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Washington Complains: China is Doing What We Always Do! | The American Conservative

Posted by M. C. on June 20, 2020

The U.S. has long used foreign aid as walking around money for the secretary of state. Countries with American bases have always gotten more cash, as have nations that have made peace with American allies, such as Egypt and Jordan.

America will be sorely disappointed if it believes it can convince—or compel with money and threats—its allies into following whatever policies it promulgates. Joining an American campaign against China looks suicidal to Seoul.

Beijing is using threats and aid to pressure other governments to toe the line. Wherever did they get that from?

In a new official strategy of confrontation against the People’s Republic of China, the Trump administration has announced its intention “to compel Beijing to cease or reduce actions harmful to the United States’ vital, national interests and those of our allies and partners.”

Explains the strategy paper:

Given Beijing’s increasing use of economic leverage to extract political concessions from or exact retribution against other countries, the United States judges that Beijing will attempt to convert [One Belt One Road] projects into undue political influence and military access. Beijing uses a combination of threat and inducement to pressure governments, elites, corporations, think tanks, and others—often in an opaque manner—to toe the CCP line and censor free expression. Beijing has restricted trade and tourism with Australia, Canada, South Korea, Japan, Norway, the Philippines, and others, and has detained Canadian citizens, in an effort to interfere in these countries’ internal political and judicial processes.

All true. But which government pioneered the use of economic resources to reward and punish other nations? Hint: it was not China.

The U.S. has long used foreign aid as walking around money for the secretary of state. Countries with American bases have always gotten more cash, as have nations that have made peace with American allies, such as Egypt and Jordan.

In contrast, governments that have crossed Washington have lost money. In 1956, the Eisenhower administration punished Egypt’s Nasser government by revoking its offer to finance the Aswan High Dam. In 1990, Secretary of State James Baker told Yemen’s UN ambassador, “that was the most expensive no vote you ever cast,” after he voted against the UN Security Council resolution authorizing war against Iraq.

Washington has also used trade barriers to reward and punish other states. The U.S. embargoed Cuba six decades ago, and has since applied secondary sanctions that have hit other nations as well. The use of financial sanctions has become Washington’s modus operandi.

Indeed, the Trump administration has dramatically escalated economic warfare, applying “maximum pressure” to Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela, hitting Cuba, Russia, and Syria with multiple new penalties, threatening to sanction Europeans if they try to avoid Iranian restrictions, and targeting Germany’s Nordstream 2 natural gas pipeline to Russia. The White House treats sanctions as the default response to governments that resist Washington’s dictates.

All of these measures were imposed “in an effort to interfere in [other] countries’ internal political and judicial processes.” In fact, despite Washington’s fervent objections to Russian election meddling in 2016, the U.S. has intervened in more than 80 democratic elections in other nations, including the 1986 presidential contest in Russia.

Yet although America remains number one, China’s economic clout is significant, including with important countries such as South Korea. Indeed, without any sense of irony, Matthew Ha of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies recently expressed concern that China was thwarting U.S. pressure on Seoul to follow Washington’s policies. For instance, Beijing “launched an economic warfare campaign that cost South Korean companies operating in China at least $15.6 billion in losses” because the Republic of Korea deployed the THAAD missile defense system.

Complained Ha: “To placate China, Seoul eventually agreed not to deploy further THAAD systems, not to join a U.S.-led regional missile defense architecture, and not to form a trilateral U.S.-Japan-ROK alliance.” Moreover, claimed Ha, “due in part to concerns over Chinese retaliation, Seoul has not completely divested its telecommunications infrastructure from the Chinese company Huawei.” Further, “China’s hand is also evident in Seoul’s aversion to the U.S.-and Japan-led ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific’ (FOIP) initiative,” instead favoring its own policy directed at Southeast Asia.

If all this is due to a $15.6 billion hit, then Washington should take lessons. The Trump administration has caused economic damage to many countries, yet its wrecking-ball sanctions have so far failed in every case: Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Syria, and Venezuela all have refused to give into U.S. demands.

The president has been reduced to begging Tehran to negotiate, promising a better deal if it surrenders before November 3 to help his reelection prospects. Iran and Venezuela ridiculed Washington’s threats to interdict Tehran’s tankers. The communists still rule Cuba. Despite two summits, North Korea’s Kim Jong-un is strengthening his country’s nuclear deterrent. No one believes that Russia will give up Crimea.

No doubt, South Korea worries about China’s clout, since the Chinese trade more with them than America and Japan combined. But Beijing is also a good excuse to resist U.S. demands seen as unreasonable, especially given that the current president is Moon Jae-in, a man of the left who has no natural affinity for President Trump.

China sees THAAD as part of a U.S.-directed containment system. And South Korea is not the only ally less than enthused by the administration’s demand to displace Huawei. These issues are about more than money. China will always be South Korea’s neighbor and has a long memory. The U.S.’s national government effectively bankrupt and beset with manifold other challenges, is not likely to stick around Korea forever.

The point is, contra Washington’s delusions, South Korean officials do not believe that taking part in an anti-China campaign serves South Korea’s interests. Ha writes: “Beijing’s sway over this key U.S. ally is especially risky amid growing Chinese aggression and competition with the United States. Most recently, Beijing pushed Seoul to bless China’s new national security law designed to crack down on pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. Seeking to avoid conflict, Seoul took a neutral position, thereby undermining the protesters and revealing an alarming inability to support the liberal democratic values that underpin the ROK-U.S. alliance.”

What evidence does Ha have that Seoul wanted to join the complaint? Most of America’s European allies and Asian friends took similarly cautious positions. Even Tokyo ostentatiously refused to join America’s statement on Hong Kong, though the former now says it wants to take the lead on the issue at the next G-7 meeting, to uncertain effect.

Moreover, the U.S. routinely sacrifices other people’s democratic aspirations and human rights for policy ends. Without shame, the administration is assisting the brutally totalitarian and aggressive Saudi dictatorship as it slaughters Yemeni civilians and denies its own people political and religious liberty. Washington stands by as the Egyptian and Bahraini dictatorships brutally crush democracy activists and protesters.

Yet Ha demands action to push—or is that force?—South Korea onto the battlefield against China. He writes: “If its China strategy is to succeed, the Trump administration must counter Beijing’s attempts to undermine U.S. alliances.” Which requires that Washington “assuage ROK concerns about Chinese coercion by committing to proportionately punish China for any attempted coercion and to provide South Korea with immediate economic support to cope with Beijing’s retaliation.”

So Washington, the world’s chief proponent of economic warfare, is going to sanction another country because it organizes a boycott, cuts investment, or restricts trade to another country? And Washington, with a skyrocketing national debt, is going to create a new dole for wealthy countries like South Korea? Imagine the long line of claimants that will develop demanding compensation for following America! But what if Washington’s friends still balk at following U.S. dictates? Will America then sanction them, making them pay for their perfidy?

This bizarre strategy is doomed to fail. Despite Washington’s presumption that it speaks for the world, its allies often disagree. Seoul currently disputes American policy toward North Korea. Unsurprisingly, South Korean policymakers want to preserve peaceful, stable relations with both the U.S. and China.

“If we antagonize China,” observed Moon Chung-in, an adviser to South Korea’s president, “China can pose a military threat to us. Plus, China can support North Korea. Then, we will really have a new Cold War on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia.” Of course, some Americans don’t care about the possibility of war “over there,” as Senator Lindsey Graham famously put it. South Koreans understandably see it very differently.

When I ask South Korean diplomats whether they are prepared to allow the U.S. military to use their bases against China in a war over Taiwan, they blanch. There ain’t no way their country is going to be turned into a battleground and made an enemy of the Chinese at Washington’s command.

Washington has enough problems dealing with China without creating a new battleground with little practical benefit to America. The U.S. already is running a trade war, seeking to force compensation for the COVID-19 outbreak, and threatening Chinese concerns with sanctions tied to Iran and North Korea.

America will be sorely disappointed if it believes it can convince—or compel with money and threats—its allies into following whatever policies it promulgates. Joining an American campaign against China looks suicidal to Seoul. Demanding that South Korea choose between Washington and Beijing could wreck the alliance. Right now, hubris poses a bigger threat than China to U.S. foreign policy.

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The NIH had 13 years to prepare for coronavirus but still didn’t

Posted by M. C. on June 2, 2020

Twelve and a half years ago, in October 2007, researchers at the University of Hong Kong published an article entitled “Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus as an Agent of Emerging and Reemerging Infection.” 
The same article points out that, in the time since the Hong Kong study emerged, the NIH spent millions on drunk monkeys, fat lesbians, television’s effects in Vietnam, soap operas for people with HIV, and querying whether alcohol drives stupid gambling decisions.
If there’s one thing the coronavirus experience has taught us, it’s that bureaucracies don’t function as well as they’re supposed to.  In New York, the bureaucracy opted to spend $500 million on illegal aliens instead of on ventilators.  Likewise, during the Obama administration, after the 2009 H1N1 epidemic, the Obama administration, despite warnings, never bothered to replenish stockpiles of N95.

It turns out now that the NIH was also doing the bureaucratic equivalent of twiddling its thumbs when it should have been acting to prepare America for the next pandemic.  It’s sheer luck — mixed in with Trump’s foresight about China and good management skills — that Johns Hopkins, in late 2019, ranked America as the best prepared country in the world for handling a pandemic.

Twelve and a half years ago, in October 2007, researchers at the University of Hong Kong published an article entitled “Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus as an Agent of Emerging and Reemerging Infection.”  The introduction, which looked back at SARS, described how China was a coronavirus Petri dish and warned that there could be a repeat of a SARS-style pandemic based upon Chinese food and lifestyle practices (emphasis added):

Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronavirus (SARS-CoV) is a novel virus that caused the first major pandemic of the new millennium (89, 180, 259). The rapid economic growth in southern China has led to an increasing demand for animal proteins including those from exotic game food animals such as civets. Large numbers and varieties of these wild game mammals in overcrowded cages and the lack of biosecurity measures in wet markets allowed the jumping of this novel virus from animals to human (353, 376). Its capacity for human-to-human transmission, the lack of awareness in hospital infection control, and international air travel facilitated the rapid global dissemination of this agent. Over 8,000 people were affected, with a crude fatality rate of 10%. The acute and dramatic impact on health care systems, economies, and societies of affected countries within just a few months of early 2003 was unparalleled since the last plague. The small reemergence of SARS in late 2003 after the resumption of the wildlife market in southern China and the recent discovery of a very similar virus in horseshoe bats, bat SARS-CoV, suggested that SARS can return if conditions are fit for the introduction, mutation, amplification, and transmission of this dangerous virus (45, 190, 215, 347). Here, we review the biology of the virus in relation to the epidemiology, clinical presentation, pathogenesis, laboratory diagnosis, animal models or hosts, and options for treatment, immunization, and infection control.

The National Institutes of Health is the government agency primarily responsible for biomedical and public health research.  After SARS and, again, after H1N1, the NIH, along with the CDC, should have been paying close attention to illnesses emerging in China and other third-world countries.

It’s important to note in this regard that China’s risky practices were not so esoteric that the NIH and CDC couldn’t reasonably have been expected to know about them.  In November 2017, two years before the coronavirus reared up in China, Smithsonian Magazine was asking, “Is China Ground Zero for a Future Pandemic?”  Although the article was concerned with diseases originating with birds, it still stated pertinent facts relevant to all animal-to-human viruses:

But China is uniquely positioned to create a novel flu virus that kills people. On Chinese farms, people, poultry and other livestock often live in close proximity. Pigs can be infected by both bird flu and human flu viruses, becoming potent “mixing vessels” that allow genetic material from each to combine and possibly form new and deadly strains. The public’s taste for freshly killed meat, and the conditions at live markets, create ample opportunity for humans to come in contact with these new mutations.

If the NIH wasn’t paying attention to China, what was it doing?  It was doing fun and trendy stuff, the bureaucratic equivalent of playing video games instead of working.  On Thursday, John Solomon published a scathing article about the NIH’s costly failures:

On a steamy summer day inside the lecture auditorium of the storied National Institutes of Health headquarters, Dr. Michael Bracken delivered a stark message to an audience that dedicated its life, and owed its living, to medical research.

As much as 87.5% of biomedical research is wasted or inefficient, the respected Yale University epidemiologist declared in a sobering assessment for a federal research agency that spends about $40 billion a year on medical studies.

He backed his staggering statistic with these additional stats: 50 out of every 100 medical studies fail to produce published findings, and half of those that do publish have serious design flaws. And those that aren’t flawed and manage to publish are often needlessly redundant.

The same article points out that, in the time since the Hong Kong study emerged, the NIH spent millions on drunk monkeys, fat lesbians, television’s effects in Vietnam, soap operas for people with HIV, and querying whether alcohol drives stupid gambling decisions.

The best thing that could come out of the coronavirus experience would be for the media to be permanently damaged and discounted.  The next best thing would be for Trump to have the wind at his back when he ultimately shrinks and revamps America’s overweight, lazy, expensive, and ineffective bureaucracy.

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War for Hong Kong? – LewRockwell

Posted by M. C. on June 1, 2020

As the writer “Moon of Alabama” has said, “European countries do not fear China or even Chinese spying. They know that the U.S. is doing similar on a much larger scale. Europeans do not see China as a threat and they do not want to get involved in the escalating U.S.-China spat. . . Every nation spies. It is one of the oldest trades in this world. That the U.S. is making such a fuss about putative Chinese spying when it itself is the biggest sinner is unbecoming.”


President Trump faces trouble, and he is handling it in a dangerous way. Our economy is reeling, as the Fed pours out billions of dollars in a futile effort to avert disaster. We know to our cost that politicians, faced with crisis at home, provoke war “to busy giddy minds with foreign quarrels.”

Unfortunately, this is just what Trump is doing. According to a CNN news report on Friday, May 28, “President Donald Trump launched a blistering attack on Beijing Friday, naming misdeeds that range from espionage to the violation of Hong Kong’s freedoms, and announced a slew of retaliatory measures that will plunge US-China relations deeper into crisis.

‘They’ve ripped off the United States like no one has ever done before,’ Trump said of China, as he decried the way Beijing has ‘raided our factories’ and ‘gutted’ American industry, casting Beijing as a central foil he will run against in the remaining months of his re-election campaign.

Trump called out China for ‘espionage to steal our industrial secrets, of which there are many,’ announced steps to protect American investors from Chinese financial practices, accused Beijing of ‘unlawfully claiming territory in the Pacific Ocean’ and threatening freedom of navigation.

The President also blasted Beijing for passing a national security law that fundamentally undermines Hong Kong’s autonomy, announcing that going forward the US will no longer grant Hong Kong special status on trade or in other areas and instead will apply the same restrictions to the territory it has in place with China. Trump outlined that the US will strip Hong Kong of the special policy measures on extradition, trade, travel and customs Washington had previously granted it.”

Let’s look at Hong Kong first, as this is the issue most likely to get the American public roused up. “Isn’t it terrible,” some people will say, “that the Chinese government has rounded up and imprisoned rioters against its authority in Hong Kong?” In answer to this, you need to bear in mind a key fact. The American government instigated the Hong Kong protests, and egged them on in a direct challenge to the Chinese government. As Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially known for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook,” pointed out last September, “even US policymakers have all but admitted that the US is funnelling millions of dollars into Hong Kong specifically to support ‘programs’ there. The Hudson Institute in an article titled, ‘China Tries to Blame US for Hong Kong Protests’ would admit:

A Chinese state-run newspaper’s claim that the United States is helping pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong is only partially inaccurate, a top foreign policy expert said Monday. 

Michael Pillsbury, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, told Fox News National Security Analyst KT McFarland the U.S. holds some influence over political matters in the region.

The article would then quote Pillsbury as saying:

We have a large consulate there that’s in charge of taking care of the Hong Kong Policy Act passed by Congress to insure democracy in Hong Kong, and we have also funded millions of dollars of programs through the National Endowment for Democracy [NED] … so in that sense the Chinese accusation is not totally false.

A visit to the NED’s website reveals an entire section of declared funding for Hong Kong specifically. The wording for program titles and their descriptions is intentionally ambiguous to give those like US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo plausible deniability.

However, deeper research reveals NED recipients are literally leading the protests.”

Given this provocative US behavior, the Chinese government could not back down. As Pat Buchanan warned back in December: “There is another issue here — the matter of face.

China has just celebrated the 70th anniversary of the Revolution where Mao proclaimed, ‘China has stood up!’ after a century of foreign humiliations and occupations.

Can Xi Jinping, already the object of a Maoist cult of personality, accept U.S. intervention in the internal affairs of his country or a city that belongs to China? Not likely. Nor is China likely to accede to demands for greater sovereignty, self-determination or independence for Hong Kong.

This would only raise hopes of the city’s eventual escape from its ordained destiny: direct rule by Beijing when the 50-year China-U.K. treaty regarding the transfer of Hong Kong expires in 2047. For Xi to capitulate to the demands of Hong Kong’s demonstrators could cause an outbreak of protests in other Chinese cities and bring on a crisis of the regime.”

In thinking about what to do, we need to be guided by the wisdom of Murray Rothbard. He long ago pointed out that we should oppose American intervention into foreign countries. It isn’t our job to act as a world rights enforcing agency. We should mind our own business. As he put it, “We must say rather that, given the unfortunate existence of the State, we must limit and reduce its power, anywhere and everywhere, and wherever possible. We must try constantly to abolish or at least lower taxes-whether for ‘defense’ or for anything else-and never, never advocate any tax increase. Given the existence of the State, we must try to abolish, and if not abolish to limit and reduce, its internal power-its internal exercise of taxation, counterfeiting, police state aggression, controls, regulations, or whatever. And similarly, we must try to abolish its external power-its power over the citizens of other States. The criminal State must be reduced as much as we can everywhere-whether it be in its internal or external power. In contrast to the usual right-wing partiality for – foreign over domestic intervention, we must recognize that foreign intervention tends to be far worse.”

What Murray said about intervention in Eastern Europe when it was under communist control applies perfectly to our situation: “Now don’t misunderstand me; I have not abandoned moral principle for cynicism. My heart yearns for ethnic justice, for national self-determination for all peoples. . . . But, to paraphrase Sydney Smith’s famous letter to Lady Grey, please let them work this out for themselves! Let us abandon the criminal immorality and folly of continual coercive meddling by non-Eastern European powers (e.g. Britain, France, and now the U.S.) in the affairs of East Europe. Let us hope that one day Germany and Russia, at peace, will willingly grant justice to the peoples of East Europe, but let us not bring about perpetual wars to try to achieve this artificially.”

Trump’s complaints about China’s trade policies again ignore the role of American provocation. Eric Margolis identifies the core fallacy in Trump’s strategy: “Trump’s wars are economic.  They deploy the huge economic and financial might of the United States to steamroll other nations that fail to comply with orders from Washington.  Washington’s motto is ‘obey me or else!’  Economic wars are not bloodless.  Imperial Germany and the Central Powers were starved into surrender in 1918 by a crushing British naval blockade.

Trade sanctions are not making America great, as Trump claims.  They are making America detested around the globe as a crude bully.  Trump’s efforts to undermine the European Union and intimidate Canada add to this ugly, brutal image.

Trump’s ultimate objective, as China clearly knows, is to whip up a world crisis over trade, then dramatically end it – of course, before next year’s elections.  Trump has become a master dictator of US financial markets, rising or lowering them by surprise tweets.  No president should ever have such power, but Trump has seized it.

Trade wars rarely produce any benefits for either side.  They are the equivalent of sending tens of thousands of soldiers to be mowed down by machine guns on the blood-soaked Somme battlefield in WWI.  Glory for the stupid generals; death and misery for the common soldiers.”

Trump also mentioned Chinese claims of territory in the Pacific Ocean.  He ignored the fact that the South China Sea belongs to them, not to us, yet we send our ships there and insist we have a right to control what happens there. Also, a great deal of China’s industry and agriculture is privately owned, so an attack on China would be an attack on private property. Both the neocons and the nationalist “Right” want war with China. We should aim at peace instead, as Murray Rothbard and Ron Paul have taught us.

It is ironic that Trump accused China of industrial espionage. The US has for decades spied and monitored governments and industries all over the world, of course including China.

As the writer “Moon of Alabama” has said, “European countries do not fear China or even Chinese spying. They know that the U.S. is doing similar on a much larger scale. Europeans do not see China as a threat and they do not want to get involved in the escalating U.S.-China spat. . . Every nation spies. It is one of the oldest trades in this world. That the U.S. is making such a fuss about putative Chinese spying when it itself is the biggest sinner is unbecoming.”

The Chinese people are highly productive and intelligent, and their success doesn’t depend on industrial espionage against the United States. Rather than condemn the Chinese, Trump should commend them for their monumental steps toward a free market, with unprecedented economic growth, after suffering the carnage of Maoist communism.

Trump spoke about suing the Chinese for the damage caused by the Covid-19 epidemic. As I wrote in an article last month, “There is good reason to believe that the coronavirus epidemic is part of an American biological warfare campaign against China and Iran. The brilliant physicist Ron Unz, who has time and time again been proved right by events, makes this case in a scintillating analysis.”

Even if the US didn’t do this, it would be highly irregular to sue a nation just because a virus began there. Besides, if America wants to go that route, wouldn’t many countries have grounds to sue America for what the American government did to them? What about Iraq, which has suffered from US bombing and blockades in a war now widely admitted to be a mistake? What about people all over the world who have been killed with arms supplied to foreign governments by the US?

Rather than stir up trouble with China, President Trump should promote free trade. How can it help the people of Hong Kong to deny them its free port, with no tariffs on imports or exports? America needs to confront its domestic crisis, brought on by the terrible lockdown and financial irresponsibility.  War with China will only make our present crisis immeasurably worse.


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Proposed Health Code App Sparks Anger in China

Posted by M. C. on May 26, 2020

Dr. Gupta, Fauci, Gates and China

Who is leading whom?

by Breitbart News

Beijing (AFP) – A Chinese local government’s proposal for a post-coronavirus health app that ranks citizens based on their smoking, drinking, exercise and sleep habits has sparked fury online over privacy concerns.

China has already developed apps that indicate an individual’s likelihood of contracting coronavirus based on their travel history and whether they had come into contact with an infected case.

Hangzhou, a high-tech hub and home to e-commerce giant Alibaba, was among the first Chinese cities to adopt such an app, which gives people a green, yellow or red code that determines if they can buy travel tickets or enter public places.

But the health commission in the eastern city of 10 million people is now considering rolling out an app that looks much deeper into the health of citizens.

The software monitors users in real-time and ranks them on a 100-point “health gradient” scale, according to a post on the commission’s website.

According to shots of the app shared in the post, it ranks citizens out of the entire population of Hangzhou based on their health score, which changes according to the user’s daily actions.

For example, drinking a glass of white wine could set your score back by 1.5 points, while sleeping for seven hours could improve it by one point.

The app can also give companies and residential communities an overall health score based on the scores of individuals, such as employees’ average sleep rate, steps taken and how many of them suffer from chronic disease, according to a screenshot.

Currently in development, the app could be completed as early as June, but further details — such as how data is collected — remain unclear.

“The municipal health commission should grasp the opportunity to deepen the use of health codes… to ensure the full completion of various municipal health systems,” health commission member Sun Yongrong was quoted as saying.

‘New normal?’

Big data-powered health apps developed by local governments in collaboration with internet firms Alibaba and Tencent have become part of the fabric of life in post-coronavirus China.

The apps, which differ by region and are often hosted on the ubiquitous mobile payment platforms AliPay and WeChat Pay, typically collect user location data, transport routes and ID information.

Chinese tech commentator and privacy advocate Lawrence Li said that the new app should ideally be an opt-in system to protect citizens’ rights.

“In the case of COVID (data collection) I think people willingly participated, but it’s another story if the government wants to make it the ‘new normal’,” he told AFP.

The proposal, which was posted online last week, stoked major discussions on the Twitter-like social network Weibo and question-and-answer forum Zhihu over the weekend.

“What the hell do my smoking, drinking and sleeping habits have to do with you?” read one comment on Weibo.

“We have no privacy left whatsoever,” lamented another user.

Mass government collection of data for epidemic-fighting purposes has sparked widespread concerns over data privacy and security.

Last month, police in Shanxi province announced that the personal information of over 6,000 people who entered a local hospital had been leaked on WeChat.

Baidu chief executive Robin Li last week proposed legislation that would allow people to withdraw personal information collected during the epidemic and establish guidelines for data storage during ‘special periods’.


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Sweden’s Coronavirus Strategy Will Soon Be the World’s | Foreign Affairs

Posted by M. C. on May 12, 2020


China placed 50 million people under quarantine in Wuhan Province in January. Since then, many liberal democracies have taken aggressive authoritarian measures of their own to fight the novel coronavirus. By mid-March, almost all Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries had implemented some combination of school, university, workplace, and public transportation closures; restrictions on public events; and limits on domestic and international travel. One country, however, stands out as an exception in the West.

Rather than declare a lockdown or a state of emergency, Sweden asked its citizens to practice social distancing on a mostly voluntary basis. Swedish authorities imposed some restrictions designed to flatten the curve: no public gatherings of more than 50 people, no bar service, distance learning in high schools and universities, and so on. But they eschewed harsh controls, fines, and policing. Swedes have changed their behavior, but not as profoundly as the citizens of other Western democracies. Many restaurants remain open, although they are lightly trafficked; young children are still in school. And in contrast to neighboring Norway (and some Asian countries), Sweden has not introduced location-tracing technologies or apps, thus avoiding threats to privacy and personal autonomy.

Swedish authorities have not officially declared a goal of reaching herd immunity, which most scientists believe is achieved when more than 60 percent of the population has had the virus. But augmenting immunity is no doubt part of the government’s broader strategy—or at least a likely consequence of keeping schools, restaurants, and most businesses open. Anders Tegnell, the chief epidemiologist at Sweden’s Public Health Agency, has projected that the city of Stockholm could reach herd immunity as early as this month. Based on updated behavioral assumptions (social-distancing norms are changing how Swedes behave), the Stockholm University mathematician Tom Britton has calculated that 40 percent immunity in the capital could be enough to stop the virus’s spread there and that this could happen by mid-June.

Sweden has won praise in some quarters for preserving at least some semblance of economic normalcy and keeping its per capita death rate lower than those of Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and the United Kingdom. But it has come in for criticism in other quarters for exceeding the per capita death rates of other Nordic countries and in particular, for failing to protect its elderly and immigrant populations. People receiving nursing and elder-care services account for upward of 50 percent of COVID-19 deaths in Sweden, according to Tegnell, in part because many facilities were grievously slow to implement basic protective measures such as mask wearing. Immigrants have also suffered disproportionately, mainly because they are poorer on average and tend to work in the service sector, where working remotely is usually impossible. But Swedish authorities have argued that the country’s higher death rate will appear comparatively lower in hindsight. Efforts to contain the virus are doomed to fail in many countries, and a large percentage of people will be infected in the end. When much of the world experiences a deadly second wave, Sweden will have the worst of the pandemic behind it….

The rest here

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Bats, Gene Editing and Bioweapons: Recent DARPA Experiments Raise Concerns Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

Posted by M. C. on April 24, 2020

Question Everything, Come To Your Own Conclusions

Posted by Whitney Webb

DARPA recently spent millions on research involving bats and coronaviruses, as well as gene editing “bioweapons” prior to the recent coronavirus outbreak. Now, “strategic allies” of the agency have been chosen to develop a genetic material-based vaccine to halt the potential epidemic.

WASHINGTON D.C. – In recent weeks, concern over the emergence of a novel coronavirus in China has grown exponentially as media, experts and government officials around the world have openly worried that this new disease has the potential to develop into a global pandemic.

As concerns about the future of the ongoing outbreak have grown, so too have the number of theories speculating about the outbreak’s origin, many of which blame a variety of state actors and/or controversial billionaires. This has inevitably led to efforts to clamp down on “misinformation” related to the coronavirus outbreak from both mainstream media outlets and major social media platforms.

However, while many of these theories are clearly speculative, there is also verifiable evidence regarding the recent interest of one controversial U.S. government agency in novel coronaviruses, specifically those transmitted from bats to humans. That agency, the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), began spending millions on such research in 2018 and some of those Pentagon-funded studies were conducted at known U.S. military bioweapons labs bordering China and resulted in the discovery of dozens of new coronavirus strains as recently as last April. Furthermore, the ties of the Pentagon’s main biodefense lab to a virology institute in Wuhan, China — where the current outbreak is believed to have begun — have been unreported in English language media thus far.

While it remains entirely unknown as to what caused the outbreak, the details of DARPA’s and the Pentagon’s recent experimentation are clearly in the public interest, especially considering that the very companies recently chosen to develop a vaccine to combat the coronavirus outbreak are themselves strategic allies of DARPA. Not only that, but these DARPA-backed companies are developing controversial DNA and mRNA vaccines for this particular coronavirus strain, a category of vaccine that has never previously been approved for human use in the United States.

Yet, as fears of the pandemic potential of coronavirus grow, these vaccines are set to be rushed to market for public use, making it important for the public to be aware of DARPA’s recent experiments on coronaviruses, bats and gene editing technologies and their broader implications.

Examining the recent Wuhan-Bioweapon narrative

As the coronavirus outbreak has come to dominate headlines in recent weeks, several media outlets have promoted claims that the reported epicenter of the outbreak in Wuhan, China was also the site of laboratories allegedly linked to a Chinese government biowarfare program.

However, upon further examination of the sourcing for this serious claim, these supposed links between the outbreak and an alleged Chinese bioweapons program have come from two highly dubious sources.

For instance, the first outlet to report on this claim was Radio Free Asia, the U.S.-government funded media outlet targeting Asian audiences that used to be run covertly by the CIA and named by the New York Times as a key part in the agency’s “worldwide propaganda network.” Though it is no longer run directly by the CIA, it is now managed by the government-funded Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which answers directly to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was CIA director immediately prior to his current post at the head of the State Department.

In other words, Radio Free Asia and other BBG-managed media outlets are legal outlets for U.S. government propaganda. Notably, the long-standing ban on the domestic use of U.S. government propaganda on U.S. citizens was lifted in 2013, with the official justification of allowing the government to “effectively communicate in a credible way” and to better combat “al-Qaeda’s and other violent extremists’ influence.” Read the rest of this entry »

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COVID-19: What Trump’s Funding Cuts to WHO Mean for World – Consortiumnews

Posted by M. C. on April 17, 2020

And one of the great ironies of Trump’s criticism is that the organization has been criticized by other member states for decades for being influenced too heavily by the United States.

Let the rest of the world make up the $400 million.

By Adam Kamradt-Scott 

U.S. President Donald Trump has announced the U.S. is cutting its funding to the World Health Organisation (WHO) – a decision that will have major implications for the global health response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. contributes more than $400 million to the WHO per year, though it is already $200 million in arrears. It is the organization’s largest donor and gives about 10 times what China does per year.

Trump has accused the organization of mishandling and covering up the initial spread of Covid-19 in China, and of generally failing to take a harsher stance toward China.

What will Trump’s decision to cut funding mean for the organization?

WHO Membership 

The WHO was established in 1948 to serve as the directing and coordinating authority in international health. It was created with a mandate to improve the health of the world’s population, and defined health as

“…a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

While various civil society, industry and faith-based organizations can observe WHO meetings, only countries are allowed to become members. Every May, member states attend the World Health Assembly in Geneva to set the WHO’s policy direction, approve the budget and review the organization’s work.

Currently, there are 194 WHO member states, which means the organization has one more member state than the United Nations.

WHO headquarters in Geneva. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/EPA)

How is WHO Funded?

The WHO receives the majority of its funding from two primary sources. The first is membership dues from countries, which are described as “assessed contributions”.

Assessed contributions are calculated based on the gross domestic product and size of population, but they have not increased in real terms since the level of payments was frozen in the 1980s.

The second source of funding is voluntary contributions. These contributions, provided by governments, philanthropic organizations and private donations, are usually earmarked for specific projects or initiatives, meaning the WHO has less ability to reallocate them in the event of an emergency such as the Covid-19 pandemic.

Have Countries Pulled Funding Before?

Over more than 70 years of operations, a number of countries have failed to pay their membership dues on time.

At one point the former Soviet Union announced it was withdrawing from the WHO and refused to pay its membership fees for several years. When it then rejoined in 1955, it argued for a reduction in its back dues, which was approved.

As a result of nonpayment of assessed contributions, we have seen several instances where the WHO has been on the verge of bankruptcy. Fortunately, governments have usually acted responsibly and eventually paid back its fees.

Has There Been Political Criticism Before?

Yes. In 2009, the WHO was accused of acting too early in declaring swine flu a pandemic, in part over concerns it had been pressured by pharmaceutical companies.

Five years later, the organization was accused of acting too late in declaring the West African Ebola outbreak a public health emergency.

Trump has criticized the WHO for not acting quickly enough in sending its experts to assess China’s efforts to contain COVID-19 and call out China’s lack of transparency over its handling of the initial stage of the crisis.

But these criticisms ignore China’s sovereignty. The WHO does not have the power to force member states to accept a team of WHO experts to conduct an assessment. The country must request WHO assistance.

Nor does the organization have the power to force a country to share any information. It can only request.

Of course, Trump’s comments also ignore the fact the WHO did eventually send a team of experts to conduct an assessment in mid-February after finally obtaining Chinese approval. The results from this investigation provided important information about the virus and China’s efforts to halt its spread.

Does China Have Increasing Influence?

Understandably China has grown in power and economic influence since 2003, when then-Director General Gro Harlem Brundtland publicly criticized it for trying to hide the spread of the SARS virus.

China has also been criticized for blocking Taiwan’s bid to join the organization. Taiwan has had one of the most robust responses to the Covid-19 crisis.

But China is ultimately just one of the WHO’s 194 member states. And one of the great ironies of Trump’s criticism is that the organization has been criticized by other member states for decades for being influenced too heavily by the United States.

What Happens if US Cuts Funding?

If enacted, these funding cuts may cause the WHO to go bankrupt in the middle of a pandemic. That might mean the WHO has to fire staff, even as they are trying to help low- and middle-income countries save lives.

It will also mean the WHO is less able to coordinate international efforts around issues like vaccine research, procurement of personal protective equipment for health workers and providing technical assistance and experts to help countries fight the pandemic.

Trump has long been disdainful of multilateral organisations. (Stefani Reynolds / POOL /EPA)

More broadly, if the US extends these cuts for other global health initiatives coordinated by the WHO, it will likely cause people in low income countries to lose access to vital medicines and health services. Lives will be lost.

There will also be a cost to the United States’ long-term strategic interests.

For decades, the world has looked to the US to provide leadership on global health issues. Due to Trump’s attempt to shift blame from his administration’s failures to prepare the US for the arrival of Covid-19, he has now signaled the US is no longer prepared to provide that leadership role.

And one thing we do know is that if nature abhors a vacuum, politics abhors it even more.

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China Reopens Wet Markets with World Health Organization’s Blessing

Posted by M. C. on April 15, 2020

Perhaps Trump wants to cease funding the WHO with US taxpayers money is because he realizes it is worthless.

by John Hayward

China’s notorious “wet markets,” the open-air wildlife slaughterhouses that were supposedly the mechanism for the Wuhan coronavirus jumping from animals to humans, are back in business with the approval of the World Health Organization (WHO).

The WHO seal of approval stunned government officials and health experts around the globe.

Chinese state media outlets were delighted to announce the ostensibly “sanitized” wet markets are open again in provinces across China – including Wuhan, epicenter of the global pandemic that killed thousands of people and inflicted trillions of dollars in economic damage. According to the state-run Global Times, some of the wet markets never closed at all:…

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Nobody knows anything: West doesn’t trust China’s Covid-19 figures, but are its own numbers any more meaningful? — RT Op-ed

Posted by M. C. on April 12, 2020

Because their testing systems and data reporting vary, there is no way to glean any useful information, for example, about whether their lockdown measures have helped.

Whatever the eventual impact of the coronavirus, one thing has become apparent: when governments are the gatekeepers of data-gathering, there is no reliable source of information on the scale of the pandemic.

It did not take long for a war of information to break out over the true extent of Covid-19. Every morning, we wake up to the freshest figures for our own country. Another few hundred or thousand new cases, depending on where you live, and a fraction as many deaths. Every day, the colour-coded curves corresponding to the cases in various countries creep one day further into the future, like breakers approaching a beach.

But there is no way of comparing different countries’ statistics, based as they are on processes so riddled with holes and flaws that they may as well be guesswork. Obviously, comparing Italy and Belarus is comparing apples with oranges – the populations and the timelines of the pandemics in these countries are wildly different, so inferring results from their response plans is pointless.


In the same way, though, comparing Italy to a more superficially similar country, like Spain, is just as meaningless. Because their testing systems and data reporting vary, there is no way to glean any useful information, for example, about whether their lockdown measures have helped. The Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens has been terrier-like in his assertion that there is no known causal relationship between lockdown measures and fewer deaths, which has not made him any friends in the mainstream media.

Furthermore, there are too many unknowns about the virus itself and, as a brand new strain previously unknown to humans, attempts to understand it have come from a standing start. Every new piece of research seems to raise more questions than it answers. Are most people asymptomatic carriers? How long are people contagious for? Are there many strains or just one? And how deadly is it in comparison to the flu? It is likely to be a year or more before we know – such is the nature of scientific research. Until then, we will have to embrace our ignorance.

Not the only one

From the beginning, seemingly obvious inconsistencies and impossibilities came through the mainstream media. The most basic figures on case and death numbers did not stand up to the simplest back-of-the-envelope calculations. How could the mortality rate in Italy be 20 times what it was across the border in Germany?

Many people questioned the figures coming out of China, and they were right to do so. It is impossible to trust the Chinese government on matters of fact at the best of times, and when they felt backed into a corner – as they did when one of their major cities spawned this virus – they had every motivation to downplay the scale of the crisis. There is a danger, though, that in scapegoating China as the world’s only haven of lies and propaganda, people will automatically take at face value information from governments they trust more, such as their own. This would be a mistake, no matter what country one is in.

Testing times

Consider one element which is key to the statistic-gathering process: testing. In the simplest terms, a population contains people who have not yet been exposed to the virus, people who currently have the virus, and people who have had the virus but who are now recovered. On any given day, some of the people who have not yet been exposed to the virus contract it, and some will have symptoms of Covid-19 (with a broad range of severity, as we know).

What we would like to know is how many of those people there were today, ie. the number of new cases. Switch on the television and the news will be confidently reporting today’s figure. But in fact, this information is utterly unknowable. There is no mechanism by which all of these people could or would report for testing once they feel sick, because there is a global shortage of testing kits. And even if the right people were tested, there is currently no way of knowing how accurate the tests are – to find out the proportion of false negatives, you would need a test to test the tests.

Moreover, the tests, once done, have to be processed in some way to get the results. This is taking days or weeks for ordinary, non-celebrity people, but there is a suggestion that after a few days the positive tests actually turn negative, that the virus dies on the swab and does not show up in results. All of these possible points of failure are only to do with the testing. And it is on this basic premise that all other official and governmental statistics are based. Therefore, not trusting facts and figures is not a question of paranoia; it is a question of realism.

Known unknowns

William Goldman, the legendary screenwriter of ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’ and ‘The Princess Bride’, had a personal motto for understanding Hollywood. It was: “Nobody knows anything.” He did not live to see the present crisis, but his words of wisdom apply to the coronavirus too. Nobody knows anything, least of all the experts and politicians who are paid to regularly pontificate on the subject.

We have all been guilty of trying to pretend we know more than we really do. It is the natural human response in a crisis to try to understand. Our greatest adaptation, the thing that separates us from the animals and makes us who we are as a species, is our intellect. With our minds we have conquered the world, dominated every other animal, and subjugated the rivers, mountains and oceans to our will. How ironic then, that one of nature’s smallest organisms, invisible to us, has sent us into a tailspin. We are still subject to the whims of nature, and we would do well to remember that.

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How U.S. Foreign Policy Can Help Defeat Coronavirus | The National Interest

Posted by M. C. on March 27, 2020

U.S. foreign policy can help defeat the novel coronavirus if our government is willing to foster positive international relations and abandon pointless conflicts that sap our strength.

by Bonnie Kristian

Sen. Tom Cotton’s statement on the novel coronavirus pandemic started with the standard encouragement we expect from public officials in times of crisis. “I have every confidence America will once again marshal the resolve, toughness, and genius of our people to overcome [this] serious threat to our health and well-being,” he said. But then the Arkansas senator continued, saying “we will hold accountable those who inflicted it on the world.” Shortly thereafter, responding to a tweet which interpreted the line to mean “China will pay for this,” Cotton simply wrote, “Correct.”

What sort of retaliation Cotton has in mind isn’t clear—though his reckless, military-first foreign policy record suggests troubling possibilities. But whatever Cotton’s agenda, a posture of international antagonism is exactly the wrong idea in a moment like this. U.S. foreign policy can help us face and overcome COVID-19 if our government is willing to engage in productive, realistic diplomacy instead of aggression and to stop wasting limited resources on useless overseas adventurism which fosters chaos abroad and does nothing for our security at home. Now is the time for cooperation and peace.

Voices across the political spectrum have urged an end to partisan blaming and shaming in our domestic coronavirus response, but Washington should stop trying to score political points over the crisis in foreign policy, too. Trump administration officials and congressional leaders who insist on adding criticism of China to every public comment on COVID-19 are not benefiting public health. A defensive and angry Beijing is less likely to share literally vital information with us and more likely to pump out anti-American propaganda. Escalating U.S.-Chinese tension is dangerous for ordinary people in both countries, even if it never reaches the point of military conflict.

“A lot of these emotional and punishment policies will over time come back to bite us,” Paul Haenle, who worked with China as a former National Security Council official in the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations, told Politico. “It is in the United States’ interests to prevent the epidemic from becoming a global pandemic,” Haenle argued in a recent essay. “Especially during this uncertain and challenging time for the bilateral relationship, it is vital that channels of communication stay wide open and that the United States puts its best foot forward.”

That’s certainly the case with China, but it’s also important where our European allies are concerned. Strong historic ties can fray or even break if good diplomatic relationships are not maintained under such duress. President Trump’s reported attempt—confirmed by Berlin—to buy exclusive access to a German company’s developing COVID-19 vaccine for American use only was a ghastly and unethical misstep. Germans are predictably furious that Trump would try to exclude them from vaccine access, particularly as the company in question intends to produce the vaccine “for the whole world, not for individual countries.” This is the kind of unforced error that can and must be avoided going forward.

Just as crucial as these diplomatic measures are re-prioritizing our use of limited resources. Nearly two decades of war in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa have been costly, counterproductive, and deadly for American troops and innocent local populations alike. It was unwise to continue fighting these endless wars before the novel coronavirus appeared. Now, this interventionist foreign policy is a “luxury” we cannot afford. Washington must exit these conflicts immediately and allow local political processes to negotiate sustainable resolutions that account for the unique cultural and religious factors in play. Wasting precious resources on needless wars in a time of pandemic is truly indefensible.

Fears about the effects of COVID-19 may prompt some in Washington to want to lash out at other nations, whether through rhetorical, economic, or military means. An emotional reaction in such a troubling time is understandable, yet it will only make matters worse. U.S. foreign policy can help defeat the novel coronavirus if our government is willing to foster positive international relations and abandon pointless conflicts that sap our strength.

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