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September 27, 2020

The MoA Week In Review - Open Thread 2020-77

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

Other issues:

Cont. reading: The MoA Week In Review - Open Thread 2020-77

Posted by b at 12:58 UTC | Comments (54)

Azerbaijani Army And Syrian Jihadis Launch Attack On Armenian Lines

During the last weeks there was news that Turkey was hiring some 2,000 'Syrian rebels' to fight in Azerbaijan against Armenian forces which since 1993 occupy Nagorno- Karabakh. Earlier today the Azerbaijan forces and the mercenaries launched their attack on Armenian lines. It was a massacre. Two Azerbaijani helicopters were shot down. Some 10 tanks and armored troop transporters went up in flames. Azerbaijani artillery hit some civilian structures in Stepankert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh. Turkish(?) drones hit Armenia front positions.


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The Azerbaijani tactic seems to be to bunch up a lot of their tanks in the open field and to wait for the Armenian artillery to destroy them. Russian troops are stationed in Armenia and additional heavy support from Russia was flown in today. But Russia is friendly with both countries and is already urging for an armistice. Armenia has mobilized its forces and reinforcements are moving towards the front.

This is now, after Syrian and Libya, the third country in which the wannabe Sultan of Turkey is trying to fight Russian supported forces. It ain't gonna work. But Erdogan has to keep on doing that as a domestic diversion because the Turkish economy has screeched to a halt. The recent central bank rate hike is unlikely to stop the loss of the Lira but will deepen the recession.

The situation might well escalated from here on. There will be a lot of disinformation coming from both sides.

Posted by b at 12:55 UTC | Comments (32)

September 26, 2020

In Which We Debunk A Covidiot Pamphlet

On the recent open thread commentator ADKC quoted from a post at the corona-nonsense blog Off-Guardian. The piece, published last week, is an updated rehash of one the same author posted in April.

The more recent version is unfortunately no better than the old one. It repeats false numbers, is scientifically astonishingly inaccurate, and draws false conclusions.

It makes little sense to review and refute the whole mess. I will therefore concentrated on the 6 of the 8 "Take Home Messages" at the end of the piece which ADKC posted here:

1. Corona viruses are one of the viral agents of the common cold, which, just like the flu, invade the whole planet every year. They cause largely widespread, mostly benign, yearly pandemics of respiratory tract infections.

There are seven distinct corona viruses that infect humans. Four of those can cause the common cold. The infections are generally mild. At times they have more severe consequences like pneumonia. The infection fatality rate for these four corona viruses is estimated to be about 0.1%.

The three other corona viruses, SARS, MERS and SARS-CoV-2 are very different beasts. They cause very severe symptoms in a significant numbers of the infected people. The infection fatality rate for SARS was 9% and for MERS it is even 37%. The true infection fatality rate for SARS-CoV-2 depends on various circumstances (health service availability, social and medical conditions of the population etc.) but is currently estimated to be around 1%.

To mix up the four corona viruses that cause the common cold with the three viruses that have 10 to 370 times higher death rates is highly misleading.

Next point:

2. COVID-19, the infection caused by SARS-CoV-2, the current corona mutation, is not more lethal than the flu, with a 0.1-0.2% infection fatality rate.

This is a. outright nonsense that has no scientific basis and b. a lie.

SARS-CoV-2 is not a 'mutation' of some general coronavirus (there is none). Its nearest 'relative' is the RaTG13 virus known to be carried by certain bats:

Simplot analysis showed that 2019-nCoV was highly similar throughout the genome to RaTG13 (Fig. 1c), with an overall genome sequence identity of 96.2%.

Humans share some 96 percent of their genes with other primates. But no one would call a human to be a 'mutation' of an ape.

Evolution works through billions of iterative mutations until something unique evolves that fits to its environment. The surviving results of the evolutionary process are unique in kind. SARS-CoV-2 is a very special beast that is unique in its kind and effects.

Now to the bigger blooper in point 2: "is not more lethal than the flu, with a 0.1-0.2% infection fatality rate".

That is outright false and easy to refute. Just take a look at New York City which in April was hit hard during its first wave peak:

Cont. reading: In Which We Debunk A Covidiot Pamphlet

Posted by b at 19:10 UTC | Comments (167)

September 25, 2020

New Documents Further Unveil Obama's Anti-Trump Campaign

A number of recent document releases shine new lights on 'Russiagate'. That conspiracy theory, peddled by the Obama administration, the Democratic Party aligned media and 'deep state' actors opposed to President Trump, alleged that Trump was in cahoots with Russia. The disinformation campaign had the purpose of sabotaging his presidency.

To some extent it has worked as intended. But due to the legal investigation of the whole affair much more is now known about those who conspired against Trump. Some of them are likely to end up in legal jeopardy.

Some of those are the agents under FBI director Comey who used the easily debunked Steele dossier, paid for by the Democratic party, to gain a FISA court warrants that allowed them to spy on the Trump campaign. It now turns out that the main source for the dossier they used was a shady actor who the FBI had earlier investigated for an alleged connection to Russian intelligence:

The primary sub-source for the Steele dossier was the subject of an earlier counterintelligence investigation by the FBI, and those facts were known to the Crossfire Hurricane team as early as December 2016, according to newly released records from the Justice Department that were first reported by CBS News.

The timing matters because the dossier was first used two months earlier, in October 2016, to help secure a surveillance warrant for former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, and then used in three subsequent surveillance renewals.

"Between May 2009 and March 2011, the FBI maintained an investigation into the individual who later would be identified as Christopher Steele's Primary Sub-source," the two page FBI memo states. "The FBI commenced this investigation based on information by the FBI indicating that the Primary Sub-source may be a threat to national security."

That the Steele dossier was potentially based on the words of a Russian spy should have been a red flag against its use. It seems that the FBI had not informed the FISA court about the dubious sourcing of the dossier allegations.

Igor Danchenko, the premier sub-source for the Steele dossier, had earlier worked for the Democrat affiliate Brookings Institute:

Cont. reading: New Documents Further Unveil Obama's Anti-Trump Campaign

Posted by b at 16:52 UTC | Comments (92)

September 24, 2020

Lying With Headlines

'Lying With Headlines' should be a special classification category in propaganda studies.

This one, from the Washington Post, is a great example:

Hong Kong police arrest activist Joshua Wong for wearing a mask as repression deepens


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Those 90% of the readers who only skim headlines and look at the pictures will now believe that the Hong Kong rabble rouser (and friend of the neocons) Joshua Wong was arrested for wearing a medical protection mask during the pandemic.

That is however far from the truth. As the South China Morning Post correctly headlines:

Hong Kong opposition activist Joshua Wong arrested over illegal assembly and anti-mask law:

Hong Kong opposition activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung was arrested on Thursday for allegedly taking part in an illegal assembly last year.
...
Wong said police had also accused him of breaching the anti-mask law, which banned people from covering their faces during protests.

The laws under which Wong is accused were enacted in Hong Kong before China stepped in and amended the local constitution to tighten security legislation. The arrest has thereby nothing to do with the "deepening repression" the Washington Post alleges. 

Manipulative headlines are usual for tabloids to increase their sensationalism. Serious papers should refrain from such annoying manipulations. 

Posted by b at 15:00 UTC | Comments (63)

September 23, 2020

Open Thread 2020-76

News & views ...

Posted by b at 16:57 UTC | Comments (245)

September 22, 2020

The End Of The 'Rules Based International Order'

The 'western' countries, i.e. the United States and its 'allies',  love to speak of a 'rules based international order' which they say everyone should follow. That 'rules based order' is a way more vague concept than the actual rule of law:

The G7 is united by its shared values and commitment to a rules based international order. That order is being challenged by authoritarianism, serious violations of human rights, exclusion and discrimination, humanitarian and security crises, and the defiance of international law and standards.

As members of the G7, we are convinced that our societies and the world have reaped remarkable benefits from a global order based on rules and underscore that this system must have at its heart the notions of inclusion, democracy and respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms, diversity, and the rule of law.

That the 'rules based international order' is supposed to include vague concepts of 'democracy', 'human rights', 'fundamental freedoms', 'diversity' and more makes it easy to claim that this or that violation of the 'rules based international order' has occurred. Such violations can then be used to impose punishment in the form of sanctions or war.

That the above definition was given by a minority of a few rich nations makes it already clear that it can not be a global concept for a multilateral world. That would require a set of rules that everyone has agreed to. We already had and have such a system. It is called international law. But at the end of the cold war the 'west' began to ignore the actual  international law and to replace it with its own rules which others were then supposed to follow. That hubris has come back to bite the 'west'.

Anatol Lieven's recent piece, How the west lost, describes this moral defeat of the 'west' after its dubious 'victory' in the cold war:

Accompanying this overwhelmingly dominant political and economic ideology was an American geopolitical vision equally grandiose in ambition and equally blind to the lessons of history. This was summed up in the memorandum on “Defence Planning Guidance 1994-1999,” drawn up in April 1992 for the Bush Senior administration by Under-Secretary of Defence Paul Wolfowitz and Lewis “Scooter” Libby, and subsequently leaked to the media. Its central message was:
...
While that 1992 Washington paper spoke of the “legitimate interests” of other states, it clearly implied that it would be Washington that would define what interests were legitimate, and how they could be pursued. And once again, though never formally adopted, this “doctrine” became in effect the standard operating procedure of subsequent administrations. In the early 2000s, when its influence reached its most dangerous height, military and security elites would couch it in the terms of “full spectrum dominance.” As the younger President Bush declared in his State of the Union address in January 2002, which put the US on the road to the invasion of Iraq: “By the grace of God, America won the Cold War… A world once divided into two armed camps now recognises one sole and pre-eminent power, the United States of America.”

But that power has since failed in the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan, during the 2008 financial crisis and now again in the pandemic. It also created new competition to its role due to its own behavior:

Cont. reading: The End Of The 'Rules Based International Order'

Posted by b at 17:59 UTC | Comments (118)

September 21, 2020

A Ukrainian/CIA Plot To Incite Belarus Against Russia Unraveled - The NYT Story Thereof Is Hiding The Failure

Just yesterday we flogged the false and misleading reports in the New York Times about Russia's Covid-19 vaccine. Today a different New York Times report by Ivan Nechepurenko, who is also with its bureau in Moscow, proves to be of similar shoddy quality:

In Belarus, Russian Mercenaries Turned From Saboteurs to Friends
President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko accused Russia of sending a group of mercenaries to disrupt his re-election. With mass protests consuming the country after the vote, he briskly changed his tune.

Diligent readers of Moon of Alabama will remember what the story is about. On August 7 we reported how the Ukrainian intelligence service SBU, in the guise of a private military company, hired former Russian and Ukrainian soldiers allegedly for jobs in Venezuela. All the hired men had previously fought on the 'Russian side' of Ukrainian civil war in the Donbas region. The men were told to go to the Belorussian capital Minsk from where they were supposed to be later flown to Venezuela to guard oil installations.

The Ukrainian SBU then told the Belorussian security service KGB that the Russian mercenaries, who were then waiting in a resort near Minsk, were in Belarus to overthrow its president Lukashenko. The men were arrested and Lukashenko made a public fuss about the alleged Russian coup against him. Ukraine then asked for the extradition of the men. It had plans to indict them for their involvement in the Donbas war.

But just a few days after the men were arrested the whole plan unraveled. Russian media proved without doubt that the men had been tricked to go to Belarus and that they had no plans to overthrow Lukashenko. The Belorussian president apologized and the men were returned to Russia. As the Russian broadsheet kp.ru summarized (machine translation):

[I]t can be stated that the Ukrainian special services managed to create a fake project, in which they involved 180 Russian citizens, while including in the first group of war veterans in the Donbas. At the same time, it is quite possible to admit that the entire fascinating and instructive story was brought to the Belorussian side in a very truncated form - without details about air tickets.

Through this entire operation, the SBU seems to have intended to kill several birds with one stone - the ubiquitous, nightmarish and terrible PMC Wagner was supposed to ricochet on Rosneft - as one of the largest Russian companies, but the main blow, undoubtedly, on the Russian-Belorussian relationships. Not to mention the possible extradition of Russian citizens to Ukraine, which Kiev would be incredibly happy about - such an opportunity to avenge its sailors, whom Poroshenko sent "to slaughter" in the Kerch Strait.

That version story has since been confirmed by the Ukrainian side (see below).

But today's New York Times report does not tell that story at all. It makes it seem as if Lukashenko changed his mind about the 'Russian coup' not because he gained knowledge of the real plot, but because he was under pressure from election protests:

Cont. reading: A Ukrainian/CIA Plot To Incite Belarus Against Russia Unraveled - The NYT Story Thereof Is Hiding The Failure

Posted by b at 16:50 UTC | Comments (66)

September 20, 2020

The MoA Week In Review - Open Thread 2020-75

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

> Asked whether the US is considering the possibility of appointing Dahlan, who lives in the UAE, as the next Palestinian leader, Friedman replied: "We're thinking about it," but we have no desire to engineer the Palestinian leadership. <
> Bad, bad times, made worse by one old woman’s selfish disregard for everyone else. If that offends you, so be it. Important people don’t get “don’t say bad things about the dead” when everyone else has to suffer because of their decisions. <
Michael Tracey @mtracey - 0:01 UTC · Sep 20, 2020

After the death of R.B. Ginsburg (87) the US political system falls into disarray. J. Biden (78) and D. Trump (74) declare the future of the nation is at stake. N. Pelosi (80) is bereft with grief. M. McConnell (78) plots his strategy. Spring chicken C. Schumer (69) vows revenge

---
Other issues:

Cont. reading: The MoA Week In Review - Open Thread 2020-75

Posted by b at 15:00 UTC | Comments (185)

NYT First Reinforces, Then Silently Debunks Its False Claims About Russia's Covid-19 Vaccine

Western reporters do not like to correct their own false reporting. They rather reinforce it as much as possible. Only when overwhelmed by the facts will they silently admit that they were wrong in the first place. Here is a prime example of how that's done.

In mid-August we exposed how 'western' media lied about the approval for phase-3 testing of the Russian Sputnik vaccine against Covid-19. They said that Russia claimed the vaccine was ready to go population wide. That never was the case.

'Western' Media Falsely Claim That Russia's Covid-19 Vaccine Is Ready To Go

Russia has not approved a vaccine against Covid-19 and it is not skipping large-scale clinical trials. The Russia regulator gave a preliminary approval for a vaccine candidate to start the large-scale clinical trial. [...]

Science Magazine is one of the few media who got it right: ...

One of the false reports we pointed out was by the New York Times Moscow correspondent Andrew E. Kramer:

Russia Approves Coronavirus Vaccine Before Completing Tests

Russia has become the first country in the world to approve a vaccine for the coronavirus, President Vladimir V. Putin announced on Tuesday, though global health authorities say the vaccine has yet to complete critical, late-stage clinical trials to determine its safety and effectiveness.
...
By skipping large-scale clinical trials, the Russian dash for a vaccine has raised widespread concern that it is circumventing vital steps — and potentially endangering people — in order to score global propaganda points.

Russia had, as we and Science Magazine reported, never the intent to skip large-scale clinical trials. Kramer made that up.

In a new report today Kramer reinforces his previous false and disproven claims to lament about an alleged slow distribution of the Sputnik vaccine in Russia:

Russia Is Slow to Administer Virus Vaccine Despite Kremlin’s Approval

More than a month after becoming the first country to approve a coronavirus vaccine, Russia has yet to administer it to a large population outside a clinical trial, health officials and outside experts say.

The approval, which came with much fanfare, occurred before Russia had tested the vaccine in late-stage trials for possible side effects and for its disease-fighting ability. It was seen as a political gesture by President Vladimir V. Putin to assert victory in the global race for a vaccine.

It is not clear whether the slow start to the vaccination campaign is a result of limited production capacity or second thoughts about inoculating the population with an unproven product.

The Times author reinforces his own lie that Russia had declared its vaccine ready for population wide application. It had never done that. The official registration of the vaccine by the relevant authorities was only a necessary precondition to start the large scale phase-3 testing of the vaccine. There never was a Russian intent to distribute the vaccine to a large population without phase-3 testing.

In the bottom third of his long piece Kramer comes near to admitting that. There he describes that the Sputnik phase-3 testing is now ongoing. That contradicts all of his previous reporting on the issues though he himself never says that. But even now he is getting the details wrong:

Cont. reading: NYT First Reinforces, Then Silently Debunks Its False Claims About Russia's Covid-19 Vaccine

Posted by b at 12:12 UTC | Comments (33)