Archive | April 5th, 2020

The madness of Tory Genocide

By: Stephen Daisley

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The hashtag #torygenocide was trending on Twitter all day Sunday. This is because seemingly rational people have got it into their heads that Boris Johnson is using the Covid-19 outbreak to orchestrate a social cull in the UK. There is a debate over the wisdom of the strategy the government has been advised to take by the chief scientific adviser. Robert Peston asks a question about testing that, if I’m honest, makes me wonder about the wisdom of how we’re going about this. Still, I am not a scientist. I don’t know whether Downing Street has taken the right or the wrong approach. I’m happy for others to have that debate.

This is not that. This is not a scholarly exchange on the merits of ‘herd immunity’ or social distancing. This is the proposition that the Prime Minister is so wicked, sadistic and Machiavellian that he is, per the internationally recognised definition of genocide, acting ‘with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group’ by, inter alia, ‘deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part’.Let me be clear: if you believe this, you are a loon. A wack-job. Nuttier than an M&Ms spillage in a Snickers factory

Let me be clear: if you believe this, you are a loon. A wack-job. Nuttier than an M&Ms spillage in a Snickers factory. The #torygenocide conspiracy theory is not the mutterings of a bus station wino but of apparently intelligent people unable to surrender a psychological crutch. That is, the reassuring conviction that their opponents are plainly evil, so evil they would perpetrate mass cleansing of the weak and vulnerable out of ideological callousness. Who wouldn’t want to lean on such a crutch? If those you disagree with are monsters, you no longer have to go to the trouble of disagreeing with them. You can simply pronounce them hostis humani generis and hear your analysis echoed in your political silo of choice.

Spend long enough perusing #torygenocide conspiracy theories and you notice a commonality: The formulation ‘FBPE’ or the Council of Europe flag emoji are ubiquitous, and frequent reference is made to the UK’s decision to withdraw from the European Union. In short, the Brexit culture war frame has been bolted wholesale onto a public health emergency.

We have a demographic in this country who have become unhinged. Many were previously generic malcontents who fit into a wide array of political boxes but few espoused the European cause until the referendum went the wrong way. Now it is their core identity, much like otherwise level-headed Democrats and Republicans have become prisoners to the convulsive umbrage of the anti-Trump Resistance. On either side of the pond, there is a yawning gap where effective opposition ought to be. In this country, the Prime Minister’s comfortable majority and the mesmerising uselessness of the Labour party make it all the more vital for the citizenry to be informed and the public discourse to be broadly distinguishable from a highlights reel of the Alex Jones Show.

I know it’s only Twitter. I hate the damn thing as much as you do; I’m just a hopeless junkie who can’t break the habit. But social media is a king-sized bullshit-spreader with no off-switch at the best of times. The single greatest institution of the British left was taken over and wrecked by fanatics who organised and were organised on social media, exploiting the ungoverned nature and reach of Twitter and Facebook to peddle their junk ideas and their junk messiah. Right now, as I have argued already, social media has the power to disseminate baseless fears, incite panic, and do tangible damage to public health or public order. Running an unedited, unregulated instant publishing platform in the middle of a global pandemic is like handing an AR-15 and a bottle of Jack Daniel’s to a chimpanzee and hoping for the best.

The Hiroo Onoda Remainers need to come down out of the jungle sooner or later. The war is over. You lost. We’ve left the EU and Boris Johnson isn’t trying to murder you. The death toll from Covid-19 has now passed 6,000, likely many more will lose their lives, and you’re using the crisis for a spot of black helicopter fanfic. Could you not?

Posted in UKComments Off on The madness of Tory Genocide

Trump reportedly tried to poach German scientists

Trump reportedly tried to poach German scientists working on a coronavirus vaccine and offered cash so it would be exclusive to the US

Thomas Colson and Andrew Dunn 

Employee Philipp Hoffmann, of German biopharmaceutical company CureVac, demonstrates research workflow on a vaccine for the coronavirus (COVID-19) disease at a laboratory in Tuebingen, Germany, March 12, 2020. Picture taken on March 12, 2020. REUTERS/Andreas Gebert
An employee of the German biopharmaceutical company CureVac demonstrating research workflow on a vaccine for COVID-19 at a laboratory in Tuebingen, Germany, on Thursday. 
  • President Donald Trump reportedly tried to poach German scientists working on a coronavirus vaccine so he could secure exclusive rights to it for the US.
  • The newspaper Welt am Sonntag reported that the Trump administration had offered large sums of cash to Germany-based biotech company CureVac to secure rights for the vaccine work, “but only for the USA.”
  • The German government is battling back, offering financial incentives to the company to remain in Germany.
  • Karl Lauterbach, a senior German politician and professor of epidemiology, said in response to the report: “The exclusive sale of a possible vaccine to the USA must be prevented by all means. Capitalism has limits.”
  • CureVac tweeted Monday it “rejects all allegations from press” about any offers from the US government. 

President Donald Trump tried to recruit German scientists working on a coronavirus vaccine and offered large sums of money to secure exclusive rights to their work for the US, according to a report said to be confirmed by the German government.

The prominent German newspaper Welt am Sonntag reported that Trump had offered large sums of money to lure the Germany-based company CureVac to the US and to secure exclusive rights to a vaccine.

The firm is working with the federally owned Paul Ehrlich Institute for Vaccines and Biomedical Medicines on a vaccine for the coronavirus.

CureVac denied “rumors of an acquisition” Sunday, and followed it up with a more direct denial of any solicitations from the US on Monday. 

“CureVac has not received from the US government or related entities an offer before, during and since the Task Force meeting in the White House on March 2,” the company tweeted Monday. “CureVac rejects all allegations from press.”

A German government source told the newspaper Trump was trying hard to find a coronavirus vaccine for the US, “but only for the USA.”

The newspaper said the German government was fighting back by offering financial incentives to the company if it remained in Germany.

A German health ministry representative told Welt am Sonntag the government was involved in “intensive” discussions with CureVac about keeping the company headquartered in Germany.

“The German government is very interested in ensuring that vaccines and active substances against the new coronavirus are also developed in Germany and Europe,” the newspaper quoted a health ministry official as saying.

“In this regard, the government is in intensive exchange with the company CureVac.”

In a separate statement, the health ministry told Reuters the Welt am Sonntag report was accurate: “We confirm the report in the Welt am Sonntag,” a representative said.

Florian von der Muelbe, CureVac’s chief production officer and cofounder, told Reuters last week that the company hoped to have an experimental vaccine ready by June or July so the company could seek permission to start testing on humans.

He said a low-dose vaccine the company hoped to develop could make it suitable for mass production within CureVac’s existing facilities.

In a statement last week, CureVac said its outgoing CEO, Daniel Menichella, had been invited to the White House for a meeting with Trump to discuss strategies and opportunities for the production of a coronavirus vaccine.

“We are very confident that we will be able to develop a potent vaccine candidate within a few months,” Menichella said in a statement.

Karl Lauterbach, a senior German politician and professor of health economics and epidemiology, tweeted in response to the story: “The exclusive sale of a possible vaccine to the USA must be prevented by all means. Capitalism has limits.”

Posted in USA, Germany, Health, PoliticsComments Off on Trump reportedly tried to poach German scientists

Macron wages war on French workers, making pension ‘reforms’ by subterfuge

Striking workers were duped into moving their battle into parliament. Can they regain the momentum they had on the streets before?

Proletarian writers

After nearly two months of strikes and protests, French train drivers suspended their industrial action believing the government to be showing signs of vacillation.

Unable any longer to deal with the scale of the disruption on the Paris metro and intercity trains, alarmed by the increasing readiness of other public sector workers to join forces in the common fight, and frightened that, even with the brutal battlefield approach to policing adopted by the state, the working class still refused to buckle under the imposed ‘reform’ agenda, the French government turned to Gallic guile.

Concessions offered to end strike action

First of all, concessions were dangled in front of the proletariat with regard to the retirement age: in order to try to defuse militant action on the part of the French unions, prime minister Edouard Philippe offered to drop a key aspect of the pension ‘reforms’, which involves driving the pensionable age up from 62 to 64. Needless to say, this mooted concession, made only after two months of concerted action from organised labour, came with a sting in its tail.

The prime minister explained this seeming Damascene conversion thus: “I’ve always said that it doesn’t seem possible to balance the pension system without touching the age. But if our social partners can agree on a cocktail of measures, including something different than the pivot age, I’ll take it.” (French unions and government attempt to find pension compromise in three months, The Local, 31 January 2020)

Philippe’s ruse is to con workers into believing that it is somehow up to them to think up smart ways to help the capitalist state to balance its books. He has already made it plain that he won’t make the bosses contribute more to the system, pleading that to do so would discourage them from employing people.

Nevertheless, the hopes of the French people were diverted to parliament and the prospect of their having, through their parliamentary representatives, the power to amend the legislation before it became law. This was eagerly seized, and over 40,000 amendments were tabled by various opposition parties, which would at very least, everyone thought, prevent the legislation being passed before the term of the present government expires.

Playing games with ‘democracy’

It should have been realised, however, that in a parliamentary democracy the ruling class always has a few tricks up its sleeve. Sure enough:

“France’s government invoked a sparingly used special power on Saturday to push contested pension reforms though parliament without a vote by furious opposition lawmakers.

“Prime minister Edouard Philippe’s surprise announcement that he was cutting short debate in the national assembly was the latest twist in the difficult birth of the pension shake-up that has sparked sustained protests and weeks of crippling strikes.

“The constitutional power Philippe invoked to force the pension bill through the assembly without a vote previously had been used fewer than 100 times since modern France was founded in 1958. The government has become increasingly frustrated with the slow progress of the bill, held up by thousands of opposition amendments.

“Philippe told parliament he was invoking the power ‘not to end debate but to end this episode of non-debate’. He said he got approval to do so during a special cabinet meeting on Saturday.” (Anger flares anew over France’s divisive pension reforms, Associated Press, 29 February 2020)

Infuriated by this betrayal, the militant CGT union federation has called for further strikes and demonstrations, and these have already started.

They will need to summon up tremendous momentum to overcome the ruling class’s determination to make the French pensioners pay for the capitalist crisis as it is clear that they have the right man in President Emmanuel Macron to pursue a war of attrition against the proletariat for far longer than anybody else has dared to do thus far.

Meanwhile the class struggle in France
has been flaring up elsewhere. Footage of France’s CRS riot police thugs in full riot gear doing battle with helmeted firemen have gone viral on social media. The firefighters have long been demanding improved pay and conditions. In particular, they are demanding a rise in their hazard bonus, which has been static for the last 30 years.

And in Paris rubbish is piling up on the streets as the three giant incinerator plants in the suburbs which burn all the rubbish are being hit with strike action. CGT reports that 60 percent of staff there are on strike.

The blockade of the plants is causing a growing backlog of rubbish, with pavements choked with wheelie bins and rats coming out to play.

A similar situation obtains in Marseille, with 3,000 tonnes of garbage abandoned on the street. The incinerator workers, striking in defence of their retirement rights, work with toxic materials in dangerous and dirty environments.

They are determined to defend their relatively early retirement arrangements, pointing out that their life expectancy is seven years below the French average. (Rubbish piles up on Paris streets as pension strikes hit waste collection, The Local, 4 February 2020)

Macron and his party popped up like an overnight mushroom, flourishing for a while on a soil created from the rot of French social democracy. If workers keep up the pressure, the Macron project could collapse with equal rapidity, opening a new chapter in the class struggle in France.

Posted in FranceComments Off on Macron wages war on French workers, making pension ‘reforms’ by subterfuge

At least 20 princes detained in mass purge by Saudi crown prince

King’s brother Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz and his son arrested in latest power grab by Mohammed bin Salman.

Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, right, was detained on the orders of his brother King Salman and nephew Crown Prince Mohammed, leftBy David HearstPublished date: 7 March 2020 14:06 UTC | Last update: 3 weeks 2 days ago18.3kShares

A purge of royal princes is under way in Saudi Arabia, after the arrest of the royal family’s highest ranking dissident Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, the brother of King Salman, for allegedly plotting a coup against the king’s son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Up to 20 princes have been arrested for allegedly being part of a coup to overthrow the crown prince, also known as MBS, Middle East Eye has been told.

Four names so far are known to MEE. They are Prince Ahmed; his son Prince Nayef bin Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, head of Land Forces Intelligence and Security Authority; the former crown prince Mohammed bin Nayef; and his half brother Nawaf.

Ahmed’s son is the highest ranking member of the Saudi armed forces known to be arrested so far, MEE sources confirmed.

Moments after the arrests, MBS ordered the kingdom’s princes to tweet their loyalty to him. Three of them have already done so.

عبدالله بن سلطان بن ناصر بن عبدالعزيز@ASNA_20

من سالمهم سالمناه
ومن عاداهم عاديناه
هذا أمر بايعنا عليه وعاهدنا الله به
والأمر من قبل ومن بعد لله..#كلنا_سلمان_كلنا_محمد

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2,4205:16 AM – Mar 7, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy1,632 people are talking about this

According to a regional source cited by Reuters, MBS “accused them [the princes] of conducting contacts with foreign powers, including the Americans and others, to carry out a coup d’etat”.

Reuters quoted sources as saying King Salman himself signed the arrest warrants. They claimed his mental state was good. The king is known to suffer from dementia.

There were concerns on Friday about the fate of Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, once seen as a leading contender for the throne, who was released from detention and torture in the Ritz Carlton in 2017 after paying more than $1bn in a settlement with authorities. 

Miteb, 65, is the son of the late King Abdullah and former head of the elite National Guard.

Desperate act

The purge underway is the boldest and most desperate act yet of his nephew MBS in the crown prince’s quest for absolute power.

It has bigger implications for the stability of the kingdom than both the purge of up to 500 members of Saudi Arabia’s business elite in the Ritz Carlton on alleged corruption charges on 4 November 2017, and the state ordered murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul a year later.

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince orders arrest of king’s brother and nephewRead More »

Both US and British intelligence had sought and acquired guarantees from MBS that Prince Ahmed would not be arrested on his return to the kingdom from London in October 2018. 

Bin Nayef was himself a trusted member of the counter-terrorism alliance spearheaded by the CIA and the Pentagon.

Since his unseating as crown prince, Prince Nayef has had his entourage, mobile phones and allowances stripped and was not allowed to travel. He and his half brother were arrested while at a private desert camp on Friday.

According to MEE sources, Nayef had complained bitterly to friends and in letters to the king himself about the withdrawal of his royal allowances. 

His and Prince Ahmed’s names had been consistently mentioned by other senior sources in the royal family about potential replacements for the crown prince, as discontent with his absolutist rule mounted in the kingdom.

Opposition to MBS no secret

Prince Ahmed is the highest ranking royal dissident in the kingdom and was open in his criticism of MBS. 

When he left his home in London to return to Saudi Arabia in October 2018, he calculated that his rank as the king’s younger brother, and not least the last of the seven Sudairi brothers, gave him immunity from his nephew’s actions.

Prince Mohammed and Prince Nawaf, pictured, were reportedly detained while at a private desert camp on Friday
Prince Mohammed and Prince Nawaf, pictured, were reportedly detained while at a private desert camp on Friday

As I revealed at the time, Prince Ahmed had considerable doubts about the wisdom of his return, and was contemplating remaining permanently in exile.

Ahmed was persuaded to return by pleas from other princes, showing the high regard in which he was still held in the kingdom, and by the fact that he still wielded official influence as a member of the Bayaa, or Allegiance Council, the body which still nominally has to approve MBS’ accession to the throne.

Ahmed made no secret of his opposition to MBS’ appointment as crown prince, or to the Yemen campaign which the crown prince, as defence minister, launched in 2015, before himself going on holiday in the Maldives.

Challenged by a token demonstration of Yemeni and Bahraini protesters chanting: “Down, down Al Saud. Criminal family,” outside his London home, one month before he left, Ahmed walked over to them and asked: “Why are you saying this about Al Saud?

“What does the whole of the Al Saud family have to do with this? There are certain individuals who are responsible. Don’t involve anyone else.”

Asked by the protesters who was responsible, the prince replied: “The king and the crown prince, and others in the state.”

Question mark

On his return, Ahmed was treated with official respect, retained his allowance and entourage as a senior prince, and was allowed to travel until now.

A large question mark now hangs over the current interior minister Abdelaziz bin Saud bin Nayef, now that both his uncles are under arrest for treason. 

Saudi Arabia announces extraordinary measures to protect Mecca and Medina from coronavirusRead More »

Abdelaziz’s father Saud is the elder brother of bin Nayef and is currently the governor of Eastern Province.

The current purge comes at a critical junction for MBS. 

Unlike in November 2017, when he launched his first purge against the business elite when the crown prince was at the height of his popularity, and known both inside the kingdom and without as a reformer, MBS is hated more than ever in his family.

More than 18 months later, the crown prince’s reforms are quagmired, the price of crude oil has dropped after Russia refused last week to cut production, and discontent is mounting in the kingdom over the crown prince’s decision to seal the holy sites in Mecca and Medina from all pilgrims for Umrah – just months before the Hajj is due to start – over the coronavirus outbreak.

Posted in Saudi ArabiaComments Off on At least 20 princes detained in mass purge by Saudi crown prince

Saudi Zio-Wahhabi widens crackdown, detains 298 public officials

Saudi Arabia widens crackdown, detains 298 public officials

MEE reported earlier that purge now underway by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is boldest act yet in quest for power

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman may be poised to become king (AFP)By MEE and agencies

Saudi Arabia on Sunday announced the detention of hundreds of government officials, including military and security officers, on charges involving bribery and exploiting public office, and said investigators would bring charges against them.

Scores of the kingdom’s economic and political elite were detained in 2017 at Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton hotel in a crackdown that unsettled some foreign investors.

The royal court said last year it was winding down that campaign after 15 months, but the authorities later said they would start going after graft by ordinary government employees, Reuters reported.

Dead, detained or disappeared: A who’s who of Mohammed bin Salman’s victimsRead More »

Still, Middle East Eye reported earlier this month that the widening crackdown now underway by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) is his boldest act yet in his quest for power. As many as 20 princes have been arrested for allegedly being part of a coup to overthrow MBS, who is now apparently poised to become king, MEE also reported.

At least two members of the Bayaa, or Allegiance Council, which determines the succession to the Saudi throne, have been arrested as part of the purge, Middle East Eye reported earlier this month.

An anti-corruption body known as Nazaha tweeted on Sunday that it had arrested and would indict 298 people on crimes including bribery, embezzlement, and abuse of power involving a total of 379 million riyals ($101m).

Among those implicated were eight defence ministry officers suspected of bribery and money laundering in relation to government contracts during the years 2005-2015, and 29 interior ministry officials in the Eastern Province, including three colonels, a major general and a brigadier general.

Two judges were also detained for receiving bribes, along with nine officials accused of corruption at Riyadh’s Al Maarefa University, which resulted in severe damage to a building and caused deaths and injuries, Nazaha said.

The agency provided no names and few other details about the cases.

Posted in Saudi ArabiaComments Off on Saudi Zio-Wahhabi widens crackdown, detains 298 public officials

Not Even Wars or Terror Attacks Prepared Israelis for the Coronavirus Crackdown

Israel woke up to a new reality on Sunday – one this most communal of cultures has never had to face before: being home alone.

BY: Allison Kaplan Sommer

Tel Aviv residents wearing facemasks, March 15, 2020.
Tel Aviv residents wearing facemasks, March 15, 2020.Ofer Vaknin

In many ways, Israelis were better prepared mentally for the shock and disruption in their lives sparked by the coronavirus pandemic than their counterparts in Europe, North America and other developed countries. 

Thanks to military conscription, a high percentage of the adult population is used to receiving and following orders handed down from on high. Even the youngest Israelis have seen their routines disrupted numerous times in recent years by missile attacks, terror waves and full-on war. They are used to receiving government directives on how to behave in a crisis, and, for the most part, trust their institutions – if not the politicians at their helm – to keep them safe.skip – Israel’s coronavirus crisis could be Bibi’s swan song. Haaretz weekly podcast

It is not only in wartime that they are used to following rules en masse. On Yom Kippur, for instance, the entire Jewish state completely shuts down and its citizens refrain from using their cars. On Memorial Day and Holocaust Remembrance Day, almost all of the country collectively and obediently falls silent as a haunting siren sounds. 

Despite this extensive cultural preparation, however, there was still a feeling of disorientation and confusion in the air as Israel woke up Sunday, hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the far-reaching measures designed to fight the coronavirus

The restrictions Netanyahu billed as a “new way of life” were drastic steps maximizing social distancing in order to slow the spread of the virus. However, they avoid a total lockdown, in an effort to balance the public health with an attempt to keep the country’s economy functioning at a basic level. 

The biggest disruption – the announcement that elementary and high schools were being closed – was made on Thursday. But in his Saturday night announcement, Netanyahu expanded that order, with private and public preschools and kindergartens, special education classes, scouts, after-school programs, and other group activities shuttered too.

Workplace and business activity was not completely curtailed. But with the government prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people in the same space and ordering people to remain 2 meters (6.5 feet) apart, they were highly limited and workplaces were strongly encouraged to shift as many employees as possible to working from home. 

Public transportation continued for those who did need to get to work, but Israelis were urged to avoid it for all but essential travel. And if commuting by car, they were advised to have only two people in each vehicle.

Public spaces were shut down: restaurants, bars, clubs, shopping malls, zoos, movie theaters, amusement parks, gyms, beauty salons, plus all venues for any large gatherings, from conference centers to wedding halls. Religious worship was limited to a minimal prayer quorum of 10, and visits to nursing homes were prohibited. 

Confusion, anger and frustration emerged on Sunday, stemming from the fact that although Netanyahu announced the new rules’ parameters on Saturday evening at 9 P.M., detailed instructions and clarifications were only issued in the wee hours of Sunday morning, after most had gone to sleep. 

It was unclear as to whether small-scale, service-oriented businesses like nail salons, hairdressers and small stores not located in shopping malls could remain open. Owners of restaurants and cafés took to the airwaves to complain widely about the lack of clarity as to their parameters. With their new inability to seat customers, many establishments that had not previously offered takeout or delivery quickly changed their business model. 

Still, the feeling of devastation was great: from the smallest hummus and falafel proprietors to the most renowned restaurants with celebrity chefs, These all became the face of the struggling small businessman. Salaried Israelis were secure in the knowledge that they will receive paid sick leave. Small business owners – particularly those in as volatile a sector as food service – are deeply uneasy. 

“There is an angel of death hanging over all of our businesses,” said chef Haim Cohen in a televised cri de coeur. “It’s simply a disaster. The price is too high,” the “MasterChef Israel” judge said.

The sense of frustration was intensified by the constant evolution of the government guidelines. Until Thursday, mass gatherings of up to 1,000 people were permitted. Netanyahu dropped that number to 100 on Thursday night, and then, on Saturday, slashed it further to just 10 – a move that de facto closed the restaurants that had just scrambled to downsize.

Slight wedding

Also affected by the changes were couples hoping to marry in the upcoming weeks and months. Over the weekend, several couples changed their plans for a large wedding into a smaller event for less than 100 people. But when the limit became 10, their options narrowed to a tiny event with immediate family only – or postponing it altogether.  

Still, the ability of Israelis to improvise and adapt to disruptive situations, and their comfort level with technology, served them well adapting to the restrictions. 

Schools with plans already in place for remote learning in the case of missile attacks were well positioned to pivot to online classes. Other face-to-face educators and service providers – from music teachers and tutors to psychologists – quickly moved their services to online video apps like Skype and Zoom. 

The national addiction to WhatsApp groups proved helpful, as improvised communities quickly formed to match volunteers with those in self-quarantine, or elderly and immune-compromised people who are fearful of leaving home. And Israeli television channels ran call-in shows with familiar lifestyle and parenting experts on how to occupy anxious and bored children.

One ritual felt particularly familiar. Combat soldiers were called to their bases, where they were informed they would not be able to visit home for up to a month, so as to keep the Israel Defense Forces bases free of COVID-19 infections. Though the separation of uncertain length from their family was painful, it was less traumatic than bidding them farewell in times of war. 

Elsewhere, there were rumbles of distinct discomfort following Saturday’s revelation that Israel was in the process of harnessing technological means normally used to hunt terrorists to digitally track those diagnosed with COVID-19 who were flouting their quarantine requirements. 

Netanyahu’s declaration that “all means will be employed, including technological means [used in] the fight against terrorism, which I have avoided until now among the civilian population,” rang ominous.

Even more dystopian: A video circulated Saturday evening of an infected man who had violated his quarantine being subdued and arrested by guards wearing full protective gear.skip – Facebook arrest

Even to the most hardened and battle-experienced of Israelis, certain aspects of the full-fledged war against the coronavirus felt different than past challenges. 

The crisis marked the first time that, instead of facing an ordeal alone, Israelis were part of a global, universal experience. The world wasn’t watching them run to their shelters as missiles rained on the northern or southern border; nor were they watching the response to a school shooting in the United States or an earthquake or hurricane in Asia or the Caribbean. 

This time – from China to Italy, California to Israel – the challenge was exactly the same and the fate of people around the globe felt linked and interdependent. 

The other alien feeling was the enforced isolation. Israelis are not rugged individualists: They are traditionally a highly communal society – from kibbutzim to tightly bonded army units, to close-knit settlements and villages to neighborhood-proud city-dwellers. 

In the face of terror threats or other adversity, Israelis are used to showing off their indomitable spirit by carrying on as usual. They would brashly go out to restaurants, clubs, coffee shops and malls, staying surrounded by friends and family in the bars or even in bomb shelters – the very opposite of social distancing. If we cower at home, the argument goes, the enemy has won. 

Against this strange and invisible new enemy called COVID-19, however, none of the old rules apply. A new learning curve is now necessary to learn how Israelis can pull together through a difficult and challenging time – while remaining alone.

Posted in ZIO-NAZIComments Off on Not Even Wars or Terror Attacks Prepared Israelis for the Coronavirus Crackdown

US slashes interest rates as states go into lockdown – as it happened

Number of UK deaths rises to 35 while other countries introduce stricter new measures. This blog is closed.

A worker sprays disinfectant on a Delhi Transport Corporation bus as a precautionary measure against spread of Covid-19.
 A worker sprays disinfectant on a Delhi Transport Corporation bus as a precautionary measure against spread of Covid-19. Photograph: Sajjad Hussain/AFP via Getty Images

Helen Sullivan (now) Sam Gelder, Martin PengellyLucy CampbellMattha Busby and Helen Sullivan (earlier)

We are going to close this blog now. Thanks for following along. You can find all of our live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at our new blog here.

Canada closes borders to foreigners – as it happened

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16 Mar 202000:16

Hi, Helen Sullivan with you now. We’ll be switching over to a new blog shortly. In the meantime – have any tips, good news or things I may have missed? Send me a message on Twitter @helenrsullivan.FacebookTwitter

16 Mar 202000:11

The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has published an advisory on its website recommending that “for the next 8 weeks, organisers (whether groups or individuals) cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the United States.”

The note continues:

The Events of any size should only be continued if they can be carried out with adherence to guidelines for protecting vulnerable populationshand hygiene, and social distancing. When feasible, organisers could modify events to be virtual.

This recommendation does not apply to the day to day operation of organisations such as schools, institutes of higher learning, or businesses.FacebookTwitter

16 Mar 202000:05

Charlotte Graham-McLay

New Zealand’s education ministry is asking principals to consider how they will teach students online if schools are forced to close due to the virus.

In a memo to head teachers, the ministry said officials would call every school on Monday and Tuesday to find out what support teachers would need to enact online learning, according to Radio New Zealand.

The ministry will ask principals about students’ access to devices and the internet at home, RNZ said.

There has not yet been any suggestion from either the ministry or New Zealand’s government that school closures are expected or inevitable at this stage. The country has eight cases of Covid-19.FacebookTwitter

The state’s governor Charlie Baker has just announced that public and private schools will be closed from Tuesday until 6 April. Baker also announced that the state has banned gatherings of 25 people or more.
“With the steps we are taking today, we can ensure residents can still access key state services while taking necessary precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19,” he said.
The news comes just hours after South Carolina took similar measures to close it public schools until the end of March, and California announced it would enforce closure of bars and nightclubs, as well as limiting the capacity of restaurants.

New York City also announced today that public schools will close.

16 Mar 202000:02

A clinical trial evaluating a vaccine designed to protect against the new coronavirus will begin Monday, according to a US government official.

The first participant in the trial will receive the experimental vaccine on Monday, the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the trial has not been publicly announced yet.

The National Institutes of Health is funding the trial, which is taking place at a Kaiser Permanente research facility in Washington state, the official said.

Posted in USAComments Off on US slashes interest rates as states go into lockdown – as it happened

‘About Damn Time’: Detroit Pauses Water Shutoffs Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

“It shouldn’t take a crisis like the spread of coronavirus to restore people’s right to drinking water.”

byAndrea Germanos,

A demonstrator holds a sign during a Detroit water shutoffs rally in 2014.

A demonstrator holds a sign during a Detroit water shutoffs rally in 2014. (Photo: uusc4all/flickr/cc)

Progressives heaped praise on grassroots activists in Detroit on Monday after the Michigan city announced, amid the spread of the coronavirus, it was temporarily restoring water services to thousands of residents who’ve had their water shut off.

“About damn time,” said Abdul El-Sayed, a former head of the city’s health department and 2018 gubernatorial candidate. “It’s been six years since the U.N. declared Detroit water shutoffs an insult to human rights.” 


This lets everyone know that the narrative that there are no health risks to water shutoffs is a lie. A temporary fix, but a necessary reprieve for Detroit.

Shouts out to all the #WaterWarriors. Now for water affordability. @WeThePeopleDet#WaterIsLife …756:04 PM – Mar 9, 2020

“Thank you Detroit Water and Sewerage Department for doing the right thing,” said advocacy group People’s Water Board. “Water is a basic need.”

The city stopped water services for over 100,000 Detroit households between 2014 and 2018 because residents could not pay their bills.

“At least 3,000 residential water accounts lost service last year and have not been reconnected,” the Detroit Free Press said Monday.

The situation has, for years, prompted outcry and mobilization from groups like We the People of Detroit and the People’s Water Board, to whom El-Sayed nodded in his tweet.

The demand for water services to be turned back on were amplified in the context of COVID-19, which is spreading globally and nationally, though there are, as of yet, no confirmed cases in Michigan.

The CDC says people can help stop the virus’s spread with frequent handwashing—a recommendation rendered impossible when there’s no water coming from the tap. As progressive advocacy group Center for Popular Democracy Action put it Sunday, “Shutting off water and telling people to wash their hands to stop #coronavirus at the same time is a special kind of oppression.”

Civil rights organizations previously urged Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to put a moratorium on the shutoffs citing their public health impact. But her office rejected that call, saying just last month that there was “insufficient data to support the use of emergency powers in this instance.” 

That response drew rebuke from the People’s Water Board, who said Sunday: “We have been working to #StoptheShutOffs for over a decade and we have seen nothing like Gov. Whitmer, Mayor Mike Duggan, and [Detroit Water and Sewerage Department director] Gary Brown’s refusal to provide this basic human need in light of a global pandemic. Shameful.”

City and state officials now appear willing to act, with the announcement of the  “Coronavirus Water Restart Plan,” which will go into effect Wednesday. The city shared details of the plan at a press conference Monday and on social media, including that the state would cover costs for the first month and that customers would pay a $25 monthly fee after that.

City of Detroit@CityofDetroit

Today we announced the Coronavirus Water Restart Plan to restore water service and prevent new service interruptions at no initial cost to customers during the Coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak.

View image on Twitter

745:11 PM – Mar 9, 2020

“I feel very good about the fact that this is what happens when the state and the city and the county executive work together,” Detroit Mayor Duggan said at the press conference.  Longtime critics of the shutoffs, however, said the moratorium took far too long to come.

One such critic was Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a candidate in the Democratic presidential primary race, who last year introduced the Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity and Reliability (WATER) Act. The legislation would, among other things, guarantee Americans have affordable access to public water services.

“It’s good news that Detroit is restoring water to thousands of households. But it shouldn’t take a crisis like the spread of coronavirus to restore people’s right to drinking water,” said Sanders. “We are going to guarantee the right to clean water for all Americans.”


This is real world impact, folks

Rashida Tlaib@RashidaTlaibReplying to @RashidaTlaibThe coronavirus is deeply concerning and we should be doing all we can to keep our residents safe, thank you @GovWhitmer & @LtGovGilchrist. Thank you, @BernieSanders, for being the only current prez candidate to lift the issue of access to clean water up.6908:26 PM – Mar 9, 2020

National advocacy organization Food & Water Watch also welcomed Monday’s development, with its Public Water for All campaign director Mary Grant saying city and state officials were “finally doing the right thing.”

“We applaud the People’s Water Board for organizing to win this important victory for the public health of Detroiters. For years, the People’s Water Board has documented the dangers of water shutoffs to public health and called for a comprehensive water affordability plan. COVID-19 has brought these threats to the forefront,” Grant said in a statement to Common Dreams.

Residents of Detroit are not the only victims of water shutoffs, Grant noted, a fact that must be urgently addressed nationwide.

“As the world confronts the threat of a coronavirus pandemic, every person must have access to running water,” she said. “We call on every water provider to stop water shutoffs and to restore service to all households disconnected for being unable to pay their water bills.”

Congress should step up as well, Grant added, and pass the WATER Act, which would help “ensure our water systems have the resources they need to ensure universal access to safe water for every American.”

Posted in USA, Health, Human RightsComments Off on ‘About Damn Time’: Detroit Pauses Water Shutoffs Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

Palestinians were a security risk. Now we’re a health hazard, too

Measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus seem dystopian to the world. For Palestinians, they are only slightly worse than business as usual.

By Karim Kattan 

A Palestinian municipal employee disinfects a street at the entrance to the West Bank city of Bethlehem, March 12, 2020. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

A Palestinian municipal employee disinfects a street at the entrance to the West Bank city of Bethlehem, March 12, 2020. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

The brand-new Sabat Mall, which opened only a few months ago on one of Bethlehem’s main thoroughfares, lies completely empty. Although most of the mall’s shops are shuttered, George’s supermarket — which was supposed to have its opening last week — is open for all who wish to buy groceries. And yet, hardly anyone is walking into the state-of-the-art store.

Glass elevators glide up and down the mall’s floors. Instrumental covers of contemporary pop hits waft out of them, entertaining no one in particular. A few security guards stand by the door, wearing masks around their necks and smoking. “Foreigner?” they ask. “Palestinian,” we answer.

Foreigners used to be a valuable resource. Now, with the outbreak of the new coronavirus, which has infected at least 31 people in the West Bank, all but one in Bethlehem, they are considered dangerous. The first Palestinian cases of the virus were traced back to a group of Greek tourists.

Outside the mall, the streets of the city are mostly empty as well. The atmosphere is eerie, as if one had stepped into an alternate universe, a Bethlehem magically emptied of its inhabitants. In a painful twist on its main means of survival, the coronavirus outbreak here has upended the upcoming high season of tourism. Images of Manger Square being sterilized, of Palestinian policemen and Israeli soldiers in hazmat suits around checkpoints or inside the city, and of trucks burning frankincense and megaphoning prayers, evoke powerful — though dated — science fiction tropes and depictions of the end of the world.

Everyone seems to worry. The insidious effects of confinement have started to take hold: rising apprehension, inexplicable anger, and uncontrollable paranoia. The rumor mill has been spinning fast on messaging apps and social media, leaving Bethlehem at a fever pitch. Since last Friday, everyone in Bethlehem has at some point received purported lists of people who have the virus (complete with their ID numbers and full names), fake messages from doctors, and alarming voice messages pretending the situation is out of control. Ministries and authorities are urging the population to only read, circulate, and believe official statements.

By the fifth day of the lockdown, it had become increasingly complicated to know who to trust. And so, we turned toward time-tested home remedies: proponents of garlic argued with those who touted the merits of aniseed or those who swore up and down that exposure to the sun would swiftly kill the virus. All seemed to agree that no one knew what they were doing, and the best solution was to stay home and pray this all goes away.

A Palestinian police officer wears a mask to protect himself from the coronavirus, outside the closed Church of the Nativity in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, March 8, 2020. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

A Palestinian police officer wears a mask to protect himself from the coronavirus, outside the closed Church of the Nativity in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, March 8, 2020. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

Bethlehem is a city that is used to being lied to. Whether it is because of the incompetence of the Palestinian leadership, or because of the far-reaching propaganda of the Israeli occupation, or simply because of the public’s distrust of media, the city has learned to believe no one. Rumor and hearsay have become the only way news about the coronavirus travel, as a remedy to the perceived ineptitude (or malevolence, depending on who you ask) of the authorities.

One fake voice message in particular captured our imagination a few days ago. In it, a man purporting to work at the Palestinian Health Ministry announced to his friend that the ministry would impose a curfew over the city the next day, since the situation was allegedly far worse than previously imagined. The prankster was soon caught, and he released an apology.

But his stunt resonated because it spoke to one of the ongoing debates among Palestinians: would the Israelis or the Palestinian Authority impose a curfew on Bethlehem? Should they? Some believe it would be the best way to contain the spread of the virus. Others worry that we have been so thoroughly colonized that we have come to expect Israel’s unacceptable security measures as a means of saving us from ourselves.

We were all reminded of Bethlehem’s history, a city very familiar with confinements and lockdowns. Twenty years ago, practically to the month, Bethlehem had been reduced to a ghost town after the Israeli army laid siege to the Church of the Nativity, where Palestinians had taken shelter during the Second Intifada. During a biblical forty days, the city was emptied of life. Around that time, Israel imposed days or weeks-long curfews on the population to try and undermine morale and destroy the social fabric of West Bank cities.

Israeli police clash with Palestinian citizens near Lion Gate in Jerusalem's Old City on October 6, 2000. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Israeli police clash with Palestinian citizens near Lion Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City on October 6, 2000. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Today, the atmosphere of the Second Intifada curfews permeates Bethlehem. Except that now, instead of Israeli soldiers and tanks roaming the city, Palestinian police in hazmat suits, wearing the now-ubiquitous masks that signal the presence of coronavirus, try to project an atmosphere of control against this shapeless threat.

These paranoia-fueled debates are in part a result of the complete lockdown of the city. Bethlehem seems to have become radioactive these past few days. Memes mocking the city’s new pariah status abound. Bethlehem is shut down: no-one goes in, no-one leaves, as if the city itself radiates disease. Palestinians have become, all at once, a threat, a health hazard, and a security risk.

The lockdown began in the period leading up to the Jewish holiday of Purim, for which Israel restricts travel for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank every year. Therefore, for many Palestinians, the measures taken by Israel, as the occupying power, as well as by the Palestinian Authority, are ambivalent. They are based on health assessments, but also on political and security considerations. The fact that announcements regarding this double lockdown came from different sources, including Israel’s Defense Ministry and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Israeli military body responsible for administering the occupation, is seen as evidence of that.

Late Monday evening, Israel’s Health Ministry announced that it would exempt visitors returning from Rachel’s Tomb in the northern outskirts of Bethlehem from quarantine. This site, holy for Muslims, Jews and Christians, is now separated from the city through concrete barriers that are part of Israel’s apartheid wall.

The announcement by the Health Ministry thus traced a topography of danger and contagion, which closely follows that of the wall and of Israel’s imaginary frontier. Although Israel has more cases of the coronavirus than the West Bank, the perception is that a Palestinian body is more likely to fall ill, to contaminate, and to kill.

To be fair, Israel has also imposed stringent health measures in its own territory, quarantining tens of thousands of people and banning most incoming travelers. The shut down in Bethlehem is merely an extreme version of that. A sort of experiment, it seems.

Palestinian security forces wearing face masks block the entrance to the West Bank city of Bethlehem, March 8, 2020. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

Palestinian security forces wearing face masks block the entrance to the West Bank city of Bethlehem, March 8, 2020. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

Science fiction can give audiences the impression that the worst can only happen in dystopia — meaning, later, or somewhere far away. Here in Palestine, governments are already taking drastic measures to blur the line between health and security, synthesizing the two into a single tool used to scare us into docility.

This is not to say that there are not legitimate reasons to fear the spread of the virus, nor that confinement and social distancing are poor solutions. As confinement becomes the preferred solution, it is difficult to disagree with the Bethlehem lockdown.

However, the reflex to invoke security measures to contain a health hazard — especially in the West Bank — should make us wary. Israel’s drastic measures, both for its own society and for the occupied territories, are made possible because of its thorough know-how of population management, an expertise it has developed over decades, especially in the West Bank and Gaza. Its current management of the coronavirus is linked to its management of the occupied territories.

Shutting down checkpoints is not a novel measure, nor is sifting through workers to identify those who come from Bethlehem, or creating a distinction between good and bad Palestinian bodies. Confining Palestinians, monitoring their mobility, and surveilling their actions is, arguably, a crucial part of the occupation.

For Palestinians, the current closure on Bethlehem is neither a far-off dystopia nor a twenty-minutes-into-the-future fictional government. If anything, it is a blast from the past. The political uprising of twenty years ago and the health crisis of today are dealt with in familiar ways, using similar tools. These strategies are part of the very fabric of the occupation. The measures that seem unprecedented, terrifying, or confusing to the world are, for Palestinians, business as usual — just slightly worse.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, HealthComments Off on Palestinians were a security risk. Now we’re a health hazard, too

Covid-19 treatment handbooks issued compiling frontline experience

China’s gift to the world is hard-won knowledge: ‘The real remedy for epidemics is not isolation, but cooperation.’

Professor Tingbo Liang

In an amazingly short time, the Chinese medical establishment has curated a guide to best practice in diagnosing and treating coronavirus patients in hospital.

This article was updated on Monday 30 March to reflect the issuing of two new handbooks from frontline Covid-19 fighters in China. Please circulate it widely.


Having successfully identified the new coronavirus, Covid-19, China’s medical workers have also fought a tremendous battle to stop the spread of the infection and find the best way to treat those who are suffering from it.

Once the epidemic had been brought under control in China and there were very few new cases appearing there, the Zhejiang University School of Medicine summarised the hard-won experience of the country’s frontline staff into an essential handbook for hospital medics.

Sadly, many governments around the world are unwilling to admit that China might have anything to teach them, so we are asking individuals to do what they can to share this essential knowledge with medical workers on the new frontlines.

Let us do what we can to make sure our people can benefit from China’s experience and our doctors have the best chance of saving the lives of those who become critically ill.

* Download a pdf of the Handbook of Covid-19 Prevention and treatment.

* Download a pdf of the Diagnosis and Treatment Protocol for Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia (Trial Version 7) released by China’s National Health Commission and State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

* Download a pdf of China’s advice document on the Protocol for Prevention and Control of Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia (Edition 6).

Foreword to Covid-19 handbook by Professor Tingbo Liang, editor

This is an unprecedented global war, and mankind is facing the same enemy, the novel coronavirus. And the first battlefield is the hospital where our soldiers are the medical workers.

To ensure that this war can be won, we must first make sure that our medical staff is guaranteed sufficient resources, including experience and technologies. Also, we need to make sure that the hospital is the battleground where we eliminate the virus, not where the virus defeats us.

Therefore, Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation have convened a group of medical experts who have just returned from the frontlines of fighting the pandemic. With the support of The First Affiliated Hospital, Zhejiang University School of Medicine (FAHZU), they quickly published a guidebook on the clinical experience of how to treat this new coronavirus. The treatment guide offers advice and reference against the pandemic for medical staff around the world who are about to join the war.

Thanks to the medical staff from FAHZU. While taking huge risks in treating Covid-19 patients, they wrote down their treatment experience day and night in this handbook.

Over the past 50 days, 104 confirmed patients have been admitted to FAHZU, including 78 severe and critically ill ones. Thanks to the pioneering efforts of medical staff and the application of new technologies, to date, we have witnessed a miracle. No staff is infected, and there is no missed diagnosis or patient deaths.

Today, with the spread of the pandemic, these experiences are the most valuable sources of information and the most important weapon for medical workers on the battlefield. This is a brand-new disease, and China was the first to suffer from the pandemic. Isolation, diagnosis, treatment, protective measures, and rehabilitation have all been started from scratch, but we hope that with the advent of this handbook doctors and nurses in other affected areas can learn from our experience when entering the battlefield and they won’t have to start from zero.

This pandemic is a common challenge faced by mankind in the age of globalisation. At this moment, sharing resources, experiences and lessons, regardless of who you are, is our only chance to win. Because the real remedy for epidemics is not isolation, but cooperation.

This war has just begun.

A message from the China’s communists

Writing to our party, a representative of the Chinese communist party explained:

“In response to the outbreak of Covid-19, the 1.4 billion Chinese people have been working together through trials and tribulations under the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC) with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core. Political parties and governments of various countries together with people from all walks of life have also lent their generous support.

“As a result, the current epidemic prevention and control situation across China continues to improve, with sustained momentum in the rapid restoration of economic and social order. The coordinated implementation of epidemic control tasks and those relating to economic and social development has yielded positive results.

“At present, as the Covid-19 outbreak is spreading rapidly across the globe, it constitutes a serious challenge to both the health of humanity and world peace and development. On 26 March, general secretary Xi Jinping attended the extraordinary G20 leaders’ summit on Covid-19 and called upon the international community to strengthen coordination in fighting the outbreak.

“He also expressed China’s willingness to share China’s good practice, to step up cooperation with all other countries, and to provide assistance to the best of its ability.

“Being keenly aware of the difficulties facing countries severely affected by the epidemic, we have been working with all sides to fight the epidemic by sharing China’s good practice, providing support and help where we can and by various other means.

“Bearing in mind the vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind, we will continue to do so and work together with all sides toward closer cooperation in various fields in an effort to prevail as early as possible over the outbreak, humanity’s common enemy.

“We hope that these two publications might be of use to your party and your country in your fight against the epidemic.”

Posted in China, HealthComments Off on Covid-19 treatment handbooks issued compiling frontline experience

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