Mayfair Theater, Broadway, New York 1954
Today is the 200th anniversary of the start of the fight for Greek independence from the Ottoman empire.
Ron Paul on Lockdown
Both Directly & Indirectly, Lockdowns Kill Way More People Than Covid Itself
— Ron Paul (@RonPaul) March 24, 2021
These will keep appearing. The virus is endemic.
Following a series of reports warning about mutated COVID strains first identified in Brazil, the US and elsewhere spreading across Latin America, the US and Europe, scientists in India are one-upping them by identifying what they described as “a double-mutant” strain of the ubiquitous virus. The ‘double-mutant’ was identified, along with 770 other strains, gleaned from samples collected across 18 Indian states. Of the 10,787 samples collected, 736 tested positive for the UK variant, 34 for the South African variant and one for the Brazilian variant. The report comes as COVID cases in India are climbing once again after the nation managed to bring numbers close to zero. The country has reported a total of 11.7MM cases, and 160.4K deaths.
While the Indian government insists there’s no link between the variants and the surge in cases (India rolled back most of its virus-inspired restrictions on business and movement months ago). India became the fifth country in the world to sequence the COVID virus’s genome last January. Still, a consortium of 10 national laboratories working with India’s government said this week they would monitor the new double-variant, which was traced to Mahahrashtra state. Although scientists said none of the variants appeared to be circulating widely enough yet to be causing the surge in cases, they called on authorities to ramp up testing and ensure new cases caused by the variant are swiftly isolated. In response, the government is ramping up certain restrictions, along with its vaccination drive.
As far as the remaining COVID restrictions are concerned, hundreds of thousands of Indians ignored them last week when they came out to celebrate Holi, a week-long affair commemorating the advent of spring. But what, exactly, is a “double-mutant”? A scientist who spoke with the BBC explained why the double-mutation could make the strain more infectious, and more virulent. “A double mutation, virologist Shahid Jameel explains, is “two mutations coming together in the same virus” “A double mutation in the key areas of the virus’s spike protein may increase these risks and allow the virus to escape the immune system and make it more infectious,” he adds. Spike protein is the part of the virus that it uses to penetrate human cells.
The government said that an analysis of the samples collected from India’s western Maharashtra state shows “an increase in the fraction of samples with the E484Q and L452R mutations” compared with December last year. “Such [double] mutations confer immune escape and increased infectivity,” the Health Ministry said in a statement. Dr Jameel added that “there may be a separate lineage developing in India with the L452R and E484Q mutations coming together”. But the government denied that the rise in case numbers was linked to the mutations. “Though VOCs [variants of concern] and a new double mutant variant have been found in India, these have not been detected in numbers sufficient to either establish a direct relationship or explain the rapid increase in cases in some states.”
“Little need be said of Cuomo other than the applicable Roman dictum he created a desert and called it peace.”
The medical pandemic godhead of the Left has been octogenarian Dr. Anthony Fauci. His twin chief public relations explainer has been liberal darling New York governor Andrew Cuomo. Both were always supposed to be on top of “the science.” Dr. Fauci has not just been flat-out wrong on the science of COVID – in his assessments of the origins and possible dangers of COVID-19, of when we can get back to normal, of when the vaccinations would appear, and of which particular governors have been doing the most or least effective management of the disease. He has also, by his own admission, deliberately lied. That is, Fauci has rejected science, as he knew it, to mislead the public. For our own interests, he adopted the Platonic “noble lie” on occasion.
So, for example, he conceded that he had downplayed the value of masks (he now seems to approve of wearing one on top of another) in order to prevent too many wearing them, and thus the public shorting the supply available to more important health care workers. Fauci also proverbially moved the goal posts on herd immunity, from the high 60s to the low 90s as a percent of the population, either vaccinated or with antibodies, necessary to achieve a de facto end of the pandemic. Again, Fauci defied the science on the theory he knew better, in assuming that the childish public would become too lax when and if it believed herd immunity was on the horizon. Unspoken, is that Fauci usually errs on the side of what is deemed progressive orthodoxy. In contrast, Dr. Scott Atlas warned us that extended and complete lockdowns in any cost-benefit analyses might well inflict more human and economic damage than the virus.
And he added that an opened-up Florida and Texas might do no worse virally than a locked-down California or New York, while avoiding the severe recessionary collateral damage. Yet Atlas was damned for “not following the science” for the crime of working for Trump and for following the science: while targeted wearing of masks and social distancing and quarantining of vulnerable populations are necessary, complete quarantines of the entire population and extended closing schools are counterproductive. Little need be said of Cuomo other than the applicable Roman dictum he created a desert and called it peace. When the federal government delivered a tent-hospital and a huge hospital ship, they went unused. When it sent ventilators, Cuomo raged that they were too little, too late.
High-level members of the state Department of Health were directed last year by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker to conduct prioritized coronavirus testing on the governor’s relatives as well as influential people with ties to the administration, according to three people with direct knowledge of the matter. Members of Cuomo’s family including his brother, his mother and at least one of his sisters were also tested by top health department officials — some several times, the sources said. The medical officials enlisted to do the testing, which often took place at private residences, included Dr. Eleanor Adams, an epidemiologist who graduated from Harvard Medical School and in August became a special adviser to Zucker.
Adams conducted testing on Cuomo’s brother Chris at his residence on Long Island, according to the two people. “If their job was to go test an old lady down in New Rochelle, that’s one thing — that’s actually good,” one of the people with knowledge of the matter said. “This was not that.” Others who were given priority testing include Rick Cotton, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and his wife, as well as Patrick J. Foye, head of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Members of the media, state legislators and their staff also were tested in similar fashion, although there is no indication those tests were done by high-level health department officials. Foye and Cotton both announced last March they had tested positive for coronavirus. Foye was tested after exhibiting symptoms, according to a spokesman for the MTA.
Austerity killed the cat.
On 12 January, one of the grimmest findings of the Covid-19 pandemic was published: “excess deaths” in England and Wales were reported to have risen to their highest level since the Second World War. In 2020, 608,002 deaths were registered, the largest number since the 1918 Spanish flu and 75,925 more deaths than occurred on average over the preceding five years (the technical definition of excess deaths). But few noticed another disquieting trend on the viral graphs: even before the pandemic, excess deaths were rising – by 2,911 in 2012, 11,314 in 2013, 6,408 in 2014, 32,624 in 2015, 20,735 in 2016, 20,803 in 2017, 22,355 in 2018 and 4,647 in 2019. By contrast, over the preceding 20 years, excess deaths fell in all but two years (1993 and 1995).
The pandemic and the UK’s Covid death toll of 126,284 – one of the highest in the world – have raised the salience of mortality. Rarely have the political choices that influence who lives and who dies been clearer. The UK’s prodigious death toll was not inevitable or an act of God. But this thought prompts another: why were more people dying in the years before the pandemic, and how many lives could have been saved? In May 2010, the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government embarked on a radical experiment that still reverberates today: austerity. Over the New Labour years spending on public services had risen, but it would now be cut in an attempt to reduce the budget deficit and to reshape the state.
After David Cameron assumed office, more than £20bn of welfare cuts were imposed, departmental budgets were reduced by an average of more than 20 per cent and local government funding was cut by 49 per cent (with baleful consequences for social care). When George Osborne delivered his first austerity budget in 2010, he declared: “When we say that we are all in this together, we mean it.” But the reality was otherwise. In February 2020, before Covid-19 monopolised attention, the landmark Marmot Review found that, for the first time in more than 100 years, life expectancy in England had stalled and even declined for women in the poorest 10 per cent of areas.
“England has lost a decade,” lamented Michael Marmot, the University College London professor who led the review. “If you ask me if [austerity] is the reason for the worsening health picture, I’d say it is highly likely.” Marmot was not alone in concluding that the UK government had presided over avoidable deaths or, more radically, what Friedrich Engels called “social murder”. In his book The Condition of the Working-Class in England (1845), Engels wrote of how “the class which at present holds social and political control” places “hundreds of proletarians in such a position that they inevitably meet a too early and an unnatural death, one which is quite as much a death by violence as that by the sword or bullet”.
[..] During the Covid-19 pandemic, the UK has suffered one of the highest excess death rates in Europe. But at the close of our conversation, Dorling explained why the picture is even grimmer than it appears: “All these excess death calculations that are being made, we’re comparing ourselves in 2020 with five truly awful years, whereas other countries are comparing themselves with the best years they’ve ever had.” The social ills that Covid-19 has newly exposed – entrenched poverty, loneliness, dilapidated housing and inadequate welfare support – preceded the pandemic and will likely outlast it. As Richard Horton, the editor of the Lancet medical journal, has argued, the UK is enduring a “syndemic” – a synthesis of epidemics. Coronavirus interacted with pre-existing inequalities to lethal effect.
“Pubs can’t open with any sort of normality until June. So on top of having to take on extra staff to serve people at tables, the idea pubs can take on staff to act as door staff for vaccine passports is absurd.”
Despite repeatedly assuring the public that domestic vaccine passports to enter pubs would be discouraged, Prime Minister Boris Johnson today signaled that landlords could mandate them when pubs begin to open next month. While speaking to MPs on the Commons’ liaison committee, Johnson indicated that the government wouldn’t stand in the way of pub owners demanding customers show proof they’ve taken the COVID-19 jab before entering the premises. Asked if such a certificate would be required, Johnson responded, “I think that that’s the kind of thing – it may be up to individual publicans, it may be up to the landlord.” “I do think that the basic concept of vaccine certification should not be totally alien to us,” he added.
Outdoor areas and beer gardens are set to re-open on April 17th, with indoor spaces to follow on May 17th. Johnson’s attitude to the issue represents a change from previous government rhetoric, which assured the public that there would be no domestic vaccine passport. Back in December, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi declared that any form of vaccine passport would be ‘discriminatory’. Although many pub owners won’t insist on proof of having had the vaccine, polls in the UK routinely show high support for lockdown measures and restrictions. Creating such a system, where people have to show digital proof of vaccination to engage in normal everyday activities, would also virtually guarantee they’ll be introduced at other venues.
Greg Mulholland, chairman of the British Pub Confederation, blasted the move, telling the Sun, “Pubs can’t open with any sort of normality until June. So on top of having to take on extra staff to serve people at tables, the idea pubs can take on staff to act as door staff for vaccine passports is absurd.”
The British state considers there to now be a “grey zone between peace and war” which justifies, they believe, engagement in covert manipulation of public opinion on matters both foreign and domestic, albeit in the name of combating “disinformation”. Dr Piers Robinson researches and writes about propaganda, conflict and war. He is co-director of the Organisation for Propaganda Studies and convenor of the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media. Robinson, who completed his PhD on the role of media and foreign policy — the so-called CNN effect — at the University of Bristol, examined revelations contained within the UK government’s Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, which appears to promote the idea of using propaganda to shape British public opinion.
Robinson warns that increasing hostility being directed towards countries like Russia and China threatens “super-power conflict” which would affect current and future generations profoundly. “Now is not the time for propaganda”, he insists, but rather, “it is time for greater transparency and scrutiny”.
Dr Piers Robinson: From what is being reported it appears that the British government is openly stating that it intends to employ propaganda within the UK public sphere. Reference to the use of ‘social science expertise, horizon-scanning and strategic communications’ are all euphemisms for propaganda. Propaganda is primarily about organising conduct and beliefs through means that are ‘non-consensual’. By non-consensual I mean influence techniques that might use a variety of strategies aimed at getting people to act and think in ways that are not freely chosen. For example, the technique of deception, where information is manipulated, can lead to people thinking something is true but that belief is not freely chosen precisely because deception has been involved.
Other propaganda techniques involve incentivisation and coercion: here it is more obvious that behaviour and beliefs are not freely chosen as people are being either tempted or forced. The bottom line is that all these propaganda techniques are undemocratic. They run roughshod over notions of freedom, free choice and freedom of speech. Ultimately, widespread uses of such techniques means that a democratic public sphere is increasingly replaced by a propagandised public sphere.
Dr Piers Robinson: The rational for the use of propaganda against the domestic population appears to be based on ideas that there are now grey areas between ‘foreign’ and ‘domestic’ and between ‘war’ and ‘peace’. Underlying these ideas is the claim that people’s opinions are now part of the ’21st century battlefield’. As such, the government appears to be claiming that the British public are now involved in a war and that the only way that war can be fought is through attempts to influence, even control, their thoughts and behaviour. The assumption underpinning this rational for domestic propaganda is that Britain faces significant military (and other) threats.
All your base are belong to us.
Guidance on policing protests circulated to all forces in England and Wales may breach human rights obligations, according to campaigners. The guidance, produced by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (the NPCC) and the College of Policing (COP), also appears to use a definition of unlawful protest activity that could include boycotting a shop or silently taking a knee. In a joint letter seen by the Guardian, the Good Law Project and Stop Funding Hate have urged the guidance to be made public amid “serious concerns” regarding the extent it considers and protects the human rights of protesters. According to a recent report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) on how the police respond to protest, police chiefs have produced a “comprehensive and detailed document giving operational advice”.
It criticised some of the legal explanations in the document, which is used to train public order commanders and advisers, highlighting a “material risk of commanders failing to fulfil their obligations under human rights law”. The report noted that the NPCC and CoP were revising the document in response to these concerns. The report also revealed that police chiefs use a definition of “aggravated activism” as “activity that seeks to bring about political or social change but does so in a way that involves unlawful behaviour or criminality, has a negative impact upon community tensions, or causes an adverse economic impact to businesses”.
The letter by campaigners raises concerns that this definition could include a wide array of activity that is not criminal, such as campaigning for advertisers to withdraw their products from media outlets that have divisive content or calling for a boycott of a shop that sells products made from animal fur. “What’s really worrying here is the embedded value judgment that it’s wrong to target economic activity”, said Jolyon Maugham, director of the legal campaigning organisation, Good Law Project.
“Tomorrow It Could Be Somebody Else”
Sen Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) came out against the Twitter ban of former president Donald Trump yesterday. Sanders expressed his discomfort with the role of Big Tech in censorship viewpoints, a sharp departure from his Democratic colleagues who have demanded more such corporate censorship. In an interview on Tuesday with New York Times columnist Ezra Klein, Sanders stated that he didn’t feel “particularly comfortable” with the ban despite his view that Trump is “a racist, sexist, xenophobe, pathological liar, an authoritarian … a bad news guy.” He stated “if you’re asking me do I feel particularly comfortable that the then president of the United States could not express his views on Twitter? I don’t feel comfortable about that.”
I would hope that Sanders would take the same view of a non-sitting president or an average citizen. They should all be able to speak freely. Sanders does not go as far as that “Internet originalist” position, but he at least is recognizing the danger of such censorship. He noted that “we have got to be thinking about, because if anybody who thinks yesterday it was Donald Trump who was banned and tomorrow it could be somebody else who has a very different point of view.” He stated that it is a danger to have a “handful of high tech people” controlling speech in America. I have long praised Sanders for his principled take on many issues and this dissenting view is most welcomed by those in the free speech community. It is in sharp contrast to his Democratic colleagues who celebrated the ban and called for more censorship.
One of the leading voices of censorship in the Senate is Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.) chastised Big Tech for waiting so long to issue such bans: “The question isn’t why Facebook & Twitter acted, it’s what took so long & why haven’t others?” As we have previously discussed, Democrats have abandoned long-held free speech values in favor of corporate censorship. They clearly has a different “comfort zone” than Sanders. What discomforts many Democratic members is the ability of people to speak freely on these platforms and spread what they view as “disinformation.” When Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey came before the Senate to apologize for blocking the Hunter Biden story before the election as a mistake, senators pressed him and other Big Tech executive for more censorship.
Bellingcat is evil.
The website Bellingcat promotes itself as a collective of digital sleuths who “pledge allegiance to truth and evidence and abide by the principles of transparency and accountability.” Its self-described “groundbreaking investigations,” especially those aimed at Russia and Syria, have led to fawning Western media endorsements of its claim to be an “intelligence agency for the people.” But Bellingcat’s carefully crafted public image as an “open source” outlet is belied by its extensive NATO government ties and a conspicuous pattern of conduct in line with its state sponsors’ interests. Bellingcat has hauled in grants from the National Endowment for Democracy, a US government-funded CIA cutout. Leaked documents reported by The Grayzone revealed that Bellingcat has collaborated with a UK Foreign Office operation that aims to “weaken Russia.”
Bellingcat has also been a regular source of interventionist material on Syria, the target of a decade-long, multi-billion dollar proxy war waged by the US, UK, and their allies. This includes participating in a nearly two-year campaign to whitewash a scandal at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) — one of the most shocking and well-documented pro-war deceptions since the lead-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. A series of leaks has exposed how top OPCW officials censored findings which undermined US-led allegations of a Syrian government chemical weapons attack in the city of Douma in April 2018. Together with its NATO state sponsors, Bellingcat has worked to bury the cover-up and denigrate two OPCW whistleblowers who challenged it from the inside.
Bellingcat’s disinformation efforts resulted in an embarrassing debacle late last year, when the outlet was caught publishing fraudulent material about one of the dissenting OPCW scientists. Now, emails obtained by The Grayzone reveal that Bellingcat has engaged in more subterfuge than was previously known. Messages sent months before the “Bellingcat Investigation Team” released its bogus article show that Bellingcat was not the sole author of the now-discredited piece published in its name. It also was not the first one. The communications show that someone outside the Bellingcat organization composed portions of the fraudulent material that ultimately appeared on Bellingcat’s website. An external author even drafted questions that Bellingcat sent to multiple recipients.
Bellingcat’s duplicitous conduct took place in the midst of a poorly coordinated effort involving HuffPost UK and the BBC – two outlets that also enjoy close ties to the British state. The target of the Bellingcat-led smear campaign is Dr. Brendan Whelan, a 16-year OPCW veteran and member of the mission that deployed to Syria in April 2018 to investigate the alleged chemical attack in Douma.
“I have a security clearance. And they have yet to show me any classified evidence.”
With a possible revival of the Iran nuclear deal on the table, there are many forces at work opposing a US return to the accord, known as the JCPOA. One form this opposition takes is through anonymous leaks to Western media outlets that are happy to publish whatever intelligence officials tell them to. This week, two dubiously-sourced reports came out that accused Iran of plotting an attack in Washington and operating a secret nuclear program. Missing from the stories was any evidence to back up the claims. On Sunday, The Associated Press published a story that cited “two senior US intelligence officials” who claimed that Iran made threats against Fort McNair, a waterfront Army base in Washington DC.
The officials said the NSA intercepted communications of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps discussing possible “USS Cole-style attacks” on Fort McNair, referring to the 2000 attack on a US Navy destroyer off Yemen that was launched using a small explosive-laden boat. The AP story offers no other evidence to back up the claim besides the word of the unnamed officials. Iran hawks benefit from such stories since it gives the US more reasons not to return to the JCPOA. But another reason to hype a threat to Fort McNair was explained in the AP story. The US Army wants to create a security buffer zone extending 250 to 500 feet into the water of the Washington Channel, the busy waterway that Fort McNair sits on.
Eleanor Holmes Norton, DC’s representative to Congress, has been fighting this buffer zone and said the military has shown her no evidence that constitutes a threat big enough to justify it. “I have asked the Department of Defense to withdraw the rule because I’ve seen no evidence of a credible threat that would support the proposed restriction,” Norton said. “I have a security clearance. And they have yet to show me any classified evidence.” The AP doesn’t explain these doubts until a few paragraphs into the story, so most readers with faith in the outlet that read the headline and skimmed a few paragraphs are left believing Iran is considering attacking Washington.
Bombing grains facilities where millions are starving. This is our coalition.
The Saudi-led military coalition has carried out dozens of air raids against what it said were Houthi military targets in Yemen’s north, including the capital Sanaa and the port of Salif on the Red Sea coast. The coalition, which intervened militarily in 2015 months after the Iran-aligned Houthi group captured large parts of northern Yemen including Sanaa, said it struck a missile and drone assembly plant in the Yemeni capital. The United Nations said air raids also hit the Houthi-controlled Salif grains port, north of Hodeidah, and two projectiles hit a warehouse and the living quarters of a food production company.
“Local authorities and company management stated that six injured workers were transferred to local medical facilities for treatment,” the UN mission in Hodeidah, UNMHA, said in a statement on Monday. The port of Salif is part of a UN-brokered neutral zone on the Red Sea, according to an agreement signed in 2018 in Stockholm between Yemen’s warring parties. Nearly 80 percent of Yemen’s nearly 30 million people depend on foreign aid as large parts of the country have been devastated by the six years of violence that have resulted in what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian disaster. The Houthi-controlled ministry of commerce and industry said attacks on the port were part of the “economic warfare against the Yemeni people”.
Whitney Webb: “The government case against Ghislaine was set up to fail from the beginning. I said that right after the arrest and got shit for it, but here we are. The government is trying to cover the Epstein scandal up, not investigate it.”
Today a motion was unsealed in the Ghislaine Maxwell case that give us serious concerns about the government’s case against Maxwell. I’ll make this brief. The unsealed motion had to do with Maxwell’s recently rejected motion for release on bail. It had been sealed because it references documents that are still under seal. You can read the full motion for release on bail here. I won’t go through the whole motion – only the parts that stand out. First, Maxwell makes the accusation that “the government concedes it cannot establish that either Ms. Maxwell or Epstein ever caused, or sought to cause, Accuser-3 to travel while she was a minor or that she was underage when she allegedly engaged in sex acts with Epstein.”
In support of this claim, Maxwell’s lawyers cite to the still-sealed filing by the government. Maxwell’s attorneys explain that this matters because victim’s “allegations cannot support the conspiracies charged in the Indictment, leaving the government with only two witnesses to prove the charges against Ms. Maxwell.” Second, Maxwell alleges that the government “produced documents indicating that government prosecutors misled a federal judge to obtain evidence against Ms. Maxwell.” This wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York get into trouble. Recently, they were found to have failed to disclose evidence against a criminal defendant and then lying about their failure to disclose the evidence.
Authorities are still “working to refloat” a container ship which ran aground in the Suez Canal, blocking the Egyptian waterway, officials have said. Ten tug boats have been helping with the operation to free one of the world’s largest container ships from the vital waterway. Photos showed a digger removing earth and rock from the bank of the canal around the ship’s bow, while satellite images showed its diagonal position across the channel. Professor Jasper Graham-Jones, a mechanical marine engineer from Plymouth University said: “They would try to be removing anything that is easy to remove, but the location where they are stuck is not near a port, it’s actually quite a distance away from anything.
the Ever Given stranded in the Suez Canal. Pic: Planet Labs Inc via Reuters
“This is where the clear option is lots and lots of tug boats and digging around the sides.” Reports earlier on Wednesday from marine agent GAC that the Ever Given had been partially refloated were inaccurate, Ahmed Mekawy, an assistant manager at GAC’s Egypt office, said. Mr Mekawy blamed it on “inaccurate information” that the Dubai-based agent had received. It could take up to two days to move it, an official reportedly told local news outlet Cairo24, but Suez Canal Authority (SCA) chairman Osama Rabie was more optimistic. He said: “Once we get this boat out, then that’s it, things will go back to normal. God willing, we’ll be done today.”
A southbound convoy was on the move, he told local media, adding that the authority was trying to keep traffic flowing between waiting areas as best it could, while salvage efforts continued. Dr Laleh Khalili, Professor of International Politics at Queen Mary University, said: “A prolonged closure would mean that there would be ships stacking up in both the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, riding at anchor, waiting for the canal to open.” Dozens of ships carrying crude, liquefied natural gas (LNG) and retail goods were unable to sail through the canal on Wednesday. At least 30 ships were blocked to the north of the Ever Given, and three to the south, local sources said. Several dozen ships could also be seen grouped around the northern and southern entrances to the canal.
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