Archive | April 2nd, 2020

USA: An Unparalleled Killer Virus State Threatening Humanity

By Stephen Lendman

Global Research,

No nation in world history did more harm to more people over a longer duration than the US.

None more gravely threatens humanity’s survival today because of its rage to control planet earth, its resources and populations.

Is COVID-19 a US geopolitical/socio-economic experiment gone awry, or is it working as planned?

According to Dr. F. Perry Wilson:

“Think of COVID-19 as a fire burning in a forest. All of us are trees. The R0 (infection spread rate) is the wind speed. The higher it is, the faster the fire tears through the forest.”

If an infectious disease has an R0 of 2, it means an infected person will transmit it to two others on average.

To keep spreading, an infectious disease needs fuel. “We’re the fuel,” Wilson explained.

Shelter in place, social distancing, and lockdowns keep COVID-19 fires from setting the forest ablaze — whatever the R0.

The greater it is, the more important these draconian measures become.

Because individuals infected with COVID-19 can have symptoms or be asymptomatic, it’s hard gauging the true R0.

According to Wilson, “(t)he observed R0 is 2.5, enough to lead to widespread infection(s).”

The true R0 could be much higher because of asymptomatic individuals with the disease, others with mild symptoms not seeking or receiving medical help, and an X factor.

According to a scientific expert remaining anonymous, fearing possible reprisal for diverging from the official narrative, people are being “test(ed) for any strain of coronavirus (because) (there are) no reliable tests for a specific COVID-19 virus.”

Gauging the true number of infected persons is at least partly guesswork. Is the actual number higher or lower?

Millions of Americans and others elsewhere contract seasonal flu. Its symptoms are similar to most coronavirus strains. Are individuals with suspected COVID-19 symptoms being accurately diagnosed?

Severe cases of the disease with acute respiratory problems are a small percentage of the total number of infected individuals.

Because of America’s large population (about 330 million people), Dr. Wilson believes large numbers of Americans will be infected without “extensive distancing measures (wide fire lines)” to contain the blaze from spreading to much greater numbers of people.

So far, the true mortality rate from COVID-19 is unknown. Through Monday, about 189,000 US infections were reported, including 3,890 deaths for a mortality rate of about 2%.

If that’s the true rate, it means that 98% of individuals infected with COVID-19 will recover, what’s encouraging to know with a caveat.

The elderly, people with weak immune systems, and/or dealing with hypertension, heart disease, and other major health problems are vulnerable to be harmed most by COVID-19.

If 10% of the US population is infected with a 2% death rate, about 658,000 Americans could die before the ongoing blaze is extinguished.

According to Wilson, the true death rate may be much lower than what’s observed “because we’re not capturing all of those with mild or even asymptomatic illness.”

Widespread testing in Iceland with a population of about 365,000 people found up to half the numbers checked were asymptomatic, Wilson explained.US Indifference to Public Health: The Shame of the Nation

If the same situation applies to the US and elsewhere, it means the death rate is around 1% or lower.

It also means that the true number of infected individuals individuals in the US could be double or more what’s reported because of woefully inadequate testing.

The greater the number of infected individuals, the more greatly the disease can spread to others without firewalls in place to contain it.

The Trump regime and vast majority of congressional members are beholden to monied interests they serve exclusively at the expense of public health and welfare.

They were slow to react to COVID-19 outbreaks, an approach polar opposite China that imposed draconian lockdown measures in its Wuhan epicenter to contain the spread of the disease.

It worked. The South China Morning Post reported that controls in the city are easing, people beginning to go back to work.

China is slowly recovering as outbreaks keep rising in the US, Europe and elsewhere.

China’s Global Times reported the following:

Beijing did “a great job in containing the epidemic. We reversed the situation in two months.”

“The number of infections and deaths in China, a gigantic society with a population of over 1 billion, constitutes an impressive contrast with the figures outside the country.”

“China has become a force of support in the global pandemic fight after overcoming its initial predicament.”

“It has dispatched medical supplies and experts to other countries, a contribution to the international community that cannot be denied no matter how hard some forces find fault with China.”

“China is the first country to have started post-epidemic reconstruction” even though control and containment measures aren’t entirely over, and it’s unknown whether a second wave of outbreaks could erupt.

Many uncertainties lie ahead so the battle against COVID-19 in the country is unfinished.

Elsewhere things are worsening. In the US, states and cities are bearing the greatest burden because of inadequate federal help.

In hard-hit New York, Governor Cuomo slammed the corporate bailout bill for providing about $3.8 billion to the state, mostly for NYC — compared to an estimated $15 billion in lost revenue so far, according to state budget officials.

A revised update nearly doubled the bailout bill’s amount to the state, still leaving a large budget shortfall, virtually sure to increase without further federal aid.

What are the geopolitical implications of spreading COVID-19 outbreaks worldwide?

Over 30 House and Senate members wrote Pompeo and Mnuchin, urging sanctions relief for Iran to contain outbreaks of the virus that respects no borders, stressing:

It “poses (a) serious risk both to human health and life and to regional economic and political stability. These may in turn negatively impact the economic and security interests of the US and our allies.”

Instead of easing sanctions, the Trump regime piled on new ones. More war on Iraq may be planned against its Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) that are connected to the country’s military.

They were earlier on the front lines of combatting US-supported ISIS in the country.

It’s a key reason why the Trump regime would like them eliminated — on the phony pretext of claiming they’re controlled by Iran.

Venezuela remains a prime US target for regime change. It’s latest stunt was falsely charging President Maduro and other Bolivarian officials with narco-terrorism — a US specialty in contrast to Venezuela’s anti-illicit drug efforts.

Offering a bounty “of up to $15 million dollars for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of” Maduro is one of countless examples of US depravity and decadence.

Pompeo slammed countries for accepting aid from Russia, China, and Cuba to combat COVID-19.

While the US wages sanctions war, economic war, financial war, and medical war on Iran, Venezuela, and other countries on its target list for regime change, Cuba sent around 600 doctors and other medical professionals to 14 nations to help them combat COVID-19, according to its public health ministry.

Cuba’s main exports are doctors, other medical professionals, teachers and good will — in contrast to mass slaughter, vast destruction, and human misery wherever the US shows up.

Russia is helping Iran, Venezuela, and Italy combat COVID-19.

China sent medical teams to these countries and others, including Iraq, Pakistan, France, Greece, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Spain, Belgium, Norway, Lithuania, and Ukraine to help contain virus outbreaks and treat infected individuals.

President Xi Jinping called medical aid to these and other countries a “Health Silk Road.”

Medical outreach by China, Russia, and Cuba contrast sharply with US aims for global dominance by crushing economies and immiserating the people of countries it doesn’t control.

It’s along with waging forever wars in multiple theaters, waging neoliberal and other forms of repression at home, and doing woefully too little for millions of ordinary Americans in their time of dire need — including virtually no medical help for COVID-19 infected people.

At a time when mutual cooperation among nations worldwide is vitally needed against a common public health threat, the US prioritizes its imperial agenda and deference to its privileged class exclusively over all else.

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Dangerous Gifts: Coronavirus and Trump’s Sanctions Regime

By Dr. Binoy Kampmark

Global Research,

The global effort to combat the coronavirus pandemic has been one of stutters and staggers.  There are go-it-alone instances of severity, and cases of blasé indifference.  State ministers and leaders have not escaped the chance to demonise and point accusing fingers.  Each crisis will garner its share of demagogues. 

In the United States, the sense of confusion and disunity on how best to response to COVID-19 is palpable.  On the domestic front, President Donald Trump has proven to be a constant shape changer on the subject, minimising risks with rhetorical abandon, finding culprits with some eagerness and suggesting off the cuff mass quarantines.  Policy is being made on the hop.

This approach won him one fan, with the director-general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, praising him for what most would regard as incoherent “leadership”.  It could well be that the WHO chief is angling for a lucrative appointment after the pandemic’s passing, with the blessing of the US government.  This would explain the crawling ingratiation, for “fighting this pandemic needs political commitment and commitment at the highest level possible.” 

The blue print for erratic response is also evident in the foreign policy of the Trump administration.  On one level, little has changed.  Sanctions remain in place against Iran, Syria, Cuba and Venezuela.   The business of cruelty must go on like a tired, murderous show.

A halt to that show has been demanded by the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver. “The continued imposition of crippling economic sanctions on Syria, Venezuela, Iran, Cuba and, to a lesser degree, Zimbabwe, to name the most prominent instances, severely undermines the ordinary citizens’ fundamental right to sufficient and adequate food.”  The UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet has also called for the lifting of sanctions “to avoid the collapse of any country’s medical system”.  Sanctions were vicious obstacles standing in the way of importing medical supplies.

Similar calls have also been issued in the United States itself, including a March 31 letter signed by 34 members of Congress addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin

“Rather than continue to invoke new sanctions in the Iranian people’s hour of need, we urge you to substantially suspend sanctions on Iran during this global public health emergency in a humanitarian gesture to the Iranian people to better enable them to fight the virus.”

Confusion on policy and how it should change to cope with COVID-19 also reigns at the US State Department, where Pompeo rules the roost.  He claims that the US has been a very good international citizen in several respects, offering a generous hand to countries in crisis. 

“We’ve worked to try and get assistance into North Korea.  We’ve made offers of assistance to Iran.  You’ll recall when we first began, we worked diligently in Venezuela to get humanitarian assistance to the Venezuelan people as well.”

Rarely has that phrase from Virgil’s Aeneid (II, 49) been more apt: “Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes.” The modern Greeks bearing gifts have assumed the form of representatives drawn from the US imperium, and one should best be wary of them.

This has certainly been the case for Iran, whose response to Washington was rather Virgilian in flavour.  Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameneiin rejecting US advances for assistance, suggested that the Great Satan had a devious plan. “You might send people as doctors and therapists, maybe they would want to come here and see the effect of the poison they have produced in person.”  He also added at the time, for good measure, that he felt COVID-19, having been supposedly cultivated in US laboratories, was “specifically built for Iran using the genetic data of Iranians which they have obtained through different means.”

Much of this is positively batty, but the response is unsurprising given the addiction to sanctions Pompeo seems to suffer from.  Those have had a devastating effect on the country’s health system, enfeebling it.  With Iran being in the big league of coronavirus sufferers, offers of aid are bound to be viewed with suspicion, the actions of a deranged sadomasochist.

When confronted with the issue of being more generous on sanctions against Iran, Pompeo’s response has been formulaic and predictable.  As he stated on March 20, US sanctions do not cover medical and humanitarian items.  On Tuesday, when asked if the US position was etched in stone, Pompeo’s answer was trite. “We evaluate all of our policies constantly, so the answer is – would we ever rethink? – Of course.”

For Venezuela, the possibility of lifting US sanctions is being toyed with.  But any such measure comes with strings, more appropriately shackles, attached.  The Trump administration has the obstinate government of Nicolás Maduro in its sights.  On March 26, the US Department of Justice charged Maduro, whose presidential status Washington refuses to recognise, and 14 senior officials, with “narco-terrorism”.  The softening of sanctions has been parcelled up with an incentive to meddle in Venezuelan politics, using what Pompeo terms a “Democratic Transition Framework”.  This would involve Maduro stepping aside for a transitional government led by Juan Guaidó ahead of elections.  A “sequenced exit path” from US sanctions would be followed. 

Pompeo’s approach on assistance has been framed in a manner reminiscent of President Woodrow Wilson: shun the leader but celebrate the people; caged in their beating hearts is a free spirited American waiting to spring out.  It has been an approach steeped in difficulty and hypocrisy, and one the Trump administration continues to practice.  “We care more often about the people in those countries than their own leaders do,” reasons Pompeo. “That’s sad.  That’s a reflection of those regimes, too often.  It’s the reason, in fact, that we’re working to help these people raise up in their countries; so that they can get a better outcome for themselves.”  A questionable premise.  As the doomed Trojans found out in accepting the gift of a large wooden horse, Washington’s generosity is likely to be dangerous and appropriately feared.

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Locked Down and Locking in the New Global Order

By Colin Todhunter

Global Research,

On 12 March, British PM Boris Johnson informed the public that families would continue to “lose loved ones before their time” as the coronavirus outbreak worsens. He added:

“We’ve all got to be clear, this is the worst public health crisis for a generation.”

In a report, the Imperial College had warned of modelling that suggested over 500,000 would die from the virus in the UK. The lead author of the report, epidemiologist Neil Ferguson, has since revised the estimate downward to a maximum of 20,000 if current ‘lockdown’ measures work. Johnson seems to have based his statement on Ferguson’s original figures.

Before addressing the belief that a lockdown will help the UK, it might be useful to turn to an ongoing public health crisis that receives scant media and government attention – because context is everything and responses that are proportionate to crises are important.

The silent public health crisis

In a new 29-page open letter to Fiona Godlee, editor-in-chief of the British Medical Journal, environmentalist Dr Rosemary Mason spends 11 pages documenting the spiralling rates of disease that she says (supported by numerous research studies cited) are largely the result of exposure to health-damaging agrochemicals, not least the world’s most widely used weedkiller – glyphosate.

The amount of glyphosate-based herbicides sprayed by UK farmers on crops has gone from 226,762 kg in 1990 to 2,240,408 kg in 2016, a 10-fold increase. Mason discusses links between multiple pesticide residues (including glyphosate) in food and steady increases in the number of cancers both in the UK and worldwide as well as allergic diseases, chronic kidney disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, obesity and many other conditions.

Mason is at pains to stress that agrochemicals are a major contributory factor (or actual cause) for the spikes in these diseases and conditions. She says this is the real public health crisis affecting the UK (and the US). Each year, she argues, there are steady increases in the numbers of new cancers in the UK and increases in deaths from the same cancers, with no treatments making any difference to the numbers.

Of course, it would be unwise to lay all the blame at the door of the agrochemicals sector: we are subjected each day to a cocktail of toxic chemicals via household goods, food processing practices and food additives and environmental pollution. Yet there seems to be a serious lack of action to interfere with corporate practices and profits on the part of public bodies, so much so that a report by the Corporate Europe Observatory said in 2014 that the then outgoing European Commission had become a willing servant of a corporate agenda. 

In a 2017 reportHilal Elver, UN Special rapporteur on the right to food, and UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances and wastes Baskut Tuncak were severely critical of the global corporations that manufacture pesticides, accusing them of the “systematic denial of harms”, “aggressive, unethical marketing tactics” and heavy lobbying of governments which has “obstructed reforms and paralysed global pesticide restrictions”.

The authors said that pesticides have catastrophic impacts on the environment, human health and society as a whole, including an estimated 200,000 deaths a year from acute poisoning.  They concluded that it is time to create a global process to transition toward safer and healthier food and agricultural production.

At the time, Elver said that, in order to tackle this issue, the power of the corporations must be addressed.

While there is currently much talk of the coronavirus placing immense strain on the NHS, Mason highlights that the health service is already creaking and that due to weakened immune systems brought about by the contaminated food we eat, any new virus could spell disaster for public health.

But do we see a ‘lockdown’ on the activities of the global agrochemical conglomerates? Not at all. As Mason has highlighted in her numerous reports, we see governments and public health bodies working hand in glove with the agrochemicals and pharmaceuticals manufacturers to ensure ‘business as usual’. So, it might seem strange to many that the UK government is seemingly going out of its way (by stripping people of their freedoms) under the guise of a public health crisis but is all too willing to oversee a massive, ongoing one caused by the chemical pollution of our bodies.

Mason’s emphasis on an ongoing public health crisis brought about by poisoned crops and food is but part of a wider story. And it must be stated that it is a ‘silent’ crisis because the mainstream media and various official reports in the UK have consistently ignored or downplayed the role of pesticides in fuelling this situation.

Systemic immiseration

Another part of the health crisis story involves ongoing austerity measures.

The current Conservative administration in the UK is carrying out policies that it says will protect the general population and older people in particular. This is in stark contrast to its record over the previous decade which demonstrates contempt for the most vulnerable in society.

In 2019, a leading UN poverty expert compared Conservative welfare policies to the creation of 19th-century workhouses and warned that unless austerity is ended, the UK’s poorest people face lives that are “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”. Philip Alston, the UN rapporteur on extreme poverty, accused ministers of being in a state of denial about the impact of policies. He accused them of the “systematic immiseration of a significant part of the British population”.Don’t Look, Don’t See: Time for Honest Media Reporting on Impacts of Pesticides

In another 2019 report, it was claimed that more than 130,000 deaths in the UK since 2012 could have been prevented if improvements in public health policy had not stalled as a direct result of austerity cuts.

Over the past 10 years in the UK, there has been rising food poverty and increasing reliance on food banks, while the five richest families are now worth more than the poorest 20% and about a third of Britain’s population lives in poverty.

Almost 18 million cannot afford adequate housing conditions; 12 million are too poor to engage in common social activities; one in three cannot afford to heat their homes adequately in winter; and four million children and adults are not properly fed (Britain’s population is estimated at 63 to 64 million). Welfare cuts have pushed hundreds of thousands below the poverty line since 2012, including more than 300,000 children.

In the wake of a lockdown, we can only speculate about how a devastated economy might be exploited to further this ‘austerity’ agenda. With bailouts being promised to companies and many workers receiving public money to see them through the current crisis, this will need to be clawed back from somewhere. Will that be the excuse for defunding the NHS and handing it over to private healthcare companies with health insurance firms in tow? Are we to see a further deepening of the austerity agenda, let alone an extension of the surveillance state given the current lockdown measures which may not be fully rolled back?

The need for the current lockdown and the eradication of our freedoms has been questioned by some, not least Lord J. Sumption, former Supreme Court Justice. He has questioned the legitimacy of Boris Johnson’s press conference/statement to deprive people of their liberty and has said:

“There is a difference between law and official instructions. It is the difference between a democracy and a police state”.

Journalist Peter Hitchens says a newspaper headline for what Sumption says might be – ‘Former Supreme Court justice says Johnson measures lead towards police state’ or ‘TOP JUDGE WARNS OF POLICE STATE’.

But, as Hitchens implies, such headlines do not appear. Indeed, where is the questioning in the mainstream media or among politicians about any of this? To date, there have been a few isolated voices, with Hitchens himself being one.

In his recent articles, Hitchens has questioned the need for the stripping of the public’s rights and freedoms under the pretext of a perceived coronavirus pandemic. He has referred to esteemed scientists who question the need for and efficacy of ‘social distancing’ and keeping the public under virtual ‘house arrest’.

An open Letter from Dr. Sucharit Bhakdi, emeritus professor of medical microbiology at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, to Angela Merkel calls for an urgent reassessment of Germany’s lockdown response to Covid-19. Then there is Dr Ioannidis, a professor of medicine and professor of epidemiology and population health at Stanford University. He argues that we have made such decisions on the basis of unreliable data. These two scientists are not alone. On the OffGuardian website, two articles have appeared which present the views of 22 experts who question policies and/or the data that is being cited about the coronavirus.

Shift in balance of power

Professor Michel Chossudovsky has looked at who could ultimately benefit from current events and concludes that certain pharmaceutical companies could be (are already) major beneficiaries as they receive lavish funding to develop vaccines. He asks whether we can trust the main actors behind what could amount to a multibillion dollar global (compulsory) vaccination (surveillance) project.

The issue of increased government surveillance has also been prominent in various analyses of the ongoing situation, not least in pushing the world further towards cashless societies (under the pretext that cash passes on viruses) whereby our every transaction is digitally monitored and a person’s virtual money could be declared null and void if a government so decides. Many discussions have implicated the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in this – an entity that for some time has been promoting the roll-out of global vaccine programmes and a global ‘war on cash’.

For instance, financial journalist Norbert Haring notes that the Gates Foundation and US state-financial interests had an early pivotal role in pushing for the 2016 demonestisation policy with the aim of pushing India further towards a cashless society. However, the policy caused immense damage to the economy and the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions in India who rely on cash in their everyday activities.

But that does not matter to those who roll out such policies. What matters is securing control over global payments and the ability to monitor and block them. Control food you control people. Control digital payments (and remove cash), you can control and monitor everything a country and its citizens do and pay for.

India has now also implemented a lockdown on its population and tens of millions of migrant workers have been returning to their villages. If there is a risk of corona virus infection, masses of people congregating in close proximity then returning to the countryside does not bode well.

Indeed, the impact of lockdowns and social isolation could have more harm than the effects of the coronavirus itself in terms of hunger, depression, suicides and the overall deterioration of the health of older people who are having operations delayed and who are stuck indoors with little social interaction or physical movement.

If current events show us anything, it is that fear is a powerful weapon for securing hegemony. Any government can manipulate fear about certain things while conveniently ignoring real dangers that a population faces. In a recent article, author and researcher Robert J Burrowes says:

“… if we were seriously concerned about our world, the gravest and longest-standing health crisis on the planet is the one that starves to death 100,000 people each day. No panic about that, of course. And no action either.”

And, of course, each day we live with the very real danger of dying a horrific death because of the thousands of nuclear missiles that hang over our heads. But this is not up for discussion. The media and politicians say nothing. Fear perception can be deliberately managed, while Walter Lippmann’s concept of the ‘bewildered herd’ cowers on cue and demands the government to further strip its rights under the guise of safety.

Does the discussion thus far mean that those who question the mainstream narrative surrounding the coronavirus are in denial of potential dangers and deaths that have been attributed to the virus? Not at all. But perspective and proportionate responses are everything and healthy debate should still take place, especially when our fundamental freedoms are at stake.

Unfortunately, many of those who would ordinarily question power and authority have meekly fallen into line: those in the UK who would not usually accept anything at face value that Boris Johnson or his ministers say, are now all too easily willing to accept the data and the government narrative. This is perplexing as both the government and the mainstream media have serious trust deficits (putting it mildly) if we look at their false narratives in numerous areas, including chemical attacks in Syria, ‘Russian aggression’, baseless smear campaigns directed at Jeremy Corbyn and WMDs in Iraq.

What will emerge from current events is anyone’s guess. Some authors like economist and geopolitical analyst Peter Koenig have presented disturbing scenarios for a future authoritarian world order under the control of powerful state-corporate partners. Whatever the eventual outcome, financial institutions, pharmaceuticals companies and large corporations will capitalise on current events to extend their profits, control and influence.

Major corporations are already in line for massive bailouts despite them having kept workers’ wages low and lining the pockets of top executives and shareholders by spending zero-interest money on stock buy backs. And World Bank Group President David Malpass has stated that poorer countries will be ‘helped’ to get back on their feet – on the condition that further neoliberal reforms and the undermining of public services are implemented and become further embedded:

“Countries will need to implement structural reforms to help shorten the time to recovery and create confidence that the recovery can be strong.  For those countries that have excessive regulations, subsidies, licensing regimes, trade protection or litigiousness as obstacles, we will work with them to foster markets, choice and faster growth prospects during the recovery.”

In the face of economic crisis and stagnation at home, this seems like an ideal opportunity for Western capital to further open up and loot economies abroad. In effect, the coronavirus provides cover for the further entrenchment of dependency and dispossession. Global conglomerates will be able to hollow out the remnants of nation state sovereignty, while ordinary people’s rights and ability to organise and challenge the corporate hijack of economies and livelihoods will be undermined by the intensified, globalised system of surveillance that beckons.

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Abe Shinzo and Japan’s One-Strong (Ikkyo) State

By Gavan McCormack

Asia-Pacific Research,

One Strong

Abe Shinzo has exercised extraordinary influence over the Japanese state. On 20 November 2019, as he passed his 2,587th day in office (over eight years) he became modern Japan’s longest-serving Prime Minister. But what are the sources of this longevity and what will be the consequences for Japan and the Asia-Pacific? Probably few, even among his close supporters, suggest that he has been exceptionally popular. His parliamentary dominance rests on a combination of political apathy, absence of credible opposition, and a well-funded political party machine honed by more than half a century of Cold War and post-Cold War parliamentary dominance. From a narrow electoral base, during his second term of office that followed the general election of December 2012, Abe moved to concentrate an unprecedented measure of control over the levers of state, nominating his close associates to special policy advisory committees and to head the Cabinet Legislative Bureau, the National Security Council, the Bank of Japan, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the national broadcaster (NHK). He also paid close attention to the cultivation of the major national media groups. In October 2017 the support of just 17.9 per cent of eligible voters (48.2% of the vote) in the small seat electorate division was sufficient to secure the Abe camp 61.1% of the parliamentary seats. In September 2018 Abe extended his party leadership position to three terms (nine years from 2012) and so anticipated steering the country through the 2020 Olympic Games and beyond to the adoption of a new constitution before retiring in glory late in 2021. Coronavirus upset that design by causing the Olympics to be held over for at least a year, but early signs were that Abe would turn that delay to his political purposes.

Such is the degree of concentration of power in the hands of the executive and the enfeebling of the elected parliament that government under Abe is sometimes referred to as “ikkyo” (“one strong,” with implications of dictatorial). Yet the more power is concentrated in “one strong” hands, the more enemies sharpen their knives, allies grumble, and public stocks fall, leaving a prospect of increasing uncertainty. The other Japanese term increasingly employed in reference to the Abe government is “sontaku” (anticipatory compliance, or preemptive ingratiation, with implications of indirect rule), in which case cronyism is rampant and orders are perceived and implemented without actually having to be uttered. That the Prime Minister would probably want to help his friends with certain projects, such as (in the following analysis) a Shintoist Elementary School or a Veterinary College, or to promote certain “grand” state projects such as the JR Tokai or a Casino, could be taken for granted without the issue of any instruction to that effect. Sycophancy becomes a defining bureaucratic virtue. Such a state is likely to be severely tested by the coronavirus affair of 2020.

“One strong” implies “many weak.” There is a discrepancy between Abe’s political principles and commitments and those of the majority of electors who choose him. Roughly half the Japanese people oppose Abe’s core concern, constitutional revision, especially as it relates to Article 9 (the clause that offends him by renouncing “force or threat of force as means of settling international disputes” and resolving not to possess “land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential.)”1 Despite public opposition often at levels of 70 per cent or more, his governments have enacted – often by forcing through the Diet – major legislation, especially bills with serious implications for security and human rights and freedom of expression – including the Revised Education Basic Law of 2006, the Secrets Law of 2013, the Security laws of 2015 (opening the door to war in support of an ally), the Integrated Resort (Casino) law of 2016 and the Conspiracy Law of 2017. More than half opposed the raising of the consumption tax from 8 to 10 per cent when Abe pushed that through in 2019. A similar percentage (75 per cent) opposes the country’s reliance on nuclear power, although the government is committed to reviving (and expanding) the national grid, much of it still offline in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster of 2011.

Appropriate to the world that the Oxford Dictionary dubbed in 2016 the realm of “post-truth,” government in Japan in many respects came to confront rather than represent the people. Surveys regularly show a high proportion of people who disbelieve and distrust the Prime Minister even while, not uncommonly, they vote for him, saying they see no alternative. Young voters in particular tend to be swayed by social media and digital news sources heavily weighted towards the government line. As under Trump in the US, so in Japan under Abe post-truth gathers strength.

From 2017, however, scandals arose one after the other, exposing the strengths as well as the weaknesses of the Abe “one strong” state. What follows is a brief account and assessment of some of the most important of the scandals embroiling the Abe regime: the Moritomo school, Kake Veterinary College, JR Tokai Linear Super-Express, Casino/Integrated Resort, and Shinjuku Flower Viewing affair. A final note addresses the significance of the corona virus of 2020 (declared a “pandemic” by WHO from 11 March 2020), in which the tendencies identified in the earlier cases – irresponsibility, cover-up, manipulation of the record, irrationality – become more evident even as the stakes become higher.

1) The “Abe Shinzo Commemorative Elementary School”

Moritomo Gakuen School Site, March 2017

In what was to become known as the Moritomo Gakuen (Moritomo School) affair, a plot of national land was sold in June 2016 at one-seventh its estimated value to close associates and personal friends of the Prime Minister and his wife who were intent on establishing a primary school in addition to the existing kindergarten. With the name “Abe Shinzo Commemorative Elementary School,” Abe’s wife Akie its honorary principal, and the 1890 Imperial Rescript on Education as the school’s educational philosophy, it would be an unflinchingly reactionary institution. Treated as a sacred document and memorised by the kindergarten (and, prospectively, the elementary school) children, the 1890 Rescript had been central to the modern (early 20th century) Japanese state’s emperor worship.2 It called on the Japanese people to be “good and faithful subjects” who

“…offer yourselves courageously to the State; and thus guard and maintain the prosperity of Our Imperial Throne coeval with heaven and earth [and] render illustrious the best traditions of your forefathers.”

In offering no greater glory than death in the imperial cause it seemed almost absurdly out of sync with the 21st century, yet the remarkable fact is that at the existing Moritomo kindergarten children of three to five years of age were beginning their day bowing before portraits of members of the imperial family, singing the “Kimigayo” anthem, reciting the Rescript and shouting rightist slogans such as “Japanese adults should make sure South Korea and China repent over treating Japan as villain,” and “refrain from teaching lies in history textbooks.”3 However improbable, the Rescript’s statement of political principle was widely endorsed in ruling Japanese circles. The Prime Minister’s wife was effusive in praise of the projected institution and its Shintoist spirit. Lecturing at the kindergarten on 5 September 2015, she praised the projected school as in keeping with her husband’s views. Other prominent figures in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, including Education Minister Matsuno Hirokazu and Defence Minister Inada Tomomi also endorsed the Rescript’s moral and educational value and Education Vice-Minister Yoshiie Hiroyuki saw no problem with it being recited at morning assembly.4 On 31 March 2017, the Abe cabinet adopted a resolution critically confirming that, although it should not be used exclusively, it was “impossible to deny the usefulness of the Imperial Rescript in the teaching of moral education.” Significantly, no member of the Abe government saw the Rescript as fundamentally at odds with the democratic principles of post-war educational reform and the 1947 Constitution.

In Better Days – Kagoike Yasunori and Junko, with Abe Akie, Prime Minister’s wife (center) at Moritomo Gakuen School Site, 25 April 2014

In February 2017, as the national daily Asahi shimbun published a bombshell story to the effect that the publicly-owned land for the school site had been sold to the Moritomo group for a sum estimated to be about 14 per cent of its market value. A storm broke over this affair. Prime Minister Abe and his wife both distanced themselves from their sometime friends, principal Kagoike Yasunori and his wife Junko. References to the Prime Minister and his wife were abruptly deleted from the school’s home page and its name was changed from “Abe Shinzo Commemorative” to “Mizuho no Kuni” (Land of Abundant Ears of Rice) Elementary School. Dramatically, Abe declared that he would resign from office and from the Diet if he or his wife were shown to have had any involvement in the sale of the site to Moritomo.5 As evidence began to leak out about the nature of the extraordinary deal between the Japanese state and the Moritomo group, the government fended off charges of impropriety by outright denial, while saying that all relevant materials had been destroyed. Between late February and April 2017 the Ministry of Finance undertook an extensive secret vetting process, making “dozens of deletions” to 14 documents concerning the sale.6 In particular, it saw to it that all reference by name to Prime Minister Abe Shinzo, his wife Abe Akie, Finance Minister Aso Taro, and the Nippon Kaigi organization (the ultra-nationalist, historical revisionist organization to which all parties to this affair, including the Prime Minister and virtually all members of his government, belonged) was deleted.7 Having done that, it then released the fake documents to the Diet.

The pressure in the Ministry, which is generally regarded as the centre of power and arbiter of legitimacy in the Japanese state, to cooperate in this gross illegality must have been intense. One official (54-year old Akagi Toshio, upon whom more below) committed suicide. Another, who came to prominence as Ministry spokesman in denying any wrongdoing before the Diet in the early months of the affair, resigned once the malfeasances were exposed. Needless to say, whoever was responsible, the sale of government property at virtual gift price and the subsequent planned deletion or doctoring of public documents were highly irregular and potentially serious criminal acts.

As the gap widened between the “official” (doctored) version of events and the “real” version gleaned from materials leaked by whistle-blowers, government credibility collapsed. On 22 June 2017 parliamentary opposition parties demanded a special session of the Diet to discuss the affair. Under Article 53 of the constitution the government is obliged to summon the Diet for special session if demanded by “a quarter or more of the total members of either House.” Though that requirement was met, the Abe government stonewalled, at first ignoring the demands.8 Then, after 98 days, it took the sudden initiative of dissolving the Diet, not in response to the demand under Article 53, however, but only to call fresh general elections. As the miasma surrounding the Moritomo affair was thickening, Abe succeeded in evading closer investigation.9

The person who might be most able to offer light on the circumstances was Moritomo’s former proprietor and principal, Kagoike Yasunori. Kagoike’s allegation before the Diet on 16 March 2017 of special treatment and of having received a Prime Ministerial gift for the new school of one million yen (about $8,800), delivered by the Prime Minister’s wife, was highly embarrassing.10 It was also ironic since perhaps nobody in early 21st century Japan took more seriously than Kagoike the Abe creed of “beautiful Japan,” the “land of abundant ears of rice,” and the values of the Imperial Rescript. It is perhaps because Kagoike and his wife, Junko, were both ideological allies (also Nippon Kaigi members) and personal friends of Prime Minister Abe and his wife Akie, that the fallout between them when it came was spectacular. Both Kagoike and his wife were arrested in late July 2017 on charges of fraudulently seeking public subsidies for the school. Refusing to “confess” or cooperate with the prosecutors, they were then detained for just under 300 days, denied any human contact save with their lawyers, confined (in the case of Mr Kagoike) in a windowless cell where he was able to know night from day only by observing the demeanour of his captors and (in the case of Mrs Kagoike) in a cell without heating or cooling despite Osaka’s seasonal extremes of heat and cold.

By the time they were released on bail ten months later (May 2018), although public and parliamentary attention to the affair had somewhat waned, many questions nevertheless remained, including the extraordinarily low purchase price, the matter of the one million yen Prime Ministerial present,11 the question of whether the Prime Minister’s wife’s enthusiastic association with it could be considered a “private” matter, and, not least, the significance of the adoption by high officials in early 21st century Japan of the educational philosophy of 20th century fascism and militarism. Both the Prime Minister and other government spokespersons strived to dispose of the matter by simple denials. Although they were subject to occasional Diet questioning, there was no formal investigation.

In August 2019 the Osaka Prosecutors Office closed the case against 38 government bureaucrats (of the Ministry of Finance) responsible first for the “peculiar” discounted sale to Moritomo and then for tampering with or discarding public documents with a view to covering up high-level wrongdoing.12What the Ministry officials had done, the Prosecutors ruled, was “from the standpoint of ordinary citizens, outrageous” but no intent to deliberately damage the state had been shown.13 Thus absolved from legal consequences, the Ministry announced it was imposing administrative punishments on its officials who had a hand in the affair. The Minister himself (Aso Taro, who was also Deputy Prime Minister and a close associate of Prime Minister Abe) apologized but refused to resign. Instead, he imposed on himself a modest salary cut as mark of contrition.14 The official who in 2016 had supervised the knockdown price sale of the site resigned to accept formal responsibility in the wake of its exposure, but then months later was promoted to head the National Tax Office, in effect rewarded for his law-breaking efforts.15

The unresolved question is: on whose authority was the original deal struck and on whose authority was the cover-up subsequently undertaken? It is unthinkable that bureaucrats could have acted in either case on their own initiative. But it is also – if in a different sense – unthinkable that the responsibility for either should attach to the Prime Minister or his wife. Consequently the tortured logic of the formula by which government sought to resolve the matter.

Unlike Abe Shinzo and Abe Akie, however, to whose defence the resources of the Japanese state could be mobilized, Mr and Mrs Kagoike (Yasunori and Junko) faced the full powers of the state alone. Their indictment and trial was framed to focus exclusively on their criminal responsibility, while ignoring that of the officials they dealt with, turning a blind eye to the possible criminal conspiracy in the actual land sale and the lying and subsequent cover-up and deception of the National Diet. For both Kagoikes the public prosecutors sought seven-year sentences. In verdicts handed down on 19 February 2020, they were convicted of unlawfully receiving a total of 170 million yen (about $1.5 million) in central and local government subsidies for construction of the elementary school.16 Yasunori was sentenced to five years in prison and Junko (found not guilty on some of the charges relating to overcharging and inflating the number of teachers employed) to three years suspended for five years. Following the judgement, Yasunori was released on payment of a 12-million yen bond (ca $107,000).

The case settled little. If Kagoike and his wife were guilty of defrauding the state of the sum of 170 million yen, they did so driven not by personal greed but by the need to gain subsidies to make up for their unrealistic school funding plan.17 However, the officials in the Japanese Treasury had defrauded the Japanese state of a four and a half-times larger sum, (approximately 800 million yen) in effect giving away state property and then going to extraordinary lengths to cover up what they had done. Few will see the judicial outcome as just, and some will instead incline to believe that in so ruling the court itself was complicit in continuing to cover-up high level state crimes.

In March 2020, the affair took a sudden dramatic new turn. The widow of Akagi Toshio, the Osaka-based Department of Finance bureaucrat who had committed suicide in 2017, launched a suit for damages against the Department and her husband’s then superior, Sagawa Nobuhisa, for having driven Toshio to death by their pressures to break the law by doctoring the Department’s records on the land sale, especially by deleting all reference to the Prime Minister and his wife. She revealed the suicide note her husband had left, in which he made serious allegations against his superiors, referring in some detail to the intense pressure he had been subject to. “It’s so scary,” he wrote, “that I will lose my mind.”18 The dramatic exposure of the Akagi note may or may not have the effect the dead man had sought, a reopening of the formal investigation of the affair, but at least it reopened it in the public mind. A Bungei Shunju survey found 87.8 per cent of people wanting a reopened investigation into the Mnistry of Finance’s responsibility for possible crimes.

2) Kake Gakuen Veterinary College

As the dust of controversy still swirled over the Moritomo affair, a fresh scandal arose over an unrelated private educational institution. Kake Gakuen. Kake is a mammoth educational foundation in Western Japan, running institutions from pre-school to post-graduate. It is headed by Kake Kotaro, a close Abe personal friend, frequent golfing companion and family intimate from the time they both studied at University of Southern California in the 1970s.19 On 15 occasions between 2007 and 2014, the Kake group sought official approval for establishment of a veterinary school in Okayama University of Science in Imabari City, Ehime Prefecture. In 2015, it reformulated that application to fall within the ambit of a proposed “strategic special economic zone” under Abe’s “three arrows” design for stepped-up economic growth, and the application suddenly began to move forward. It was approved in November despite the statement of opposition in October issuing from the Japan Veterinarian Medical Association which found that the project failed to meet any of the established criteria.20 Suspicions then began to circulate over the possibility that the decision in Kake’s favor might have been influenced by his close personal friendship with the Prime Minister.

As accusations and counter-accusations grew, it also came to light that Imabari City had provided the land (a 16.8 hectare site of estimated value around Y3,675 million or $33 million) without charge as well as meeting a significant proportion (9.6 billion yen) of the total project cost of 19.2 billion yen (ca. $172 million).21 Documents purporting to date from September-October 2016 and to be from the Ministry of Education, circulating widely early in 2017 and then published in Asahi Shimbun on 17 May, pointed to a highly irregular procedure in which the Prime Minister’s “will” and the wishes of the “highest level of government” were crucial in determining that the school should go ahead.22

A week later, former Education Vice-Minister Maekawa Kihei stepped forward to confirm that the documents were genuine at a press conference and subsequent newspaper interview with Mainichi Shimbun, and later personal account in the monthly Bungei shunju.23 Days before Maekawa published his bombshell, the Yomiuri Shimbun began to circulate scurrilous rumors against him, alleging that he frequented “dating” establishments where he sometimes paid the bill for young women (with the implication that he was paying for sexual services).24 The Cabinet office was assumed to have “leaked” this information in a bid to silence Maekawa and his inconvenient witness.25 However, it later transpired that since his retirement from the Ministry in January 2017, Maekawa had been an active member of an NGO asociation concerned with research and action to address child poverty. The allegations of impropriety went nowhere,26 despite the fact that his testimony of direct pressure from a senior Abe adviser to hurry up the process raised serious unanswered questions.

Maekawa found the process starting from the initial overtures from the prime minister’s office in late August to the decision in November 2016 to have been highly “irregular” or “dodgy” [yugamerareta].” He referred to intervention by Kiso Isao, special adviser to the Prime Minister and a board member of Kake Educational Institution, in late August 2016, to urge acceleration of the procedure: “I think he visited me in the capacity of a special adviser to the Cabinet.” Maekawa described having been “summoned to the prime minister’s office” about the plans on two occasions in September and October 2016 by Izumi Hiroto, a special adviser to the Prime Minister. “As far as I remember, Izumi said to me (in September), ‘[t]he prime minister can’t tell you to do this directly, so I am telling you to do it instead.’” At a subsequent, 17 October, meeting, Izumi followed up by directing Maekawa to “reach an early conclusion.”27 Maekawa added that, “the discussions that should have taken place did not,” and that “[t]he prime minister’s secretary and adviser have become much more influential and important than any of the Cabinet ministers.”28

Even after the authenticity of the Kake documents in circulation (sufficient to constitute a prima facie case of improper exercise of influence against the Prime Minister) had been confirmed by multiple sources from within the Ministry (including Maekawa), the Minister announced that a search had failed to turn up any such documents. Abe and his government (including Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide) dismissed the matter as one based just on “weird documents” (kaibunsho), vehemently denied any wrongdoing and refused to consider any official investigation.29

However, simple denial was not enough. Following an emergency meeting of Abe’s closest aides, Suga reversed himself, reopening the investigation and “finding” 14 of the 19 “weird documents.” Suga continued to claim, however, that they did not demonstrate any direct association of the “Prime Ministerial will” with the decision.30 Further material turned up in July 2017 confirming Maekawa’s account and indicating that Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hagiuda Koichi had “conveyed Abe’s will on the school project” to the Ministry of Education, setting the specific deadline of April 2018 for it to open.31 By 2018 no less than five senior government officials had testified that they had striven to advance the Kake cause on behalf of the Prime Minister. Abe continued to insist that he had known nothing about the case till it became a public matter in January 2017.32

Although it is not clear how exactly veterinary science might be given an ultranationalist twist, such an element is not to be dismissed. Kake’s middle schools are noted for their adoption of rightist history and civics texts, offering a “Japan is beautiful” patriotic education, an orientation to constitutional revision and an end to the post-war regime.33 And when in due course the veterinary school opened (April 2018) the entrance exams held to determine the first student intake pre-determined that Korean applicants be awarded zero on the interview component of their application (for which 50 out of 200 points were awarded), irrespective of their actual ability. It meant that all eight of the 69 applicants who happened to be South Korean nationals were eliminated, including the person who topped the entire cohort on the written papers.34 It goes without saying that such practice was blatantly discriminatory.

3) JR Tokai’s Linear Super-Express

Slightly different in character, yet extremely serious in its economic and environmental implications, is the case of the JR Tokai (railroad company) project for the construction of a linear (magnetic levitation) super express rail link between Eastern and Western Japan (Tokyo and Osaka). The cost has been estimated at a fabulous nine trillion yen (over $80 billion). That would make it one of the grandest and most expensive infrastructural projects in the world. It is to cost slightly more than China’s south-north water transfer project (78 billion as of 2014), and not quite matching the international space station (which cost well over one hundred billion dollars but was covered by a consortium of rich counties over many decades). Perhaps the most startling comparison is with Japan’s Oedo municipal subway that runs for 44 kilometers under densely populated Tokyo and cost about 1.3 trillion yen,35 meaning that the linear project is some 5.5 times greater. Construction commenced early in 2016 on a deep, mostly underground (at depths to 1,400 meters) route, along which linear trains would travel at speeds up to 505 kph. The first section, linking Tokyo with Nagoya, was originally scheduled for 2045 but in 2016 that date was brought forward to 2027 following the grant of three trillion yen in low interest (0.8%) credit by the national government. Since there was a thirty-year period of grace before any repayment was required, it amounted to a huge state gift to a supposedly private company run by a close friend of the Prime Minister.

In August 2018, the national economic daily, Nikkei Bijinesu, referred to the project as a “land-based Concorde” and pointed out that JR Tokai’s head, Kaneko Shin, had met with Prime Minister Abe on at least forty-five occasions during the decision-making process,36 thus suggesting that the affair should be viewed through the same lens as the Moritomo and Kake cases, as an example of rampant cronyism. The project continues. For the steadily shrinking and aging population of 21st century Japan, it is hard to imagine any project more unnecessary and more comprehensively risky than a transport system rocketing people up and down the country deep underground at fabulous speed. When the anticipated magnitude 8-plus “Nankai Trough” quake hits Japan’s capital region, estimated as a 60-70 per cent probability within 30 years and 90 per cent within 50 years, it does not bear thinking of what will become of those caught deep underground.37

One recent account concludes that it is “deficit-breeding, energy-wasting, environmentally-destructive, and technologically unreliable … a guaranteed fiasco.”38 And it has the potential not only of its own collapse and of serious ecological disaster but of bringing down the existing Tokaido shinkansen by poaching its customers. Abe refers to this project as a dream, but it is a dream he did much to inflict on the nation which has real potential to become a nightmare.

4) The Casino Project

Gambling is nominally forbidden under Article 185 of the Criminal Code. There are, however, significant exceptions and Japan is in fact a gambling super-power, with the Welfare Ministry estimating 3.6 per cent of people (3.2 million) at some level of dependency.39 The pachinko pinball slot machine industry is substantial (with an estimated revenue equal to six times that of Macao’s casinos) and betting is allowed on horse, motor boat, and cycle racing. Leisure and construction groups within the ruling Japanese Liberal-Democratic Party establishment have long pushed for revision of the law to allow casino-style licensed gambling and both Prime Minister Abe and Deputy Prime Minister Aso Taro have been key figures in the parliamentary casino lobby. Both served as its “principal advisers” from the time that group was set up in the Diet in 2010.40 Internationally, the global gambling industry had also long called for restrictions to be lifted so as to allow a Macao- or Las Vegas-style casino business.41 They pointed out that Japan was the only OECD country without legalized casino gambling. Public opposition, however, was formidable. Because of it, casino-promotion forces tended to downplay the word “gambling” and prefer instead to use the term “Integrated Resort,” representing the IR as part of the path to national greatness, to be built and managed by the private sector and to attract many millions of visitors while being carefully controlled to prevent abuses.

The Abe government in its second term beginning 2012 adopted the casino as a priority national policy project to drive economic growth. Later, as the 2020 Olympic Games loomed, the casino became also the formula to help overcome the recession otherwise anticipated in their wake. Secure in their dominance of both houses of the Diet, in December 2016 after a paltry six hours debate – part of which LDP members used to recite Buddhist scriptures so as to fill in time – they forced through the Diet an “Integrated Resort Promotion Law.”42 The words “casino” and “gambling” were conspicuously absent.

There was, however, rather more to the Abe decision to drive the country along the gambling path to greatness than this. In February 2017, just months after adoption of the new law, on the occasion of the first meeting between Abe and the new US President, Trump explicitly urged that Japan look favourably on the proposal that the Las Vegas and Macao gambling tycoon Sheldon Adelson be granted one of the forthcoming three Japanese casino licenses for his Las Vegas Sands Corporation.43 Adelson was a major Trump benefactor, having contributed $20 million to his presidential election fund in 2016 and an additional $5 million for the inauguration ceremony (and having committed multi-millions for Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign). On the eve of the Abe visit to the US for his first Trump meeting in February 2017, Adelson flew to Washington for a meeting with Trump, Jared Kushner (the president’s son-in-law) and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. When he joined Abe at the breakfast table the next morning there can be no doubt that subjects for discussion included the future of the Japan casino industry following adoption of the new law. We cannot know for sure that President Trump intervened to promote the Las Vegas Sands cause, but it would certainly be no surprise if he had done so.

For the record, Abe later denied any such exchange with the President and/or the gambling tycoon, but he has not been pursued over the matter in either parliament or media, and the implications are such that whatever the truth, he would be sure to issue denials.44

In fact, the Abe practice makes it increasingly difficult to discover the truth. Many government committees no longer take minutes and, when such records do exist, the Abe government encourages bureaucrats to delete them as soon as possible and/or to doctor them appropriately to ensure that no embarrassing or incriminating trace of government (Abe) intervention remain.

What is clear, however, is that upon return to Tokyo from his meetings with Trump and Adelson in Washington and Florida, having established a rapport with the President that attracted world-wide attention, Abe moved the casino project into high gear. In April, convening for the first time the official promotion body, he announced that Japan’s “Integrated Resorts” would be tightly regulated, “clean casinos,” no less.45 Shortly after these meetings, Adelson flew to Tokyo for high-level meetings with senior figures in Abe’s Liberal-Democratic Party, and later that year flew in for a Las Vegas Sands event featuring British football’s super-star David Beckham and American rock guitarist Joe Walsh of The Eagles. Beckham notably declared “Las Vegas Sands is creating fabulous resorts around the world, and their scale and vision are impressive.”46 In due course an enabling law was forced through the Diet almost without debate in July 2018,47 despite opposition levels in the country that (according to The Economist), were above 80 per cent.48

On Christmas Day 2019, however, Akimoto Tsukasa, a key associate of the Prime Minister, responsible within the cabinet through much of 2017 and 2018 for IR/casino matters, was arrested on suspicion of having received about 3.7 million yen ($33,800) in bribes from the Chinese online betting firm 500.com, which he then distributed to at least five other Diet members in the attempt to win favour for a casino license for the village of Rusutsu in Hokkaido.49

It remains to be seen whether this affair will be contained by the arrest of Akimoto (and possibly some or all of the other Diet member beneficiaries of Chinese gambling largesse) and whether Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands and Macao interests were involved. The commitment of the Abe government to opening the national gambling market seemed undimmed, but 70 per cent of people are of the view that the government should think again, and only 21 per cent thought the plan should go ahead unchanged.50 The amount involved in the casino scam thus far unfolding may have been trivial, especially in the context of the global gaming industry, but Abe had been heavy involved in the promotion, insisting it would be clean and unproblematic, and the arrests were a blow to him.51

Prime Minister Abe Shinzo, with wife Akie, and supporters at Flower Viewing Party, Shinjuku Gyoen, Tokyo, 13 April 2019

On 13 April 2019, the Abe government convened a mass “cherry blossom-viewing” garden party at Shinjuku Gyoen gardens in Tokyo. The event itself was not controversial. It had been held annually, with up to 10,000 people invited, since 1952. But under the second Abe government (from December 2012) the number of invitees increased steadily. In 2019 the Abe government invited 18,200 people, supposedly those who had distinguished themselves in politics, the arts, culture, entertainment, and so on, but in practice most had been nominated by the ruling party, the Prime Minister’s prefectural support group, and even his wife.52 850 people also accepted invitations to a dinner on the eve of the flower party at an up-market Tokyo hotel (New Otani Banquet Hall) for which they paid a modest sum (5,000 yen).

On 9 May 2019, suspicious that the flower party may have been rather more than it seemed, the Japan Communist Party’s Miyamoto Toru rose in the Diet to seek release of the guest list, only to be told that it no longer existed. As later transpired, its 800 pages had been dumped into a giant government shredder (a “Nakabayashi NSC-7510 Mark 3”)53 within one hour of Miyamoto seeking access to them. Such an admission fed suspicion. 69.2 per cent of people simply did not believe the Prime Minister’s explanations on the flower-viewing affair.54

Early in 2020, the focus of public and media interest in this affair shifted from the missing guest list to the question of payment: had Abe, the government, or the Liberal Democratic Party paid part or all of the cost? If so, the prima facie case for seeing the party and the dinner as breaching the Political Funding law (forbidding the wining and dining of constituents) was clear. Abe assured the Diet, however, that although the pre-party dinner had been hosted by his supporters’ association, it was the hotel that set the 5,000-yen price although it did not issue any quotes or detailed statements. An Abe staff member had collected the money at the entrance and handed it to the hotel in return for receipts written by hand and with the addressee line blank. That seemed improbable and, later, a spokesman for ANA Hotels (that alternated with Hotel New Otani in hosting large government events) said that it was impossible:

“there are no cases in which detailed statements are not issued to event hosts, it has never issued receipts with the addressee blank; and it does not collect fees from individual participants instead of the host of an event.”55

The contradiction with Abe’s account was plain. It looked like a fresh case of Abe and his associates making up facts as required by circumstances. As the disbelief in Abe’s story spread. his office proceeded to have “talks” with the hotel, whereupon ANA changed its story.

“My office,” said Abe, “checked with the hotel and they said they were merely responding to Ms Tsujimoto [Constitutional Democratic Party representative who asked the Diet question] in general terms. They said that speaking of individual cases would infringe on the confidentiality of operations, so individual cases were not included in their response to Tsujimoto.”56

The hotels, in other words – not surprisingly since the Prime Minister and Government were major customers – had no wish to contradict the Prime Minister. While the Diet and the people brooded over these improbable exchanges between Prime Minister and hotel and the unlikely claim that any hotel would host so many people, so cheaply while issuing only blank receipts, the immediate consequence was further erosion of confidence in the Prime Minister. This time, unlike other scandals, his own direct personal involvement was clear and blame could not easily be shifted to bureaucrats. There would be no such party in 2020.

5) Coronavirus

As this article was being revised for publication, the coronavirus struck, profoundly affecting the entire world. Here is not the place for a detailed account of the Abe government’s response to the outbreak but it seems appropriate to point to some aspects of the still unfolding crisis that are indicative of the structural nexus common to it and to the cases considered above. No other event had such potential, on the one hand to reinforce and on the other to challenge, Abe’s “one strong” state: to reinforce by means of “emergency powers” given to the Prime Minister under the “special measures law to deal with the new influenza and other related diseases” adopted by the Diet on 13 March 2020, which was a logical extension of his steady appropriation of powers discussed above; or to challenge, in the sense of causing social and economic pain for which blame might attach to the Prime Minister for the way he had handled, or mishandled, things.

Abe’s support figures have not exactly plummeted under these recent shocks and scandals, but in the early months of 2020 were sliding, in the 30-40 per cent range, and the number of those who did not support him was either equal or slightly greater than that of those that did. Even after the outbreak of the mystery illness was first reported in early December in and around Wuhan City in Hubei, Japan allowed direct flights to and from Wuhan (38 per week) to continue.57 As the outbreak reached a crisis point in Wuhan in January and spread throughout the country, Chinese visitors to Japan hit a record of more than 920,000 in that month.58 Abe and his government are widely seen to bear some blame for having detained the Diamond Princess cruise ship with its 3,700 passengers and crew offshore from Yokohama for several weeks from 3 February, allowing the ship to serve as incubator spreading the disease, first among the detainees themselves and then more widely once the passengers and crew disembarked on 21 February.59 As Isabel Reynolds wrote in The Japan Times, “The Abe government waited until Feb. 1 to bar visitors with symptoms, tested only a tiny fraction of possible cases in the initial days, and moved suddenly last week to quarantine arrivals from China after the pace of infections there had begun to slow.”

On 15 February Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga brushed off questions about the virus, refusing to treat it seriously, and even when the US and other countries restricted entry by Chinese (or foreign nationals who had been in China, Abe welcomed visitors for the New Year festival.60 Only on 26 February did the government belatedly call for all public (sporting cultural, etc) events at which crowds of people might be expected to gather to be cancelled or postponed and, the following day, 27th, Abe “requested” all schools and other educational institutions to close for approximately four weeks from 2 March until the opening of the spring school year in April. The country was thrown into confusion especially by this latter order (framed as request for “self-regulation” but coming from the Prime Minister it was tantamount to an order). It was especially controversial as it seems to have been taken against the advice of Cabinet Secretary Suga and without consulting the Minister for Education. The confusion was compounded by the fact that the Prime Minister’s call for all schools and universities to be closed was followed by a directive from the Minister for Health requesting operators of kindergartens and nursery schools to remain open.

Anger and dismay was the common response to this sequence of measures. One former Minister of Health (2006) who had also served as Governor of Tokyo (2014-2016) referred to the Abe government’s handling of the crisis as “disastrous” and blamed Abe for having “stayed too long in power.”61 Under the prevailing “sontaku politics,” the Prime Minister’s office was indeed all powerful, Masuzoe complained.62 The mayor of Chiba, Toshihito Kumagai, went even further, saying the school closure “could result in a breakdown of Japanese society.63

As of mid-March 2020, Japan accounted for 1,423 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 697 of them attributable to the Diamond Princess and another 14 to returnees on charter flights from China, and 28 deaths (7 from the ship). However, these relatively low figures owe much to the fact that the government’s priority has consistently been to minimize the disease in order not to upset the scheduled opening of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in July. The testing regime has been anything but rigorous, as the comparison with neighboring South Korea shows: by the end of February 2020 Japan had tested 8,100 and confirmed 1,023 cases, while South Korea had tested 200,000 and confirmed 7,000 cases. Kami Masahiro of Japan’s Medical Governance Research Institute reckoned in early March that the published figures for Japan amounted just to the “tip of the iceberg.”64 The real figure is likely very much greater and an explosive leap in infection is highly possible. The Japanese media recounts many cases of people seeking but being unable to gain access to test facilities. While South Korea tends to rank well above Japan in international infection tables, in realistic terms the official Japanese figure of infected should be multiplied by approximately ten.

The crisis was widening and deepening, By March 2020, 62 countries or regions had imposed restrictions (such as mandatory self-isolation) on entry of Japanese people or people from Japan and other countries while Japan had imposed restrictions on the entry of people from 29 countries or regions.65 Even as Abe’s powers remained short of actual emergency, the ruling assumption on the part of the bureaucracy was that priority should attach to his Olympic dream and Japan should at all costs escape censure or criticism over its handling of the coronavirus matter and stick to the established Olympic schedule. Having gained the Olympics in September 2013 by (falsely) assuring the IOC that the Fukushima catastrophe had been resolved and was “under control,” in the early months of 2020 Abe seemed intent on conducting them at any cost, yielding only with extreme reluctance to the pleas of the IOC, President Trump, and prominent athletes for them to be caurried over.66

The tendency of the Abe “one strong”) state – evident in the Moritomo, Kake, casino, linear, and flower viewing affairs – of treating Prime Ministerial-favored projects as “national policy” might, if continued through the corona virus, have disastrous consequences. The New York Times wrote in early March of the Prime Minister who “made only brief appearances at strategy meetings, and spent his evenings wining and dining friends and cabinet ministers, appearing at parties even as the government called on people to avoid public gatherings.”67 That suggested a “one strong” leader whose strength was illusory.

7) Conclusion

During the three years from February 2017, when Moritomo and Kake first drew public attention, Abe has weathered more-or-less successfully the storm of successive scandals. As of the beginning of 2020 his support among the Japanese people was about the same as that of Donald Trump among the American, following the latter’s acquittal in Congressional impeachment proceedings. For both, it seemed that the hubris born of near absolute power fed a febrile atmosphere in which cronyism and corruption thrived. Both had their fingers in dubious pies, but while the one is globally notorious, the other is seen – outside Japan at least – as above suspicion.

If there is a hidden thread that ties together the parties to the series of Japanese scandals it might be the Nippon Kaigi organization. Virtually all parties, government and private sector and including Prime Minister and his wife, the Kagoikes, Kake Kotaro, the mayor of Imabari City, as well as virtually all members of Abe’s cabinet, were and are members or supporters. An inclination on the part of Nippon Kaigi members to help fellow believers in a post-conservative radical rightist or neo-Shinto cause can reasonably be assumed. Though the term is not commonly applied to the Japanese case, in major respects, including the cases discussed in this short paper, the Abe government has been practicing the politics of post-truth, in which those who hold power determine what is to be known as truth. The same Japan where Treasury officials would order the doctoring of official documents to help the government out of a predicament of its own making (Moritomo) and where the Prime Ministerial will was a key political consideration (Kake) also saw other revelations of official, high-level deception and obfuscation or data fixing.68

Looking back over the past three years, when support for the government dropped at the time of the Moritomo affair in June 2017 to a potentially critical level below 30 per cent, Abe was saved by the North Korean missile and nuclear tests that made it possible for him to shift public attention from scandals to security. In September that year, he seized the initiative, dissolved the parliament, and called a general election (October) in which he regained a dominant position in the Diet even if with much reduced trust or popularity. From the following year, circumstances again developed to his favor. He and his advisers could concentrate on stirring a “celebratory” mood, shifting public attention to public events marking the transition from Heisei to Reiwa and the imperial abdication and accession. As that phase passed in 2019, and even as the flower-viewing affair simmered and Abe’s explanations looked more and more dubious, in early 2020 he could hope that his star would rise again thanks to the Olympic and Paralympic Games. That the Games had to be postponed was an undoubted blow to that design but might yet be turned to his advantage. If in due course the summer Olympics are indeed carried out in July-August 2021 as a grand “recovery” event, that would potentially clear the way for his re-election in September 2021 to head his party, which would mean a fourth spell as Prime Minister. Leading the country through Coronavirus and Olympics over the coming year and a half would make it very difficult for critics and opponents to pursue his responsibility for the series of scandals that have marked his third term.

At time of writing, the coronavirus had certainly shaken the government and the personal standing of the Prime Minister but support levels seemed to be holding at around 40 per cent,69 even though three-quarters of the people disbelieve him and his government in relation to one or other scandal. It might mean that Abe is unlikely to be able to pursue his constitutional revision goal, but since the adoption of the security legislation of 2015 enabling Japanese forces to be committed to war if and when required by Washington, the US was no longer pressing for revision. It might therefore no longer be necessary.70 With no plausible alternative Prime Ministerial candidate on the horizon he might yet do as he had done in 2017, recover from the nadir.

However, the more successful Abe becomes at centralizing power in and around his office and crushing opponents or critics, the less democratic the country becomes, the more enemies he creates and the more potentially vulnerable he becomes to exposure. While maintaining the frame of a democratic state, Abe has presided over the consolidation of something quite different: an authoritarian, neo-Shinto ikkyo/sontakustate. Whether it would prove viable in the long term remains to be seen.

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COVID-19: Further Evidence that the Virus Originated in the US

By Larry Romanoff

Global Research,

It would be useful to read this prior article for background:

China’s Coronavirus: A Shocking Update. Did The Virus Originate in the US?

By Larry Romanoff,

***

As readers will recall from the earlier article (above), Japanese and Taiwanese epidemiologists and pharmacologists have determined that the new coronavirus could have originated in the US since that country is the only one known to have all five types – from which all others must have descended. Wuhan in China has only one of those types, rendering it in analogy as a kind of “branch” which cannot exist by itself but must have grown from a “tree”.

The Taiwanese physician noted that in August of 2019 the US had a flurry of lung pneumonias or similar, which the Americans blamed on ‘vaping’ from e-cigarettes, but which, according to the scientist, the symptoms and conditions could not be explained by e-cigarettes. He said he wrote to the US officials telling them he suspected those deaths were likely due to the coronavirus. He claims his warnings were ignored.

Immediately prior to that, the CDC totally shut down the US Military’s main bio-lab at Fort Detrick, Maryland, due to an absence of safeguards against pathogen leakages, issuing a complete “cease and desist” order to the military. It was immediately after this event that the ‘e-cigarette’ epidemic arose.

Screenshot from The New York Times August 08, 2019

We also had the Japanese citizens infected in September of 2019, in Hawaii, people who had never been to China, these infections occurring on US soil long before the outbreak in Wuhan but only shortly after the locking down of Fort Detrick.

Then, on Chinese social media, another article appeared, aware of the above but presenting further details. It stated in part that five “foreign” athletes or other personnel visiting Wuhan for the World Military Games (October 18-27, 2019) were hospitalised in Wuhan for an undetermined infection.

The article explains more clearly that the Wuhan version of the virus could have come only from the US because it is what they call a “branch” which could not have been created first because it would have no ‘seed’. It would have to have been a new variety spun off the original ‘trunk’, and that trunk exists only in the US. (1)

There has been much public speculation that the coronavirus had been deliberately transmitted to China but, according to the Chinese article, a less sinister alternative is possible.

If some members of the US team at the World Military Games (18-27 October) had become infected by the virus from an accidental outbreak at Fort Detrick it is possible that, with a long initial incubation period, their symptoms might have been minor, and those individuals could easily have ‘toured’ the city of Wuhan during their stay, infecting potentially thousands of local residents in various locations, many of whom would later travel to the seafood market from which the virus would spread like wildfire  (as it did).

That would account also for the practical impossibility of locating the legendary “patient zero” – which in this case has never been found since there would have been many of them.

Next, Daniel Lucey, an infectious disease expert at Georgetown University in Washington, said in an article in Science magazine that the first human infection has been confirmed as occurring in November 2019, (not in Wuhan), suggesting the virus originated elsewhere and then spread to the seafood markets. “One group put the origin of the outbreak as early as 18 September 2019.” (2) (3)China’s New Coronavirus: An Examination of the Facts

Wuhan seafood market may not be source of novel virus spreading globally.

Description of earliest cases suggests the outbreak began elsewhere.

The article states:

“As confirmed cases of a novel virus surge around the world with worrisome speed, all eyes have so far focused on a seafood market in Wuhan, China, as the origin of the outbreak. But a description of the first clinical cases published in The Lancet on Friday challenges that hypothesis.” (4) (5)

The paper, written by a group of Chinese researchers from several institutions, offers details about the first 41 hospitalized patients who had confirmed infections with what has been dubbed 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

In the earliest case, the patient became ill on 1 December 2019 and had no reported link to the seafood market, the authors report. “No epidemiological link was found between the first patient and later cases”, they state. Their data also show that, in total, 13 of the 41 cases had no link to the marketplace. “That’s a big number, 13, with no link”, says Daniel Lucey . . . (6)

Earlier reports from Chinese health authorities and the World Health Organization had said the first patient had onset of symptoms on 8 December 2019 – and those reports simply said “most” cases had links to the seafood market, which was closed on 1 January. (7)

“Lucey says if the new data are accurate, the first human infections must have occurred in November 2019 – if not earlier – because there is an incubation time between infection and symptoms surfacing. If so, the virus possibly spread silently between people in Wuhan – and perhaps elsewhere – before the cluster of cases from the city’s now-infamous Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market was discovered in late December. “The virus came into that marketplace before it came out of that marketplace”, Lucey asserts.

“China must have realized the epidemic did not originate in that Wuhan Huanan seafood market”, Lucey told Science Insider. (8)

Kristian Andersen is an evolutionary biologist at the Scripps Research Institute who has analyzed sequences of 2019-nCoV to try to clarify its origin. He said the scenario was “entirely plausible” of infected persons bringing the virus into the seafood market from somewhere outside. According to the Science article,

“Andersen posted his analysis of 27 available genomes of 2019-nCoV on 25 January on a virology research website. It suggests they had a “most recent common ancestor” – meaning a common source – as early as 1 October 2019.” (9)

It was interesting that Lucey also noted that MERS was originally believed to have come from a patient in Saudi Arabia in June of 2012, but later and more thorough studies traced it back to an earlier hospital outbreak of unexplained pneumonia in Jordan in April of that year. Lucey said that from stored samples from people who died in Jordan, medical authorities confirmed they had been infected with the MERS virus. (10)

This would provide impetus for caution among the public in accepting the “official standard narrative” that the Western media are always so eager to provide – as they did with SARS, MERS, and ZIKA, all of which ‘official narratives’ were later proven to have been wrong.

In this case, the Western media flooded their pages for months about the COVID-19 virus originating in the Wuhan seafood market, caused by people eating bats and wild animals. All of this has been proven wrong.

Not only did the virus not originate at the seafood market, it did not originate in Wuhan at all, and it has now been proven that it did not originate in China but was brought to China from another country. Part of the proof of this assertion is that the genome varieties of the virus in Iran and Italy have been sequenced and declared to have no part of the variety that infected China and must, by definition, have originated elsewhere.

It would seem the only possibility for origination would be the US because only that country has the “tree trunk” of all the varieties. And it may therefore be true that the original source of the COVID-19 virus was the US military bio-warfare lab at Fort Detrick. This would not be a surprise, given that the CDC completely shut down Fort Detrick, but also because, as I related in an earlier article, between 2005 and 2012 the US had experienced 1,059 events where pathogens had been either stolen or escaped from American bio-labs during the prior ten years.

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China reveals how long the Coronavirus remains active and the temperature it is recovering from

By: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr

Chinese scientists at the University of Hong Kong have discovered the temperature in which the emerging corona virus is especially active, and the relevant data has been published on the specialized medical medRxiv portal.

The scientists said that the coronavirus remains very stable for a long time at a temperature of about four degrees in the absence of any purification, and its activity does not begin to decrease until after 14 days.

At the same time, they added, CoV-2 SARS does not tolerate high temperatures and is destroyed at 70 ° C within five minutes.

Experts also discovered how long the coronavirus can remain resilient on the surface of different bodies. It remains on paper for three hours, on clothes and treated wood that lasts for two days, on glass it lives up to four days, and on plastic for up to 7 days.

The scientists noted that the virus could settle on the outer surface of medical masks for up to seven days, and called for a comprehensive and complete cleansing.

On March 11, the World Health Organization announced that the outbreak of the new Corona virus was a pandemic.

According to the latest data from the United Nations, more than 570,000 infections were recorded in the world, and more than 26,000 people died.


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The Biblical, Primal Terror of the Coronavirus

Our instinct to stay far away from disease is deeply rooted. Even though, this time, we can’t.

By: Jay Michaelson

“As long as they have the disease, they remain unclean. They must live alone; they must live outside the camp.”

So says Leviticus 13:46, one of literally hundreds of biblical verses about disease, quarantine, skin rashes, seminal emissions, menstruation, and other markers of “impurity.” 

And the Bible is not alone. In virtually every culture in the world, there are protocols for dealing with the sick and infirm—and most of them require that the diseased be placed far away from the healthy. To quarantine is human.

It’s not just about epidemiology either. Of course, in pre-scientific societies without the germ theory of disease, simply getting the sick person away makes a lot of sense. But it’s also a primal instinct. Disease is both terrifying and disgusting. It triggers an evolutionally wired aversion: Get that away from me.

Indeed, as sociologist Mary Douglas first proposed, distinctions between clean and unclean were not peripheral to the Israelite religion which gave birth to Christianity and Judaism. They were fundamental, and echo within the dietary laws (animals, too, are classed as clean and unclean), attitudes toward foreigners (unclean), and conceptions of God, who separates light from dark, land from earth, and who imposes order on chaos.

All this to say that, if you’re scared of the coronavirus, your fears are in part determined by hundreds of thousands of years of human evolution and culture.

The novel coronavirus, however, is particularly ill-suited to our instincts.

It’s too early to tell for sure, but the virus’s ability to survive for days outside a host suggests that it will be difficult to contain. It spreads quickly, many people show no symptoms, and it is spreading fast.

You probably will get it on your body, sooner or later. And so, as everyone ought to know by now, the most important thing you can do is prevent it from getting inside your body—wash your hands, don’t touch your face.

That’s not pleasant to contemplate. Coronavirus is on my hands? Just the idea gives rise to anxiety or worse. And of course, for the significant percentage of the population that is at serious risk, it’s legitimately terrifying. 

Human beings have a bad record of acting on that sense of terror. 

For gay men of my generation, AIDS is the most painful precedent. In a 1985 Los Angeles Times poll, 51 percent of respondents supported quarantining AIDS patients—and that was after it had already been established that AIDS (unlike COVID-19) requires the direct exchange of bodily fluids to be transmitted. 

And remember, if you’re old enough, the hysteria that surrounded Magic Johnson’s disclosure that he was HIV-positive? Or the taunts of so-called Christians that God kills fags? 

(Performance artist Diamanda Galás hauntingly linked AIDS hysteria to biblical taboos of impurity, in a work later banned by the Smithsonian for “offending Catholics.”)

There have already been echoes of that prejudice this year, as Asian people have been attacked, both verbally and physically, on the streets of Berlin, New York, and elsewhere. (In any case, within a few weeks, this kind of profiling will be obsolete.)

Will we turn against each other now, as we did then?

Once again, it’s too early to tell. For now, President Trump’s response has more resembled denial than hysteria. Perhaps for political reasons – if COVID-19 tanks the economy, he’s going to lose the election–or perhaps out of some altruistic desire to keep us from panic, Trump has minimized, rather than exaggerated, the severity of the threat.

Indeed, his clearest forebear is probably President Woodrow Wilson, who concealed evidence of the 1918-19 “Spanish Flu” epidemic to maintain morale for World War I, and who even minimized his own flu infection at the negotiations leading to the Treaty of Versailles. By the time the epidemic ended, the flu would kill more people than the war.

But if tens of thousands of older and weaker Americans die, Trump’s insouciance seems unlikely to endure. (Trump himself is a noted germophobe, who once called shaking hands “barbaric.”)

As COVID-19 is showing, the reality of human embodiment does not conform to our primal instincts. We may mock ancient biblical taboos of purity and impurity today, but deep down, we still feel them. On a profound and largely unconscious level, we desperately want to keep the plague off of our doorknobs, elevator buttons, and subway railings.

And when human beings can’t do that, we have a troubling record of lashing out.

Posted in USA, Health, PoliticsComments Off on The Biblical, Primal Terror of the Coronavirus

Jewish Rabbi Says He’s Already Holding Meetings With Messiah

Jewish biggest rabbis are all afraid to leave the country lest they miss Messiah’s coming

By: Ryan Jones

The Messiah of Israel is coming, say Israel rabbis.
Yaakov Nahumi/Flash90

A recent interview on Israeli radio again featured prominent rabbis explaining that the Messiah is just about to reveal himself.

Rabbi Yaakov Zisholtz on Sunday told religious broadcaster Radio 2000 that Rabbi Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky recently told him that he (Kanievsky) is already in direct contact with the Messiah.

To understand why religious Jews are taking this seriously, it’s important to know that Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky is considered one of the two or three top rabbis of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Israel.

And Rabbi Zisholtz says that Kanievsky and others of the mystical “concealed” rabbis have now tasked him with informing the public of the Messiahs imminent arrival.

Rabbi Zisholtz began his explosive three-hour interview with a warning:

“…the process of redemption is about to start happening very quickly and at a fast pace. It is important that people remain calm and steady to act properly in the right time.

“There is a potential Messiah in every generation and there are righteous men who know precisely who it is. This is, of course, true in this generation.

“Getting the word out now that the Messiah is closer than ever is a matter of life and death. Haven’t you heard of Gog and Magog? That is what is going to happen very soon. Right now, the situation is explosive more than you can possibly imagine. Everyone needs to know whether they are on the inside or if they are going to be left out.”

He went on to reiterated a number of signs of which prominent rabbis have taken note and that they firmly believe to be evidence of the coming of Messiah.

“Rabbi Dov Kook, as everyone knows, is a very righteous man. He is one of the greatest men of our generation…[and] ten years ago, when Israel was suffering from a horrible drought, someone asked Rabbi Kook when the Sea of Galilee will again be full,” recounted Rabbi Zisholtz. “Rabbi Kook responded that when the Messiah arrives, the Sea of Galilee will be full. In a few weeks, the Sea of Galilee will be full for the first time since Rabbi Kook made this statement.”

The rabbi also pointed to Israel’s inability to elect a government, which he said will not change in the upcoming third election scheduled to take place on March 2.

“Another righteous rabbi said that according to the current situation in heaven, there will not be Israeli elections – rather, there will be a war,” cautioned Zisholtz. “If the elections do take place, it’s pointless since it will end like the other elections; no government will come out of it. No one will take the government away from Netanyahu.”

Decades ago, Rabbi Yitzhak Kaduri, one of modern Israel’s most revered sages, as well as the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, both predicted that Benjamin Netanyahu would be the State of Israel’s last prime minister prior to the Messianic Age. A great many, if not most of the ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel continue to believe that to be true.

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The man from the Acropolis

On the death of the Greek anti-fascist Manolis Glezos

Manolis Glezos
Manolis GlezosPhoto: AFP

The hour at which Manolis Glezos became a legend struck on the night of May 31, 1941. The swastika flag had been waving on the Acropolis for five weeks since the fascist army entered Athens. Glezos, 18 years old and active as a student in an anti-fascist resistance group, angry and fearless, climbed onto the landmark of the Greek capital with his friend Apostolos Sandas, tore down the Nazi flag in a cinematic handshake and hoisted the flag of Greece.

The young men fled; they became heroes and icons of the struggle against the occupiers. Those sentenced to death in absentia, arrested him a year later and tortured him. Glezos got away with life; his brother Nikos was executed. Manolis was later imprisoned by the Italian fascists, and finally by Greek collaborators.

This marked a permanent lifeline: to fight, to rebel, to endure hardship. The death penalty was imposed on him twice, and Glezos was imprisoned for eleven and a half years of his life – even during the postwar period marked by civil war, in the authoritarian 50s, during the military dictatorship in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Alongside the composer Mikis Theodorakis, he was one of the most prominent prisoners of the dictatorship – an international movement fought for her release. He also spent four and a half years in exile; in view of all of this, one might consider it a balancing justice that he reached a very old age.

Manolis Glezos has often campaigned for the unity of the left. The fact that he had to do this again and again also testifies to the fragmentation, persecution and hostility of the left. In the 1950s he was active for the unification of the Democratic Left, including MPs; in the 1970s, after the end of the military dictatorship, he started to rebuild the party. As a radical leftist he ran several times on the list of the social democratic Pasok, led the left list Synaspismos and played a key role in the formation of the Syriza alliance. He made politics in the European Parliament and in the local council of his home village Apiranthos.

Anger and fearlessness remain to him into old age. Glezos protested publicly against the anti-social austerity policies of the governments before Syriza, against the tough conditions imposed by the creditors of Greece and against the compromises of his comrades when they governed themselves. Disappointed by the government’s forced austerity policies under Alexis Tsipras, he ran in 2015 for an ultimately unsuccessful spin-off from Syriza.

Perhaps his most important concern, his life theme: reparation for Germany for the crimes and devastation committed by the Wehrmacht. It’s about mass murder, deportation, forced labor, the plundering of the whole country. Glezos wrote fire letters to federal presidents and was chairman of a committee to collect war debts.

Perhaps his most touching gesture: when the German ambassador was attacked by Distomo during the Second World War at a memorial ceremony in honor of the victims of the Nazi massacre in World War II, the 94-year-old Glezos jumped to the side of the diplomat. He took the ambassador by the hand and made sure that he could place his wreath at the memorial. “The child of a criminal, whatever the crimes of his father or mother, is not responsible,” said the anti-fascist. The fact that he, although almost a century old, did not receive any compensation from Germany for his country is a shameful testimony to German politics.

The great old man of the Greek left died on Monday.

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Three members of Morocco Jewish community die of COVID-19

Casablanca community mourns businessmen Ari Peretz and Michel Tourgeman, infected at wedding, as well as Peretz’s mother, Simone

Moroccan Jews mark Hannukah in Casablanca, December 22, 2019. (Courtesy/Chabad.org)

Moroccan Jews mark Hannukah in Casablanca, December 22, 2019. (Courtesy/Chabad.org)

At least three members of the Jewish community in Morocco have died after contracting the novel coronavirus, Casablanca residents told Hebrew-language media on Monday.

The Casablanca community was mourning businessman and philanthropist Ari Peretz, 52; his mother Simone Peretz, 75; and businessman Michel Tourgeman, 62, according to Channel 12 news.

All three were said to have had preexisting health issues.

Morocco has imposed a public health state of emergency in a bid to forestall the spread of the virus, which has so far infected 516 people, of whom 29 have died, according to official figures.

However, relatively few tests have been conducted in the nation of some 35 million people.

Of the 2,000-strong Jewish community, 16 have been confirmed to be infected and are hospitalized, according to the Israeli report.

A pharmacist wears a mask next to a door covered in plastic to avoid contamination in Casablanca, Morocco, March 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Abdeljalil Bounhar)

Ari Peretz and Tourgeman reportedly attended a large wedding some three weeks ago in the city of Agadir. It is estimated that they were infected there by some of the hundreds of French nationals who flew to the country to attend the event.

“It was a magnificent wedding, with many attendants, and people unknowingly contracted the coronavirus,” said a participant, who wasn’t identified by name. “We fear the numbers are much higher because not everyone here has undergone tests.”

The pair were buried Friday at the Casablanca Jewish cemetery. One of the attendants said their families wanted to bury them in Israel, but that it wasn’t possible. “After the crisis is over they will be buried in Israel,” he said.

Simone Peretz died on Monday.

“Their death is a great loss for the Jewish community in Morocco,” said a community member. “They are people who contributed significantly to the community.

“What is happening here is scary. People aren’t leaving their homes,” he added.

Another unidentified community member said he was only leaving the house to buy food for his elderly parents.

“Everyone’s under lockdown, afraid to die,” he said. “We are a small community and having to look after ourselves. We had planned to celebrate the [Passover] Seder in Israel with the family, but everyone is only thinking how to survive.”

The Channel 12 report said a Jewish millionaire had said he would fund coronavirus tests for the community members, without elaborating.

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