Author Archives: niqnaq

the antichrist revealed

Kushner’s team seeks national coronavirus surveillance system
Adam Cancryn, Politico, Apr 8 2020

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner’s task force has reached out to a range of health technology companies about creating a national coronavirus surveillance system to give the government a near real-time view of where patients are seeking treatment and for what, and whether hospitals can accommodate them, according to four people with knowledge of the discussions. The proposed national network could help determine which areas of the country can safely relax social-distancing rules and which should remain vigilant. But it would also represent a significant expansion of government use of individual patient data, forcing a new reckoning over privacy limits amid a national crisis. Health privacy laws already grant broad exceptions for national security purposes. But the prospect of compiling a national database of potentially sensitive health information has prompted concerns about its impact on civil liberties well after the coronavirus threat recedes, with some critics comparing it to the Patriot Act enacted after the 9/11 attacks. Already, the Trump administration has sought to ease data-sharing rules and assure health data companies they won’t be penalized for sharing information with state and federal officials, a move driven in part by Kushner’s push to assemble the national network, according to an individual with knowledge of the decision. Jessica Rich, a former director of the Federal Trade Commission’s consumer protection bureau, said:

This is a genuine crisis. We have to work through it and do our best to protect people’s health. But doing that doesn’t mean we have to destroy privacy.

Currently, the federal government plays only a limited role in handling health information, with its access restricted by various privacy laws and in many cases reliant on voluntary data-sharing agreements with individual states. The project, based on interviews with seven tech executives, government officials and other people familiar with its contours, would draw on detailed information collected from multiple private-sector databases. It would allow federal officials to continuously track elements like hospitals’ bed availability and the flow of patients into specific emergency rooms across the country, thereby enabling the government to rush resources to parts of the country before they’re hit by a surge of coronavirus cases. One person involved in the discussions said:

It allows you to be much more targeted and precise in how you engage. They need data to make the policy decisions, and so that’s what we and others now have been asked to do.

The White House declined to comment in response to detailed inquiries on Tuesday, but spox Avi Berkowitz said in a late Tuesday night statement after this article was published:

This story makes no sense and is completely false. The White House gets many unsolicited random proposals on a variety of topics, but Jared has no knowledge of this proposal or the people mentioned in this article who may have submitted it.

The creation of a national coronavirus database could help the nation get out in front of the fast-spreading virus, which officials anticipate will strain the health care systems of nearly every major city over the next few months and threaten to recur in pockets of the nation for some time after that. Yet concerns about data sharing and patient privacy aren’t the only obstacles to the plan, which was described by people familiar with it as one of a series of out-of-the-box initiatives sought by Kushner’s team. That team is composed of a range of federal officials, friends and leaders from the private sector seeking to promote innovative responses to the coronavirus crisis. The notion of a national surveillance network has also faced resistance internally from some health officials, who argue that the federal government should only go as far as setting broad standards for disease and resource tracking and leave it to individual states to stand up their own surveillance networks, according to two individuals with knowledge of the discussions. Other officials contend that the administration should build any new monitoring system on its own, without the private sector’s involvement, a position that’s gained steam following a series of articles about Kushner’s team and its involvement of private companies and executives in efforts to fix problems dogging the nationwide response, according two people briefed on the matter. Some public health experts, meanwhile, suggested that the administration might instead built out and reorient an existing surveillance system housed within the CDC that aided the response to prior epidemics. The system, called the National Syndromic Surveillance Program, is a voluntary collaboration between the CDC and various state and local health departments that draws data from more than 4,000 health care facilities. Former CDC Director Tom Frieden said:

In an emergency, what works best is scaling up existing robust systems, not trying to create a new system. Use the systems you have.

A HHS spox said the department does not comment on internal deliberations. Still, Kushner’s teams has remained enthusiastic about the idea of a national surveillance system, which they see as a way to better understand how the virus is progressing throughout the country and where resources are needed amid severe shortages of protective gear and medical supplies. Kushner, along with other admin boxtops including Pres Trump, have questioned in recent weeks whether governors actually need the equipment that they’re seeking from the federal government’s Strategic National Stockpile. Kushner said during a press briefing last week:

The goal here is not to have ventilators sitting in a warehouse where you have another state where you have people who need them. So, what we’re trying to do is make informed, data-driven decisions.

The administration’s slow ramp-up of testing, meanwhile, has made it difficult for states to trace the virus’ spread within their own borders, forcing hospitals to empty their facilities in anticipation of a wave of coronavirus patients that may not come for weeks. The testing that is being done has been hampered by backlogs in processing the results, public health experts say, meaning official case counts could be weeks behind the reality on the ground.Jeremy Konyndyk, a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development and former Obama-era foreign aid boxtop, said in late March:

What we’re seeing in the numbers is actually a two-to-three-week echo. We still mostly can’t see the enemy.

That’s prompted a broad search within the administration for more up-to-date information, with Kushner’s team discussing the prospect of creating a surveillance network that draws together all the pertinent data. One memo submitted by a group of health technology companies to Kushner, Vice Pres Pence and Health Sec Alex Azar and circulated widely within the administration, predicted it could supply the government with information on where and how many patients are seeking care across 80% of Pindostan“in short order.” The Mar 22 memo signed by three health care firms, Collective Medical, PatientPing and Juvare, and submitted at the behest of admin boxtops, which was later obtained by Politico, said:

No single organization in Pindostan today can currently meet this request. However, we believe that collectively we can.

PatientPing declined to comment. Juvare CEO Robert Watson told Politico that the memo was submitted in response to White House interest, and that the company has spoken with officials across several federal agencies including FEMA, HHS and the CDC about its various emergency preparedness and data tools. Collective Medical CEO Chris Klomp declined to confirm the memo’s existence or discuss its contents. But he told Politico that the company is already providing similar patient monitoring and hospital capacity services to some states for free, and has assembled a coalition of firms including PatientPing willing to aid the broader policy response. Klomp emphasized that any work with federal or state governments to combat coronavirus would be done at no cost. He said:

We’re not trying to make money from this. I worry that boxtops are flying partially blind. We all need this problem to be resolved as quickly as possible, and it’s only going to happen if would-be competitors put down their swords, set aside politics, and work together.

A separate memo submitted around the same time by health technology firm Audacious Inquiry proposed an alternative surveillance network that would use patient health records compiled by providers to monitor hospitals’ bed availability and their use of medical supplies. The memo sent to Kushner, Pence, Azar and other top health officials, and obtained by Politico, said:

We believe a viable technical specification can be developed within weeks and that deployment can begin in less than 60 days to hospitals and health systems in priority regions.

Audacious Inquiry President Scott Afzal told Politico that the concept was put together in anticipation of a need to identify areas were the virus could re-emerge months for now, and that the company is also offering its services to state and federal officials for free. he said of the surveillance network proposal:

It’s a thing that’s going to be valuable months from now, not weeks from now.

Any national surveillance system would rely on patient data that’s been de-identified to protect people’s identities, three individuals involved in the discussions said. Still, the prospect of sharing medical data with the administration would likely prompt close scrutiny from consumer privacy advocates, who warn the government’s response to prior crises has often opened the door to permanent erosions of privacy rights. Rich said:

We dealt with similar issues in 9/11. There would need to be strict guardrails around how patients information is collected and used, and measures taken to ensure the data is protected. One reason that the government doesn’t have all of this data is there’s a lot of concern about big brother maintaining large databases on every consumer on sensitive issues like health, and for good reason.

Kushner in particular has attracted criticism over his involvement in prior planned policy changes designed to give patients greater control over their health records, yet that privacy hawks warn could grant tech companies access to a massive new trove of personal data. Burcu Kilic, who leads a digital right program at consumer advocacy organization Public Citizen, said:

My biggest concern is that tech will emerge more powerful than it was. When things get back to normal, do you think they’ll want to regulate them?

Tech companies, in the meantime, are pushing ahead on their own efforts ahead of, and in some cases in anticipation of broader government action. Both Facebook and Google have rolled out tools meant to help researchers track and predict the virus’ spread using its access to location data, while a slew of smaller health technology firms have sought partnerships with states seeking to create their own networks. Audacious Inquiry’s Afzal said:

People are trying to figure out the most important things to do now. If you were to say to us and a couple of these other companies, ‘We need you to get on the phone right now and start thinking through what parts of the country you can cover and how to start routing  inbound,’ we could do that.

you have been warned

It’s No Good Blaming China for COVID-19 While Beijing is Stretching its Helping Hand to Pindostan
Ekaterina Blinova, Sputnik News, Apr 9 2020

In addition to hitting over 1.4 million cases and claiming about 80,000 lives worldwide, the COVID-19 disease has exacerbated tensions between Pindostan and China, which had seemingly calmed down after the two nations signed their phase one trade deal in mid-Jan 2020. As China reported zero (pdf) new coronavirus-related deaths for the preceding 24 hours on Apr 7, for the first time since the outbreak, the White House has signalled its suspicions that the People’s Republic is concealing its actual statistics. Pindo Sec State Pompeo said on Tuesday in an apparent reference to the People’s Republic:

Every nation, be they a democracy or not, has to share this information in a transparent, open, efficient way.

The Trump administration has repeatedly blasted China for the country’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, claiming that Beijing was withholding information needed to curb the spread of COVID-19. For its part, China refuted the allegations, insisting that it had been transparent about the pandemic from the start. China is hardly hiding anything, argues Thomas Weir Pauken II, a Beijing-based Asia-Pacific Affairs commentator and author of “Pindostan vs China: From Trade War to Reciprocal Deal,” who has been keeping an eye on the pandemic since the outbreak. He says:

New confirmed coronavirus cases are getting reported in China daily. Beijing has a public announcement system in play to issue text messages to all Chinese smartphones to disclose the daily reporting of numbers. By reviewing recent texts, I can see that 54 cases were reported in China on Monday Apr 6.

According to him, it’s too early yet to say that China has completely defeated COVID-19, until people with coronavirus have been either cured or listed as dying from it. As of Apr 8, the People’s Republic had (pdf) two new coronavirus-related deaths. he remarks:

You need a two-week time frame after that when no new cases are getting reported. That’s because the virus could still impact the country under a second wave.

Likewise, Pauken, a Pindo citizen who has been living in China for the last decade, does not buy into allegations that China did not inform the international community about the virus in a timely manner. He stresses that Beijing raised the alarm over the new highly contagious virus in the end of December, insisting that Pompeo might have been informed about the situation at that time. On Dec 31 2019, Chinese health boxtops reported to the WHO that they had faced the then-unknown virus. According to the entity’s official press-release, the three levels of the WHO, including the China country office, the regional office for the Western Pacific and WHO headquarters have been jointly working to respond to the outbreak since Jan 2 2020. On Jan 11, the genome sequence of COVID-19 deciphered by the Chinese scientists was published on an open access site, making it available for the global biomedical community.

​For comparison’s sake, it took several months for Chinese health workers to identify SARS after its outbreak Nov 2002. The epidemic was brought under control in late Jun 2003 and nixed by mid-Aug 2003. The WHO has been recently subjected to criticism from the White House as well. On Tuesday, Trump accused the international organisation of downplaying coronavirus-related risks, referring to the WHO’s criticism of the Pindo travel ban imposed on China in the aftermath of the outbreak. In addition, Trump blamed the entity for an alleged pro-China bias and threatened to suspend its funding. Trump tweeted:

​According to Pauken, the argument that the WHO is scheming to cover up for China does not appear convincing. He says:

The WHO receives a large amount of funding from non-Chinese donors, while Faschingstein delivers much aid to the WHO. Why would the WHO alienate its donor base just to please Beijing? How could they benefit in the long-term by engaging in so-called criminal actions? China has made every effort to explain its expertise to the rest of the world, and now is stretching a helping hand to the nations of Asia, Europe, Latin American and Africa that are fighting the highly contagious virus.

Last week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that China had donated 1,000 ventilators to the state, which remains one of the most severely hit by the pandemic in Pindostan. The Beijing-based political commentator opines:

China wishes to gain greater respect. The country does not like being treated like an outcast in global governance mechanisms. The West views Beijing with grave suspicions and that can cause more harm than good. Amid the pandemic, China can play a crucial role to conduct extensive lab research on vaccines and medicines, export huge loads of medical supplies, while informing other sovereign nations how China has mostly overcome the coronavirus by enforcing stringent lockdowns, quarantines and to explain their mistakes and good deeds. The ‘Blame China’ approach will be disastrous for the West. Only China has the capacity to export sufficient coronavirus medical supplies to other countries, since Chinese factories are up and running at full tilt. Many other countries remain under lockdowns, which has severely disrupted local supply chains. Let China help. It’s not worth dying for the ‘Blame China’ political movement.

she’s right, folks

Op-Ed: Refusing To Vote For Truden Is The Same As Voting For Bimp
Caitlin Johnstone, Apr 9 2020

Today’s Caitlin Johnstone article has been replaced with an op-ed by
Snooty McCentrist of the National News Conglomerate. NNC: Obey.

Bernie Sanders has suspended his presidential primary run, leaving the 2020 race a simple contest between former Vice President Doe Truden and President Jonald Bimp. The time is now for Sanders supporters to lay aside the many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many many differences they have with Truden to avoid the re-election of someone with whom they have many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many many differences. It’s time to tell it like it is, Bernie Bros: if you refuse to vote for Truden just because he’s a demented right-wing racist authoritarian warmongering corporate whore who has been credibly accused of rape and with whom you share no common ideological ground, that’s the same as voting for the other demented right-wing racist authoritarian warmongering corporate whore who has been credibly accused of rape and with whom you share no common ideological ground. Now do you really want that on your conscience? I hear some Berners arguing that they see it as the exact opposite: that a vote for Truden is the same as a vote for Bimp, because the ideological distance between a leftist and Truden is orders of magnitude greater than the ideological difference between Truden and Bimp. But nothing could be further from the truth! For example, both Truden and Bimp have completely different names, with completely different letters in them. Don’t believe me? Look at their names for yourself. They’re not even spelled the same. I hear others arguing that if refusing to vote for Truden is the same as voting for Bimp, then isn’t refusing to vote for Bimp the same as voting for Truden? And the answer to that is hush. You shut your filthy mouth. If Bernie Bros decide to stay home, or vote third party, or vote down-ballot only, or assemble a political movement that stands a chance at actually changing things, or donning yellow vests and taking to the streets, or getting the word out to the public that they’re all living a lie and the mass media is actually a highly sophisticated propaganda operation designed to lull them into supporting the status quo in fake election after fake election where the game is rigged and the plutocrats own both parties, that’s the same as voting for Jonald Bimp, and why would you want that when you could have a president from a completely different party, who has a completely different name? Time to grow up and get realistic, Bernie Bros. Now sit down and clap for our puppet show.

the lion’s roar

Coronavirus spread in UK is a crime – John Pilger
RT.com, Apr 8 2020

John Pilger has revealed that the NHS staged an exercise in London in 2016 which proved it was unable to cope with a pandemic like Covid-19, but its findings were suppressed. Speaking to RT’s Going Underground, Pilger said that back in 2016, the UK government ran a drill in London that showed the health service was incapable of dealing with an outbreak. He described the failure as a “crime” and told host Afshin Rattansi that the findings from the exercise, titled Cygnus, had been concealed by the government. he said:

The result of the drill was that the health service was overwhelmed, there weren’t enough beds, there weren’t enough ventilators, there weren’t enough clinicians in the right places. The whole system, which had been battered by cuts and privatization for years, failed.

The journalist explained that the NHS had been “devastated” by the Tory-led government’s decision to bring in the Health and Social Care Act in 2012. Pilger’s scathing comments come a day after the UK recorded its most deaths in a single day since the crisis began. The 854 fatalities took the total to 6,159. Projections by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle, US, warned that the UK could become the European country worst-hit by COVID-19, possibly accounting for 40% of the continent’s deaths. The documentary film-maker, whose most recent works include ‘The Dirty War on the NHS,’ also blasted successive British governments since the 1980s for slashing NHS funding and pursuing a policy of privatization by stealth.

it’s just about worth a hollow laugh, this one

Trump administration plan to provide millions of free face masks fizzled
Caitlin Owens, Jonathan Swan, Axios, Apr 8 2020

Photo: Genaro Molina/LA Times

Top Trump admin boxtops had been developing a plan to give cloth masks to huge numbers of Pindos, but the idea lost traction amid heavy internal skepticism. The scale of this undertaking would have been extraordinary, mobilizing an enormous public-private partnership to deliver protective cloth masks to millions of people: in one iteration of the idea, maybe even to every Pindo. Admin boxtops had considered a partnership in which Hanes and Fruit of the Loom manufactured millions of cloth face masks and the Postal Service would have helped deliver them. Robert Kadlec, the Asst Sec for Preparedness and Response at the DHHS, was the key driver of the idea and had vocal support from Deputy NSA Matthew Pottinger. The idea came up a few weekends ago during a coronavirus task force meeting in the Situation Room, while HHS Sec Alex Azar was briefing the team on Hanes’ decision to start making cotton masks.
Kadlec seized upon and later expanded upon the concept, arguing for a partnership among Hanes, Fruit of the Loom and the Postal Service. He wanted to publicly announce the proposal in conjunction with the then-upcoming federal guidance encouraging people to wear masks. A former senior HHS official familiar with the discussion said:

If CDC is going to recommend face coverings, the government should at least provide them for its citizens.

Hanes has already announced that it’s retooling its factories to make masks for health care workers to help alleviate shortages. But Kadlec’s idea for a bigger partnership has been tabled. One source familiar with the situation said:

It’s passed from different entities at the White House, and has been a dying a slow death. Several senior boxtops opposed the idea, questioning its practicality.

One senior boxtop said:

It’s not clear they have thought through the costs, the logistics of how this would work, or whether this is a wise idea in the first place.

the former senior HHS official said:

Making these masks and getting them out is not complicated. If government leaders think this is too hard, how can we trust them to safely reopen our economy?

trump is just a racist driveller, like the rest but more so

WHO chief warns against ‘politicizing’ coronavirus unless ‘you want to have more body bags’
Justin Wise, The Hill, Apr 8 2020

WHO DG Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Photo:Getty

The WHO’s director-general on Wednesday warned world leaders against politicizing the novel coronavirus after Pres Trump threatened to cut off funding to the organization due its handling of the outbreak. Speaking at a virtual press conference, WHO’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged leaders to focus on saving lives, saying:

Please do not politicize this virus. If you want to be exploited and if you want to have many more body bags, then you do it. If you don’t want many more body bags, then you refrain from politicizing it. Without unity, we assure you even any country that may have a better system will be in trouble and more crisis. That’s our message. Unity at the national level. No need to use COVID to score political points. No need. You have many other ways to prove yourselves.

The comments came just a day after Trump repeatedly targeted the WHO and China over their early response to COVID-19, claiming the WHO seemed “very biased toward China.” China has been accused of downplaying the threat of the coronavirus, which is thought to have originated in the city of Wuhan in December. Trump said that he’d consider a pause of Pindo funding in response. Pindostan is one of the world’s biggest financial contributors to WHO. Trump said at a press conference on Wednesday:

They actually criticized and disagreed with my travel ban at the time I did it, and they were wrong. They’ve been wrong about a lot of things. They had a lot of information early, and they didn’t — they seemed to be very China-centric. We have to look into it.

Tedros noted that with unity at a global level, resources would not be a problem for WHO. He said that he expected Pindostan to continue contributing to the organization and thanked the nation for its “generous support so far.” During his Wednesday remarks, Tedros also noted that Thursday will mark 100 days since WHO was notified about the first cases involving a “pneumonia with unknown cause” in China. WHO in late January announced the virus to be a public emergency of international concern, before declaring it a pandemic on Mar 11.

Taiwan protests WHO leader’s accusations of racist campaign
Johnson Lai, AP, Apr 8 2020

TAIPEI – Taiwan’s foreign ministry on Thursday strongly protested accusations from the head of the World Health Organization that it condoned racist personal attacks on him that he alleged were coming from the self-governing island democracy. The ministry expressed “strong dissatisfaction and a high degree of regret” at WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’ remarks at a press briefing Wednesday. It requested he “immediately correct his unfounded allegations, immediately clarify, and apologize to our country.” Taiwan’s 23 million people have themselves been “severely discriminated against” by the politics of the international health system and “condemn all forms of discrimination and injustice,” the statement said. Taiwan is a “mature, highly sophisticated nation and could never instigate personal attacks on the director-general of the WHO, much less express racist sentiments,” it said. At the press briefing in Geneva, Tedros vocally defended himself and the UN health agency’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He accused Taiwan’s foreign ministry of being linked to a months-long campaign against him and said that since the emergence of the new coronavirus, he has been personally attacked, including receiving at times, death threats and racist abuse. “This attack came from Taiwan,” said Tedros, who is a former Ethiopian health and foreign minister and the WHO’s first African leader. He said Taiwanese diplomats were aware of the attacks but did not dissociate themselves from them. Tedros said:

They even started criticizing me in the middle of all those insults and slurs. I say it today because it’s enough.

The basis of his allegations were unclear. Tedros was elected with the strong support of China, one of five permanent veto-wielding members of the UNSC and which claims Taiwan as its own territory. He has firmly backed Beijing’s claims to have been open and transparent about the outbreak, despite strong evidence that it suppressed early reports on infections, while echoing its criticisms of Pindostan. At China’s insistence, Taiwan has been barred from the UN and the WHO and even stripped of its observer status at the annual World Health Assembly. At the same time, it has one of the most robust public health systems in the world, and has won praise for its handling of the virus outbreak. Despite its close proximity to China and the frequency of travel between the sides, Taiwan has reported just 379 cases and five deaths. Pindo & Taiwanese boxtops met online last month to discuss ways of increasing the island’s participation in the world health system, sparking fury from Beijing, which opposes all official contacts between Washington and Taipei. Also at Wednesday’s briefing, Tedros sought to rise above sharp criticism and threats of funding cuts from Trump over the WHO’s response to the outbreak. The vocal defense came a day after Trump blasted the agency for being “China-centric” and alleging that it had “criticized” his ban of travel from China as the COVID-19 outbreak was spreading from the city of Wuhan. In a further comment on Tedros’ remarks, Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu tweeted that the island agreed with his assertion that there was, “No need to use COVID to score political points.” Wu tweeted:

We agree! Yet without evidence, #Taiwan is accused of orchestrating personal attacks. This claim is baseless, without merit & further marginalizes the good work in which the @WHO is engaged worldwide.

Tedros had not appeared to have accused the Taiwanese government of being directly behind the attacks, but merely of condoning them.

yesterday we had the groon’s version of this drivel, here is the nyt’s version, complete with bullshit photo

Syria Used CW Three Times in One Week, Watchdog Says
Ben Hubbard, NYT, Apr 8 2020

Victims of a sarin attack in the city of Khan Sheikhoun in 2017, which led
to a punitive missile strike by Pindostan. Photo: Alaa Alyousef/AP

BEIRUT — An investigative team with the international group that monitors compliance with the CW ban accused the Syrian government on Wednesday of having launched three CW attacks on one village in northern Syria in Mar 2017, sickening scores of people. The team, established by the OPCW, said in a report that in the span of one week, Syrian fighter jets had twice dropped bombs containing sarin nerve agent on the village and a helicopter had targeted its hospital with a cylinder containing chlorine. Reports of CW use have surfaced frequently during Syria’s nine-year civil war, and boxtops from Pindostan, Turkey and other countries have accused the Syrian government of using banned weapons to try to break the back of the rebel movement that is seeking to oust Pres Assad. The OPCW verified the use of CW in many of these cases, but had refrained from assigning blame for who deployed them, raising criticism from activists that holding back such judgments diminished the chances for accountability. So the organization established an investigative body, known as the Investigation and Identification Team, that was assigned to determine responsibility for CW use in Syria. The report on Wednesday was the team’s first, and it pointed the finger at Assad’s forces. The team based its investigation on a range of evidence, including witness testimonies, videos, forensic reports on recovered munitions scraps, medical records and satellite imagery, the report said. While acknowledging reports of dozens of CW attacks in Syria, the report focused on three, in the rebel-held village of Latamina in northern Syria during the last week of Mar 2017. On Mar 24, the team found, a Syrian fighter jet dropped a bomb carrying sarin on the village, sickening 16 people. The next day, a Syrian military helicopter dropped a cylinder containing chlorine on the village’s hospital, which crashed through the roof, released its noxious fumes and sickened 30 people. On Mar 30, a Syrian fighter jet dropped another bomb on the village containing sarin, sickening at least 60 people. Sarin is a banned nerve agent, and its use is considered a war crime. While chlorine has legal uses in industry and cleaning, its use as a CW also is considered a war crime. The investigative team said it had examined alternative possibilities for each attack, including claims by the governments of Syria and Russia that the attacks had been staged by anti-government activists to demonize Assad’s government. But the team called its conclusions “the only ones that could be reasonably reached from the information obtained.” Such attacks, the team’s report said, could only be carried out based on orders from “the highest levels” of the Syrian military. But names of those believed responsible were redacted from the public version of the report. Despite the mounting evidence of repeated CW use by Assad’s forces, little has been done by the international community to hold them or their leaders accountable. But Wednesday’s report provided some consolation to survivors of the attacks it described. Ahmad al-Rahmoun, who passed out after breathing in gas from the attack on Mar 30 wondered why it had taken so long for an international body to assign blame. He said:

Until today, my bones, my eyes are hurting. Why did they wait until today to accuse Bashar?

He called for Assad to be prosecuted as well as “all the pilots behind such attacks.” The Syrian government has denied throughout the war that its forces have used CW, while accusing rebels and anti-government activists of faking attacks to generate international sympathy. Russia and Iran have backed his denials. The OPCW team said in its report it had received no cooperation from the Syrian government in its investigation, nor was it able to visit the attack sites. The Syrian government did not immediately comment on the findings. Pindostan, a strong supporter of the team’s investigation, welcomed the report as a demonstration of what Sec State Pompeo called OPCW’s “unbiased and professional” work. Pompeo said in a statement:

No amount of disinformation from Assad’s enablers in Russia and Iran can hide the fact that the Assad regime is responsible for numerous CW attacks.

The attacks in Latamina received little attention at the time because they did not kill anyone, but they came just days before a Syrian government CW attack on another town nearby, Khan Sheikhoun, killed more than 80 people on Apr 4 2017. Pres Trump responded to that attack by ordering the launch of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at military sites in Syria to punish Assad for using CW. The White House later declassified a report that accused Syria of not only carrying out the attack, but also working with the Russian government on a disinformation campaign to deflect blame. After the deadliest CW attack in Syria’s war, on an area near Damascus known as Ghouta in Aug 2013, Russia facilitated an international agreement for Syria to give up its CW stockpiles and dismantle its capabilities. While members of the Obama administration lauded the agreement for getting rid of Syria’s CW peacefully, reports of CW attacks by Assad’s forces continued to surface. The three CW attacks attributed to the Syrian government in Wednesday’s report came after Syria was supposed to have relinquished all of its CW.

what i’m worried about is the ventilators (machines), not the respirators (masks)

Customs to seize exports of masks and gloves amid coronavirus pandemic
Tal Axelrod, The Hill, Apr 8 2020

The federal government will begin seizing exports of personal protective equipment, or PPE, until it decides if the tools should be kept in the country to fight the coronavirus. Pindo Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced Wednesday it will prevent respirators, surgical masks and surgical gloves from leaving the country. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will then determine if the equipment should be returned, purchased by the government or exported. The two agencies said in a joint statement:

FEMA and CBP are working together to prevent domestic brokers, distributors, and other intermediaries from diverting these critical medical resources overseas.

The announcement comes days after Trump invoked the Defense Production Act (DPA) to stop the flow of critical equipment outside of the country. The White House said in a statement:

Today’s order is another step in our ongoing fight to prevent hoarding, price gouging, and profiteering by preventing the harmful export of critically needed PPE. It will help ensure that needed PPE is kept in our country and gets to where it is needed to defeat the virus.

Trump clarified last week he will not prevent the sale of any PPE to other countries with “long-term orders,” particularly if they are dealing with significant coronavirus outbreaks. Foreign governments have panned the White House’s decision, suggesting it could lead to retaliation and obstruct international cooperation. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday:

These are things that Pindos rely on, and it would be a mistake to create blockages or reduce the amount of back-and-forth trade of essential goods and services, including medical goods, across our border.

storm in a teacup

The article indeed said the Pindo DoD’s Delegation of Procurement, but this was a good-faith error. In fact, I realised at the time, there is no such thing. The entity concerned is the IOF’s Delegation of Procurement. I changed my version without comment to reflect this – RB

Did Pindostan just supply a million face masks to the IOF?
Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada, Apr 8 2020

A story in the JPost stirred online outrage on Tuesday. The headline read:

Pindo DoD gives a million masks to IOF for coronavirus use.

The opening sentence explained:

A plane carrying over a million surgical masks for the IOF landed in Ben Gurion airport Tuesday night, in an operation run by the Pindo DoD’s Delegation of Procurement.

I was one of many people who highlighted the story on Twitter:

It was also reported separately by Tsahi Dabush, a journalist for IOF radio, that a million masks were flown from Pindostan to Israel for use by soldiers.

But is it a misunderstanding? A few hours later, the JPost made significant changes to the story. The headline now reads:

Israel brings 1 million masks from China for IOF.

There is no longer any mention in the story of the Pindo DoD, except for in a photo caption that still states:

The Pindo DoD delivers one million surgical masks to be used by the IOF.

The story is vague about where exactly the masks were flown in from, but it claims they were “procured” in China. There is no explanation for why the story was changed, but it could have been done to draw attention away from any Pindo role in shipping supplies overseas amid outrage at the Pindo government’s failure to secure adequate medical supplies at home. Or the story could simply have been wrong. When Pindo health-care workers are risking their lives without proper protective gear to try to save patients with COVID-19, and Pindos are being asked to fashion masks out of scarves, coffee filters and old t-shirts, why would Pindostan send precious supplies to the IOF? Is it now possible that while nurses and doctors plead for supplies in Pindostan, IOF will be protected as they continue to attack Palestinians? Any Pindo role in supplying the masks to Israel would be all the more notable given that Pindostan has blocked the export of PPE to other countries, including Canada. One thing to point out is that masks seen in the photo published by the JPost appear to be surgical masks, rather than the N95 respirators that are said to be most effective at filtering out the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. However, the Pindo CDC, specifies that both surgical masks and N95 respirators are “critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for health-care workers and other medical first responders.” In fact, and in the face of shortages, the CDC is telling frontline health workers to wear surgical masks, preserving the N95 respirators for the riskiest situations. Both the original and cleaned-up versions of the JPost story mention the role of “the New York Purchasing and Logistics Division” in obtaining the masks. This appears to be a reference to the IOF’s office in NYC. IOF radio’s Dabush also tweeted that “credit goes to the defense ministry’s procurement office in Pindostan.” The original story’s reference to “the Pindo DoD’s Delegation of Procurement” looks like an erroneous translation by the JPost of the name of this IOF office. However, the mission of this office is specifically to purchase supplies for the IOF from Pindo vendors, using Pindo military aid. It may be the case that the JPost mistranslated an official press release saying that the IOFi procurement office in New York obtained the masks from China and flew them to Israel. But if that’s the case they should issue a clear correction, rather than changing a story without explanation.

this is bound to be mere mi6 disinfo, unfortunately

Mohammed bin Zayed pushed Assad to break Idlib ceasefire
David Hearst, Middle East Eye, Apr 8 2020

Mohammed bin Zayed (MBZ), the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, is making strenuous and persistent attempts to get Assad to break a ceasefire with Turkish-backed rebels in Idlib province, Middle East Eye has been told. In recent months, Assad’s forces backed by Russian airpower made significant gains against rebel groups in Syria’s north-western Idlib, killing hundreds and forcing a million civilians to flee towards the Turkish border in the process. Turkey’s military intervened in February, helping balance the conflict until violence was stopped by a Moscow-brokered truce last month. However, MBZ both tried to prevent the ceasefire agreement between Putin and Erdogan from being implemented, and has since called Assad to encourage him to relaunch his offensive, MEE has learned. Days before the ceasefire deal was struck in a four-and-a-half-hour meeting in the Kremlin on 5 March, the crown prince sent Ali al-Shamsi, the deputy of MBZ’s brother and national security adviser Tahnoun bin Zayed, to negotiate a deal with Assad in Damascus. According to sources familiar with MBZ’s plan, the crown prince agreed to pay Assad $3b to reignite the offensive against Idlib, the rebels’ last redoubt, $1b of which was due to be paid before the end of March. By the time the ceasefire was announced, $250m had already been paid up front. The deal was negotiated in the strictest secrecy. Abu Dhabi was particularly concerned that the Americans did not get to hear of it. Faschingstein supported the Turkish military’s efforts to confront Assad’s forces in Idlib, and had already expressed its anger with the crown prince over the release of $700m of frozen Iranian assets in October. One high-level source told MEE:

During the Idlib clashes, al-Shamsi met Bashar and asked him not to reach an agreement with Erdogan on a ceasefire. This happened just before Erdogan’s meeting with Putin. Assad replied that he needs financial support. He said that Iran has stopped paying because they don’t have cash, and the Russians don’t pay anyway. So he asked for $5b in direct support for Syria. They agreed on $3bn, $1bn paid before the end of March. When Assad started to rebuild his forces for a push on Turkish positions in Idlib, the Russians, who monitor military movements on the ground closely in Syria, got wind of the plan. Putin was furious. Putin sent his defence minister, Sergei Shoygu, on an unplanned visit to Damascus to stop the Syrian government firing up the offensive again. The message Shoygu delivered was clear: ‘We do not want you to restart this offensive. Russia wants the ceasefire to continue.’ By then the Emiratis had already paid $250m to Damascus.

A senior Turkish official has confirmed that the UAE made such an offer to the Syrian government. The official said:

All I can say is that the content of the report is true.

Middle East Eye has approached the UAE authorities for comment. Sources told Middle East Eye that MBZ persisted in his attempts to get Assad to break the ceasefire even after Shoygu’s visit. A second tranche of the initial $1b was delivered to Damascus. The crown prince’s motives for paying Assad to re-launch his offensive were twofold. Firstly, Abu Dhabi wanted to tie the Turkish army up in a costly war in north-western Syria. Turkey had just launched its fourth offensive in the country, after Syrian government troops killed 34 Turkish soldiers on Feb 27, Ankara’s deadliest day in the nine-year conflict. Secondly, MBZ wanted to stretch the resources of the Turkish army and distract Erdogan from successfully defending Tripoli from Khalifa Haftar’s forces in Libya, where Ankara recently came to the aid of the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA). As soon as Shoygu quashed Emirati attempts to break the ceasefire, MBZ became anxious that the plan would leak out to the Pindos. He needed a cover story for the money he had already paid Damascus and he also wanted to continue to persuade the Syrian government to break the ceasefire. The crown prince called the president in Damascus. The high-level source said:

The UAE did not tell the Pindos. So with all of this, the UAE became very concerned that the news will come out, especially after the fuss about the unfreezing of Iranian assets. That was the reason MBZ called Assad. News was then released about the conversation between the two leaders. MBZ said on Twitter: “I assured him of the support of the UAE and its willingness to help the Syrian people. Humanitarian solidarity during trying times supersedes all matters, and Syria and her people will not stand alone.”

Warming relations between the UAE and the Syrian government have been public for some time. Though the Emiratis backed the opposition when war broke out in 2011, last year it reopened its Damascus embassy, and officials have made efforts to speak about ties in increasingly effusive language. The conversation between the crown prince and Syrian president was more than merely a continuation of this trend, however, and suspicions about the true nature of MBZ’s call arose over its timing. MBZ wanted to give the impression that his call was in solidarity with Syria facing the coronavirus outbreak, although when they spoke Damascus was denying any major outbreak in the country. According to sources, the crown prince’s main motive for wanting to bog the Turkish army down in Idlib was the situation in Libya. The year-long offensive on Tripoli mounted by Haftar’s UAE-backed Libyan National Army has been stalled by Ankara’s deployment of drones, Turkish troops and Syrian mercenaries. However for Putin, who also backs Haftar against the GNA in Tripoli, Russia’s strategic alliance with Turkey trumped all other considerations. The maintenance of a ceasefire in Idlib was more important. MBZ was thus left with a mess on his hands that he was desperate to clear up, the source said.