Archive | May 1st, 2020

PalestineA Palestinian Guide to Surviving a Quarantine

By: Ramzy Baroud

A Palestinian man wearing a mask as a means of protection against the coronavirus COVID-19, sits on the seashore in Gaza City on March 13, 2020.
  • A Palestinian man wearing a mask as a means of protection against the coronavirus COVID-19, sits on the seashore in Gaza City on March 13, 2020. | Photo: AFP

Now that nearly half of the population of planet Earth are experiencing some form of ‘curfew’ or another, I would like to share a few suggestions on how to survive the prolonged confinement, the Palestinian way.

Call it a ‘quarantine,’ a ‘shelter-in-place,’ a ‘lockdown’ or a ‘curfew,’ we Palestinians have experienced them all, though not at all voluntarily.

RELATED: High Population Density Challenge for Gazans to Fight COVID-19

Personally, the first 23 years of my life were lived in virtual ‘lockdown. ’My father’s ‘quarantine’ was experienced much earlier, as did his father’s ‘shelter-in-place’ before him. They both died and were buried in Gaza’s cemeteries without ever experiencing true freedom outside of their refugee camp in Gaza.

Currently in Gaza, the quarantine has a different name. We call it ‘siege,’ also known as ‘blockade.’

In fact, all of Palestine has been in a state of ‘lockdown’ since the late 1940s when Israel became a state and the Palestinian homeland was erased by Zionist colonialists with the support of their Western benefactors.

That lockdown intensified in 1967 when Israel, now a powerful state with a large army and strong allies, occupied the remaining parts of Palestine – East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. 

Under this lockdown, the Palestinian freedom of movement was curtailed to the extent that Palestinians required permits from the Israeli military to leave the Occupied Territories or to return home, to move about from one town to the other, and, at times, to cross a single Israeli military checkpoint or a fortified wall.

In Palestine, we don’t call our imprisonment a lockdown, but a ‘military occupation’ and ‘apartheid.’

As for ‘shelter-in-place,’ in Palestine, we have a different name for it. We call it a ‘military curfew.’ ​​​

Since I was a child, I learned to listen intently to orders barked out by Israeli military officers as they swept through our refugee camp in Gaza declaring or easing military curfews. This ritual often happened late at night.

“People of Nuseirat, per orders of the Israeli military you are now under curfew. Anyone who violates orders will be shot immediately,” the terrifying words, always communicated through a loudspeaker in broken Arabic, were a staple during the First Palestinian Uprising (Intifada) of 1987.​​​​​​​

The period between 1987 to 1993 was a virtual ‘lockdown.’ Thousands of people, mostly children, were killed for failing to respect the rules of their collective imprisonment.

In Gaza, even when a full military curfew was not in place, we rarely left our small and crowded neighborhoods, let alone our refugee camps. We were all haunted by the fear that we may not be able to make it home by 8p.m., the time designated by the Israeli military for all of us to return home.

Every day, ten or fifteen minutes after the nightly curfew set in, we would hear the crackling and hissing of bullets as they whistled through the air from various distances. Automatically, we would conclude that some poor soul – a worker, a teacher, or a rowdy teenager – missed his chance by a few minutes, and paid a price for it.

Now that nearly half of the population of planet Earth are experiencing some form of ‘curfew’ or another, I would like to share a few suggestions on how to survive the prolonged confinement, the Palestinian way.

Think Ahead 

Since we knew that a complete lockdown, or a military curfew, was always pending, we tried to anticipate the intensity and duration of it and prepare accordingly. 

For example, when the Israeli army killed one or more refugees, we knew in advance that mass protests would follow, thus more killings. In these situations, a curfew was imminent.

Number one priority was to ensure that all family members congregated at home or stayed within close proximity so that they could rush in as fast as possible when the caravan of Israeli military jeeps and tanks came thundering, opening fire at anyone or anything within sight. 

Lesson number one: Always think ahead and prepare for a longer lockdown than the initial one declared by your city or state. 

Stay Calm 

My father had a bad temper, although a very kind heart. When curfews were about to start, he would enter into a near-panic state. A chain smoker with obsessive, although rational fear that one of his five boys would eventually be killed, he would walk around the house in a useless rush, not knowing what to do next. 

Typically, my mother would come in, rational and calculating. She would storm the kitchen to assess what basic supplies were missing, starting with the flour, sugar and olive oil. 

Knowing that the first crackdown by the Israelis would be on water supplies and electricity, she would fill several plastic containers of water, designating some for tea, coffee and cooking, and others for dishes and washing clothes. 

Per her orders, we would rush to the nearby stores to make small but necessary purchases – batteries for the flashlight and the transistor radio, cigarettes for my dad, and a few VHS videotapes which we would watch over and again, whether the curfew lasted for a few days or a few weeks.

Lesson number two: Take control of the situation – do not panic – and assign specific responsibilities to every family member. This strengthens the family unit and sets the stage for collective solidarity desperately required under these circumstances.

Preserve Your Water 

I cannot emphasize this enough. Even if you think that a water crisis is not impending, do not take chances. 

It is easy to feel invincible and fully prepared on the first day of quarantine – or military curfew. Many times, we lived to regret that false sense of readiness, as we drank too much tea or squandered our dishwashing water supplies too quickly.

In this case, you have a serious problem, especially during the summer months when you cannot count on rainwater to make up for the deficit.

Years after the end of the Intifada, my father revealed to us that many a time, him and mom used the rainwater they collected in buckets throughout the house, including the leaked roofs for our drinking supplies, even when there was no electricity or gas to boil the water beforehand. 

In retrospect, this explains the many bouts of diarrhea we experienced, despite his assurances that they had painstakingly removed all bird droppings from the salvaged water.

Lesson number three: Cautiously use your water supplies during a quarantine, and never, under any circumstance, drink rainwater or, at least, keep diarrhea pills handy. 

Ration Your Food 

The same logic that applies to water applies to food. It goes without saying that any acquired food would have to cover the basics first. For example, flour, which we used to make bread, comes before bananas, and sugar, which we consumed abundantly with tea, comes before Dutch candy. 

I made that mistake more than once, not because of my love for the imported Dutch candy which we purchased from Abu Sa’dad’s store, located in the center of the camp. The truth is, my brothers and I played a strange form of candy poker which kept us entertained for many hours. I dreaded running out of my precious supplies before the curfew was over, thus subjugating myself to potential humiliation of having to auction everything else I owned – including my small radio – to stay in the game.

My poor mother was devastated numerous times by the horrible choices we made when we rushed to buy ‘essentials’.

Lesson number four: Agree in advance on what classifies as ‘essential food’, and consume your food in a rational way. Also, if you are lucky enough to locate Dutch candy in whatever version of the Abu Sa’dad’s store, in your town, do not gamble it all in one day. 

Find Sources of Entertainment

If electricity is still available, then you still have the option of watching television. For us, Indian movies, especially those starring Amitabh Bachchan, were the number one option. Imagine my disappointment when our beloved movie star, who helped us through numerous military curfews in Gaza, was photographed grinning with right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the latter’s visit to India in 2018.

If electricity is cut off, be ready with alternative options: books, free wrestling, living-room soccer (with the ball preferably made from stuffed-up socks contributed by all family members), and, of course, candy poker.

Lesson number five: The key is to have more than one form of entertainment and to be prepared for every eventuality, including power outages as a form of collective punishment. 

Find the Humor in Grim Situations

Don’t focus on the negatives; there is no point or wisdom in that. Emphasizing the grimness of a situation can only contribute to the feeling of defeat and powerlessness that are already generated by the lockdown. There will be plenty of time in which you can look back, reflect, and even bemoan your unfortunate circumstance.

But, during the curfew itself is when you actually need your sense of humor most. Take things lightly – laugh at your miserable situation, if you must. Forgive yourself for not being perfect, for panicking when you should have been composed, or for forcing your younger brother to gamble his underwear when he runs out of Dutch candy. 

Difficult situations can offer the kind of scenarios that can be interpreted in two extreme ways: either extremely tragic or extremely funny; opt for the latter whenever you can, because as long as you laugh, as long as your spirit remains unbroken, your humanity remains intact. 

Lesson number six: Be funny, don’t take life too seriously, share a laugh with others, and let humor inject hope in every hour and every day of your quarantine.

Hold Tighter to Your Faith 

Whether you are Muslim, Christian, Jewish, or any other faith; whether you are an atheist, agnostic, or practice any form of spirituality, philosophy or belief system, find comfort in your faith and beliefs.

Since all mosques in our refugee camp were shut down, if not raided during a military curfew, the call for prayer, which we heard five times during each day, was permanently silenced.

To keep the call for prayer going, we would sneak to the roof of our houses, carefully scan the area for any Israeli soldiers, and collectively make the call for prayer whenever it was required. Volunteers included my English teacher, who was communist and claimed that he did not believe in God, myself, and Nabil, the neighbor boy with the massive head and the most unpleasant voice.

In curfews, we developed a different relationship with God: He became a personal and more intimate companion, as we often prayed in total darkness, whispered our verses so very cautiously as not to be heard by pesky soldiers. And, even those who hardly prayed before the curfew kept up with all five prayers during the lockdown.

Lesson number seven: Let your values guide you during your hours of loneliness. And if you volunteer to make a call for prayer (or recite your religious hymns) please be honest with yourself: if you have no sense of rhythm or if your voice has the pitch of an angry alley cat, for God’s sake, leave the job to someone else.

In Conclusion

I hope that under no circumstances you will ever hear these ominous words: “You are now under curfew. Anyone who violates orders will be shot immediately.” I also hope that this COVID-19 quarantine will make us kinder to each other and will make us emerge from our homes better people, ready to take on global challenges while united in our common faith, collective pain and a renewed sense of love for our environment.

And when it’s all over, think of Palestine, for her people have been ‘quarantined’ for 71 years and counting.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, Health, Human RightsComments Off on PalestineA Palestinian Guide to Surviving a Quarantine

Zionist’s Anti-Naziyahu Protesters Demonstrate Despite Pandemic

IsraelIsrael’s Anti-Netanyahu Protesters Demonstrate Despite Pandemic

Protesters observed the social distancing rule to fight coronavirus, and called on Gantz not to join in a coalition led by an indicted PM.

“Let democracy win,” one banner read, while some demonstrators had written “Crime Minister” on their masks, in a reference to Netanyahu’s upcoming trial for corruption.

Under strict COVID-19 restrictions, thousands of people in Tel Aviv, Israel, demonstrated Sunday against the possible extension of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s term under the current alliance negotiations between him and former rival Benny Gantz.

RELATED: A Palestinian Guide to Surviving a Quarantine

Wearing face masks, waving black flags as a symbol of threats against democracy, the protesters who observed the social distancing rule to fight coronavirus, called on Gantz’s Blue and White party not to join in a coalition led by a PM charged with corruption.

Israeli media estimated that around 2,000 people answered the call launched on social media by the “Black Flag” movement, which opposes Netanyahu’s continuing rule, according to AFP.

“Let democracy win,” one banner read, while some demonstrators had written “Crime Minister” on their masks, in a reference to Netanyahu’s upcoming trial for corruption.

Gantz had vowed during his campaigns that he would never sit in a government led by a premier facing corruption charges. But the former general changed his position due to the gravity of the coronavirus crisis, he said. His decision drew heavy criticism from his anti-Netanyahu supporters and caused his Blue and White alliance to dissolve. 

Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving PM and the first to be legally charged while in function is under criminal indictment in three corruption cases. He denies all the accusations against him.

The Knesset (Israel’s parliament) was tasked Thursday to form a government after he and Gantz failed to meet the deadline set by the country’s president, but talks between the two parties were still ongoing.

The 120-member Knesset is deeply divided and doesn’t have many options for a stable ruling coalition. The move risks thus to prolong the country’s year-long and worst political crisis in decades.

Posted in ZIO-NAZI, CampaignsComments Off on Zionist’s Anti-Naziyahu Protesters Demonstrate Despite Pandemic

World COVID-19 Lockdowns Harmfully Impacting Millions of Children

About 60 percent of all children around the world are currently in a country that is maintaining some level of a lockdown.

Lack of access to healthcare, domestic life, education, increased presence online, are among the areas in which children could possibly be harmed. 

Millions of children worldwide are being vulnerable to countless threats due to the lockdowns arising from the global coronavirus pandemic, a new United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report has revealed Thursday. 

RELATED: Children Political Prisoners Face Hell in Egypt

The document called “The Impact of COVID-19 on children” details the different areas in which children could possibly be harmed, including lack of access to healthcare, domestic life, education, and risks as a result of an increased presence online. 

About 60 percent of all children around the world are currently in a country that is maintaining some level of a lockdown, which is impeding them to go to school. 

Many had their only meals provided by educational institutions previously. More than 368 million children in about 143 countries are now deprived of their food, and have to seek it through alternative means, the report says.

It also warned that amplified stress levels among quarantined families can expose children to family violence both as victims and witnesses. Other children’s rights advocates including international NGO Save the Children have also raised alarm bells about this specific issue. 

“Social disruption and high stress at home can have a deep impact on children, and millions of them now face an increased risk of violence, abuse, neglect, and exploitation,” Janti Soeripto, president and CEO of Save the Children, said Thursday in response to the report.

RELATED: 

COVID-19: Fears of Domestic Violence Rise as Millions Confined

On the other hand, as they are unable to physically attend schools, many children have to learn online, which requires digital tools. But, the disparity in this access means that not everybody can receive the same level of training.

Only 30 percent of low-income countries have been able to ensure digital courses for their students.

Children’s presence online for lessons or to stay connected with friends can also expose them to other kinds of risks.

The report points out that children are more prone to be at risk of grooming by online predators, being cyber-bullied, being manipulated to share content such as sexually explicit photos.

The UNICEF said governments must ensure that child protective services are open and accessible. Technology companies also have their role to play as they should make sure their services are built-in secure manners. Finally, parents must be careful and keep antivirus and software updates on their children’s phones and computers, the U.N. agency recommended.

Posted in Health, Human Rights, UN, WorldComments Off on World COVID-19 Lockdowns Harmfully Impacting Millions of Children

U.S.Trump Was Real Time Informed During COVID-19 Outbreak in China

Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr

US President Donald J. Trump delivers remarks on the Coronavirus pandemic during a coronavirus task force news conference in the James S. Brady Press Briefing room at the White House in Washington DC, U.S., April 19, 2020.

U.S. WHO scientists relayed coronavirus information to Trump during the COVID-19 outbreak.

U.S. health experts briefed President Donald Trump in real time about the emergence of COVID-19 in China while working full-time at World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva in late 2019.

RELATED: Scientists Prove That COVID-19 Can Survive Over 60 Degrees

A dozen U.S. researchers, doctors and experts were at WHO headquarters when the new coronavirus outbreak began in China. 

They kept the Trump administration informed of its discovery and spread, U.S. and international officials said.

The fact that these officials were aware of COVID-19 developments violates Trump’s complaint to WHO. 

Kyle Griffin@kylegriffin1

A group of U.S. officials working at WHO transmitted real-time info about the coronavirus directly to the Trump admin.

The communication undercuts Trump’s assertion that the virus’ spread in the U.S. largely stems from a lack of communication from WHO. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/americans-at-world-health-organization-transmitted-real-time-information-about-coronavirus-to-trump-administration/2020/04/19/951c77fa-818c-11ea-9040-68981f488eed_story.html …Americans at World Health Organization transmitted real-time information about coronavirus to Trump…The presence of U.S. scientists in Geneva undercuts president’s argument that the WHO failed to communicate with Washington.washingtonpost.com4,86712:30 PM – Apr 20, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy2,782 people are talking about this

The White House chief said the WHO is responsible for the spread of the virus in the United States by trying to cover China at the beginning of the outbreak.

Senior health officials appointed by Trump to be at WHO in the days of the outbreak regularly consulted at the highest levels of WHO as the crisis unfolded.

However, Trump, who often touts a personal relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping, seems to regard the WHO as a more helpless target.

Posted in USA, China, Health, PoliticsComments Off on U.S.Trump Was Real Time Informed During COVID-19 Outbreak in China

Hamas spares no effort in combating COVID-19 in Gaza

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)

Khalil al-Hayya, a member of the political bureau of the Palestinian Hamas resistance movement

BY: Press TV

A high-ranking official with Hamas says the Palestinian resistance movement has made strenuous efforts at all possible levels to help the besieged Gaza Strip contain the spread of COVID-19 disease in the enclave.  

Khalil al-Hayya, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, made the remarks during an interview published on the movement’s official website on Sunday, saying meetings were held on a regular basis between Hamas and government representatives to take the most effective measures against the pandemic.

Elaborating on the role the resistance movement is playing in combating COVID-19, he noted that Hamas has already devoted its financial resources to win the battle against the highly contagious disease.

The movement has set up a 1,000-room field hospital in the Gaza Strip, and purchased 30 respirators and handed them to the government last week, Hayya said, stressing that Hamas has put all its charitable institutions, human forces and military resources at the disposal of authorities in Gaza to contain the pandemic.

“On the internal level, we in Hamas have abided by the government’s coronavirus-related instructions and halted most of our activities, sessions and meetings,” he said.

Hamas holds Israel fully responsible for COVID-19 outbreak in blockaded Gaza Strip

Hamas holds Israel fully responsible for COVID-19 outbreak in blockaded Gaza StripThe Palestinian resistance movement Hamas has held Israel fully responsible for any COVID-19 outbreak in the besieged Gaza Strip.

The COVID-19 disease, caused by a new coronavirus, was transmitted from wildlife to people in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year. It has affected 210 countries and territories across the globe and has so far infected more than 2,386,000 people and killed over 164,000.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the outbreak a global pandemic.

Official figures by Palestine’s Health Ministry show that as of Sunday, 431 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and two others have died so far. More than a dozen of the infected people are in the Gaza Strip, home to nearly two million people, and the rest are in the occupied West Bank.

The senior Hamas official also said that the movement had contacted a number of mediators and asked them to pressure the Israeli regime’s authorities to allow medical supplies that are crucial in the war against COVID-19 into the Gaza Strip.

Hayya stressed that Tel Aviv was obliged to provide Gazans with the health supplies they need to fight the pandemic.

Coronavirus fear adds to already poor economy in Gaza, committee warns

Coronavirus fear adds to already poor economy in Gaza, committee warnsThe Israeli occupation and measures against COVID-19 have resulted in an economic crisis, says the committee.

The impoverished enclave, under a tight Israeli-imposed land, air, and sea blockade since 2007, faces an alarming health situation. Its central medical laboratory announced earlier this month that it had run out of necessary supplies to administer COVID-19 tests.

The situation will definitely delay the necessary procedures for ending the isolation of hundreds of quarantined people who have already given samples for testing.

Various rights groups and organizations have so far pleaded the global community and different international organizations to pressure Tel Aviv to lift the siege and allow international donors to provide Gazans with necessary medical supplies.

Health situation in Gaza critical due to lack of supplies to run COVID-19 tests: Ministry

Health situation in Gaza critical due to lack of supplies to run COVID-19 tests: MinistryThe health ministry of the besieged Gaze Strip warns of critical healthcare situation as its medical laboratory faces severe shortage of necessary supplies amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The majority of the population in Gaza live in densely-populated refugee camps where social distancing is not feasible, and the contagious disease can rampage the besieged sliver if necessary safety measures are not taken immediately.

In conclusion, the Hamas official said that the movement would spare no effort to ensure that the inhabitants of the blockaded sliver were safe from the pandemic, holding Israel fully responsible for the lives of Gazans. 

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Gaza, Health, Human RightsComments Off on Hamas spares no effort in combating COVID-19 in Gaza

The Luxury to Fear COVID-19

by NORBERT ROSS

Photograph Source: David Stanley – CC BY 2.0

El Salvador is showing very different faces. While some people herald its young president for his forceful actions as the savior of the country and even an example for Latin America, others denounce him for his disregard for Salvadorian law, the blatant violations of human rights committed under his regime, and his seeming aspirations as a populist, authoritarian leader. Rather than thinking of this as “the truth lies somewhere in between,” it is important to explore how the government has reacted to the COVID-19 crisis, and how these actions have affected the sectors of the society that are usually ignored – the rural and urban poor.

Through the foundation ACTUEMOS! we work in the community La Finca Argentina, located at the end of the Calle Montreal, in the municipality of Mejicanos. As I have described elsewhere (Ross 2020), the area is known for its high level of violence and shows high presence of both, gang members as well as police and military. The community started when – toward the end of the war – the government issued small parcels of land to families, forcefully displaced from other areas. Throughout the years, more and more families arrived on their own, fleeing from extreme poverty, lacking the resources to pay any rent or purchase any land. These families didn’t receive any support nor did they gain titles to the land plots, where they carved out their new homes. This is how the sectors of las champas, “the shacks,” started out, an urban slum area just outside the city center of San Salvador.

In La Finca, the pandemic hit people barely surviving during the “good times” (Ross 2020). So far no one in the community of approx. 700 people has been either been diagnosed with the virus, or tested. Still, everyone is suffering from the policies that came in the wake of the pandemic – the virus is creating victims without infecting people (Ross 2020).

Rather than getting better, the situation has worsened over the last several weeks; people that have previously been kept invisible, are dispensable in times of crises and might even present a danger. While their poverty remains largely invisible, the area is hyper-visible in terms of the violence attributed to it. The people of La Finca are not known for being poor, but for being violent; donde queman busetas, where they burn buses, as I explained elsewhere (Ross 2020). In times of crises, the language of violence is easily activated to discard of this sector of the society, leaving their needs unattended. The same people that usually provide cheap labor and services (as part of the informal sector), can now easily be discarded as disposable, because they are dangerous. Their work force is not needed, yet they are potentially infectious and compete for already scarce resources. Within such a regime the first order for these areas is control not support.

Said differently, the pandemic makes predating structural differences much more visible, both in terms of who is protected and who is affected by government policies.

From the beginning of the pandemic, the government of El Salvador has taken an extremely proactive stance. With the emergence of the first individual who tested positive in Costa Rica on April 6th, the Salvadorian government declared a yellow alert (Delcid, Merlin, March 7th, 2020). When 5 days later the WHO officially declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic, the Salvadorian government suspended all schools (public and private), prohibited gatherings of large groups, and closed the country for all foreigners (ABC7News, March 11, 2020). Two days later (on March 14) a red alert was issued for the entire country, followed by the official declarations of both a State of Emergency (for an initial duration of 30 days) and a State of Exception (for an initial duration of 15 days). The former enabled specific policies, such as the prohibition of large gatherings of people, the closing of bars, as well as tighter controls of occupational health norms, while the latter specifically allowed for the temporary suspension of the freedom of transitfreedom of assembly, as well as the freedom to choose one’s own residency (EFESan Salvador15 mar 2020)Not surprisingly, the logistics of the quarantine centers was put in the hands of the military (La Voz de America, 14 March 2020), one of the few institutions that hasn’t suffered spending cuts or experienced any other major changes in the postwar rebuilding of the country (Ross & Ross Sanchez, 2017).

To be clear, all this happened even before a single case of COVID-19 was detected in El Salvador, which didn’t happen until March 18th.

Three days after the detection of the first official case, the government declared a 30-day quarantine (national post march 21st), to be controlled by police and military checkpoints. The quarantine, as well as the declaration of the states of emergency and exception have been extended several times by now. People are now ordered to stay in their homes, with only one person per family being allowed to circulate twice per week to make purchases and satisfy the basic needs of the family. Aside from these trips, only essential workers (with the respective papers) are allowed to transit, and all stores are closed unless they provide important services, such as banks, pharmacies, supermarkets, take out restaurants, delivery services etc. (France24.com).

Several times now the president threatened with harsher measures and admonished police and military to enforce the rules ever more strictly, including the detention of individuals, who violate the quarantine. Entire communities have been locked down. Detained individuals are usually taken into confinement centers for a forced quarantine of at least 30 days. Due to the lack of oversight, lack of testing kits, or simply the lack of care, however, people are frequently held for much longer.

It is important to note, that within the state of emergency and exception, the legal system is somewhat reversed. When stopped at police or military checkpoints, individuals have the burden of proof that they are essential workers or the designated person conducting essential business for the family. If they fail to convince the respective officers, they run the risk of being detained into one of the confinement centers without legal recourse. In some instances, vehicles and property have been confiscated, and individuals have even been shot at and wounded.

Of course, in general such a system is not only open to all kinds of arbitrary decisions and mistakes, but conducive to the abuse of power (the two not being independent of one another). As such, it is a system that controls through fear, insecurity, and uncertainty. As mentioned elsewhere (Ross 2020), even before the crisis, individuals from la Finca Argentina had little recourse when confronted by law enforcement agencies – they have even less now. In fact, lawyers and family are often not allowed to see detained people (even when detained in the local police station) – with the dangers of the virus given as the only explanation.

In other words, within the current political climate (including the fear among the citizens), the president wields almost uncontrolled power. And all this happens, despite the fact that the legislative assembly and the supreme court have declared several of the above described measures as illegal (e.g. the detentions of individuals into forced quarantine, or the confiscation of property, and vehicles) (El Salvador.com). Yet, without any repercussions, the president publicly defies the respective rulings declaring, in a truly populist fashion, that “I would not abide by a resolution ordering me to kill Salvadorans, I also cannot abide by a resolution that orders me to let them die” (Rentira, 2020).

Following the orders tweeted (!) by the president, police and military act as police, prosecutors, judges, and executioners all at once – and immediately. Of course, it doesn’t help that the new security and public health laws are hard to understand for either citizens or law enforcement agents. Hence, arriving at a checkpoint, one’s fortune depends entirely on the officials’ willingness to understand one’s case, which in turn is largely dependent on where the checkpoint is and who is traveling. The geographical distribution of “willingness to understand” is also reflected in the kinds of checkpoints and the frequency with which one finds checkpoints in different parts of the city / country. While certain areas of the country such as Mejicanos or the historical center of San Salvador look like actual war zones, other areas, such as upscale Escalón, see a rather limited military / police presence.

In the first few weeks of the pandemic, police and military detained approx. 2500 people; these are the official numbers. Real numbers are likely much higher. But even this official number is over 10 times higher than the number of officially reported COVID-19 cases! If the USA would follow a similar policy it would have detained and placed by now over 8,000,000 individuals into forced quarantine! Clearly, civil rights violations in EL Salvador are rampant even considering the ongoing state of exception and state of emergency regimes. These violations, too, are not randomly distributed but follow a pattern of class segregation, expressed, in El Salvador, in the idiom of “violence.”

The danger of using the pandemic for social control has not gone unnoticed, and the described militarization of the crisis has led the three major gangs in El Salvador to officially support and enforce the quarantine measure, threatening physical violence to anyone violating the quarantine (Martínez, C.; Martínez, O. & Lemus, E.; 31 de Marzo de 2020). At first sight, this alliance with presidential policies might surprise. After all, he started his government with yet another anti-gang campaign. However, on close inspection, these measures constitute a well calculated move by the ranflas, the national gang leaderships. Enforcing the quarantine, preemptively takes away justifications for higher police/military presence in their territories, while also safeguarding their own health. After all, who would attend gang members providing ventilators etc. at a hospital?

Some people have exposed the authoritarian policies of the current president (Martinez, 20 April 2020.), while others have denounced how the system of forced detention is not only unconstitutional, but also puts people unnecessarily at risk of infection, being forced to cohabit with others – often not yet tested. Even within the European Union El Salvador has been denounced for using the pandemic as an excuse for social control (Diario El Mundo, April 22; 2020). All these issues are important to keep in mind, just as it is important to relate these events to the historical memory in El Salvador; for many Salvadorians, the kinds of presidential powers, the lack of checks and balances, as well as the role that law enforcement plays in El Salvador today, is reminiscent of the times before and during the war.

This then is the wider context of El Salvador. As mentioned, some areas, such as parts of Mejicanos and the historical center of El Salvador have been completely cordoned off by law enforcement. No one is allowed in or out, unless they can convince the authorities of their need to travel. To access the central market located in the historic center of San Salvador, one needs to pass both a security and health cordon, running the risk to end up being detained, if the officers in charge doubt one’s credibility. This, in turn, has huge consequences. As mentioned elsewhere, large parts of the informal sector have already ceased to exist, leaving most of the urban poor without any income (Ross 2020). The more recent and stricter measures have created even more hardships.

People from la Finca usually travel to the central market of Mejicanos or even San Salvador to purchase goods. Here they find not only a wider selection of products, but more importantly cheaper products or the same products for a better price. These travels are no longer possible! Furthermore, due to the higher risks and costs of transportation, market vendors adjust their prices almost on a weekly basis. For example, 50 kg of beans increased by over 5 dollars in the matter of one week, quite a price hike for people, who often make less than $ 5 in a day’s work! (Ross 2020). Of course, price increases at the central market of San Salvador do not simply get passed on to local shoppers, but receive an even higher mark-up due to the additional risk and costs of transportation. The same bag of 10 potatoes, that hung dangling off a vegetable truck by mid-March, now holds only 4 or 5 potatoes, yet it still costs the same $1. Furthermore, most local stores and markets are closed anyway, and hence people have to purchase their goods at the more expensive supermarket chains, including now paying $ 1 for the travels.

Any trips, to purchase food or other goods are severely limited and outright dangerous. While at the onset of the crises people could still find the occasional day’s work, nowadays this no longer the case. Searching for employment to purchase food, puts people at a high risk of being detained (for at least 30 days). In addition, many of the families, who attend our Centro Cultural la Finca Argentina, are single mother households. As people have to travel alone for shopping, these mothers cannot take their kids along, yet what would happen if one of them would be detained for 30 days? Again, one can see how such a situation can easily translate into abuse.

For several weeks now the families of La Finca have not been able to leave their homes. Of course, for them staying home means no income, no employers to pay a salary, and of course no savings. So far, the government has not devised a functioning support system, allowing these families to obey the law without running the risk of starvation. To say the least, people are desperate! As I am writing this, I am constantly talking to friends on the phone. One of them, a single mother of two girls, abandoned some months ago by the father of her children (see Ross 2020), essentially lives of the beans and rice we were able to get to the community some weeks ago. With the schools closed, her daughters do not have access to the free lunch anymore, and her food supply is about to run out. And, of course, children need other supplies too. She told me crying that she will have to go out searching for work next week, washing cloth or making tortilla. But then again, everyone in the area is in the same situation. Or as another friend told me on the phone, si uno va a vender, quien le va a comprar aqui, “if someone sells stuff, who is going to buy here?” While finding employment in the area is impossible, traveling further away automatically exposes her to the danger of detention.

At the end of march the government rolled out a one-time $ 300 subsidy for 1.5 million families (Pastran 2020). Lacking an effective census, the government used gas subsidies as the baseline to select beneficiaries. Initially, people were asked by the president to log into a website or visit the respective offices. Of course, many families do not have internet access and anyway, within minutes of the announcement, the web site was down due to high traffic. As a result, people visited the corresponding offices (as asked to by the president!), waiting for hours in lines, just to be dispersed by police with teargas – for causing a health danger by illegally gathering!

Not surprising, in la Finca, only few families received the subsidy. Being illegal squatter and lacking visibility, only few have the gas subsidy and even those did not all receive the subsidy. By now the program seems to have run out of funding (despite the fact that not everyone who was assigned a subsidy actually received it), and people have little hope that other announced programs will make it to their homes. The municipalities, too, seem not to have any plans to support the people in need. Security remains the highest priority, and these days security is all about preventing COVID, followed by controlling the gangs. Hence, food security is low on the list.

So far, the only support in La Finca has come from ACTUEMOS!, yet our work, too, is impacted by the new policies. It is already hard to gather funding to provide essential food for people starving. The hyper visibility of COVID-19 puts other issues on the back burner, it normalizes non-COVID related suffering. As if dying of starvation was any less painful!

While attracting donations is hard in these times, the restrictions on travel severely hamper our logistics. How does one explain the essential need of being in the street purchasing food for a community, when the government does not recognize such a need? Doesn’t accepting one’s claim to provide an essential service, evidentiate the government’s lack of support for its citizens? This becomes even more of a delicate balance, in that supporting people like the ones living in La Finca – an area identified with high levels of gang violence – usually carries a lot of suspicion among law enforcement – the very people in charge of verifying one’s claim. Hence, the increase of security measures and arbitrary detentions, affect the work of NGOs as well, ironically exactly at the moments when they might be needed most.

And all this is just the economic aspect of the crisis. So far, no doctor or nurse has made her way up to the community, and no one has the illusion that this will change any time soon. The last time a doctor visited La Finca, was during a medical visit we arranged at ACTUEMOS! beginning of March. Hence, no one knows if there are any infections in the area.

Similarly, with schools closed, children are left to their own devices to study and keep up with their homework and the school curriculum. While the government currently plans on installing virtual classrooms, it is doubtful that the children in la Finca will have access to the computers, let alone the internet connections necessary to participate.

Finally, we are moving into the rainy season. Being confined to hot dusty shacks is bad enough during the dry season. It is worse with the coming rain that not only enters through the ceilings or walls, but also prohibits leaving the shacks. Again, all these are “normal” conditions in la Finca, yet during the COVID pandemic, allergies and coughing, of course, become sources of major distress.

So, is anyone of La Finca Argentina infected by the virus? No one knows and we likely will never know for sure. The inhabitants are not really worried about the virus, as they suffer from more immediate threats, such as hunger. In El Salvador, being scared of COVID-19 is almost a luxury. At least COVID-19 patients are seen, registered and receive food and some basic attention. People not infected by the virus might survive or die, their suffering of everyday surviving will once more remain invisible.

Notes.

Diario El Mundo, April 22; 2020) https://diario.elmundo.sv/denuncian-en-la-union-europea-que-en-el-salvador-usan-la-pandemia-para-el-control-social/

EFESan Salvador15 Mar 2020https://www.efe.com/efe/america/sociedad/el-salvador-decreta-estado-de-excepcion-para-enfrentar-la-pandemia-del-covid-19/20000013-4196124.

El Salvador.com https://www.elsalvador.com/noticias/nacional/presidente-bukele-cuarentena-coronavirus-casos-el-salvador/703498/2020/

France24.com https://www.france24.com/es/20200407-el-salvador-extender%C3%A1-por-15-d%C3%ADas-la-cuarentena-por-el-coronavirus.

La Voz de America (14 March 2020); https://www.voanoticias.com/a/elsalvador-coronavirus-emergencia/5329152.html).

Martínez, C.; Martínez, O. & Lemus, E. (31 de Marzo de 2020) Pandillas amenazan a quien incumpla la cuarentena. El Faro.net https://elfaro.net/es/202003/el_salvador/24211/Pandillas-amenazan-a-quien-incumpla-la-cuarentena.htm)

Martinez, O. (April 2020). Bukele el autoritario. NYT 20 April 2020

Merlin, D. (March 7th, 2020). “Alerta amarilla en El Salvador por riesgo de coronavirus”. In CNN Spanish.

Nationalpost (March 21st 2020). https://nationalpost.com/pmn/health-pmn/el-salvador-declares-30-day-curfew-in-response-to-coronavirus.

Pastran, N. (2020). Gobierno de El Salvador utilizó base de beneficiarios de subdidio al gas para subsidio de $300 durante cuarentena domiciliar por coronavirus. La Prensa Grafica, March 31sthttps://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Gobierno-de-El-Salvador-utilizo-base-de-beneficiarios-de-subdidio-al-gas-para-subsidio-de-300-durante-cuarentena-domiciliar-por-coronavirus-20200330-0117.html

Rentira, N. (April 16, 2020). El Salvador’s president disregards top court rulings on coronavirus. World News 16 April 2020; https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-el-salvador/el-salvadors-president-disregards-top-court-rulings-on-coronavirus-idUSKCN21Y0IA)

Ross, N. (2020). Poverty in the Time of Corona: Victims of a Sickness That is Yet to Exist. March 20, Counterpunch.

Ross, N. & Ross Sanchez, A. (2017). El Salvador’s Durable Disorder: Low Intensity Postwar Democracy. Sept. 1, Counterpunch.

Posted in USAComments Off on The Luxury to Fear COVID-19

Record Inequality, COVID-19, and the Crisis of the Have-Nots

by ANTHONY DIMAGGIO

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

Americans have historically struggled to see inequality as a major societal problem. Inequality in the U.S. was at record levels, even before the emergence of the Covid-19 public health and economic crisis. And Americans have long been tolerant of high inequality in their own country. Less than half historically have said inequality reduction should be a top policy priority of government. And the gap between rich and poor historically ranks as a low concern for most, compared to other economic concerns such as the deficit, the national debt, jobs and unemployment, and the state of the economy more generally. Furthermore, for decades, from the late-1980s through the late-2010s, a majority have refused to recognize that an economic divide exists in the U.S. between haves and have-nots, despite approximately half the country holding almost no financial assets or wealth.

But increasingly desperate economic times appear to be drawing added attention to the problem of inequality, amidst the Covid-19 crisis. Considering the dramatic negative effects it has had on the health and finances of millions of Americans, we are seeing significant public support for addressing the problem of inequality. With millions now filing for unemployment claims, and the number of uninsured sure grow dramatically as Americans are thrown out of their jobs in record numbers, a new poll that I coordinated with Harris Insights Polling finds that a majority of Americans agree the federal government should actively seek to reduce inequality, amidst the worsening economic crisis produced by Covid-19. The survey, of 2,018 Americans, conducted between April 7-9, 2020, finds that 78 percent of Americans agree that “considering the spread of coronavirus in the United States and its impact on the economy and the American people,” it is “somewhat” or “very important” that “the U.S. government commit to reducing economic inequality” over the next year, through “raising the minimum wage” and “taxing households making more than $250,000 a year to guarantee health care coverage to all Americans who lack access.” Only 21 percent feel reducing inequality through these actions is “not very important” or “not at all important.”

As the Harris poll shows, not all Americans feel equally strong about such actions. Public attitudes on inequality reduction vary by income, age, and between renters and homeowners. Support for inequality reduction is higher among younger Americans, age 18-34 (82%), individuals earning less than $50,000 a year (82%), renters (84%), and individuals with children (81%), compared to older Americans, 65 and older (67%), individuals earning more than $100,000 a year (73%), home owners (76%), and individuals without children (77%). These findings suggest that, while support as across the board for government initiatives to lower inequality is high, it is highest among demographic groups that are traditionally the most economically disadvantaged, and the most likely to be in financial need in a period marked by economic crisis.

Despite strong support for government action to reduce inequality, opinions remain divided on the severity of economic inequality within the U.S. Fifty-seven percent of Americans agree that “in a time of growing economic instability and rising unemployment claims, the U.S. is increasingly divided between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots.’” By comparison, 43 percent agree that “recent economic troubles are only temporary, and the economy will soon bounce back, so it makes little sense to speak of ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots.’” Groups that are most likely to agree that the U.S. is divided include younger Americans, from 18-34 (64%), individuals earning less than $50,000 a year (61%), renters (61%), and women (60%), compared to older Americans age 65+ (51%), individuals earning more than $100,000 a year (53%), home owners (56%), and men (54%). Again, we see a significant divide among Americans on recognition of the inequality problem. More historically privileged groups are relatively less likely to recognize the U.S. divide between haves and have-nots, compared to disadvantaged groups.

Still, the findings from the Harris poll are significant because they suggest a mass awareness of the inequality problem, and a recognition that government action should be taken. As recently as April 2019, Gallup polling found that 58 percent of Americans disagreed that the U.S. was divided between haves and have-nots. This sentiment was reinforced by decades of surveys from Gallup showing that a majority of Americans have never recognized an economic divide in their country between haves and have-nots. But most Americans are no longer trying to deny that their nation is economically divided, at a time when we face the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Whether states and the federal government choose in the future to prioritize inequality reduction – via a mandated increase in the minimum wage, taxes on the wealthy to provide health insurance to millions who have lost employer-provided coverage, or through some other actions, is not yet known. But one point is abundantly clear based on recent polling: public pressure is rapidly building for government to take a more active role in reducing the misery and suffering of those who have been hardest hit by the Covid-19 economic crisis. And short of more effective efforts to reduce such misery, most Americans will likely continue to prioritize government action in a time of rising economic instability and need.

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Biden the Lout

by ALEXANDER COCKBURN

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

A longer version of this article originally ran in CounterPunch on August 23, 2008 under the title “Change,” “Hope” … Why They Must be Talking About Joe Biden! We reprint the story today because it makes clear that the allegations of sexual misconduct against senate staffers has been swirling around Biden for many years, dating back to his first years in the senate. –JSC

“Change” and “hope” are not words one associates with Senator Joe Biden, a man so ripely symbolic of everything that is unchanging and hopeless about our political system that a computer simulation of the corporate-political paradigm senator in Congress would turn out “Biden” in a nano-second.

The first duty of any senator from Delaware is to do the bidding of the banks and large corporations which use the tiny state as a drop box and legal sanctuary. Biden has never failed his masters in this primary task. Find any bill that sticks it to the ordinary folk on behalf of the Money Power and you’ll likely detect Biden’s hand at work. The bankruptcy act of 2005 was just one sample. In concert with his fellow corporate serf, Senator Tom Carper, Biden blocked all efforts to hinder bankrupt corporations from fleeing from their real locations to the legal sanctuary of Delaware. Since Obama is himself a corporate serf and from day one in the US senate has been attentive to the same masters that employ Biden, the ticket is well balanced, the seesaw with Obama at one end and Biden at the other dead-level on the fulcrum of corporate capital.

Another shining moment in Biden’s progress in the current presidential term was his conduct in the hearings on Judge Alito’s nomination to the US Supreme Court. From the opening moments of the Judiciary Committee’s sessions in January 2006,  it became clear that Alito faced no serious opposition. On that first ludicrous morning Senator Pat Leahy sank his head into his hands, shaking it  in unbelieving despair as Biden blathered out a self-serving and inane monologue lasting a full twenty minutes before he even asked Alito one question. In his allotted half-hour Biden managed to pose only five questions, all of them ineptly phrased. He did pose two questions about Alito’s membership of a racist society at Princeton, but had already undercut them in his monologue by calling Alito “a man of integrity”, not once but twice, and further trivialized the interrogation by reaching under the dais to pull out a Princeton cap and put it on.

In all, Biden rambled for 4,000 words, leaving Alito time only to put together less than 1,000. A Delaware newspaper made deadly fun of him for his awful performance, eliciting the revealing confession from Biden that “I made a mistake. I should have gone straight to my question. I was trying to put him at ease.”

Biden is a notorious flapjaw. His vanity deludes him into believing that every word that drops from his mouth is minted in the golden currency of Pericles. Vanity is the most conspicuous characteristic of US Senators en bloc, nourished by deferential acolytes and often expressed in loutish sexual advances to staffers, interns and the like.  On more than one occasion CounterPunch’s editors have listened to vivid accounts by the recipient of just such advances, this staffer of another senator being accosted by Biden in the well of the senate in the weeks immediately following his first wife’s fatal car accident.

His “experience” in foreign affairs consists in absolute fidelity to the conventions of cold war liberalism, the efficient elder brother of raffish  “neo-conservatism”. Here again the ticket is well balanced, since Senator Obama has, within a very brief time-frame,  exhibited great fidelity to the same creed.

Obama opposed the launching of the US attack on Iraq in 2003. He was not yet in the US Senate, but having arrived there in 2005 he has since voted unhesitatingly for all appropriations of the vast sums required for the war’s prosecution. Biden himself voted enthusiastically for the attack, declaring in the Senate debate in October, 2002, in a speech excavated and sent to us by Sam Husseini:

I do not believe this is a rush to war. I believe it is a march to peace and security. I believe that failure to overwhelmingly support this resolution is likely to enhance the prospects that war will occur. … [Saddam Hussein] possesses chemical and biological weapons and is seeking nuclear weapons. … For four years now, he has prevented United Nations inspectors from uncovering those weapons…

The terms of surrender dictated by the United Nations require him to declare and destroy his weapons of mass destruction programs. He has not done so. …

Many predicted the administration would refuse to give the weapons inspectors one last chance to disarm. …

Mr. President, President Bush did not lash out precipitously after 9/11. He did not snub the U.N. or our allies. He did not dismiss a new inspection regime. He did not ignore the Congress. At each pivotal moment, he has chosen a course of moderation and deliberation. …

For two decades, Saddam Hussein has relentlessly pursued weapons of mass destruction. There is a broad agreement that he retains chemical and biological weapons, the means to manufacture those weapons and modified Scud missiles, and that he is actively seeking a nuclear capability. …

We must be clear with the American people that we are committing to Iraq for the long haul; not just the day after, but the decade after…. [Biden confided to his colleagues that this would be a long fight, but was still for it.]I am absolutely confident the President will not take us to war alone. I am absolutely confident we will enhance his ability to get the world to be with us by us voting for this resolution.

In step with his futile bid for the Democratic nomination, Biden changed his mind on the war, and part of his mandate will be to shore up the credentials of the Democratic ticket as being composed of “responsible” helmsmen of Empire,  stressing that any diminution of the US presence in Iraq will be  measured and thus extremely slow, balanced by all the usual imperial  ventures elsewhere around the globe.

Why did Obama chose Biden? One important constituency pressing for Biden was no doubt the Israel lobby inside the Democratic Party. Obama, no matter how fervent his proclamations of support for Israel, has always been viewed with some suspicion by the lobby. For half the lifespan of the state of Israel, Biden has proved himself its unswerving acolyte in the senate.

And Obama picked Biden for the same reason Michael Dukakis chose Senator Lloyd Bentsen in 1988: the marriage of youth and experience, so reassuring to uncertain voters but most of all to the elites, that nothing dangerous or unusual will discommode business as usual. Another parallel would be Kennedy’s pick of Lyndon Johnson in 1960, LBJ being  a political rival and a seasoned senator. Kennedy and Johnson didn’t like each other, and surely after Biden’s racist remarks about “clean” blacks, Obama cannot greatly care for Biden. It seems he would have preferred Chris Dodd but the latter was disqualified because of his VIP loans from Countrywide.

Correction: A typo in this article has been corrected. The original copy read “week”. It should read “weeks.”

Posted in USAComments Off on Biden the Lout

Africa: Comoros Registers its First COVID-19 Case

Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr

Healthcare worker puts preventive mask on citizen. Great Comoro, Comoro. April 29, 2020.

The Comoran patient was in contact with a 50-year-old man on his latest trip to France.

Comoros’ President Azali Assoumani Thursday announced the first COVID-19 case in this South-Eastern African nation. 

“While other countries who were hit earlier are preparing to go back to normality, our country is entering a critical phase,” Assoumani warned.​​​

The COVID-19 patient is a Comoran citizen who was in contact with a 50-year-old man on his latest trip to France. Authorities are also tracking for other possible sources of contagion.

The Comoros leader assured that his administration is taking preventive measures but not a complete lockdown.

He held that radical social isolation would affect most of the population who receives incomes from informal jobs.

LaGazettedesComores@Gazette_Comores

Un couvre-feu sous haute tension

Le couvre-feu décrété par le Président de la République semble imposé par la force publique faute de sensibilisation préalable. http://lagazettedescomores.com/soci%C3%A9t%C3%A9/un-couvre-feu-sous-haute-tension-.html …

View image on Twitter

4:20 AM – Apr 30, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacySee LaGazettedesComores’s other Tweets“A high-tension curfew. Due to the lack of prior awareness, security forces are imposing the curfew decreed by the President of the Republic​​​​​​​.”

“At this stage of the pandemic, we cannot afford to adopt measures that could lead to social and economic drama,” he added.​​​​​​​

Even so, the Assoumani administration imposed a nighttime curfew, anticipating a virus spreading in the islands.

Previously, on April 24, local authorities requested the population to reduce public and private transportation. 

Once Comoros reported its first COVID-19 case, Lesotho remains as the only African country with no COVID-19 cases up to this moment.

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Corona Crisis: a Viral Episode or a Half-Life Nightmare

GILAD ATZMON • 

Herd Immunity Ratio

As an intellectual exercise let’s think of an imaginary state, “State A.” Our fictional State A is devastated that 100 of its citizens are infected with Covid-19. For this exercise, we accept that these 100 citizens are representative of State A‘s demography, classes, ethnicities and so on. Apparently, State A’s nightmare is just the beginning because out of its 100 Covid-19 carriers, not one survives the next three weeks.

Let’s now imagine another case, we will call “State B.” State B is similar to state A in terms of its size, population, geography, climate, culture, ethnicity, nutrition, etc. In State B 100 citizens also tested positive for Covid-19. Following the experience of State A, State B braces itself for the possibility that all its infected citizens may perish but then for reasons that are not yet clear to us, no one in state B dies. And if this is not different enough, hardly any of the 100 develop any symptoms.

The crude difference between State A and B may tell us something about the herd immunity in States A and B. It is easy to detect that the ratio created by the number of fatalities (F) divided by the number of those infected (I) is an indication of the level of immunity or ‘herd immunity’ in a given region or a state.

State A: F/I = 100/100=1
State B: F/I = 0/100=0

State A’s immunity ratio equals 1. This means that anyone who contracts the virus in State A will likely die. In state B, on the other hand, one is likely to survive the virus. In fact, they may, without knowing it, have already survived.

But let us now consider some more realistic cases. In “State C,” again, a state similar to A and B, out of 100 who tested Covid-19 positive, 10 people died within the next few weeks.

State C: F/I=10/100=0.1

The herd immunity ratio in State C is 0.1. In terms of herd immunity, State C is far better off than State A as a virally infected subject may benefit from a 0.9 chance to survive. But State C’s situation is not as good as in State B where no one is expected to die as the F/I ratio in State B is O. We can see that the smaller the F/I ratio is, the greater is the herd immunity in a given state or a region.

But let us look at another realistic case. In “State D” out of 100 patients only 1 died within a few weeks.

State D: F/I=1/100=0.01.

This means that in State D the herd immunity is close to perfect. Someone who contracts the Covid-19 virus has only a remote chance that he will lose his life. In other words, the survival rate is 0.99

State C and D are not completely imaginary cases. The F/I ratio in State C is a good representation of the numbers we saw in Northern Italy, NYC, Spain, UK and other vulnerable regions that have suffered heavily in the last few weeks. The ratio in State D is very similar to South Korea and Israel. Though many people are identified with Covid-19 in these two states alone, very few have died.

Such a methodical search for herd immunity ratio may help to identify the survival rate in different states, regions and cities. It may help us to determine policy; to decide who, what and how to lockdown or maybe not to lockdown at all. It can also help to locate the origin and the spreaders of the disease as we have a good reason to believe that the regions with the most immunity to a given viral infection have likely experienced the disease in the past and have developed some form of resistance.

In reality, this model is problematic for many reasons and can hardly be applied. As things stand (in reality), we are comparing data that was collected under different circumstances and using various procedures designed with completely different strategies and philosophies. Both Israel and South Korea, for instance, conducted testing on mass scale and hence, identified many more carriers. More crucially both Israel and S. Korea made a huge effort to identify super spreaders and applied strict isolation measures to those spreaders and those who were infected by them. Britain, USA and Italy on the other hand conducted limited testing and have generally tested those who developed symptoms or were suspected of being infected.

But there is a far greater problem with the above herd immunity ratio model. It assumes that we know what we are dealing with i.e., an infectious viral situation, while the evidence may point otherwise.


The Radioactive Clock

It has become clear that the health crisis we are facing isn’t consistent with anything we are familiar with. Those who predicted a colossally genocidal plague weren’t necessarily stupid or duplicitous. They assumed that they knew the root cause of the current crisis. They applied recognized models and algorithms associated with viral pandemics. They ended up eating their words, not because their models were wrong but because they applied their models to the wrong event. While no one can deny the alarming exponential growth of the disease, it is the unusual ‘premature’ curve-flattening point and then the rapid decline of infections which no one explained. In fact, some still prefer to deny it.

Many of us remember that our so-called ‘experts’ initially tended to accuse China of ‘hiding the real figures’ as no one could believe that the virus, all of a sudden, pretty much ran out of steam. Some also claimed that Iran was faking its figures to make its regime look better. Then came South Korea and the scientific community started to admit that despite its initial rapid exponential growth, for an unexplained reason, the ‘virus’ seems to run out of energy in an unpredictable fashion: the curve straightens out almost abruptly and starts to drop soon after, almost literally disappearing to the point where even a country as enormous as China passes days without diagnosing a single new Covid-19 carrier.

When Italy experienced its Corona carnage, every health ‘expert’ predicted that when the ‘virus’ slipped out of the rich Lombardy region and made it to the poor south, we would see real genocide. That didn’t happen.

We have also started to notice that lockdowns have not necessarily saved the situation and that adopting relatively light ‘lockdown’ measures doesn’t translate into a total disaster as Sweden has managed to prove. The ‘virus,’ appears to stop spreading according to its own terms rather than the terms we impose upon it.

Thinking about the anomalies to do with the virus in analytical mathematical terms, as opposed to seeing the virus in biological or medical terms, has made me believe that a paradigm shift may be inevitable. We seem to have been applying the wrong kind of science to a phenomenon that is not really clear to us. This may explain what led a British ‘scientist’ to reach a ludicrous and farfetched estimate that Britain could be heading towards an astronomic death figure of 510.000. Following the same flawed algorithm, Anthony Fauci advised the American president that America could see two million dead. Both scientists were wrong by a factor of 25-40 times. Such a mistake in scientific prediction should be unforgivable considering the damage it inflicted on the world’s economy and its future. One might say that the good news is that our governments are finally listening to scientists, the tragedy, however, is that they are listening to the most idiotic scientists around.

Looking at the tsunami of raw data regarding worldwide spread of Covid 19 reveals a lot, perhaps more than we are willing to admit at this stage. The numbers, the shape of the Corona growth curve and the manner in which it flattens and declines suggests to me that something different may be at play. It seems as if the disease is shaped by an autonomous internal clock that determines its time frame and that it is not impeded by any form of organic resistance such as antibodies or herd immunity. The curve’s rise toward that flattening instant is indeed characterized by consistent and exponential growth. But then, in a seemingly arbitrary manner, the disaster stops its increase and the numbers of those infected by Covid-19 starts to drop.

Looking for such a pattern that produces an exponential growth that comes to a sudden end calls to attention the concepts of radioactivity in general and of the half-life in particular.

Each radioactive isotope has its own decay pattern. The rate at which a radioactive isotope decays is measured in ‘half-life.’ The term half-life is defined as the time it takes for one-half of the atoms of a radioactive material to disintegrate. Radioactive decay is the disintegration of an unstable atom with an accompanying emission of radiation. The change from an unstable atom to a completely stable atom may require several disintegration steps and radiation will be given off at each step.

Half-life is a measurement of time (set by the radioactive isotope) that involves a repeated release of radiation. Each time radiation is released the radioactive isotope is splitting in half, this repeats until it either reaches stability or maybe becomes ineffective. If you bear the half-life dynamic in mind you can see how one person can ‘infect’ or shall I say, radiate an entire stadium a few times over during a two hour football match. All it takes is a radioisotope with a half-life cycle of a few seconds.

Once the atom reaches a stable configuration, no more radiation is given off. For this reason, radioactive sources become weaker with time, as more and more unstable atoms become stable atoms, less radiation is produced and eventually the material will become non-radioactive. I wonder whether this could provide an explanation for the abrupt curve flattening that is associated with Covid-19

What may be possible is that Covid 19 is not the root cause of the current disease, it may instead be a by-product of a radioactive interaction. I am not in any position to substantiate this theory. Instead, I offer an alternative way of thinking about the problem that may shed light on the situation. If Covid-19 is a by-product of radiation, then the sudden decrease in radioactivity due to the nature of half-life reactions can explain why the virus loses its growth energy when it seems as if it has become unstoppable.
If this theory has any merit, then we are misdiagnosing the Corona crisis, misapplying the science and implementing the wrong strategies. It may also indicate that herd immunity won’t work, as we are not dealing with a viral infection but instead becoming ourselves, a source of radiation.

This theory may help explain why Israel and South Korea (State D) were so successful in combating the crisis. It wasn’t the lockdown that saved these countries. It was their aggressive search for and quarantine of super spreaders and those who were potentially radiated by them. Consciously or not, rather than stopping the virus they isolated the catalysts that were leading to the creation of the virus.

Our world is in a grave crisis and could benefit from thinkers who are slightly more creative, sophisticated and responsible than the characters who currently occupy the World Health Organisation, the CDC and London’s Imperial College. But more than anything else, I reiterate once again: we need to escalate our response to the Corona crisis into a criminal investigation so we can figure out every possible error or malevolent act that led humanity into the current grim situation.

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