelosi also said that she planned to push for pension protections which did not make it into phase three of the stimulus package.

But Republicans, like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, have said they would like to see the impact of the first three phases of coronavirus response legislation.

“I think we’ll have to wait and see,” McConnell said on the “Hugh Hewitt Show” Tuesday when asked about a fourth coronavirus bill. “Remember, this bill was only signed into law last Friday. So it’s only been law for about four days. And the Speaker is already talking about another bill.”

The 880-page coronavirus stimulus package worth $2.2 trillion, which was passed and signed into law by Trump last Friday, amounted to the largest economic relief bill in the history of the U.S., with massive amounts of aid slated for individuals, large corporations and small businesses — and its unanimous passage in the Senate came despite concerns on both sides about whether it involved too much spending, or not enough.

CORONAVIRUS STIMULUS POISED TO SWELL THE DEFICIT

Democrats said the package specifically would help replace the salaries of furloughed workers for four months, rather than the three months first proposed. Furloughed workers would get whatever amount a state usually provides for unemployment, plus a $600-per-week add-on.

The package also gives $1,200 per adult and $500 per child directly to the public.

But even Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he would be willing to ask Congress for more money for small businesses and those in the private workforce should it be necessary.

A key piece of the latest relief bill is $350 billion in funding for small businesses. Businesses with fewer than 500 employees are eligible for up to $10 million in loans, which can be used for payroll and other expenses, like insurance premiums, mortgages, rent or utilities.

“This is a very popular program with Republicans and Democrats, and the president likes it a lot,” Mnuchin told Fox Business’ Stuart Varney Monday. “If we run out of money, and this is a huge success, we will absolutely go back to Congress and ask for more money.”

The latest unemployment numbers, which were released last Thursday, revealed that Americans filing for unemployment benefits surged to 3.28 million as the coronavirus pandemic forced businesses around the country to close.

The Labor Department said Thursday that the new number eclipsed the previous record of 695,000, which was set in 1982, and is well above the levels seen during the 2008 financial crisis.

It is unclear, at this point, what provisions the White House would like to see as part of any proposed infrastructure legislation.

As of Tuesday morning, the U.S. reported more than 164,700 positive cases of COVID-19 and more than 3,170 deaths.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.